Ah, thought that would get your attention! Allow me to introduce The Tug – a portable dolly designed to make manoeuvring a trailer or caravan easier. Reg, from The Tug Co recently got in touch through Twitter and offered to send us one for reviewing. Of course we said yes and was able to give it a thorough work out whilst on our Easter weekend break to the Caravan Club site at Crystal Palace.
Right, it’s supplied flat packed, but don’t let that put you off. An instruction sheet is provided but it’s really simple as you will see. First, you will see all the parts laid out. There are no tools in the picture because none are needed.
You can put it together a number of different ways. This was my second attempt and was quicker than the first.
First, the brackets are attached to the axle bar – 2 slot in blots and wing nuts on each, then the tow ball is added, again 2 bolts and wing nuts. The height is adjustable and we will see why later.
Next, the steering arm is attached using two quick release clips, then the handle is attached to the arm with a single clip:
And finally, the wheels, each using a clip release clip:
Position the tow ball under the hitch of your trailer or caravan, lower it on as if you are hitching up, raise the jockey wheel and away you go. Alternatively, depending on the height of your hitch and the tow ball on the dolly, position the Tug and then ease the ball in to the socket by lowering the arm on the Tug.
So, how did we get on with it? Well, first, let’s set the scene. Our caravan; Patsy 2 is no lightweight and weighs in at nearly 1.6 tonnes when fully laden – which she generally is. On the tarmac and level road manoeuvring her was easy – and I’m not exactly muscle bound as you can see. Here, getting the correct angle for you height helps – what is more comfortable for you is better for your back.
The height of the tow ball becomes crucial when steering the TUG – it needs to be high enough so the wheels of the tug don’t foul the A frame at acute angles. You will see also that the hitch–head stabiliser is not engaged – there’s no point making things difficult is there?
On the loose gravel it was a little more tricky – wear something with chunky soles – not cheapo imitation crocs like I was. Getting (and keeping) a grip will make life much easier, and, more suitably shod, I was able to still manoeuver her ladyship with out any help. The pitch sloped upwards towards the rear edge and it did need two of us to move her the last couple of feet.
Our neighbour for the weekend turned up just as we’d finished playing, and he was more than happy to let us use the Tug on his van too. His Eriba was quite a bit smaller than Patsy and clearly lighter as it was easier to move, even on the sloping gravel.
So, what do we reckon overall? Well a great bit of kit – British made too – and no, it didn’t fall to bits after five minutes. It can be put together and taken apart very easily, though you could of course just take the wheels and/or handle off depending on how you plan to store it. For the record, my first attempt took six minutes, the second time it was less than four.
It certainly makes manoeuvring a ‘van easier. At less than 10 kg it’s lighter than a motor mover, and considerably cheaper but obviously more effort is required. A motor mover will get your ‘van over gravel, through muddy grass, and up hills - to a point so clearly there are limitations. However, for quick and easy shunting of ‘vans around a dealers yard, or around a storage compound it’s perfect. It would be a useful bit of kit for campsite owners to have available for campers use too. It’s not limited to caravans, obviously. It will fit any trailer with a ball hitch so will find itself useful in a variety of situations – horseboxes, boats, builders yards and so on.
Two types of Tug are available – we tested the heavy duty one which comes with puncture proof wheels and roller bearings, and coming soon is the option of a erm, longer shaft. Oh, stop it! For more information, including some videos of the Tug in action, check out their website here. All in all, it’s a great product. Well thought out and British designed made too. Good on ‘em.
The penultimate stop on our spring holiday was at Highfield Farm Touring Park in Comberton near Cambridge. Friends and regular readers – yes there are one or two – will no that Cambridge is our home town and many friends and some of Trev’s family still live here including his 88 year old Mum who is often referred to in our blogs as HRH. Obviously we’ve brought the caravan up here a few a few times and always try and stay somewhere different.
Whilst they have a website – which the above link will take you to – up until recently to book you had to print out a form and send off with a deposit in the form of a cheque, paying the balance by cheque or cash on arrival. I see now that they are taking card payments. Wise move.
Firstly the site is easy to find, being only minutes from the M11 and with no narrow lanes and blind corners to navigate. Being local (ish) we new roughly where it was but the directions given were accurate with the brown camping signs helping you on the way.
The welcome could not have been friendlier. We (as usual) apolgised for being earlier than the sacred midday beloved of so many sites but that is not generally applied except on Saturdays for one night bookings when you will have to pay a supplement. This makes life a whole lot easier but I hope their flexibility is not abused, particularly at busier times.
The site itself is divided into a number of paddocks separated by high hedges which also border most of the site. You can even pitch amongst the trees opposite reception and this area looks particularly lovely.
There is a choice of grass or hard standing pitches and all can be booked with or without electricity. We had one of the larger hard standings but they were not that big. There was not enough room for a car, caravan & awning and some are considerably smaller.
Each paddock has it’s own facilities block – barring the rally field at the end – and they were immaculate. Plenty of hot water and none of this push button nonsense either. Plenty of water points too although these ARE push button. Gives you something to lean on though whilst you’re waiting for your barrel to fill. We were on site right at the start of their season so there weren’t many of us on site, however given the number of facilities I can’t imagine you needing to queue for long, if at all, even during the busy times.
There is a 1.5 mile walk around the farm (no, we didn’t do it – not enough time – honest!). The local pub is about a 15 minute walk away. Only one real ale on offer when we visited.
The City of Cambridge is but a few miles away but for gawd sake don’t drive in unless you like sitting in traffic and getting fleeced for parking. Make use of the excellent park & ride service, the nearest one being at Madingley, however motorhome users will need to go to Trumpington because of height restrictions. There is also a bus stop just a few minutes from the site.
So, all in all, a great site. We were only here for three nights but would love to have stayed longer. The facilities are excellent and whilst both the major caravan clubs are represented in Cambridge this makes a great alternative. It is owned by the people that run it and you can tell their enthusiasm and commitment. We’ll certainly be back at some point.
Look what’s just arrived! A shipment of products from Worcestshire based company OL PRO:
From the left:
- Winter Long - to protect your caravan or motorhome when not in use or through winter.
- Bottom & Top Plus – an er, interesting name which will no doubt raise an eyebrow or two among certain broad minded folk. Designed to replace the traditional pink and blue liquids for your loo.
- Fresh & Clear - all in one drain and pipe cleaner.
- Inside & Out – a seven in one cleaner for your caravan, glass, wheels, hard surface, fabric, bathroom and those annoying black streaks.
And in the middle:
- Sanidry – dehumidifying tray to catch humidity from the atmosphere and help keep the interior of your caravan or motorhome damp free.
Look out for reviews of all of these over the coming weeks.
We came, we saw, we met, we chatted, we ate, we drank. We left with thicker waistlines, lighter wallets and sore heads. But most of all we left with new friendships forged, family ties strengthened and old friendships renewed. It was a cracking weekend and even the weather was reasonably kind to us. For us anyway, all this was part of a longer trip – our ‘Easter’ holiday excursion up north. At the time of typing we are in Cambridgeshire, with just one stop left before we return to sunny (hopefully) Saltdean at the weekend.
Anyway, without further ado, lets get caught up.
Thursday morning saw us on the road again – and the same road – the A1 – as we hitched up Patsy 2 again headed further south, leaving, a little reluctantly, the lovely city of York. We were both looking forward to Twittercamp of course but had had such a great 12 days up north and were well aware that we had missed out on so much too.
A smooth and uneventful journey, under an occasionally brightening sky until the sad news came via text that two of the ‘Twitterati’ – and attendees of the first Twittercamp last year, would not be able to make it.
We arrived early of course, but a phone call to reception confirmed that we we wouldn’t be turned away and were soon sited at the Rutland Caravan & Camping site neighbouring the village of Greetham.
First task, after the usual post set up cuppa was to give her ladyship a bit of a wash, although I could only summon the energy and enthusiasm to do three sides of her. It was probably just as well as I later read in the site leaflet that washing of cars & caravans was not allowed. Oops!
A short while later – and a day ahead of the official start of Twittercamp – my cousin Andy and his wife Janet arrived. This was their first ever outing with the van, having taken possession of it only a few weeks previously. Their first ever ‘siting’ went pretty well, with Andy making a credible job of reversing on to the pitch. An issue arose with the water – but with four of us scratching our heads, peering, pulling, poking and swearing it was eventually resolved. Having had friends on site to help us on our first ever outing – only just over two years ago – it was nice to be able to pass on some of of acquired knowledge.
Later in the afternoon, we put up the awning, then in the evening the four of us departed, via the back gate of the site, on the first of the weekends research expeditions to the nearby village of Greetham and one of it’s hostelries; The Plough. The food was superb and an excellent selection of real ales ensured that we were to return. More than once.
Friday morning saw a brief excursion to the supermarket and to prepare the hot dogs, then we awaiting the first of the days arrivals to Twittercamp 2014. The Caravan Club had provided t-shirts for everyone and Caravan Stickers had supplied us with car & caravan stickers to commemorate the occasion
The first we saw arrive, appropriately was one of the founder members of Twittercamp; David, better known as Boss, with his caravan called Elvis from Leeds. We discovered then that another unit had arrived just before; Annette & Emma in their motorhome all the way from Bristol. We rushed over to their pitch to say hello and present them with their T-shirts and stickers before heading back to our part of the site only to meet Alison who had just arrived too from Faversham in Kent. Although Alison had caravanned for years this was the first time she had travelled alone.
Almost immediately after, was Sam and her husband Andy from Dorset who we managed to pounce on just as they were checking in. There were still more to come but it was then time to go and fire up the BBQ for the first gathering of the weekend. Sharon & Dave arrived a little later, and we were tucking in to hot dogs when Andrew arrived with his ‘shiny one’. Pete was next then after a quick wash and brush up it was time to return to the village for another research expedition, greeting first Vicky and Leslie who had had a late departure from Leeds and had only just made the 8pm cut-off imposed by the site.
There were two more pubs to try in the village that we didn’t get any further than the first, such was atmosphere and friendly banter from the locals who had had their pub invaded by a bunch of ‘them caravanners’ and caught their first glimpse of the ‘Blogger in Black’ in all his erm, finery. It was great to finally put names and faces to Twitter monikers and conversation came easy.
A few came back to our van for some nibbles, but the liquid of choice was, almost universally water, which given the amount of research that had been carried our earlier, was probably just as well.
Saturday morning saw the first ever Twittercamp Quiz, a thinly disguised excuse to drink coffee and eat lots of cake, generously provided by Sam. At 10:30am we gathered on the grassed square in the middle of our particular paddock and battle commenced. At least until half way, when we all tucked in, before hostilities resumed. It was all very good natured and a short while later the winners emerged. Annette & Emma claiming first place chose a Kindle, generously donated by Richard from Cover4Caravans, whilst Andrew took second after a tie breaker with Sam & Andy and will soon be heading to north Devon thanks to the equally generous folk at Warcombe Farm who donated a two night stay on their lovely site in Mortehoe, near Woolacombe.
Arrangements were made to reconvene in the evening for more er, research and whilst some went out walking, some went exploring old haunts, others stayed on site making the most of the cracking weather.
The evening saw the majority of us in the village again, this time making the effort to reach the furthest pub away. It quickly became apparent that there was something else we all had in common apart from caravanning and Twitter – grog. We eventually prised ourselves out of the Wheatsheaf and on to the Black Horse. Karaoke was apparently on the cards and I was relieved to find that it hadn’t turned up. Sadly it appeared that the dray hadn’t either as there wasn’t a single real ale to be had. Having gulped back something fizzy and insipid we move on and returned to the Plough to complete the evenings research. The conversation and beer continued to flow and it was well in to the early hours when the last of us eventually emerged, a little unsteadily and staggered back to the site.
No sooner had Twittercamp began than it was over – for many anyway. A few of us were staying on until Monday but one by one the majority departed, to many hugs, kisses and waves from those remaining. I hate goodbyes but we had met some great people, had some really good fun and am sure we’ll get to meet many again at some point in the future. Sadly we weren't able to get everyone in the photo, but here is most of the gang of Twittercamp 2014:
The remaining Twitterati - David, Pete and Alison – joined us for a meal in our ‘van Sunday night. What was was supposed to be a quiet meal followed by an early night became anything but as Patsy’s wine cellar – largely untouched for the majority of our trip – believe it or not – took a particular hammering. Once again we had a fantastic time and talked a lot – caravanning hardly came up at all but the vaguely family friendly nature of the blog prevents me from going in to details! Oh, and Sam – thanks for the sausages – they were delicious.
The Monday morning blues were making themselves known with some force the following morning, not helped of course by the rather excessive ‘research’ of the previous few days. Twittercamp 2014 was over and we were all leaving. We were the first to go, gingerly knocking on ‘van doors to say our goodbyes. It had been a truly great weekend, and whilst I guess it was Trev and myself who done most of the organising – such as it was – it was everyone that turned up and pitched in with such great enthusiasm that made it such a success. So, Andy, Janet, Annette, Emma, David, Alison, Sam, Andy, Sharon, Dave, Andrew, Pete, Vicky and Leslie - thank you from me & Trev for making it such a great weekend. It was great to meet all of you.
Thanks too to those who kindly agreed to sponsor us – The Caravan Club, Caravan Stickers, Cover4Caravans and Warcombe Farm. It was really appreciated. We hope to arrange another Twittercamp later in the year. nothing is certain yet but we’ll keep you posted. So, here’s to the next Twittercamp. Cheers!