Category Archives: Urban Caravan

Home for the next few days

A short drive later we’ve arrived at Grange Farm in Brighstone, a lovely little campsite overlooking the sea which at this time of year is nice and quiet, just how we like it. Our pitch is level and we have electricity but best of all our door opens out to a view of the sea, I grabbed a quick shot of Lolly and Bumblebee with the sea in the background.


The facilities look fine, showers, toilets, laundry, waste disposal if you have one of those big motor homes and loads of safe places for kids to run about, there are also plenty of animals too including sheeps, pigs, horses, alpacas and wild rabbits, there are chooks and ducks too but at the time of writing there is an avian flu outbreak so anything with wings is being kept in a barn till the all clear is given.

There is a costal path that runs along the bottom of the site right were we are so every now and again a bunch of ramblers wander past, when we checked in we were told that might happen but we don’t mind.

Before setting out Lolly made us a cup of tea and we scoffed a scotch egg each, I had a cake too because why not, we’re on holiday!


We’ve downloaded about 20 or so walks you can do from the National Trust of which we are both members, we picked an easy one along the coastal path from our campsite, it starts by making your way from the campsite down to the beach, the waves crashing against the shore throw up a mist that makes the coastline look almost foggy.


We looked about the beach for a little bit and noticed there was loads of plastic waste that had washed in from the sea, sad times.

I did get a nice picture of Lolly though by an abandoned lobster pot.

From here there are signs for the costal path that take you up to the cliffs edge, we followed the steps up and walked for about an hour or so without seeing anyone or anything until we came across what looked like some fly tipping Isle of Wight style.


It seems this was a regular spot for burning stuff and is probably cheaper than paying to dump it responsibly. At this point we decided to head back and go to the pub, it took us about an hour to get back to the van and 15 minutes to walk to the pub, The 3 Bishops. 


The food here was really good, I had a double patty cheese and bacon burger and Lolly had a fish pasta that had more fish than pasta in it, if you are over this way pop in.

After we finished we headed off back to the van to chill, watch a movie and then bed. 

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Long time no see

So as you can see there hasn’t been much on the update front since 2016

As far as adventures go we haven’t been on any substantial ones and we haven’t done any work to Bumblebee either.

We do have some news to share though, at some point in May we’ll be introducing a new member to the family, at this stage affectionately know as Jeff though we don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl yet.

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We are both very excited and have already planned a couple of adventures for Jeff not long after he joins us, a weekend at BugJam and a trip to France with Lolly’s parents.

We are also heading to the Isle of Wight at the end of March, one last adventure in Bumblebee before everything changes, I’ll let you all know how a 7 months pregnant woman gets on with sleeping in the back of a van 😳

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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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Wales 2016

Our first major trip of 2016 would be to Wales, 10 nights starting on the easter weekend, 3 campsites and one birthday, we set off a day late due to Lolly having the flu but to be honest that was fine by me, it meant I could take my time loading up the van and making sure we had everything we need. After a day of getting the van sorted we got up early the following morning and started our journey, Lolly took the wheel first and drove us to the M4, this was a milestone for Lolly as she doesn’t usually drive on motorways, she did really well.

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It took us about 4 hours or so to reach Pencelli Castle, we booked in and then drove to the start of a walk from one of our books. As soon as we neared the start point the heavens opened and the wind started to blow, the next few hours were spent wandering about in the kind of weather you usually avoid going out in and instead watch it through a window while sitting by a fire with a pint in your hand. We also got lost and walked 30 minutes in the wrong direction. We got back to the van and made for the pub down the road from our campsite, The White Hart. The pub was lovely, very welcoming and we got a table straight away, there was a good selection of ales on tap and ciders too, I had a mixed grill and Lolly had a lamb and leek curry, both were awesome.  The campsite was a 2 mile drive down the road, the site features a drying room which is kind of essential given the Welsh weather, I went to hang up our wet stuff only to find an army of soaked teenagers doing their best to get all their clothes hung up in there, they were all soaked to the skin and still had to put there tents up in the dark and rain, poor sods.

Due to the rain hammering on the roof of the van for most of the night neither of us got a particularly good sleep, this was to be a common theme throughout out trip.  We got up, made some tea and drove to Bike Park Wales, we arrived and Lolly bought us a bacon and egg roll each. Lolly had booked on an introduction to mountain biking course as she’s not as confident on her mountain bike, I got myself a day ticket with an uplift pass and we spent the day haring about the downhill trails, the weather held out and we both had a wicked day, i’d definitely go back there, proper good fun.

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On the way back to the site we stopped into the Royal Oak for some food, nice little pub, got a table quickly and in no time at all we were stuffing our faces, after eating we watched Deadpool in the van and crashed.

Day 3 was a walk up Pen Y Fan, for a short while I read a lot of books about the SAS, they all talked about selection and part of selection is walking up and down Pen Y Fan a few times with a heavy Bergen on your back in a ridiculously short amount of time. I wanted to walk up Pen Y Fan to see why it’s the mountain of choice for the SAS, I wasn’t planning on doing it quickly or with a ton of gear in my bag. We parked up the van and set off, there are a few different ways to go up, typically we chose the hardest, a steep long ascent on uneven ground, The weather held out again and was actually quite pleasant.

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It took us about three hours to walk up to the top of Pen Y Fan, the wind was mental and I lost a prop off the drone I was planning to fly at the top, it started to get cold too, the last 100 meters was in the snow, the picture below is looking up to the peak.

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As you approach the peak you have to climb up some frozen steps which are properly treacherous, we made it up and took a quick selfie, you can see from our choice of clothing how much the weather had changed, always be prepared!

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From here we walked across to Corn Du, hung out there admiring the view and then started our descent via the obelisk which is a memorial to a young lad who died at that spot on the mountain in 1900

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You then come across a stunning lake which we could see from the top of Corn Du

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From the lake there isn’t anything much more special to see, it’s just a walk over fields and roads till you get back to the van, all in all we did 8 miles and apparently burned 1000 calories. We were tired and hungry so on the way back we swerved into a pub we first saw on the way to Pen Y Fan called The Swan, it was quiet and the staff were really friendly, the food was lovely as was the beer, we both slept well that night.

We had planned to go for a bike ride on day 4 but the weather had other ideas, the rain come down like a monsoon, we made it as far as The Star Inn and spent the next there hours holed up in front of the fire waiting for the rain to stop, we did venture out again and we came across some old VW’s.

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Shortly after discovering the VW’s the pedal arm on my bike came loose so we abandoned the ride and returned to the van, we watched Deadpool again as Lolly fell asleep halfway through it the first time, we made some pasta too.

Day 5 was our final in Pencelli, we packed up and headed off to our next location, Afan forest park. En route we stopped to do the four waterfalls walk, there are few different routes you can take, ours was circular and seemed to take in the muddiest paths possible, if you are up this way then definitely do this walk, the waterfalls and scenery is stunning, you can walk behind the waterfall below which we did, you get soaked…

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By the time we arrived at Afan forest it was dark, the campsite isn’t really a campsite at all, it’s more like a car park with some electric hooks ups, 24 hour toilets and a green space to pitch tents, we made some food, had a beer or two and settled in for the night.

Day 6 started with sunshine and a reminder that I was another year older, lolly made me a lovely breakfast and presented me with some new headphones, boxer shorts and a necklace. Now that it was daylight we could appreciate where we were camping, right at the foot of a bloody big hill.

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The plan was to spend the day on the bikes riding the trails and generally having a good time. We went to the bike shop to grab a map but were told there weren’t any, all the trails are well marked, we’d be fine without a map, I took a picture of one of the maps at the start just in case. To get to the start of the trails involves a 6K ascent, it starts off ok but very quickly the terrain you have to ride up looks like this

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Which meant there was a lot of this

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On the upside for the first time in ages we got some phone signal, I got some birthday messages from my family which was really nice, when we got to what we thought was the top we stopped for a sandwich, a drink and a bit of a rest.

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Shortly after that photo was taken it started to rain so we darted into the woods to get under cover, we followed the signs to the start of the trail for what seemed like an eternity but eventually we made it to the top and the sun came out again.

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We planned to take a trail down called whites level but after spending so much time getting up there we thought we’d do the skyline trail, have a look about and then pick up whites level and head down, didn’t quite work out like that. Most of the markers we were looking for had either moved or no longer existed, partly due to a windfarm being installed on the hillside which had changed a lot of the features, the map we took a picture of down the bottom didn’t quite match what was going on up the hill, this was the closest I had ever been to a wind farm and it was pretty impressive.

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After a lot of wrong turns and not knowing quite where we were Lolly got us back to the start of whites level and we started to make our descent, unfortunately the sun set pretty quickly and a lot of the decent was through forest, with the fading light and Lolly forgetting her glasses we had to abandon the trail because Lolly couldn’t see and find another way down, thanks to Lolly’s excellent map reading and sense of direction we took a forest road down into a village about 3 miles from where we were staying, it was pitch black by the time we got down, we belted back to the van along the old train track, locked up the bikes and grabbed a drink, Lolly was a bit scared and there was a really eerie vibe about the place we were staying at once the sun went down, we ate some food and decided we’d chip off first thing, i’d had an excellent birthday, a proper adventure, not likely to go back to Afan.

Our last few days were to be spent on the Gower peninsula, we were booked into a very family orientated site called Carreglwyd, there were lots of rules but none we intended to break, we were shown our spot and then left to our own devices. The weather wasn’t all that so Lolly suggested we head to the pub for a birthday meal, we went to the Ship inn and spent the next three hours eating and drinking followed by a walk along the beach, we retired to the van and watched an awful film.

The next morning we woke up and the rain was chucking it down, this picture kind of summed up the mood

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We spent the morning in the van with the heater on, lolly read her book and I made tea and snoozed, the rain stopped so we decided to go for a walk in Rhossili, we also arranged to meet Laurens auntie Steph.

The walk we were supposed to do takes you along the Rhossili headland, was managed about ten minutes trekking up hill before deciding we couldn’t be bothered and would much rather take a walk on the beach, the view from where we where was very nice though.

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We mooched down to the beach and spent the next hour or so investigating all the weird and wonderful things you find on beaches, for example, an old boat.

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Lots of drift wood

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And a shrimp

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Rhossili bay was award best UK beach in 2010, it’s a lovely beach even when the weather is rubbish and is popular with surfers.

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We left the beach and went to meet Lollys auntie Steph, we had a lovely meal at their local pub and stayed then night at their house, best nights sleep we’d had all week, was nice to have a decent shower too. We got up the next day and decided to go home, we still had a night at the campsite booked but we were both shattered and wanted a night in our comfy bed at home.

This is the first time as far as either of us can remember that we were quite looking forward to going home, I don’t know why, maybe it was weather or the tiredness. I enjoyed South Wales and next time i’d like to head north, maybe a bit later in the year when the weather is better.

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Bye Bye DRL’s – Hello being able to see….

One of the things that attracted me to Bumblee when we were searching for our Urban Caravan was purely cosmetic, the lovely looking Audi style day running lights or DRL’s for short, here they being modelled by Bumblebee.

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Whilst they look very nice and are quite expensive to buy they are rubbish as lights. Visibility at night is dreadful, so much so we can drive around at night with the full beam on and nobody flashes us, true story. I thought it might be the bulbs so invested in a set of H1 Osram night breakers, they marginally improved the situation.

There are a number of wiring looms you can buy that allegedly improve the situation specifically for DRL’s with projector style lights by combing the side lights and full beam or by increasing voltage to the bulbs, the problem you run into is by increasing the voltage to the bulbs you raise the bulbs temperature which in turn melts the projector cover and combining the side lights and full beam is only helpful when you have your full beam on, not really a solution.

I spoke to Martyn at Travelvolts who confirmed I had done pretty much all I could do and the only way to see an improvement would be to go back to standard lights, fit an upgrade loom and night breaker bulbs so, after a year and a half of bad night time driving it was time to take the plunge.

After doing a bit of research I bought the following from eBay and Amazon.

Headlights

Indicators

Bulbs

I also bought the headlight upgrade loom kit from Travelvolts, you can buy something similar from other places but I trust Martyn and his products so I bought it from him.

First things first, out with the old, you have to remove the front grille which is held in place by four screws, two at the top and two in the lower grille, it then just pops out.

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Once this is done you can unbolt and disconnect the headlights, quick nod to the previous owner or whoever fitted these for maintaining consistency with their poor work, both headlights were held in with 2 bolts instead of four..

Undo your bolts and unclip your bulbs and the lights come out, this is what you are left with.

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I came across what I think are the self levelling motors for the lights, one was connected to one of the DRL’s and the other wasn’t, I removed them both as my new lights have no way to connect them. Once you remove your lights you are left with a few extra plugs, I taped them up as I felt that would be helpful.

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At this point I slotted together the indicators and headlights, I then fitted the bulbs and attached the wiring loom upgrade to the bulbs, this makes installing the loom a bit less fiddly. I then fitted the lights with four bolts for each, I had to pack the drivers side light out a little near the bottom with washers so it sat straight.

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Last thing to do was hook up the loom using the instructions I downloaded from Travelvolts and test the lights before putting the front grill back on, all working first time, marvellous.

I then took the van to the hand car wash as it was filthy.

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I’m really pleased with how they look, the smoked indicators tie in with the smoked rear clusters and the main lights IMO look better than the old DRL’s. I waited for nightfall and took the van out for a drive to see if the visibility had improved.

In hindsight I wish I had taken a visibility before and after picture for comparison, I cannot tell you how much of a difference this has made, dipped beam visibility has greatly increased and full beam is bonkers, you can see miles ahead, the bulbs give off a nice white light too, not quite Xenon but not far off, the light temperature also matches up with my fogs!

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If you are thinking about swapping out your standard lights for DRL’s my advice would be save your money and upgrade the looms and bulbs instead, maybe buy some smoked or clear indicators if you want to add a custom look.

The total cost of this came to approx £170.00, the old DRL’s will be going up on eBay and I reckon I should get £100.00 back for them so with any luck, this will only of cost 70 quid, money well spent!

 

 

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Valentines camping at Seaford

What shall we do for Valentines I asked Lolly, lets go somewhere in our urban caravan she said, we’ll book Friday off and go for a long weekend, sounds like a plan I replied.

We set a rule that for short weekends away we wouldn’t travel more than an hour or so’s drive, Lolly had also mentioned visiting Beachy Head so I figured somewhere near there would be a good place to stay and so it was I came across Seaford.

I chose Seaford because i’d never heard of it, it isn’t too far from Beachy Head and there was a campsite that was taking bookings in February, most places don’t begin their season till the beginning of March, it’s also just over an hours drive from where we live, perfect.

The campsite stayed at is called Buckle Caravan Park and the description amounted to ” No frills campsite with few rules, like camping in the good old days” – that sounded alright to me.

The first thing that hits you when you arrive is the place looks a bit run down although I am sure it looks completely different if the sun is shining, it’s also a little strange that the campsite warden has built a moat around his twin static caravan and decorated the garden with scallop shells, odd garden ornaments and a concrete pig. The reception building is also a little odd looking completely out of place with everything around it, despite it all looking a bit rubbish we were warmly greeted, shown our pitch on a map, educated about the electric gate and told the shower and toilet blocks nearest to us were being repaired / renovated so we’d have to use the ones near the office, there is also a club house open on Saturday with a bar which we were more than welcome to use.

I also didn’t have enough cash on me to pay for our stay and the deposit for the key fob, no worries, pay tomorrow said the guy at reception which was nice.

We made out way to our pitch, parked up and made a brew.

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As you can see, there are a lot of caravans, most of which seem to be there all year round and as such most appeared empty, the campsite was really quiet, looking ahead is a grassy knoll and beyond that a pebble beach and the sea, it’s not that pretty so I didn’t take a picture.

I’d downloaded a walk which was the first one on this page and on the basis it was dry with no rain forecast we drove to East Dean, parked up at the Tiger Inn and set off on our walk. The guide is a quite old and a little out of date but most of the landmarks still exist and we didn’t get lost, bonus.

We stopped at a national trust spot called Birling gap, we grabbed a beer and a cider, used their wifi and then made our way to the beach which you access via metal stairs from the top of the cliff.

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There are lots of signs saying that the cliffs are a little unstable and there are also the biggest lumps of chalk that are very handy for writing on metal stairs should you feel the need to do so…

We hung about for a while, grabbed a selfie and then headed on our way..

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From here we headed uphill toward the Bell Tout lighthouse, built by a chap called Mad Jack Fuller who had an addiction for building follys he believed he finally made something useful, however he built his lighthouse on the fog line so the light didn’t shine very far when it was foggy and was useless to ships avoiding the cliffs, it’s now a B&B..

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We picked up the pace as the sun was beginning to set, from the Bell Tout chipped down a hill, along a roman road and back into East Dean where we started, our plan was for dinner at the Tiger Inn which has what appears to be a real Tigers head on the wall, i’m not a fan of stuffed animals but i’ve never seen a stuffed tigers head before and felt compelled to take a picture of it.

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The pub is on the green at East Dean, it’s a hotel as well, there are a host of locally brewed ales, a warm fire and a great menu, we had baked camembert to start and then the Tiger Inn burger, I got all excited about the local ales and drunk one of each, I was too drunk to drive home and we were going to stay in the car park, Lolly however elected to drive us home and only had 2 halfs and 2 pints of water. I’m glad we went back to the campsite as it meant I could hook us up to 240V and get the heater going, would have been a bloody cold night otherwise.

We also got to catch up with one of my old raving buddies and best mates Rob, he lives just down the road in Peacehaven and met us for a Guiness.

During the night the rain came and it didn’t stop, we woke in the morning and discovered the van has a leak coming from the roof, most likely where the AA lights were mounted. We decided we’d head home instead of staying another night as the weather wasn’t set to improve and everything are wanted to do meant we would be out in the rain. Before we left we had a shower, whilst the facilities weren’t the best looking they were clean and the water hot.

We drove into Seaford in search of breakfast and came across a place called Sub Station, what a lovely surprise, proper nice breakfast in a sub and the owner is great fun too, left him looking up on Google “was Mary Berry fit” after confirming old Mary has had a bit of botox…

Other than the nice cafe Seaford is a bit rundown, I doubt it’s on any must visit list which is why i’ve never heard of it, it’s not that far from Brighton, Hastings and Eastbourne which are more well known.

What I will say is the countryside around Seaford is really quite beautiful so it was worth staying there for that.

It was still raining when we left Sub Station, we stopped off at a place called paradise park, had a wander round there and then headed for home looking forward to sleeping in a warm bed with no leaks!

I probably wouldn’t go back to Buckle but I wouldn’t say avoid it either, 20 quid a night for a hard standing pitch right by the beach is great value and i’m sure when the sun is shining it’s a completely different place, if you fancy a cheap night away “near” Brighton and Hastings give it a go !

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