Leoni and Ann-sofie hitch a ride in Rosie
The awning is a Godsend to put the airer in for wet clothes. Rosie is our sanctuary after a wet and blustery 10k walk. We stopped for lunch at Bays View Cafe, a community hall run by volunteers with homemade soup and cakes and a lovely welcome. Dubber forgot to pack his waterproof trousers so he got wet but his new Harris Tweed cap kept his head warm and dry.
Having had our walk we stayed in the van and so nothing much to report, so I thought we could consider two burner cooking. Rosie has 2 burners on top plus a grill, which until today we hadn’t used as we have a plug-in toaster. We have a saucepan and two frying pans of different sizes. We are going to put in the Le Crueset casserole pot next time. So far as well as the cooked breakfast which included Lorne Sausage this morning we have had:
– tuna fish and pineapple on rice
– chicken fajitas
– vegetable pasanda
– vegetable pesto pasta and homemade grilled garlic bread
Nice and healthy and good on Weight Watchers. Balances the coffee and cake eaten each day and the wine of an evening! We had great gingerbread today!
Day 9 and hurray the wind has dropped. The sun is shining. We can take off our coats and jumpers, it’s t-shirt weather….just! By the time we leave Stornoway and head for Callinish we need jumpers back on but it’s pleasant.
We take walk number 4 from our little book to the iconic Callanish Standing Stones. Amazing to think they have been there nearly 5000 years. How they got there and what the significance is, isn’t known, but the site is certainly worth a visit.
We travel on to find somewhere to stop for lunch. It’s so good putting the kettle on. Whilst we sit there Mrs Duck waddles past with her ten ducklings. Good job I counted them as ten minutes later she waddles back with five missing and she’s looking all over for them quacking away. The men come over to see if they can help and waddle off into the grass.
However we have realised there is a cattle grid and yes you’ve guessed it five little ducklings are swimming around under the cattle grid trying to get out. Dubber tries to get hold of them but they swim off in the other direction. Another motor home had pulled up and the owner came running over with a soup ladle. Dubber scooped and GJ handed them back to mum. All was well with the world again although the men were still wandering looking for them in the long grass!
Onwards then to Tarbet and the Harris Tweed Store. New cap for Dubber. New purse for me.
Now to find the campsite at Likisto. We’ll hold on as the road is narrow and winding. Rosie is really working hard. The campsite is really quirky, remote, lovely views over the loch, a Blackhouse community room, lots of Paths and places to sit if it’s warm enough…..and a few midges. Spray time!
My new name for Billypops – Dubber. Although apparently officially only for those driving bays.
Day 7 we leave Liniclate for North Uist. Between some islands are causeways narrow mounds of rock with two lane roads over them, where we share the road with otters crossing, so the signs say.
In North Uist we visit Taigh Chearsabhaigh an art gallery, cafe and museum restored from an old salt house in the herring industry. You can do a module in fine art there. Inspiring. The volunteers do like to stand and chat and we now know her life story!
We thought we had seen the best beaches but travelling into Berneray we found a cove which was beautiful.
We arrived at our new campsite Moorcroft. Now as you know I don’t do camping and I’m fussy about toilets but so far this really meets my standards. They even have a community kitchen built in an old croft; and the view was spectacular. The only problem was the ground tilted so we could have ended up with our heads higher than our feet in bed, but luckily Rosie’s nose was down and we didn’t really notice it in bed.
We have identified that we are sharing these islands with two other sorts of campers; motor homes and caravans driven by silver seventies and cyclists. In the morning I needed the loo and had to walk past the Lycra wearing cyclists in their tents, all lined up like moths in cocoons and a cacophony of snores amongst the singing of the birds. They all blamed each other when I spoke to them later.
Day 8 is Dubber’s birthday. He’d already sang ‘When I’m 64’ even before we’d got out of bed. Themed birthday of course (I expect more campervan cards when we get home) and the Swiss Army knife with 35 implements for all eventuality was much appreciated. ‘They are very sharp’ he says. Maybe should have bought a First Aid kit too as Dubber is accident prone!
Whilst packing up I found our first Midge dead on top of one of our boxes. Otherwise none sighted yet even though I have my Avon Skin So Soft Spray ready (recommended by everyone as the best deterrent and eating rye bread works apparently) and my Neals Yard Voto Diffuser with eucalyptus oil for the van.
We took the next ferry ride to Harris. I thought we had left the beautiful beaches behind us but OMG, I was in awe of what we saw in West Harris. It’s breathtaking. What do you think?
From here we drive north to Lewis and Stornoway our northernmost point on this trip. The landscape changes to dark foreboding mountains. Rosie did so well climbing up into the mountains, racing back down again without any problems. I did tell Dubber she likes a slower pace so that we could actually enjoy the scenery.
We are at a busy site and the car next to us had what we thought was a roof box but we couldn’t see a tent or anything. After our meal celebrating Dubber’s birthday as we walked back I won the bet that the top box was actually a tent. We then sat giggling as we watched them set it up, bring out their collapsible ladder and climb in. We were messaging friends with pictures and were being egged on to remove said ladder but we are more grown up than that…..but the thought did cross our minds.
Day 6 and it’s mizzling this morning; it’s not raining or even drizzling but it’s mist drizzle, hence mizzling.
Time to unhitch from the awning (must remember to get back before it’s dark to hitch back up again – wait a minute sunset isn’t until after 11pm!). We are taking Rosie out for the day visiting Balivinich and back down to South Uist. In a circuitous route we found the Island Deli which had wifi so I can post some blogs, and also the biggest prawn Marie rose sandwich ever!
We then went in search of some history and found it at Howmore. Traditional thatched houses with stones to weigh down the thatch sit alongside the remains of medieval churches and chapels with a gravestone dating back to the ninth century.
A short walk across the Machair (I now know it’s pronounced Macca) and we are onto a beautiful deserted beach. The Howmore river runs to it and we are sure we saw an otter playing in the water. The book we are using for walks is called ‘The Outer Hebrides 40 Coast and Country Walks’ by Paul and Helen Webster. A really good find with good instructions and easy walks.
Back to Rosie waiting at the church and put the kettle on because we can!
Later that evening after successfully attaching ourselves back to the awning (we are not masters yet) we have a final stroll on Liniclate beach in the company of seals in the water. Stunning
OK needs to be said with a Glaswegian accent to appreciate the question.
Day 5 sees us leaving Barra but not until we head to Barra airport. I was wanting to see the beach which is amazing, but it doubles as an airport runway and guess what we were in luck.
Eriskay is small and beautiful. We drive on through South Uist. There is essentially a single road which goes from Eriskay to North Uist, with little roads to the Machair on the west and no access to mountains on the right. It’s a single track road that just meanders and undulates like a roller coaster. The skill Billypops has to master is keeping his eye on the road which is very narrow in places, and watching for traffic coming the other way. Every 50 yards or so is a passing place and protocol dictates that you slow down, see who flashes first (lights!!) and gives in. In Rosie’s favour is the fact that having to make so many strenuous gear changes, she has collected traffic behind and protocol dictates that if there is more than one car then they let you through first.
We finally arrive at our next stop Shell Bay Campsite, a breezy little campsite near Liniclate, a stone’s throw from dunes and those beautiful beaches on Benbecula.
Day 4 and we are so lucky. The weather is lovely. It’s windy but actually quite warm. Today we have walked through the Machair, special habitat for wild flowers that obviously protects the White sandy dunes. The flowers are beautiful.
Formerly (ie in the 1400s!) the land was owned by the McNeil clan, who now appear to run minibuses around the island and as far as I know, no longer behead their stepsons to ensure their sons become the next clan heirs.
Our walk took us up to a cairn which overlooked the bay and the beautiful white sand of Halaman beach. It’s beautiful and what we came to Barra to see.
Day 3 starts with the lovely drive alongside Loch Lomond and through woodland with amazing swathes of bluebells. Hey we brought the sunshine. Rosie is coping with the twisty roads as we wind our way up to Crianlarich, except someone didn’t pack his washbag properly and his shaving foam is rolling around the van. Wave, there’s another T25, a custom amongst Dubbers (that’s VW camper drivers to you and me). Lovely views.
We drive on to Oban a seaside town based around the ferry terminal and fishing boats. Rosie gets her first ferry ticket.
Off the ferry at Castlebay and we drive to our first campsite, Borve which is by the sea. We are blown away, almost literally, by the view and it’s 10 O’clock at night when we finally are set up and the sun still hasn’t set.
We are off to the Outer Hebrides for an adventure in Rosie. This is really why she arrived in our lives, so we could do these island adventures.
After what was probably the busiest weekend of the summer yet we left late afternoon and headed north to our first stop.
TeBay Services, also known as Westmoreland or to us as Shap, is most probably the best motorway services in the world. Fantastic friendly customer services in every aspect; the camp site receptionist knew us by name; the lady serving food, generous with the helpings; the coffee lady suggesting the dark hot chocolate might need a bit of sugar and yes you’ve guessed it very pleasant toilets!
And to top it off beautiful evening light.
Now I need to explain from the start that the jet lag was not Rosie’s responsibility. I had just got off a two-leg flight from Tampa, had a shower, loaded up the van and headed off for two days campervanning (not sure if it is a verb but it is now) near Ambleside in the Lake District.
The loading of the van is an essential skill, which I think we are doing quite well but need more practice at. Before this trip we used the list we made in Norfolk of essentials (or all those things you wished you had brought but didn’t!) and then trimmed it in line with advice from Martin Dorey’s book ‘The Camper Van Cookbook – Life on 4 wheels, Cooking on 2 rings’. Although it’s a cookbook, it also had a wealth of information to make campervan life easier, including the list. Highly recommended.
One thing I did want was proper boxes to store things in which could be taken in and out of the van easily, so we invested in the plastic ones with clip lids. They come in all shapes and sizes and we spent quite a time in Staples measuring and planning what needed to go in which space and what could go in them. To date they are proving very useful. So Rosie was loaded up and off we set, with me and jet lag approaching.
This was probably the longest journey we had done in Rosie apart from driving her up from Cambridgeshire. She is a very comfortable ride, and we made good time despite being stuck between lorries on the M6. Not that I would know because I think I slept most of the way.
We had booked a two night stay at Skelwith Fold Caravan Park, another recommendation of cool camping (http://www.skelwith.com).
This would be our first trip with the awning and as you can see we got it up in no time. That practice on the lawn at home was worth doing and I have to say that it was a one man job. I meanwhile was putting everything in its rightful place, including the loo, bearing in mind that having put the awning up we were five minutes later going to drive away from it!
This is the idea behind the awning. You can put it up and drive away. Easy. Great. And you know what’s coming next don’t you?
A few hours later having met the family who were staying nearby and having had dinner and a glass of wine, it had started to get dark but at least it was dry. We had remembered to put a marker against the back wheel so we knew more or less where we had to drive to to line up with the awning. I jump out and start signalling for him to reverse and I have to say after two or three goes we lined up well, battened down the hatches and had a good night’s sleep amongst our new soft furnishings! Rosie certainly has a cosy bed. Probably a good idea to have a good night’s sleep with all that jet lag.
But the next evening when we returned it was raining heavily, there were many more vans and motor homes around us and our team skills were waning as Billypop’s went backward and forward trying to line up with the awning. Having asked me to hold the torch so he could see, he was then telling me to turn the torch off as he couldn’t see. He’s going backward and forward not making any real gain and I am standing in the pouring rain using hand signals to no avail to get the van lined up with the awning. Eventually we compromised which meant the part of the awning attached to the van wasn’t taut but it would have to do. Heater on and bed I think.
Lessons learnt on this trip:
1 Probably best not to leave driving back to the awning until it’s pitch black especially if it’s raining.
3 Home is where you park it.
And Rosie is parked in the Lake District
I love all things crafty, that is I love making things. I took early retirement a couple of years ago and wanted to spend some of my time going back to something I really enjoyed – sewing. I’ve spent the last year catching up on my skills, reminding myself of skills I hadn’t used in thirty years. It’s like riding a bike – another skill I ought to be using but the bike is still in the shed. Did I tell you Rosie has a bike rack? Gonna try it out soon!
Anyway part of the sewing course I undertook with my pals Annette and Andrea included cushions in all sorts of shapes and designs. Piped cushions, tied cushions, pleated cushions, buttoned cushions, patchwork cushions. Most of them are sitting on our bed….! What is it about cushions on a bed that looks just right? And yes I think it’s a woman thing. Men just don’t get it and my man certainly never puts them back again once he’s made the bed. Just leaves them lying on the floor like detritus. Wouldn’t do it with your underpants dear!
So having got Rosie and planning our summer trips, one way Billypops thought he could engage me was to allow me to do my magic on the interior. Rosie has a blue and white finish inside. When we bought her she had four retro fabric cushions, you know the sixties trend that’s very young and hip at the moment. But I wanted to put my mark on her. So here you go, new curtains with new tie backs, piped and covered buttons. To date two new cushions with seaside theme, cos 🎶 I do like to be beside the seaside!🎶
Rosie gets a soft furnishing upgrade. Watch this space…
Another point to Rosie I think. Grandchildren love campervans. These two adorable girlies are my granddaughters in their Halloween outfits, trying out the upper bunk for size. They just lay there and giggled and giggled.
Campervans are just made for sharing with grandchildren. Our second trip out was a bright autumn day’s trip to The White Post Farm. http://www.whitepostfarm.co.uk
There is only one cross body seat belt in the back so we had to buy a child seat which works with a lap belt. A necessary expense for such excited little people, so if you get a van and you are carrying littlies, take note. (That’s me sounding like an expert again, giving advice to future campervan fanatics! Really not true.). The other problem is that you can’t just turn round in your seat when they are demanding your attention and pass them some chocolate to keep them quiet. They are miles away in the back of the van. The bonus though is they have fantastic views out of the windows and shouts of ‘There’s a horse in that field’ and ‘There’s a car on the road’ are quite different from the usual ‘I can’t see GJ’ that we get in our car.
So we set off with lots of giggles and excitement in the back and arrived and parked up. ‘Anyone for a drink?’ ‘YESSS!’ Comes the shout. So we put the kettle on and Alex takes up his place in the driver’s seat, whilst Freya decides she wants a wee!
Now you know my feelings about toilets but I haven’t told you about our own public convenience. Yes we have a portaloo! Masking itself as a stool (no pun intended) we do have a toilet for emergencies. It was raining outside so this was one such emergency and also we couldn’t be bothered getting wet yet. Freya proceeded to use the loo with fits of giggles and an interested brother in terms of what was inside the stool. More giggles as Billypops flushed it. And yes on our first outing I christened it in the middle of the night. Enough said.
Fed and watered we then spent a lovely day at White Post Farm which is highly recommended for its animals, it’s kid-size tractors and the indoor sledge slope. I did get stuck in the soft play. Not recommended.
Because we bought Rosie in September, autumn was fast approaching and bearing in mind I’m not a seasoned camper, you can guess that we are going to be fair weather campers at best, at least initially. So we thought we ought to venture out for a night just to try her out and see if we, well I, could cope.
We didn’t want to travel too far, but far enough that we felt we were away so I got onto the Cool Camping website to see what was available. So she knows her websites! Well yes, I did do some research and we had bought a book called ‘Cool Camping Britain’ whilst browsing in Waterstones. Thought we would give it a go and found their website http://www.coolcamping.co.uk really helpful. Through the website I filtered for campsites which take campervans, have hook up facilities and had fairly high rating reviews. And more importantly had outstanding toilets and showers.
Toilets. Now I’ve always had a thing about public toilets since I was a child. There’s nothing like your own comfortable private toilet. Don’t know why but sometimes I am just happy to cross my legs, distract myself and at my age hope for the best, rather than go into poorly maintained, smelly, public conveniences with hundreds of other people. They really stress me out. I also have a bit of a dread that public showers are cold, damp, embarrassing places which remind me of taking communal showers after PE lessons at school or those horrible Victorian swimming baths where everything seems wet. You know you try and get dry and put on your clothes in a space big enough for a gnat, and then a sock, or worse, your knickers fall onto a wet floor and you spend the rest of the day feeling slightly uncomfortable and damp in places you don’t want to feel uncomfortable and damp. Sorry, I am digressing.
We decide on Norfolk. We wanted a bit of sea air and a bit of countryside, and so we settled on a campsite at North Runcton, near Kings Lynn http://www.kl-cc.co.uk
We started to plan what we might need and realised that actually we might have a van but we hadn’t really thought about what we might need to take in it, so again I researched a few advisory websites and the duvet and pillows went in along with our picnic basket, and we went out and bought a kettle, quite a nice retro one in pale yellow. We bought some basic food stuff, and bottles of his and her wine, (he drinks red, she drinks white) packed her up and off we went.
She (Rosie!) rides quite well and sitting high up you can see over hedges and into people’s houses and gardens quite well, so whilst Billypops manoeuvred her along the roads east, I sat back and enjoyed the views.
When we arrived at the campsite we were given our plot and Billypops got out and ‘hooked us up’! This is jargon for getting what looks like an oversized kettle connector and connecting the van to a plug socket somewhere hidden in the bushes behind us. And then the heavens opened.
Now one of the things that has put me off camping is the inclement weather. We had an experience when the kids were very small camping at Sutton-on-Sea where we arrived in a mini car with two children under four, my brother and all the gear and had to sit in the car whilst Billypops and brother put the tent up in rain. As you can imagine everything was wet and stayed wet for much of the two days we were there.
I was sitting there quite comfortably with my cuppa and my knitting, but Billypops was obviously getting bored, having read the newspaper and his book. As it had stopped raining I sent him on a rekky for somewhere to eat in the evening. I enjoyed the peace and quiet and knitted away quite happily.
The rain had stopped and off we trotted along the road to The Gate Inn at Fair Green, where I was served the tallest wedge of pie I have ever seen. It was delicious but my goodness it was like slicing through a wedge of a whole cheese. A pint of Humpty Dumpty Reedcutter beer (4.4%) helped it down. Then it was back to the van to make the bed.
Now there’s not a lot of room with two people in the van to swing a cat let alone attempt to put a duvet cover on a full size double duvet. You have to co-ordinate your movements, make sure all parts of the van with sharp corners are avoided and try not to end up with part of you embroiled in the duvet cover so that you have to start again.
Eventually we managed it and then it was out the van to the toilet block for ablutions before bed. With nerves a jingling, I was very pleasantly surprised. Warm and scrupulously clean, light and airey, the standard was close to a four star hotel, minus the towels and toiletries. I mean, I wouldn’t want to stay in there too long but the standard was such that the fear had gone.
Back in the van and comfortably snuggled in for the night, book lights on, it was actually cosy and snug and a comfortable night ensued.
Our little Rosie has central heating, so when we woke up a click of a switch and she warms up just nicely before we brave getting up on a cool September morning. Not fearing the shower block quite as much as previously I braved the outside air and showered before breakfast. Breakfast was cereal and a bacon sandwich. What is it about camping and having bacon sizzling in the pan? Yummy.
We didn’t use the awning on this first outing so it was easy to pack everything away (without removing duvet cover and getting embroiled in it again) unhooking ourselves from the hook up.
Off we drove to Sheringham to see the sea and when we got there we parked up and put the kettle on. This for me is the best thing so far with Rosie. The fact that you can park up, move into the back of the van and put the kettle on without even getting out the vehicle is great and quite liberating. I don’t know why, but you do feel like the cat who’s got the cream.
Having spent a lovely afternoon strolling the prom, with Rosie up top in the car park, we drove south to Trimingham to visits friends, Phil and Andrea. Here I discovered another highlight of the trip, Beetroot and Orange Chutney. Andrea runs a little business making homemade chutneys using local produce from her lovely little kitchen in their beautiful colonial house. Do try some. Such a clever couple, trying to be organic and environmentally friendly in Norfolk, living the ‘Good Life’ with chickens and ducks and guess what they have a hook-up for little vans that might want to come and stay. If only we had known we could have stayed another night. As it was we had to leave and off we travelled westwards home.
So First Outing complete what did we achieve?
1. We didn’t get wet. The self contained little Rosie means you don’t have to get out the vehicle to actually camp.
2. The cat got the cream. Parking up and putting the kettle on is liberating.
3. Shower blocks aren’t scarey.
4. Andrea’s Beetroot and orange chutney is yummy.
So Rosie, I think we might do this again.
So I thought I had better introduce you to the new woman in our lives, Rosie. Rosie is a Volkswagon T25 Reimo (I probably will be corrected!) and is a German conversion right-hand drive. That’s as much of the technical stuff I know.
She has a white and blue interior, LPG to run heating and the fridge and a rock and roll bed. Don’t think that’s got anything to do with rock n roll music it’s just the term for the back seat converting to a bed.
Rosie has enough room to sleep five, with the double rock and roll bed, a double on top with the roof which expands up and a small child hammock over the front seats. We also have an awning which fits on the side big enough to sleep four. But we will probably put tables and chairs out there once we are on our adventures.
The aim is that GJ and Billypop’s can share it with our big kids and grand kids. All in all she’s compact and neat and tidy. A little bit of TLC required here and there and she’s ready for the off!
So that’s what I hope the blogs will be now. Stories about us going off in Rosie. I wonder how we will get along?