We had the white one, it is a VW T26 camper with a Hillside Leisure Birchover conversion.
It was small enough
We tried it out for two weeks in Scotland in April, when it was cold windy and dark. We then took it to Norfolk for 10 days in the heat of summer. Great tests both for seeing how well it worked in different conditions. Both were great.
So the big continental trip beckoned.
Ferry booked, camper booked. Michelle provided a certificate of hire, roadside assist was VW as it was still under warranty, headlight deflector, and normal triangles and high viz required and the GB sign was already on the number plates.
We only live 7 miles away from TFT so I collected the van by bicycle and loaded our stuff at home.
We crossed overnight from Portsmouth to St Malo. The plan was to travel to Northern Spain for 21 days to come home on the Bilbao to Portsmouth ferry.
We arrived in France to unseasonably summer temperatures which rose to 33-35 degrees each day. Bit hot but we coped. Would have loved air con but understand why it doesn’t come with the van. We compensated in the evenings with a little electric fan before we remembered the van has a diesel driven fan too. The rest of the time we do as the continentals do and find shade. Seemed to work. But it was lovely to relax in the sun. It cooled off to the mid 20’s after a week
Three weeks is the slow way to see France, we have spent many years around most of the tourist hot spots, so happy to just soak up the ambience of the beautiful country and its consumables. We love mountains and Europe has some spectacular ones, with some which are part of Tour de France legend. I love cycling but these are miles too big for my old legs.
Gwyneth is a brilliant navigator and holiday planner. She finds the routes, works out places to visit and when (French shops and attractions close for lunch!) where to get food and somewhere to sleep at night. And get us to our end point just in time. I do the donkey work of driving, cooking, transforming the van for its required use (roof, bed making, hooking up. Etc.) It works well for us.
To be a great navigator/holiday planner Don’t depend on a satnav. Buy a Michelin book map, this map has campsites marked and most importantly it has a green line next to pretty roads. It has symbols to tell you good places to stay and viewpoints. There are also maps showing village fleuri, Beaux village etc. for extra inspiration. Drop into Tourist offices to collect information on local attractions of which there are huge numbers. This will enable you to track your way through rural France on their prettiest roads, lovely little villages and savour their local markets. The satnav does help, we used it to show where we were, and guide us via some of the more remote places. Clever little thing. Just don’t let it take you the fastest way. The variations are now endless. If you love mountains go to the Ardennes, Alps and Pyrenees. If you like rivers Loire, Dordogne and the Tarn, if you like the sea, the med and the Atlantic are all beautiful. And that is just France. Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland. How long have you got?
We don’t book anything except the ferry and vehicle. Then we are free to travel as much or little as we like. Weather dependent, something we fancy on route. We haven’t come a cropper yet. In fact nothing even close. And the campervan beats the motorbike or car hands down making the risks reduce dramatically. You are so independent.
Do I need to speak French? Well it is always nice to engage people in their own language. Even it is only effusive please’s and thank you’s. The main feeling is that you are very welcome in France. They like you to come. But do try to practice some French on them, it is appreciated.
Am I welcome in France/ Europe? The main sign that you are welcome is that their campsites particularly ‘camping municipals’ are right in their village hearts. Imagine that in England. Depending on your expectations, we found the campsite facilities perfectly good enough for our needs.
What worked for us?
Bedding 4 single duvets 2 below for added luxury and one each to suit individual tastes. The two below have a fitted sheet over. This gives the option of using one of the under ones for extra warmth if it gets cold at night. A 1350 wide single duvet fits the bed perfectly as does the double fitted sheet. You can of course use sleeping bags.
Packing the bedding . Behind back seat top shelf. Roll each piece of bedding, strap with no return straps. Put each in stuff bag. Keeps it all clean and tidy. Only takes 5 minutes to pack.
Outdoor cooking. Two trangias (one gas, one meth’s) from my tent camping kit. I take two washing up bowls slotted into each other. The lower one has all the cutlery and utensils and the upper with plates cooker and cups. Very handy and compact.
Indoor cooking sauté pan, steamer, all with lids. Increases capacity of two rings to cook more things separately. Steamed veg is nice anyway.
Our own tables – smaller and more movable around the van to give space for cooking etc. and can be used outside. Chairs to suit your tastes of course.
Music – Bose mini soundlink and ipod/phone. Long battery life for both can charge via 12v plug during travel or plug in when hooked up. Great quality a proper touch of luxury.
Storage. Bedding upper rear shelf; cases, cables etc under this shelf, hanging cupboard as designed; underseat for incidental kit, food, cool box wine etc. Fridge is wonderful after tent camping; other cupboards for food, wash kit, cooking pots, fridge door brilliant for cups, glasses, washing up liquid, cooking oil etc. all very handy
Secure storage of documents – over bed shelf is out of reach when the roof is down. Just remember to empty it before closing roof for the last time!
Night clothes hanging – we use a couple of s hooks from the roof hang down loops to hang up our clothes at night. This saves seat space for other things.
Hooks from the head rest posts. Gives you somewhere to hang hand bag, shopping bags etc
Security at night. We use a carabiner clip to hang the car keys over the sliding door to the strut. We can then centrally lock at night and unlock in the morning.
I made a store using a hanging shoe rack to pick up odds and sods plus shoes which hung off the back of the front seat. Cheap and effective.
Raising the roof. Make sure a door is open to give the volume of air in the roof to enter or escape.
Gale force winds. If really windy, we closed the roof during the night.
Keeping the floor clean. We use a floor rag. It works for wiping your feet/shoes on entry and is easy to shake out and wash when dirty. Useful also for washing the floor whilst standing outside.
Was it a good holiday? Absolutely yes. Just look at the places we went. Few are one the ‘tourist trail’
How could it have been anything else? Away from it all in a welcoming, constantly changing interesting place. No pressures to get anywhere or do anything. Fully independent with a bed you know and what you eat and drink in your control.
Would we do it again? Yes, no question. It is already booked.
Jerry and Gwyneth
Have you ever thought about a Winter Camping Holiday but couldn`t quite build up the courage to sleep in a tent when it`s cold? Well fear not, in one of our campervans you`ll be snug and dry, whatever the weather. You could visit Derbyshire with its beautiful countryside and amazing views, wonderful Peaks and Dales and some great towns and villages. Put on your walking boots and embrace the fresh air, marvel at the stunning sunsets and the twinkling of the stars on a clear night in this beautiful county.
So to help you plan the perfect winter getaway here are 4 Derbyshire campsites suitable for campervans ,that are open all year round with good facilities for the winter months.
LICKPENNY LANE CAMPSITE - Tansley
This is near to Buxton, Matlock, Matlock Bath and Crich Tramway Museum
All of the pitches are hardstanding, many with beautiful views of Riber castle. There are 2 Fully heated Shower/Toilet blocks and the park has won many awards including a Silver David Bellamy Conservation award.
Find out more.
Beech Croft Farm – Close to Buxton
Buxton has much to offer, a Spa town with its magnificent crescent built in 1790. In 1636 the philosopher Thomas Hobbes named the ‘Seven Wonders of the Peak’, two of which are found in Buxton; Poole’s Cavern and St Anne’s Well. Added to this there is the stunning ornamental Pavilion Gardens.
Find out more.
Clover Fields-Winner of AA Campsite of the Year (Heart of England) Award. This is an adult only site so if peace and quiet is what you`re after, this one`s for you.
Find out more
Castleton Caravan Cub Site - See the Blue John Mines.
Find out more
Don`t forget there are some wonderful parks and halls to visit in Derbyshire. Check out the National Trust for ideas, including lots of festive events in the run up to Christmas.
Contact us to check availability.
Autumn is a beautiful season, trees transform into wonderful displays of reds, golds and browns.
Imagine waking up in a cosy VW campervan fully heated surrounded by this colourful canvas. The evenings can be spectacular with the twinkling of stars on a clear night.
Book a night at the renowned Chatsworth House in the heart of the Peak District, in their beautiful walled Campsite. They have many events over the Autumn/Winter seasons. Christmas displays are well worth a look. The house is decorated for the season and the Farm Shop has an incredible display of Christmas Wares. Take a look at their website. .
Another suggestion is Conkers in the heart of the National Forest. It is the country`s newest forest and is a great place to visit. There have been over 8 million trees planted in the last 20 years on the site to regenerate the former coal mining landscape. There is a discovery centre, sculpture trails and a viewing platform to take in the panoramic view of the 120 acre woodland. Loads of outdoor pursuits, Kayaking, laser clay pigeon shooting, mountain biking, archery, pedal go carting, assault course and many more.
To check availability for your Autumn/Winter break contact us today.
Very happy to collect our brand new VW campervan today, now available for hire and going on its first trip this weekend! :)
Our latest campervan is another fantastic VW campervan conversion by Hillside Leisure in Derby, that sleeps 4 people and comes complete with grill, hob, sink and fridge freezer along with everything you need for the perfect glamping trip in the UK and Europe.
Contact us to check availability, we're already taking bookings for Summer 2016!
Last weekend, we took the VW campervan from Derbyshire to North Yorkshire for a weekend break in between hires. We stayed in the lovely village of Great Ayton, the birthplace of Captain Cook, in the sight of 330 metre high Roseberry Topping. Great Ayton is a great base for those wanting to explore the moors and there are plenty of adventurous walks nearby.
From Great Ayton, we had a short drive to Grosmont situated in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. We walked from here to Goathland along the North Yorkshire Moors steam railway line, this was only 3½ miles with lots of interesting things to see along the way including the working steam trains and a great spot for paddling in the river.
Goathland was the setting for the popular television series Heartbeat famously known as Aidensfield and was also Hogsmeade station in the first Harry Potter film. After an ice cream and a look around the shops we headed down to the station to catch the steam train back to Grosmont. This was great for the kids and the dogs were allowed on the train too :)
Before travelling home the next day, we stopped for lunch in the picturesque village of Ostmotherley in the Hambleton Hills on the edge of the moors. We dined at The Three Tuns restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious Sunday lunch before the drive home.
Despite the weather being wet and cold we decided to take the camper to Derbyshire for a little break. Although it was cold outside, we were all cosy inside the camper and the kids loved having a night away.
We stayed at a lovely Derbyshire pub called the Royal Oak in Hurdlow, which has a campsite and also cooks the best chips we have ever tasted! Great dinner (and breakfast), a rather cold but nice Peak District walk plus a great night's sleep in a warm camper was just what we all needed :)
We're really excited to have our website up and running so that people can discover our lovely camper van to hire. We'll be adding to the fleet soon and can't wait to see all the places our van travels to with our customers :)
We always wanted a camper van when we were younger and when we finally got one, it really did have an amazing affect on our family holidays. No hassle, no timetables to stick to, we just chuck everything in the van we need and off we go. Never really planning anything in advance, we just go in a general direction and find somewhere great to camp for the night. Often, a willing farmer's field or a deserted camp site when it's low season are the best times we've had but we've had lots of brilliant busy times too.
One thing we love most is escaping the mod cons (whilst there are still plenty in the van!), getting away from the distractions of work and household chores to just enjoy our time together and go out and explore.
Whilst we tend to holiday with 2 young kids and a dog, the van is perfect for couples, friends and families and is often a great solution for the avid campers whose relatives simply won't sleep in a tent! You get all the great things about camping, with all the facilities you need, a comfy bed and central heating!
Watch this space for regular updates on tales of happy holidays and lots of useful information to help you plan your camper van adventures.