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Good Sites Bad Sites

Posted by Sharon Eason on 30 April 2013 | 0 Comments

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What makes a good caravan site?

Sitting in the caravan at Easter, watching the rain run down the windows as the 'van swayed in the howling wind, we got to talking about what on earth we were doing, which lead to what do we want out of a caravan site.  I guess our perspective was potentially a little skewed by the weather conditions at the time, but nevertheless, the debate did show differences in both the generations and the length of experience - or should I say personal experiences.

We began with the most, or least, essential of facilities - the loo.  Having had the benefit of some pretty dreadful toilet blocks during my early years as a caravanner, I definitely prefer the luxurious washroom at the rear of my own caravan.  No chance of forgetting the shower gel, or finding there is no loo roll - or worse no loo seat as has been my experience.  I have spent many a happy evening on CL's without facilities and gone on to a business meeting the next day, properly showered and dressed, just as if I had stepped out of a five star hotel. 

I noticed a look of horror from the other side of the table.  It seems that, to the less experienced, immaculate toilet blocks are top of the list.  The basic requirement is that the toilet block must be clean and that includes the sinks and showers.  You also need room in the shower to store your clothes in the dry.  I have to agree that if you have small children the toilet block is probably a must, but it still seems so much easier just to get out of bed, shower, dress and face the world rather than running across the site in your nightie and housecoat in all weathers.  The advantage of not having to empty the loo in the toilet block was not totally lost on the male members of the debate.

Group decision: Essential if you have little ones around, otherwise might be nice to have.

So what does come top on our list?  Electricity!!  Perhaps our judgement was made in new caravans (the oldest made in 2010) with the heating running which may have had a bearing on the case, or perhaps not.  When you look around the newer models you find, almost universally, that everything relies on power.  Even the cooker won't spark if your battery is flat; come to think of it the flush on the loo won't work either.  Yet, we have all been happy to rally without electricity for many years so what has changed?  Short answer - the caravans!  Those little comforts we take for granted have developed and now suck power from the battery so quickly that you have to read by torchlight.

Solar panels are a partial solution as they will, during the long, hot days of summer, keep the battery topped up.  They won't charge a battery from flat, and in the winter there are just not enough daylight hours to replace the discharge.  A generator will provide instant power, but for how long do you want the drone of the engine, the smell of the exhaust and just how much can you afford to spend on petrol?  Personally, I think generators are totally anti-social and have no place on the tranquility of a caravan site, large or small.

Group decision:  Must have a hook-up, especially between September and the end of April.

Next up - laundry/ironing facilities and dishwashing area.  We lumped these together, as they tend to be found side by side somewhere close to the toilet block.  Funnily enough none of us make regular use of dishwashing areas, preferring to wash up in the 'kitchen' and take the bowl outside to clean the BBQ.  The mucky water is then poured straight into the grey water disposal point.  We don't have to carry dishes across the site and we have never left a teaspoon behind, or arrived at the sinks to find a queue.

Laundry and ironing facilites might be welcome, especially with small children in tow.  The caravan wardrobe is generally restricted so to be able to wash clothes does help.  Little children seem to be able to get through four or five changes in a day so the rule is probably the younger the child the more important the laundry.  The other rule of thumb would be the longer the holiday, the more important the laundry.

Group decision: Laundry is definitely nice to have.  We can live without a dishwashing area.

Children need somewhere to play, so we all vote in favour of an area set aside for them. OK, so what constitutes a children's play area?  According to the teenagers it has to have wi-fi and space to chill, but the younger ones like swings and slides and things to climb on (so do the teenagers if no-one is watching).  What about an area where they can play ball games, perhaps fly a kite?  "Wha'," responded the teenager.  How about nature walks around the site with perhaps a 'treasure hunt' style set of clues? "Wha'?" grunted the teenager.  Right then, a skate park or BMX track?  Teenager seemed to awaken.  What about a Kids Klub with organised events, games and prizes?  Younger one's eyes light up "cor yeah," but teenager turns eyes to heaven.  A swimming pool?  Now we've got their attention, but it seems that they have been brought up to be soft as they insist only if indoor and heated, preferably with watershutes and slides.

Being sensible, children do need somewhere to let off steam, after all they are on holiday and the more they run around by day, the better and longer they sleep at night. Most arguments between children and the elderly neighbours seem to arise if there is nowhere set aside for noisy fun.  That said, it is not essential to entertain them from morning to night, and, the more exotic the play areas, the more expensive the site (generally speaking).

Group decision: For short breaks, you only need somewhere simple, a grassed area and perhaps a climbing frame.  The fully equipped holiday parks with clubs, pools and games rooms are great for holidays, but could put a dampener on any ideas the adults had about exploring the wider area.

On the subject of entertainment, what do the adults need?  Is a bar vital? and what about regular entertainment in the evening?  Having debated the difference between need, want and like, we went on to consider the value of a bar with or without entertainment.  First consideration is the ambience of the bar.  We had all had good and bad experiences at different places and decided that the size of the bar had to reflect the size of the site.  There is nothing worse than a large site with a tiny bar with insufficient tables and chairs.  Do you need a bar at all?  Unfortunately the answer probably has something to do with the weather.  How often have you been out for the day, returned to the van on a warm summer's evening, lit the BBQ and spent the evening in the company friends with a bottle of wine?  So, who can blame any site for having a very small bar, or no bar at all!!!

Adult entertainment drew some very dodgy ideas from the male contingent, who were reminded that a caravan site provides for family holidays.  Perhaps we are in the minority in the country, but no-one in our group likes Bingo - so that was off the list.  Disco?  umm, well, maybe.  It seemed to depend on the type of music, and even the younger members would prefer music from the 70's and 80's rather than the thumping of today. Except the teenager of course who doesn't dance.  Karaoke? Again it seemed to depend on the songs available, and of course the co-operation of the audience, or should that be the ability of someone in the audience to sing?  Live shows, by which I mean groups, solo singers, magicians, comedians etc..  Some support here from all ages, but cost would be a factor, as would the time they appeared and whether or not children were permitted at the show.

Group Decision: Decidedly undecided.  It all depends, as they say.

Pitch types? Is hardstanding preferable to grass?  Bearing in mind the torrential rain which had not abated for about an hour, it is not surprising that we were very glad to be sited on hardstandings big enough to take the caravan and the tow car, but we also thought that a site with just hardstandings would be very unsightly, and where would you put the awning?  In better weather we all like to sit outside, cook on the BBQ and eat as a group of family and friends, so at that time we would prefer just grass.  Aren't we awkward?  Just how difficult can we, as customers, make the life of the site owner, trying to please us all and attract us back to their site.

Group Decision: Hardstanding in winter, grass in summer.

Group Conclusion:

We need electricity, but after that it is all a matter of the type of break we are taking.  If it is just a weekend away from it all, minimal facilities are great.  For long weekends, like Bank Holidays, we would look for somewhere with a simple play area and perhaps a small bar.  It is only when we are looking for a site for a week or two that we would start to look for somewhere to treat the children to all the extras.

Our advice - read the information provided by the Caravan Site, and choose the one that suits you.

What do your family and friends look for in a good caravan site?

 

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Markets and Supermarkets

Posted by Sharon Eason on 9 April 2013 | 0 Comments

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I have just returned from a holiday in Portugal where the local markets are flourishing and fresh local produce is on sale every day in even the smallest towns.  We could learn much from their example.

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