DERBYSHIRE (PEAK DISTRICT): Travelling in a motorhome

 The Peugeot Nuevo II in Buckingham

Video

 

By Tim Saunders

 

A motorhome is the ideal solution for holidays with youngsters.

Our beautiful little daughter Harriett was born in February and it has been fun yet challenging adapting our carefree existence to more responsible ways since her arrival. No longer can we walk out of the front door without a thought - now there's the pushchair, changing bag and car seat for starters not to mention her Toy Story book and Freda the frog. 

We still wanted a family holiday but realised that it would be unfair and inconsiderate on both Harriett and others if we were to sail or fly anywhere.

After much thought it became clear that a motorhome was the only remedy to our little problem.

Having never driven one we opted for a compact four-berth Peugeot Nuevo II Auto-Sleeper conversion based on a short-wheel base Peugeot Boxer van.

We planned to visit Scotland as we hadn’t been there before.

The great thing about a motor home is that as that well-known Marvin Gaye song goes “Wherever I lay my hat is my home”. Rather than being tied to campsites it’s possible to ‘wild camp’ wherever you like within reason. Therefore many road-sides become possibilities. The advantages for us far outweigh the disadvantages, which are minimal: no mains electricity or water. So although the microwave and plug sockets don’t work we can still enjoy hot food, hot showers and watch the TV! We are impressed with the Freeview television, which generally delivers a clear picture but does require re-tuning when arriving in a new destination. The 12v leisure battery lasts up to three days, too. And by driving a motorhome you automatically join a club – fellow motorhome drivers wave to you and you return the compliment.

During our two-week break we were aiming for Scotland but avoiding the motorway in preference of more scenic routes and only averaging around 30 miles a day has meant that we have had to revise our plans. From Hampshire we made our way to picturesque Woodstock, Buxton, Castleton, Ashbourne, Matlock Bath and the brilliant Crich Tramway Village in Derbyshire only to begrudgingly have to return down south.

Inside the motorhome are sumptuous hardwearing Belgian fabrics, carpets and a wood finish reminiscent of expensive yachts and planes. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into making the best use of space possible and it is easily transformed depending on requirements. For instance, there can be four seats for daytime travelling including the clever swivel driver’s seat. Two tables can be added for dining, which when not in use are stored in the wardrobe. The seats convert into a double bed while a captain’s bunk doubles up for day-time storage, above the cabin. Families should cope well with the airline-style overhead storage and the reasonably sized wardrobe.

Probably the cleverest use of space is in the shower room where the toilet turns for the optimum seating position while the sink swivels to create a wall for the shower. A retractable clothes rail is useful for drying wet towels and clothes during the day.

To use the Thetford chemical toilet the blade to the left of the seat has to be opened before use and then shut afterwards. A red light indicates when it needs emptying. 

And that of course is the least pleasant job of all. However, Thetford has tried to make this as quick and easy as possible. It’s simply a matter of unclipping it from its cubby-hole, unscrewing the top and disposing. We have been able to do this at campsites, public toilets and petrol stations for free. Topping up the 10-litre waste water tank is easily carried out with a watering can.

The 102-litre fresh water tank for washing has lasted us between two and three days as has the 78-litre waste water tank. When on a camping site connecting to all the services is easy but when ‘wild camping’ it’s not so simple. Filling up the fresh water tank can be achieved using two methods: hose pipe or aqua roll. To use the hose pipe just requires the correct attachments to be present on the standpipe (we only found one campsite during our travels to have the correct attachment on their standpipe). Therefore we frequently use the aqua roll method whereby a water container or watering can is filled and then the special automatic pump provided by Auto Sleepers is submerged into the container. Once the internal control panel is engaged and an internal tap opened the pump automatically sucks up the water. It’s quite satisfying to watch. To fill the tank from empty using this method takes 35 minutes.

At the back the kitchen includes a gas cooker, sink and a sizeable rear window, the latter making washing up more bearable. A clever pull out table top is located just above the fridge, which proves useful when preparing meals. When using the cooker it’s necessary to pull up the toughened glass lid (which creates an additional kitchen surface) and the same applies with the sink and draining board - these have to be down when driving. When using the grill it is necessary to pull out the heat shield. The fridge can be powered by battery or Calor Gas, a 6kg bottle being stored in a cupboard outside the vehicle. The gas, which also powers the heating, can only be turned on when the vehicle is stationary by rotating a dial above the bottle anticlockwise. A full bottle should last two weeks and it is wise to carry a back-up – there is room for this in the cupboard. Our bottle has not lasted long enough and it has proved difficult to find an exact match for the bottle. On more than one occasion I have been advised that Calor Gas had modified the traditional 6kg bottle to a lighter version. When purchasing Calor Gas the retailer swaps the bottle with one of the same size and type. Consequently this is a difficult task made all the harder by the fact that travelling at the end of the holiday season means that many stocks are already low. But we eventually have success in Castleton. 

Our drinking water is supplied from 100 litres of bottled spring water, which when emptied we fill back up to top up the fresh water tank.

Hot water is achieved within 20 minutes of switching on water heater control by the rear door.

Sizeable adjustable skylights throughout provided additional light, giving an airy feel and help make the vehicle feel more spacious. All windows and skylights are fitted with fly screens, blackout blinds and curtains helping ensure a good night’s sleep.

Equipped with an efficient 2.2-litre, 130bhp diesel engine, six-speed gearbox and cruise control the Peugeot returns around 30mpg and covered over 550 miles on a single tank, which is pretty good going considering it’s 9ft 10inches tall and 7ft 7inches wide and is heavily laden with far too much luggage. 

That extra height and width over a normal vehicle requires careful manoeuvring. Driving close to the centre white line helps ensure that the sides don’t get scratched by hedges and overhanging branches - we haven’t travelled over 60mph for the duration of the test. There is a commanding driving position, on a par with small trucks and certainly much higher than your typical 4x4.

When stationary, Harriett particularly likes to sit at the front and try her hand at steering and gear changes. A neat touch is the fact that the handbrake is at the right of the driver’s seat rather than in the centre as is usually the way. This frees up more space to create a clear walkway throughout making it quicker and easier to get to Harriett when she needs attention.

The first night on the outskirts of Oxford is disastrous because Harriett is not going to sleep in her Moses basket or travel cot. On the second night, however, she sleeps in the captain’s bunk with its safety rail and curtain. Both my wife and her have their best night’s sleep in seven months! From that day on we really begin to relax and enjoy our break. 

In some towns we discover parking is a bit of an issue but because of the fairly compact size of the Nuevo II it is possible to park in places that other motorhomes were unable to such as the layby of a road on the outskirts of Bakewell, which is heaving with tourists. Reversing is made easier by the helpful addition of a camera that feeds an image through to the rear view mirror.

On entering the vehicle through the rear Seitz door there is an electrically operated step for easy access and a rail to further aid entry.

It’s not often that you can say a vehicle created a truly memorable family holiday.

 

New price: £47,600

 

FACTS AND FIGURES:

 

Accommodation: four-berth

Engine: 2.2-litre diesel

Power: 130bhp

Economy: 30mpg

Cost to fill up from empty: £110

Conversion: 2011 Auto-Sleeper Peugeot Nuevo II

Base vehicle: Peugeot chassis cab

Power plant: 2.2-litre turbo-diesel producing 130bhp, six-speed manual gearbox

Gross vehicle weight: 3,500kg

Payload: 455kg

Layout: Overcab double bed and swivelling cab seats, ahead of twin-sofa lounge, rear kitchen and corner washroom

Exterior measurements: Length 6.70m (22ft 0in), width 2.31m (7ft 7in), height 3.02m (9ft 11in)

Berths: 4

Bed size(s): Lounge double 2.08m x 1.87m (6ft 10in x 6ft 1.5in), overcab double 1.95m x 1.25m (6ft 5in x 4ft 1in)

Length of ownership: 3 years

Supplied by: Marquis Motorhomes

Mileage covered: 600 miles

Average fuel economy: 30mpg

Accessories/extras: SE Pack - recessed awning, awning light, exterior shower, electrically-operated entrance step, roof fan, dual-fuel cooker, external gas point, colour monitor and reversing camera, CD/DVD/MP3 player, multi-channel TV/radio receiver, Freeview box, Status directional aerial and booster, Gaslow refillable gas system, safe, kitchen towel holder, Self-seeking satellite TV system

Base vehicle service: £304

MOT: £54

Recalls: Electric step operation 

Habitation service: £216

Insurance: £272, including European breakdown cover (Caravan Guard)

Price new today: £47,600 OTR 

Cost of similar aged ‘van today: £38,000

What went wrong: nothing

Further reading: N/A

Contacts: Auto Sleepers Group Ltd, Orchard Works, Willersey, Nr. Broadway, Worcs WR12 7QF.

Tel: 01604-783034

www.auto-sleepers.co.uk

 

Top tips:

1.When ‘wild camping’ park on a flat surface. There are two reasons for this: so that you don’t sleep at an awkward angle and the water drains out of the shower rather than collecting in a corner of the shower room.

2.Think carefully about the roads you drive on and that you are aware of any low bridges – some drivers may prefer to stick to main A-roads and motorways, avoiding challenging country lanes

3.Carry a spare Calor Gas bottle – you never know when you might need it as there is now way of knowing when a Calor Gas bottle is nearly empty

 

Diary

 

Monday

Collected Peugeot Nuevos II and packed it up

Night in West Ilsley, near Oxford

 

Tuesday

Woodstock and Bleinheim Palace

Filled up with water

 

Thursday

Arrived in Lichfield

 

Saturday

Arrived in Buxton where our daughter Harriett had her first fish and chips

 

Tuesday

Whaley Bridge

 

Wednesday

Castleton where we went hunting for a 6kg Calor gas bottle

 

Friday

Bakewell. Home of the pudding.

 

Saturday

Matlock Bath

 

Sunday

Melbourne where Thomas Cook, the travel agent lived for 20 years.

 

Monday

Maids Moreton, near Buckingham.

 

Tuesday

Micheldever, Hampshire.

Unpacked and returned the Peugeot Nuevos II

 

We like

The awning, the electric step and the high up driving position. The vehicle toured well and was easy to drive, delivering decent economy. The carpets unclip for easy cleaning.

 

We would have liked

The bed to fold out electrically. This would make life so much easier. It would be nice if the water tanks were bigger too.

 

We dislike

The bed could be more comfortable. The light coloured carpet gets dirty quite quickly.

 

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock

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