VW Festival Leeds 2013

As I took a weekend off from taking photographs at VW Festival, I’ve decided instead to blog our weekend in the style of Caitlin Moran’s Celebrity Watch.

Custard’s Top 10 of VW Festival:

photo grid image of Ruby the rhubarb and custard splitscreen camper at VW Festival 2013

10. (Down) The weather.

It rained. It winded. It made puddles in the awning, it poured down the cargo doors (and ergo, round the cargo doors thanks to crappy seals), it filled up shoes and soaked into jeans. It could not make its mind up what it was doing. The wind also ripped the gutter rail pole for the awning out of my hand on Sunday, meaning it now has a slight kink to it. However, necessity is the mother of invention, so I now know that it is possible to peg the doors of the awning up to stop the rain pouring in, although I wish I hadn’t found that out during a torrential downpour. Also, I got to sit in the van (in my shorts, as I had only taken one pair of long trousers with me; my (sodden) jeans) with a pint and read my book for a couple of hours. Bliss.

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Rainy view from the back window of a split screen camper van

9. (Down) Festival toilets.

These are never, ever good, to be honest. As I was heading to the loo on Sunday morning, a camper remarked to her friend “Oh, I really feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t been to the loo yet today!” So I asked if they were that bad. I’ve seen worse, but if the loos had been serviced during the weekend, this might have improved matter slightly. Still, you do know what you’re getting with a festival loo, and at least the proper loos at Harewood House itself were open.

8. (Down) Running out of cash.

Our own fault for not bringing enough with us. Meant that we couldn’t buy coffee on Sunday. Argh! A lot of the traders accepted card payments though, so we didn’t miss out on buying big stuff. Just coffee 😉

7. (Up) A varied collection of stalls, autojumble and displays.

Got to buy some great things, including this lovely necklace from Louis Edwards jewellery:

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There was a good range of clothes, VW stuff, food, toys, cleaning gear and autojumble. The displays on both days were amazing – as well as club stands, there was a red, white, blue and black vehicle display on Saturday and a beautiful show and shine on Sunday, with a high standard of vehicle in both.

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6. (Up) Sooty’s School Bus.

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We have been following the progress of Sooty’s bus on the SSVC forum, so it was great to see it in the flesh! Also, his bus was featured in an article in the Daily Mail about the show, which also featured this fantastic video by Bright Lights Photography which to me, really sums up the feeling of going out in your VW and meeting fellow dub nuts:

5. (Up) The Green Bay Cafe.

Coffee. Real coffee. Also, handily placed in the main camping area, rather than the trade area, which meant less distance to stagger to get our caffeine fix. We love the Green Bay Cafe with their fairtrade, real coffee. Yum.

4. (Up) Gluten free food!

The Two Tarts, Lulabelle and Heck sausages all offered gluten free fayre, ideal for a hungry Custard. I’m used to not being able to sample things at shows, so for there to be lots of things I could eat was a good thing! Still having to carry my own soy milk in a hip flask for my coffee though…

The Two Tarts green camper van come in and have a cuppa VW sign

3. (Up) Showing with Volksgirls.

We’ve not entered a show and shine before (although we did show with the SSVC at Stanford Hall as part of their massive line up) so when Volksgirls invited members to show with them, we jumped at the chance. Volksgirls is a friendly club and forum for ladies on the VW scene, and boasted a full stand at VW Festival. We were the only camper on their stand on Saturday, and our first show taught us one or two things;

  • Make sure that you either put your stuff for making food in the van, or in the awning. Don’t leave half in one, and half in the other. Of you’ll be very annoyed when you realise you can’t make lunch.
  • The majority of people show their vans with the beds folded up and their tables all set nicely. Our van is hardly period in the style, so it’s very hard to dress. Next year, I’ll be showing it with the bed made up, with nice cushions and things. It may also have a Custard-shaped accessory catching a few zzzz’s in it during the afternoon as…
  • I don’t do well at getting up early enough to get the van to the arena without the option of an afternoon nap 😉
  • Mark out the space next to the awning that the van goes in, or someone will park in it before you get back in the afternoon!
  • Make a sign telling people all about your van, or you’ll find yourself repeating a lot of stuff. We love talking to people about vans, but if they could read it too, that would be nice, and we could put some photos from the resto on the sign too.

2. (Up) Chilled, family friendly atmosphere.

There was a really nice vibe to the show, lots of things for children and adults to do, and everyone was friendly, having a good laugh and up for a chat about VWs, dogs or just life in general! The camping was generally quiet (well, it was where we were anyway!) and people didn’t seem to let the weather get them down.

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1. (Up) Good friends.

We finally got to meet some fellow camper owners from the SSVC forum. Dubminx and Custard both tell lies to small children for a living, Roobarb and Carl both love watercooled and aircooled dubs. You know when you meet someone and think – “Yeah, I could camp with these guys and have a whale of a time!”

We’ve enjoyed our first year exploring the VW show scene, but what we’ve found is that, after a while, it all gets a bit same-y if there’s only the two of you, so being able to meet up with like-minded people and have a good chat makes the shows all the more worthwhile, and if you’re lucky, you get to meet someone lovely like Minx, who not only has a beautiful camper called Mabel (with the wonderful period set-dressing that Ruby lacks) but also sent us some bunting for Ruby before she’d ever met us for real. Which just tells you that she’s a nice person, and someone you’re going to enjoy being around.

We would definitely do VW Festival again – it has been one of the best shows we have visited this summer, and wasn’t a long drive for us, which is always a bonus. See you in 2014!

VW split screen camper panel van rhubarb and custard red and yellow Ruby

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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.

The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo

So, after buying Ruby, we asked around on the SSVC forum to see if anyone knew her. After all, there are a finite amount of splitties in the world, so it stood to reason that someone on the forum might have owned her previously. Also, she came with an SSVC sticker in the windscreen, so we knew her previous owners had been members.

We soon had a message from Glenn, who bought her in 1994:

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He told us: “I bought the van in 94 from Spencer Ballis, it had suffered from a 70’s camper conversion complete with devon pop top and long bay window style windows, so that lot was first on the list to go, Spencer kindly had the gear box with the reduction boxes re-built before I bought it, I bolted up a Kadron equipped 1641, lowered it on polished Porsche Fuchs and tooled around it it for the next few years.”

Here’s another picture of her at Run to the Sun in 1997:

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And more photos with friends’ buses from around 1986-87:

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This picture shows the reason for Ruby’s previous name – The Mambo Bus!

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Ruby with pop top, and the owners of the bus behind her also came and said hello in our thread.

As well as asking on the forum, I also wrote a letter to Marc, who restored the bus and sold her to Pat who we bought her from. We were made up to get a reply from Marc and Nikki, who sent us some brilliant photos of her restoration.

Before:

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She was in need of some TLC. Well, welding actually. Lots of welding.

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All stripped down and ready for rubbing:

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Rusty parts cut away:

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New parts welded into place:

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In primer:

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Being resprayed:

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Gearbox:

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Steering rack and bits:

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Engine:

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So, wow! In some ways she has changed so much, but in other ways, she is recognisable straight away as the same bus. We’d love to see photographs of her in her earlier days. We’ve contacted the DVLA to see what other information we can find about her. We know from her M Plate that she was due to roll off the factory line on 14th February 1967, was light gray and was destined for Ramsgate. She was first registered in the UK in March 1967. I wonder what she did before she became a camper?

Do you have a bus with an interesting past?

Are you one of Ruby’s former owners?

Let us know in the comments!

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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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.

A run to the coast

The promised gorgeous weather held, so after the liberal application of Autoglym Interior Shampoo to the seats, we headed off to Blackpool for a drive.

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The trip started with a bit of excitement, as we realised that the key we had left with the garage owner who stores her is the only one that opens the petrol cap. So we had to take a trip back to swap keys. Ruby has many keys, all opening a different door. Whilst stopped at traffic lights in Preston, a guy took Ruby’s photo with a big grin – could she be a Instagram celebrity?

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We started at North Shore and drove down the front. Even off-season, Blackpool was fairly busy with people enjoying the sunshine, and lots of people, particularly children, giving Ruby a big smile and wave. We got lots of smiles and waves, particularly from other VW drivers. We saw a T25 on the front and a couple of T5s in Lytham. On the way home we saw a gorgeous beige Beetle near Lostock Hall, but no other splittys today.

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We parked up in Lytham to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and take a few photos whilst the light was nice. Cowardy Custard here also took the opportunity to drive Ruby in a very gentle circle of the car park, around an RAC man with a wry grin on his face, who probably  could imagine the conversation going on in Ruby’s cab: “Wow – this steering is something else, isn’t it?!”

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Unfortunately, due to my age, and a hefty insurance claim after vandalism and airbag theft from my Fiat 500 a couple of years ago, I cannot get cover on classic car insurance. Yet. Which means that it is up to Rooobarb to do all the driving, and I get to be in charge of music, refreshments and photography. However, I am going to take the opportunities to drive on empty car parks and campsites when I can, so that when the insurers consider me a risk worth taking, I can hop behind the wheel with a little confidence.

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We finished the trip with another brief stop near Fairhaven Lake to get some photos of Ruby wistfully looking out to sea. Rooobarb reminisced that he has photographs from the same car park of him and a friend kneeling in front of Barney the 1976 Beetle many years ago. He was happy to stay inside the van on this occasion.

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Then, it was back home to load up the last of the camping gear that has been sitting in our dining room all week, a quick trip to the jetwash to blast off the road grime, and then we snuggled Ruby back safe in her garage, to rest for our next adventures.

Happy days!

Happy Ever After

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Well, that’s it. We’re all married now and set to trundle off into the deep blue yonder to have adventures in our campervan.

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People have chosen their parts of the van to name, so at some point we will be attaching labels to them all and taking photographs so that people can see what they’ve bought.

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But for now, here are some of our lovely wedding photos, by the talented and lovely Susie Forster, who is not only a great photographer, but a massive VW camper fan, so automatically earns lots of extra cool points!

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