Jul ’16 – All aboard! (Dublin – Ireland)

Unlike other holidays, a ‘road trip’ starts the moment you hear that familiar ‘clunk’ as you open the campervan door…

Unlike other holidays, a ‘road trip’ starts the moment you hear that familiar ‘clunk’ as you open your campervan door. Excitedly we climb aboard, I follow that familiar routine: Clutch in, one pump of the accelerator pedal, a twist of the key… Rita sparks into life… Here we go… Excited? MUCH!

Route to the ferry (courtesy of google)

The first leg of our journey sees us heading to the port of Holyhead, where we’ll meet our ferry over to Dublin. Google advises a 3 1/2 hour journey, travelling North West before crossing the border into Wales and then West along it’s Northern coast. I’ve allowed plenty of extra time, for both a leisurely drive and a little contingency in case of any incident. Rita behaves impeccably, so we arrive early, switch off the engine and wait at the docks.

Booking confirmation

I’ve never been on a ferry before, let alone booked a campervan onto one. Keep this in mind before you judge me!!!! I’m well aware Rita isn’t 6mtr in length or anywhere near 4mtr in height! I’m also aware I’ve probably paid well over the odds due to this massive overkill. But so what? I’m on a steep learning curve here, so issues as to vehicle size and is it or is it not a motorhome etc can wait for another trip and a more experienced me!

We travel with Stena Line. I’ve been a little worried about sea sickness but I needn’t have been as the crossing is calm. 

Beautiful weather brings calm seas…

Our time aboard (just over three hours) is spent both up on deck and in the ‘Stena lounge’ enjoying complimentary drinks and snacks.

Up on deck
Time for a snack…

Despite relaxing amongst Stena’s hospitality, by the time we reach the docks in Dublin, I’m itching to get Rita back on the road…

Unexpected tolls…

First night we’re booked in at Camac Valley Caravan and Camping Park in Corkagh Demesne, Clondalkin. With the clock already reading well past 5 o’clock, we decide to head straight to site. Almost immediately we reach the Dublin Tunnel. A two-lane dual carriageway connecting the port (east of central Dublin), and the M50 Motorway, close to Dublin Airport. The tunnels are 4.5 km in length and save us a battle through the city centre traffic. There is a toll to be paid (not cheap), so just 10 minutes after arriving in Ireland, I’m shelling out an unexpected 10 Euro! Following the Sat Nav, the journey toward Clondalkin takes us on yet another TOLL ROAD grrrrr, The M50. This time however there are no barriers or kiosks, no immediate payments to be made, just overhead signs and confusing information.

City traffic

I have to admit I’m getting agitated. How many TOLLS are there? Is this the norm in Ireland? How much will this eat into my budget? This is pretty stressful! I’ve no idea where I’m going and the roads are too busy to pull over and take stock of the situation. I have little choice but to follow the commands of our navigation system. So we plough on, TOLL roads or not, we drive straight on through…

From what I can see payments for the roads are made online, and should be settled by 8pm tomorrow? I’ve no idea what the charge for Rita will be? Will I even have access to the internet? Paying for the use of roads is unexpected. My inexperience glaringly obvious.

Despite modern technology ensuring getting lost is a thing of the past, we some how manage it. I realise I’m driving up and down the same stretch of road, up a slip road to the main road, down the next slip road, only for the process to start over! The site must be around here somewhere. I’ve spotted a sign for Corkagh Park, this rings a bell somewhere in the recesses of my mind. I follow my hunch and sure enough Camac Valley Caravan Park sits beside it.

Aerial view of Camac Valley Caravan and Camping Park

We pull into the rectangular car park in front of the main building and kill the engine. Relief. We’re here. Enjoying it? Hardly. I’m just relieved to climb out of my seat, and let some air get to my now sticky back. The reception is busy but the staff are friendly and efficient. I get us booked in, go through all the usual formalities and are then told I’m free to choose our own pitch. I head back through the glass doors to Rita and my girlfriend, Natalie. Our eyes meet and we smile. What a difference a few minutes can make. All the tension built up on the drive here is let go, gone. We’ve arrived, it’s time to enjoy it…

We’ve arrived

Rita fires up, we drive through the gates and pick a lovely pitch in a corner at the far end of the park. Pitches here are separate plots separated by well maintained hedges. They are level, with good sized hardstanding areas for your vehicle, surrounded by areas of mowed grass. I’m pleased with the size of our pitch, getting a corner spot, we have a little extra room.

Parked up: Dublin, Ireland

I love this picture, it’s the one I’ve used for the homepage of this blog. I have pictures of Rita in far prettier locations, it’s not about the landscape she’s sat in. The thing I love, is despite all the doubts and worries, it’s taken in Dublin. I’m proud of her. We’re a long way from home, our 35 year old van has got us here. 

We’ve arrived at tonight’s destination to glorious sunshine. We have a great pitch and with the hedgerows it feels relatively secluded. I can hear some road noise, which doesn’t bother me to be honest, after all we’re not far from the city, but worth noting if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing. We take a short walk around the caravan park to get our bearings and to discover what amenities the large building at its centre has to offer. There is a kitchen/common room at the one end of the block. Beyond that, showers run up one flank, toilets the other. These are adequately clean and plentiful. A large grass area runs up the middle of the segregated pitches, from where we’re stood up to the main gates. This houses a little tent village that has sprung up at it’s far end, with what looks like a school excursion and a children’s play park closer to this end. I remember back at the reception block there was a TV room, but I can’t confirm size or condition, we haven’t travelled all this way to watch the television. 

Amenities block

Back at Rita, we get out the chairs and table. It’s been a really long day so we’re both shattered. We’ll be back in Dublin at the end of our trip, so plan to explore then. Tonight, we’re content to chill and chat in the evening sunshine. I get the BBQ going and pour us some cider. It’s not long before we enjoy a couple of burgers and retire to our bed. 

Our adventure has begun.

Jun ’16 – Preparation complete

Final checklist…

So here we are just a couple of weeks from our first major road trip. Rita is running beautifully, final checks are done and all systems are go!

I’ve tried to be as organised as possible. I’m certain I’ve over thought every scenario but with our first significant road trip now almost upon us the nerves are tingling. Although we don’t drink directly from Rita’s water tank (I’ve never considered it clean enough) I’m giving it a clean using PURICLEAN. This should be ok to rinse plates or brush our teeth.

One final purchase, something I’ve wanted for a while but never actually got around to buying: levelling chocks. I’m sure these will come in handy. Rita is permanently stocked with our necessary ‘quick getaway’ items. So things like sleeping bags, towels, cooking equipment and cutlery etc are already packed. I’ve made a check list for everything else.

Check List:

  • Rita Serviced & cleaned (Must look her best!)
  • Cooker, fridge and water supply checked and working correctly
  • Gas bottle full
  • BBQ, coal and firelighters etc packed
  • Pillows and Overnight bags (Toiletries) packed
  • Waterproofs & Walking boots
  • Suitcase of clothes in High top and a few ‘dressier‘ items hung in the wardrobe 
  • Mechanical spares

I’ve included ‘mechanical spares’ on the list. Obviously I’m no mechanic, so in the event of breakdown I’ll be totally reliant on the skills of trained professionals from various recovery companies. However, if I can give them a helping hand to get Rita moving again ASAP I will. With this in mind I’m carrying the following on board with us:

  • Sticky Tape – electrical and Duck!
  • Jubilee clips
  • Zip ties
  • WD40
  • Fan belt
  • Clutch cable
  • Throttle cable
  • Glue
  • Oil

Dare I say it? I think we’re ready…

May ’16 – Dubs in the Middle

A small, local Volkswagen show. The weather is beautiful…

AIMG_1193 small, local Volkswagen show.

Dubs In the Middle, Ashdown Farm, Badsey Road, Evesham, WR11 7EN. T:07795 522770




The weather is beautiful. Unfortunately, that’s the best I can say about the whole show really. I don’t want to sound harsh but it isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. 

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Luckily, we’ve only turned up as day visitors. There really isn’t a lot on display here. The highlight of the ‘Show’ (for the kids at least) was getting to go on the ‘Mini campers’. I’ve seen these at various shows and would love one myself! Could do with getting some T25 versions out there though. After a look around the very limited amount of trade stalls, we head back to Rita. I’ve parked her at the top of the adjoining field, where there is plenty of space to enjoy the picnic we’ve brought along with us. We have a kick about with a football in the field and enjoy ourselves regardless. Just proves all you really need is a little sunshine, your camper and an excuse to go out.

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In fairness to the organisers I’ve been told there was another show put on in Malvern which clashed with the date. This would explain the low turnout and is probably why I had thought it a better quality show in previous years.

Poor show, great day.


May ’16 – Start her up

I’m met by him waving his arms in the air, shouting ‘Switch it off! Switch it off!’ Not the sort of thing you’d like to hear your mechanic shouting at you, and definitely not a good sign.

On the road again…

With my physical recovery taking longer than I had anticipated (much more like the doctors advice than my own optimistic assessment), Rita has been sitting idle for a while. I now have some work to do before she’s ready for our upcoming adventure!

First things first, Rita needs to be ‘road ready’. Without any further delay I book her in with Steve at VW Retro Restorations for a full service. For the first time since February, I climb into Rita’s driving seat, insert the key and attempt to turn her over…

All I get is a lacklustre attempt. No doubt, we have a flat battery and as a result, a false start. This isn’t an issue, I’ve been expecting it. As a pre-emptive measure, I’ve previously requested my neighbours assistance in case this situation arose. He owns a decent sized battery booster that should provide enough power to turn the engine over. 

‘Switch it off! Switch it off!’

Sure enough, with the booster on, she starts up. I’m not pleased with what I hear at all. It sounds as though two pieces of metal are being repeatedly tapped together, the noise gets louder and louder. Initially I put this down to oil having settled, presuming once run for a while it’ll work its way around the engine and she’ll settle down. Ten minutes later, we’re no better off. I’m left with a difficult decision, drive her the few miles to the garage or have her towed? 

Brave or stupid (I’m not sure which), we set off. She’s making more noise down in the low gears. I try my uppermost to keep her limping along, up in 3rd gear. After probably the slowest and most stressful drive of my life, (to my surprise) we make it. As I pull into Steve’s yard, he must think a WWII Spitfire is approaching. I’m met by him waving his arms in the air, shouting ‘Switch it off! Switch it off!’ Not the sort of thing you’d like to hear your mechanic shouting at you, and definitely not a good sign. Stupidity or not, Rita’s now at the workshop. I head for home, my mind racing. What on earth is wrong? Will she be fixed in time for Ireland? How much will it all cost? 


VW Retro Restorations, Goodwindi Farm, Berrow Green, Martley, WR6 6PL

T: 01886 822169          M: 07557 771422


With Rita and I apart, I decide to have a go at more of the curtains. I’ve always wanted to do something a little different with the window in the high top. Being up above all the others, I think it’s separated enough from the rest, to use another type of fabric. I quite fancy making it into a map, adding a ‘travel & adventure’ element to the interior design. I’d like them to look almost antique, reminiscent of an old treasure map when the curtains are drawn. Not only that, if I manage to get the colour just right, it should compliment the lighter headlining, much better than the fabric used around the rest of the van.

I manage to find a ‘map’ fabric. It’s pretty much what I’m after and the colours are perfect. I love the aged, yellowed look of it. As per my brief, I want to complete the world map by drawing the curtains. The difficulty in doing this is getting all the countries to line up correctly… Cue much head scratching, and more than a few failed attempts. This one little set of curtains have been stitched, only to be unpicked several times. With all the extra time this has taken, I’ve given up hope of finishing all the curtains before our road trip in July. I still have the two across the cab area, along with the one for the sliding door, yet to complete. So for our trip, I’ll just re-fit the originals.

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The photo shows the curtains complete. I’m finally pleased with the join. An antique brass popper holds the curtains in place whilst closed, ensuring everything lines up ‘just right’. I’m happy with the final result, although I’m glad I didn’t go with a design like this for the rest of the camper. Give me a simple line pattern any day! 

A few days pass before I hear from the garage. It’s positive news. Steve has replaced the engine mounts as it was shaking itself to death! He then ran tappet cleaner through the engine and changed the oil. Surprisingly, this seems to have fixed the issue, Rita is no longer making that dreadful noise. Our starting problems are blamed on old or poor wiring causing resistance to the electrical current. Steve has fitted a larger diesel battery, hoping this will get more power through to the starter motor. Now I have Rita back I fit the new curtains. I’m semi pleased, although in all honesty, I could do with trimming them down a little. With all the work I put into them though, I decide this is one for the future. They’ll do just fine for now. Still, overall I’m happy with the experiment, having the two different type of curtain doesn’t look odd at all, it works rather well.

 So Rita and I are as prepared as we’re going to be. Rita may still be a work in progress, but I guess like most vans her age, she always will be…

May ’16 – Curtains

The material samples have arrived. The curtain fabric is much thicker and heavier than I was expecting with an almost velvet texture to it. I’m really impressed, it’s better than the pictures on the internet had suggested. I’d originally gone for the fabric concerned only with the pattern and colour, knowing I would be giving it a good quality lining anyway.

Fabric Samples
The base colour is beige, with thick wavy lines of similar tones running vertically down it. The one standout blue wave, picks out the little blue squares in the upholstery perfectly. The darkest wave, by sheer coincidence, is an excellent match to the original curtain material. Although not pre-planned, I’m really chuffed this has happened, a great reminder of what has gone before it. The lining I’ve decided on is a thermal material, and total blackout. I’ve gone for cream to match the exterior of the van, perfect from outside when the curtains are closed. To compliment the lining, I’ll use cream header tape top and bottom, an inch wide ought to be enough for the small curtain hooks. 

I’m going to purchase the hooks and tracks from a company called HOME ON WHEELS, found on ebay. They do all manner of motorhome and truck accessories, definitely worth a look. I’m pleased as punch with all these selections, so really eager to get it all ordered. Rather than attempt to climb around the van with a tape measure, I simply unhook the existing curtains and use these as templates for my material quantities. I purchase some poppers (to hold curtains together once drawn), weights for the bottoms of the curtains across the cab area (this will ensure they hang straight) and some magnets I’ll sew into the curtain across the sliding door (no tracks on sliding door).

A week passes before I’ve got everything together, fingers crossed I’ve got all bases covered.

Material delivery



Once every package has arrived I finally get out the tape and reacquaint myself with my sewing machine… I’ve been itching to get started!

Final measure

Trusty sewing machine
Having never attempted making curtains before I’m in for the usual steep learning curve. The moment my material arrives and I start working out window sizes I realise using the old curtains as templates was a useless exercise. My new material has a pattern which requires matching up with each and every curtain I make. I’d say this leads to at least 40% wastage. On top of this the originals weren’t cut particularly well. Certainly not to the exact finish I want. I put in another duplicate order so have doubled my total material, I may yet require even more!

A good friend of mine is happy to install the tracks for me, I’m very grateful as at this point in my recovery I still can’t use a drill. Tracks in place, I can finally get sewing…

Due to my current physical condition, I only manage to sit at the sewing machine for short periods. This results in slow progress, but it’s a relief to be doing something useful again. The first curtain takes me a whopping 2 days to complete! 

First curtain in situ
I pop it in place to check I have my measurements correct. I not only ensure it fits the window snugly, but need the hooks to be in line with the freshly installed tracks. Happy with the results (I think it looks fab), I set about the second curtain. This poses more problems than the first. An overlap is required so that I can clip one to the other with the poppers. This along with the hem means the pattern requires careful consideration. 

Eventually, with a little trial and error, I achieve what I’m after and the pattern continues seamlessly. Once in the van, I think they look amazing, I’m really, really pleased.

Both sides of the van complete….

The curtains on the tailgate were done a little different. This is because the bottom of the curtains are wider than the top. 

View from outside the van, happy with the plain cream lining….

Curtains drawn
I still have to make the curtains for both the sliding door and across the cab area. However, I’m really sore and deep down I know I’ve been overdoing things (I’m still in recovery from my operation). The clever thing would be to leave these for a later date and rest up some more. I can safely say though, I’m happy with how it’s all going so far.


Apr ’16 – Road to Recovery

I’m stuck at home. Rehabilitation to date, is at 6 weeks. During the day, I only have the internet for company. What is a man to do…?

The answer? Source VW parts, obviously…

With hour upon hour of spare time on my hands, it isn’t long before I begin searching for camper van parts and accessories. I’m sure every owner does the exact same as me, dreaming of the next upgrade. I’ve considered changing wheels.


This would restore some of Rita’s original looks, going from alloys back to steels. But not only will I need to purchase the rims, I’ll require smaller tyres and obviously hubcaps too. This becomes an expensive change, one I also fear is just change for change’s sake. Would I want alloys if she was currently sat on steels? Probably. Besides I’m pleased with her exterior look. 

If I’m going to spend money, I need to see improvement. What problems do I currently ‘make do’ with? Rita’s curtains are well past their best, they’re one block colour (dark brown), and pretty threadbare, definitely not aesthetically pleasing at all.IMG_1012 Currently, they’re running on elasticated wires, originally designed for netting around the home. This seems like a quick fix installed by a previous owner, and definitely lends itself to an upgrade. The morning sunshine penetrates through them easily so I’d also like something to block out any light as required. I’m pretty sure that they provide no thermal properties either, again, with modern technology, I’m sure improvement can be made. With the re-upholstery of the seats and beds such a success, I decide new curtains is definitely the way to go. 

I have plenty of time to pick and choose. Weirdly, the decision with the curtains seems even more difficult than that of the upholstery. Maybe I had a clearer idea of what I wanted, maybe it’s because I now have something to match up to? Maybe I just have too much time, search too many options and so I keep changing my mind?

I’ll definitely be installing tracks top and bottom. These hold runners for the curtain hooks. This should keep the curtains tight as possible to the windows, ensuring both privacy and smooth functionality. To aid with any light ingress and heat loss, I’m going to use thermal blackout fabric as a lining.

I still can’t be climbing around the van with a tape measure, so for now, I just order a few samples. This is probably a positive, meaning I won’t rush into a decision.

Feb ’16 – Hibernation

Hopes & dreams…

I’ve never been so ill…

The operation has hit me far harder than I was expecting. I’m pretty much confined to my chair during the day (apart from the odd journey to the downstairs toilet). As I’m so used to being constantly ‘on the go‘ it’s come as a massive shock. I feel pretty low, well, very, very low if I’m honest. I genuinely had no idea.

I’d like to make it a birthday she’ll remember forever…

Owning a campervan is all about hopes and dreams. Rita may be in hibernation, but she’s far from redundant. What she offers me now is hope and potential. I may not be able to move much, but I’ve got access to the internet. I want something to focus my mind whilst I’m rehabilitating and something to enjoy once I’m better. I’ve decided to plan a road trip, our first ‘proper‘ adventure!

My girlfriend’s birthday is in mid summer. It’s one of the so called ‘Landmark Birthdays’ so I’d like to make it one she’ll remember forever. What better way to mark such an occasion, than heading off together into the sunset? With this in mind, the destination of our first significant road trip is already decided. Since we’ve met, I know she has wanted to visit Ireland. IMG_0977

So location and time of year set then. But how long do we go away for? How much travelling can you condense into a relatively short period of time? I start at all the usual places: Trip Advisor, Irish tourism websites, price comparison searches, plus anything else I come across on google. Once all is printed off, I have plenty of reading material…

I want to organise a rough itinerary. I know I’m not quite embracing the whole ‘wandering nomad‘ thing, but being a novice with limited travelling experience, I prefer the safety of knowing we’ll have somewhere to stay each night. My mind is awash with ideas, the planning of this trip definitely giving me something positive to focus on.


In times of hardship, we need our ‘hopes & dreams’.

Rita provides these in abundance…

Jan ’16 – MOT Time

New Years Resolutions?

New Years Resolutions. How quickly do you break yours? My resolution (the only one I truly intend to stick to anyway) is to get more use out of the van. Like everyone else though, this is destined to be broken early on. I receive the news I’ve been dreading for some time: next month I require substantial surgery. Not only is Rita heading into the garage (MOT is pending), but I am too! As I’m the only one who takes her out, this news means parking up for at least 2 months. Since we’ve been together, as a bare minimum, Rita has enjoyed a once weekly commute to work. Putting her into hibernation is the opposite of 2016’s plan.

Sometimes circumstances dictate, I’ll just have to make the best of a bad situation. We go out on a few short trips together, then I decide to book her in for the dreaded MOT before I’m out of action.

Iphone 6 1153

 I have every confidence in Rita’s ability to pass, after all, it doesn’t seem all that long since she was checked over in the workshop. I’ve chosen a local test centre just up the road from ‘Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce’ factory. A colleague of mine used them recently and he was complimentary. They’ve quoted me £30 for the test, so I book her in. She drives lovely on the short journey there, even starting at the first time of asking, surely a good omen!


CTS Auto Centre, Unit C, The Railway Yard, Midland Road, Worcester, WR5 1DS 

Hmm, we have a fail. Rear wheel bearings, both sides. The plus side is that there are no other advisories at all, just the bearings require replacement. Rita had given no indication of a problem, no noises, no rumblings, nothing at all. I’ve no choice but to trust the professionals, if I get them to carry out the work I’ll be able to pick her up tomorrow. I want that certificate, so reluctantly, I agree.

Once Rita’s done, we have a clear ticket for another year. Time to park her up for our enforced break. Sleep well Rita…

Dec ’15 – Weston (Thu)

‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…’

New Years Eve. We wake to clear skies and glorious sunshine. Rita still has four tyres sitting on solid ground, she’s still standing upright and she’s all in one piece. What a night that was! On several occasions, I felt as though the storm had threatened to tip us over. In the last 35 years I’m sure Rita has survived many storms, and seen it all before, but it’ll definitely go down as a first storm in a camper for me!

Iphone 6 1046

Just before bed we donned our wellies and braved the conditions to the toilet block. This is as close to a ‘wild camp’ as we have experienced so far. The Sunshine festival didn’t have electric hookup, granted, but at least there were portable toilets available. You’ll get some idea of the state of the site’s toilet block when I say, facilities at the festival were far superior! I know we’re out of season, but still, I’d rather have used the hedgerow as a toilet. The only thing in the block that is fit for purpose are the lights, as these actually work, although in hindsight I’d be better off not knowing what the place looks like inside. The toilet basins themselves had no seats to sit down on. They’re really, disgustingly dirty. Out of season, I’d expect this block not to be spotless. However, I’d have thought it would have been cleaned following the departure of the last guests in the summer! The sinks were alive with hundreds of flies, webs full of spiders and various other insects roamed the ledges, walls and mirrors. I suppose it really doesn’t matter that no toilet tissue or soap were provided, when facilities are in this state anyway? Luckily we had our own, so in desperation used the toilet last night. Never again. The moment we’re awake this morning, I pull on my damp clothes, unhook the van and we head off into town…

Parking: A frustrating issue in any Motorhome or Campervan…

Weston is only a short drive up the coast, the damage the storm has caused is evident throughout our journey. Part of an old pier appears to have collapsed into the sea, while several trees have succumbed to the brutal winds. The roads though, are pretty clear and soon we’re driving along the main coastal road toward the recently revamped Grand Pier. The road hugs the sea wall all the way along the seafront. On our right hand side, we have an unobscured view out to sea. To the left, are rows of tall buildings with impressive facades, remnants of a more prosperous time for the resort. Now they house hotels, B&B’s and pubs. A proper, quaint, British seaside destination, I love it.

Parking: A frustrating issue in any motorhome or campervan. This isn’t because of the size of our vehicles, after all Rita isn’t any larger than your average 4×4. The problem is due to most council’s reluctance to allow us to park. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve managed to spot a potential parking space, only to find that Rita won’t fit beneath a barrier, or, even more frustratingly, is just prohibited from parking there. We manage to find a good spot at MELROSE CAR PARK on Knightstone Road. It’s a large ‘Pay and Display’ site, without any height restrictions and has designated Motorhome parking bays to the rear. It’s a good find, right on the seafront, situated beside The Old Colonial pub. Look for a stone arch on the sea wall opposite. 

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We all take a walk up the seafront. I’d like to check out the new Grand Pier, unfortunately though, I find the dog isn’t allowed onto it, so we have to give that a miss. We have a good long walk, following the Marine Parade and then along the Seafront Promenade. We pop in all the usual little sweet shops and purchase some traditional rock (pink stick shaped Candy with ‘Weston’ running through the centre) to take home with us. Being at the seaside the pubs all have outdoor seating, so it’s no problem sitting down for a quick half with the dog. Obviously it’s really cold at this time of year, as soon as we stop I feel it, so quickly drink up and get to walking again! We get some traditional fish and chips from a fish bar called ‘Winstons’, my choice based purely on the fact it shares it’s name with the dog! I’m glad to have something warm to eat, especially as walking has worked up quite an appetite. The fish and chips are lovely, a proper seaside treat. I spot a seller serving freshly cooked doughnuts from a little hatch down a side street, I love these so can’t resist a bag of five for our dessert, that’s two each with one for Winston! 

Come ‘rain or shine’, Bulldogs don’t run…

Here comes the rain…

I’ve been eyeing the large dark clouds rolling in off the sea since we arrived. We’ve been lucky, quite how we’ve managed to stay dry most of the day is a mystery. Now though it is raining, and it’s raining heavy. For a while we manage to shelter under the main bus stop at the promenade, but with no improvement evident and the sky becoming increasingly dark, we decide to make a dash for the van. Come ‘rain or shine’, Bulldogs don’t run. I can’t run because Winston’s having none of it, so we stroll back to the van. Had running been an option, I’m sure we’d be drenched anyway, walking we certainly are. Back at the van, we draw the curtains, my girlfriend gets herself dry and puts on fresh dry clothes. I towel dry the dog, put a bin bag over the seat to protect it from getting wet, and we set off for home. Not only have I got to drive for a couple of hours in wet clothes, but my girlfriend sits beside me, grinning like a Cheshire cat! 

Despite the awful weather and lack of facilities, we’ve both had a great time. It may have only been a single night, and only a couple of hours from home, but we feel like we’ve ‘been away’. For no more that £80 we’ve been on an adventure and memories have been made…

Dec ’15 – Weston (Wed)

Weston ‘STORMY’ Mare!

One of the benefits of my place of employment is that I get the whole Christmas period off. I’ve decided upon a ‘mini break’ between Christmas and New Year, somewhere along the coast. The nearest place that comes to mind is Western Super Mare, only a couple of hours drive south down the M5. Neither my girlfriend or I have been there for years, so we both agree, we’d like to go. The two of us plan to be away for just the one night, spend the day together at the sea side, before heading back to celebrate the new year with the rest of our family. After a quick search on I find a small site just 300yds from the beach. It’s well out of season but after a quick phone call to the owner, we have somewhere to stay for the night.

I pack light (one of the benefits of an impromptu one nighter), taking with me just a spare change of underwear, a coat, my phone, wallet and the dog. It may seem a cliche, but I can assure you this is true: my girlfriend has packed a suitcase! I outwardly smile, though through gritted teeth, complain “you’ll never need any of this…”. Yet I still do exactly as I’m told and load the case in the high top! 

All packed and carrying enough of my girlfriends clothing for a three week holiday, we set off on our journey. The big plus to travelling in the middle of this festive period is roads with little traffic. I’m glad of this, not only have the heavens opened reducing our visibility, but the wind has picked up, pushing Rita from left to right, causing me to fight with the wheel to maintain any sort of lane discipline. It’s a relief to head off the motorway in the end, the wind a little less potent once we’re no longer so exposed. Using the SAT NAV tIphone 6 1042o guide us the rest of the way, takes us down tiny little coastal roads. These become increasingly tight and so steep in places I become convinced we’re going to end up falling off a cliff into the sea! There’s no chance of us turning around, so I have to put my trust in both our modern electronic device and Rita’s not so modern brakes! In the end Rita’s brakes hold out, the SAT NAV proves it does know where it’s going and we arrive safely at a tiny little track opposite the beach: Sand Farm Lane.

The deluge has reduced the lane to a mud track, reminiscent of an ‘off road’ course. Huge pools of muddy water, of unknown depth, lie between us and the farm gate. Cautiously I drive through them, a little concerned we’ll end up getting stuck! With the gate barring our entrance and no solid ground to stand on, I telephone the owner, who comes out to greet us wearing wellingtons and clad head to toe in waterproofs. I wind down a window and after a brief (and wet) conversation, I pay her the £15 to stay. She seems a little surprised we’ve actually turned up in such conditions! Once inside the farm there is a tarmac track leading out to the fields. Being the only guests, we’re advised to use this little bit of solid ground, rather than brave any of the waterlogged pitches. Understandably keen to get back inside, she points out the toilet block and electric hookup station and then leaves us to it.

Sand Farm Caravan & Camping Site, Sand Farm Lane, Sand Bay, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, BS22 9UF

Tel: 01934 620 995

We climb over the dogs cage and into the back. He wants to get out, becoming restless as soon as the vehicle became stationary. Having thought ahead though, I brought a raw bone with us so pop it inside his cage, that’s one of us happy for the next few hours! I open the roof vent and turn on the fan, hoping this will be enough ventilation to heat the kettle on the stove. Normally I’d open the window, but in these conditions, that’s impossible. We snuggle up on the bench seat with our mugs of tea, and partake in a very ‘English’ custom: discussing the weather!


As soon as there’s a lull in the storm, I grab the opportunity to jump out and get hooked up to the electrics. Once outside, conditions seem to have eased considerably. The site itself appears to be pretty basic, quite literally a farmers field. To the left hand side of us, a large Farmhouse dominates the site. To the right, sits a barn along with some stables. All around this cluster of buildings I can see fields, presumably belonging to this farm. Obviously we’ve turned up well out of season so the grass has been left to grow, how much of the land is designated for camping I can’t tell. The field we’re parked next to probably has room for about 10-12 pitches at a guess. Obviously there are electric hookup points around the field perimeter and a brick built block I’ve been told houses the toilet etc. Unfortunately, this is the other side of the waterlogged field, getting over there when the need arises will be interesting! A static caravan resides on site too. I have no idea whether this is rental accommodation or not, although if I’m brutally honest, certainly at first glance, doesn’t appear to be in a adequate condition for that purpose. I can’t see anything in the way of ‘extra’ facilities, so I think it unlikely that this site would appeal to families. However, I must make it clear, I am here totally out of season, I’m aware this may not be the case all year round.

With a break in the stormy conditions, we decide to chance it, so pop on the dogs lead and introduce him to the beach. 

We take a good long walk down the coast before the inevitable happens and the rain returns. We continue on regardless hoping for a pub where we can find shelter and perhaps even have a warm meal. Unfortunately we have no such luck and quickly resemble drowned rats. Our coats offer very little resistance to the deluge, so we’re literally soaked through too our skin. We do spot a Chinese takeout, just off the main coastal road. At present it’s closed, but we punch it’s telephone number into our phones for later and head back to the site.

Back at the van we strip off our wet clothes and get ourselves dry. Then it’s the dogs turn, using up both of our towels on his own, and he’s still damp! By now you’ve guessed it? Where as my girlfriend has a suitcase of dry clothes to choose from, I sit wrapped in a sleeping bag with nothing to change into! So I’m forced to eat humble pie and admit that in hindsight she was right and I was wrong.  IMG_0795

I get the small electric fan heater out the box for the first time and switch it on. We immediately feel the benefit as it pumps out an amazing amount of heat for it’s small size. This turns out to be an excellent buy, costing just £10 from Tesco. I think the wattage may be too high for some campsites, so perhaps I’ll need to be careful where I use it. Right now though, the van becomes toasty and warm within a few minutes. We’re now snuggled up together, warm and dry. Outside conditions continue to deteriorate. Rita, battered by the intensity of the wind, rocks from side to side, making us feel more like we’re on a boat at sea, than in a camper on land.

Iphone 6 1045

Using the number we obtained earlier, we order a Chinese takeaway and ask for it to be delivered to the farm. After 35 minutes we get a call to say they’re waiting outside the gate, my girlfriend braves the storm once more and I plate up. The food’s delicious. The restaurant is called TASTE, and tasty it is! I can’t find a link on the internet, but if you’re ever at Sand Bay and you feel peckish, here’s the number: 01934 424787 

Our bellies full, we spend the rest of the evening playing cards and sharing a little drink. It’s nice to spend some quality ‘alone’ time together, there’s no tv, no chores to worry about, no distractions at all. Just the two of us (along with the dog & Rita), camping in the middle of what turns out to be: Storm EVA.