Category Archives: VW Campervan

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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And we’re off!

So the time of year has come for one of our two yearly birthday trips, usually this trip in March to celebrate my birthday will involve a drive far north of the M25 in search of mountains to climb, trails to ride and paths to walk in generally the worst of the British weather.

This year however we’re heading south, Lolly is 32 weeks pregnant and wasn’t massively up for mountains or mountain bikes so we’ve jumped on a ferry to the Isle of Wight to stay at a campsite right by the beach and enjoy some easy going walks around the countryside, as I write there are patches of blue sky and the sun is doing it’s very best to shine.

Unlike all our previous trips there is an air of calm prior to our departure even though we are running 20 mins late, I think I’ve finally realised that getting annoyed isn’t going to change the fact that we are late, if anything it’s a hindrance and just makes things misearable all round.

Whilst I was fairly confident we would miss the ferry we made it by the skin of our teeth and are now on our way across the channel to the island, just before we boarded a ferry I got a quick snap of the bus. 


Once on the ferry a quick selfie to mark the start of our trip!


Being a naval port there are lots of ships about that can blow stuff up like this one. 

Once we land we’ll be off to check into Grange Farm and then head out for a walk, might have a cup of tea too. 

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Updates

While we were away it was really difficult to get a decent internet connection so I wasn’t able to update our trip as best as I could, i’ll be spending a bit of time this weekend putting up the rest of our exploits for those that are interested.

I’ve also written up an account of the solar panel install I completed on Bumblebee just before we left,  you can find it here.

 

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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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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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Re-Insulating Bumblebee

One of the first things we did when we got Bumblebee was install central locking to both passenger doors and the sliding door, when me and Andy took the panel off the sliding door to fit the central locking motor and contacts we came across the worst kind of insulation you can use for a van, bog standard loft insulation aka lagging.

It’s bad for a number of reasons but the main one being it absorbs moisture, either from cooking or making tea in the van or just breathing, soaks it all up and rusts your van from the inside out, it had to go.

It’s taken me a while to crack on with it mainly because it’s a mission, every panel has to come off, the electrics have to come out, cupboards undone, rock and roll bed out, massive ball ache, however, after the leak in Seaford and an impending 11 days in Wales at the end of March where it will rain I had to fix the leak so I figured I might as well take a couple of days off work and sort it all out once and for all…

First thing to do was decide how to insulate the van, there are a number of methods to choose from, some involving bubble wrap, others using recycled plastic bottles, the cheapo option the previous owner went for or the method I chose, Thermoliner.

The principal behind Thermoliner is you stick it on your van and then put your panels back creating a void between the outside of your van and the inside, the thermoliner greatly reduces the transfer of the climate outside of your van to the inside and the climate inside of your van to the outside, I bought a roll of Thermoliner 8m x 1m from Harrisons Trim Supplies, you can read all about it and order it from here, I put my order in and it arrived the next day, sweet.

First job was to empty the van, it’s an eye opener when you take everything out of the various nooks and crannies and put it in all one pile!

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Next up was to get the bed out, this is held in by four bolts, the two nearest to the tailgate are easy to get out as I could hold the spanner on the bolt with one hand and use a socket to undo the nut with the other, there was no way I could do this for the two nearer the cabin, i’d need 8 foot super bendy arms and hands with grips like the jaw of a pit bull, luckily I had some g-clamps, I was quite impressed with my impromptu ingenuity!

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I managed to get the bed out by myself and left it on the drive and set about removing the first panel.

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As I suspected, full of crappy lagging, I removed that and set about replacing it with Thermoliner. I used the panel I removed as a template and marked out the amount of Thermoliner I would need. It was pretty cold and I was a bit worried the Thermoliner adhesive back wouldn’t stick, not a problem, it stuck without issue.

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Thermoliner is my new favourite thing, it’s really easy to work with, it’s easy to cut and sticks to anything, before I could make any further progress the cat came to inspect my work.

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Once she was happy she tested the tailgate to see if it could take her weight, no issue there.

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Once the cat jogged on I set about undoing all the electrics and unbolting the cabinet so I could access the panels behind it, as you can see there was a small bit of awful insulation, one whole panel was left completely exposed.

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I came across this which I think is part of the vans previous life with the AA, I have no idea what it does but disaster would probably follow if I removed it so I left it where it was.

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In about an hour the drivers side of the van was properly insulated.

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Once i’d replaced the panels on the drivers side I moved the cabinet back and secured it properly, the whole thing was held in place with 4 screws, there are also a number of internal brackets that might as well have been held together with blue tack, how none of this came apart is beyond me, I spent about an hour reinforcing all the brackets and securing the cabinet to the walls and floor of the van, it’s solid now, how it should have been in the first place!

Next up and the last job for Thursday, the roof.

Trim clips are my new least favorite thing, what a pain in the arse they are even with a trim clip removal tool.

Since we’ve owned the van there has been an ugly remnant of the Bumblebees previous life as an AA van i’ve been meaning to remove.

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I don’t know what this actually did but it as you can see it’s covered in filler, I guess this was supposed to seal it from the elements, didn’t really work…

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This is about where the drip came through when we were in Seaford, I cut out the cables and undid what ever that thing was leaving a nice hole in the roof!

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Ideally I would have cut out the rust and welded a plate in to cover the gaping hole however I can’t weld and didn’t have any plates hanging about so i did the next best thing, I wired brushed off the rust and sealed the hole internally with Dynamat and externally with all purpose clear silicon, should hold fine!

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None of the roof had been insulated, it is now !

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I finished up for the day and left the roof panels down overnight to dry as they were damp from the leak.

The next morning I put the roof panels back up, rewired all the electrics, insulated the tailgate and sliding door, I didn’t take any pictures as to be honest there are only so many pictures of insulated panels your readers are going to be interested in…

It took me a day to do that and I was nearing the finish line, all that was left to do was put the rock and roll bed back in along with all the stuff that lives in the van and decide what to do with the Thermoliner I had left.

I decided to insulate the cab doors, why not…

Before

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After

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Lolly helped me get the bed back in and I ferried all out “essential” stuff back to the van.

The van is now in my opinion properly insulated and should be leak free, I took a picture of all the lagging I took out of the van along with the left over AA cabling..

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I’m glad I finally got round to insulting the van myself, i’ve been meaning to do it for ages and I hope it keeps us nice and warm in Wales, i also feel I can put a built not bought sticker on the van as i’ve pretty much properly redone everything the previous owner put in.

If you are reading this and starting a build i’d really recommend Thermoliner for your insulation, it’s easy to work with, good value for money and delivered pronto if you order it form Harrisons.

 

 

 

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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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A trip to Coldharbour. 

Last year Lolly and I bought each other a mountain bike. Whenever we go away we take them with us, occasionally we just hop in the van with the bikes on the back, drive somewhere that entertains mountain bikes and go for a ride.

About 45 mins drive from us is leith hill and just beyond that is Coldharbour, a tiny village you can easily end up at if you go for a walk or ride around Leith Hill. All around this part of the world are bridle ways and tracks for walkers and riders as well as horses and the odd crosser that’s not supposed to be there.

We started at the plough inn as you can park up there and it’s a good reference point if you are using the map below.

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The idea was to go and do some of the trails and then grab some lunch. Didn’t quite go to plan, the next couple of hours ended up as a kind of freestyle ride / hike with the added fun of potentially wandering into a pheasant shoot, luckily we didn’t but we did think someone might mistake us for some wildlife and crack a shot off.
We came across some pretty cool woods well worth a photo of!

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The trails on the map weren’t that well signposted and as you can see below we went a rather odd route.

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Before setting out I booked us a table for 15.00, past experience of the Plough Inn and trying to get a table for lunch was a bit of a failure due to it being heaving. As luck would have it our random ramble brought us back to our starting point at exactly 15.00, below is stravas account of our adventure.

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While I put the bikes back on the van lolly went to meet the two horses and their steer that rocked up about the same time as us.

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The pub was pretty quiet when went to our table but very quickly all the tables were taken. The plough does some great local ales and some pretty potent cider too, we were both fairly hungry so we dispensed with starters and went straight for mains, I had the plough inn burger with added cheese and Lolly had-the same.   The burgers were excellent, really tasty, good size portions and not particularly expensive.

We shared a chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream for dessert, it was epic!

The Plough Inn is nice pub with a mix of walkers, cyclists, and families, there is a nice garden for when the weather is better and dogs are welcome all year round, if you’re ever in that neck of the woods give it a visit.

We had a really good day out, we’ll be back later in the year to try and find the trails and give them a good hammering.

As is customary with my travel reports, a picture of our van, bumblebee parked up near the pub, the namesake of this blog!

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