Archive | December, 2015

Where to go in 2016?

27 Dec

edge of town

When I was a boy, I was allowed to go as far as the southernmost edge of the local Victorian park. This marked the edge of the village and the start of the countryside. We would either walk there or ride on our bikes. In the long summer school holidays, we would sit chatting  on the cool grass outside the electrical sub-station and kick grit around or pick melted tar from the edge of the road in the gutters. Summers were hot back then and roads less busy. I often wondered where that strip of tarmac went. It was the beginning of the rest of the world. I have always wanted to explore.

port barges portugal

We have had recommendations from several sources including   Martin McD., my daughter and a friend who is married to a (rather beautiful !) Brazilian lady with origins in Portugal to visit this Western strip of Europe.

To take the camper van and caravan by Brittany ferries from Portsmouth to Santander takes around 24 hours and costs up to £800 return. There’s a four hour drive to Portsmouth and another six hours or so from Santander to Porto. It would make for a nice adventure and we could take our time, perhaps having a three (or four week) spell away from home. The alternative would be a significant 1445 mile drive down across France and Spain. This would mean several stopovers on the way, but not impossible and we get to revisit some French favourites on the way. The last time that I made such a cross France journey was by motorbike in 1998.

bol dor 019

Just thinking about it all at present, but I do enjoy the travelling and seeing different stopovers along the way. Those bread, cheese and tomato lunch breaks in the sun all add to the fun. Taking the ginger vandal ( Kitten) for some jabs this week and seeing if he can get a pet passport so that he could come along with us. I would have to get the caravan tidied up and fully serviced too.

Portugal certainly sounds like a great place to visit.


Fancy your own design of micro caravan?

24 Dec

pino 340

Featured in January’s Caravan Club magazine, the Pino 340 is a Turkish built, fibreglass lightweight caravan. The list of options is huge.

From what I understand, you can have a design of your choosing within certain boundaries.Two, three or four berth.

The manufacturer usually makes yachts and many features reflect the marine style origins. For example, windows are double glazed glass.

There is an even smaller version if you don’t want to spend about £15,ooo and for just under £8,000 you can have a Pino Pi 2010 :

pino pi 2010

The UK is covered by the dealer in Crieff, Perthshire. see

My choice would be a 2 berth 340 with shower and all the trimmings but not sure what that would cost.

I still think that you could fit a shower in a Go Pod for relatively little money. Or carry on and convert/update our Freedom Microlite. Plenty of time to think it over during the Christmas holiday period.

Merry Christmas 2015

22 Dec

merry christmas gif

Fast approaching Christmas Eve and the Big Day. The camper van has become a last minute delivery vehicle. Liverpool yesterday (kitten free due to a gentle giant of a resident Labradoodle) More deliveries and food shop for visitors. Pick up some logs and solid fuel in case of overnight frosts. Got to keep some little ones cosy!


So, here’s to absent friends.

Looking forward to plannng our tours for 2016. Got some different ideas, including some Wainright walks, Hadrian’s wall, Scotland (of course!) and France. It’s part of the fun of camper vanning! Where are you going?

Let’s hope for a more peaceful 2016

Balloons in the colors of the French flag in front of the Eiffel Tower

Balloons in the colors of the French flag in front of the Eiffel Tower

bastille day paris


Some more interesting Vans and Trailers

20 Dec

vw and camping trailer 2vw and camping trailer


Martin sent in this link too:

super retro motorhome

Infectious Enthusiasm

18 Dec

offroad camper syncro

Regular contributor and friend, Martin McD has again sparked me off thinking about new horizons…………

He sent me a link to a video of the Ducato 4 x 4

I am now compelled to search for 4×4 offroad camper vans. Here are just a few:

offroad la stradaoffroad iveco campervanoffroad campervanoffroad campervan two


Contrary to my principles I very recently took the Freedom Microlite into storage. Paying the same rate as for a twin axle “Gin Palace” it’s being guarded by some geese and a very potholed and muddy farm access “road”. However, it’s removal has highlighted a few things. Firstly, a handful of village “give me first refusal if you want to sell ” potential buyers have freaked out in case I had sold it ! and two , it has showed up that there is a bit more parking area than I remember from when we moved in and I spread several tonnes of plum slate over the frontage. My son has a LWB Mercedes Sprinter parked out there and well……….. what with Martin’s video and a bit of self inspiration, I have again turned into Toad of Toad Hall and become fascinated with all things offroad! Thanks Mart ! Just head off up to Loch Lomond, enjoy Christmas and report back on your Microlite. Cheers!

(Thinking out loud. Could you get a 4×4 camper van, say a VW Syncro up Rest and be Thankful in the snow? Do Aldi or Lidl still have any snow chains for sale. I bet that I could, without chains but with M&S tyres. Mud and snow not Marks and Sparks.)

Some details of the Nevada seat/bed

17 Dec

kampa mattress from nearside sliding door

Firstly, apologies to Mikael for the delay in publishing some dimensions and description of the “Kampa” bed. A trip to London and some emergency property repairs intervened.

The seat cushions are 100 mm foam. The bed is made up of 4 cushions: 1) The seat base cushion 2) The seat back cushion 3) The “back of seat” cushion which sits behind the backrest normally and 4) A make -up cushion which is almost square in cross-section.

Drivelodge did a superb job getting the cushions to fit very closely in both the seating positions and made up as a mattress. It must have taken quite a bit of trial and error.

The seat/bed is a plywood structure on a very sturdy metal framework which also hinges the flip-over backrest and the 2 lap and diagonal seat belts.

drivelodge bed one

The mattress itself is 1880 mm front to rear and averages 1070 mm wide. It is narrower at the front to clear the fridge which protrudes from the cupboard by 44 mm.

The worktop is wider at the front to accept the Smev washbasin and hob unit. The overhang is 75 mm and tapers from the standard cupboard width for a height of 225 mm.

kampa fridge protrusionIMG_0803

The worktop, at it’s widest here is 435 mm from the inside edge of the offside sliding door rubber surround. The cupboards to the rear are approx 355 mm deep , measured from the fixing timber wall batten to the cupboard front wall.The worktop sits at a height of 825 mm from the plastic floor/door trim seen in the rear door opening.

kampa cupboard showing plastic floor door trim

The seat backrest is plywood on metal and hinges to swing forward through 180 degrees. It cantilevers to form the front of the bed base and is very strong. (Unlike one we saw recently on a Very expensive motorhome!)


kampa backrest cantilver

The backrest itself is cleverly cut to miss the overhang on the worktop, clear the protruding fridge and give a little clearance close to the nearside sliding door. At the front edge of the bed there’s 90 mm clearance from the inner surface of the door surround rubber to the bed base.The backrest cushion makes up the gap without a problem. Alongside the Smev unit, the bed is approx 1060 mm wide.

kampa rear seat timber base over metal frame

If you are doing a conversion yourself, I would sugges starting with the side cupboards. Then make up a template for a metal framework. Make a template for the seat back rest by measuring between the cupboard/fridge and sliding door then “centre” the bed base /seat backrest onto the hinges for fixing. I don’t think that Drivelodge are taking on any more NV200 “Nevada” conversions but they still make pop-top roofs. I don’t think that I am giving away any trade secrets. (Hope not ! Anyway!) I do NOT take any credit for the work done on my NV200. It was all done by Drivelodge and I must say that there is very little  to criticise indeed!

I hope that this helps someone and inspires some serious DIY ! To close, here is a pic of my rear view “dash cam” which has it’s own wash/wipe for a clear view of that nutter following too close or that naughty supermarket trolley user who comes far too close………….. LOL

kampa rear camera

Another trip to London

15 Dec

motorway fog

Recently returned from another long weekend in London. We drove down unhindered by stoppages, leaving home before lunchtime. We drove at the legal limit where possible and with a campervan loaded down with Christmas gifts managed 50 miles per gallon. We used the M6 toll, which is a bit of a gamble but usually pays off. Why do the motorway signs heading south on the M6 always say “M6 Toll Clear” and not let you know if the M6 through Northern Birmingham is running OK?

On the return trip, there was some evening fog but visibility was several hundred metres and so we did not get delayed too much. Had a couple of Kitten breaks each way. The “little furry vandal” is very well behaved and pees , eats and drinks almost on demand! Relatively stress free trip but a shot of good scotch went down well before bedtime back at home. The 110ps NV200 engine came in useful a couple of times with plenty of poke to get out of the way when needed. It’s a willing little engine. Fourth gear comes in handy to 60 mph and beyond with fifth gear assisting for legal limit overtakes.

We have not had the bottle to shortcut from the M25 across Woolwich or Blackwall Tunnel rather than use the Dartford crossing and A205 for South East London. I don’t even know if this diversion would make viable sense. Any Londoners out there who can advise for Lewisham area targetted from M25? We have tried the other way via Earls Court and it paid off a couple of times but you cannot beat local knowledge.

south circular

A couple of Custom nv200s. Fitting windows and more layouts

8 Dec

nv200 chinese custom

This one’s in China and looks mostly like a body kit and modded lights. The YouTube video is a bit tame but this next one is just the thing for last minute  Christmas deliveries.


Below are two links to  YouTube videos. The first shows a man who looks as if he needs to buy some sharper new drill bits and one larger diameter drill bit. He is fitting windows to a longer wheelbase American nv200 van.

The second video shows various layouts for nv200 campervans from our Dutch friends Custom Camp


Stealth campervan examples

7 Dec

tigga curled up

I have noticed several times that our cat’s stripes camouflage him especially on some backgrounds but also in most situations and it got me thinking about stealth campervans again. So here are some examples for inspiration.

stealth camper

stealth camper onestealth camper twostealth camper threestealth camper fourstealth campervan five

Some smart designs here. I like the rustic, almost Romany look of that log burner. You can find out much more about them on Google image search.

Is wild camping for you?

wild camping



The latter is in Portugal, a popular destination for many.

A Ghost story for Christmas

6 Dec

scooby doo

This story has nothing to do with campervans. It is the true recollection of something that happened to me along with several others, in a coal mine around 1974

haunted mine figure

This picture is intended to give an impression of what we experienced. Our Staffordshire coal mine had steel , H section “ring” supports, not timber props but you get the idea. I hope that you enjoy some of the background information.

At the time, I was working as an apprentice along with one or two others with a small group of mechanics, stripping a tunneling machine in a coal seam known as the “Banbury”. Coal seams lay across the strata, stacked above each other at various depths in the Earth’s crust.Like jam and cream layers in a cake. Other coal seams, locally were named the “Rowhurst”, the “Coxhead” and the “911”.Some were being worked at the time but others were worked out, long forgotten. Records of some were scarce or even lost

Apprentices had to wear yellow hard hats to warn others that here was a “green horn” , wet behind the ears. The more paternal fitters, electricians and miners would watch for your safety. Others would just take the “mickey”.

We were working in the return airway of a newly developed , retreat mined, coal face. two roadways are constructed parallel to each other into the seam of coal. the coal “face” is then dug out to join the two tunnels. Our return airway tunnel was somewhat higher in the strata than the intake air or “main gate”, so you had to climb up the  250 yards of coal face to get into “the return.”

The heavy machine which had been used to construct the tuunel which we were in had done it’s job and needed stripping down for removal to the surface. The tunnel needed dressing up with water pipes, for fire fighting and dust control and as yet , importantly, there was NO cabled communication system installed as yet. We were effectively isolated in a dead end or cul de sac, unless you wanted to trek down the slippery, wet and timber- propped coal face.

Now, the “Banbury” seam was known to be wet. Very wet. Water poured in constantly from above and pumps in the lower, main gate removed the ochre stained fluid , ultimately to the surface. Water was also bubbling through the coal seam , literally forming a “bulge” of water on the coal face. Frightening for young apprentices, but you got used to it. It was just how it was.

I was with a good team. They worked hard and looked after us. The officials left us alone as we usually completed the allotted tasks. We had an old collier labouring with us. He was showing his age and was treated with respect. At lunch break, as usual, we set down our tools and lifting tackle and cleaned up, the best we could. We ate our “snapping” (sandwiches) holding them in wrapping paper to keep the bread clean. A swig of water and we rested our backs against the tunnel wall to cool off , sitting on a bit of timber to try to stay dry. One or two of the men switched off their battery powered cap lamps to “rest” their eyes.

During this “snapping” break we heard someone coming down the tunnel from the direction of the surface. We could hear his boots banging against the steel rail track, the rail sleepers and once or twice , his walking stick on the steel rail itself. We could see his cap lamp shining down the tunnel and we all flicked our cap lamps on. We did not  want to be caught, “resting our eyes!”

It was a long walk down that tunnel. Probaly close to a mile from the air doors junction accessing the main routes, in and out of the mine. Eventually, the figure came into view , his own cap lamp and now his safety “Davey” lamp flickering his shadow on the tunnel wall. So here we had an official visiting us. Given away by the Davey lamp and stick. Strange, as nobody was due in and nobody walked all that way without reason. The figure stopped about 80 to 100 yards from our group and we could only see his cap lamp shining towards us. The men in our group were puzzled. Which official is it? A friendly allie or one of the more stroppy types? One of the fitters shouted a greeting but all we got back was a cap lamp being waved side to side. The figure turned and we heard him returning up  the tunnel. Someone said, “miserable bugger!” then we were back at work.


As we worked, we discussed the stranger. We had not seen his face, just his lamps and silouette. Our leader said that we could find out who he was on our way out,at the end of the shift. At the air doors we had to be counted, in and out, by old “Joe”, another old collier, who’s job it was to limit the number of workers in this higher risk area by sliding counters along a wire slide and handing in and out counters to anyone entering the tunnel were we worked. This was a statutory Legal requirement.

That’s an example of a ventilation control or airdoor above, just as a guide.

When we finished work, we set off on the mile walk to the airdoors but when we asked old Joe, who was perched on a makeshift chair at the side of the tunnel, just who had come into the tunnel at snapping time, he said “Nobody”. We said, “come on Joe, no kidding about! Who came in? ” “Nobody!” replied Joe, becoming angry when we continued to pester him. For a couple of days, we forgot about the strange figure and we worked on, stripping the mainframe of the weighty tunneling machine.

Then , one day, as we were getting near to snapping time, we were alerted by a figure, rushing down the tunnel from the direction of the airdoors. We could see his caplamp and swinging “davey” lamp. This time though, he was running, shouting very loudly. We stopped work and listened. It was an official known to the team. He was shouting ” get out now! the main gate has flooded! There’s been a massive inrush!”

We just ran. Tools were left behind and we ran away from the inrush of floodwater surging up the coal face towards us. After a few hundred yards, we younger, fitter guys had to take the old timer by his shoulders, in turn and half carry him towards safety, his boots hovering above the rail sleepers.We were running for our lives.It was very emotional at the time.

When we got to the airdoors and the first telephone point, completely breathless, hot and weary, where we were told, “it’s OK, the flood has slowed down.It’s safe at this higher level. Get to the train and go home.” Joe was clutching the phone, in constant touch with the control room at the surface. I have never been so glad to leave a coal mine. But within a week, the pumps were back in use and we working again in the “Banbury”

For quite some time now, I have often pondered on whether or not we had been warned by that ghostly figure, trying to  predict the flood before it happened?? The two appearances were remarkably similar. Still living fairly locally,  bumping into old colleagues at the market, on garage forecourts etc over the years, there have been a number of weird chats about the pit and the day the “banbury” flooded. More questions than answers. Just who or what was that faceless figure? A guardian angel?

(Following H.M. Inspectorate investigation, it was almost certainly shown to be previously mined coal seam or seams above the “banbury” which had formed an underground lake which burst down and through the working seam.The water pressure must have been enormous!  No-one was killed. Flood recorded at the time as a “reportable incident”)