After selling the house three weeks ago, it’s been all go go go for the Dyer family. Our first week of freedom saw us yo-yo-ing between staying with my mum in Salford and with the in-laws in the Cotswolds. Random trips to North Yorkshire, Durham and Lancashire were also made to purchase our new home on wheels and some much needed accessories for our new lifestyle. The following week we booked into a holiday park in Blackpool where we stayed in a static caravan for 7 nights while Jez endured his B+E training and test nearby…he passed thankfully. We had purchased our caravan one week previously so he was definitely feeling the pressure beforehand (especially with all the B+E Test Centres nationwide having a 2 month waiting list for re-sits).
From Blackpool we headed to Bolton where our caravan was delivered (Alex, thank you again for the use of your car park. xx). The caravan arrived late and, two hours behind schedule, the majority of our possessions were loaded into the van and car. The plan was then to hit the Cotswolds once more and stay with the in-laws for the night. The aim was to organise the caravan the next morning before driving down to a family festival for a long weekend with friends in Winchester (I know, I know, lesson now learned, it takes a lot longer than a morning to organise a family of four’s belongings into a caravan. Also, although it was a lot of fun, it wasn’t the wisest move going to party at a festival during the middle of moving home…the girls are like Duracell bunnies but mine and Jez’s stamina just isn’t what it once was 🙂 ).
On our way past Knutsford we hit our first stumbling block. Due to an unforeseen glitch, we were unable to use the in-laws drive that night to park the caravan. It was nearly 9:30pm and we toyed with the idea of turning back to Bolton but in the end we carried on regardless. I spent the next few hours furiously googling the legalities of sleeping in laybys and motorway service stations throughout the night. I found that, yes, it is legal to do so in both areas but a small fee is usually charged by service stations for each hour stayed following the mandatory free two-hour parking. Unfortunately, I came across a lot of horror stories too, I started to feel really concerned about the girls’ safety, we didn’t really have adequate security on the caravan just yet. I was feeling very nervous. Jez, on the other hand, was as cool as a cucumber, whilst towing a 26ft caravan for the very first time in the middle of the night, he was adamant that we’d be fine.
Following a motorway closure and diversion, we arrived at a “caravan-friendly” service station off the M5 at 1:15am. We drove around for 45 minutes but, due to the enormous amount of lorries there, we couldn’t get parked in the caravan section. We were allowed to take up a few spaces in the general car park though for the cost of £29 for four hours (I would have paid any amount of money to stay in the car park at this point but, as a comparison, you can pay as little as £7 for just under 24 hours at a basic touring site). The girls and I slept in the caravan bunk beds surrounded by bags, boxes, bikes and scooters and, as there was no more space in the van, Jez slept in the car. I was tired, ill (my doctor had prescribed me with antibiotics earlier that day), scared (thanks Google!) and was feeling a little emotional but the girls and I managed to sleep until Jez woke us at 6am the next morning.
Back on the road the next day, we set off to the in-laws in high spirits undeterred by our impromptu sleepover just off the M5. The girls thought our first ‘unofficial’ night in the van had been exciting, and, although it felt like we’d been thrown in at the deep end, Jez and I were extremely grateful for the experience. The next time our best laid plans don’t turn out accordingly, we’ll be confident in knowing exactly what we can do and where we can go…and I can stay away from Google’s scary articles. I’m sure life will throw a lot more challenges at us during our transition and thereafter.
Skipping forward to the present day, we’ve travelled a total of 2,039 miles since moving out of the house. It was our fourth ‘official’ night in our new home last night and we’re really looking forward to taking it easy over the next couple of weeks here at a beautiful touring park in Wimbourne in Dorset. We have had some teething problems with the set up of the van, we do have lots more to organise and we know it’s really early days, but we’re absoultely loving it and haven’t looked back once so far!!!
Here are some photographs of our caravan before we moved into it (details and pictures of our current full set-up to follow).