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My wife and I recently stayed at Troutbeck Head Caravan Club site in the north of the Lake District.
When booking in and chatting with the wardens, we explained that we used to stay at Troutbeck Head every Christmas through to New Year, but now, strangely, the site was closed through the winter months. We later realised perhaps why.
We were booked to stay from Sunday 17th, departing Friday 22nd. On the Monday we awoke to snow, with rather more on Tuesday which mostly thawed by the afternoon. On Friday however, we were hit by severe weather comprising of heavy snow, freezing temperatures and strong winds.
The view over neighbouring Rookin House resembled a hypothesised nuclear winter as the icy blasts of wind propagated fine snow dust. With the site now covered in deep, slippery snow, which had drifted several feet deep in places, completing simple tasks such as filling water carriers and emptying waste was very difficult. Pulling a fully laden Aquaroll through snow drift submerged paths and uncleared roads felt like pulling a plough.
When we were due to leave, I spent the morning observing the lengthy process of wardens "assisting" two motor homes across the site and up the steep, snow laden site exit road. I was unsure as to how successful, or safe, such an operation would be, but having witnessed its success, I enquired about having such assistance with our outfit - a car and caravan. It was agreed, considering the conditions along with the busy schedule of the wardens, that we would leave at 9am the following morning.
Whilst talking to other members and wardens, it became clear that Caravan Club policy regarding the simple task of clearing snow and gritting roads had changed. The stance was now "he who does nothing does no wrong" in light of recent injury law claims from members.
There was obvious strain and discord amongst wardens regarding the whole matter; when speaking to them there were inconsistencies and contradictions throughout. Also obnoxious, argumentative belligerence and total fiction from the warden who demanded extra site fees for the nights we were forced to stay.
As a consequence of this five-minute thinking, members could be stranded for days without food - and without power if that were to fail. Also, members often need to attend work as scheduled and may lose money or worse.
Furthermore, wardens are having to pragmatically assist members to get off site safely, but with the utmost discretion regarding club policy - and whilst continuing their regular duties.
Are we to think that Caravan Club committee would have problems organising the proverbial beverage consuming event in a brewery?
This policy defies logic, safety, responsibility and good business sence!
If site roads were cleared and grit spread, and later a member were to fall and injure themselves, it could be because they were clumsy or just unfortunate. If it were alleged that such an accident was a direct result of improper road clearing, blame would have to be proven with photos and witness statements surely?
Has the club in the past not defended itself properly in such a situation?
It would appear that some sites are no longer open through the winter months to avoid the issue of snow clearance. But with extreme weather and heavy snow recently having appeared as early as November, and now as late as March, how short should the season be to avoid responsibility?
Also, when snow-covered sites have to close, as many are at the time of writing, members are denied access on to sites they have booked.
Overheads will remain and revenue will plummet.
Recent policy changes are making caravanning with the Caravan Club difficult.
The 72 Hour Rule and its vague implementation encourages members to travel when they otherwise mightn't have. And when on site, they may be stranded because of the policy regarding snow.
It's quite feasible that some members will choose not to book at all if uncertain. It's also feasible that they may favour independent sites where snow is competently cleared.
As concluded in my other article, the 72 hour rule should be scrapped and centralised booking made mandatory.
Regarding snow, what's best for members and the club is for as many sites to be open for as long as possible through the year and for site roads to be cleared and gritted as they used to be.
The tractor equipment for clearing snow and spreading grit is very effective.
A specification should be written for snow clearance so wardens know exactly what the club is committing to. If necessary, this could be ratified by an independent organisation, Ministry of Transport or whoever. When such a respected and endorsed procedure is implemented and followed, the club should be able to successfully defend itself against litigators.
Efficient booking and cancellation to maximise revenue and give members what they want, and site roads clear of snow and safe to drive on; that's what members would be better served by, and what management should endeavour to achieve.
I am an independent digital photography tutor and writer from Irlam, Manchester, England. I offer one-to-one photography training in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and other north-west areas. Click "Tuition" on the main menu to read more.