Bailey’s Pageant Series 7 Ardennes created a bit of a stir when we rolled onto our pitch at Rutland Caravan and Camping Site – as it was absolutely choc-a-bloc for the first warm weekend of the spring.
The Ardennes shares some of its DNA with the twin axle Pageant Limousin, but the layout is the product of the manufacturer’s ‘My Bailey Caravan’ initiative – a caravan design competition that challenged members of the public to come up with their ideal design.
Following a huge amount of interest in the competition winner at last autumn’s NEC Show, Bailey decided to put the concept into commercial production as the Pageant Ardennes. It’s not quite as opulent as the original Brambler (designed by the winning family), which had an LCD screen with integrated DVD player, granite-effect worktops and corduroy upholstery, but it is, nevertheless, a very well appointed caravan.
The entrance door is located towards the back of the van, just ahead of the full-width rear washroom. Step inside and the first impression is one of space and light thanks to a brace of large rooflights, a huge additional side window and the low-level furniture. Instead of the traditional dresser, cocktail cabinet and wardrobe, what can only be described as a sideboard runs at an angle to the nearside wall, providing ample storage space and additional worktop space and allowing that huge extra side window to be incorporated into the design.
Rather like a sunroom, this combination of big windows and low furniture opens up the interior of the van and brings the outdoors inside.
There’s a big U-shaped lounge at the front of the van with couch potato-friendly curved corner cushions and ample space for a family of four to eat together while a generous L-shaped kitchen complete with Dometic 115-litre fridge (complete with wood veneered door and very cool blue LED lights inside), separate Spinflo oven and grill, four-burner gas hob and Daewoo microwave, sits amidships, distributing all the weight right over the axles, which is exactly where it should be.
The Ardennes’ generous living space accommodates no fewer than fifteen eye-level lockers; but it doesn’t end there: the sideboard contains another three large lockers plus a cutlery drawer while the kitchen has pull-out wire baskets and pan storage under the oven.
With so much space to stow the endless clutter that always accompanies kids, it’s actually possible to find a home for most things without covering every available surface with odds and ends. The teak-style Tecnoform cabinetry which attracted so much attention when the Pageant Series 7 was launched last year is complimented by beige, cream and grey fabrics with abstract patterns cover the soft furnishings, while the floor is covered by practical biscuit-coloured carpets – which absorbed the odd muddy footprint very well.
The large rear washroom has sufficient space to hose off one child at a time in the shower, should the need arise, and there’s also enough room for an adult to supervise teeth brushing and face washing without too much of a squeeze.
And we’re happy to report that it works brilliantly. After a couple of stories, the little darlings twittered between themselves for a while before dropping off pretty much on queue. The downside of all this, of course, is that they were awake at first light and demanding breakfast shortly after 6am. Ho hum!
Although the all-up weight of 1602kg is on the high side, putting it beyond the comfortable towing range of most modest family cars, as a family-friendly layout, the Ardennes really does work. The separate living areas provide space to unwind and an all-important element of privacy for parents and children while the clever angled passage means people can move between the two areas without clambering all over one another. Dispensing with bunks may not appear to be the most efficient use of space, but it stops arguments over who gets the top bed and also means there will still be room for them when the children mutate into teenagers.
Insurance cost: £221*
*Caravan Insurance cost based on 2009 Bailey Pageant Series 7 Ardennes valued at £14,995, fitted with hitchlock, wheelclamp, AL-KO secure and AL-KO ATC (standard on this model) plus approved caravan tracking device. Kept on drive behind locked gates at HX2 7RZ. Caravanners over 30 years old, claim free for 3 years and a member of a caravanning club. Premium includes insurance premium tax at 5%, 10% online discount and is correct as of 18.08.09.