Nightstop Thoughts – by Ian Biggar and Sue Stanley
Ian & Sue's Blog offers some good reading

Ian & Sue’s Blog offers some good reading

Editor’s Note:  This article was submitted as a comment on a previous article on this subject but it runs to 1,500 words and is very well written, so I thought it deserved a bit more accessiblity than it would have posted as a Comment.  Ian and Sue are experienced motorhomers and they write their own Travel Blog, which you can visit by clicking HERE.  It contains some very good reading.

I see you are pursuing a topic close to our hearts.

Although members of the Caravan Club for many years, we haven’t been following the forums on CC for the very reason that you felt driven to set up another venue for discussion of this topic! So here is our five-pennyworth on the subject…

The establishment of plentiful aires/overnight stopovers for motorhomers around this country is a dream close to our hearts and we have followed the progress of various UK campaigns, but their dedicated efforts seem dwarfed by the enormity of the project to catch up with our continental neighbours.

Most local authority’s departments that have an input to this are ignorant of what motorhomes are and what motorhomers do, and show indifference to the revenue motorhoming can bring to tourism in their area. They seem unable to swiftly remove itinerants on public land, yet are up to their eyes with over-restrictive by-laws, planning rules and regulations, which they hasten to embellish and over-use to restrict even daytime parking for motorhomes, let alone overnight stops!

An important distinction, regularly re-iterated in Europe, is the difference between “parking” and “camping” – as soon as the chairs, table or awning come out you are Camping and the authorities will take a stern view. We as motorhomers need to remember that and act accordingly if we are not to damage our own interests. We mustn’t act like itinerants of the infamous kind, or give the impression we want to park up for months, raise our kids, pester the populace and despoil the area! All we are asking for is the right to park.

So, the various motorhome groups are all doing their bit, but who has influence with the real power brokers in government, tourism and local authorities?

Lets look at the situation in France, Germany and Italy. All are countries with strong and continues………

UK Nightstops – Discussion Summary
Some motorway service areas have quiet corners

Some motorway service areas have quiet corners

As I mentioned, I originated a Thread on the Caravan Club forum to explore ideas for nightstops for motorhomes in UK, and to include provisions for other camping units, notably caravans.  I’m hoping the Caravan Club would get involved in providing them, to bring a bit of experience and weight to the scene, to set a better standard for UK than the variable one found abroad and, for the benefit of CC and its members, to broaden the scope of CC’s commercial activities.

Clearly any caravan site, including CLs, is capable of providing one night accommodation for motorhomes (and caravans and trailer tents) but they are primarily holiday locations and they are geared to advanced booking, relatively early arrivals and longer stays.  In contrast nightstops cater for casual arrivals, parking rather setting out a pitch and a shorter stay pattern.  The busier arrivals and departure pattern which shorter stays and later arrivals would bring to a Club Site would probably be unwelcome to many holidaymaker caravanners, wanting a bit of peace and quiet.

Caravan Sites and CLs are regulated according to the provisions of the Caravan Site and Control of Development Act 1960 together with model standards for things like pitch spacing and the provision of camping facilities.  This might lead you to assume that all overnight stops for camping vehicles and trailers would come under the same regulation – but no, because in UK there is already provision for overnight parking which operates simply as permitted parking.  Overnight stops on motorway service areas are one example and there are some local authority car parks (not that many at present) where overnight parking of camping vehicles is permitted. Some private car parks also permit overnight stays, for example motorhome dealerships. continues………

UK Nightstops for Motorhomes – The Practicalities

NightstopA discussion on this subject has been running on the Caravan Club’s Forum, Club Together, for a couple of weeks but  an attempt to concentrate on the practical design aspects has run into difficulties, with too many off-topic and otherwise unhelpful posts.  So I thought I would offer a more sheltered opportunity to progress the discussion on this Blog.

The proposition is that Nightstops for motorhomes (and potentially caravans) have developed along ad hoc and sometimes messy lines on the Continent, so could the Caravan Club, a big player in the UK recreational market, do better for UK by developing a more planned and coordinated set of nightstops to complement their existing and extensive network of large touring camp sites and smaller, five van, certificated locations?

Small ones?

Small ones?

Nightstops provide overnight parking and they might also have facilities for taking on water and dumping tanks, but they are not campsites.  They don’t provide the facilities of campsites, like shower and toilet blocks or resident staff.  They are for short stays, either as rest stops in transit or sleeping locations while touring an area, rather than for any sort of residence.  At their simplest they are simply car parks where motorhomes are permitted to stop overnight.

Parking rather than camping rules will therefore apply and the units will usually be closer together (i.e. parked side by side) rather than spaced out as on campsites, with room for awnings and tables and chairs.  They are therefore more like lorry parks, where drivers can park together, sleep for a few hours, maybe do some local shopping or visiting and then move on.

Big ones?

Big ones?

Along transit routes, nightstops on the Continent (called Aires and Stelplatz) are often large parking areas and they get very busy but nightstops are also found in rural villages and those may accommodate only a small handful and rareful be full.  Parking may be restricted to motorhomes but is often shared with other vehicles, including lorries, although caravans are often prohibited.

Piecemeal development is taking place in UK using a mixture of exiting locations like pub and other car parks and some local authorities in tourist areas are recognising the value of providing for motorhomes rather than shunning them, but it’s patchy and slow.  There are hopes for a positive impact on local tourism and businesses and concerns about an adverse impact on campsites and about Travellers and others abusing them.

There is an article on the All the Aires Website which condenses ideas from continental experience and suggests way to construct a good nightstop – and this is worth everyone who is interested in this topic reading as background information.  The message is that they can be successful (and lucrative) but money should be taken for parking charges rather than services like water, which it is expedient and more practical to provide free of charge instead.

Service points can be simple

Service points can be simple

Could a big player like the Caravan Club usefully get involved and start to develop a network of Nightstops, big, small or a mixture, to compliment its camping locations?  And if so what types should they be and where?

The Motorcaravan Club is actively engaged but is trying to provide nightstops as small camping locations, which brings them under camping regulations.  The Caravan Club is already planning to give Nightstops consideration and is being encouraged to think outside that box – and the discussion on their Forum has already developed into the nuts and bolts of the idea: the types and sizes and locations and practical design aspects.

But it is getting clogged up with a lot of off-topic stuff, hence this invitation to discuss.  Anyone may contribute but please note that comments which aren’t about the nuts & bolts of nightstop development and design will not be accepted.

How do you think nightstops can best be developed in UK?   Over to you  ……………………………………………

Refillable LPG Bottles
The Safefill breaks new ground as a light, translucent, refillable cylinder

The Safefill breaks new ground as a light, translucent, refillable cylinder which is also competitively priced

This is another camping-related rather than a motorcycling article, but it should be useful for those who use LPG at home for BBQs, patio heaters and the like as well as campers, so I think it’s worth including here.

LPG (liquid petroleum gas) can be bought these days from self-help dispensers at gas centres and on petrol station forecourts instead of only by swapping empty cylinders for ful ones.  I helped a friend to install a refillable LPG cylinder into his motorhome recently, so he can now fill up with LPG relatively cheaply at an autogas pump.  The research we did before choosing and fitting his cylinder forms the basis of this article.

Re-fillable gas cyclinders (or bottles, as they often get called) have become popular because it is now an easy and convenient way of buying the gas as well as being significantly cheaper.  When you exchange an empty rented cylinder for a full one, you might be paying three times as much for the gas it contains compared with buying from an autogas pump.  We may not spend all that much on LPG each year but it’s so much cheaper from the autogas pump that it will often be worth buying the equipment to allow you to do so.

LPG is now widely available in UK from autogas pumps and it has been widely available across Europe for longer.  You need adapters to fit the various continental pumps but they are easily available.  With a refillable cylinder at your disposal you have much more flexibility using LPG while travelling in Europe than you did when rented cylinders were the only option.  Calor cylinder for example aren’t available overseas so special arrangements to rent Camping Gas or other Continental cylinders were necessary unless you could carry exra Calor spares.  Life is much easier these days.

Our UK Government wants to encourage the use of LPG as a vehicle fuel, so LPG is currently much cheaper than petrol at autogas pumps – usually around half the price.  The build-up of LPG as a vehicle fuel seems to have been slow in UK and it still doesn’t look like escalating rapidly, so although the Government will probably raise the taxes on LPG eventually, the risk of that happening within the short and medium term looks reasonably small.

If you can fill your container at your convenience and cheaply, without even having to travel far to do so, why not?

So there’s convenience as well as economy in using re-fillable cylinders, although of course continues………

Venice by Motorhome (and boat)

Camping pitch with a view

Fusina is a locality on the West side of Venice Lagoon from which there is an hourly boat service across the Lagoon to Venice and also has a very large and well established campsite.  It’s busy even in September, but the facilities are good and they never seem to get overloaded, even though the site has a large number of static caravans and camping “sheds” as well as pitches for touring units, of which motorhomes predominate although there are also lots of tents and a few caravans.

I saw relatively few motorcycles during our stay, discounting the small scooters which are often carried on motorhomes to provide local transport, but there were a few bikers camping in tents.  While in UK I admire tenters as well as sympathise with them of cold or wet days, in this part of the world I suspect camping in tents requires particularly thick skin.  The temperature was till over 25 late in the evening and stayed well over 20 degrees Celsius until morning – and there were midges, lots of midges.  Sleeping in a tent can’t have been much fun.

But the reason for staying here has very little to do with touring and once on site none of the bikes ever moved until the owners packed up and moved on; instead Camping Fusina provides a relatively inexpensive place to stay in order to visit Venice itself, which is also why we chose to come here again.  Part of the campsite offers waterside pitches and although these are quickly taken up if they are vacant, it’s usually possible to move on to one on your second or third morning if you want to, as we were able to do.  Shade is vital while you sit and watch the world go by across the Lagoon and the deep water shipping channel passes close to the West shore to add to the spectator interest.  It’s quite a place.

So is Venice itself of course, even though walking the streets and crossing the bridges is a perspiring experience in these hot conditions – and probably would be even for skinny Brits.  Seeking out shade and somewhere to sit to cool off a bit become necessary at frequent intervals.

Most Wingers will have a finite appetite for architecture and art and I’m no exception but Venice is a bit special.  Even though you are sharing your experiences with enormous numbers of other tourists it’s certainly worth the sweat and the struggle.  Ideally you would be absolutely stinking rich to enjoy the comforts and style which Venice can offer such as the liberal use of water taxis to get around and the many stylish, but very expensive, eateries.  But even for a fat (and therefore particularly perspiring) Brit who doesn’t run to such expenses, Venice is a delightful place to visit.

There are lots of churches into which you can wander into for somewhere sit and cool off for a few minutes without being bothered, and at the same time admire the incredibly ornate decorations and skilful workmanship which has gone into them.  There are bars and cafes in the less well trampled alleyways where you can buy a drink or a snack without having to increase your mortgage.   But as you get closer to S Mark’s Square everything doubles in price and if you want to indulge yourself with a cup of coffee actually sitting at one of the stylish cafes in the Square you should expect to pay over 10€ for the pleasure. continues………

Crossing the Alps into Italy with an unwanted Go Box and in a Cloud

Flying on instruments

We crossed a high alpine mountain pass once before in cloud and rain on a biking tour which turned out to be quite a challenge, especially one rider who was of short stature and had a tall windscreen with no “swiper”, with the result that he had to stand on his footpegs to see where he was going – not much fun while you’re trying to negotiate tight climbing bends with on-coming traffic which seemed far too large to be using that road at all.

This time it was easier, both because we had four wheels on the tarmac and it also turned out to be an unexpectedly good and wide road.  I had planned non-motor way routes through Austria to avoid the complicated toll system they operate which requires vehicles over 3.5 tons, as which our motorhome just qualifies, to use an electronic toll collection device called a Go Box.  There are perfectly viable non-motorway routes through Austria and so one of these boxes always seemed to me to be an unnecessary complication.

Unfortunately however fate had decreed that this time we would have a Go Box because I’d driven East on the (free) German A8 motorway one exit too far and ended up in Austria, still on the motorway, by accident.  I had been slavishly following the satnav as it took us into Berchtesgadenland, failing to take notice of the signposts about vignettes until I saw “Ostereich 2.5 km”, by which time it was too late. We were able to stop at the last German Services, where they sell Vignettes and Go Boxes,  but there was no route back into Germany.  I had no alternative but to buy a Go Box.

Our route would take us off the motorway at the very next exit and thence back into Germany to Berchtesgaden, a matter of a few kilometres, but it wouldn’t, I was advised, make sense to risk the 250€ fine (plus the cost of a Go Box) for not carrying one, even for this very short distance.  The police, we were warned, were extremely vigilant and unforgiving. continues………

Visiting Hitler’s Bavarian Tea Room

A transit stop near Munich

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGEMENT

Sorry it’s been quite on the Blog recently – I’ve been touring Europe with very little internet access.  Here’s a tale of what Management and I have been up to during the past week or so.

We had booked a Channel Crossing for our late Summer holiday but nothing else, so it was the weather forecast which persuaded us to go East instead of South to the Loire, which had been our Plan A.  It had been raining as we left Lancashire but we got clear of it not long after crossing the Manchester Ship Canal and apart from a few isolated or overnight showers we struck lucky ever since.

Our friends in Maidstone have a place for us to park our motorhome and yet again offered us an evening meal, so we woke up and set off without disturbing them to make an early Channel Tunnel crossing.  Breakfast was a snatched bacon butty in the Folkstone Terminal and well before 9am (European Time) we were on the A16 heading for Belgium.

A small town called Mettlach, just into Germany and just off the motorway after Luxemburg has a handy overnight parking place for motorhomes which we had used before so that, since we were heading East rather than South, was our aiming point.  We had used this place before on the way home with disastrously expensive consequences because the Town has a large Villeroy and Bosch factory and an associated factory outlet store, in which Management got seriously carried away but this time we were outbound, we had discovered just how much she overloaded the van in the process of a two trolley shopping expedition last time (crockery is heavy in large quantities) and I was therefore forwarded.  We arrived in Mettlach on a Sunday when the shop was closed and we left before it opened the following morning.

Counting England, our starting point, we had driven in five countries by the time we got to our first Continental night stop.  We’ve found that  when you are making these fairly long transit drives to get to your chosen holiday area (n this case in was now to be Lake Garda in Northern Italy, it helps to have a night stop in mind which you can reach by 5pm or so, especially if you want to use a German Stellplatz (a designated motorhome parking place which is either free or only about 5€) rather than pay 25-30€ for a camping site.  Even outside the school holidays these sites often fill up early. continues………

Buying a Tin Tent

Similar to this available for under £8,000

Lots of Wingers buy a motorhomes or caravans these days, often because they want to combine their GoldWing hobby with going to a camping rally but feeling the need for a bit more comfort than a tent will provide. It’s all very well having youthful ideals of touring on your bike with everything you need on it, including a nubile wench and the sleeping accommodation you will be sharing, but times change – especially of course the capacity to attract (or cope with) a nubile wench.

We had owned a motorhome for a few years before I went back to biking and I hadn’t slept in a tent since my twenties.  Although when I bought my first GoldWing, a GL1200 Interstate, I did entertain fanciful ideas of loading it with camping gear and flexing my free spirits I never got farther than buying a small gas stove and a set of billycans, neither of which ever got used.  Management, as she’s referred to in our household, soon put paid to any thoughts I might have had that she might sleep in a tent; she’d done it once in a previous incarnation (and presumably as a nubile wench) and that was enough.

However we had sold our motorhome soon after buying the GoldWing because we weren’t really using it; when we weren’t visiting our then brand-new first grandchild we were touring on the bike with Elite Wings and therefore staying in hotels.  This seemed to me at the time to be the proper way to tour on a GoldWing; the bike was capable of carrying plenty but, especially if you were riding accompanied by the lady in your life, certainly not camping gear as well.  We needed all the available luggage space on the bike plus a trunk rack and bag just to carry our clothing etc.  We covered fairly long distances each day on enjoyable biking roads during our touring holidays with only the occasional rest day, so by the time we reached our night stops a shower followed by a beer or the other way around  was far more attractive than pitching a tent.

But  five years or so later we’d been there and done that with hotel-based touring and Management was no longer keen on riding at all, so we became more active with our local continues………

Enough of Tents – what are the alternatives?

Also useful for GoldWing rallies?

This Article develops the topic introduced by John Gratton in his recent Article, describing the cost effective solution he found in his quest for more comfortable camping.

Camping rallies of various sorts are an important part of many Wingers’ enjoyment of their hobby and many are perfectly happy camping in a tent; tents needn’t cost much and they can be small enough to pack on to the bike.  But as one Winger said to me recently, as we were sitting and chatting outside his tent in sunshine at a camping event, there comes a time when you’ve had enough of tents, even when it hasn’t been wet.  He’d reached that point and was thinking very seriously about the alternatives, even if it would mean towing his bike to the venue in future rather than riding it there.

It was this conversation coupled with seeing how well John Gratton had done, kitting himself out with a continues………

Motorhoming on a Budget by John Gratton

Refurbished and ready to tow a GoldWing

Editor’s Introduction: John Gratton is a long time member of GWOCGB and the Regional Rep for Staffordshire Wings.  He wanted to continue taking his GoldWing to camping events without having to pitch and sleep in a tent and this is the story of his search for an affordable alternative.

It was last August I decided that my old bones had started to tell me that my days of camping under canvas were drawing to a close. I considered buying a caravan, a lot more ‘bang for the buck’ basically and I could take my little dog Pip, with me, the downside of that option being that I could not take my beloved Wing with me so that option was quickly dismissed.

The only other option was purchasing a motorhome, so I started my research (well I logged on to Ebay) continues………