Sorry for the lack of posts lately, once we hit the middle of September we decided to make the most of what we had left of the summer and camp as much as we possibly could. So over the last 6 weeks, we have been away virtually every weekend. Most of our trips have revolved around North Devon as we also tried to pack in as much surfing as we could before hypothermia set in!
Sadly, it is now dawning on us that our camping trips are numbered. We have had an extremely mild autumn which has been great but eventually the weather has to break and the van will have to be parked up for the winter (not strictly true as I use the van as my daily driver, but in camping terms it will get a bit of a break).
As I sit here writing this it is completely dark and it is only 5pm… depressing!!
Anyway, all this negative thought was starting to bring me down so I thought it would be good to look back over the year to round up what we have been up to and also look forward to new year to what we have planned.
As regularly readers will know, we sold our beloved VW T25 in February 2010 so we missed the camping season for that year. We were therefore very excited when we purchased our new van, a 2007 T5 and starting planning our conversion. After many months of deliberating over every detail and looking at what felt like a million camper conversion companies, we sent our new set of wheels off to be turned in our latest mobile holiday home!
6 weeks later and we went to pick up our van and headed straight down to Cornwall for a test trip. Now we did have to work with some towels as make shift curtains as the correct color ones had not yet arrived, but that didn’t stop us! It was also our first camping trip away with our new Cocker Spaniel puppy, Murray, who was only 6 months old at the time. He was somewhat bewildered at first but got in to the swing of things when he realized he was to be sleeping in our bed that night (and for a relatively small dog, he takes up a lot of room!!!).
Over the coming weeks we tried to train him to sleep in the ample space under the RIB bed but he was having none of it so we decided that this was just another fun aspect of camping… sleeping with a wet and sandy dog who has no perception of personal space!
Following a few weekends away we started to get used to the lack of space in the van (our T25 had a high top and so we could store a lot of junk up there, but our T5 did not so we had to learn how to travel much lighter) and cruised off to the Gower Peninsular in south Wales for our first week away. The Gower is really great and I would recommend it to anyone who has never been.
Next up we spent a week in what is currently our favorite place (and what feels like our second home at the moment), North Devon. We discovered a fantastic new camp site and had a great time surfing and swimming with Murray (by this time he was 9 months old and would not stay out of the water!).
We decided our next holiday was to be a touring trip. Our previous weeks holidays had been spent in one place. This is great as in enabled us to set up our drive away awning and build a home from home. However, the reason we got in to the camper van scene in the first place was due to our trip to Australia in 2003/04. We rented a Toyota Hi Ace camper van and spent 3 months driving across the vast country. Because of this, we only really feel like we are ‘properly’ camping when we are on the road, pulling up in a different location every night. Based on this we decided to tour rather than choose a base for our third week away in September.
We started with the obligatory (for us anyway) night in North Devon as we had heard the surf was good for the next day (as it turned out, we had the tail end of a hurricane and whilst we tried to surf, it was not safe). We then headed down the North Devon coast and stayed in Widemouth Bay (near Bude), Padstow, Perrenporth, and St Ives before heading home.
This brings us up to the last 6 weeks which have been made up of weekends in Saunton, Croyde and Westward Ho!
So what’s next? We have never been fond of camping in the cold but this year we have embraced this a little more so will try to keep going as long as possible. However, the water is getting colder and colder so the surfing will probably have to stop shortly.
It is hard to believe that Christmas is almost upon us and once this is out the way we have a few projects to plan which will keep us going throughout the winter. This first is the van. There is still some exterior work which needs doing including color coding the bumpers and getting a few dings in the tailgate sorted out (not my bad driving, they were there when I bought the van!). Also, we intend to get a pop top roof with bed fitted along with a few extra storage cupboards installed inside, both of which should help with the lack of storage space and the overly intimate dog!
The next project is to plan our first trip in to Europe. One of the reason we chose a T5 as the base for our next camper was because we wanted the reliability to be able to go where we liked. We at not exactly sure where and when we are going but planning it should be fun.
So, it is a little sad to have come to the end of another camping season but great to be thinking ahead to next year. We have spent over a month in the van this year (and would have spent more if it wasn’t for work constraints) and are looking forward to hopefully beating that next year!
But what about you? Have you finished camping for the year? Or are you braver than us and camp all year round? What do you do throughout the winter? And have you got any good trips panned for next season?]]>
It may not come to much of a surprise to you, but I simply love all things retro, particularly things from the 70’s. As a graphic designer, I follow a lot of other designers blogs and my favourite is the ISO50 Blog of Scott Hansen as it houses some great imagery of 60’s and 70’s design and also some great photography of retro architecture and technology.
However, I most like the many images of retro futuristic vehicles that are often featured. A while ago there was a post about a 1970’s GMC American RV which I thought was amazing and got me wondering where I could find more retro imagery of campervan’s and motorhomes (and not just VW’s which, let’s be honast, get a fair amount of coverage these days!).
So, you can imagine my delght when I was contacted by Anova Books to see if I wanted to review a copy of their latest book, ‘My Cool Campervan: An inspirational Guide to Retro-Style Campervans’. I took my copy away with me in my not so retro T5 Camper during the August bank holiday weekend and once the sun was shining I settled down outside my van and started to read.
The most impressive thing about ‘My Cool Campervan’ is the spectacular photography provided by Tina Hillier which manages to show off the uniqueness of each of the campers featured using some great locations and outstanding ‘dressing’ of the vans themselves.
Now, for you die-hard dubbers, this isn’t just another book packed full of Splits and Bays (although both are featured in the book along with a few T25’s). Instead, ‘My Cool Campervan’ takes us on a journey through retro style campervans of all makes, shapes and sizes including custom builds, classic conversions and American RV’s. There truly is something for everyone in this book.
I, of course, really enjoyed the VW entries but was also really inspired by some of the not so well known vehicles contained in the book. For a long time VW owner and enthusiast it was quite an eye opener to think that, in actual fact, there are some really cool non-VW campers out there, many of which I would love to own!
However, my favourite moment had to be when I turned over the page and saw the Retro Green GMC American RV I had seen online all those months ago. I simply adore the thick green shag pile carpet and the ‘over the top’ retro-futuristic interior design (very reminiscent of one of the sets from ‘That 70’s Show‘).
I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my read and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone with an interest in VW Campervans and all things retro.
My Cool Campervan by Jane Field-Lewis and Chris Haddon, published by Pavilion is available to buy on Amazon - Get your copy now >>
***This competition has now closed***
Thanks to the guys at Anova Books, we have two copies of ‘MY Cool Campervan’ to give away. Two lucky winners can get there hands on this very inspirational journey through all types of retro campervans.
To be in with a chance to WIN, simply subscribe to receive email updates from the VW Camper Van Blog! It is as simple as that! To enter, register your email address in the form below. And don’t worry, those of you already subscribed to the VW Camper Van Blog have already been automatically entered!
***This competition has now closed***
The competition closes on at midnight on the 31/10/2011. Two winners will be chosen at random and notified by email. Prizes must be claimed within 14 days of receiving email notification.]]>
Back at the end of June we had a well deserved week off so decided to head to somewhere we had never been before, The Gower Peninsula in South Wales.
As is always the case with us, we were not very organized ahead of time (and we had to make a quick visit to see Lu’s new God Son Charlie who had been born the day before!) so we had no idea where we were going to stay. So, on Sunday morning we spent a bit of time googling campsites on the Gower Peninsula and after ringing a few which were full we came across Nicholaston Farm.
Now, I have to say, the website is not great and doesn’t really show much of the campsite itself so we were a bit unsure as to how good it would be. However, as our other choices were booked we had to bite the bullet and go for it.
We pulled up in the park at 6pm after a 3 and a half hour drive from Devon and were greeted by a nice courtyard area which featured a organic farm shop / coffee shop at which everyone seemed to be enjoying home made ice cream. We checked in and went to choose our pitch. We chose a quiet spot which had an awesome view of nearby Oxwich Bay.
One of the main reasons we chose Nicholaston Farm was due to the close proximity to the beach so we were keen to explore the surroundings and take Murray (our puppy who was only 8 months old at the time) for a swim as it was very hot.
From the Caravan field you can join a path which takes you through a short woodland walk. You then emerge in the sands dunes which lead to Nicholsaton and Tor beaches. I have to say, this is one of the best beaches we have been on, very long and unspoiled and great for dogs. As soon as we got to the sea, we just had to have a swim!
From here you can walk west along the whole beach to Oxwich Bay where you can have a coffee or something to eat at the superbly located Oxwich Bay Hotel.
The only thing to be aware of is the walk back up through the sand dunes to the park. It is quite a hard slog up a steep path of sand which can be very hard to walk on. However, for us, the beach is well worth the trek back up the hill!
Back at the park, we explored some of the facilities and were extremely surprised at how modern and clean the toilet / shower block was. As I said, we were not impressed by the website but further exploration revealed a brand new washing up area, large communal freezers and even a wetsuit wash area with wetsuit drying cabinets. The facilities of the park really were the best we have seen in a long time and the website does not do justice to how good the park is.
Nicholaston Farm also offers you the chance to pick your own Strawberries, Raspberries, Gooseberries and Redcurrants which is a great activity for the kids.
We spent the next 5 days visiting nearby beaches such as Rossili and Broughton which are both beautiful spots. We also took a drive down to Port Eynon and The Mumbles. Nicholaston Farm is very centrally located for seeing the best of the Gower Peninsula with everything within half an hours drive.
So, I guess the moral of the story is ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, or at least by its website. It’s always best to check out the reviews on ukcampsite.co.uk to get a better feel for what the campsite will be like.
Have you been to the Gower Peninsula? Where do you stay? What did you do?]]>
Anyone following me on Twitter will be aware that we have just returned from a great weeks camping in North Devon. We had planned to travel further afield but due to a heavy workload which resulted in a lack of planning we decided to spend the week surfing at Croyde, Saunton and Woolacombe.
So we started googling and found a few campsites we liked the look of but as this was last minute most of them were either booked up or didn’t take dogs (as we were taking our 9 month old Cocker Spaniel Puppy, Murray).
Then, by chance we came accross a Caravan and Camping site called Hidden Valley which was positioned perfectly on the main road between Braunton and Ilfracombe so only a short drive to the main beaches. The website boasted that they were ‘winners of the National Caravan Park of the Year 2009′ and showed some nice photos of nicely manicured pitches so after a quick phone call to book our place we were on the road (only an hour and a half from where we live!!) to North Devon.
When we arrived (after getting stuck in traffic through Braunton which always seems to be busy!) we were checked in and then met by a camp warden (a warden who worked at the camp - not one who had a funny walk!!) who showed us how to use the security gate and then showed us to our pitch. We were politely asked not to put our drive away awning on the grass and assured that the tent pegs would go in ot the hard standing, medium sized pitched we had booked.
So we set to work getting the awning up. The warden was correct, the pegs would go in to the ground but not without an awful lot of hammering (I think I bent about 10 pegs!!). The pitch we had been allocated (ASH 3) was a really nice spot and had it’s own water tap which was shared with the neighboring pitch. It was also directly opposite the dog exorcise area which was ideal for us. After turning the air blue trying to get the tent pegs in to the ground I stood back and realised that, in actual fact, this was a great idea and meant the pitches and grass areas were really well maintained.
My parents would be joining us for the 1st night in their Ford Transit Autosleeper and were lucky enough to get the pitch next to ours. After setting up the four of us took Murray for a walk through the woodland walk which skirts the whole of the campsite on the slopes of the valley looking down on the site. When we came to the end of the trail we found ourselves in the tent and camping area. The park is split in to two areas, the tent and camping section and the caravan and motorhome section (where we were pitched) with the entrance and reception / coffee shop located in the middle. The two areas are quite far apart but each have a toilet and shower block of their own centrally located within the area along with a play park for the kids.
We meandered through the tent area and back up to the reception area which, as I said, also has a coffee shop (which offers breakfast), a well stocked shop and a tourist information area. Outside we found a really nice garden area with benches and a beautiful small lake (which Murray proceeded to jump straight in to!!). The gardens were truly the nicest I have seen at a campsite.
We wondered back through the Caravan and Motorhome Section checking out some of the ‘large’ and ‘premier’ pitches (the latter featuring a brick and gravel set up for caravan and awning) and back to our pitch. We lit the BBQ and opened some beers. Our pitch captured the sun for most of the day which was great considering we were deep in a valley surrounded by trees. However, a lot of the pitches were much more shaded (not what we personally look for but if you are someone who does not like the heat these would be great).
The following morning we had breakfast and then headed in to Woolacombe which was only a 10 minute drive where we walked the dog along the long beach and then had a cheeky surf in the rain! Over the next few days we visited and surfed at Croyde and Saunton and took a walk around Ilfracombe, all of which are less than half an hours drive from the campsite. We were really lucky with the weather with the majority of days being very hot and sunny.
Sadly, all good things come to an end as we packed up all our gear and, after spending a few hours surfing and walking along Westward Ho!, we headed home.
I really can’t speak highly enough of Hidden Valley Caravan & Camping Park. The pitches were well maintained and manicured, the staff were very friendly and the facilities were kept extremely clean and tidy. The only thing I would improve upon would be 1) the roads around the park which are very bumpy and somewhat potholed in places and 2) the hard standing pitch which was made up of a very fine gritty gravel which we were constantly walking in to the camper (not to mention Murray bringing it in to the bed every night!). Other than these minor improvements I can not fault the place and would highly recommend it to anyone wanted to have a base to explore the amazing beaches in this area.
Well that’s what we think - how about you? Have you ever stayed at Hidden Valley Caravan & Camping Park? If so, tell us what you thought in the comments form below!]]>
Now we have our new shiny camper van we can now actually go camping! We kicked off the new season with a trip to Tollgate Farm in Perranporth, Cornwall. We chose this site as the website boasted beautiful dog walks through the dunes - they certainly didn’t disappoint!
Our pitch was level so no use for our brand new chocs! Our pitch looked out onto the dunes and surrounded by hedges and wildlife (the dog spotted several rabbits!).
We hooked up and after just a two hour journey the dog was egar for a walk! We were given a leaflet with several walks direct from the park and decided to take one through a golf course and sand dunes leading onto the beach.
We made it down to Perranporth beach in half an hour and came out by the Watering Hole pub. The walk was a little steep on the way back but there is a bus stop right outside the camp if you wanted an easier option.
With the dog exhausted we close up for the night!
The next day we explored the campsite a little more. There was a range of pitches (hardstanding and grass), the shower and toilet block was extremely clean and had free hair dryers. The site also had free wifi (for 15 mins), launderette, children’s play area, animal area, small shop and food bar.
We did the same walk again the next morning and wandered round Perranporth town centre.
This was a great start to the camping season. The walk to the town centre and beach was fantastic and the site was clean and owners very friendly!
Have you been camping in Cornwall? Is there a campsite you’d recommend?]]>
Regular readers will know that I have been in the process of getting my recently purchased Volkswagen Transporter T5 converted in to a camper van.
Well last week I picked up my completed T5 Camper Van from Torbay Camper Conversions in Torquay and I have to say, I am chuffed to bits with it.
As I have previously mentioned, we have gone for ‘apple inspired’ white gloss look with black and grey leather seats which I think match the exterior of the van really well.
The conversion includes a sink, twin hob, grill, top loading fridge, power management unit, a RIB Altair 3/4 bed system, safe, 3 x spot reading lights on stalks, 2 x rotating strip lights, swiveling leather captains seats and a shower head unit at the rear (for cleaning the dog and the wetsuits etc).
Torbay Camper Conversions have done a great job, the only problems being getting hold of the bespoke finishes for the flooring and furniture kit, but that serves us right for picking a bespoke design and not choosing something ‘off the shelf’. That being said, it was worth the couple of extra weeks wait in order to get something a more unique.
Anyway, thought I would share some photos of the conversion:
This is just phase one of the conversion, with the van going back in during the winter to have a pop top with bed fitted along with some extra top storage cupboards added.
Well… what do you think?]]>
I have always wanted to go to Big Bang - something about drag racing 50 year old split screens somehow appeals to me!
Unfortunately, due to a never ending work schedule (I know… it’s good to be busy!!!) and not having my T5 (which was being converted to a camper at the time), I wasn’t able to make the show again this year!
However, after putting out a few feelers on Twitter, one of our fantastic followers, Rachel Crooks (@DanceFuzion), was kind enough to take some photos of the event for me to share with you on the blog.
So here you go…
Looks like it was a great show, I am gutted once again that we missed it. Thanks again for the images Rachel!
Did you make it to Big Bang? What was the highlight of the show?]]>
As you may or may not know, as the start of the year I finally made the decision on what VW van to buy (after having sold my VW T25 in February last year).
I purchased a VW T5 Kombi, so the next logical step was to find a company to convert it in to a camper van ready for us to use this summer. A few weeks ago we decided to use Torbay Camper Conversions based in Torquay. One reason for this was out of convenience as they are based a few miles up the road from us, but the real selling point was the choice of finishes for the camper interior. I wanted to be able to choose every aspect of the interior and was able to do so with the wide range of seat coverings, lining choices and furniture finishes available.
Torbay offer many camper layouts for the T5 base vehicle, but the one we chose was the Fusion as it uses the standard layout of a 3/4 bed with the furniture kit running down the drivers side of the van. We were happy with this layout as it was very similar to the VW T25 Autosleeper we previously owned.
So after spending hours choosing what optional extras we wanted in our van (shower at the rear of the vehicle to clean wetsuits and the dog / leather seats / Extra power sockets and lights / etc) we said goodbye to the van and drove away in the courtesy car offered to us by Torbay Camper Conversions for the duration of the build process.
And now for the progess update… I received some work-in-progress photos this week of the furniture kit being developed and thought I would share them with you:
As you can see, we have opted for the very Apple inspired white gloss units with silver trim. This will sit alongside a black and grey leather RIB Altair 3/4 bed system and matching swiveling captains cab seats.
We have opted to have the van converted in two stages, with stage one including the main camper conversion to make it livable and the second stage comprising of the installation of the pop top roof with integrated bed. We hope to use the van this summer and then have the roof converted over this coming winter.
That’s about all for now but I will be sure to post new pics as an d when I have them.
Have you recently undergone a complete camper van conversion? Who did you use? We would love to hear your story.]]>
Back in September 2010 we introduced Ben, a VW newbie who was searching for his dream campervan. Six months on and they have a new addition to the family…
So, we were still undecided, but certainly leaning towards a classic camper. You know when you think you know what you want, so you keep looking for bad news and reviews about the alternatives to help justify your decision?
Every evening was spent looking online at reviews, seller’s websites, eBay and anything camper related. Then I found a website that just clicked with me. VW Kampers near Brighton had a website that was easy on the eye and written in a style that epitomised my feelings for the lifestyle. The company seemed perfect too – they specialised in T2’s, across classic late Bay’s AND Brazilian imports.
‘We need to go to this place’ I exclaimed. The next Saturday we pulled into the farm lane, looking for a gaggle of campers, awaiting new owners. Ian, the owner of the business had an infectious enthusiasm and clearly knew a lot about the subject matter and the individual history of the dozen or so camper’s in the yard. We bought into him almost immediately, and knew we wanted him to source our new pride and joy. We went through the options and he confirmed what we suspected – old is best.
Californian import? European import? Westfalia conversion? Devon conversion?
A lot more decisions, but we made a fairly detailed wish list for Ian to keep an eye out for something that suited, ideally to restore over the winter ready for collection in March 2011. This was getting exciting.
I kept a close eye on the website over the coming weeks, and then I saw a new ‘for sale’ post that grabbed me. A 1976 2.0 litre Westfalia Helsinki. German import, fully restored with engine rebuild and windows out respray. New seals, hubcaps, 240v electric supply and leisure battery, new front upholstery, original towbar and heater, a fridge. In green.
Three days later we were back at the unit and looking around. Truth be told, we knew on the way we wanted her – we were already coming up with names!
In the flesh (or should that be metal?) she looked fabulous. Just what we wanted, the history and soul could be felt embedded into every corner, and that smell . . . . It had the personality we now wanted and we had to have her. This was a lot earlier than expected – being a typical man I usually like to think about things for 6 months or so before jumping into it – but it felt right.
A couple of weeks wait and we were off to Brighton on a crisp November morning to collect the newest member of the family. The test drive had been fairly disastrous thanks to my complete inability to master a manual gearbox after 9 years of automatics. A stern talking to myself about manning up soon had us on our way home with our new girl, Olive.
This weekend welcomes our first weekend away to the Cotswolds, to be followed by more trips to Devon, Vanwest, the Glastonbury Festival Brighton and France – at the very least!
We don’t regret our decision for a moment – classic is definitely best for us and we can’t wait to spend as much time as possible in her this year.
What an absolute belter of a van! Glad to hear you are so happy and have chose the right van for you! So what do you think of Ben’s new ride?]]>
Todays readers rides come from Wim Koelman in Belgium, he shares with us his T4 and his history with the VW scene.
Make/Model: VW T4,
We live in Belgium and our story is about our Volkswagen T4 Westfalia California Generation which starts with a visit to AutoStadt in Wolfsburg in November 2000. We specially felt in love with that Generation Edition of this California and in May 2001 it was ours.
2 years later we made a little mistake in thinking that the bigger VW T4 Karmann Colorado was the ultimate camper, but after some years we decided to sell the Karmann and travel again with our California which we luckily had held.
My Volkswagen fever started at 17, at that time I was always an enthusiast of Triumph TR 4 and cars like a NSU TTS. But my uncle has a ‘67 Beetle VW 1500 and he let me drive with it: I was sold!
In 1969 I bought my first car a ‘59 VW 1200 with sunroof for the price of € 25 (impossible, it has even a new exhaust under it). Then the sportguy in me came back and I made a mistake in buying a real Austin Cooper, fast, but it uses as much oil as fuel!
After 3 other Beetles, I bought in 1975 a new 1303 Cabriolet and that car is still ours!
In the meantime I started as co-pilot in a Rally Team with a VW Beetle and from 1974 till 1985 I worked as a Sales Representive in a Volkswagen Garage. I did really sell a lot of new (aircooled) Beetles and a lot of T2 in all possible editions.
In 1983 we started with a few friends the VW Beetle Cabriolet Club Belgium and a few years later we had almost 500 members.
But our camper story started in 1979 when we had the possibility to have a holiday with a VW T2 Camper with Devon equipment. In 1982 we bought a VW T3 Westfalia Joker.
In the meantime I founded with a few friends the VW Beetle Cabriolet Club Belgium and there was less time to travel with the Joker and hindsight a bad decision, but we did sell the T3 Camper.
We have now not only our Westfalia California, but we also started a California website with a lot of information links, you can visit it on www.wimkoelman.wordpress.com
Thanks for sharing your story and van with us Wim. You have certainly camped in some beautiful locations! What do you think of Wim’s van?]]>