Our motor homing year started with the excitement of looking forward to our new Carthago which we had ordered at the NEC show the previous October.
We were told when we ordered it that delivery would probably be in March or April and were delighted when we heard from our dealer that production would be in mid January. However any hope that I might get the best ever birthday prezzie at the end of January evaporated as there were the inevitable delays. The production date gradually moved from January to the first week of February and the vehicle was eventually delivered to the dealer on the 11th March. By the time they had fitted extras, sorted tax and registration and done the PDI it was the 21st March before we could collect it.
It was with a small tinge of sadness that I drove our trusty AutoTrail up to Staffordshire on a Saturday morning where we swopped her for our new and very shiny Carthago. After being shown round the very different features and equipment on the vehicle and trying to remember everything that Neil explained to us, we swopped over the few bits we had brought with us from one van to the other and went back into the office to well and truly empty the bank account. Ouch!!!
Never having driven an A Class motorhome before, let alone a LHD one, the first few miles were interesting to say the least. The huge windscreen is much further away from the driver and the whole vehicle seemed enormously wide, even though the overall width was the same as the AutoTrail. It felt like driving a coach and despite having driven LHD cars on holidays this was going to take some getting used to. Kate, sitting in the suicide seat, kept telling me to move over to the left as huge lorries raced towards her. I’m amazed that she kept so cool, bless her.
After a couple of days in Staffordshire we drove south to Chedder and then Taunton to get an alarm fitted. By the time we got home to Suffolk I was starting to get the hang of the beast.
Just before we collected the van Kate had minor surgery on her leg which meant that it needed to be re-dressed twice a week by the local Practice Nurse. This curtailed our trips and particularly our usual four week tour of France. We did however, manage to get a couple of days in North Norfolk, a few days at RAF Coningsby and act as a support vehicle for Cycle to the Sky 2, a charity bike ride across the Peak District.
Early in the year we had committed to work at quite a number of airshows with Vulcan to the Sky. Although no-one is compelled to work these shows, when one is part of a small and close knit team of volunteers you don’t want to let the rest of the team down by backing out. So, as soon as Kate got the all clear to look after her leg wound herself we were off through the tunnel to France for a short 12 day trip so that we were back in time for RAF Cosford Airshow.
Early June in France must be one of the best times to be there. We slowly drifted down to the middle of the country and the weather was glorious. In fact we stayed in one place longer than planned just because we had a very handy tree next to our pitch which gave us a lovely shady place to sit.
After our relaxing French break it was, in the words of Murray Walker, all GO,GO,GO.
We arrived home on the Wednesday afternoon, the next day Kate had an appointment at the local surgery, we had to turn the M/H around, shop for provisions and sort out the pile of post. On Friday morning we were back on the A14 heading to Staffordshire where the M/H was booked in to have a part fitted. Friday night at Crossroads Farm CS and Saturday morning it was ‘set up’ for the Vulcan Village at RAF Cosford. We spent Saturday night on the airfield and were ready for an early start for the airshow on Sunday. Our first airshow of 2015 and it was a complete sell out with no tickets available on the day. The big attraction of course was ‘our’ Vulcan and the advance ticket sell out was to be repeated throughout the rest of the airshow season and Vulcan’s final year in the air.
After a very successful show we returned to Crossroads Farm for Sunday night, returning home on Monday to a week with some sort of appointment every day.
The following Saturday, 20th June we were once again heading north west up the A14, this time to Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield, close to Stratford-upon-Avon. Wellesbourne is home to another Vulcan, XM655, and their fund raising airshow was taking place on the Sunday. ‘655 was to give a couple of fast taxi demonstrations (it is unable to fly) and ‘our’ Vulcan, XH558 was booked to fly in and give a mini display. We set up a small Vulcan ‘Hamlet’ on Saturday evening and once again stayed on the airfield for the night. The small show attracted a huge crowd with the organisers, several of which are also our team members, having to use every available inch of ground to squeeze all the cars in. After packing up we went over to where XM655 is kept and were treated to a tour of the aircraft which is complete with all the instrumentation in the rear cockpit.
We spent Sunday night in the flying club car park before driving back home on Monday.
Another quick turn round as we were booked to go through the Channel Tunnel on Tuesday afternoon.
Back to France and this time we stayed in northern France. Once again the weather was lovely and we drifted down to the River Seine and our favoured spot at La Mailleraye-sur-Seine. From there we went to the tip of the Cherburg Peninsular at Auderville and a lovely little Aire with views over the sea and the lighthouse.
After 12 days R & R it was back home via a family lunch party in Hastings to celebrate brother in laws’s 50th birthday.
Just three days at home this time before we were off again, this time south west to RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset for their Airday. We stayed on the base playing fields where a temporary caravan site had been organised. Friday was ‘set up’ for the Vulcan Village and with aircraft practicing, arriving and taxiing all around us it was a noisy affair.
Vulcan made her arrival in true noisy style by making a low approach along the line of the runway and going into a ‘zoom’ climb up to 8,000 feet before landing in a far more stately style, as befits her age and size.
After another very successful day on Saturday we dismantled everything and packed it all away before spending the night back on the sports ground.
On Sunday we drove north to the CC site at Cirencester where we stayed until Wednesday morning. From there it was a very short drive to Fairford and the CC rally field where we were staying for the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).
RIAT is an absolutely huge airshow with hundreds of stands, huge crowds and all the bureaucracy to go with it. I have to say it is not our favourite show but as this was Vulcan’s final year we bit the bullet and just got on with it.
Set up was on Thursday and after all the security and check in palaver we were finally escorted, in convoy, to the Vulcan Village. Like the show this Vulcan Village was a huge affair, the biggest ever, but when we got there the contractors had erected it facing in the wrong direction. Before we could start dressing it out inside, we had to modify it by moving access ramps and internal partitions from one end to the other. Even with the delays it wasn’t long before a bare shell was transformed into a full blown retail store complete with information panels and story boards telling the background and history of the aircraft.
As I’ve already written about RIAT I won’t go over old ground but will just say that Saturday’s Vulcan display, flown by Kev Rumens, has gone down in airshow legend as probably the finest display for many a year. The UK Airshow website (UKAR), never ones to give plaudits to Vulcan if an insult will do instead, have named it No. 1 in their ‘Top 10 Airshow Moments of 2015’. Coming from them that is quite an award.
After three very hectic and long airshow days we stayed at Fairford on the Monday and went home on the Tuesday for the summer airshow holiday break.
After just over four weeks at home, catching up with the garden and all the other chores, it was late August when we set off south again, this time to the ill-fated Shoreham Airshow.
Always one of our favourite shows this time is was marred by the fatal crash of a Hawker Hunter jet on Saturday.
The shows second day was cancelled so we went on to Cobnor on Chichester Harbour where we stayed until the following Friday and the short drive north to Dunsfold.
Another brilliant show for us with two very busy days. Although displays by jets were restricted after the tragedy of Shoreham, our Vulcan gave a fabulous display on Saturday with lots of noise. It certainly went down well with the crowd. On Sunday the aircraft had to turn back for home after running into a huge weather front when over half way to Dunsfold. Huge disappointment but it couldn’t be helped.
It had hardly stopped raining all week and so the ground at Dunsfold was pretty soggy even before the two day airshow began. Fortunately Sunday was mostly dry but during Sunday night it poured down again which left us with the problem of getting 4 tons of front wheel drive motorhome off the airfield and on to something a bit firmer. With a little bit of slipping and sliding we made it with the minimum of drama. Phew!!
Back home on the Monday, turn the M/H around and on the Thursday we were back to Folkestone and through the tunnel again, this time for four weeks.
We went back to some favourite places and found some new ones, spending the whole trip without ever plugging into an electric hook up thanks to our solar panels.
After just nine days back in the UK we set off again to Lincolnshire and RAF Coningsby.
Vulcan was making a final round Britain flight and we went to RAF Waddington to see her fly through on the Sunday. The place was packed with cars parked wherever they could find a space. Vulcan flew through with a circle around the viewing area and off south to huge crowds at every way point.
On the Tuesday we had a trip up to Doncaster to see the old girl return from a flight to Northamptonshire and meet up with a small group of Vulcan friends. This was to be the last time we would see a Vulcan in the air and was a rather sad day as we watched her being pushed back into the hangar.
At the end of November we had booked the M/H in to have some extra kit fitted by VanBitz at Taunton. While we were going south we might as well make the best of it and turn it into a more interesting trip so we decided to spend a couple of days at Devizes on the way. Instead of going back home afterwards we would keep to the south and head for Folkestone and another trip through the tunnel.
While preparing the van to go away there was a loud ‘ping’ and steam poured out from the heating unit. A hot water pipe had burst and as it was in an inaccessible place I couldn’t get to it to effect a repair myself. On Monday morning, instead of going south to Devizes, we were back on the A14 heading for our dealers service department in Staffordshire. They quickly sorted the problem and we spent a couple of days in the midlands before going south to Taunton.
With the inverter, extra sockets and a battery monitor fitted we went off to France on the Friday for what we planned to be a two week trip. By Saturday lunchtime we were back at Le Mailleraye-sur-Seine when I realised there was a battery problem. After some checks I found the engine wasn’t charging the leisure batteries. With little sun, short days and no electric hook up the batteries weren’t going to last long. To add to our joy I also found we had another minor hot water leak and the battery compartment had an inch of water sitting around the batteries and the associated fuses.
As there was a Carthago dealer in Caen, about a hundred miles away, we decided to go there on Sunday and park behind the dealers until they opened on Monday morning.
Despite the van being covered by warranty they were just too busy to look at it although they could find time to sell and fit new batteries for us. Hmmm!!
The young chap on the ‘service’ desk did come and have quick look and a poke about with the fuses in the garage but couldn’t find what had gone wrong. At that stage we decided to abandon the trip and return home.
Our motor homing year ended with disappointment and as I write this Celine is standing on the drive waiting to be summoned to the dealers workshop to be mended after the Christmas and New Year break when they can give her the time and attention she needs.
With no flying Vulcan, 2016 is going to be a very different and quieter year.
We intend to spend more time in Europe with thoughts of a trip to Spain and Portugal in the spring. Kate is also very keen that we go back to Scotland, probably early in the summer.
This blog still manages to amaze me with 7,700 views in 2015 from 45 different countries. That is nearly 18,000 views in total plus my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC10cpU-dMK4oiXI75pINolA which has well over 21,000 views and over 100 subscribers.
Many thanks to all of you who read this or watch the videos, your comments are always very welcome.
I wish you all a Very Happy 2016 with safe travels and blue skies.
A few stats of the year.
We have spent 111 nights in the motorhome in 2016.
From collecting her new at the end of March Celine has now done 8850 miles.
Fuel consumption overall is 25.74mpg
Average fuel cost has been £0.988 per Litre with the highest being £1.319 and the lowest £0.741 per Litre.