Who we were – Who I am.


Sheila and I began our caravanning hobby more than 55 years ago, shortly after we were married in 1963. We were both teachers and to go with our new Sprite Musketeer, we splashed out on a 1964 Ford Cortina Estate. The prices of those two items seem ridiculously low compared with today’s prices – the Ford Cortina cost £700 and the Musketeer was £300 – but even so, we had to resort to hire purchase over two years to pay for them. Our first daughter was born the following year and right from the start we caravanned with her. On some Friday evenings, as soon as we were home from work, we quickly packed and set off for a weekend away. One of our favourite spots was at a Caravan Club CL very close to Frensham Ponds in Surrey. No electricity of course; neither were there toilets or showers but at the equivalent of 12½p per night, it was fine. On other weekends we went to Kings Caravan Park at Pevensey Bay. That was an all “bells and whistles” site where we were charged a whacking £1 per night!

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Site near Frensham – March 1967

By 1970 our ‘new’ Cortina had required extensive welding on the rear chassis members because they were rusting from the insides. I became so fearful of its weakness around the towbar area that I decided it would have to go. Because I was well into DIY house renovation, I bought a two-year-old Transit panel van. First I set about installing windows; then we wanted bench type seats which would convert to a bed; then a sink and gas hob followed, and finally a raised roof. By this time, we were a family of four and we used our ‘motor caravan’ for our first ever venture abroad, just across the channel and down the coast from Calais. We used the Transit mainly as a tow car for the next six years, before changing to another Transit – this time with a diesel engine. And the process of conversion to motor caravan began all over again. In 1979 we took our caravan to France for the first time towed by the Transit. We stayed at the campsite in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris for a few days before moving on to Brittany. After two weeks we returned to Calais and caught our Townsend Thoresen ferry back to Dover. By 1982 we were really taken with touring in France so we said goodbye to the Transit and bought a new Ford Sierra Estate – with a 2.3 Peugeot diesel engine.

Swanage – August 1974
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Brittany – August 1981

For the next three years, the four of us caravanned during every school holiday and for part of the summer holidays, we took the ferry to France. By 1985 with my wife only doing part-time work, when I was offered redundancy, I accepted but was immediately invited to return to work every Monday of each week. I quickly realized how restricting it was on our touring plans. At the end of the year, I resigned. And we were free to go away as and when we felt like it. In part celebration, after 18 years we said goodbye to our well-loved Sprite Musketeer and bought our first Avondale

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Coffee break on the Brenner Pass – 1994
La Tranche-sur-Mer – 1985


During the next ten years, with the girls no longer reliant on us we began to plan longer tours abroad. Apart from the ferry, nothing was booked – we just went. Sometimes to Switzerland, sometimes to Italy, sometimes to Northern Spain. In 1991 it was time to consider another change of tow car. At the time, Citroen was winning the Caravan Club’s Tow Car of the Year with their diesel BX’s, so it was a new Citroen BX–TZD Estate that I decided to have. And my love affair with Citroen diesels continues to this day.
For some time we had been looking at the idea of caravanning during the winter months in Spain, so for January of 1995 I booked P&O’s Pride of Bilbao and from that port, journeyed down to Malaga where we stayed at the site in Torremolinos. Showers and toilets were dreadful but it had electricity and water so we managed. The following year we did the Bilbao ferry again but this time, I drove to Camping Bon Sol at El Campello, near Alicante. We enjoyed it so much that we did the same site the following year. By 1998, I considered that P&O’s Bilbao fares had become too expensive – even for us as shareholders, so for that year I used the Dover/Calais crossing and drove through France, which I did for the next fourteen years. Sometimes with P&O, sometimes DFDS and sometimes on the tunnel. We tried most destinations ranging from Alicante round to Albufeira in Portugal. But our preference became the Costa del Sol.

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Boarding at Bilbao – February 1995

In 2011 disaster struck. We had enjoyed two fantastic months in Spain. December was spent near Estepona, January at Torrox and in February at Marbella. Just before the move from Torrox, Sheila became troubled with a low-down, nagging back pain. Then after the move to Marbella, the pain increased so much so that we had to seek medical advice. We saw several doctors who charged high fees but only prescribed pain killers. Finally, we got her into a private hospital where investigations took place over the next week or so. Unfortunately, she picked up a hospital infection which quickly developed into pneumonia. Sadly, it brought her life to a sudden and unexpected end. I went home on my own, and her coffin arrived three or four days later.
Our caravanning days were over. The caravan was sold; all the equipment was got rid of. Everything went.
But as the months went by, I began to wonder if I’d made an expensive mistake. After all, even when one has lost loved ones, life still needs to go on. When my daughters mentioned that in August they were going to a rented cottage in Dorset, I realized that if I had my van I could have joined them at the nearby Caravan Club site. I quickly looked around and on the CC’s website, and I found my present Avondale.
Now, at 90 years old, I still tow the van to Spain for four winter months and get away with the caravan during the summer in the UK as and when I feel like it.
Although we never ventured abroad without full insurance cover, were it not for the fact that I was able to turn to the Caravan Club’s Red Pennant for help and advice in February of 2011, I would have been in serious financial difficulty.
When a UK citizen dies in another country there are many formalities to be gone through. The death must be recorded at the local British Consulate and local death certificates and translation obtained. If the body of the deceased is to be taken out of the country, embalming must be arranged for and the necessary certificates obtained. Finally, transport and customs declarations must be arranged. All this to be done when one is feeling bereft. Because of my Red Pennant policy, the Caravan Club’s agents in Spain arranged and paid for all of this; also for the chauffeuring of my vehicle back to the UK; my flight home; my phone bills and all the medical expenses.

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Westward Ho – August 2007

Last updated December 2019.

January 2022.

Now that I’m into my 93rd year, I think my days of trotting off to Spain for the winter are over. It’s brought to an end a continuous run of twenty-five winters. Of course, Covid has been the final straw. Had it not been for the pandemic, I would certainly have got one more winter there. But now, age issues have finally caught up with me. At the moment, there’s nothing that will stop me me from caravanning in the UK, but I guess for foreign travel, the underwriters would not be too anxious to give me a quote for medical insurance.



50 thoughts on “Who we were – Who I am.

  1. First of all, may I say that I am sorry for your loss.

    My parents had a Musketeer C, the same as yours, bought new in 1967. It came from Fleet Caravans, now long lost. They went to Lyon, France in 1970, with the Musketeer, and I went to Pierrepont, in Frensham.

    I learned to drive in France, and went around France and Italy in the Músketeer with my father’s (very early) Citroen CX.

    We subsequently moved to Frensham in 1991, and stayed there whilst our children were at school. I reignited my interest in Citroen cars- yes, I had 3 BX’s- and now tow behind a C6. My DS awaits a new engine, but I have the towbar to put the Carlight behind her!


  2. Sorry for your loss. Used to got to spain each winter in a motorhome. Traded it in for a caravan and wanted to continue my travels to spain, but at the age of 74 found the prospect daunting. Your blogs have given me renewed confidence to attempt it. Congratulations!!!


    1. Thank you Ian. I can’t think of a more pleasant way of getting through a winter than spending it here. I know how you feel when you say you find the prospect daunting. In the weeks prior to leaving, I’m always very apprehensive and wondering if I’m not taking on too much. But once I get set off and under way, all the apprehension vanishes. It’s tempting for me to say “Give it a try”, but only you know if it’s possible.


  3. Started reading your blogs the other day looking for inspiration for next year, fantastic read so well put together, so glad you’ve continued ‘vanning after your sad loss, hope we meet up on the road or in the field. Good luck my friend

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very much enjoyed your site, many of your favorite sites and routes are ours too but you do seem to have seen much more of some places we just drive past thinking of Salamanca and Caceres in particular. I lost my wife and caravanning partner at an early age and like you thought it was all over but I did find another lady eventually who was willing to give it a go. We have traveled extensively since retirement but now spend our 122 RP days split between Spring in Portugal and Autumn in Croatia.
    All the best and hope you can get a good few more trips in.
    David and Marjorie


  5. Hello David & Marjorie. Thank you for your kind comments and appreciation. Yes – I am looking forward to my next trip which begins next Tuesday morning at Portsmouth and hopefully I will be adding some more blog pages. My best wishes to you both. Regards John.


  6. Just started heading off with the old caravan again after a 12 year gap, and came across this while researching ideas for Spain – what a truly inspirational blog. You have inspired us, and I’m sure many other people, to go for it and make the most of life. Hope the trip’s going well – looking forward to the next installment!


  7. You truly are an inspiration! I am absolutely heartbroken to hear of your loss, but humbled by your courage to carry on.

    Looking at the comments, you have clearly given hope and had a positive impact on others who have tragically found themselves in a similar situation.

    I have very much enjoyed reading your blog and shall look forward to hearing more of your wonderful tales.

    Happy Caravanning!


  8. What an inspirational read. So sorry for your loss. Well done for finding a way through your loss and carrying on with your caravanning. My husband and I are hoping to retire in about 4 years time and you’ve certainly whetted my appetite for exploring Spain in the winter months. We currently have a motorhome, which is very useful for following our daughter to regattas (she’s a rower) but I think a caravan might give us more freedom (and comfort) when we reach retirement and have the luxury of being able to spend several months away.


  9. Loved reading about your European adventures. We have spent the last three winters down the coast from el Pino at Almunecar, we occasionally play Petanque across the road from your site. We will look out for you this winter.


  10. I’ve just found your blog today after you had commented on mine, thank you. I enjoyed reading about your adventures on your recent trip to Spain. We have tried the economy sailing before but usually end up with a rough crossing and I’m not keen on our precious campervan being on the open deck! Otherwise it is fine. Good to hear you found sunshine further south.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I must say, what an inspiring blog of your life. It is something that can be admired! I read the whole blog and was truly saddend by your loss. I’m glad you found the love for caravanning once again where you can reminis and share the memories.
    I have just gotten our family into this and hope to do the same as what you once did with your experiences. Many thanks for sharing!


  12. Hi Jondo – it’s Bugs from Caravanchat – just revisited your blog for the first time in quite a while and still find myself in awe of the amazing history contained here. Great read, especially foranyone who would like to travel abroad but has yet to develop the necessary courage!
    Thank you so much!


  13. Greatly enjoyed your 2017-18 chapter. We are going to spend around 6 weeks at Torre del Mar this spring. Were that last year but confined to the site by my wife incurring an injury that prevented much sightseeing. Your blog has given me a lot of ideas for the next trip. Thanks


  14. Thanks for your input on the Club Together forum, which is how I ended up on your blog. Such useful info which will help this year’s trip – along way to go to catch you up as this will be only our second trip to Spain!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It must feel strange spending the winter in UK instead of southern Spain. We have only done the last five winters in Spain and are really disappointed not to be going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right there Colin, Winter has only just started and what I’ve seen so far, I don’t like. But there’s nothing we can do about it except hope for happier times. Keep well!


  16. Hi, I have just come across your site after reading a forum post and seeing your link. You have such lovely memories which I have enjoyed reading (with tears and smiles) – we have only just found the joy of caravanning (5 years ago), but love every moment and the memories our children will take away are wonderful. Thank you for sharing your adventures.


  17. Wow! I have just found your blog as need to carry out some repairs to an old lunar clubman. We have three young children and I had started to wonder if its would be too much effort to take it away this year but having read a few of your posts I’m totally inspired! Thanks so much for taking the time to document your repairs and share your adventures. Becky

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Only discovered your blog today. It’s fantastic – the details of your trips and interactions are fascinating, and very helpful too. We’re retiring now and are new to caravanning, so your caravan trips are quite inspiring and informative. And your information on bike rides is useful too as my wife has to use an electric trike to get around.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This is a wonderful blog! I was compelled to comment abs to thank you for sharing all of this information.
    I have recently bought my first caravan (a 1999 Lunar LX2000) and while it needs some attention it’s an exciting time. I hope to become as handy as you clearly are, and will use your tips to start the journey.
    Best wishes, Jenny


  20. Just discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading from start to finish. I’m thinking of taking a trip down to the Costa del Sol, I’m on my own so it’s a bit daunting.


  21. I do so admire you doing all these trips alone. I don’t know how you find the motivation, let alone the strength, mental and physical, to achieve trips that are such a large undertaking as these. Well done, and long may you continue enjoying your caravanning adventures.


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