This month’s mutterings are a little different! They are penned by one of our customer’s - David Bird who, along with his mum, was a contestant in the Caravan Club’s ‘Caravanner of the Year’ competition shown on TV recently. We were all glued to our TVs watching them and admiring their caravan, our Coachman Sussex special edition Singleton GTRS and here he gives us a behind the scenes insight in to his experience.
Caravanner of the Year
In the summer of 2015 we were away in the caravan and I received a message from a friend who told me about the ‘Caravan Club Caravanner of the Year’ competition and he thought I should apply for the competition.
When I arrived home I had look at the Caravan Club website, downloaded the application and thought I’d give it a go.
A few weeks later I received a phone call from one of the judges, Andy Harris, inviting me to attend the semi-final weekend of the competition at the Ferry Meadows Caravan Club site in Peterborough. I then received an email from the Caravan Club with details of the first three challenges, speed pitching, manoeuvring and the Concours d’Elegance.
Before the competition we were filmed going away for the weekend to the White Water Caravan Club site at Stockton on Tees (actually we went away from Monday to Wednesday as due to filming commitments we could not be filmed over a weekend).
August Bank Holiday weekend was spent washing, cleaning, polishing and repairing the caravan rather than going away as planned. The car was also packed with everything we thought we needed.
The day before the competition we travelled down to Stamford where we stayed as we were not allowed to see what was going on at Ferry Meadows. We received a very warm welcome from the wardens who wished us the best of luck and had saved a pitch for us near the site entrance.
Early on competition day, Andrew Dedman from October Films came to film us getting ready and setting off with cameras in the car and us having microphones fitted. It was a quick dash to Ferry Meadows in the rain and trying not to be late. Burghley horse trials were also on so there was extra traffic.
When we arrived at the Ferry Meadows extra cameras were added to the caravan and car, our microphones were changed and after a brief rest we were sent off on our first challenge. Speed pitching.
We were given a site map by the warden and told to find our pitch, park the caravan, put up the awning and make a cup of tea for one of the judges. We had planned for this so the car was packed with everything for the awning easy to get at. Inside the caravan I put all the bits to make tea was put into a box and left on the bed. The night before I had used Isabella Aquatex spray on the awning rail as this makes feeding the awning in easier. Everything went as planned and I was pleased how the Isabella Magnum Coal 250 awning looked. It was also nice to have a cup of Yorkshire Tea with our judge Grenville Chamberlain. When the results were announced we came first in this challenge.
Later the same day we had to take the awning down and then go to an equestrian centre about a mile away for the manoeuvring challenges. It wasn’t a good sign when we managed to get lost in a housing estate getting to the centre. The first challenge was to drive through some bales of hay in a figure of eight pattern, I hit a couple of bales as it was very tight for my long caravan to turn at the top of the field.
The next challenge was to reverse around a tree. As I have a motor mover on the caravan I generally avoid reversing as much as possible so I knew this wasn’t going to be easy and I wouldn’t complete the task. At least it made good television and so far we have had over 5200 views on YouTube!
The third manoeuvring challenge was for Mum to reverse the caravan and caravan to the other side of a bale. Mum has never driven my car and has not towed for about 16 years, however she gave it a go and nearly managed it within the time limit. I knew I wasn’t very good at manoeuvring challenges, however the main aim was not to damage either the car or caravan.
Sunday was to be Concour d’Elegance day however before we could get started we had to drive around the site, in convoy, about six times so the film crew could get some passing shots. These were actually used for the first shots in episode 1 of the programme. The wonders of television.
The instructions for the Concours d’Elegance was to ‘set the table for two’ so we decided to set the table for an afternoon tea. We were given two hours to prepare the car and caravan for judging and then we were taken away for the judging. For 50 minutes of the two hours we had Andrew filming us, asking questions, asking Mum laying the table three times. We also had GoPro camera attached to the rear Heki rooflight and to the front sunroof.
We had found a table cloth and napkins that matched the décor of the caravan, plates and cups which had a coloured band the same colour as the plastic mouldings used by Coachman. Marks & Spencer had miniature caked which looked just right on the light weight cake stand I’d found.
We were not allowed to see the judging, and after what felt like hours we were let back into the rally field to be told who had made it to the finals. Sadly we didn’t make it to the finals, however we were invited by The Caravan Club to go to the finals. As I had booked the time off work we decided to travel back down on the following Saturday, however the producers had other ideas and we were asked to arrive on the Friday for some more filming that would be used in the final episode. We even had some more filming done at home.
About a week before the first programme was broadcast we were asked if we would like to be on The ONE Show. We agreed then we were asked if we could bring the caravan down to Broadcasting House. That weekend we spent hours checking routes and maps to ensure we didn’t get lost driving in central London. It was certainly interesting to be interviewed live by Alex Jones whilst comedian and actor Charlie Higson in tucked up in bed! They appeared to like the caravan too. One of the ONE Show production crew brought his friend to have a look at the caravan as we were packing up as he couldn’t believe how luxurious modern caravans were.
After the second episode was broadcast I was approached by BBC Radio Coventry & Warwickshire to talk about caravanning. I was asked what my favourite caravan was so naturally I answered the Coachman Sussex Singleton. The BBC and October Films had arranged a special showing of the first episode for us contributors, the judges and special guests to watch together.
Overall it has been a memorable experience. We have met some brilliant and talented people from The Caravan Club, October Films and the BBC. The production company kept us informed of the show’s progress and were always at the end of the phone I needed. The media appear to have loved Caravanner of the Year with the final peaking at 1.9 million viewers and being on Gogglebox twice. We have made good friends with each of the other contributors (as we are called in telly land) and are in contact with each other and meeting up soon.
We have been ‘spotted’ a few times whilst out and about, and have even been asked for a selfie whilst watching the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race in Scarborough. #Caravanneroftheyear trended twice on Twitter and I even trended with #davidforjudge after my second appearance on Gogglebox.
We hope you enjoyed watching our antics and I’m sure you will agree that our 2013 Coachman Sussex Singleton GTRS was the best looking caravan competing for the ‘Best in Tow-Business’.