I'm sure that on more than one occasion we have all been stuck behind a slow-moving caravan on a road where it is impossible to overtake and we have cursed every caravan owner in the country. Well I certainly have and as such, I always swore I would never be seen dead towing one.
So you can probably imagine my response when my wife announced that she was going to buy a five-berth Abbey Vogue GTS and tow it to Cornwall for our two-week summer holiday.
At that stage, I had never even set foot inside a modern caravan, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how well-equipped and comfortable they are these days. The Abbey has a shower, toilet, fridge freezer, cooker, CD player, TV, two large double beds and a bunk, and a large awning. I was more than a little impressed.
My next concern was towing it. I thought we would have to buy a new car, but again, I was surprised. We have a Rover 75 Estate and a quick look in the handbook to check the permitted towing weight made it clear that it was fine for towing the Abbey.
We made arrangements to have a tow bar fitted to the car and a week later, we were back to collect the caravan. It was my wife's new baby, so she opted to tow it initially and has done so ever since. I have had a couple of goes and it really is very similar to any other trailer; even reversing isn't that difficult once the basic principles have been grasped.
Having purchased the caravan and prepared the car for towing it, the next step was membership of the Caravan Club. No, I'm not joking. This was basically so that we could take advantage of its insurance scheme, which had been recommended to us by a number of people. Our insurance costs about £400 per year.
When considering how to store your caravan, always think about the ease with which anyone could steal it. Our storage pound is surrounded by a three-foot high concrete barrier, allowing access via a locked gate. The insurance policy also states that the caravan must have a wheel clamp and a hitch lock, both of which we managed to have included in the price of the caravan.
So we were now ready to go on our first trip. We opted for Market Bosworth, about 20 miles from home, and a lake-side pitch for one night. The car performed well and we avoided any collisions. The journey was fine until the last mile, when a wrong turn took us down a narrow lane with no way of turning around. But we managed to reach the site in the end.
Once on the site, we found the owner very sympathetic to our novice status.
It didn't take long to connect water and power (all included in the price of the pitch) and the toilet, shower, heating and lights were soon functioning.
It was then simply a case of opening a bottle of wine, lighting a barbecue and relaxing by the waterside while watching the sun go down.
On our second trip, we decided to try the large awning that came with the caravan. This did take us a while to set up, but neighbouring caravan owners were very helpful.
We've now spent many nights away in the caravan; the site fees tend to be reasonable, sites are often in exceptional locations, and the whole experience is very relaxing and laid back. I have to admit that I am well and truly hooked.
2006 Abbey Vogue GTS 517
The Vogue is Abbey's mid-class range, with modern interiors, good build
quality and plenty of equipment.
On the road price: £14,940
Overall length: 7.07m
Maximum possible weight: 1,476kg
Suitable towing vehicle: Volvo V70 2.4 D5 AWD. Gives an 85 per cent
weight match with caravan.