Navigator


We took delivery of a Navigator Awning in mid October, and promised that we would supply a review back to the manufacturers by the end of the month. We looked at our campsite guides, hoping to find an all-year campsite, preferably with interesting walks nearby, and a pub, and no more than 90 minutes from Sheffield.

The missus spotted a campsite that had a good review and was open all year. It was 100 yards from a pub in the Good Beer Guide, and the evidence on the Ordnance Survey map suggested lots of local footpaths. And although it was only 45 minutes away as the Bongo flies, there was one slight problem…..it was near Scunthorpe! On the banks of the Trent!

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In many ways, the Trent is more interesting than at first appears. For a start, it is Britain’s third longest river at 170 miles, bettered only by the Thames and the Severn. And geographically, it follows a bizarre course, starting high in the Staffordshire hills at Biddulph Moor, before heading South through Stoke, turning East through Burton on Trent, Nottingham and Newark, and then veering North through Gainsborough and Scunthorpe until it meets the Humber.

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Since the dawn of the industrial revolution the mighty Trent has supplied the water to power much of Midlands industry, and this is still much in evidence today, especially in Nottinghamshire where the M1 crosses the Trent just to the South of Nottingham.

Until 10 years ago, the Trent was perhaps the most polluted waterway in England, if not Western Europe. Large chemical works, steel plants and power stations flushed their waste direct in to the river, but now otters have been reported as far inland as Newark.

The campsite (unfortunately called Brookside, but superb facilities!) we stayed at was in the pretty Lincolnshire village of Burton on Stather, 6 miles north of Scunthorpe and 3 miles from the Humber. It is at this point that the Trent is widest, and still navigable. Large vessels still come in the wharfs at Scunthorpe to pick up steel for far away markets. And until relatively recently there was a local crew of pilots or navigators to safely escort the ships through the difficult currents. Which brings us nicely to the reason for our visit; the Navigator awning.

Blue Diamond are a camping supplies manufacturers based in West Yorkshire, and for many years have been one of the market leaders in the supply of accessories to caravanners. More recently, through their Outdoor Revolution brand, they have received praise from many quarters for the innovative design of their tents and drive-away awnings. For those that need more room, and something a bit more robust, the Navigator awning looked ideal. We wanted to see if it would stand up to the rigours of a cold and windy night in Lincolnshire, and whether it was compatible with the Bongo.

The awning comes with its own groundsheet, pegs (more than enough!) and fibre glass poles, all contained within a hold-all that measures approximately 80cm x 30 cm x 40cm. The packed weight is 17.7 kg. An inner tent and storm straps are available but not included in the pack. The whole pack retails at £250, and is available from the owners club.

It took the two of us about 45 minutes to erect the awning; not too bad as it’s always difficult the first time. There are instructions sewn on to the side of the tent bag, a nice touch….how many times have you seen the instructions flutter away in the wind? Once erect, its unique design features were quickly apparent. Because it is nearly hexagonal in shape, it is far more roomy than other similar awnings we have tested. And unlike cheaper awnings, there is a wet weather water apron that can be pegged all the way round for maximum protection. Storm straps (pictured in orange below) are also available, but these are an optional extra.

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Attaching the awning to the Bongo could not have been easier. Most awnings of this type have an elasticated gusset, but the gusset on this one was deeper than others we have come across, so there was not the same faffing about when trying to get the Bongo in to position. The gusset itself can be clamped to the drain sill on the side of the Bongo, or attached using a plastic “figure of eight”.

As the light failed, we made the rock’n’roll bed up, put the silver screens on, fed the dogs and then walked round the corner to the Ferry House Inn, which served a superb pint of local Newby Wyke Premium Bitter. In the Ferry, we got talking to a local old boy who told us all about the Flixborough disaster in 1974. Flixborough, a village 3 miles upstream from Burton, was the scene of a mighty explosion at its chemical works. In total 28 people lost their lives and, in the words of the bloke in the pub, “all our doors and windows were blown out….and we’re a good 3 miles away.”

(He then went on to say “You’re not camping out in this are you? You must be nutters…..”)

That night, a tempest of a different type hit the campsite, but we are please to report that the Naviagator was more than a match for a good rain-lashing, and everything within stayed bone dry.

The following morning was bright and sunny, if a little cold. Time to investigate the Navigator a bit further. As mentioned earlier, the awning is 6 sided. With a height of 220cm, an overall length of 380cm, and a width that varies from 190cm at the ends to 383cm in the middle, there was more than enough room for the two of us and our pets to lounge around with the Sunday papers after a hearty breakfast. There was also plenty of room to hang an inner tent which we did not have an opportunity to test.

But the best thing about the Naviagator awning was still to come.

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Although it does not come across too well in this photo (my batteries ran out on the digital camera!), each of the 6 side panels will unzip to become an entrance/exit! You can have all 6 panels open at the same time if you wish, although this is not to be recommended on cold October mornings by the banks of the Trent, especially when you are only 3 miles from Flixborough!

So, all in all, our mission was a success. The Navigator was packed away (how on earth did it fit in that hold-all?) and we went back to Bongo Towers.

For details of how to order, see the Awnings section on the Parts & Stuff page.