Fresh Aire at Loch Katrine, Scotland

13 Jan

Loch Katrine is in the  Trossachs National Park. It has just opened an Aire de Service for motor caravans.


it’s all you need to know.

Martin has sent in this breaking news and it could not be more topical for 2018. Thanks Chumbley ! In advance of our publishing our travel plans, it could well be THE place for us to camp in 2018. Twelve places are available and you need to book in advance. I predict demand will be huge, so book early. This is not easy for insecure, “flexible” nutters such as ourselves. With highly changeable family events, it is difficult to commit to firm dates within our planning. We are able though to move at very short notice. It’s a target. I still have to share a Chardonnay with Martin and Libby and a BBQ alongside their beloved nearby Loch Lomond. It’s a must ! Can we fit it in with the NC500 ? Watch this space.

We have again been out and about, visiting Audlem, Nantwich and Dagfields Antiques. Confidence in the timing belt change ( at 57,000 miles (5 years) ) is now back to ” I don’t even think about it” level.  Bizarrely and difficult to explain, I can definitely detect less diesel rattle from cold and the engine does seem “softer” and smoother on the road? I don’t think that this is wishful thinking. I have checked the old belt, the tensioner and the water pump and apart from a little resistance when turning the pump by hand (?) it all seems almost as new. Perhaps a minute change in valve timing ? Whatever it is, it is very pleasing and I am delighted with the work carried out by C&S Haynes Ltd., Silverdale. We could have risked pushing the envelope to 75,000 miles but what the hell. Too risky for a nervous type like me ! Bring on the Spring ! Let’s go !



Faith restored

13 Jan

Regular readers will know that on October 6th 2017, I posted about my newly discovered, favourite dark beer. Polygraph from Salopian Brewery , near Shrewsbury.

I bought a 20 bottle box, some for my own cellar but also some for the forthcoming Christmas visit to London, by the American side of our growing family. We have been on the receiving end of the best hospitality known to Man, from these delightful people in the past. This was part of our chance to return some warmth to them. With a September 2018 use by date on the bottles, all seemed well.

Sadly though, just after Christmas, I tried a couple of bottles with friends at home in the cellar and they had soured ! I immediately contacted my son , to discover that the batch left in London for our guests had also gone off ! This was a huge faux pas for me personally due to the importance of trying to share a boozy treat with our friends! An unusual event but disappointing in the extreme.

Yesterday, to test out the new timing belt kit , we headed for Salopian Brewery with the remaining few bottles of Polygraph as “evidence.”  We were warmly received and came away with a  belated Christmas selection box of premium Salopian beers as compensation. No Polygraph but these beers below to enjoy instead.







The Crown in this Jewellery box seems to be the hefty 9 % Lullaby. Reviews say it is devilishly easy to drink…………..Please drink responsibly.

Now, with the campervan refreshed and a further safe spell of life expectancy under it’s belt (geddit ?) faith in decent, honest, customer service is restored. Thanks to Salopian Brewery for the beers. Thanks to C & S Haynes Ltd., who carried out the engine maintenance! More about this in a seperate post later.

It’s time to change the cambelt

9 Jan

Having been a little disappointed lately with my usual maintenance Garage Chain. They would not, could not, quote for a cambelt change. Plus my favourite mechanic there has left. I got a recommendation from a close, respected friend and he pointed me towards a local, family run garage. The premises were pristine. They specialised, in part, in Mazda MX5 work but also had a thriving MOT station. They were the only garage I visited, out of three others, which mentioned the importance of changing the water pump at the same time as the timing belt and pulley(s) etc., which I was waiting to hear. Their all inclusive quote was equal to the other less impressive garages, so it’s booked in for later this week.

In the past, I would have done this work myself but with other , more pleasant things to keep me busy in this cold spell, I decided to pay up and enjoy my day elsewhere. Indeed, in the past, I replaced the timing chains, hydraulic tensioners and guides on a Porsche 911e 2.4 boxer engine, as part of a total engine rebuild I carried out.The tensioners on the old aircooled engine were known for failure and it was false economy not to do a proper job (to use Cornish parlance!). So, don’t cut corners on this important work on the NV200.

So far as I can judge, the recommendation is to change the timing belt every 5 years or 75,000 miles. So, at 56,000 miles but with 5 years looming, I felt uncomfortable NOT getting it done. I had also been advised at my last major service to get it done as soon as convenient.

I am hoping to feel much more relaxed once it’s done and will report back again with costs etc later. I am probably in for longer term ownership of Dinkum’s Kampa and so it makes sense to keep it maintained to as high a standard as I can. Let us see how we go on. I don’t fancy doing the NC500 or heading for France with a question mark over the timing belt.

Happy New Year. A low news day for campervanning.

6 Jan

Firstly, a Happy New Year to all visitors to the Blog. As usual we have ambitious plans for using the campervan in 2018 but more about that in a future posting to come.

Regular readers will know that I use both front and rear facing dash cams in the Kampa. I have previously used these for diverse purposes in the past including security monitoring at an elderly relative’s home , which proved quite successful and for filming some Tour of Britain cycle racing at Axe Edge near Buxton:

  Here, I fastened a camera to a wing mirror and got some surprisingly high quality video  of the service vehicles and riders which has been shown on the Blog. These little cameras cost as little as £24 including a high quality, reliable, 32 gb Samsung micro memory card.

Currently, we have a vandal in our otherwise, quiet (ish) village. We all think that it is probably one individual and a mate or two. Most of the vandalism has been after a local pub closes. Most of his work has been against publicly owned items including the Christmas tree (!) and a rooted fir tree next to it. Some damage has been done to privately owned property including at least one car having roof damage and Christmas lights adjacent to pavements. A sad state of affairs.

Consequently, I have brought my little stock of dash cams into play. Why pay out for CCTV when I already have some new and some “vintage” cams already? With a 32 gb card installed , the recorded “loop” when used continually is quite extensive. As long as the camera is switched off within  a couple of hours of an incident, it’s pretty likely that with 4 or 5 cameras in use, there will be some 1080p quality video for evidence.

With two cams running in the campervan during the early hours on night mode, they do consume a bit of battery capacity, even with the screen saver mode enabled, so I use the UHU to supplement the leisure battery. Two more cameras in an upstairs window give extra coverage. Easily powered from a twin USB , 240v supply plug.

So far, no damage done and no evidence but the local PC is on the ball and promises action if anyone can provide further video. A local shop got some CCTV  video when the Christmas tree got damaged.

Midsummer Murders ? It’s got nothing on our village. LOL.

A snowy adventure (or two)

29 Dec

We had a planned road trip today. We were going to head for Bakewell in my son’s Fiat 500L and when we heard of the heavy, Peak District,  snowfall in the early hours of this morning we decided to still go ahead. After all, it was not as cold as it was up at Loch Lomond:

Does this Pug look chilly or what !!!!!  Martin had towed his caravan there for a Christmas break. Made of stern stuff, these Scots !

We turned off the main Leek to Buxton road and headed to Crowdecote via Longnor. We made it to Crowdecote but almost all the locals were parked up, still covered in snow and we failed to climb back out of Crowdecote. Oh the shame of it ! But we did press on, making it to Buxton in time for a craft beer Bistro style lunch in front of a log fire.

We fared much better than other nutters out on the moors. A fully laden HGV stopped at the highest point between Leek and Buxton. A parcel delivery van blocking a lane near Crowdecote and a couple of cars following the van too close, preventing any of the 3 from turning around.

We trudged across the snow in Buxton to the 53 Degrees for a tasty lunch.Lots of people were sledging on the hill not far from the market, right in the town centre. Great to see.

This wonderful Bar/Cafe couldn’t have contrasted more with the chilly bleakness of the “Winking Witch” at The Roaches. Great service , great food and a warm welcome.

On the way home, we detoured to The Watt Russel Inn near Illam for another log fire thaw.

A great day out but extending Christmas is not too clever if you are trying to lose weight and on a health kick. Still, great fun and lovely to experience the snow once more.

Merry Christmas

24 Dec

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope that you don’t need your snow chains !

Safe journey to my relatives travelling abroad to see friends and loved ones.

See you all in the New Year !

Some cheap insurance and a bit more maintenance to pay for

20 Dec

We have some winter travels planned and with the weather reports covering their “butts” with forecasts of doom and huge snow deposits, when I saw snow chains on offer at one of our local Lidl stores , I couldn’t resist paying the £9.95p for a pair. It’s cheap insurance really. They look a lot like these Tule chains above but came in a nice plastic storage case like this one:

There is no guarentee that actual road  conditions would allow the use of them and don’t damage the road surface or you could get billed. In nose to tail, full congestion, you would not get far but in some situations that £tenner may get you onto a layby, side road or other place of safety to get the pop top up, the heater on and a kettle set to whistle a hot coffee tune.

In Europe , signs go up when chains are permitted and compulsory. They are an alternative to snow tyres. The kampa is poor , traction wise in muddy or snowy conditions. Economically running tyres are not the best for snow.

They definitely look as if a demo practice fitment is needed in a spare moment. Reading the instructions in the dark, in snow isn;t advisable for a first trial. So planning on that before we make a big move.

Oh yes, that cosy heater. The self diagnostics on the Propex thermostat is showing a low leisure battery. Well it is almost 5 years old and it has done well. The green built in, battery condition indicator is still showing “green” but it needs a proper check. By the time an amber indication is showing, the voltage can be way down on what “captain propex” requires. Looks like a replacement is due. Wouldn’t want to be without a couple of kilowatts of blown air in that snow drift now would we?

30 mph maximum with snow chains but even that can be a brave speed if you want to keep your body panels in shape.