Kitting out our VWT5 SWB Bilbo’s Campervan

We started motorhoming in 2010 in a large traditional shaped white motorhome.

Over the following 7 years we acquired more and more “stuff”, then suddenly we had to downsize to Ruby, with was an experiment in itself. Would we cope with the smaller leisure vehicle? We were amazed that most of our stuff from our motorhoming days still fit in – Ruby was a LWB T5 and significantly smaller that Bluebell and Daisy. But over the 3.5 years we had her, we felt we were becoming more and more cluttered. We did carry A LOT! So when we downsized once more, this time to a SWB T5 we decided a ruthless sort out was in order. As we reloaded Gandalf we couldn’t believe how much we fit in once more, but with space to spare! Below we’ve listed exactly what we carry to enhance our camping experience, along with where it gets stored!

Bathroom

12v Shower with bucket – stored in Boot

Folding Paddling pool to stand in to collect waste – stored in Boot

335 Porta loo – which fits underneath the seat when travelling. It sits under a piece of carpet which makes sliding it out very easy and smooth. As soon as we are parked up (if we put up the tailgate awning) this is transferred into the tailgate awning. The cupboard is then used for our clothes bags and shoes.

Micro fibre towels

Kitchen

Cadac Safari chef – stored in Boot

Slow cooker – stored in Boot

Remoska – stored in Boot

Moules pan – stored in Boot

Ridge monkey – stored in Boot

Multi pan for breakfasts – stored in Boot

Hairy bikers cast iron frying pan – stored in Boot

Square griddle pan with folding handle – stored in Boot

Small egg frying pan – stored in Kitchen cupboard

Camembert baker – stored in kitchen cupboard

2 saucepans (from Home bargains) – 1 large, 1 small – stored in Boot

Melamine Dinner set – stored in kitchen cupboard

Melamine mugs – stored in kitchen cupboard

2x pint glasses -stored in kitchen cupboard

2 x on the rocks glasses – stored in kitchen cupboard

2x wine glasses – stored in kitchen cupboard

Cafetière – stored in overhead locker

Silicone colander – stored in kitchen cupboard

Grater – stored in kitchen cupboard

Steak knives – stored in kitchen cupboard

Small Spice jars – stored in kitchen cupboard

Collapsible washing up bowl– stored in boot

2 soup flasks– stored on overhead locker

Whistling kettle – stored under seat

Travel Kettle for EHU – Stored under seat

Bedroom

For the winter; fleecy duvet set and 13 tog duvet

Fleece blanket

2x hot water bottle

For the summer; lighter duvet with cotton cover set.

Storing them…. Day to day, the duvet and pillows are stored behind the seat. When we travel we add our clothes bag on top, along with the food box.

Garage / in the boot

Short hose pipe with attachments

20l plastic Jerry can with screw on hose nossel – stored in boot

Levelling chocks stores in boot

External screen – stored in Boot until on site

Tailgate awning – stored on bedding until on site

Canopy for awning rail (attached permanently in the roof gutter) stored on bedding until on site

Folding Camping Chairs stored on bedding until on site

Table stored on bedding until on site

Dog spike stored in boot

Storage

Folding storage cube for extra seat and foot stool. – Folded up behind the drivers seat next to the table.

Plastic boxes x 2 – one lives under the seat with cleaning items in; washing up liquid, micro fibre clothes, floor wipes, kitchen roll etc. One has gin, wine, food that is brought out from the house as we leave. It travels on the back above the bedding, and when we park up it sits on the pop top shelf along with the cleaning box.

Entertainment

Roberts radio

iPad Pro – loaded with Netflix, bbc iPlayer, prime video, and Monopoly

Kindle

iPhone 11 Pro Max for photos/videos

Polaroid and Sproket Instant Printer

Inflatable paddle board – this only comes on occasions that we know we will use it and when parked up on site is stored either in the tailgate awning or in the front footwell.

Walking boots – put on the floor and moved into the front footwell when parked

Cagoules and Fleeces/Hats and Gloves – stored in Wardrobe

Walking books: 1001 Walks AA Pub Walks in a Box

Insect and plant book

Foraging book

Campervan cooking book 200 Slow Cooker Cookbook – above books all stored in overhead locker

Adventures with our National Trust membership card…

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked at Alderstead Heath Campsite for the night, just off the M25 in Surrey. This is our third trip here; the reason for our return visit is that Keith’s dad lives just ten mins down the road – although the campsite is well worth a visit in its own right.

We’ve spent the weekend giving our National Trust membership card a bashing. On Friday we stayed local but took Keefy’s mum for a day out to Ickworth House National trust on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds. We’ve visited before and it’s one of our favourites. Ickworth’s iconic Rotunda is just re-emerging from many months under scaffolding as the NT undertook a large re roofing project but the extensive woodlands are worth visiting, especially at the time of year as the leaves start to turn into a wonderful autumnal display.

We spent some time geocaching and also really enjoyed looking at an outdoor photography exhibition too before showing off Gandalf whilst we had a picnic lunch.

Keith received his flu jab first thing on Saturday, following this we made a mad dash to Alderstead Heath, arriving just after midday. We had a super speed set up as my father in law picked us up promptly at 12:30 and we set off for a couple of hours wandering around the grounds of Chartwell, former country home to Winston Churchill. (Dog friendly)

The remainder of the day we spent at Barry and Valerie’s enjoying some quality family time together before getting dropped back to Gandalf later on that evening.

Parakeets visit my father in law’s garden

Sunday dawned really sunny and a perfect autumnal day. We started as we meant to carry on; a full cooked breakfast. Yum! My breakfast pan copes very well on our new hob layout and I LOVED being able to stand up whilst cooking it!

On the way back to Norfolk we stopped at a (pre booked) visit to Emmetts Garden.

Emmets Garden stands at one of the highest points in Kent. The views from the hillside gardens are fabulous and the gardens host many exotic species of plant, tree and shrub. Neither of us had been before and we really loved our visit. The colours were sensational and the blue skies did wonders for our mood after a hard few weeks back at school,

I also achieved a week long ambition – yes really!- of spotting a Fly Agaric. Any ideas what that is?!

A popular pastime this week has been spotting as many different types of fungi as possible. Here’s just some that we spotted on our local dog walk last week…

But my top two have been…

This Beefsteak Mushroom at Ickworth House NT
An arial view of the Beefsteak mushroom

… and this pièce de résistance today

Just two more weeks til (hopefully, Boris allowing) we can dart off for a week in Half term. We’re keeping everything crossed! For now we are feeling reenergised and grateful to have had some time to reconnect with nature this weekend; and of course spend some family time with our nearest and dearest.

Until next time

Lx

PS I need a haircut!

Adventures in London 🇬🇧

Gandalf the Grey is nestled underneath a rather famous landmark on the London Skyline. No, it’s not the Big Ben, or the London Eye; it’s the radio transmitter mast at Crystal Palace!

We’ve had this break booked in for some time, and have been carefully monitoring whether we’d be able to able to travel and actually make the trip for some time too. The reason for the visit was to make use of our historic Royal Palaces membership which we invested in for the coming year: in February.

After a fairly smooth journey to London on Friday morning we had a very quick set up before jumping on the conveniently located number 3 bus which stops near enough outside the campsite and takes you all the way to Westminster. We then made our way west on the District line towards Kensington. We paused for a drink before making our way to Kensington Palace; childhood home to Queen Victoria and many of the young royals over the past few years; including Princess Diana and even now, HRH Prince William and the Duchess Kate.

Kensington Palace turned out to be a highlight of our visit. They focused on 3 different eras of Royals, one of which was Queen Victoria and there were quite a few original items on display that belonged to the young Queen, including an old dress from when she was 12 years old and her Coronation Robe.

Because of a Covid tickets are pre book only and we hit jackpot as we were the only ones there! We had a very happy few hours wandering around taking in every room. Personal highlights for me were seeing a room where court composer Handel played and seeing a dress of Princess Diana’s.

After our visit we took a wander around Kensington Gardens, enjoying the bright Autumn sunshine and the fact that we’d escaped terrible weather in Norfolk!

We popped for a drink at another pub in Kensington before making our way to our previous booked table at a local Thai, which was fabulous! New laws had just come in meaning we needed to wear masks which we were more than happy to do as we entered and exited pubs and restaurants, and the whole system was working well and we felt safe.

Can you believe this was taken at 7.30pm on Friday night in central London.

Saturday dawned bright but chilly and were were up fairly early admiring the Crystal Palace mast through our pop up windows! We took the number 3 bus again, this time alighting at Brixton before jumping on the tube to Borough Market. We had a drink at the historic National Trust pub, The George, a Galleried pub underneath the Shard, before picking up fish and chips at Borough Market.

We then walked along the River Thames to Tower Bridge before crossing it and entering The Tower of London.

Like yesterday it was very quiet, there were no queues for the Crown Jewels, we could take our time and when there were areas that clogged up (the Bloody Tower) we were able to stand back and wait for others to clear out. It was amazing seeing not only the Crown Jewels but all the other coronation equipment such as the 12th Century spoon that is used and even an 11th C chess piece.

We really enjoyed our visit, but there is just so much to take in, I will admit, I got a bit over tired at one point!

From here we walked to another favourite spot of ours, St Katherine Docks.

By now the weather had become a bit chilly and drizzly, but we enjoyed our drink on the gallery at The New Inn.

We decided to walk all the way down the North side of the river for 3 miles towards Embankment and Westminster. We passed an old section of the Roman City wall which was pretty impressive. Everywhere was just so quiet, considering it was a Saturday evening it felt eery.

Part of us liked it, part of us found it a bit weird! Either way we were pleased to have London near enough to ourselves though! We managed to bag the best seat in the house at The Tattershall Caste, a floating barge pub, moored directly opposite the London Eye so had a couple of drinks here before making our back back to Horse Guard Parade for our bus back to Crystal Palace.

We had a great time using our Historic Royal Palaces membership. As a charity they really are struggling right now with the devastating effects of Covid on their finances. I worry that they will struggle to continue looking after these historic venues for much longer, so if you are able please think about booking a visit. They have got such strict covid procedures in place, we felt so safe, and the staff were genuinely overjoyed to see us having had month of no visitors.

Crystal Palace, we’ll be back another time to tick off some more of our ever growing London List!

Until Next Time

Lx

New beginnings; Adventures on the Norfolk Broads.. in Gandalf

Gandalf the Grey is parked up on a lovely little Certified Location (a 5 van members only site with no facilities other than EHU) in Thurne on the Norfolk Broads. Home Farm is just 45 mins from our house, and although not quite on the banks of the river, the River Thurne is only a couple of hundred metres walk away and we also have a rather nice looking pub a minute way too. A perfect location for us to try out our new wheels!

The best thing about Gandalf is that all our pre existing gadgets have transferred across from Ruby, apart from the tow bar of course. “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” and this is a sentiment close to our heart after a terrific summer of campervanning in dear old Ruby.

We have made one slight change though. Keith, who has only ever been happy bbq-ing on coals, decided to give up charcoal in favour of a Cadac Safari chef. Mainly because the boot is slightly smaller in Gandalf, this saved having to carry charcoal etc around. It’s compact size fits in our boot a treat.

We’ve changed a few other small bits and bobs here and there and I will do a full list of our new gadgets shortly.

On arrival to our site, we set about our first camp set up. We filled with water at the tap as our water tank is now onboard and accessed through the tailgate. Up went the roof, and I soon discovered that my setting up jobs were minimal as now the food boxes live in the cupboards permanently there was barely anything to transfer from the boot! I helped Keefy with the tailgate awning and we fought with the wind and got the canopy up for an hour or so. The passenger captain chair swivels effortlessly and so we were literally set up and enjoying lunch within 30 minutes. Perfect!

We went for a wander round the local area, following a 2 mile geocaching trail and finished with a pint or two at the local pub before making our way back (with takeouts!) for showers in the tailgate awning and then a bbq dinner on the cadac. Everything worked like a dream and we were loving standing up!

We set the bed up early, eager to try out the last gadget – the 3 seater rock and roll seat which transfers into a wider and longer bed than we’ve been used to in Ruby, so we soon crashed out.

I woke in the night to use to the portapotti and couldn’t believe my eyes- the windows in the pop top gave a panoramic view of the blanket of stars twinkling away. I couldn’t resist sneaking out in my onesie through the tailgate awning to marvel at the Milky Way whilst everyone else on site (including my husband and dog!) was deep in the land of nod. I stood in awe whilst listening to the owls circling around us on the surrounding fields. I blooming love CL campsites.

Saturday morning dawned bright and breezy, and luckily for me, Keefy couldn’t wait to get the kettle on- he was eager to make the morning coffee with the added novelty of being able to stand up! I clearly had no issue with this! We decided to have a lazy morning – I read my book in bed whilst Keefy tinkered, and tinkered some more. It was like he had ants in his pants. He tells me he was enjoying having a good explore and fiddle of every nook and cranny of Gandalf- I was enjoying my book so all was well with the world.

At midday we decided to have an early lunch as we’d eyed up the pizza menu at the pub. Brisket, goats cheese and red onion pizza (s) – yes, we had one each 🐷 – inhaled, we set about a 4.5 mile circular walk along with River Thurne and past 3 gorgeous traditional wind pumps.

The weather was just incredible, not a cloud in the sky. The river was busy with holiday makers enjoying the last few weeks of the season on hire boats and the wind, although slightly gentler now, was rustling through the reeds and making the sails tinkle. It felt like the perfect day.

When we got back to Gandalf we decided to get the inflatable Banana chairs out and enter serious chill mode. We really needed this this weekend- it’s been so stressful getting back into work mode after the summer with so many changes to negotiate, it was like our minds were just beginning to process the last 6 months.

Dinner was a homemade curry. Like Keith, the novelty factor of standing up was great! How have we managed 4 years without a pop up?

After washing up we settled in to watch the Michael Mckintyre Netflix special which was hilarious, before doing some star gazing at a sociable time! These Norfolk skies really are spectacular when the conditions are good.

We both slept like logs Saturday night. All too soon though, after a bacon and egg sandwich made on the cadac,it was time to pack up and head home.

Gandalf gave me a parting gift of almost concussion- I really spanked my head hard on the bed section of the pop up near the passenger seat, and almost knocked myself out! 2 minutes later Keith almost broke his wrist getting the awning pegs out! What a pair we are! Despite that though, we’d had a terrific weekend and are thrilled to bits with Gandalf. Absolutely smitten!

Until next time – which will be next weekend as we’ve (hopefully, no lockdown permitting) got another expedition planned- yay!

Lx

We have some news…

On Friday we said a very said farewell to our beloved Ruby the VW.

And so, we’d like you all to meet our new wheels, Gandalf the Grey!

When we got Ruby in February 2017 it was an experiment. We had to get rid of Ruby’s predecessor Bluebell quickly. We knew we wanted to try downsizing to enable us to just have one vehicle that we used for day to day and holidays, and store at home but, with Keith being 6 foot 4 we had no idea if it would work.

3.5 years later, 75k miles and 160 nights away, we’ve decided, yes, it does work and we flipping love it.

So why have we swapped vans?

Ruby was ageing, and quickly!

This summer our clock passed 228,000 miles. Everyone says a VW goes forever, and to be honest we’re sure Ruby has got some adventures in her still to come. But as she’s our only drive we add 1000s of miles a month, and we felt it was time to slash our clock basically whilst we still could. We didn’t want to loose our investment in her and wanted to get some money (or a part exchange opportunity) in whilst we still could.

We spent some time whilst in Kent recently exploring some options as to what happens next in our Campervan journey. We thought this may be chance to go a touch bigger, and looked at a brand new Adria Twin, based on a Fiat. Whilst the fixed bed at the back was lovely, the rest of van didn’t feel spacious enough for what was going to be a big difference and many compromises in day to day driving for us. Keith was keen to explore the options of a van with onboard shower and loo, but, seeing as he couldn’t fit in it, it was pointless!

That looks like a perfect shower position… not!

We found ourselves at Bilbo’s and fell in love with their pop up roofs. Can you believe we’ve had Ruby all this time and never been in a VW with a pop up?! We specifically like the Bilbo roof as it’s side opening which means you get the height right down the length of the van. We ALMOST caved and ordered a brand new, custom built for us, t6 there and then.

It was a surreal moment sat in their show van with a shopping list of toffees what we wanted to be added! But alas, they couldn’t take Ruby as a PX and it was logistically too difficult to PX elsewhere and be without a van for 4 months. In the end the black horse finance that we would have needed to rely on came out at paying over £20,000 in interest. Er, no thanks! That was the end of that.

The very next day I just happened (and this genuinely happened) to see a second hand Bilbo conversion on Facebook marketplace. I’ve never even been on marketplace before! It was being sold by a dealer in Bedford and had only 19,000 miles on the clock! We made arrangements to see it the next day and 10 days later here we are about to be picking him up.

I’ll do another post shortly showing Gandalf off to you properly but the pics below were taken Friday night after we picked him up in the morning, kitted him out in the afternoon and went for dinner down the road in the evening.

We couldn’t NOT call him Gandalf, despite me never naming a car a male name in my life! He’s a Bilbo’s conversion (Bilbos named their company after Bilbo Baggins, a small and seemly insignificant character who travelled across worlds in the famous book Hobbit/ Lord of the Rings- taken from their website). Gandalf is a key character who travels extensively in both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, both of which Keith particularly loves. There was no way our new van would be named anything else!

We look forward to sharing our switch over with you!

Until next time

Lx

Adventures in Kent

Friday

Ruby the VW is parked at Alderstead Heath Club site just off the M25 near to Caterham. Despite its very close proximity to the M25 it’s a delightfully peaceful retreat set within trees and countryside. We’ve stayed here before and we picked it again as it’s very close to Keith’s dad and step mum’s house. We’re down here catching up for a couple of days so other than a pic I took of Ruby using my new night vision mode on my new iPhone there’s not too much to say about our stay here.

But it’s an ideal base for touring Surrey- there’s a number of National Trust properties close by and Gatwick airport is also close (great for plane spotting and using the flight radar app to see whether everyone is returning from!) We were supposed to visit Chartwell whilst here with Keith’s dad but that ended up not happening due us having to whisk him off to A and E after slicing his hand open whilst washing up!

Sunday saw us change location; we moved down the road to the outskirts of Hever, Kent. Our site for the night was the absolutely brilliant Pigdown Farm. It’s a caravan and Motorhome club Certified location (5 van site) and had nothing other than a water tap, bin and basic emptying point. But at £5 a night and more space than we knew what to do with, plus an easy walk to the pretty and very historical village of Hever what more could we wish for.

We met up with Keith’s brother and sister in law and enjoyed lunch in the pub, the historical Henry VIII which sits opposite to Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, Hever Castle.