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.

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.

Victoria Farm 2013

One of the main dates in any split screen van owner’s calendar has to be Victoria Farm. Vicky Farm hosts the AGM of the Split Screen Van Club, where hundreds of members get together to camp, eat, drink, be merry and admire each other’s vans over the May Day bank holiday weekend.

One of the highlights of the weekend has to be the convoy to Stanford Hall VW Show on Sunday morning, where splitty owners line up and drive a few miles down the road to take part in the club display.

Vicky Farm was our first weekend away in the van. It nearly didn’t happen for us, as when we arranged to pick up Ruby from storage, we found out that she wouldn’t start. The guy storing her offered to charge her battery, but then had his power cut off due to work on the local substation! After some tinkering, panicked phone calls to our mechanic, precise hitting of things with hammers and a visit from the RAC, it turned out that Ruby’s starter motor was borked, so after getting her started, the RAC man waved Rooobarb on his way with a cheery “Don’t stall – you won’t get started again!” as he headed off to Accrington Beetles and Campers where Dave examined the offending starter motor, diagnosed it as buggered, and fitted one on loan whilst he had ours reconditioned – what a star!

Following that, Rooobarb then picked me up from work – having not had a chance to wash the van or even grab a bite of lunch, and we quickly loaded the van and set off on our way.

The view might not be great, but we have the best seats in the house

The view might not be great, but we have the best seats in the house

As we approached Vicky Farm, we were joined by some fellow splitties on the motorway (apologies for poor quality pics – bit of camera shake from looking out the back window of the van):

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And had a very small convoy, until we had to pull off to refuel all three of us (Ruby with unleaded, us with coffee!) but caught up with them at Vicky Farm later:

We caught up with them later

We arrived at the campsite, chose a place to call home for the next couple of days, tried and failed to put up our gazebo to cook in, decided we had far too much stuff in the van, stacked it all in the cab, put the bed up and then went for an explore. Please note: never let the person who has decided to start drinking be the only one to wear a head torch, as you will be trying to see where you are going, and the torch beam will be swinging wildly up to the sky as Custard imbibes her first cider of the evening 😉

The next morning we woke up to this lovely view from Ruby’s back window:

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And had another wrestle with the gazebo, in between downpours of rain. It turned out all the poles were mislabeled, so after a bit of swapping, we got it up – but the wind then blew the rain through the sides, making the chairs inside a little soggy. I decide to remedy this by drinking more cider, and sitting in my chair, trying to enjoy the sunshine. We then realised that we needed more fuel before the convoy on Sunday, and to pick up a lighter for the gas stove (we’d not used it for a few years, and forgotten that it didn’t have a piezo lighter) so we went off site for a “splash and dash” and came back on to find… a collapsed gazebo, smashed by the wind. We were very relieved that it had just fallen down where it stood, and hadn’t blown away and hit a van. It was unceremoniously dumped in the bin, and we vowed to buy an awning at Stanford Hall.

Thankfully in the afternoon, the sun came out, so we had a stroll around the site, meeting the other vans, before heading up to the AGM itself to see who had won awards for their vans.

Ruby in the sunshine

Ruby in the sunshine

Bradley Badger, and a Barndoor we convoyed with on our way to Stoke the other week.

Bradley Badger, and a Barndoor we convoyed with on our way to Stoke the other week.

Gorgeous van - I'd follow you anywhere!

Gorgeous van – I’d follow you anywhere!

Loved this van, it had a great packing case interior too.

Loved this van, it had a great packing case interior too.

Pop top and sunshine

Pop top and sunshine

Airstream and a twin cab. Heaven.

Airstream and a twin cab. Heaven.

Bleedingmoody's bus. Love.

Bleedingmoody’s bus. Love.

A very worthy winner.

A very worthy winner.

Headlight detailing.

Headlight detailing.

Eddie's single cab.

Eddie’s single cab.

Line up of champions.

Line up of champions.

Smiley Trekker.

Smiley Trekker.

Beetle bums.

Beetle bums.

High top. Yum.

High top. Yum.

After the day’s adventures, we enjoyed the sunset, then had an early night ready for the convoy:

Sunset and smiles.

Sunset and smiles.

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Night night!