Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

Mandale Liberté, in Oakham, Rutland

Taking a Liberté on the Road

 Mandale Liberté motorhome at KnossingtonDark clouds were scudding across a grey sky and wild wind-driven rain was lashing the windows but we were dry, warm and snug. Rather a relief as we had just spent the first night in our new motorhome and it was turning into a proper test.

We had been able to check out all the systems at home on the drive but this was our first chance to see how living in it would work. Apart from the motorcaravan itself we also wanted to assess how a 6.3m (20+feet) campervan would work in the UK. Driving the Mandale Liberté soon became second nature and I had stopped dragging the inside rear wheel over the kerb in tight turns. While the long wheelbase gives a decent ride it makes for a very wide turning cycle. That caused us considerable amusement when we were unable to do a complete u-turn round a mini roundabout and had to bail out into a right turn and go round the block instead – something to remember.

The other main problem with the size is parking. Most UK car parks are laid out for cars with bays that are only 5m long; we would stick out by more than 1.5m (nearly 5ft); that would be unacceptable. It means that we may have to park on the street more often; it will test our parallel parking skills. At least we did not run into any difficulties with height barriers. We bought the bigger van for extended touring, much of it in France where most towns and villages are very “camping-car” friendly at least for those under 7m. We will soon be heading across The Channel for three weeks in France so will need to get everything bedded down before we go.

Pork Pies and Stilton

Pork Pie Shoppe Melton Mowbray MD13006Our trip was through northern Leicestershire and Rutland. First stop was Melton Mowbray. It was market day but we were able to park near the museum with a short walk into the town centre. Melton Mowbray has a good variety of shops in its town centre and it is not as overwhelmed with charity shops as many. Our target was Dickinson & Morris, The Olde Pork Pie Shoppe, a rather twee name but excellent pork pies; a pie with local apple chutney was the plan for supper. Of course any lover of cheese knows they have to buy Stilton when in the area so the making of another meal was bought on the market

After lunch we headed towards Oakham but first parked up at Rutland Water. On a cold and wet Saturday afternoon the car park was not busy so we were able to take two bays. A brisk walk along a rather soulless graded path under bare trees, albeit with a view across the lake, to the sailing club was our exercise. After a cup of tea, well we have to test all the facilities in the van, we moved on to our destination for the night, the Caravan Club Certificated Location (small, limited facility campsite) at Sconsboro Hill Farm on the outskirts of the village of Knossington.

Their usual site had been very wet all week with a snow bank across the track until a few days before. We were asked to park on the house side alongside the track up to the farm; it was actually better as it was level unlike the main site. As it turned out the main benefit was that it was much more sheltered and as the wind strengthened we became very grateful. Strong as the wind was we hardly felt it in the van, occasional gusts rocked us just enough to feel it but much less than we would have felt in our old VW campervan.

We spent a very comfortable first night in our new motorhome and had an unusually leisurely breakfast. Being away from home meant there was no pressure to get on and do chores; we just drank tea and watched the weather steadily improve. After a pleasant chat with the farmer, Mr Gibson, we handed over just £5 for the use of the site and set off to visit Oakham itself. By the time we left the weather was much better and warmer than it has been for weeks.

Oakham, Rutland

Oakham, Catsle Hall and CHurch, Inner Bailey MD14044Oakham was quiet and we managed to park on the High Street and had a pleasant late coffee and cake at Baker’s Yard wine bar and restaurant. We met the pre-lunch rush as people arrived for a pre-lunch coffee or drink over the Sunday papers. When we left the blue sky had disappeared but the temperature was spring-like at last; it has been a long winter. Oakham is a small county town with some interesting upmarket shops and a well-preserved 12th century Castle Hall in the earthworks of the inner bailey, climbing the ramparts with their tumbled own stone we could see over into the park of the outer bailey and the now dry moat. The Hall is renowned for its horseshoes, visiting peers of the realm have been expected to forfeit a, now ceremonial, horse shoe to the Lord of the Manor of Oakham and which now decorate the walls of the Great Hall. Apparently the earliest horseshoe is from Edward VI in 1470, unfortunately we were not able to see them as the Hall is not open on a Sunday; oh well, a good excuse for a weekday visit as it is only an hour from home. The Castle Hall and grounds was featured in a televised Time Team archaeological dig in 2012 when they also presented a horseshoe.

All in all the trip worked out very well and although the snags list is quite long they are all minor and can be sorted out while using the van. We will probably make a trip back to Mandale in Keighley to sort a few that are beyond our capability or for minor changes as we tailor things to our lifestyle. All in all it was a good start and we are very pleased with Mandale’s conversion.

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