ISSUE NO 32
                               DECEMBER 2009

The information and opinions in this newsletter are those of the contact name or names given.
The Laika Club of Great Britain does not necessarily agree with nor endorse their comments
and/or views. It is a totally independent Club, governed by its constitution giving no preference to
any Publication, Dealer or other club. This however, does not prevent, with Committee approval,
the fostering of mutually beneficial relations.
                                           CHAIRMAN’S CHAT
This is my first Chairman’s chat so I decided to start my tenure as your chairman by looking up what the club
constitution says about the purpose of the club. I quote:

“The aims of the Club shall be:
a) The organisation of events of interest to its members.
b) To create and maintain a spirit of friendship amongst its members through a common interest in
   motorhomes and motorcaravaning for recreation.
c) To promote the exchange of ideas, information and experiences of recreation in
   motorhomes and motorcaravans particularly Laika vehicles.”

I think that sums up very well my experience of the club. The ‘events of interest’ tend to be rallies, at home
and abroad, where we gather together for a few days to achieve the second two aims. The dominating
feature of all the rallies that we have attended has been the spirit of friendship amongst the members. It
does not matter whether you are a regular rally goer, or just come to one or two a year; all are included in the
circle of friendship and activity. An example; at the October AGM rally, as the weather was still warm and
fine, in mid-afternoon, a couple of couples decided to have tea outside on the grass square around which all
the vans had been parked. After a while a few more joined them. By six o’clock, when the sun had gone
and it was too cold to sit out any longer, there were thirty people in this, by now, huge circle of chairs. All
had been enjoying one another’s company, drinking tea, coffee or things stronger, nibbling at the crisps,
cakes or whatever appeared on the table. It was a great afternoon that epitomized the genuinely friendly
nature of the club, and it was a privilege to be part of it.

Each rally seems to take on a unique character. At the Slimbridge rally many visited the Wetlands &
Wildfowl Trust which was only 10 minutes walk away. There was an organized walk along part of the
Sharpness – Gloucester Canal that ran adjacent to the site. Despite not the best of weather, 2 boatloads of
people went out on hired canal boats for the day, an event suggested by one of the members the night
before, and organized virtually instantly. There was an evening meal at the pub next to the site, to which
everyone chose to go, and an impromptu game of skittles the following evening.

On most days, groups of ‘advisors’ can be observed standing close to a member’s van, while another, and
not necessarily the owner, is dismantling part of the vehicle. Much as you see alongside roadside holes, 1
working, 8 watching! This activity is part of the ‘exchange of ideas….. cited in the third aim above. Shared
experience of technical problems and their solutions, as well as information about routes and camp sites is
part and parcel of every rally.

I believe the club members are achieving the aims for club set out by the founders, many of whom are still
active participants. By and large, all rallies achieve good attendance ie, 10 – 20 units, and over the year,
more than a third of the 100 or so membership attend at least one rally. I am told that this is quite a high

Where is this all leading?

You will read in another article in this edition that the sale of new Laikas in the UK has virtually stopped. The
dealers do not envisage a market for new imports unless the economy improves and/or the pound regains
some strength. What this means for the club is that there is a fixed, and probably declining, population of
actual and potential club members.

Used vans will still be traded in, but probably not for another Laika. Whilst the member giving up the Laika is
still able to remain a member of the club, do they want to stay? Can we capture the person who eventually
buys the Laika? The answer to the first question is, we hope so, because they have enjoyed being club
members. The answer to the second is not so easy, but an active club with some visibility to potential
members has got to be of help.

The committee is finalizing the rally programme for 2010; we have tried to provide a reasonable geographical
spread to enable members from both north and south to attend more than one rally without having to travel
the length of the country. Given the cost that a weak pound adds to a European trip, we have included 2
rallies back to back, spanning 10 days in June, in north Devon and south Cornwall. Both are great places,
especially before the main holiday period. So if Europe looks too expensive try this and some of the other
spring and summer rallies as an alternative.

I think that the club is doing a lot of things right for the members that come to rallies, but I would like to attract
some of those members that have not yet enjoyed the active side of the club. I invite ideas for events, not
only rallies, which could be included in the 2011 programme. It has been suggested that a rally at one of
the major outdoor motorhome shows would be of interest. We have stopped going to the Shepton Mallet
show because the show itself seemed to be tired and running out of steam. Maybe this is because it sits at
the end of the traditional summer season. A show earlier in the year might be more active and therefore
more appealing. I am sure there are also other event types that would appeal to the wider membership.

The email addresses and phone numbers of the committee are on the front page, so please feel free to give
us your input. Over the past year the club website has been the most effective medium for attracting new
members, so if you have any ideas for the website, or content that would be useful to others, please contact
Alan Wilson, the webmaster.

Elaine and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the next year or so, and I urge those
members who have not yet come to one of the rallies to come and give it a go.

We offer you our Best Wishes for Christmas and enjoy your Laika-ing in the New Year.

John Welham

                                      Holmfirth Rally report
                             Thursday 13th to Tuesday 18th August 2009

Thirteen units attended the Holmfirth rally, a grass field, part of a commercial site surrounded by
trees, next to the river Holm.

We managed eventually to de-cipher the local bus
timetables to take advantage of our free bus pass rides
into the centre of Holmfirth or we walked the 1.5 miles
along the steep valley sides. On Saturday most of us
went to see the market and W I stalls and enjoyed the
bus tour to many of the ‘Last of the Summer Wine’
locations. The Huddersfield branch of Lowdhams was

Mick and Kaye kindly provided drinks and a delicious spread in celebration of their 50th wedding
anniversary at the same time as Jim and Sheila’s 44th. Peter Howell later bought a round of drinks to
celebrate his and Ann’s 50th (last year) at the Rock inn where we enjoyed a meal out. (It says
                                        something for the staying powers of Laika members!)

                                             There were the usual BBQ’s and walks to the ‘Thongs’, the
                                             Tower and notably on Black Monday when two pubs were
                                             closed despite Peter informing everyone that there would be
                                             a pub lunch. This has to be a record, not to be repeated.

                                             The weather stayed mainly dry, if not as promising as
                                             Geoff’s forecast. A free electric hook up was provided by the
                                             site for the host van and this was extended to those in need of
a boost. At £6.25/night with toilet facilities the rally was good value and seemed to be appreciated
as a venue possibly to be revisited in the future.

Peter and Kath Elliott

                                   French Rally Report
                         Thursday 3 to Friday 11th September 2009
Eleven vans attended including new members Barbara and Peter Oliver (behaving like veteran
Laika ralliers!). Jacquie and Charles cancelled at last minute due to their son being hospitalised
following an accident. Most arrived a day early (now there’s a
surprise!) The weather started good, followed by a day or two of
unsettled but then turned glorious.

The site, situated on the edge of the town of Ribeauville was very
good and Isabelle the guardian was most helpful. The pitches are large
and we were given dedicated motorhome places in 2 blocks of 6 thus
having a private area suitable for the usual Laika communal alfresco

                         Ribeauville is a beautiful Alsace town situated
                         amongst the vineyards and celebrated the
                         Fiddler’s festival while we were there with
                         marching bands passing through the site to the
                         town for the evening parade. On Sunday the main parade of floats and
                         bands started in the afternoon and lasted 3 hours. The costumes, creations
                         and floats were incredible (no health and safety came into it).

                         Peter Elliott excelled himself with his culinary skills, not with a paella or a
                         mere BBQ but with a delicious giant omelet that served lunch for 18
                         consisting of 35 eggs. He also arranged walks to nearby villages through
                         the vineyards. Alma and Keith organized a boules competition and despite
the heat this was enjoyed by all with Pat and Terry the champions despite claiming a disadvantage
of using smaller balls than their opponents! The quiz, completed by all, was won by Alma and

Mick Fellows suggested a trip to Struthof concentration camp and this resulted in a full days coach
trip to the camp, also visiting a monastery at St Odile where we had a good 'value for money' lunch,
and a visit to the picturesque town of Obernia returning through the narrow streets of the villages of
the Alsace wine route.

Carol and Alan Wilson

                         Lincoln Music Festival, September 2009.

I think this is about the 10th or 11th time we have attended the Lincoln Music Festival and
about the 5th time we have marshalled the event for Laika.
Normally we have about 20 vans on site but thanks to Warner’s altering everything, we
were reduced to 5 vans this year.

We arrived on Thursday in a Concorde and were joined by a Hymer, Autotrail and Knaus.
On Friday the last van arrived which was a Hobby. No two vans of the same make and no
Laika’s in sight. Even so I still proudly hoisted the Laika flag.

Onto the obligatory weather report. Unbelievably dry for the whole period. Thursday and
Friday was cloudy and cool but Saturday and Sunday was lovely.
Our small party was able to have a BBQ and boules event in the sunshine, which is quite a
feat for late September.

Over the years Warner’s have gradually cut back from a fabulous open air concert to the
2009 experience. The open air concert on Saturday night has now been replaced with 3
inside entertainment venues. The acts ranged from brilliant to the bizarre. Friday night saw
Craig Douglas and John Leyton performing. Even I am too young to remember these two.
Apparently John starred in the Great Escape. Fancy that. The venues do not lend
themselves for live music events. The buildings are very long and slim. They consist of a
stage with a dance floor in front, and then long lines of trestles tables. Wherever you sit it
is difficult to see the acts, and the sound quality also suffers.

We have had a good run over the years watching some great 60’s stars. Who knows what
Warner’s will do next year? They do not make a decision until late January or February
when we are usually abroad. Regrettably this is our last Warner’s show and we will not be
repeating the experience next year. If any member wishes to take over marshalling the
Lincoln show or any other Warner’s event it is very easy to organise, and we would be only
to happy to give advice on what to do.

Ken and Diane Bradshaw.

                                     A G M Rally
                        8-12 October at Great Boughton, Banbury

This was a new venue for the club and fairly centrally located. Every van had a hard standing and a
grass area for awnings. The main area was a large square with the
vans parked around with the grass section in the middle. The site
owner made us most welcome and we were blessed with fine

22 units attended the rally and a good number made use of the
local pub where excellent food was cooked to order and fine beer

Saturday morning saw Geoff and Linda set up their ‘surplus to
requirements’ sale and members went away muttering ‘Now why on earth did I buy that, we have
one already’ but it was good fun.
                              The A G M was held in the local village hall, a short walk from the
                              site, and this year a break with tradition. Fish and chips was arranged
                              and delivered so the ladies did not have to spend half the day
                              preparing meals. Magically puddings appeared so you can’t stop the
                              ladies from providing the finishing touches!

Sunday afternoon we had drinks on the ‘lawn’. It seemed to start a little early (about 4 pm) and
finished when the sun went down.

All in all an excellent venue and a good weekend.

                                         LAIKA IN THE UK
                                         by John Welham

During October I spoke to senior sales staff at Lowdhams and Southdowns about their continuing
involvement with Laika. I did this because I think it is important for the club to know what the long-
term prospects are for the marque in the UK.

Both dealers said that Laika remain keen to sell into the UK market, but in general, they are unable
to reduce their prices to the dealers to the point that, taking into account the pound/euro exchange
rate, Laikas can be competitively priced for the UK. Apparently there are still buyers for new,
quality motorcaravans, but the price of Laikas compared with similar quality UK products, means
that Laikas appear overpriced. The exchange rate situation is true for all European manufactured
vans. However, Laika is a relatively small company, producing about 2000 units per year, whereas
many of the other European manufacturers produce a much greater number, over which they can
spread their fixed costs, and hence absorb some of the exchange costs and price their vans
somewhat more competitively. Even so, both Lowdhams and Southdowns have shifted their
franchises towards UK producers at the expense of nearly all imported brands. So Laika is not the
only European manufacturer having difficulty selling in the UK market at present.

Lowdhams said that unless/until the economy and exchange rate improves they do not foresee
themselves actively marketing Laikas. They will import one for you if you are prepared to pay the
price. They still regard Laikas as being premium vehicles. They will accept them as trade-ins and
will sell used Laikas as they become available. They will continue to provide servicing and parts
support, although they did acknowledge that as they no longer have an active relationship with
Laika, this will become more and more dependent on the personal contacts they have developed
in the past.

Southdowns were somewhat more positive. They are still marketing a small stock of new Laikas,
which are probably 2008 models priced at a considerable saving compared with the 2009 models.
They have a range of used Laikas as well; offer full servicing and parts support; and even have a
section of their website dedicated to Laika information in general. Whilst admitting that parts
support from Laika has never been more than adequate, at least it has not deteriorated in recent

At present it is impossible for them to promote the full Laika range. However, they believe that
Laika have some very attractive models, especially in the new X Range, that have some unique
features which would sell well in the UK market if they could get the pricing right from Laika. They
said they are continuing to work with Laika to find a way to enable them to bring in these models
for sale at a competitive UK price.
Both dealers are happy to support the club in recruiting new members as and when the opportunity
arises. The committee are looking at ways of how best to capitalise on these offers of help.

Overall, not a surprise. We all know how the cost of trips to the Continent have risen over the past
year, so when the same exchange rate changes are applied to the price of a new Laika it is not
surprising that the current sterling prices do not represent good value compared to UK products in

For the club, the loss of a steady influx of new Laikas into the UK means that in the future we will
be working with a fixed population of vehicles and their owners as the recruiting ground to keep the
club membership at a healthy and active level.

                                       After Ribeauville
Following on from the Ribeauville rally, nine units arranged to meet up at Municipal les
Cigognes, a tree lined site near to the unspoilt village of Turkheim. From there we caught
the bus to Colmar, the biggest city we visited on our tour with plenty to occupy us for an

Four days later the explorers now reduced to four units motored over the Col du Schlucht
and camped at Camping Les Sapins near Gerardmer. We celebrated Carol’s birthday,
walked around the lake followed by a doze in the afternoon! Kaye and Mick left us here for
the trip home. Thus three units continued to Cernay, Municipal les Acacias where we
stopped for two nights.

From Cernay we followed the route des Cretes, a spectacular high level route linking
several peaks (including some munros). We diverted off this route to camp at Camping les
Bouleaux (translation please Graham). Rejoining the high level route the following day
where at Markstein Peter had a go on the dry- run luge but no one else seemed interested.
We camped at les reflects du Val D’Argent at St marie aux Mines. The following day we
travelled to Selestat and having visited yet two more churches camped at Municipal de
Molsheim for two nights.

By now we were accustomed to short daily mileages and ten miles down the road we
stopped at Municipal de Wasselonne.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Plan Incline at St Loius/Arzville, a
spectacular canal boat lift linking two navigable waterways with a camp site nearby.

The next stop was the municipal campsite at Metz by the river Moselle and the obligatory
Cathedral. Here Alan helped Peter to repair the drop down bed which was dropping down
on its own. (Some black awning tie down strap, nuts, bolts, self tappers and washers).

We returned to Luxembourg, a lovely ACSI site next to a river at Vianden, north of
Diekirch. On Sunday 27th September we celebrated Alma’s birthday with lunch at a local
restaurant and after ogled at a number of Ferraris having a rally in town. Later that day as
we were sleeping off the effects of lunch we were rudely awoken by a helicopter
ambulance landing on site to rescue a casualty, there being no place to land in town.
The Elliotts parted company from the Wilsons and Pitchers camping at a good aire at
Arques (near St Omer) before stocking up at Franglais and overnighting at Gravelines
ready for the ferry home.

Peter Elliott

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