Campervan security

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A secure ‘van is also a happy ‘van

I read motorhome magazines [MMM and Practical Motorhome] cover to cover, as well as other owners blogs and forums.  Through these I read lots tales about campervans being broken in to and valued items being stolen.  I know it must be dreadful when this happens; a campervan is after all a home as well as a vehicle.  Touch wood, in our ten-years of motorhoming over 90,000 miles we haven’t had many problems but we do take a few precautions.

  • We try not to own anything too expensive [no really flash camera, no top of the range tablet] although with a small ‘van where space is limited everything we carry is valuable [to us.]
  • We think about where we are leaving the ‘van and consider whether it feels safe; if one of us is unhappy with a car park they are allowed a veto.
  • We never leave money or credit cards in the ‘van but always choose to carry them on our person [walking trousers/shorts and shirts have the benefit of lots of pockets]
  • We put any valuables [to us] that might be left in the ‘van out of sight
  • We prefer to park with the back doors reversed to a wall as they feel like a weak point and this makes it impossible to access the ‘van this way.  Parking in this way also makes it difficult to get at the bikes when they are loaded.
  • We have added Lock M Out window locks to the two large side windows and we always lock the ‘van doors at night.
  • If the worst happens and someone steals the whole ‘van, we have a tracker which we hope will mean it can be found.

During our year travelling we did have a couple of problems which were both [coincidently] in Spain.  The first time, someone attempted to take the bikes off the bike rack when it was parked in a small town that had felt safe enough.  They had buckled one of the wheels in the process and we had to replace this.  A few week’s later someone tried to force open one of the van side windows and scratched the plastic and then scored the drivers side window [perhaps in frustration] and we had to have that replaced.

 

Why we won’t get bored in our retirement

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These are our plans for retirement

Pinned up in the van is the above list of things.  Mr BOTRA and I think of the lines of this verse as our ‘to do’ list when we are on trips in the van.

Our plans for our [hoped for] long and happy retirement are to spend lots of time on campervan trips and doing all the things on this list.

This list is not ours it is one of those oft quoted things you find on a fridge magnet or a postcard but it does nicely summarise the things we like to do on our campervan trips.

Walk in the rain – or [hopefully] in the sun, or the wind; whatever the weather we will just walk [or cycle] every day.  We will walk up mountains, along valleys, traverse ridges, follow coastlines and explore towns and cities, at walking pace we can really appreciate the great outdoors.  When we were away in the van for a year in 2009/10 (blog here) we walked most days, slept well and were fitter and healthier than we had ever been.

Smell flowers – There is no better display than the one nature provides and I always take time to smell the flowers [and watch the birds and animals], as well as try and identify what they are with the books we have in the ‘van … sometimes this is very hard.

Stop along the way – In a campervan there is really no rush and no excuse not to stop and explore whatever we find because being in the ‘van is part of the fun and the journey.  Sometimes these unscheduled stops take you to unexpected and interesting places.

Build sandcastles – Or beach comb, or bird watch or just more walking but on beaches.

Go on field trips – For me every day in the ‘van is a field trip and the blog is my field note book.  When I was a geography student the field trips were my favourite part of the course and I picked modules to maximise the number of trips I took part in.  Field trips are about taking everything in, observing, experiencing and soaking in the sounds, tastes, history, smells and stories of a place.

Find out how things work – I will admit to a liking for interpretation boards and Mr BOTRA reads these avidly.  I am also addicted to looking things up on Google.  As far as I am concerned, every day is an opportunity to learn something new.

Tell stories – To each other and to others [when they will listen].

Say the magic words -These must be ‘Let’s go camping!’  I say these all the time.

Trust the universe – Okay, this is a bit dippy, I trust it to just keep expanding and be there.

 

 

Do you all come from Devon?

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The ruined St Mary’s Church in Colston Bassett in Nottinghamshire

With nine Devon Conversions ‘vans grouped together on the campsite near Nottingham it wasn’t unreasonable for a perplexed fellow camper to ask, ‘do you all come from Devon?’

We had gathered for the spring Devon Owner’s Group rally and once again had lots of laughs, met old friends and made some new ones, learnt plenty of useful tips and came away with new ideas for places to visit.

We were camped near the village of Cotgrave near Nottingham and Mr BOTRA and I caught a taxi to the pretty village of Colston Bassett with a plan to buy some delicious and creamy Blue Stilton cheese from the dairy there and then follow the lanes and the old canal back to the campsite (approximately 13 kms).

The taxi driver was a chatty character and told us he had been 20-years a miner at the Cotgrave pit before it closed and came from a family of ten generations of mineworkers.  This took me back to the 1980s when we lived in the East Midlands and were surrounded by the hardship of the mineworkers and their families as they endured the long strike.

Colston Bassett, as well as having a dairy that makes fantastic creamy and tangy Stilton, also has an atmospheric ruined church on the edge of the village that was worth exploring.  All the villages around here had charming names and we found a second cheese shop in Cropwell Bishop and opted to buy their tasty Beauvale soft blue cheese.

The Grantham Canal is no longer navigable and is now mostly a greenway of shrubs and plants and proved to be a haven for wildlife and we enjoyed watching a Willow Warbler flitting among the long grasses.  As the canal reaches Cotgrave we walked through the lovely country park, landscaped on some of the land that was the mine.

The weather forecast had been for showers and so we had packed the waterproofs but we never needed them and we felt lucky as the day stayed warm and pleasant day for walking.

 

… and one week later it is warm enough for shorts

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Last weekend we had the heating on, fleeces and hats during the daytime and were wrapped up at night in pyjamas, silk sleeping bag liners, duvets and blankets.  One week later, here we are at last in shorts and able to sit outside the ‘van.  We have moved from Please make it warmer! to putting the thermals and thick socks to the back of the drawer in just a few days.

As we set off walking in the rolling Shropshire countryside Mr BOTRA and I both felt lighter and we were.  We were carrying just the camera and binoculars, no need for waterproofs and those extra layers.  In the ‘van making the beds was easier and now we could eat outdoors, there were no crumbs in the van after eating.

We had a glorious weekend near Shrewsbury; walking up and around Lyth Hill, where we were congratulating ourselves for our excellent navigation skills and Shropshire Council for their excellent signage and then [you guessed it] we got lost.  We found our way back to our route and then got lost again due to poor signage through a farmyard [we suspect the farmer was trying to deter walkers and had removed the helpful yellow arrows].

On the Sunday we visited the beautiful ruin of Haughmond Abbey, a tranquil and scenic spot and then moved on to Hawkstone Park Follies.  If you have never been to this fantastical wonderland of grottos, narrow bridges, tall monuments and stunning woodland, all set on a sandstone ridge, then you should try and get here soon.  I last visited in the late 1970s, when it was neglected and over-grown and not operated as a visitor attraction at all.  Then we felt like we were the first people to discover it as we fought our way through rhododendron bushes and along narrow paths.  Today, the paths are well marked and with your entrance fee to see the 200-year old park you get a map.  Despite this taming of the landscape, the walks are both fun and demanding and there are still uneven paths, steep steps and dark caves and gullies to explore.  We particularly liked ‘The Cleft’, a rocky gash in the hillside that is dark, damp and mossy and the rain water has eroded circular patterns in the sandstone.

It was cheering to see so many people having so much fun in the outdoors.  What a difference the sun makes!

 

I used to be a gardener

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We used to have a garden

I was planting geraniums in our window boxes yesterday and thinking about gardening.

Before we downsized to a small flat in the city, we lived in a semi-detached house and had a reasonably large garden.  The garden had apple trees, a beautiful silver birch and a rowan tree, a pond that was always full of frogs and a pretty wooden greenhouse.  The garden had been neglected when we bought the house and in the 20+ years we were there we tended it and made it a very special place.

I did get a lot of pleasure from the garden.  We had good soil and the garden faced south and was sheltered and warm.  In the summer the garden buzzed with bees, butterflies flitted through and we had plenty of birds visiting the bird table and bird bath and nesting.

However, the garden took up lots of my and Mr BOTRA’s time.  Looking after the garden competed with our desire to be away in the ‘van as much as possible.  The garden needed regular tending, particularly in the spring and summer when we most wanted to be away … so the time to move on had arrived.

Now, we live in the city and have a couple of pots by our front door and some window boxes.  We chose our flat because it is in a development that was built in a time when land was cheaper and benefit from having large sheltered central gardens that the management company employ gardeners to maintain.

Sometimes friends ask if I miss having a garden.  But why would I when I now have a garden that someone else cares for and the great outdoors to enjoy in the ‘van.  Camping in the ‘van provides opportunities for the fresh air and tranquillity we crave and takes us to natural surroundings.  The beauty of natural landscapes is that they can be different every day, we can choose coastline or mountains, moorland or woodland and we don’t have to spend time maintaining it.

Owning a flat and campervan work well together for us, helping us to be both financial independent and happy.

 

Lucky litter pick

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Mr BOTRA and I can’t help ourselves.  Whenever we are out walking in the beautiful British countryside, if we spot any litter we have to pick it up and stuff it in the outside pocket of the rucksack.  We just like to leave places looking better than when we arrived.

On a recent walk / litter pick, along with the usual cans and bottles, McDonalds packaging and plastic, we found a £5 note!  We felt doubly blessed as litter picking always makes us feel good anyway.

I don’t just litter pick in the countryside.  Although here in Salford the Council provide some street cleaning, this doesn’t in anyway keep up with the amount of litter on the streets.  On my journey to and from work I often arrive with an armful of rubbish, mostly sweet wrappers and plastic bottles and I always pick up glass bottles as these are so lethal when they break, particularly for the tyres of bicycles.  This doesn’t really take up any of my time but helps to keep our environment looking just that little bit better.

Another good find on a litter picking sessions some time ago was a fluffy [after it had been washed] chocolate brown hand towel that we still use in our bathroom.  This probably was less litter and more lost but after seeing it for a few days it was morphing in to litter and I could only assume the original owner had no idea where they had lost it.

I would really like to live in a world where this litter picking wasn’t necessary but until then I carry on in the hope that for all those people who see me and think I am one crazy woman, just one or two will spot me and next time think twice about throwing litter down … until then I never know what I might find.

 

Taking our Devon Conversion van to Devon

The Devon coast near Hartland Quay
The Devon coast near Hartland Quay

Well … now we are wondering why did we wait so long to get to Devon?

Despite its name, Devon Conversions are based in County Durham in the north of England, a long way from the south-west.  We often meet people in other countries who smile and tell us how much they have enjoyed holidays in the beautiful county of Devon in South West England and we have to apologise for never having been there, until now.

We spent a few days exploring Somerset and North Devon and found some stunning coastlines and picturesque villages.  We particularly enjoyed the Hartland Peninsular which was perfect for us.  The spectacular rocky coastal scenery provided great walking country, Clovelly took us back in time and the clotted cream ice-cream was excellent.  The sunshine in the photograph hides the stiff breeze that kept the temperatures down but in the sheltered corners it was warm enough to walk without a fleece jacket.

Devon is well known for its narrow lanes with tall hedges and I certainly held my breath plenty of times as we met oncoming traffic as we toured around what count for main roads in this part of the country.  We are very familiar with single track roads in Scotland but this was different; in Scotland you generally have an open view over the moorland and the passing places are always regular and marked.  Breathing in on the narrow sections didn’t help one bit for the ‘van to squeeze through the narrow gaps but it was something I just couldn’t help doing.

Since we have been home I’ve been telling everyone how stunningly beautiful north Devon is but then lots of people already know this, it is just the two of us that have taken so long to discover one of the delights of our little country.