Monday, 28 February 2011

Wandering. And quite a bit of wondering too

Tonight will be the sixth in the van and we've already had adventures aplenty.

Saturday night was spent at my parents; a nice evening complete with beers and wine, fish n chips, a lovely hot bath and a night back in beds for Dragon and Star who slept in the house while Ady and I went out to the van.

We had a lovely lunch with Mum, Dad and my brother and grandmother on Sunday before heading off for our mid-point stop. We had two visits back to the car in storage during the stay at Mum & Dad's - one because I had forgotten to grab the tax disc out of the car (it still has four months to go so will be sent back to DVLA for a refund) and the second because I had also forgotten to pick up the tent which is coming with us. In theory we may never use the tent but if the van needed to be repaired at any point along the way it would render us homeless so it's good to have a back up and it may come in handy to stick up for extra storage or space along the way too. The first time Dad managed to lean in the window to grab the tax disc but the second time the car needed to come back out of the garage to get to the boot. Mum, who is much, much smaller than me slipped in and drove the car out, then I reversed it back in, doing a much better job this time enabling me to actually get out. When I'd put it in on Saturday morning I had spent a comedy ten minutes trying to work out how to actually get myself out of the car without getting rammed inbetween the car and the garage wall. I'd eventually had to go behind the car, along the passenger side and duck under the wing mirror, much to my Dad's amusement. This time I parked much closer to the wall on the passenger side. I am hoping by the time I retrieve the car in a years time I will be considerably thinner anyway!

We were waved off (again - we are really getting used to goodbyes) and headed for our first overnight stop in Dorset. When we were first planning our adventure I built in a weeks holiday before we start at WWOOF hosts, thinking we would need that transition time between leaving our jobs, the house and our old life and starting on our new reality. Time to get used to living in the van, de-stress and get used to a different pace of life, to iron out any teething troubles between the old life and the new and re-establish a dynamic of being a full time family of four rather than a three with Ady around at the weekend. Our first hosts are in Devon but one of the things we learnt in the first 48 hours with Willow is that you need to allow about double the travelling time we are used to. She drives at a steady 45-50mph rather than the more speedy pace we are used to in a brand new company car, plus we need to factor in a rest stop every 90 minutes or so - both so that we all don't get too motion sick and so that we treat her with the respect she deserves!

So I booked a campsite really close to our first hosts. I found it trawling the internet and reading reviews of campsites open all year, suitable for campervans, with electric hook-up. It sounded fab, had made it into Cool Camping and when I talked to the owner on the phone a couple of weeks ago I was reassured that it would be a perfect place for the week. Then we needed to find a mid-point overnight stop between my parents and Devon so I flicked through the C&CC book to find somewhere with hook-up and found somewhere equally lovely sounding with chickens and ducks, rang and booked a one night stay there and felt all was nicely organised. Of course life never does work out that way so last night when we arrived at the campsite (really poorly sign posted, had to do scary turning round manourveres and then head up a very, very puddly and holey road then across a rather uneven and muddy field) it was to the news they had no running water. Very, very fortunately we had picked up a big bottle of water from the supermarket, the guy charged us half price and we were not in need of showers or toilets or water supplies.

So we cooked a first dinner in the van, I read to Dragon and Star while they ate and it all felt very cosy and comfy. Unfortunately Star had been feeling a car sick earlier and once food had hit her tummy it rebelled and she brought her dinner back up again :( She is very calm and unpanicked about being sick and managed to get to the bathroom, position herself over the portapotty and hold her own hair back (sorry if TMI!) then proclaimed herself feeling 'much better'. Dragon joined in by feeling icky and needing an emergency dash of his own to the portapotty. They both looked very washed out and pale so we got them into pjs and up to their bunk, put our bed down and I snuggled into my sleeping bag and read them a couple of chapters of story before they fell asleep. Just before they went to bed though Ady called us all out to stand just outside the campervan for a few moments as it was an amazingly clear night with no light pollution and the stars were just stunning. The longer you stood gazing up the deeper the layers of stars came into focus.

We all slept well in the end and ate breakfast looking out over the field while a buzzard treated us to a spectacular fly-by circling over the field, hovering and gliding and giving us thrilling glimpses of it's gorgeous feathers and huge wingspan. Hurrah for skies and all the wonder they provide!

I'd determinded a mid-point in our 80 miles or so for today of Morrisons in Bridport. We sort of consider it 'our' Morrisons as we have been there so many times, choosing that area of Dorset for many holidays over the years and using the Morrisons as a stop off point for trips further along the South Coast too. We needed fuel - both for us and for Willow so we called in to get food, ate in the van, then filled up with petrol before the second leg of the journey.

We arrived at the campsite and were warmly greeted by the owner who took us on foot to the couple of choices of site for the van - one was in the garden, next to a fab oversized swing off one of the apple trees, the other at the foot of their land next to a little babbling stream, both gorgeous. Unfortunately 20 minutes of terrifying backwards and forwards, scraping of underside of the van on the muddy uneven ground and sides of the van on branches, fence posts and trees and revving to the point of smoke starting to emerge we had to conclude both also totally inappropriate for us and Willow. With regret we had to say goodbye to the owner and drive off, hoping we would be able to find somewhere else before Willow protested any further and conked out.

We drove further down scary up and down hill, narrow road bends before stopping in a layby to regroup. Star felt sick again, Ady and I both needed a cup of tea (at the very least!) and we needed to rather rapidly find somewhere to stay the night, it now being nearly 4pm. A peruse of the C&CC book, several hasty phonecalls, a visit to the portapotty and a kettle boil later we had a destination for the night sorted, a caffine hit satiated and a child making the rest of the journey in the loo! Star has veered between fine and cheery, and wobbly and a bit vomitty. I think tomorrow we'll get some more travel sick tablets.

The campsite we're at tonight is pricey, empty and not very us at all with it's manicured pitches and holiday club onsite (closed this time of year) but for one night it has been perfect. The kids got to play in the little playground, we're plugged in to hook up and have water just outside the door, we've had lovely warm showers, I've sat for 90 minutes in the laundry room and processed all of our washing while reading a book on the kindle (already our most loved campervan item I think).

We have a nearby campsite booked for the rest of the week. It's a working cattle farm and has an on site shop selling their own meat and eggs. It is not too expensive, has hook up and nice sounding showers and is close enough to the local village for us to walk in each day. I'll retain judgement further until we're there of course...

I think today the enormity of our adventure has rather hit us all. Both Dragon and Star are missing 'home' although when I asked them tonight how they would feel if I said we were going home tomorrow they both looked horrified at the prospect and said 'sad' and 'disappointed'. We are already learning loads - nappy sacks have made it onto our must have list of items for their perfect sick bag properties, we will always carry water, we are filling glasses only half full as it is less to spill if knocked over (remember our sofas are also our bed!), distraction techniques work wonders for homesickness, travelsickness and being super organised about where stuff is stashed and thinking about the next time you are likely to need stuff and how accessible it will be then is a really useful exercise.

Oh and our tenants? Apparently they are *definitely* going in tomorrow. I'll update then.

This post is brought to you using a Mifi from Three.


  1. Oooh I've been to that Morrisons too ;o)

    Sorry to hear about the downsides of today, but best to get the practicalities of Willow and campsites sorted now and hoping the travel sickness wears off too. Ginger biscuits might help?

    Hoping for good news from the tenants tomorrow and news of a suitable campsite too :O)

  2. oh and watching the stars in Dorset was a highlight for us last year. I'd never seen anything like it in my life (I assume I never looked up when living in Scotland ;o) )

  3. glad tenants moving in. thanks for hint re motion sickness of kids in motorhomes, will remember that for summer in canada :) and yep, getting all the practicalities sorted sounds a good idea.

  4. V. much enjoying the updates :)

  5. I'm sure things will get better - hope you're having a good time on the camp site! Our kids used to have crystallised ginger for travel sickness - might be worth a try...

    Kay :)

  6. Seabands might help too, but just double check the exhaust- DH's sister had 3 travel sick children for ages, but when an adult eventually sat in the back they realised the exhaust leaked a little into the back of their big car. When it was mended, they went down to only one travel sick child. Hope the next campsite is as good as it sounds!

  7. I ahve afeeling willow is going to give you her share of adventures this coming year :-) i assuem you have SORN-ed the car as well?

  8. yep, car is SORNed and yep, driving a 30 year old campervan will most definitely add to the challenges of the year! ;)

  9. glad you left some time between leaving and getting to your first hosts - sounds like you're beginning to get a better feeling for willow's capabilities at least!