D-Day had finally arrived and with a car fully laden with gear we set off to Venture Caravans in Daventry, Northamptonshire to collect our Elddis Xplore 304 Sanremo aka ‘POD’.
We had a 2 ½ hour drive ahead for an appointed time of 12 o’clock, so we were on the road by 9am, with fingers crossed we wouldn’t be delayed by traffic and once collected we could head off to Chapel Lane Caravan and Motorhome site for a one-night stop and a shake-down. The site was only an hour away from Venture, so if any issues did arise we only had a 1 hr journey - not a 3hr journey to rectify them.
The motorway journey was easy enough, a few road works tried their best to throw a spanner in the mix, but it didn’t affect our arrival time and we rolled into Venture a few minutes after 12, we couldn’t have timed it better.
As we turned off the A5 into the carpark we spotted Pod immediately, she was all hooked up, windows open and looked great with her decals on the front. Wide smiles stretched across our faces and once parked up we made a bee line for her. She was locked, but it didn’t stop us walking round and pressing sweaty noses up against every window to get a peek inside.
We eventually hunted down one of the staff Darren and we began the all-important handover, Mat has loads of previous caravan knowledge, of every shape and size, but the handover was a great way to refresh his memory and learn a few new tricks as technology is always changing and being updated.
Darren was great, provided us with a welcome cup of tea and a full rundown, he took us both round the outside before moving inside and answered any queries we threw at him. It was a great experience, we weren’t rushed and didn’t feel any pressure to be on our way.
The time did eventually come for us to leave and the Specialised Cover, Elddis Tow Pro Elite went on, after our second attempt. There’s a knack to it and worth the effort as the large front window would turn into an insurance claim should it be damaged.
Towing mirrors went onto the car and off we went, still grinning, like two kids in the preverbal sweet shop. Next stop Chapel Lane C&M site.
We eventually turned off the major roads and onto Chapel Lane, as we drove along we spotted what looked like a Church tower to our left and immediately after this we found the entrance to the caravan site.
Booking in was easy enough and we began our trawl of the site, looking for our perfect spot.
Eventually found one that backed onto trees, a great sized pitch as were all those which were specified for awnings.
First impressions of the site were good, standard Caravan Club toilet/shower block and spotlessly clean as expected. Those pitches with awning space were as said above, of a great size, nice and wide with the usual stone ground.
All with grass boarders and trees dotted through the site and around its circumference. Pitches that weren’t designated for awnings were a little less attractive, it looked more like a carpark as the whole area was tarmac with a road going through the middle to the more appealing pitches. Not something that we’d choose, but each to their own.
Once Pod was levelled the fun then began, time to find homes for all our caravanning paraphernalia; pots, pans, duvet, groceries and clothes to name a few, plus sorting the usual stuff out such as the electric, water and figuring out the TV and WIFI settings.
It took us a few hours, everything probably took longer than it should of as we couldn’t help stopping every now and then to pinch ourselves with disbelief, but with a lunch break in between, we eventually had Pod sorted.
Dinner was cooked in the slow cooker and eaten at our lovely little dinette, we couldn’t stop giggling like teenagers as this process alone was new to us. I wasn’t forever crouched down looking for cooking utensils and Mat was doing his best not to duck down as he took the two strides at his full height to the front seating in the van.
Night time soon arrived, and we sat on the sofa looking out of our huge front window whilst listening to the radio fitted in one of the top cupboards, we can say we were truly in love with Pod, she was everything we expected and more, so much so, we felt like we’d borrowed her from someone for a cheeky trip away.
We hadn’t any issues with her, she just needed tweaking to our own personal needs, so the following morning we would be heading back up north and home to collect more Pod gear, then on to Burrs Country Park C&M site for a further two nights.
We wished we could have stayed at Chapel Lane longer as there seemed so much to see, the Transport Museum was just outside the gates, grade II St. Mary’s Church nearby and various walks on offer such as Walkers Heath Park which had 52 acres to explore. There were also 3 pubs within a mile radius of the site.
Bed was made up easily enough and in future we now had the option of leaving it made up for our ‘on the move’ trips which involved 2-night stops and still have the option of sitting at the dinette.
Fabulous night sleep was had by both, Mat had the added comfort of lying stretched out, the bed was that long his feet didn’t touch the bottom. It was lovely to wake up to a blue sky peeping down through the skylight and being able to use our own little washroom, so no mad dash to the site facilities was needed.
We wanted to make the most of our stop at Burrs, so we dragged ourselves from under the duvet and made the seating up, more to give it a go, plus the novelty of having a sitting and dining area will take a while to wear off.
The mattress came out of the bunk as we thought this area was best suited for storage of the duvet, sheet and topper, pillows went under one of the dinette seats.
Carpets and sink drainer were also removed and all will go into storage once home. We may use them in the future, but for now they weren’t needed. Pod was given a quick wipe down and the Aquaroll, Wastemaster and electrical cable were all placed in the area above the axle, nose weight would be done once home before Burrs as she would then be fully loaded with additional items such as the sun canopy, chairs and pup tent.
Back home family were given a quick guided tour of Pod and once we’d allowed them to drool over her we were off again, not far this time, 40 minutes up the road to Burrs, a site neither of us had been to before so were looking forward to exploring. Another Caravan and Motorhome Site, these work brilliantly for us as no deposit is needed and as we both work shifts that can be changed at the drop of a hat, it’s really a no-brainer, as long as we cancel with 72 hours there aren’t really any penalties.
Took a right off the B6214 and onto Woodhill Road, following this to the end brought us to Burrs and its cobbled road. This was a very slow drive of about 200m, it’s not one we really want to rush over as the chances of everything inside Pod finding a new location was highly likely.
Entrance to the site was just past the Brown Cow Pub, but to get onto the site we had to buzz the intercom and hope that someone in the office answered or it would have meant staying put whilst one of us walked to the office to make our presence known. Fortunately, just as I was about to set off on foot, someone shouted a greeting through the intercom and once we verified our name the gate was raised, and we rolled forward to the office.
Do understand the reason for the caution, but it could do with the intercom being slightly further back from the gate. If the warden hadn’t caught our attention through the intercom we’d have been blocking the gate and those behind us would have been stuck. We had nowhere to go, the likelihood of them all moving out of the way, so we could reverse was verging on never.
Booked in, but not before being told off for leaving the car engine running, trying to keep the fridge cool wasn’t a good enough reason so off it went.
Pitch along the railway line was chosen and we were given the option for nose in or out which was a nice touch as usually sites can be quite strict about this. We opted for nose out, we were determined to make use of our wonderful front window and this would give a great view of the railway on which steam trains were known to go up and down on a regular basis.
Pod was soon up and running and our home-made sun canopy came out too. Doddle to make and it was up along the awning rail within a few minutes, perfect fit and provided that much needed protection from the sun, also cooled the inside of Pod down too, as soon as it went up the temperature inside went down by a few degrees.
Time came for a walk round the site and to visit The Brown Cow. Again, generic C&M facilities blocks and spotlessly clean, the site was also well maintained with grass verges running between all the pitches. Some were within metres of the railway line of which quite a few were fully serviced pitches and those to the back of the site ran along the hedgerow of the Pub, so one to bear in mind if you don’t want the noise of the beer garden during the evening.
The Brown Cow was welcoming, and we chose to sit in the beer garden with a pint of ‘Ore-Some’, in fact we had two whilst looking over the tops of the caravan site to the railway line and station. Turned out there wouldn’t be any steam trains today, due to the risk, the incredibly beautiful sunny weather we were having did have some down falls it seems.
Back to Pod for dinner and once eaten we lounged around inside and outside of Pod, trying different positions to gain optimum effect, plus we spent quite some time trying to remember where we’d put everything. Eventually the temperature began to drop, and the sun went down, again we were both drawn to the front window, like two goldfish in a bowl, except we didn’t want to get out.
Woke again to a beautiful blue sky and the plan for today was to walk along the River Irwell and explore.
Bed made back to the lounge, all windows opened, and we sat at the dinette for breakfast with the door open, love the views from every angle and with the door open the dinette is perfectly positioned to look out the door and over to the river.
Good old Google Earth provided us with a bird’s eye view of the area and gave us a few ideas for local walks, we opted to go right out of the site and follow the river to see where it goes, sometimes a bit of mystery tour is the best way, don’t you think?
We started at Burrs Mill which was originally built in the 1790’s but changed to a bleach works in the 1880’s, not much left of it now but dotted around are landmark signs to give you a feel for the place.
Next stop was The Stone Cycle which is made from stone, copper and brass, looks great from Google Earth and well worth a stop. Something we didn’t know and will look into for the future, this is part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail and in total it features 70 pieces of art work from local, national and international artists. The Stone Cycle is made from a Bury dismantled bridge and once 100 years of industrial grime had been washed off the artist found marks made by the original stone masons to which new carved symbols were added.
Along the river we went, spotting herons, a kingfisher and dragonflies of every size, we passed the weir and continued up the path along the farm fence line.
Trains whooshed past and birds of prey hovered overhead as we reached the stone railway bridge. We had the option to continue to Walmersely but decided to turn back and treat ourselves to lunch at The Brown Cow.
Now, as we were in Bury, black pudding had to be on the menu and it was, this was ordered along with BLT baguette and cheese/onion toasty. Absolutely delicious, great value for money and went down very well with two pints of ‘Ore-Some’.
Back at Pod, feet were put up under the awning and we were treated to the odd train that slowly trundled past along the East Lancs Railway. After doing a little research we discovered The Flying Scotsman paid regular visits to the line, not ones to want to miss such a sight we booked again to stay in September when it was next due. We may even get to have a ride in it, so more research required.
It was our last night at the site and home was our next destination, but not before dropping Pod off at storage, a new experience for one of us, as our previous ‘van had been small enough to be stored at home. New Pod was just over 1m longer and a few inches wider than old Pod, so horror of horrors, storage had to be found, but we wouldn’t change a thing, she’s a perfect fit for us. Old Pod but with the awning built in.
We were up by 9 and once Pod was loaded up we were on the road again. Storage was no more than 15 minutes from home, but we were in no rush to get there. Drove through the gates and found our spot, once safely sited with the motor mover the front cover came off and 3 locks went on. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling driving away but weekly visits were planned… until our next visit to lovely Angelsey.