29 Mar 2011

Highs and Lows at Castlerigg Hall

We’ve been wanting to go to Castlerigg Hall, Keswick, for a long time, but it seems to be permanently full.  Expectations were very high!

site sign

We booked this a couple of months ago, before we got the new caravan.  New van, new site…what could possibly go wrong?

A real rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, hardly know where to start.

Was a bit apprehensive about towing the new caravan because it is bigger and heavier than the old one, but no problems at all.

Day 1

Arrived about 2pm on the Friday.  First impression…what a great view (all too soon hidden by other caravans!).


A quick wander around the site revealed excellent toilets and showers, a shop, a restaurant  and a small pub just outside the entrance.

Walked down the hill to Keswick for  the customary post setup drink and a look around the shops, then staggered back up the hill.  Site reviews on ukcampsite  weren’t exaggerating about how steep it was.

Popped into the site shop, to find it sold bottles of Loweswater Gold, D’s favourite tipple, and Haystacks which comes very close. Today seems too good to be true!

Back in the caravan we found the shower tray full of water,  and traced it to the shower attachment tap.  Managed to wrestle a bit of the sink unit off to reveal a split pipe just where it enters the tap.  No water tonight!  Luckily we have just got wireless broadband so a quick Google found a caravan spares shop….over 30 miles away in Kendal!

After dinner (but can’t wash up, shame) we headed for the Crag Bar, which is part of the Heights Hotel.  Spirits lifted somewhat on discovering it also stocks Loweswater Gold, and after a couple of pints D finally cheered up (and pinched a beer mat for his growing collection)

Day 2

To start the day, a two hour round trip to Kendal to get something to stop the leak.  Managed to get some stoppers and capped off the pipes that feed the shower.

Too late to go for a proper walk, which had been the plan, so we walked to the Castlerigg stone circle instead.  Not exactly Stonehenge, but much better than expected!


A night in, with dinner in the caravan again.  We are getting used to not having a microwave and cooking ‘real’ food.  Tonight was chicken stir fry whipped up in 10 mins

Then the discovery of a second leak, this time from the pressure switch under one of the seats.  We only discovered it when we noticed the wet carpet.  Morale low! A tip for anybody reading this…if the water pump operates for no reason, check it out it could be a leak.

D adjusted the switch and the water stopped squirting out…and it hasn’t leaked since.  We can’t understand why, leaks don’t normally fix themselves!  Will replace the pressure switch just in case.

Day 3

Today’s walk, postponed from yesterday is Walla Crag – Ashness Bridge – High Seat – Bleaberry Fell.  About 7.5 miles, high point 608 metres.  A three pin walk!  What’s a three pin walk?


Well, there are 214 “Wainwrights” on the map, the red pins at the bottom get moved up when we have done them.  We’ve only done about forty in  two years,  so a long way to go yet.  Three in one day is very good for us!


IMG_1616 IMG_1620

Lovely weather, we even caught the sun a bit!  A bit boggy in places, which is when D discovered that one of his boots had a split in it.  Then J slipped over and soaked her trousers!


Back at the site, D started on the bottles of Loweswater Gold and we enjoyed the silence of an almost empty site.  There was only one other caravan in the bit we were in, with six empty pitches.  We must do more Sundays.

Great sunset!


We had intended to eat in the on site restaurant but of course it isn’t open on Sundays, just our luck.  Went to the site shop again and bought all the Loweswater Gold they had, 12 bottles in all!

Ravenous after all that walking, we drove into Keswick to find some food(didn’t fancy the walk back up the hill).  The trio of game in one of the pubs caught D’s eye, and J went for the trio of pork.  Ordered, tucked into the complimentary roll, but 45 minutes later…no food.

The waiter was very apologetic and offered us the meal and another drink for free.  Don’t know about you, but we don’t mind waiting 45 minutes for a free dinner!  And very nice it was, too (and a saving of £40!)

Back on site, a quick drink in the Crag Bar.  As a memento, the barman allowed D to keep the Loweswater Gold pint glass.  He’d had 5 pints by that point (2 of them free with dinner)  so felt quite bold asking!.

Spirits well and truly lifted by the time we collapsed into bed!


Day 4

Uneventful journey home.  Drained all the water out of the caravan and opened the taps, just in case!

Final low of the trip…discovering that the camera settings had somehow been changed to low quality, so lots of pics but not very good quality.

All in all, a great trip in spite of the lows.  Will definitely go back there if we can ever get a free pitch!

Castlerigg Hall


  • Great location
  • Excellent facilities
  • Superb views (if you get a pitch with a view)
  • Short(ish) walk into Keswick (although quite steep coming back)


  • Always seems to be fully booked and minimum three night bookings

Coming soon

A weekend of repairs for D, followed by a trip somewhere near a caravan spares shop!

19 Mar 2011

Bigger is Better!

The Abi Sprinter 400 has gone and we are now the proud owners of a 1999  Avondale Dart 440/4

So what was wrong with the Abi?  Nothing really, but the layout just wasn’t working for us.  The bed at 3ft 9ins wide (!) was far too small and having it made up all the time meant sacrificing lots of space, to the extent that we probably had less walking around space than in the first caravan, the Abi Sprinter 350/2 (which is for sale again, with the same dealer that took it off us for not much more than we paid for it…D very tempted to buy it back)

So why an Avondale Dart 440/4?  We weren’t looking for this model (we were actually looking for a Lunar Chateau 400 with a view to having the front bed made up all the time) but it kind of jumped out at us, and having to make the bed up every night isn’t such a big deal…..is it?

It’s in really good condition for its age.  Interesting layout with an L shaped lounge and separate dining area, bigger bathroom, blown air heating and it’s unique selling point…a fly screen for the door!  Easily pleased, aren’t we?  Generally a more upmarket interior than the Sprinter.  Still no door bin though, we would love one of those!



With the bed made up - still room to move about


Bigger bathroom with a nice curtain to hide the loo!


We now have a combi oven/grill but the bottom door is just a pan cupboard, and the microwave won’t fit in there –  we now have to actually cook things instead of reheating ready meals.

Problems so far?

  • A creaky floor…was easily fixed by loosening some screws under the table – spent ages tightening them first though, in case that was the problem!
  • Top of gas heater loose…very tempted to fix it with some superglue and hope we never have to take the heater apart but hopefully common sense will prevail!!
  • A very small crack in the outer skin by the door…quite common on Avondales apparently.  Definitely no damp on the inside, but will put a bit of sealant on just to make sure.
  • Our waste pipes don’t fit the outlets, but if we get thicker pipes they wont fit in our container. We’ll probably have to bite the bullet and buy a Waste Hog.
  • Some of the cupboard stays need replacing, but can be bought for just a couple of £s each on eBay

Haven’t actually towed it yet, the dealer we part exchanged with was so keen to take our money he offered to drive 70 miles to deliver it (in his newish Range Rover he paid cash for)  and even swapped our stabiliser over instead of keeping it on the old van. The second hand caravan business is booming apparently - I wish I was a dealer! He had his teenage daughter with him who did all the dirty jobs without a word of complaint…where can we get one of those from?!

It’s a bit heavier than the Abi but on paper it can be towed with ease by our soon to be replaced Fiat Stilo 1.9 JTD, and fully loaded it is less than 85% of the weight of the car.

Oh well, we are stuck with it now and it will have to last until at least next year’s bonus!!

It’s off to Castlerigg Hall, Keswick next time, for three nights – a birthday treat for D!

14 Mar 2011

First trip of 2011

Last caravan trip…mid October 2010…so much for winter caravanning!

lamb cottage

We winterized the caravan and regular checks suggested that it had survived the winter unscathed.  Now, with spring in the air, a favourable weather forecast, new curtains, and a new (to us) porch awning to try out, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.


Very yellow curtains!

Somewhere local, just in case there were any problems.  Lamb Cottage in Cheshire,  a quiet adults only site, so hopefully nobody to watch us struggling with the instructionless awning!

We’ve been here before.  It’s quiet and well laid out, excellent toilets and showers, but a bit in the middle of nowhere.


Lamb Cottage

Day 1

The journey there was uneventful, the caravan towed okay.  Still lots of creaking from the stabilizer, but the general consensus seems to be that this is normal so nothing to worry about.

Did all of the usual set up, water, electrics, unpacking etc.  No problems, except for D foolishly thinking it was a one night trip and bringing only one nights worth of clothes!

Time to do battle with the awning.  Two hours (but surprisingly no arguments) later it was up!  Not bad considering no instructions. We bought it off eBay and were assured it was easy enough to put up.  Much better quality than our last awning, although it does cover one of the windows slightly.



Pyramid Tuscany porch awning

Too cold to sit in it, of course, so we drove about a mile to the second nearest pub for a quick drink at the Blue Cap Chef & Brewer in Sandiway.

Decided to have dinner there, but wanted drinks as well so we drove back to the site and then walked back.  Not a very nice walk along a busy road with no street lights,  and no pavement or grass verge in places, but we made it and had a nice dinner and a bottle of merlot (with fish and chicken…duh!!)

J tried to call for a taxi, whose card proclaimed ‘You Drink We Drive”,  but when she said we were only going 1 mile up the road, they hung up! so back along the road we went.   The walk back seemed better, but the drinks might have had something to do with that!

Day 2

A walk along the Sandstone Trail today.  A circular walk around Bickerton Hill to be precise, about 8 miles with lots of ups and down, but no real climbing.  A cold, grey, misty day…not the sunshine promised by the weather forecasts all week!



Rawhead - 227 metres

Great pub lunch at the Bickerton Poacher.  A welcome sight about six miles into the walk with the biggest sandwiches you could imagine!


The Bickerton Poacher

Dinner in the caravan, but pretty cold, so drove to another local pub for a quick drink.  J kindly volunteered to do the driving so I could sample the local beers!

On the way back we drove past a lost looking spaniel at the side of the road, but didn’t think anything of it.  About 11 o’clock J was stopped on her way to the shower block by a couple who had found the dog just outside the site and were looking for it’s owner.  Tried ringing the number on it’s collar, but no reply.  A call to the sleepy owner of the site, but all she said was that it wasn’t from the site and she couldn’t look after it because she had dogs of her own.  We were very tempted to let it stay in the caravan with us, but in the end the couple who had found it took it home with them.

Day 3

A message from the dogs owner in the morning confirming that they had been contacted by the people who had found it, so a happy ending.

Got the awning down and packed away in about fifteen minutes, which was good.  We want something that we can put up and down quickly, and we think we can improve on the two hours it took us to put it up!

Drove off with the caravan door open (debatable whose fault!)  but luckily we were flagged down by some other caravanners before we got off site so no harm done.

Overall, a good start to the year with no problems.

Not a good day for pictures, so no gallery this time!

Lamb Cottage


  • Quiet, adults only
  • Good toilets and showers
  • Big, well laid out pitches


  • A bit in the middle of nowhere, with a longish walk to the nearest pub!

Coming soon

Nothing booked until Castlerigg Hall at the end of March, but might squeeze another trip in before then.