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Monthly Archives: February 2015

  • The Five Things You Must Check Before You Buy A Second Hand Caravan

    Exploring the countryside by caravan is possibly one of the finest ways to spend your free time. However, when it comes to buying your own, even a pre-owned caravan can be quite an investment. Whatever your budget there is a lot to consider so make sure you always:

    ONE) Check for damp

    Besides the fact that it smells and makes for a very unpleasant caravanning experience, damp can also be incredibly costly to remove and repair.

    While you can sometimes detect it simply from its smell, it isn’t always that easy and your best bet is to borrow or rent a damp meter.

    Even if the caravan doesn’t have damp, you should make sure it is as damp-proof as possible by checking the sealing around the body and window frames.


    TWO) Check it isn’t stolen

    While it is encouraging that caravan theft is slowly decreasing almost all the ones that are stolen re-enter the sales market.

    Thieves use increasingly sophisticated methods to hide their tracks and it can be tricky to tell if you’re viewing stolen goods (it’s unlikely the vehicle you are viewing is going to have SWAG written all over it!) but there are a couple of tell-tale signs that could indicate your caravan-to-be was stolen.

    Firstly, if you are viewing a caravan that seems to be selling for a price that’s too good to be true, it probably is. You should always inspect the hitch and wheel rims, if they’re damaged this could indicate the van was forcibly removed.

    It’s also best practice to ask the seller for receipts and documents as not only they can prove ownership, but will let you know how old the caravan is and its service history.

    THREE) Ask about the availability of spare parts

    You may be over the moon at bagging a classic caravan for a bargain, but things can take a depressing slide when something needs replacing and the part you need is impossible to track down and /or excruciatingly expensive.

    Always ask the seller and do a quick Google search about the availability of the specific model’s parts before buying.


    FOUR) Do a full body check

    It is important to undertake a full body check of the caravan you intend to purchase. If you’re not sure about these things you should hire an independent mechanic to assess the state of the hinges and locks of the doors and windows, the chassis, gas and electrics.

    If any of these are faulty this can lead to expensive and extensive repairs at best and death at worst; faulty gas and electrics can be fatal.

    FIVE) Ask if the vehicle has been in any accidents

    Damage from an accident isn’t always noticeable immediately so it is always important to ask. Like a car, any major repairs or adjustments can alter the functionality of the vehicle, and may present problems when you try and resell later on.

    We'd love to know your experiences of buying a second hand caravan. Has it been smooth sailing? Do you have tips you'd like to share with others? Or are there things you'd wish you'd known? Tweet us @sail_trail 

  • Interview: What It’s Really Like to Live on a Narrowboat.

    We think, in the words of Kenneth Graham, there is simply ‘nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.‘ But there’s a difference (a big difference!) between taking a break in one and actually living in one.

    An unusual flushing loo, always feeling a bit damp and being at one with the elements is all fine and dandy when you’ve got bricks and mortar to return to, but it can be quite another when you’re out on the canal all winter.

    We speak to actress and writer Carli Harris who lives with her partner on Albion, a 1980 51-foot traditional tug style narrowboat, to hear some daily truths about living on a narrowboat:



    How did you make the decision to live on a narrowboat?

    We were looking for a flat in London when a boat popped up for rent on Gumtree (‘Cosy accommodation, great waterside location’ etc). We went to look at it and here we are a year later having decided we love boatlife so much we wanted to buy a boat of our very own. We didn't realise it at the time but we got very, very lucky with our landlords (waterlords). Over the past year they've helped us learn how to take care of the boat, how to move her, how to navigate the canals and use locks properly etc. We've heard some horror stories about landlords since we moved aboard, things like people renting out sheds on dinghies and one landlord sailing off in a boat still full of the tenants' belongings so I'm not sure I'd recommend following our route!

    Do you see yourself living on a boat for the forseeable future?
    About two weeks into our new boatlife there was a big storm one night and our mooring pins came loose at 3am, sending the boat drifting off down the canal without our permission. If you'd have asked me this question then, I would have told you in no uncertain terms that we were calling the waterlords in the morning to inform them that boating was the worst idea anyone has ever had and that it wasn't even my stupid idea in the first place. If you'd told me then that we'd be buying our own boat a year later I would have laughed out loud after I stopped crying. Luckily we persevered and learned how to not float away in the middle of the night and now I can't imagine living any other way for many years to come.


    Are boating neighbours different to land neighbours?

    The boating community really is varied, a melting pot of people from all walks of life, which is one of the best things about it. We've met everyone from elderly retired couples to young families with toddlers, and poverty-stricken students.

    The stresses of living on a boat also seem to bring out more extreme emotions than a non-sinkable house does. When we lived in flats our neighbours would barely nod at us, now people are either bending over backwards to help us or screaming at us for doing a lock wrong (in their opinion!) which certainly makes boating, at the very least, more interesting than living in a flat.

    What about when it’s cold and rainy?

    When we first moved on we hadn’t really got to grips with the fire, so we lived like incompetent cavemen for about two months. I think I slept in a coat and mittens the whole time (although I guess cavemen didn't have mittens). Now though, we keep the fire going 24/7 so it doesn't get too cold any more. We both have 'I hate boats' days though, when we're really busy or not feeling well and all the boat chores do make you a bit miserable.


    What is the one thing you couldn't live without on your boat?

    There are so many things that are essential to boat living like kindling, coal, cups of tea, the ability to not mind foxes running races on top of your boat (this actually happened to us last night) but the one thing I really couldn't live without is a good pair of slippers. It may sound mundane but the floor is so cold you couldn't walk around without a good pair of slippers (with non-stick bottoms too, safety first). Personally I wear cat-shaped slippers but you can wear monkey-shaped ones or giraffe-shaped ones, the boating community is all about diversity. Failing slippers, wine is also really great.

    What are the biggest adjustments you've had to come to terms with?

    Smaller spaces are definitely hard to get used to, our new boat is about half as small inside as our current one and I already feel like I've pared back my wardrobe more than anyone should have to endure. queamishness has also had to be left behind in my dad's garage with everything else, although luckily my boyfriend does all the poo box emptying so I've had less poo confrontations than he has.


    Finally, what makes it all worthwhile?

    it's a really, really pretty way to live The canals are lovely when it's sunny, and it's ridiculously pleasant to be able to lounge on the front of your boat and sunbathe surrounded by water and wildlife. We spent last summer pottering around the Grand Union and it was so beautiful that I felt like I was in Brideshead Revisited. Having said that, I think the canals are equally beautiful in winter when all the boats' ropes go frosty and the canal ices over.

    It's also great being off the grid. Boating is not at all as cheap a way of living as many new magazine articles would have you believe but your outgoings are completely under your control. Instead of utility bills that come every month whether you like it or not, you can just buy coal/diesel/kindling as and when you need it (and top up with water for free!). It's sort of a trade off of hard work in exchange for freedom from bills. I cannot tell you how much I do not miss bills.



    To read more about Carli and Albion visit her informative and very funny blog about the realitities of boat life. Click here!

    We’d also love to hear your boat experiences. Does anything Carli’s gone through resonate with you? Tweet us @sail_trail

  • The Best Campsites and Touring Parks For Holidaying With Your Pet


    We think there is nothing nicer than exploring the English countryside with a four-legged friend in tow.

    In fact, old friends of Sail and Trail may have met, Finley, our little black Patterdale-Lakeland cross over the years at some of the shows we’ve done.

    It’s with this in mind we’ve picked a handful of England’s most pet-friendly sites (Scottish, Welsh and Irish guides to follow!).


    1)     Riverside Touring Park, Cumbria

    Located between Carlisle and Keswick, Riverside Touring Park is a great starting place to explore Cumbria’s beautiful and dramatic countryside.

    With quaint hamlets, fell walks and lakes nearby there is plenty to keep you and your dog occupied and if you are lucky, you may even spot a red squirrel.

    The quiet but friendly site has all the amenities you’d expect and even offers free fishing in the riverbank.

    Riverside is open all year but, while your dog is allowed with you, this is an adult only campsite so you’ll need to look elsewhere if you are looking for a family getaway.

    Not sure it’s for your pet? Check out the  pretty  adorable snaps of these animals who have enjoyed a stay at the park.

    Cost: £16 per night for a caravan or van with up to two people. First two dogs free.


    2) Lavender Fields Caravan Park, Cornwall

    This beautiful campsite offers one of the most affordable ways to stay in Cornwall, and the best bit is, you can bring your dog, cat, hamster or budgie (well, so says their website!).

    Situated just 10km from St Ives, Lavender Fields is in one of our favourite parts of Cornwall; tranquil, rugged and artsy.

    There are lots of beach and countryside walks nearby and you could even pop over to the Isles of Scilly if you fancied it.

    The site welcomes caravans, tourers and tents.

    Cost: £10–£24 depending on season and pitch type.


    3) Ashcroft Farm, Devon

    Ashcroft is a family run farm set in the type of rolling countryside that was just made for dogs to leap around in it!

    Situated near Bideford, there are some lovely coastal walks nearby leading to good beaches for fishing, rockpooling and surfing.

    The site is equipped with a wide range of facilities and even has day kennels f you can’t take your dog out with you. Should you wish to bring your own horse, there is also a DIY livery available.

    The site has been certified at level five by the Camping and Caravanning Club and we’ve heard there is a pretty excellent fish and chip shop in nearby Woolsery too.

    Cost: Prices start from £11.

    4) Mill Hill Farm,Suffolk

    Nestled in the beautiful bird-watching countryside of East Suffolk, Mill Hill Caravan and Camping Park is the perfect place for wildlife lovers.

    The RSPB site of Minsmere (as featured on Springwatch) is just a couple of miles away and there are miles of country lanes to explore with your pet.

    The gentrified old fishing towns of Aldeburgh and Southwold are just short drives away too if you fancy good food, beach walks and exploring the local craft scene.

    Mill Hill is super environmentally friendly and uses low energy light bulbs and recycled materials on site as well as having a wind turbine to generate renewable energy.

    The site is only open from 1st April until 31st October

    Cost: £19 per night for two people


    5) Long Acres Touring Park, Lincolnshire

    Historic Lincolnshire is filled with lots to do whatever the weather. The 5 star rated touring park is surrounded by wonderful old buildings such as the manors of Belton, Stamford and Burghley, Tattershall Castle and Monksthorpe Chapel.

    There are also lots of lovely walks nearby as well as RSPB nature reserves and places you can fish, as well as a pub and shops within a mile.

    Like all the caravan sites mentioned here, Long Acres has all the standard facilities like hot water showers and there is even an eco-friendly dog loo!

    Long Acres is an adult only site and is open from March 1 to January 8.

    Cost: £18-22 per night depending on season

     Know a great place to stay that your pet loves too? Tweet us @sail_trail we'd love to hear from you :)

  • Caravan cooking: Five simple winter warmers you can rustle up on your gas stove

    Whether you’re braving the bad weather in your motorhome, narrowboat or tent, it can be too easy to rely on packets of crisps and cheese sandwiches to sustain yourself rather than face the trials of a rickety gas stove.

    But we’re here to help for the Sail and Trail team is well versed in the art of filling the tummies of hungry campers and sailors!

    Here are some of our favourites:

    (All the recipes can be cooked in one pan, serve four and won’t break the budget).

    1)   Sausage Cassoulet

    After a day battling the elements, nothing is more welcome that this delicious hearty cassoulet.

    Cook the sausages, onion and garlic (if you have some) in a splash of oil over a low heat. When they’re looking nice and golden add the sliced carrot and cook for a further five minutes before adding the tomatoes, beans and stock cube.

    Leave to simmer for between half an hour to two hours depending on how thick you want your cassoulet to be. Serve with crusty bread and any herbs you have lying around.

    Ingredients: A packet of sausages, 1 stock cube, 1 tin of tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 tin of baked beans,

    Optional Ingredients: Mushrooms, green beans, any other vegetables you want to throw in, garlic

    Top Tip: Swap the sausages for meatballs and the bread for baguettes to make meatball subs.


    2)   Spaghetti Carbonara

    Despite sounding and looking fancy this carbonara dish is super simple to make and (most important) is filling and warming.

    All you need to do is grate your cheese (or cut it up into small pieces) and mix with the eggs and chopped garlic.

    Cook your pasta in salted water, then drain the water out leaving the pasta in the pan and off the heat.  Add your cheesy mixture to the pasta, stirring well so it is all covered, then add the cut up ham (and thinly sliced mushrooms if you want) and simmer over a low heat until it is all piping hot.

    Add as much water (or milk / cream) as needed to give the dish a ‘saucey’ feel. Serve with any leftover cheese you might have and a smug grin.

    Ingredients: 100g ham, 100g cheese, 3 large eggs, 350g pasta, 2 peeled garlic cloves

    Optional Ingredients: splash of milk/ cream, handful of mushrooms


    3)   One Pot Pilaf

    Fancy a curry, but the takeaway won’t deliver to your pitch or mooring? Well why not rustle one up yourself?

    Simply fry the onion and chicken until cooked, then add the curry paste. Add the stock cube, vegetables, rice and about 3 mugs of water. Cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and you’re all done –no reason to give up your Friday night Indian, just because you’re on a narrowboat!

    Ingredients:  1 packet of chicken or turkey breasts or thighs cut into small pieces, 2 large onions, 2 tbsp curry paste, 1 stock cube, vegetables you have to hand, 200g rice.

    4)   Gloopy Mediterranean Couscous

    While couscous may conjure up images of summer picnics this staple dish is not only super warming and healthy, it’s also perfect for lunch or dinner as it takes just minutes to whip up.

    Prepare your couscous in a bowl and leave to one side and while it is fluffing up fry your onions, carrots, tomatoes, garlic and whatever other vegetables in plenty of oil in your pan.

    When cooked and to the couscous and serve; ta da!

    Ingredients:  200g couscous, vegetable or olive oil, 2 onions, 4 garlic cloves, 1 carrot, 4 salad tomatoes,

    Optional ingredients: Feta, 1 stock cube, bell pepper, mushrooms

    Top Tip: If you are using a stock cube for your couscous then save a little to sprinkle over the vegetables while they are cooking


    5)   Stewed Spicy Apples

    A real nursery favourite, stewed apples makes a timeless winter pudding. Simply peel and cut your apples, bung in the pan with the sugar, spices and water, and cook until the apples soften.

    If you have any other bits of fruit dried or fresh lying around you can always add this too.

    Serve with some ice cream or regular cream.

    Ingredients:  500g apples, 50g sugar, mixed spice or similar, ½ cup water

    Optional Ingredients:  Sultanas, berries, pears Do you have any favourites you rely on when it get's cold? We'd love to hear them. Tweet us @sail_trail

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