We finally managed to set off on our adventures for a long weekend in the Bailey Autograph 68-2.  Originally, we had planned to head South towards Devon, but the lure of an invite to The National held on the 24th to 29th May 2018 in Yorkshire was too tempting to miss. The motorhome provided by Bailey of Bristol was very kindly driven up by the Prima Leisure team, so all we had to do was travel up in our own car and make the most of the facilities and entertainment on offer.  Though I must say, it would have been good to have tried driving it, just for the experience.

Prima Leisure, our UK distributor for the Colapz products into the caravan, motorhome and camping markets had the huge task of setting up and managing the Club Shop, which they executed brilliantly.  With plenty of groceries and merchandise on offer, including daily newspapers, there was something for everyone to keep them amused and spending their well-earned money.  We were responsible for merchandising and selling our own Colapz products.   Positioned in prime position at the front of the shop, there was no excuse for not generating any sales.

With the sun still shining and the shop display looking good, it was time to get ourselves set-up in the motorhome.  Getting familiar with the basics, such as the electrics, was relatively straight forward.  It was a case of plug and go, and trying the various switches to see what did what.  However, when it came to the plumbing system, this was a completely different story.  Having spoken to other people who owned a motorhome, we knew there was an on-board tank, but we just couldn’t find it!  After talking to another motorhome owner, we finally located it under the carpet.  When you think about it, it made perfect sense, given its large 100L capacity and maximising space on these vehicles.

Next up was the toilet system.  We knew from other caravaners and motorhome owners that typically the toilet was used for doing number one’s and not number two’s.  That is a top tip, especially when you are a novice like us! After a brief “number one” visit to the toilet, working out how to flush it was certainly an interesting experience.   We assumed the toilet was flushed and dispensed into the waste unit, only to very quickly realise this was not the case.  After a couple attempts of trying and mopping up, we had to call on the expertise of our motorhome friends who pointed out the additional toilet waste lever on the side of the bowl.  What a difference that made!

Once the essentials were worked out, it was time to eat, and given it was our first night we decided to treat ourselves to some steak!  The cooking, dining and washing up experience was all as we expected.  Compared to camping in our usual 6-man tent, it was a pleasure to be indoors where it was warm, comfortable and everything was to hand. We ended the evening with the team from Prima Leisure, discussing our 1st day at The National and planning day 2.   It was estimated up to 15,000 visitors would be arriving for the event, and on a day when the weather forecast was for heavy rain!

Day 2 and welcome the rain!  We had a very comfortable sleep, and it was great to have the black-out blinds, allowing us to sleep in complete darkness.  Our usual trips in a tent are never a good thing on bright early mornings.   I have to say; the window blinds were excellent.  They also provided great screening during the day from flying insects and at the same time allowing the air to circulate.  It was so easy to switch between the two options.

However, there was one thing we did find challenging; setting up the bed.  Once the bed was made up, there were a couple of slim foam pads and a short seating back rest that didn’t form part of the set-up.  We decided to tuck them in under the bed and up at the drivers end.  The next day when we came to putting it back together as a seating & dining area was just as challenging.  Consequently, we tended to leave it set-up as a bed most of the time, and then sat outside to relax and dine.  This is definitely one of the drawbacks with a 2 berth where the seating and sleeping arrangements are all-in-one. I have seen other 2 berth motorhomes where the bed is a fixed area over the drivers’ cabin, however, personally I think I would find that set-up quite claustrophobic.   I suppose there must be compromises somewhere.

Each morning we had a shower before heading out, and I must say, we were very impressed.  A quick boost of the water heater and the shower was warmed up and ready to go.  It was super-hot, almost too hot, and the pressure from the shower head was excellent.  After a quick breakfast, there was was time to have a wonder around the main arena before the club shop was open for its first full day of trading. With lots of activities to keep all the family entertained, and plenty of businesses selling and demonstrating their products, we were hopeful for a busy day.

Whether you were interested in crafts, competitions, caravan and motorhome accessories or just eating and drinking, there was plenty of choice for everyone.  Walking around the show, I stumbled across a area for the Historic Caravan Club.  It was amazing to see how much things had changed over the years, from the set-up of the essential utility supplies, to the on-board facilities and materials used.   Modern caravans and motorhomes have moved on so much making it so much easier and comfortable, allowing you to get away all year round, whatever the weather.    It’s virtually a home-from-home experience, and you can see why it is growing in popularity in recent years.

As the visitors started to arrive, the club shop started to get busy with many looking to buy the essential food supplies for the days ahead.  The rain continued, but that didn’t seem to dampen spirits. The weather forecast for the rest of the bank holiday was much more positive, so one wet day wasn’t going to make any difference.

Still settling into our motorhome and we were already running low on water.  We assumed we had a full tank of water when we first arrived, which wasn’t the case, and very quickly realised the water doesn’t last forever.  It was time for a top up of the on-board water tank.  This wasn’t an easy task, and without the Colapz products, would have been extremely challenging.   First up was the Colapz 3in1.  Great for quick 8 litre top ups, which was made easy with the watering can attachments.  As and when we needed a more water, we started think what we could do with a bigger capacity container.

Next up was the Colapz 35L Utility Bag which was great for carrying about 20-25L of water at a time.  One to two trips to the water source and we had enough water to see us through to the next day.  The flexible nature of the material allowed us to create a wide spout shape, making it very easy to pour into the water tank.

To make the task even easier, the Colapz portable rechargeable shower unit without the shower or trigger head attached, was also utilised to syphon the water out of the utility bag.   This worked so well, and would be very useful for less able people.  Whilst we were topping up the water, it got us thinking about where was the waste water going.  We quickly found out the motorhome was equipped with yet another 100L on-board waste water tank, and you could easily monitor the water level on the built-in digital monitor.  It seems most campsites have any area where motorhomes can drive over and empty the waste water tank, however, this was not something available at the National.   Instead, you had to employ a waste water collection unit, which unfortunately, was not included with our motorhome.  Given the very grassy terrain where we were located, it looked like it would be OK to dispense the water straight onto the long meadow grass.  Not ideal I know, but needs must, and it certainly give us an insight into how you need to keep on top of the water supplies and waste.

Day 3 and the sun was shining again.  With lots of people roaming around and plenty of activities starting in the main arena, there were plenty of happy faces.  The club shop opened daily from 8am, with people queued up outside waiting for their morning paper!  Instead of cooking lunch for ourselves, we decided to explore the fast food on offer and opted for a very tasty hog roast baguette.  Considering we were at a major event, prices for food and drink were great value for money.

As the day progressed, our water tank was getting low again!  It is amazing how quickly a couple of showers, washing the dishes and a few toilet flushes used up the water.   It was time for another top up of the water tank, again utilising the Colapz products.   We ended our evening with yet another BBQ and open fire provided by the Prima Leisure team, with a few beers thrown in for good measure!   Someone also had the bright idea(!) of washing the dishes just before bedtime, which was made very easy with the Colapz portable rechargeable shower unit and 35L utility bag for the water source!

Day 4 and the sunshine continued.   There was a big cycling event today, so the club shop and arena were quiet early on, but things picked up as the day warmed up and the various events and entertainment started.  With the shop a little quiet in the morning, I took the opportunity to do a few bits around the motorhome.  Having noticed a small blue light on come by the toilet flush, I thought to myself that I hadn’t seen this before.  After investigating it further, and thinking the toilet was not flushing as efficiently as before, I quickly concluded it was time to get my hands dirty (and wet!).  Fortunately, the previous day I had spotted someone taking their toilet waste unit to one of the bright yellow mobile waste disposal units which were positioned around the whole site.  I had watched what he was doing very carefully, so knew what I had to do when the time came for us to empty the waste.   I must say, apart from a slight overflow in the waste cabinet, which was mopped up with some tissue, it was very easy to remove and transport the waste unit over to the yellow pods.  Unlike the on-board water tank, the great thing about the toilet waste was that it didn’t need attending to every day.  The day was finished off with another BBQ and even more beers, so an eventful and fun day was had by all.

Day 5 and it was the final day of the show. Noticeably less people around, as many were preparing to pack up and head back home.  However, the entertainment continued and it was the day for the dogs in the main arena.  I have never seen so many dogs in one place apart from when I went to Crufts!  It seems most visitors had a dog or two, and there was right mix of breeds too.  It was lovely to see.  As the sun continued to shine and the day warmed up, the Colapz 35L utility bag was one of the star attractions for the dogs, with many stopping off at the club shop for a water break!

Very quickly the day started to disappear.  It was time for one final top-up of the on-board tank, so lunch could be completed and everything washed, before we packed up.  Surprisingly, it took quite a bit of time to complete the chores, which included one final trip to empty and clean the toilet waste unit, emptying the waste water tank, making sure everything was secured before driving, and at the same time giving it a good spring clean ready for its next adventure.

So, would we stay in a motorhome again?  Yes, but we would need good access to local transport.  One of the advantages of a caravan is having the freedom to go out for the day, and not having to pack everything up each time.   So, access to local buses would be important.   We would also prefer a motorhome that was a 4-berth or had a permanent double bed, and a separate dining area.   Having to make up the bed/lounge area each day was a bit of a chore, especially when you are on holiday to try and relax.  Overall, it was a fantastic experience, which was like living home-from-home with all the mod cons of having a fridge, cooker, microwave, shower, toilet, TV, water and heating!

A big thank you to Bailey of Bristol for the loan of the motorhome and allowing us to have the opportunity to experience using it at one of the biggest and oldest caravan and motorhome events in the UK.  We are already starting to think about booking our space for next year at Ragley Hall, Alcester.

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