Canal boats on the River Wey Surrey.
By TIM SAUNDERS
Innovation is the fuel that drives British business and importantly keeps it ahead of the rest of the world.
Auto-Sleepers, the Cotswolds based manufacturer of motorhomes is a fine example of such a forward thinking business.
You see the last time I got behind the wheel of an Auto-Sleeper – about 14 months ago now – there were two cumbersome LPG Calor Gas bottles for the heating, hot water and cooking. They were a hassle because you had to remember to turn them on every time you stopped and when you set off you had to turn them off. Then of course when they ran out it was a matter of traipsing round to find an outlet that sold replacements – and they were heavy. So when I was confronted with the Auto-Sleeper Windrush I was pleasantly surprised to find that the LPG bottles had been removed.
“Where are they?” I ask Ed, the salesman at Marquis Motorhomes. “There’s an LPG tank below the floor. This gives more room because it doesn’t impinge on the interior space.” It seems much easier to operate as well because you don’t need to worry about turning it off and on. When the tank is empty it can simply be filled up at most petrol stations. There’s also a helpful gauge on the dashboard alerting you to the fuel level.
Sales are so buoyant at Marquis that the motorhome that had been put aside for us had been sold. Demand comes from both home and abroad. Buyers vary from middle aged parents with children through to retired people wanting to travel. Australians and New Zealanders buy them to take back home with them. This is a truly internationally business and I can see why it is so popular when you consider the cost of hotels and the fact that with a motorhome the world really is your oyster because you are not tied to any one location.
This model is a four-berth conversion of a Peugeot Boxer. There are bunk beds at the far rear, ideal for the children, a shower and toilet, cooker and fridge. We venture to parts of Surrey we haven’t been to before. The 2.2-litre diesel engine is fairly quiet from the inside and the six speed manual gearbox is smooth to use. It happily travels at 70mph on the motorway and will return about 30mpg allowing for around 500 miles to be covered on a tank.
Recalling escapades of the past we head for somewhere flat so that we don’t sleep at an awkward angle. We find this at Broadwater near a lake. The first night with our two young daughters, Harriett (3) and Heidi (1) could have been better. They finally settle down to sleep in their bunks at around 10pm – the curtain covered bunk bed ladder filling the gap on Heidi’s bed so that she is safe and secure. But by 2am they awake again. The first night of any adventure is always a problem for them because of the unfamiliar. It also takes us a little while to understand how to properly operate the heating, which doesn’t help matters. By the third and final night however, we all enjoy our best night’s sleep. Despite the temperature dropping during the night the heater on the third setting provides a comfortable environment.
There are various sliding windows and flip up sunroofs that allow fresh air into the van while there are also extractor fans for the cooking and the toilet. The addition of the sliding door is much appreciated when the weather’s nice because it can be opened while enjoying a meal. The sliding door also makes loading the vehicle easier. When travelling in such vehicles it is always best to travel with as little luggage as possible because any clutter hinders the enjoyment. Needless to say that our tandem pushchair has to be stored in the aisle while driving and then in the front when parked. It is helpful that the front seats swivel because this provides extra seating. The luxury fabrics and the lighting help make the interior appealing.
Our location is ideal because we are not far from the park, which our daughters love and we are able to walk to Godalming along the towpath by the canal, which is very enjoyable. Godalming is a thriving historic market town with two art galleries and a third one rumoured to be opening. At the village of Puttenham we enjoy a stroll in the afternoon sunshine and at Haslemere there is a fair where Harriett enjoys driving a car.
Marquis Motorhomes can be seen at Paultons Park between June 6 and June 8. Watch the videos at www.travelwriter.biz