Sarah WakelySee other Blog articles filed in ‘Motorhomes’ written by Sarah Wakely
Previous attempts to get away in our long- term-test Auto-Trail Imala 732 had been thwarted by the various weekends of snowfall that the country experienced in the spring.
I had packed up the motorhome, ready to go, on at least one occasion, only to have to unpack it all again when weather reports revealed the true extent of the adverse weather that we were going to experience.
So it was with some delight that I recently heard the forecasters mentioning “brighter spells” and “rising temperatures” – at last it seemed as though spring had finally sprung.
Off I went to our CaSSOA secure storage yard to pack the Imala once more, prior to a weekend away in the Forest of Dean.
The latter is one of my favourite areas of the UK, so I was very pleased to be returning again. This time, husband Matt and I planned to stay at the Camping and Caravanning Club’s Bracelands Camping in the Forest site, which is located close to the River Wye and within the heart of the forest itself.
Glorious sunshine greeted us when we arrived, so we quickly got the Auto-Trail onto a pitch and set up a couple of camping chairs outside. Bracelands offers wonderful views out over the trees and, although the site was busy, it’s large enough to feel peaceful, thanks in part to pitches spread reasonably far apart.
Clever design in the kitchen
We cooked dinner in the ’van, and found it an easy process. It’s fitted with a three-burner hob with electric plate, plus a full oven, grill and microwave.
The rectangular sink is set at the end of the work surface; a clever piece of design means the glass lid lifts up to form a protective screen, to stop the sofa alongside getting splashed with water. A three-speed 12V extractor fan helps keep the accommodation area free of cooking smells, too.
We ate dinner sitting at the freestanding table. This normally lives in the wardrobe back towards the bedroom area, but is easily set up in the lounge when it’s time to eat. Both of the cab seats swivel, and their occupants can also eat at the table.
After dinner, we played a board game before settling down to watch some TV.
An 18.5-inch TV/DVD player was fitted to our ’van as part of the optional £1149 Media Pack; it’s located up above the cab and drops down when you need it. It can be viewed from both of the side sofas, but not from the chairs in the cab.
The Media Pack also includes a Status TV aerial, DAB radio, steering-wheel radio controls and a colour reversing camera – the latter is particularly useful, given that there’s no real view out the back (there’s a window on the rear panel, but it’s set fairly high up).
The 732 has a transverse island bed at the rear, and it’s hugely comfortable. There’s a small cupboard unit at the very back, on which glasses, phones and so on can be placed, but the person who sleeps on the left-hand side will need to be aware that there’s no shelf or similar on which they can put such items.
Despite this, it’s a very comfortable place to spend the night, and there’s great storage here. In addition to the lockers up above, there’s also a half-height wardrobe, drawers in the bed base and access to the garage under the bed, too.
Walking in the rain
We woke next morning to the sound of rain – it appeared the good weather had left us, and a quick peek out of the window confirmed just that. Unfortunately we had a spot of walking planned, but being hardy souls, we decided to take the plunge and head out after breakfast.
Auto-Trail’s coachbuilts are full of neat touches, not least the branded umbrella that comes fitted into the door. This would prove particularly handy as we took off into the rain for a stroll to the River Wye (a downhill walk along a fairly solid path of around two miles).
We eventually found the river and enjoyed taking the path all the way along to Symonds Yat; from there, it was a half-mile walk up what felt like an almost vertical path to the Yat rock itself.
The views (albeit through the rain) from there made the aches in our legs worthwhile, and we rewarded our efforts – after another two-mile walk back to Berry Hill – with a drink and lunch at a rather lovely tearoom-cum-pottery. Fortunately, the rain stopped during our visit.
The following afternoon, we packed up and headed back to London, the Auto-Trail making as easy work of the many miles as it did on the way down.
We’d thoroughly enjoyed our trip and our time in the ’van; although the weather hadn’t held out completely, we were keen to get away again. Next time, though, we’re hoping we won’t need to use that umbrella.