When Roger and I purchased our campervan we decided that we would try to use it every month – for at least a day or two.
Starting in March 2016 we took a few days in Shropshire, dodging floods on the way and staying just outside Ludlow, enjoying the town with its castle and foodie reputation – also visiting nearby Stokesay castle, the quaint village of Clun on the Welsh borders, and walking the beautiful NT Carding Mill Valley. The van comes with central heating, hot water and a TV so we don’t rough it too much!
In April we made our first visit to the Dorset village of Puncknowle (pronounced Punnel), a mile inland from Chesil Beach, to sound out a pub our son Ed was thinking of taking on. Conveniently there is a campsite in the village – handy for us, and potentially for the pub in the summer months.
Our May trip involved two nights on a farm site at Minchinhampton. From there we cycled down a steep hill and beside the partially restored canal into Stroud, where we shopped in the lovely street market. The ride up out of the town to Minchinhampton Common was not so much fun, but we just managed to get back to the van before getting thoroughly soaked in a dramatic thunderstorm. We came home next day via Westonbirt Arboretum and Chedworth Roman Villa; it is amazing how many interesting places there are to discover, some quite close to the Wychwoods, when you’re touring around the country.
In June we set off on a fine Sunday afternoon for the Belvoir Valley in Leicestershire – not a county we have ever thought of visiting. We cycled from the quiet farm site to Belvoir Castle for a fascinating guided tour. Other local visits included the Cropwell Bishop creamery, the majestic Southwell Minster and the surprisingly interesting town of Newark which has a castle dramatically towering over the river Trent, a Civil War trail and a lovely central square, rivalling any you would find in France.
In July, and the summer holidays, we arranged to go away with our other son, his wife and two daughters in the van to West Wales. We had bought an awning which attaches to the van and makes room for us all but living in such close quarters in mixed weather was rather challenging! The highlights were the wonderful Cardigan (agricultural) Show, dolphin-spotting and the very efficient local bus service in and out of Cardigan town, which would drop us off right outside the campsite. Once the van is parked up we either walk, cycle or use public transport to get about – it is good not to have to drive.
For the last two months of 2016 we shared our camping experiences with others. In August we camped in a field in Cropredy with hundreds of others for the Fairport Convention festival. The musical delights included Madness, Ralph McTell and Steeleye Span as well as some great lesser known performers. It is on these occasions that the van really comes into its own – with our own little washroom and loo and somewhere to put your feet up and have a cup of tea when you’ve had enough of festival-going.
September saw our only foreign trip of the year in our own van – ten days in France introducing friends in their caravan to the delights of camping abroad. After 3 days on the coast near Dieppe, we moved to the Somme region where we enjoyed a late summer heatwave in a lovely campsite in Albert. We could walk into town to explore the WW1 museum in the tunnels under the town, and catch a local train to Amiens to visit the cathedral. We also attended one of the daily centennial memorial services at Thiepval held throughout the 141 days of the Battle of the Somme.
October, November and December took us back to Puncknowle where Ed and our son Rob had taken the tenancy of the Crown Inn from the local brewery Palmers. The building is 16th century, thatched and just off the scenic coastal road from Weymouth to Bridport, serving good local beer and great food. You can stay there too – there are two reasonably-priced letting bedrooms; a perfect place for an out-of-season get-away – check out thecrowninndorset.co.uk. We took our van as the pub is registered for Britstop, so campervanners can stay in the carpark FOC but on the understanding that they buy a drink or two or a meal. This was how we spent our Christmas as the rooms were taken!
The other new experience for us in 2016 was to go on a rally. As owners of an Autosleeper van we are members of the AS club and joined a rally at Burnham on Sea on the Somerset coast to see fireworks on the beach and the Burnham on Sea Guy Fawkes annual carnival. We enjoyed meeting other van owners to compare notes and share touring experiences – and the carnival was unbelievable; a one-and-a-half-hour parade of the most fantastic floats (known as carts) which had taken all year to build with hundreds of lights, moving parts, music, costumes etc.
We are now into our 2017 excursions!
February – March 2017