By Bryan London (no relation)

I think many of us have at least one self-image of ourselves which is partly based in reality and partly aspirational – eg athlete, musician, writer, mountaineer ……

We are Vanners,  but not, you understand, typical caravan and motor home club members staying on club sites with their hard standing pitches, plush toilet and shower blocks and electric hook ups to power mega fridges ( handy to chill wine) widescreen TVs and van central heating systems. We have been known (it’s difficult to believe this I know) to be slightly disparaging of these arrangements – but live and let live I say and by and large this is the consensus of the letter pages on the club magazine.

Don’t get me wrong,  we value stays on sites that enable us to restock with water and have a shower rather than  strip washing – but we are at heart wildcamperers – preferring to be tucked away in some remote spot, self-sufficient and, truth be told, feeling rather pleased with ourselves.

We subscribe fully to the doctrine that there is no such thing as ‘bad weather’ – just ‘poor equipment’ and like to think we plan ahead to mitigate whatever conditions we may encounter.  Moreover,  we indulge in a preventative mythology  – as espoused by our friend Ed in relation to over- trousers. Ed held that the onset of rain could be checked and even reversed if someone (and it only need be one person in a group) was able to retrieve over-trousers from their rucksack and begin the arduous process of getting them on at the first sign of precipitation.

It was with this in mind (and a nod to legal requirements) that we bought a set of snow chains for our drive to the Balkans. Despite complete confidence that we wouldn’t have to use them, it did seem prudent to make sure that we could fit them before required to do so in a blizzard. One very cold day in the Peak District later (with assistance and technical expertise from our friend Ian and suggestions over the phone by the UK supplier) we had a modified set of chains that fitted – and which we could fit!

A few days  before we set off I was undertaking a final internet check of continental driving requirements when I discovered that Germany no longer accepted carrying snow chains as an alternative to winter tyres. We were committed to visiting a friend in Germany and it was too late to even consider an (expensive) change of wheels. So relying on mythology we set off for The Ruhr, resolving to keep a close eye on the  weather forecast and only too well aware that chains would  only be of use in thick, hardened, snow – not in the more likely event of ice. 

We had mild, overcast conditions for our stay in the north  of Germany – but became aware of the approach of Beast 2, promising falling temperatures, snow and ice! Not wishing to be stuck in the Dearne Valley of Germany we decided to try and out-run  the storm by driving straight to Austria. Once there we figured that even if we couldn’t drive anywhere our tyres would be legal!

We set off in a blizzard with more than a hint of ice beneath our balmy summer treads but the autobahns remained clear and we reached Salzburgh as darkness and the temperature fell well below zero. We holed up with the lorries at a rest stop, turned the gas air heater on and snuggled beneath the duvets expecting heavy overnight snow.

The following morning revealed no snow but a sky heavy with its  threat. The forecast now said heavy snow that afternoon in Slovenia – so off we set again, through a Tyrol bathed in beautiful sunshine, stopping only for a quick coffee beneath towering snow dusted peaks and crags. Reflecting on the news from what used to be the United Kingdom we laughed to think that the most useful place to deploy our snow chains at that moment would be on our hill – on Hunter House Road! We motored on to a campsite on the edge of Ljubljana – we thought we would be pushing our luck to continue. 

We completed the formalities at reception where the use of the hot showers in the health spa was explained before we drove onto the hard standing of our pitch. But the real beezer was the electric hook-up which was robust enough to power our fan heater at full blast. This really was Wild Ampering!