The Camper Van Coast

You may or may not be aware of a lovely chap called Martin Dorey. He enjoys cooking in his camper and had a BBC Two series called One Man and His Campervan which was a lovely whimsical tour of the UK, with cooking and sightseeing and general loveliness.

He can often be seen at VW shows, as thanks to the aforementioned TV series, he is a bit of a celeb in the camper world and generally an air-cooled ambassador. He has written a couple of cookbooks, including The Campervan Cookbook and The Campervan Coast.

It was only upon reading his blog today that I found out that when his eldest daughter, Maggie, was just past her first birthday, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, which Martin writes very candidly about here. He explains, in detail, how CLIC Sargeant supported his family through Maggie’s treatment and recovery, and how the experience also prompted him and Joanne to buy a T25, the promise of which gave them hope during the gruelling days of treatment.

Martin presented the Show and Shine awards at Devon Dub Fest this weekend, a festival that fund raises superb amounts for CLIC Sargeant every year through ticket sales and Show and Shine entries.

Martin, understandably, wants to give support back to CLIC Sargeant, for all the help that they give to his and countless other families facing one of the hardest ordeals anyone could ever have to go through. For this reason, he will be donating £5 from every sale of The Campervan Coast through his website this August to CLIC Sargeant, and as a bonus, your copy can be personalised too.

I’ve ordered my copy, as I found One Man and His Campervan a very enjoyable romp around the British Isles, and picked up some good recipes to enjoy in Ruby (chorizo frittata is a Rooobarb and Custard favourite) and I’m sure that we will find more to enjoy in this book. 

Go and buy your copy now, and enjoy the warm feeling in your belly that comes from doing a little bit of good in the world (or that could just be the frittata.)

Dubs at the Castle July 2013

On Friday 19th July, Custard graduated from Edge Hill University with a Postgraduate Certificate in Specialist Primary Mathematics. Smarty pants. I also decided that I would like to travel to my graduation in Ruby, and then go to a VW show afterwards.

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We had a choice of two – CumbriaVAG or Dubs at the Castle. I chose DATC, because it was in Wales, and we were starting from near Liverpool, so I figured it wasn’t so far. Please note that my qualification was in Maths, not Geography. When we were 25 miles from Bristol, I realised how far south South Wales actually is.

Coupled with a two hour standstill on the motorway near Stoke, discovering that the heater is jammed open and pumping scorching hot air into the cab now that Rooobarb has replaced a missing piece of heater pipe in a bid to keep the starter motor cooler – oh yeah, the starter is still overheating, meaning that we daren’t turn the engine off whilst sitting still on the M6, as we know it won’t start again. Air-cooled engines don’t like not moving – the air-cooling bit doesn’t work so well.

By the time we stopped at Michael Wood Services 5 hours later, we could actually wring our clothes out, but decided a nice iced coffee from Starbucks would keep us awake enough for the remainder of the journey, and cool us down. The news that the ice machine was broken was actually met with an audible whimper from me (dairy intolerant, can’t drink the canned coffee from the fridge) and it was two very dejected campers who trudged back to the van to continue on our journey.

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The view from the Severn Bridge was pretty epic at sunset, but that did then mean we were trying to find Caldicot Castle in the dark. And the Sat Nav took us to the middle of a housing estate. And then I couldn’t get mobile phone signal to try and look for better directions. Rooobarb threatened to turn round and drive home at this point. We found the castle at around 10pm – I’d had a frantic Facebook conversation with the organisers the night before about what time we could turn up until, and they kindly said they’d keep the gate open until 11pm if needs be.

We were waved onto site, and told to follow the other vans, and that there would be marshalls around to point us in the right direction. Yeah, there weren’t. And in the dark, it was really hard to find a pitch that the van could actually fit into. And driving a lowered van around wobbly rough fields is no fun. I was now using my special “talking to children who have got very upset and are about to completely lose the plot” voice, perfected during many years of teaching, to placate Rooobarb. We stuck the van next to someone else’s pitch and hoped for the best, gave up on any notion of putting the awning up, stuffed all our crap in the front of the van and went to bed.

We woke up in the morning to this view:

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And were mightily relieved to find that we hadn’t actually parked in a dog toilet the night before.

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Although we did have to roll the van forward 6 feet to avoid a giant hole in the ground right next to the cargo doors.

Before our neighbours woke up, we had got the awning up and cooked breakfast. Marvellous. Things were looking a lot rosier after a good night’s sleep and a cooked brekkie!

We went off for a wander around the show – and were very pleased to find that despite driving for 73 gajillion miles* after getting on site, we were actually reasonably close to the main arena, having gone around in a bit of a circle.

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Splitscreen icecream – utterly delicious!

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Camper Coffee Co. – Rooobarb declared this the best coffee he’d ever tasted.

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Early Bay display.

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Autojumble.

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Tempting!

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And if there weren’t enough things to look at in the show and trade fields, there was the superb setting of the castle to explore.

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The Saturday night entertainment was superb, with great bands, and ample refreshment provided by the Welsh Cider Wagon.

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Sunday morning brought the Show and Shine:

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And then we had a quiet and sunny journey back, with a brief stop near home for coffee and fuel, involving a “jack it and whack it” starter motor related pit stop, and we met some people with a Bay, who were similarly chuffed to get their van restarted after filling up!

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It was a great weekend, and a good show, although a show guide given out at the gate would have meant we would have had a better idea of what was going on. Also, it was a very long way away, but that can only be blamed on my appalling geography! Definitely worth a visit if you are nearby.

Deva Dubs and Rods

We took a day trip to Shrewsbury in the car to look at some dubs. The weather was scorching, and it was a bit expensive for a day ticket given the traders who were there, in my opinion, but a good day was had nonetheless! Gutted that we missed out on Rocky Horror themed partying the night before though.

Lots of lovely Beetles to look at:

Yes, yes you are.

And some that really displayed their owner’s tastes:

The MK. 1 Golf Owners Club had some cars that were very much to Rooobarb’s taste:

As well as some more modern VWs:

And of course a collection of air-cooled vans:




And some special guests made a flying visit!

Yeah!

Shining Star

Unfortunately, because of the aforementioned starter motor issues, we didn’t get to shine Ruby up the way we’d hoped. However, when we got back from Stanford Hall on the Bank Holiday Monday, we had a few hours before she needed to be back in the garage, during which Rooobarb got handy with a range of Autoglym products and some muscle.

Rooobarb’s guide to making a shiny:

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First of all, jetwash the van to get all the dust and road dirt off.

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Whilst still at the jetwash, use hot shampoo and then rinse again with clean water.

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Then use Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner with some kind of microfibre wash pad to rub each panel down and remove any stubborn dirt.

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Then, using clean water and a clean pad, rinse the shampoo off.

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Once you’ve done that, use a Meguiars Microfibre Drying Towel to dry the van off.

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Then, the fun begins.

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Apply a coat of Autoglym Resin Polish, following the instructions on the back of the bottle carefully; start with small circles and finish with longer straight lines to prevent swirl marks. Leave to dry and then buff off with a microfibre cloth. Do this twice.

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Now, using Autoglym Extra Gloss Protection and a microfibre applicator pad, apply the sealant to each panel and allow to dry (which takes about 30 minutes, weather dependent). Buff off, using another clean cloth.

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Next – to the windows! Apply Autoglym Fast Glass with a microfibre cloth or kitchen towel, allow to dry for a few moments and take off with a clean cloth. Do this both inside and out. If you and your camper buddy do this at the same time, you can also amuse yourselves by pulling faces through the windows, and spot bits that the other person has missed. Don’t forget to do your mirrors too.

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There are many products out there that are designed for cleaning car interiors. Custard is a big fan of Pledge Wipes as you don’t have to wash a duster out afterwards, and they smell very nice. Ruby smells lovely inside whenever you get in her, thanks to Custard’s overzealous wiping of every flat surface.

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For upholstery, we both recommend Autoglym Interior Shampoo, applied with a nail brush, then wiped away with another microfibre cloth. Ruby’s vinyl came up a lovely bright cream after a bit of attention with a nailbrush, and the cloths came away filthy as it brought out years of camping grime.

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A neighbour came out and offered to treat our tyres, and discussed the best way to renovate Ruby’s tired alloys. Watch this space.

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Finally, climb in, go a for a cruise and enjoy all the admiring glances!

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(Warning, your shiny van may now attract people who want to kiss it, as it is so gorgeous.)

Retailers have apparently reported a marked increase in the amount of car detailing products sold over the past two years, with Halfords noting a 70% increase the amount of specialised cleaning products they sell. Some of this is put down to people keeping their cars for longer, so wanting to keep them looking good, as well as wider availability of specialist products online.

This clip from You and Yours, originally broadcast on Radio 4 on 20th May 2013, explores the world of car detailing and meets some of the people who love to keep their cars looking like they’re about to enter a Show and Shine.

How do you get your van looking shiny? Let us know in the comments!

All opinions are my own. I was not paid for any mentions of products. I just really like Autoglym, Meguiars and Pledge Wipes. Clean freak.

Stanford Hall 2013

We arrived at the Hall, parked up with the SSVC display and then went for a good look around:

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Starter motors – seen enough of them this weekend!

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We were blessed with sunshine, and after a wander, went back to the bus for a cheese and ham sandwich (so good!) and a pint of cider:

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We made a few purchases, including an awning to replace the ill-fated gazebo, a purple bay magnet for a friend, a new shiny VW badge keyring and an ammo box and stickers:

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Which has become the new storage container for our food in the van. This weekend was somewhat of an experiment – finding out what worked for us in terms of storage and what we needed to take with us. The first night was a real revelation for us – the van was absolutely packed with stuff and we had nowhere to put it. If we’d had an awning, I think things would have been much easier. Also, the awning would have hopefully been easier to put up, and more resilient than the gazebo. We also decided that modular storage would work better for us than random carrier bags full of food and clothes. Hence the suitcases, the cooler and the ammo box. It looks neater and it’s easier to pack things in the van with less gaps.

We were also foiled by the weather – I packed for cold – jumpers and DMs, and ended up in a vest top and flip flops – with sunburn. So I think next time I would pack for all eventualities, but not so much. Did I need three jumpers? Probably not. Did I need suncream? YES.

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Since Stanford, our awning has arrived, which will make storage and cooking much easier. The rain and wind on Friday night and Saturday morning meant that we didn’t cook – as we don’t want to cook inside the van and make it greasy and smelly. This meant that we were both very hungry and grumpy! Also, getting changed inside the van was possible, but did require some acts of contortion, and taking it in turns.

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New awning!

The awning seems massive – but hopefully when in a field rather than a school hall, perhaps not so much. Since Stanford, Ruby has also had her rightful start motor refitted, and new window seals from Custom and Commercial, which will with any luck mean that the rain stays outside where it belongs!

Alas, our campervantures over the next few weeks will be sadly limited – Rooobarb has just had his cruciate ligament reconstructed – so no driving or camping for him for a while. Hopefully though, the sunshine will manage to overcome the inclement weather (I got hailstoned on during the school summer term charity jog for goodness sake!) and this summer will be one of sunshine, good tunes, sunny evenings, cooking outdoors and, of course, cider.

Stanford Hall Convoy 2013

After a good night’s sleep, we were woken by SSVC display coordinator Rikki James and his loud hailer, calling out registration numbers and admonishing the occupants of the vans for not getting up!

We were soon up, dressed and ready to join in the convoy:

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Marvin

Marvin

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The convoy was simply amazing to be a part of. Here are two videos which, in my opinion, sum up the experience perfectly:

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The thrum in my chest when everyone around us started their engines – priceless.

Vintage Retro Kitsch

Another inspiration from my reading over at Junkaholique was the thought of using vintage suitcases in the camper for clothes and bits on the back shelf.

With this in mind, I got in touch with lovely Sarah from Vintage Retro Kitsch to see if she had anything suitable. We popped over on a Sunday afternoon to look at the wide array of cases she had stashed away, and came away with this one:

2013-02-03 07.46.10(Apologies for the frankly awful picture quality, but we came home to discover that after a power cut caused by the thawing of the snow, we had an electricity “brownout” (reduced voltage) for nearly a week, so the lighting wasn’t great in the evenings, and during daylight we were both working hard to pay for Ruby!)

2013-01-27 22.32.12It was very tempting to buy two, as this one is navy blue (believe it or not) and Sarah had another similar one in brown, but we wanted to check on how it would fit on the shelf first. Having put it in the van yesterday (and completely neglected to take a photograph. It was dark by that time anyway!) there is room for a second without stacking them, as this would call for fitting jail bars ASAP, but to be honest, I’m not sure if we need another. We have got a lot of cupboard space. But also a lot of camping stuff that I completely forgot to pack away yesterday.

What we need is a nice warm weekend where we can experiment with taking things in and out of cupboards and working out what belongs where. It needs to be warm, as I’m more inclined to look for proper storage solutions when I can feel my fingers and toes!

The next three weekends are fairly stacked up in terms of other commitments (if you can call going on your own hen do a commitment!) which means any van stuff we do will be, well, without the van! We have the old curtains here, having given them a good wash, but they have seen better days and I intend on replacing them with some made from lovely fabric from Fabric Rehab, Fabric Inspirations or Spoonflower, along with matching tablecloths and bolster cushion covers. I may need to enlist the help of Rooobarb’s mum though, and that would entail telling her that we’ve bought the van…

We also need to spend some money – a cover from Just Kampers is on the shopping list, as are some fairy lights (essential, obviously), a leisure battery charger, a spare set of keys need cutting, and at some point we’re going to need to replace the quarterlight window seals and handles. Which then makes us look at the door handles and the grab handle in the cab and wonder if they’d look better in chrome to match the handles on the quarterlights. Yeah, I can see how this gets expensive!

I was not paid to plug anything here. I’m just posting about things I like. All opinions are my own.

VW love in Northern Cyprus

Sorry the blog has been a bit quiet of late, Rooobarb and I are now officially Mr and Mrs Crumble (thanks to DubMinx from the SSVC for that excellent moniker!) and wedding stuff has got in the way of important stuff, like VWs.

Except, whilst in Northern Cyprus, getting hitched and having a honeymoon and stuff, we kept our eyes peeled for VWs. We saw quite a few Beetles being driven around (especially bright yellow ones, oddly enough!) and even found one for sale:

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We saw a couple of bay windows in need of some TLC (and parts) parked near to the main road to Ercan airport, but I thought I’d hit the jackpot as we were driving near Alsancak, and yelled the familiar refrain “SPLIT!”:

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Or maybe, just a bay that’s had a nose job…

Dub Freeze February 2013

Due to lots of other commitments, we’d said that we wouldn’t be going veedubbing during February. However, last Sunday, the sun was shining, Rooobarb was raring to go, Custard had only had about 4 hours sleep after her hen do, so it seemed like the perfect time to drive down to Stafford!

Dub Freeze happens twice a year, in February and November at Stafford Show Ground. There’s overnight camping on the Saturday night, and the main show is on Sunday. Inside the hall are traders, autojumble and the Show and Shine vehicles, and outside are lots of lovely vehicles, some for sale, and some just to have a really good look at and admire!

Volkswagen Beetle YYY 148M

Beetle

VW High top Split Screen Van.

High-top van. This made the most amazing noise.

VW Caddy F851 MJU

You can’t have a Volkswagen without swag.

Polly's Parlour ice cream van

Polly Stoker’s ice cream van, Florence, which won first place in the modified air-cooled category, and also ‘most unusual/inspiring’.

http://www.pollys-parlour.co.uk/

VW splitscreen camper van

I loved this van. Little details on it made me smile!

Beer can centre caps!

Lost your centre caps for your Empis? (We have.) No problem!

Light detailing.

Light detailing.

A daily driver.

A daily driver.

 

Betty Blue

Martin Aylett’s Betty Blue won first prize in the stock air-cooled category.

Betty Blue

As you can see, the van is still stock, with a lot of attention to period detail (such as her first tax disc) that set her apart as a cut above.

Betty Blue

Such a pretty van, and deserving of first place.

Green VW Scirocco KCH 114N

Marshall Foulds’ mint Mk.1 Scirocco came 1st in the stock water-cooled category..

Rat look VW bus

I am more and more drawn to the rat look. I’ve always loved rusty bits of metal and abandoned buildings, so cars with patina are, naturally, right up my street!

The Sick Bay camper VW Maltese Ambulance

This Maltese ambulance is, naturally, called The Sick Bay.

The Sick Bay

Gorgeous interior, tidy, light and airy, with character. Perfect.

BusFest Big VW picture

I’m a real fan of these pictures made at BusFest (formerly known as VanFest) and seeing as this year’s will fall on Rooobarb and I’s birthday weekend (6th -8th September – mine is the day before, his the day after!) and I’m 30 this year… we may well attend!

http://www.busfest.org/

Split screen campervan nail art

Susie, Membership Renewals Secretary of the Split Screen Van Club had gone above and beyond with her attention to detail (and I’m always a sucker for a bit of nail art!)

Pair of VW camper vans

I really enjoyed looking across to the camping field, where some vans were being moved, and it looked like a herd of VWs gambolling free in the early morning sunshine. You have to remember I’d not had a lot of sleep!

Karmann Ghia Convertible light blue

This Karmann Ghia was attracting a lot of admiring looks, and quite rightly so.

Type 2 Bay Window Volkswagen Camper XUX 214S

If the owners of this Bay don’t call her Peppermint Patty, they should do. She’s proper lovely!

KCK 124F Type 3 squareback Volkswagen

Type 3 Squareback. Rooobarb is lusting after a Fastback now – he’s well and truly been bitten by the VW bug!

963 XUC VW transporter split screen van rat look

Rat look with cyclops light. I like cyclops lights too – gotta have the right bus to suit though!

BDE 134B VW transporter split screen van

And finally, there’s a funny story to go with this one. Last week, Rooobarb gave me a lift to work, as I was going on a residential trip and didn’t want to leave my car outside school for two days. As we came off the motorway, this van was a couple of cars ahead of us, and Rooobarb pulled up alongside and we both grinned madly at the driver. He had an SSVC sticker in the back window, so I posted on their Split Screens Seen forum to say hello, but got no response.

As we’re about to go back into the hall after a late lunch, a bus drives past me, I smile at the driver automatically, and then realise it’s the same bus. I chased across the grass like a nutter to try to go and say hello, as he was sitting in traffic that was leaving the show, but I don’t get across in time, and assume he’s left for the day. Returning to where we’d parked an hour or so later, I see the bus parked up in the camping area and finally get a photo. Still didn’t get to meet the driver though! (I’ll be honest, would he want to meet a slightly deranged lady who runs after his bus at VW shows? Thought not…)

So, we had a great experience at our first VW show, and we’re looking forward to lots more. What shows will you be going to this year? Post in the comments and let us know, and if you see us at a show, come and say hello!