Updated: Oct 19
I have lived in this caravan for a few years now. It replaced my first caravan after it had been hit by a car driven by an older lady who exited a car park along Gwithian Sands without bothering to look to see if the road was clear. She missed my Land Rover and drove into my caravan; except for a Summer and a Winter.
I had met a guy who turned up at Crasken Farm one day handing out business cards. At the time, there were still many caravan dwellers at the Farm and matey had figured that it might be a good place to promote his new business of breaking caravans for spares. I took one of his cards.
As a result of my caravan‘s demise, I became in urgent need of a new home. I remembered the caravan-breaking man. He had a unit on the site of what is the last working tin mine in Cornwall; South Crofty at Pool. I looked at what he had that he hadn’t started breaking. There was not a lot. I chose the best of what was there and gave him £50. It is an Elddis Alfresco 510/5 built around 1996.
I parked the caravan down an old lane adjacent to Crasken Farm where a mate, Hairy Rich, a loveable alcoholic oaf who I love very much, despite wearing my patience thin, and I set to work making it habitable.
The first thing was to gut the shower/toilet cubicle. As always expected, it was rotten. Though, fortunately, not to the point of having to replace walls! The door and some of the panels were removed to open the space up, in which we installed the burner. The rest of the caravan was a mess. It was clear that some-one not too hygienic had been dossing in it with a dog.
Once cleaned out, etc., we could see the task. Not too bad, really. Mostly, it was making good; basic repairs. The two biggest jobs, besides the burner, were the floor which was sagging and build a bed. We scrumped bits off of my old caravan, including a bench-seat, found an old bedside cabinet that fitted perfectly, then made up some doors for the cupboards that were missing one. After that, I fitted some carpet tiles. I had a home again. On the outside, there was a gash above the front window on the offside. The window was also badly damaged. I replaced the window and patched the gash with fibreglass.
Since then, a lot has happened. There are many stories to tell you; various adventures, festivals, a fire, a circus and my favourite story, the cats.
I also started to make improvements. The caravan‘s a good size; 17’. I strengthened the front floor in the corners as that is a weak point structurally. Also, the parcel shelf across the front is notorious for coming away. I replaced that with a 2” thick piece of Larch that I got from Woodchop. I replaced the old cooker with a trusty old Flavel cooker fuelled by a 19kg propane gas bottle and fitted a terracotta fridge. I also got new curtains made.
It was when I was working with Swamp Circus that a near disaster happened when Brett, who is very difficult to describe; words fail me!; was driving my Land Rover, against my logical judgement, but also knowing that there was no alternative, as I was driving the circus lorry and trailer, which Brett was banned from driving, due to his complete lack of any thought of safe-driving! (You can see how it is that I would have misgivings). What I didn’t realise at the time was that he was banned from all towing!
Anyway, he managed the inevitable. Somehow, I think, he sideswiped a lorry and jack-knifed my caravan. All he had to do was follow me a short distance down the motorway. I was keeping an eye on him. Then, I looked again and he was gone. Immediately, I started worrying. I had to ‘phone him. He told me that a tyre had blown out. I told him to “hold on” and turned around at the next junction. I eventually pulled up behind him. I jumped out of the lorry and darted down the nearside of my caravan. I immediately spotted the tyre blow-out; the wheel was buckled! I got to the Land Rover to get the spare wheel when I noticed that the nearside rear tyre of the Land Rover was also flat! “How in hell did you manage to lose two tyres, one on each vehicle?”
”The tyre on the Land Rover blew which caused me to jack-knife and blow the tyre on the caravan.”
I quickly changed the wheels and told him to drive slowly to the service station just a few miles on. I followed. Once at the service station, I alighted and this time walked down the offside of my caravan. It was then that the truth was becoming evident. There was what I can only describe as a tyre scuff on the side very close to the front corner, about the size of one normally fitted to a large lorry. Then I was greeted by the sight of the front of my caravan stoved in. The bulkhead had been compromised.
That next Winter, I parked in Tom’s orchard. I looked for another caravan, then left in it in the Spring, leaving my caravan behind.
After a Summer and Winter, Tom asked about my plans for the caravan in his orchard. I went over to pull the old caravan out and scrap it. It was then that I changed my mind. The caravan towed brilliantly, it was still straight and holding up. The work that I had put into strengthening the caravan had paid off. I became enthusiastic again.
However, there were dark clouds looming and before long I sunk into what is arguably three and a half years of the worst three and a half years of my life. During that time, my caravan also suffered; walls had rotted, a window had fallen out, the whole front end had become a storage pile and cobwebs abounded. At one point, my living space was down to half the bed!
Eventually, I fought my way back from that darkness and along the way, I painted and decorated my bedroom, added new curtains and a headboard, a radio, a folding shelf, a spotlight, an LED UV light strip, a rustic looking drawer under and a net curtain.
I rebuilt the bulkhead with 18mm ply fixed to a 2x2 frame bolted through the body and a checkerplate patch. The floor strengthened, solid bracing fitted and walls repaired, in some areas, replaced. The window frame had to be rebuilt, too. The walls and ceiling were painted. To cap it all, I took the time to sand, varnish and polish the Larch shelf.
I had to also repair a couple of leaks. The window had fallen out due to rot caused by a leak in the roof at the point it meets the wall and the silicone collar on the flue had perished. I sealed all the edges and shaped a lot of the body, repairing any damage.
I replaced the crappy plastic rear lower section that housed the lights. Firstly, I fitted aluminium sheets to the now exposed frame, then shaped the contour and painted it. Then I built a wooden tailboard and attached lights, reflectors and the number plate.
During all that, I was being hounded, among other things, had two major disasters and three heart attacks. At one point, I moved to the car park of an old Methodist chapel overlooking the harbour of Porthleven.
On the way, I was compelled to take a right turn on a camber sharper than was my intention. The situation was caused by a dipstick who was not paying attention. Instead of allowing me to complete my manoeuvre, he decided to come alongside me whereupon he found his path blocked by a parked car. The result of the forced manoeuvre was the arse end of my caravan being torn off.
I discovered though, that a section was rotten and needed replacing. And while I’m at it, as the back is open, I can open up the sides below my bed, giving me access to more storage space. I made the doors and fitted a nice frame. Then added wrought iron hinges, latches and handles. I strengthened the main frame, then closed the back, repaired, reshaped and modified the tailboard and spent hours reshaping the body.
I then had a brainstorm. I wanted the rear of the caravan to be visible as I’m usually a slow moving vehicle. Chevrons are what is normally painted. ”Ah! What about tiger stripes!?” So, that is what John and I painted. John lives in the chapel and is an amazing artist.
It was from there that I departed to journey out of Cornwall and across Southern England to where I am now wintering.