We have used quite a few of the small campsites affiliated to the Camping and Caravanning Club and called Certified Sites [CS]. Over the years we have found these sites do vary hugely in standards and facilities. While the unexpected can be delightful it can be best to read the reviews for a CS carefully to see if it is a site for you. This one on the edge of Ipswich worked very well for us and gave us a lovely rural retreat with reasonable facilities.
The campsite, as the name suggests, is on a hill. The landscape is large fields of cereals which look a tad dreary after harvest, although there is a planning application in for solar panels which will brighten things up. At the top of the hill is a wooded idyll that contrasts with the sterile agricultural surroundings. The owners have created a vibrant oasis of wildlife that is peaceful and we watched all sorts of birds, butterflies and insects from our pitch.
The campsite is grassy and isn’t open all year but it appears to be well drained. Pitches are not marked out, although there are some nooks that are the perfect size for one campervan and other spaces that are obvious rows. Fortunately it wasn’t too busy when we were there in mid-September so we could spread out. As well as being surrounded by trees and bushes there are shrubberies dotted around that screen other campers, giving a sense of privacy.
After opening the gate using the lock code we had been sent before arrival, we took some time choosing a pitch as there were no instructions. Later we found the path through the trees behind the facilities that took us to the owner’s house to pay. The owners are friendly and, if you don’t find them at home you will most likely see them later as they regularly wander around the pitches in the early evening to check everyone is happy.
The facilities are in what I [mistakenly] called sheds! I was corrected and told they are beach huts! One of these ‘beach huts’ has a sink for washing up that was a tad lacking in elbow room. Another has a toilet and sink. The largest [and most beach-hut-like] of the huts is equipped with an electric shower [this was okay], toilet and sink and was brighter and airier. Showers were an additional £1 and this is left in an honesty box. These facilities were mostly sufficient when we were there along with only three or four other units, although we did have to queue to shower and wash up at least once. If it was busier, particularly with guests in tents, these facilities would be pressed into more action and it could get crowded. Everything worked fine although, as the September days became cooler we would have welcomed some heating in the shower room.
The fourth shed is an information hut and when we visited there was honey from the owners bees on sale.
Walk down the gravel track and turn left along the lane, cross the main road [B1113] and you are in the village of Bramford. This 10 minute walk takes you to a bus stop from where there is an irregular week day bus service into Ipswich that we used both days we were here. Bramford also has a pub that provides meals and a village shop.
Ipswich is well worth visiting. It has a fabulous waterfront, plenty of shops and Christchurch Mansion, a beautiful Tudor house that is an interesting museum and art gallery. We ate a delicious lunch in Hullabaloo Vegan Cafe, a comfy and friendly establishment on St Peter’s Street, between the marina and the city centre.
If you like cycling on country lanes, a regional cycle route, number 48, follows the lane by the campsite and is part of a 48 mile route around Suffolk.
The Blue Bus, our Renault Master Devon Tempest campervan, is now eight years old and has travelled almost 70,000 miles. In 2022, with no lock downs and Covid-19 restrictions, we enjoyed 124 nights in our campervan in 60 different places, stretching from Meissen in south-east Germany to the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland.
We spent at least one night in the ‘van in every month of 2022, from a chilly weekend with friends in the Ribble Valley in January to a night parked on a Manchester residential street on New Year’s Eve. Using our campervan all year keeps it aired and means that I always have a camping trip to look forward to.
Looking through our log book of our nights away we paid between nothing for an overnight when we free camped to £38 a night at Pinewoods at Wells-next-the-Sea. Spending a night off-grid for free is a big plus to owning a campervan and we have parked up and had some enviable views to ourselves. Pinewoods is a beautifully positioned campsite within walking distance of Wells-next-the-Sea that came highly recommended and was a bit of a one-off treat during our Suffolk and Norfolk trip.
As we all know, campsite overnight costs have increased in 2022 and we mostly paid between £20 and £25 a night, even on Certified Locations [Caravan and Motorhome Club] and Certified Sites [Camping and Caravanning Club]. Due to our age we receive a discount on Camping and Caravanning Club sites and these often work out cheaper for us than Caravan and Motorhome Club sites. For the most part we are lucky enough to have enough money to be able to choose on location rather than cost. We have also found that, when it comes to campsites, the overnight charge seems to have little to do with the standard of the facilities!
During our trip to Germany and the Netherlands in May and June we made good use of our ACSI discount card, although, as we were sticking to the River Elbe, we also used sites not part of this scheme. ACSI discount sites were a maximum of €21 a night, including EHU, in 2022. I noticed when our new ACSI book arrived before Christmas that you can now pay as much as €23 a night. Germany also has a couple of public holidays in May and school holidays and some sites were full price [and very busy] during this period. German campsites generally have high standards but there are always exceptions and we found one or two of them!
We stayed on plenty of idyllic campsites while we were in Germany but our favourite was Campingplatz Rehbocktal near to the gorgeous city of Meissen. This small site tucked into a valley with a babbling brook running through it is immaculately kept, friendly and just a short distance away from Meissen. I didn’t really want to leave this delightful spot and it was well worth the £27.50 a night [the most expensive campsite we stayed at in Germany].
It is hard to pick a favourite UK campsite from 2022 but if I was pushed, Silverburn Park near Leven has to be up there and not just because we had a light covering of snow when we were there and also had the small site to ourselves. The friendly welcome, the open views across the beach and the Firth of the Forth, the campsite cat and the birds in the walled garden all made it perfect. Add to this the knowledge that you are supporting a charity and happiness is off the scale.
The cost of living has been on everyone’s minds in 2022 so how did we cope in a year where inflation raced ahead into double figures, while interest on savings lagged behind? Did we make any changes to our lives that show up in our spending? Once again I have divulged the expenditure of a couple living in the northwest of England in all its peculiarity and shortcomings.
During 2022 we still only had my small NHS pension, my irregular travel writer income, interest and Premium Bond winnings [no we didn’t win big!] to pad out our savings. This income contributes about 40% of our spending and it is our dwindling savings that provide the majority of our funds through the year. We are beyond excited that in 2023 one of Anthony’s work-related pensions kicks in [over 20 years of service] as we gradually come to the end of our savings.
When we retired in 2017 we aimed to live on less than £27,000 a year for the foreseeable future, and despite high inflation we have spent under that figure for five of the last six years but it was a close run thing in 2022. Today the average household in the UK spends just over £30,000 a year [even if you take out mortgage / rent costs] and if we were both earning minimum wage for a 37 hour week and paying tax we would have an income of almost £33,000, so we were not budgetting for anything like the lap of luxury.
As in previous years, expensive home improvements that we consider one-off are kept separate and not part of the headline figure. On top of the budgeted expenditure in the usual categories [see below], in 2022 we also eventually managed to renovate our tired bathroom, splashing out £10,000 on a new super-modern bathroom and flooring for our hallway. I am hopeful I will never have to re-fit a bathroom again [I’ve no idea how anyone manages this without a campervan to fall back on] and I hope this one will see me out!
Here is how our budget breaks down into my different categories:
Essentials – total £8,941 [33% of total spending] [2021 £8,730 / 38%]
Food – £4,074 [2021 £4,142] – I have watched this figure carefully throughout the year and I am surprised it is less than 2021! The evidence suggests that the price of food has increased and there was a point where a pack of butter seemed to increase by the day and yet the spreadsheet doesn’t lie. I can’t explain this and my waistline would suggest we haven’t starved. We continue being vegetarian and using Lidl for most of our shopping, with top ups at the Co-op, Sainsburys and Tesco. We were in Germany and the Netherlands for two months of the year but food seemed a similar price there and we have averaged £339 / month spending in supermarkets [including alcohol] in 2022.
Utilities, insurance & service charges for a 2-bed 57.2 sq mtrs [615.7 sq feet] bungalow – £4,031 [2021 £3,854] – Considering the rising cost of everything, this budget line hasn’t risen too much either. Like most other people we have received the government help on our energy bills. We can’t do much about our Council Tax and TV License but did get a better deal on our home broadband. We have always saved energy and water for our pockets and the environment, using grey water to flush the loo, switching the shower off while we lather up and only washing clothes at 30C.
Our health – £836 [2021 £734] – Most of this spending in 2022 is on physiotherapy after my ongoing bout of sciatic pain. The NHS waiting list for physiotherapy is generally so long we just get on with this ourselves to prevent problems becoming chronic. This is certainly a frugal fail as after paying £55 a session for two months I found out our GP practice has two NHS physiotherapists with waiting lists of only a few weeks!
The money we spend on the essentials above are, in theory, the minimum we need to survive, if nothing goes wrong or wears out and we didn’t own a campervan and never went anywhere!
Stuff (electronics, books, newspapers and other kit) – £4,719 [18% of total spending] [2021 £3,170 / 14%]
Household spending [everything from glue, newspapers and books to bird food, gardening stuff and parts for the bikes] – £4,076 [ 2021 £2,506] This is much higher than 2021 so was 2022 the year of stuff? There were a number of replacements; new curtains for the living room; a couple of new electronic gadgets as thngs broke and a massive frugal fail – the decision in January to buy our first tumble drier! Doing this just as energy prices were rising was pretty stupid and [of course] we hardly dare use it now. Our local library has helped us be more frugal when it comes to reading. Once I had discovered the online reservation service [75p per item] and gained my reward card [6th book free] I was hooked. Other books come from friends, charity and second-hand book shops.
Clothes & accessories – £643 [2021 £664] – We try and follow a one-in-one-out policy with clothes as even good quality kit eventually wear out and almost half of this £643 went on footwear. After putting up with wet feet time and time again on our hill walks we splashed out on a new pair of boots for me and had to replace other shoes. A massive frugal fail occured on our trip to Scotland in March. We set off in glorious and warm spring weather and forgot to pack our thick padded coats! Of course, you guessed it, a week in and the Scottish weather was Arctic and every charity shop had sold all its stock of warm and showerproof outerwear. We had no choice but to buy a coat each and were just grateful that we caught the sales. The only bonus to spending an unnecessary £130 is that we now keep these two spare coats in the campervan, so we’ll never be caught out again!
Experiences – £11,805 [46% of total spending] [2021 £9,517 / 31%]
Holidays [still our favourite spending line] – £4,096 [20210 £3,634] – We eventually got our holiday with friends in a big Scottish house in 2022, having waited two years and a pandemic to get together. We spent about four months of the year sleeping in our campervan in the UK and Germany and the Netherlands and so paid for lots of campsites and ferries but to save money we only took one trip across to mainland Europe instead of the two each year we planned when we retired.
Restaurants & cafes – £2,311 [2021 £2,225] – This number tell a story of someone who, although they love their family and friends dearly, has lost the need to socialise so much since being locked down. Our spending on eating out [everything from takeaway chips from our local chip shop to a posh meal out with friends] hasn’t recovered since BC[Before Covid-19]. In 2019 we spent just over £2,400 in this line of our budget, revealing how our life has changed and I don’t know if going out will ever return to BC levels. That said, we ate so much cake and ice-cream in Germany I’m honestly amazed this figure isn’t double!
Running the campervan [servicing & insurance etc] – £2,058 [2021 £1,280] – After a cheap year in 2021 it was inevitable we would have to spend more on the Blue Bus in 2022. The biggest expenditure was front tyres that were replaced in the autumn as they were getting to the end of their life. As the spare tyre was five years old we swapped it for one of the removed front tyres that still had some tread and a couple of years of life left in it.
Diesel for the above ‘van – £1,905 [2021 £1,261 ] – It is not surprising this budget line has increased in 2022 as the cost of diesel rocketed. Paying more than £100 to fill up its huge tank is no longer a novelty! When we are at home and on campsites we generally travel on foot, by bicycle or by public transport and our campervan can easily sit for a week or two without going anywhere. We also deliberately reduced our mileage on our trip to Europe, staying in Germany and not following the Elbe into Czechia as we had originally planned.
Tickets for concerts, football & attractions – £744 [2021 £589] – This is another area of spending that hasn’t recovered in the AC [After Covid-19] world. In 2019 we spent £200 more on going out than we did in 2022 and in 2018 we spent even more! Nevertheless we are getting back into the swing of enjoying some experiences. Gigs in 2022 included The Pretty Reckless in Manchester and we had a nostalgic trip to see Preston North End play football with a friend [we were regulars when we lived in Preston]. I sat next to a couple who had been attending PNE matches for over seven decades, what dedication! We have also visited some wonderful places, a highlight being Eilean Bàn early in the year. This island sitting under the bridge between the Isle of Skye and Kyle of Lochalsh is a haven for nature and has a delightful museum to Gavin Maxwell who lived here at one time.
Public transport costs – £691 [2021 £528] – Bus and train fares have increased. On our regular trips to Manchester to see friends we always choose to let the train take the strain but the West Coast Mainline now resembles a lottery more than a service. Three train companies run this route, Northern, TransPennine and Avanti and all of them [but particularly the latter two] have failed to provide a full timetable throughout the year even before strikes began. We now expect cancelled trains on the reduced timetable and plan accordingly after a couple of frustrating and uncomfortable journeys.
Giving – £940 [4% of total spending] [2021 £1,352 / 6%]
Gifts & donations – £940 [2021 £1,352] – In 2022 we have supported Morecambe’s Food Bank, charities campaigning against climate change and Ukraine. Whereas our donations to charities have increased, our gift giving has been more frugal. What isn’t included in this figure is the regular item I pop into the Food Bank bin in the supermarket. This is a small part of our grocery total and we find it is a way of giving without noticing the financial cost.
TOTAL SPENDING FOR 2022 – £26,405
Considering inflation and some big frugal fails I am happy with this figure. The area I would like to reduce in 2023 is the £4,700+ we spent on stuff. Even though where possible we bought second hand, much of this spending has a negative impact on our planet.
Over my six years of retirement we have spent an average of £24,715 a year.Thanks to my travel writing income over these years we have enough flexibility to be able to have a budget of more than £27,000 in 2023 and beyond without being forced to go back to the nine-to-five.
We now have only three years until we are both receiving our state pensions and no longer rely on our savings.
Although retiring early was fantastic, for me, saving was never just about being able to give up work before we were in our mid-60s, it was also about us having the financial resilience to survive whatever ups and downs life threw at us. Let’s hope we continue to stay afloat and even thrive through whatever 2023 brings us.
Let me know in the comments below how your budget matched your spending in 2022.