We have spent the last four Christmas periods in Spain. For the last two years we have spent the majority of the northern hemisphere winter in Spain, being there from 21st December until the middle of March. However, with mixed feelings and a substantial helping of regret, we have now sold our Spanish property and Casa Libélule is no more. So, this Christmas we are trying something different; we decided to spend Christmas away in our latest caravan, All New Guillaume. Mad or adventurous?
In the middle of the UK winter there are a limited number of campsites available. Hardstanding is a necessity rather than a nice to have. When we began the search in October for a suitable site we were a little surprised to find that New year was already fully booked. We thought New Year might’ve been a fun extension but it wasn’t to be; we could, however, get in for Xmas. The Camping and Caravanning Club’s site at Keswick, right on the shores of Derwentwater, had room for us so we booked it.
All New Guillaume has (we think) a very good heating system including a heated towel rail. Winter caravanning, though, comes with an additional potential complication: our external 40-litre water tank could freeze if temperatures fall low enough. More likely, perhaps, than freezing 40 litres of water is that the submersible pump in the water tank could suffer frost damage and/or the supply pipe from the tank to the caravan could freeze. We’ve invested in an insulation jacket to guard against such an eventualities.
We chose to travel up on 22nd December. It’s a 300-mile drag, mainly up the M1 and M6 from home to Keswick. At conservative towing speeds with comfort breaks it would be a 6-hour journey. I was keen not to be setting up pin the dark, which begins at 16:00 at this time of year, so decided to leave home at 08:00 collecting Guillaume on the way.
The earlier parts of our journey went well. There are road works and 60 mph speed restrictions on the M1 but I tow at truck speeds [56 mph] so they’re irrelevant. Traffic reports indicated some inconsiderate bastard having a prang in some roadworks on the M6 and causing delays so we went further north to tack across from the M1 to the M6 on the A50. It’s a pleasant route, anyway.
We’d started in grey overcast bit the skies brightened around the Midlands. We hit the M6 and continued past Manchester and Liverpool in bright conditions. As we were approaching Francine’s favourite stretch of journey, coming up towards Shap and the excellent Tebay services, bright conditions collapsed into saturating downpours. Although the roads had seemed relatively quiet, Tebay Services was heaving. As is often the case, solo vehicles had parked in the longer caravan spaces making our parking a little difficult. The restrooms in the services were fine but getting food without a lengthy wait was out of the question. In continued rain, we paid top dollar to fill up and bought a couple of wraps from the fuel station.
Turning off the M6 at Penrith, the downpour did abate as we approached Keswick. A small navigation glitch caused a skilful U-turn but we arrived at the campsite at about 14:30. It was quite lightly used and we had many pitches from which to choose. We did need to keep all access on the hardstanding since all the surrounding grass was extremely muddy but we managed to get set up in daylight and, most happily, without further rain.
I’m still reasonably sure this qualifies as insanity. I cannot help but remember a chap we spoke to some years ago at the caravan and motorhome show, who was studying a swish Carthago motorhome muttering, “I don’t want to spend another winter in England”. I know exactly what he meant and confess that I am now missing Spain, somewhat.
We’ll see how we get on.