It is now about 6 weeks since we took delivery of The Van With No Name.
We had expected that we would have had several weekends away in it by now, but last weekend was only our second trip.
However, so far we have mostly enjoyed our experience with the van, but we are definitely on a learning journey.
Our first trip was only a single overnight stay and only 30 minutes from home.
This may seem like a bit of a pointless excursion, but I call it sensibly cautious.
Perhaps we could have been more gung-ho, like our friends whose first excursion in their new van was to Belgium.
But I decided that if anything was going to go horribly wrong I’d rather it did so close to home.
This first trip was to Slimbridge, staying at the Tudor Arms campsite.
This, I have decided, is one of the great joys of camper-vanning: staying next to a good pub without the worry of having to drive home afterwards. I anticipate many more such local excursions.
We enjoyed our time in Slimbridge and the evening in the pub, but I have to be honest and say the night wasn’t as comfy as I hoped.
After a restless night’s sleep I awoke bleary eyed with my back feeling like I had somehow inadvertently managed to get trampled by a herd of stampeding bulls whilst I slept.
I was glad we were only away for one night.
“Ah”, said our friends – who as strange coincidence would have it were also camping at Slimbridge that night (fellow enthusiasts for sleeping next to pubs) – “you need a memory foam mattress topper.”
So we ordered one immediately.
I must admit, when it arrived I was sceptical.
The memory foam mattress topper is about an inch thick: surely that isn’t going to make much difference.
It was therefore with some trepidation that we set off for a three night stay this weekend at Sparkhayes Campsite in Porlock, near Minehead in Somerset, with a large group of friends.
Thankfully my scepticism and trepidation were misplaced: that skinny foam cover made all the difference. In fact, we were so comfortable we didn’t want to get up in the mornings. A very different story to my previous excursions to Porlock in a tent!
Everything else has gone pretty well: we are amazed at how much we can get into the van – we haven’t even got close to filling up all of the many cupboards and various nooks and crannies, and the tiny fridge is positively TARDIS-like!
I have also been very pleased by the fact that there seem to be virtually no clatters, rattles and clanks as we drive around: a combination of well designed cupboards and careful packing has exceeded my expectations.
We still have a lot to learn about cooking. My idea of camping is to eat in the pub, but my lovely wife is very keen to do the job properly and cook in the van.
She has cooked a couple of very nice meals, but the more adventurous campers in our group showed us the art of the possible: there was some delicious smelling curry being cooked on a barbecue outside one van, and a lemon meringue pie was conjured up in another! She is up for the challenge, but we may need more equipment (££).
The other thing that we have learnt is to be more prepared for the cold.
Although it was a lovely weekend over Easter it was quite cold – it was April after all.
The more hardy campers were happy to sit outside their vans and tents shooting the breeze into the evening as our teeth chattered.
Partly that is down to experience having hardened them to the elements.
Partly it is down to extensive and judicious layering of clothes and the application of blankets.
And partly it is down to cunningly concealed hot water bottles.
When did we get old enough to sit around under blankets with hot water bottles?
Nonetheless, I suspect they will be an essential part of our packing for the future (£).
So we are feeling confident about our future with TVWNN – we are planning the purchase of an awning (£££) before the next trip, then bring it on!
I will blog some more about our trip to Porlock once I’ve sorted out my photos, but if you are a regular reader you will know that may take a while.
Meanwhile, happy camping!