Category Archives: summer

Summer..

What an amazing summer we’ve had here in England, as a family we’ve made the most of getting out and about in Bumblebee for as many weekends away as possible. Our daughter Stella is now walking which has put a whole different slant on the camping experience!

This year we’ve made a few changes to our setup.

Firstly we have replaced the little life arc 2 with a sun essentials baby / toddler pop up UV sleep shade.

It’s about a third smaller than the little life arc 2 which means it’s a lot easier to get in the van once the cab bunk is in place, we’ve also padded out the camp bunk with two pillows and hard plastic sheets to create a flatter base. As its a bit smaller it leaves a good bit of space on the cab bunk we have some extra storage and Stella sleeps well in it, you can buy them new but I’d have a look on ebay, I won this one for £7.50 and they are £80.00 new!

Another small addition we have made to Stella’s sleeping arrangements has been a cab curtain, ordered from Van-X.

It was very easy to fit and means that when Stella goes to bed we can draw the curtain and she not’s visually disturbed by us should we need to get anything out of the van, like beer from the fridge for instance! We used to put a cover over the Arc2 a bit like you do a cover over a birdcage, the problem with that is it severely restricts airflow which isn’t a suffocation concern, more a heat concern, now with the curtain Stella benefits from all the air circulation in the cab, happy baby means happy parents!

Whenever we travelled we used to take a drive away awning with us to put all our stuff in, most of our summer weekends have been spent at a lovely little place we found in Penshurst, it’s not a well publicised site and has very little in way of facilities, there is one shower and toilet a short walk away, it’s easier to bring your own so more akin to off grid wild camping.

We’ve spent pretty much every other weekend there over the summer with our friends and we’ve had the best weather for it, very lazy days with food and fires at night

As we’ve been parked up for the weekend we’ve swapped the drive away awning for a Khyam sun canopy, we also invested in a Kampa commander field kitchen so we can have a kitchen setup under the awning which you can kind of see from this photo.

It’s nice to be able to stand up while making a cup of tea and it also means I can cook bacon without making the van smell like the local cafe! The setup works well in the drive away awning too, I’ve set it up beside a door I don’t use which I open while cooking to ventilate. Two clear Perspex curver boxes fit nicely on the shelf underneath the stove and if you don’t put the shelves up the 36ltr soft cool box from decathlon fits under there perfectly. I can’t recommend one of these cool boxes enough, has kept all our food cooler for longer that a traditional hard case box and when your down it folds down to a fifth of it’s size to store.

2018 also saw the formation of our very own VW / camping club know as the VeeDub McDubFace club. The main reason for this was to secure a club camping spot at bugjam as we had over 20 people in various vehicles coming away for the weekend. The weather was glorious compared to last years washout and i think it’s safe to say everyone had a great weekend, roll on next year!

Our final trip of summer was a visit to Cornwall and Devon, for the first part of the trip we rolled out the big awning as the weather was very changeable..

I also took an electric blow heater with me which came in handy on more than one occasion keeping as all warm in the awning. It’s a great awning but it’s also a mission to put up and take down, more accurately, pegging down is what takes the time. We had a great time in Bude catching up with friends, going out on a fishing boat and cooking fresh lobster and mackerel caught that day on the cobb BBQ ,thank you Stuart!

The weather in Devon got off to a cooler start but that didn’t stop us going to the beach

The weather improved considerably over the coming days and I even went in the sea, up to my knees at least!

It really has been a great summer and it’s been great being away with the family, if you have a small child or two and want to try camping in a tent or motorhome, do it, by far it’s the best part of our year and Stella absolutely loves being outside, she’s experienced so many things she wouldn’t have done being stuck by a pool or being indoors watching endless repeats of Duggee, I hope our adventures inspire you on to adventures of your own and if you have any questions about life in a campervan with a small child, drop me a line 🙂

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Two adults, one camper van and baby!

In preperation for Bugjam we though it would be a good idea to have a bit of a trial run camping with Stella. Before she was born we’ve been preparing a list of things we think she and we will need to take care of her, doing a trial run means we can test everything and make sure we haven’t forgotten anything either..

We booked one nights camp at Cobbs Hill farm in Bexhill, it was £20.00 for all three of us, electricity and enough room to put up an awning, Lolly mum and dad came too in their palace on wheels and the campsite ensured we were parked right next to each other.


The staff at the site were friendly, polite and helpful,  the facilities and site well maintained and the field we were camping on nice and level, all in all I would recommend this site.

Anyway, on to the business of camping with a baby. Prior to our arrival I had instructed Lolly not to help with any of the setting up, I need to be able to do it on my own while she takes care of Stella. First things first was to get the awning up. My long time friend and excellent glass fitter Rob had already installed and awning J rail for me so all I had to do was get the awning up and connected to the van, that process took about 20 minutes to get the awning up, connected, pegged down and groundsheet laid out. The awning I bought second hand, it’s a Kyham motordome tourer and once up you can easily disconnect it from the van and drive off somewhere. I’d also emptied the contents of the roof box before I put the awning up so I could then chuck it all in the awning and not need to access the roof box.

The awning is great for the simple reason that you can keep the bazillion things you need for a small child and two adults in it without cluttering up the van.


Next job, Stella’s bed. 

Before she was born I bought a cab bunk, this consists of 4 metal poles, 2 end poles and some grey canvas, once you put it all together it is wider at one end than it is at the other, the thing end goes by the steering wheel, you rest each end of the bunk on the sills of the front door cards and hey presto, the van now sleeps three. Stella is only 5 weeks so too young to sleep on the bunk alone. While I was on paternity leave a few people at work signed a card and gave some money to buy us a gift, I asked for a thing called a sleepy head deluxe. We put a blanket on top of the bunk canvas to insulate any cold air coming upwards and then the sleepy head on top of that.


At the moment Stella is finding breastfeeding a bit tricky as she is tongue tied, Lolly is expressing so we feed her from a bottle which means you need to sterilise stuff, we used the Milton cold water steriliser and sterilising tablets, worked like a charm and you can get loads in it plus all you need is cold water and a sterilising tablet. You could use any container however the proper Milton one has marks on the side to tell you the volume of water in and the top locks shut so you can drive about with it and not spill sterilising water everywhere.

To heat up bottles we just used the old fashioned hot water and bowl method which worked perfectly fine, we didn’t bring any special changing stuff either, just the changing bag with enough supplies for a night away.

Once all that was done we got the Cobb BBQ on, drank some beer and had a lovely evening with the in laws and a couple of their friends who came to visit. Before long it was time to turn in, we put Stella in her sleepy head and crashed for the night.

Normally, Stella wakes up for food at least a couple of times a night for food, we thought she might be a bit freaked out by the environment but she slept, well, like a baby only waking up the once, here she is still asleep at about 9 the following morning…


The sleepy head and cab bunk combo worked really well, Stella got a great nights sleep which meant Lolly did too (i sleep through everything), Stella was easy to access when need to and Lolly could sit at the end of the bed without her feet sat in a travel cot on the floor. If still remains a tiny baby then the sleepy head will be good for a couple of years at least and the bunk a good few more.

The morning was a very lazy affair, Lindi made us a lovely breakfast, Lolly didn’t look so zombie like and Stella was a happy baby, winner!

Before we checked out we got a few pictures of us with Stella and our mobile camping rig, one with Daddy.


And one with Mummy


We also put Stella’s festival hat on her…


For the rest of the day we headed to the beach which was blowing a gale, ate some lunch, visited friends and then headed home.

In conclusion, everything we brought worked, we didn’t miss anything out and the most valuable asset was grandparents!

Below is what I usually take when I go away for a night in the van..


This is what we took for one night away with Stella…


Roll on bugjam, we’re ready !!!

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Day 3

Our 3rd day in France has turned out to be somewhat epic, I can honestly say this is the best view I’ve woken up to on a Tuesday in a long while. 

Our day started much like any other on this trip, tea with the added bonus of a nice lie in.  There was much faffing about and we didn’t get ourselves ready to do anything on the bikes till about two, we met a bloke in the car park called Sven who was from Norway but his accent was a mix of Scottish, Irish and Norwegian, he gave me his bike pass for five euros as he paid for the day but was too shattered to ride anymore, result, a ticket to the bike park costs 25 Euros and when I say bike park I mean a lift up 3200 meters to the glacier and a while mountain to play on. 

Being a glacier, there is snow at the top, we were wearing shorts and t shirts and there was at least one dude snowboarding, it was fairly cold. 


We decided to chip off sharpish and make our decent to warmer climes, before we set off I asked Lolly to get a picture of me on a mountain bike on an actual mountain.  


The way the tracks are marked out is a little confusing, the one we were following shared the same name ia a few runs that are sign posted for winter activities, we ended up on a few reds which I was alright with but lolly struggled, we stopped by a lake to take stock and find our way to a blue run down. 


The blue run we took was definitely not a blue, more a red in my book, I loved it but Lolly wasn’t so keen and walked a lot of the trail, when we got to the end of the blue we had the option of another blue or a green, we took the green which lolly found a lot more enjoyable. 

As if mentioned earlier, I always wanted to see what a ski resort looks like in summer, below gives you an idea, slightly like Mars! 

As we made our way down there were a few photo ops. 



Once we reached the bottom we swerved into a bar for a couple of beers to celebrate making it down in one piece. We really enjoyed the downhill trails and if you are ever in this neck of the woods it’s a great day out. 

We finished our beers and made our way back to the van to make some food, BBQ pork loins, rice and salad.

Our food was awesome, we watched the second episode of Stranger Things, loving it! 

Tomorrow we’re off to meet Lindi and Ian, 7am start, they have a shower in their motorhome, winner! 

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Day 2

Not a lot to say about day 2, we made our way to the Alps which meant 12 hours on the road, not all of it was driving, we stopped at an Aire and I grabbed a couple of hours sleep in my  laybag while lolly consulted the maps and Aire books looking for the best place to stay, we settled for Les Deux Alps. 

We managed to get a shower as well, fairly ghetto setup in a car park and at lease one motorist saw me naked but it was worth it to feel clean again, you can see the shower laying on the roof to the right. 


After a lot of driving we arrived and were greeted by some stunning mountain views. 


We cooked some burgers, drank some booze, watched the first episode of Stranger Things and went to bed, we don’t have to drive anywhere tomorrow so we’re off exploring the mountain, can’t wait! 

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Day 1

Our trip to France started with a 21st birthday party in Hertfordshire and camping in a bloke called Bob’s back garden. He has a lovely house in a little village called Furneux Pelham and had offered to host Billies 21st. Billie is Lauren’s cousin. When we arrived there was a good sprinkling of family chatting away and some of Billies guests in the pool, they’re quite a sensible lot, if someone had let me borrow their house and pool for a 21st birthday it would have been proper carnage!

As the evening progressed the only people that seemed to get smashed was us oldies, either the 21 year old massive didn’t drink or they held it down well, I was probably too smashed to notice. 

Bob’s garden is massive as demonstrated by the small band of travellers that stayed the night in their wagons taking up no room at all. 

Our alarm went off at 05.00, nothing like getting up at stupid o’clock to go on holiday, we made a brew and then lolly went for a dip. 

We had a chat with Lollys mum and dad who are also travelling to France, made a fairly loose arrangement with them and then headed off for the ferry. 


The roads were deserted apart from the odd tool driving in the middle lane forever, rather that then traffic. 

In no time at all we could see the sea which meant Dover wasn’t too far away. 


The crossing was relatively uneventful tho I did buy a new Bluetooth speaker, haven’t tested it yet but am sure it will sound way better than the one I have at the moment which is average at best and a blatant rip off of something that should be way more expensive. 

We left Calais and made straight for a little village called Chemin du cal serin, it’s about 2 or so hours drive heading in the direction of Marseilles. We’re stopping in this village as a couple we met last year recommend the Aire, for 5 euros a night you get water, electricity, WC and a nice view of an old castle. 

When we arrived all the spots were taken so in true Mark Ashley / Croydonia style we made our own space. 


We hadn’t eaten since we arrived in Dover so we set about getting some food cooking, chicken on the trusty Cobb and Lolly knocked up a lovely salad, rice and coleslaw.


After cooking the chicken the Cobb was still roasting hot so we cooked up all our sausages before they went off and chucked a couple of corns on and left them to cook while we went for a wander up to Coucy-le-chateau-auffrique. 


What’s surprising about this place is there is a whole little village built around the ruin and there is a community of friendly goats roaming about the place too, they are really friendly if you have food. 

Much to Lollys dismay we’d arrived just as the local boot fair was packing up so no wandering about looking at people’s stuff they’re trying to get rid of, we did however have a good look about the town and unfortunately just missed the tour of the castle. After about 30 minutes we came across the track we’d come so decided to head back down to the van, do all the washing up from earlier, have a little wander and then crash for the night. 

We took a walk down a lane not far from the van which will be forever remembered as mosquito alley, bastard things everywhere, I’d already been bitten once and now have a temporarily inflated foot. I’ve been bitten a few more times since that walk, we retreated to van and watched the final two episodes of Wayward Pines, ate a considerable amount of chocolate and then went to bed. 

All in all a successful first day, no fuel issues either which is a bonus, the only downside to living like this is not much in the way of showers, we do have a camping shower but I’d set that up a bit late so it hadn’t heated up very much by the time we got back to use it. 

The combination of solar panels and split charge system is keeping the battery charged and fridge powered up which means our food keeps and if I ever get any beers they will be cold. 

We’re off to the mountains tomorrow, I’ve always wanted to see a ski resort in summer so that’s what we’re doing, with any luck we’ll have a shower too! 

 

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And we’re off !

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It’s that time of year when Lolly and I pack up the Bee and head off in search of sunshine and adventure..

We are heading to France again but all we’ve booked is our crossings, everything else will be made up along the way. I’ve added some solar panels to the van so we can go a bit more off piste and not rely on having to be hooked up to keep the fridge going.

Our crossing is tomorrow AM, we’re off to a 21st birthday and then the adventure begins which i’ll update here as it happens, can’t wait to get going!

Le End

As we left Chambord a lot later than intended we drove through the night, French motorways aren’t like ours, no cats eyes, no lights.

This would be fine if you had a decent set of headlights, we don’t, DRL’s look nice but even with night breaker bulbs installed they’re still not that great, that being said they were good enough to get us to our destination, Plage merlimont.

The aire is well sign posted though you are sent through a new housing estate and we did wonder if our sat nav had crapped out  as an aire couldn’t possibly be in among all this new housing, it wasn’t, you go through the estate to get to the beach and just before the beach is the aire, it’s nothing special, just a car park for motorhomes with free fresh water and somewhere to empty your waste water if you have any, I cracked a beer, Lauren made some food, we both put the thermal curtains up, ate our food and crashed.

It was a bit colder this closer to England and we’re both fairly certain that’s why we slept so well, best nights sleep on the last day of the holiday because it was cold, how very English..

Sun greeted us the next day despite the forecast being rain, I took a picture of the aire for no particular reason other than to demonstrate how unfantastic it was.

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As always, first thing in the morning I needed to use the loo so I took a wander toward the beach where I assumed the toilet mentioned in the aire would be located, as I got closer I noticed there were a lot of people looking out to sea, I couldn’t really see anything so figured i’d use the loo and then go see what everybody was looking at, turns out there was a colony of seals on the beach basking in the morning sun.

I’ve never seen so many seals, they didn’t look like they were going anywhere in a hurry so I walked back to the van, made some tea for myself and Lolly, grabbed my camera and we both went back to look at the seals, Lolly has a theory that seals hang out on the beach so THEY can watch the humans that come to look at them, I see no reason for this not to be possible!

I don’t really do much zoom photography and as such I don’t have a very good zoom lens, the photo below is the best I could do with my 28mm-135mm.

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Lolly had our binoculars we got free from the national trust, we sat for about an hour just watching them lay about in the sun, we spotted a few more swimming in and then quite quickly the tide followed them, we had a great spot to watch them from but had to vacate fairly swiftly to avoid the incoming tide, it was starting to cloud over and just before we headed to the shore I took a nice shot of the seals from a distance.

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Before the weather turned we took a walk along the rest of the beach, after about an hour we returned to the van, packed up and went to Aldi, Lolly’s mum has a party in the not too distant future so we bought a load of cheap booze, 24 beers for 5 euros, we bought 7 crates and 8 bottles of fizzy wine for a toast! We also bought lunch, bread, cheese and ham, very continental, there was another beach not too far so we parked up and went for a final beach side picnic.

The sun came out again which was lovely, we ate our lunch and basked in the warmth knowing our return to Blighty was only a couple of hours away, turns out it wasn’t. We thought our crossing was at about 18.00 but we’d figured when we’d booked the crossing that we’d want as much time in France on our last day as possible so our crossing wasn’t till 20.50, I was a little upset to be honest as I’d kind of got my head in a space where we were off and I didn’t want to hang about for another couple of hours, that was until we went back to the beach and saw these!

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What you can see here are the remains of a german StP bunker that featured a tank turret, ammunition bunker and open emplacements for 5cm KWK pak guns though I couldn’t tell you which bit relates to what, I got all that information from here.

We spent a good bit of time walking among the remains of the bunker and photographing the various structures and their artwork.

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If you look closely on the second picture you will see a sign that states in French the beach beyond is a naturist beach, more naked people but nothing quite on the scale of the naked site. The beach is massive, we walked for at least half an hour before turning back and we hadn’t even got halfway along it, on our return trip we came across a jelly fish.

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I threw it back into the sea but I think it had perished, I know jelly fish don’t really do much but this one did nothing when returned to the sea.

When we got back to where the bunker was I set the camera up and got our last picture of the holiday.

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From there we went back to the van and drove to Calais which was about an hour away, we were delayed (not immigrant related) so i grabbed a burger king and Lolly bought gin with the last of our euros, the remainder of the trip involved a train, the M20, the M25, remembering to drive on the left and then bed, work the following morning, joy.

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Le Chateau

Ever seen those funny bottles of spirits that look like the holy hand grenade of Antioch? Chambord it’s called, never tried it myself but the reason I mention is because we are off to Chateau Chambord, the inspiration for said raspberry liqueur.

It’s a 4.5 hour journey from camp naked, we set off about 11 aiming to be at the Aire we had selected for an evenings stay by around 4pm. 

Nothing much happened on the journey asides from the traffic being rubbish so we stopped for a romantic picnic by the Carrefour sign next to the motorway, as soon as we stopped the traffic cleared. 

  
When we arrived at the Aire it wasn’t quite as described, next to a main road with no toilet facilities, this would not do so we had a look round and handily 500 meters up the road was a great little campsite called camping de chatillon, 19 euros with electric for the night, sweet. Something I’ve encountered a couple of times here is reverse polarity on hook ups, same deal here tho luckily the campsite owner had an adaptor we could borrow for the night, if you are planning a trip to France I would recommend having one on board. 

Our pitch was a small modest affair. 

    
We went for a wander around the local vinyard and corn fields, returned to the van and lolly made some kick ass pasta. I had a rubbish nights sleep, one because of the massive storm that kept me up and two, I was racking my brains to figure out a solution to my ongoing battle with the fridge. 

We woke up, grabbed a shower and made our way to the local boulangerie for breakfast, we then parked up the van and cycled to Chambord, an easy 30 minute ride on dedicated cycle tracks, they love cycling over here! 

  
The chateau is a truly beautiful building and one that strangely looks better from the back than the front. 

  
We grabbed an audio guide and spent the next couple of hours wandering about the place learning who built which bit, who’s bedroom was here and what the king got up to when he didn’t fancy shagging the queen, so the rumour goes. 

There is an I credible staircase which is the canter piece of the chateau, it’s a staircase within a stair case which means one person can go up while the other goes down and you will never meet, this is the view from the bottom. 

  
Chambord iswell worth a visit as is the souvenir shop, they have tasters for every box of biscuits they sell, we tried them all. 

We jumped on our bikes and headed back to the van a lot later than we’d anticipated, we hit the road for our last stop on our trip, Plage merlimont. 

I finally figured out what to do with the fridge, this bits for camper owners. All the forums will say wire your weaco fridge directly to your leisure battery. I have a PMS 3 in my van and the problem with this is when you are hooked up the pms3 is trying to send the leisure battery a charge whilst at the same time the fridge is draining it more than the PMS supplied charge, the result is when you leave the battery got little to no charge and your fridge fails shortly after. What I have done is wire the fridge to an aux 12v output that’s built into the PMS3, I get no voltage drop so the fridge works. When it’s hooked up to 240v the fridge receives its 12v supply from the PMS unit, not the battery, this then allows the battery to receive a top up charge, simples! 

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Le Coups

Lollys parents have a second home near Argentat and this would be our home for the next four nights. Ian and Lindi bought essentially a shell of a property and have worked really hard to turn it into somewhere they can come and stay, enjoy rural French life and be part of a small French community, it was lovely to see different residents of the commune including the mayor in his tractor stop by and say hello despite speaking very limited English and doing their very best to understands Lindi and Ian’s French which is way better than most, certainly better than mine! 

The day we arrived it belted down with rain all day so we did all out washing and I gave the van a bit of a clear up and charged up the leisure battery, we pretty much stayed at home all day bar a brief trip to the shops (chicken and veg for an awesome roast) and a small walk with the dog, the house sits adjacent to a beautiful wood covered in fern, when the light filters through the view is quite magical. 

  
The weather the following day looked equally as damp so we decided to go see some caves, en route there was a bit of a commotion ahead and then there were sheep, lots of sheep!! 

  
When we reached the caves it seemed most of France had the same idea, a 2 hour queue from where we were standing in the rain, sod that, we chipped off and headed for the historic town of Rocamadour. 

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Vive la France !

In less than 2 weeks we’ll be packing up the van and heading over the pond to spend three weeks driving and camping around France.

We were planning to go to Ibiza but the ferry cost is ridiculous, 650 quid return which I reckon is more than the fuel cost of our entire 3 week trip around France.

Over the last few months we’ve been researching places we’d like to visit and locations we’d like to stay in and as you can see in the picture below a route has been loosely planned.

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Our first port of call will be Mont St Michel, from there we’ll be making our way down the atlantic coast to Biarritz, stopping off at Il de Re, Soulac Sur Mer and Arcachon, a night in Bordeaux and St Emillion, then across to Lourdes, inland to Argentat to hang with the Coups and finally homeward bound via Puy De Dome and Chambord.

We’ll be staying at campsites, my in-laws and Aires we’ve found using this awesome book.

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It’s going to be an epic trip!

By way of preparation some work has been done on the van, new timing belt and water pump, air filter, the old one is below, not great, i’ve seen worse…

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I’ve also invested in a tried and tested diesel treatment that should increase our fuel efficiency by 10% and clean up the injectors, expect a seperate report on that!

I’ll be updating the blog throughout the trip as often as I can for those that follow our travels and we’ll be keeping an eye out for fellow dubbers!

Thats all for now, planning and packing for the next week or so!

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