Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Campervan adventure part one

With summer coming to an end we've been thinking about preparing Grizzy for his autumn and winter hibernation probably sometime in October. With this in mind I thought I'd share a couple of adventures we've had in him so far. Adventures that have opened my eye to experiences that I'm not sure I want to repeat!

Every Friday night we take Grizzy, park along the seafront, eat our dinner and get an ice cream. This particular evening I thought we should go to a local beauty spot for a change of scenery. "it will be lovely" I said "the scenery is amazing" I said "we can watch the sun setting" I said, "it will be so peaceful" I said

We drove up to Devils Dyke and yes it was lovely and yes the sun was setting

The scenery is amazing

But is it peaceful? Well no not really mainly due to the abundance of cars with lone males pulling into the car park. That's right I had inadvertently taken Mark to the local dogging hotspot!!

At first I didn't know what was going until it twigged that the men were on their own and weren't there to walk their dogs. Everytime they pulled into the car park they took one look at us and Grizzy, turned round and drove straight back out.
Was it the fact that we were sitting there eating a picnic?

Or the fact that Mark was busy sprucing Grizzy up and giving him a wax (not a euphemism)

After an hour we decided to make a move as I was getting a bit freaked out.  So making Mark lock the doors we drove out being careful not to flash our headlights, one for yes, two for no!!

I was both outraged and fascinated on our way home (I hasten to add we didn't see any action). I honestly thought dogging was an urban myth so I made my mind up to ring the local constabulary the next morning just to see if we were completely barking up the wrong tree. Thankfully I had the sense to actually Google it rather than ringing the police station (how embarrassing would that have been, appalled from Brighton ringing up to see if the Devils Dyke really was a hotbed of dogging!) and it turns out there's a rather large dogging community around Sussex beauty spots.  It was very easy to find out where to go, I didn't need to create a login for any of the sites,  I could just trawl the forums and find out everything I ever needed to know and much more I didn't.

Apparently Devils Dyke isn't what it used to be.  It tends to be only lone men who go up there and ever since they found the dead body (yes really!) people haven't been enjoying the 'sights' as much. Much better to go somewhere else.

So there you go, a brand new experience courtesy of Grizzy and one that I never imagined experiencing.  The whole point of getting Grizzy was to experience new things, I just didn't reaslise our first experience would be of the dogging variety!

For anyone interested in learning more about the wonders of dogging I highly recommend you watch this youtube clip of Fascinating Aida!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Living life in the slow lane

Last weekend we had our first proper trip away in Grizzy, our VW Camper.  As some of you who have read my blog before know that I am not over enthusiastic about camping.  Our first foray into 'Glamping' was somewhat fraught mainly due to the compost toilet and lack of privacy whilst taking a shower, oh and the damp smell and feeling in the caravan so I was a little apprehensive to say the least.  I did 'joke' to Mark that wouldn't it be funny if we'd bought him and I still didn't like camping, hahahaha (maniacal laughter ensued).  This was met with a look that said "don't EVEN joke about it, we are not contemplating that and even if you don't like it, tough, we're camping and that's it"

With a sense of trepidation we booked the campsite, Dogwood Cottage, in Brede near Rye in East Sussex. It had been recommended to us and was a quiet fairly small campsite, perfect for a first time trip. It was also near Camber Sands which boasts a beautiful sandy beach so my preparation for the whole trip mainly consisted of preparing my outfit to visit the beach.  Forget anything practical like plates, cups, tin openers, bedding, cutlery. The most important thing to me was that I had a swimming costume I felt comfortable in, a hat, a cover up in a tropical print and new jelly shoes to walk in the sea with.

Friday came and off we set. It was a beautiful, sunny day and as soon as we got in Grizzy we knew that we had done the right thing!  It literally feels like a holiday every time we get in him and knowing we don't have to get anywhere fast makes the whole thing hugely enjoyable.  We stopped off at Middle Farm to get some pasties and bits for lunch and then continued our journey through the winding roads of the Sussex countryside.  We stopped at Brede High Woods for lunch.

Where we ate our pasties and Grizzy enjoyed the sunshine.

We made it to Camber and my outfit was a huge success, with me anyway!

The actual beach at Camber is amazing, sand as far as you can see and not crowded at all.  We both went swimming in the sea which was surprisingly warm.  I could have stayed in there for hours.

After 3 hours on the beach we started on the 20 minute journey to the campsite as Mark wanted to get set up and put the new awning up preferably before dark.

After he had finished (I made myself useful by staying out the way) we just relaxed, read a book, ate some food and basically chilled for the rest of the day.

On the Saturday after an ok nights sleep and NO trips to the toilet in the dead of night, we had a little trip to Sissinghurst Castle.  On the way we stopped at Silcocks Farmshop and cafe which served the most wonderful lunch and cakes, highly recommended.  My egg mayo roll was the best I've ever had as the eggs were cooked fresh there and then and only the smallest amount of mayo was used.  Really delicious and excellent value for money too.

Sissinghurst had been recommended to me to visit and as soon as we stepped through to the garden I could see why. It was a riot of colour with the most amazing flowers and insects.  You can only wander round the garden and lakes as the house isn't open to visitors but there's more than enough to see.

 A little note from the head gardener to let visitors know what was happening in the gardens

Some of the beautiful cottages and buildings in the grounds

My favourite, an old shed for the gardener, dusty and cobwebby.....

.....and hidden behind beautiful red roses

Beautiful views across the countryside

And in the woods there were fairy doors.....

.....and a little pet cemetery

Sissinghurst has a really magical feel about it and is well worth a visit.  There are some nice walks around the lakes too and its easy to lose track of time in this magical place.

All too soon our little adventure had finished and we set off on Sunday morning back home in the pouring rain.  On our way we stopped at a 12th Century church, All Saints in the village of Mountfield.  We have visited here before and it is the most beautiful church I have visited.  It is so peaceful and tranquil and the views are amazing. 

There is a bench that I could sit on all day..... the views are stunning

Our first camping trip in Grizzy was just fantastic and I can't wait to do it all again.  He got us from A to B and then to C and D. He kept us warm and dry and helped us have a little adventure.  It really is like stepping back in time when everything was done at a slower pace and is something we definitely need more of in our lives.  Without doubt the best purchase we've ever made!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Meet Griswold

Mark and I aren't known for our spontaneity. We like to think things through, then think again and think some more. I also don't relish change and even if things are clearly past their sell by date, I don't like getting rid of them. For example our first car was falling to pieces, literally.  It had a plant growing in the passenger door, it leaked, it hated going in reverse, the wing mirror fell off and flapped in the wind as we drove along and it made strange noises.  Still I refused to get rid of it.  The day it left us was the day it failed its M.O.T and Mark had to ring me to tell me it had gone to the scrapyard in the sky and wasn't coming home. I cried.  Then we got a new car and I soon forgot about the old one and think its the best thing ever. It was the same with the tv.  We had one of those TV's with the huge great bulky back and in the end we were having to kick it for it to even turn on.  Still I wouldn't even contemplate a new one. I finally relented when it broke completely and I admit I took a while to warm to the new one but yes you've guessed it, I now think it's the best thing ever. After 13 years we have finally got a new fridge freezer. The old fridge had no light and after feeling the temp in the new one, it clearly wasn't doing its fridging job correctly. The table top freezer we had wouldn't freeze properly probably because the door wouldn't shut properly.  We had to chisel away at the edges every couple of days to remove the excess ice it was producing round the door. We've now got a new fridge freezer (bought it only last week in fact) and I love it.

So you see we don't make rash big purchases which is why our new purchase has come as somewhat of a shock.  Meet Griswold, our 1977 Type 2, late bay VW campervan and the newest addition to our family.

Before coming to the UK, Griswold resided in Hollywood.  Very fitting really as he bears an uncanny resemblance to Clark Griswold's station wagon in the 1980s film, National Lampoon's Vacation.

Now the reason we bought Grizzy is simple. We wanted to start living our life, enjoy it and embrace the freedom a house on wheels will give us. It has been one of Mark's dreams to own a camper and if truth be told I've been very sad for a very long time. Not just a bit down in the dumps or feeling sorry for myself but properly clinically sad and I realised that I'd had enough of feeling like this and had to make a change to start me on the road to recovery and Grizzy is going to be the thing to help. 

Already he's part of the family and we love going out in him. It literally feels like a holiday everytime we sit in him! It's so much fun driving along and seeing other camper vans as we all wave or flash our lights to say hello.  The other good thing about Grizzy is that we can buy him things.  For example he recently got a new radio as he doesn't have a stereo system

A new awning to give us extra space when we go camping.

I have to admit to not being that excited about this purchase as its very practical but the point is, if I say it's for Grizzy then I can buy it!  Lots of people have said to me that I must be excited about decorating it etc but truth be told I've been banned from having anything to do with the interior. I did suggest that we could deck him out with a gypsy caravan style interior but was sharply told NO that was not going to happen. For now we will be sticking to the original westfalia interior that was retro fitted by the previous owner. 

Grizzy even comes complete with a hob

And fridge

He has everything we need and we love him, definitely the best spur of the moment decision we've ever made and I know without doubt that he will make us very happy :)