A weekend in sunny Suffolk <3

Ruby the Campervan has whisked us away for a little bit of a change of scenery for a couple of days. School is now officially out for Summer (hurrah!) but we can’t go too far afield as we’ve got a few days of private teaching and gigs, plus a holiday course to run before our main holibobs.

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Feeling totally drained having had to battle with not only end of term shenanigans, but also a flooded house (arghhh) we were so tired we couldn’t even decided on where to go! We ended up settling on the Suffolk coast for a night for some sea air and then a night in land, at the gateway to the broads at Beccles. Both locations were near to walks we’ve previously done before should we feel the need to be energetic.

Friday morning arrived, the sun was shining, so off we set, an hour down the road to Dunwich. Dunwich was once the capital of East Anglia and was the third biggest port in England back in Anglo Saxon times. Now, its home to less than 200 according to the 2011 census, because of coastal erosion, the entire village has gone! It’s a lovely wild, pebbly beach, and has a fab Adnams pub, not that we visited this time.

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We parked up in the huge beach carpark at Dunwich and set off on our walk towards Dunwich Heath, a huge National Trust heathland, that at this time of year is the most gorgeous shade of purple.

2017-07-21 12.48.54-2We thoroughly enjoyed the walk, and were surprised we had clocked up 5.5 miles by the time we got back to Ruby. The walk wanted us to carry on further up past Ruby, but we were shattered so grabbed a picnic blanket, our flasks, and had a relax on the beach for a while instead.

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We realised we were nodding off on the beach so moved Ruby the 15 mins dive to our base for the night- Eastridge Farm Camping and Caravan Club CL at Eastbridge (nr to Leiston). This was a basic site, at only £9 there was nothing other than a waste disposal, a tap and a very VERY basic loo. BUT- it was a huge field and was absolutely silent therefore, in our eyes it was perfect- the sun was shining so we got our stuff out, including sun loungers for the first time this year- and had 40 winks.

We got the opportunity to try out our new Milestone Camping Solar Shower – Black, 20 Litres“>Solar Shower that Dad gave us. We filled it at home and it sat on our dashboard whilst we were walking in Dunwich.

2017-07-21 15.06.48The water was really warm, and so we hung it on the sliding door and took it in turns to protect each others modesty whilst we had a quick rinse. We were really impressed with how it works. It has certainly opened the option of us being wild for more than two nights at a time now (perhaps only during summer though!)

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We had a lovely BBQ that evening, the sun shone brightly for us all night! Keith was in his element as he didn’t even have to get out his seat to get another cold beer thanks to his birthday present 12v Electric Coolbox 

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Around 9pm we decided to have a wander to the local pub, The Eel’s Foot, less than 5 mins walk- perfect. A great selection of Adnams beers and a lovely menu (handy for next time) Despite Eastridge being a tiny hamlet the pub was PACKED! Great to see.

We slept so heavily and had a big lay in, whilst the rain eased off, which it did around 9am. We had toast using my RidgeMonkey MK2 Standard Toaster ‘Black’ with FREE Utensil Kit and homemade jam before setting off towards Beccles. I’ve set a summer goal of doing as much Farm shop shopping/cooking as possible, and knew we’d pass at least one farm shop on our journey. We did- so we pulled in, where we had a splurge, and bought some local chicken breasts, local mushrooms, local scones, clotted cream and loads of local raspberries and apricots to make jam with when we are home. On our walk yesterday we had also picked up a courgette from someone’s roadside stall for 20p!

We arrived at our next campsite, Dove Cottage, (£11.50pn incl. electric and with shower) near to Beccles around midday. We picked this site due to it’s close proximity to Beccles, where we had a 7 mile walk in mind, but in reality, despite it being a glorious day, we both just fancied going straight to the campsite and relaxing for the afternoon! So thats what we did. I made us beef and cheese pannini’s in the Ridgemonkey, we had a little explore from the site then we just set our stall out and relaxed away!  Sometimes you just need to stop! The weather was amazing, and we actually got quite tanned 🙂 We dragged ourselves away from the sunbeds for a cream tea mid afternoon.

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Dinner was a delicious Chicken, mushroom and Courgette risotto and as it cooled off we moved inside and began our Cracker boxset. We enjoyed a very local cheeseboard with cheeses we had brought earlier from the farm shop.

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We had a fair amount of rain overnight but luckily it had cleared in time before breakfast. We were due to have a full English, but it turned into a bit of a disaster – first, the gas ran out on the hob in Ruby. So Keith got out our outside portable one. Then the gas on that ran out. So we changed that over. Then our sausages, which were from our local butchers, and are usually amazing, just would not cook! Put it this way, I was cooking them for 1 hour 20 mins and they were still raw inside. So they ended up in the bin, and we had a well done bacon, eggs, beans and mushrooms. This delay meant that the weather was beginning to take a turn for the worse, so rather than our planned 7 mile walk from Beccles we decided to do a much shorter river walk, which was lovely, and got home just as the rain started.

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We had such a lovely mini break, just what the doctor ordered thats for sure. So just a handful of working days left now before we are off for our main summer holidays to South Wales, via Edinburgh (!) for a night at the Tattoo and Bristol for the International Balloon Festival! So excited about both of these!

Links to our new on board gadgets below (click on the pics)

Until next time

Lx

 

“Pimping” our Ride

As ecstatic as we were when we found Ruby the Campervan after our rather short- yet full on (in the grand scheme of things) search; there were a few “adjustments” we wanted to make to her to enable us to carry on as we had been in our beloved Bluebell the motorhome. From the day that we realised that we had to say Bye to Bluebell, we said there would more than likely have to be compromises made here and there, but we would concentrate on getting a decent (we hope!) base vehicle- anything extra can be added on.

First thing on the shopping list when we brought Ruby was a bike rack. Because she has a tailgate back rather than Barn Doors, it meant that we couldn’t get the standard Fiamma bike rack. On top of this, Ruby’s previous owner had taken “Pimping” up to an extra level by adding a rear spoiler. I still am not really sure what this adds to Ruby, other than the difficulty of adding a normal tailgate bike rack, so therefore a rather large hole in the wallet! Because we have this rear spoiler, we are unable to attach a normal tailgate bike rack, so investigations soon led us to getting quotes for a tow bar to be added, allowing us to go for a tow bar mounted bike rack instead.

We got a few quotes from a some local tow bar fitters, then Keith found a company online with an all singing and dancing website, and a quote that was a few quid cheaper than the local fellas. TowBarExpress.com. We booked and paid for our appointment for the following Monday- and celebrated with a cuppa. Then the phone rang- “Sorry Mr O’G, we can’t do that date”. “Ok”, we reply, and book in for the Monday after that. A week later, we get another phone call. This time, there were no apologies, just a curt “We can’t get a fitter, we need to reschedule”. Hmph. The only free day we have is Monday, so we rescheduled for the following week. Again. During that day, we both had a grumble, and Keith decided to go back to one of the quotes he had received. He realised it was only about a tenner more, so cancelled TowBarExpress and booked the local fitter in for the Monday that had been cancelled.

We cancelled our booking with TBE and asked for an email confirmation of the refund. We never got this, despite ringing twice and emailing. Almost a week later, still no sign of a refund and no word from Tow Bar Express- and our booking still showing on the online system, I decided I would take matters into my own hands. I rang up and received THE WORST customer service I’ve ever received over the phone. I kept asking for written confirmation about our refund and kept being told, we don’t have to give you written confirmation. Excuse after excuse I was given, but I lost my cool in the end when I could clearly hear the staff in the office mimicking me. I confronted the advisor and she denied it. They refused to put me through to a manager. In the end I got someone pretending to be the manager – I know this as she was so unprofessional but also, I later heard from our towbar man that the manager is a male! Along with a few other horror stories.

We eventually got our refund – but I would warn anyone about using them in the future. Disgraceful customer service- and that doesn’t half get my blood boiling.

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On to the saga of finding a bike rack that would allow us to still open the tailgate door with the bikes on the rack. Did such a thing even exist? We were starting to think probably not! Keith must have ordered 10 different racks, of varying costs, and none of them worked! It was looking like we would not be able to open our boot with the bike rack on. Stress levels were rising, so I stepped in and asked on the VW Facebook page and also the overnight parking page. Keith, you see, is FAR too cool for Facebook (yeah right!!) but as I explained to him afterwards, he could have saved himself a week of stress if he were on Facebook as within 5 minutes I had over 10 replies, many of which saying the same thing. The http://www.roofbox.co.uk/scripts/rbvehsel4_tab.php?AR2603 . It was coming out a bit higher in price than we hoped, but- everyone was saying what a good job it does. So we ordered one. And, boy are we glad we did.

It’s very lightweight, yet doesn’t feel flimsy in anyway at all. It is so easy to use, it really is just a flick of lever to lower the bikes enabling the tailgate to open fully. Also, the attachment to the towbar is really slim, so you can walk in-between the tow bar and the van, really good when you’re trying to get something out that’s lodged its way further into the boot!

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Other enhancements that we have made include changing the factory fitted radio to a CD/Bluetooth radio. This was a simple and cheap upgrade thanks to our local Halfords Store. £60 radio / £30 to fit. It’s pretty decent in sound quality, and the bluetooth is fab. I’m loving having my spotify blasting out, plus it make in car phonecalls much easier/safer (and legal!)  We’ve just got our hands on Jamiroquai tickets so we’ve been blasting out quite a bit of JK- Keith now wants to fit a sub or something- I’ve told him he’s not allowed- unless he wants the world to know he’s having a mid life crisis!

Last but not least (I expect!) and we’ve bagged ourselves a //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=advinamot-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B00A4A07JA&asins=B00A4A07JA&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>portable 12v TV. Now I know its not everyone’s cup of tea, taking a TV away in the camper van. But we use our van all year round, including those ridiculously short winter days where by 4pm its pitch black outside. It’s then that we are most grateful for the TV. Especially when Strictly Come Dancing is on!

This portable TV is GREAT. It’s about the size of our iPad, picks up all the free view channels, has a handy little arial that is magnetic and reaches through the kitchen window onto the roof, and best of all- has a record button, so we stuck a large memory card in the side and suddenly we can record Saturday Night Takeaway, whilst away in the middle of nowhere *ahem, obviously I just stuck that TV programme in as a random one….* It has 2.5 hours charge without being plugged in, but comes with a 12v charger too. Perfect.

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So, theres a list of our new accessories for you. Ruby is now complete – although the new Cath Kidston catalogue has just arrived with some lovely melamine glasses, jugs and serving bowls in…. #justsaying

What are your must have camper van/motorhome accessories? Other than the obvious.. the corkscrew, that is!

Until Next Time

Lx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twixmas 2016: Northumberland, Part 2

New Years Eve Continued 

We retraced our steps back towards Otterburn for a quick stop at the site of the Battle of Otterburn, where there was a picnic area and info board, along with a large stone from the battle.

Battle of Otterburn site
 The wind was absolutely savage so we didn’t stop for too long! We made our way back down the A68 and then made our way towards Kielder, a beautiful journey despite not being via the private forest drive (toll) as that is closed for winter. Our destination was Brit Stop number , a village pub right in the heart of Kielder Forest and Water park. We were intending on eating at the pub but with it being New Years Eve food service wasn’t offered all day, the menu looked good though! We opted for several drinks instead whilst getting to know the friendly barman (see below!)  and then a cosy night in the van accompanied by a fillet steak and bottle of Pape! Yum. 

Friendly barman, Charlie 🐾
Last supper of 2016 in our home on wheels


Sunday, New Year’s Day

New Years Day dawned bright yet chilly. A perfect day for a bike ride, so we dismantled the wheels and set off for a few miles on the Lakeside Way path, a wide, hard surface track that is 27 miles long around the circuit of the reservoir. We didn’t realise that Kielder Water is in fact the largest reservoir in Western Europe! We didn’t fancy over-exerting ourselves, we’d had a lazy morning already, so just went on a short circular which took us under the impressive Kielder Viaduct, then over it, and alongside the lake for a little way before turning round and returning via Kielder Castle. In actual fact it was only about 4 miles! 

Kielder Viaduct
The cycle path over the Viaduct
An old railway line over the Viaduct has been transformed into a decent cycle path which goes right around the water.

 I had a good play with my drone camera around the viaduct taking some amazing shots, and we also did some Geocaching too. 
Kielder Viaduct from the sky- taken on my Parrott Bebop Drone with full HD camera

It was a lovely day and the light was simply breathtaking, until the heavens opened as the sun set for the first time in 2017. Being New Years Day, food service in our Brit Stop was again disrupted, but they were happy for us to stay put for the evening and we returned the favour by enjoying a few pints of the local ale, which was very nice! 

Who says camping and caravanning means Beans on toast and Frey Bento pies..!

We had a New Year’s feast of Moules Marinade followed by chicken casserole for dinner in the van, and just as we finished eating we noticed a break in the pitter patter on our roof; the rain/sleet had stopped and a quick check through the sky light and bingo, the stars were out. Our main reason for visiting this area was the draw of the night time skies. Northumbria is a Dark Skies area, and Kielder actually has an observatory with telescope. Sadly the events at the observatory were all sold out for our trip however I’d been itching to get my new telescope out for play. Here was my chance. My highlight was viewing Vega- the star in which the film Contact receives extra terrestrial signals from.. cue some singing of that wonderful John Williams theme! 
We wandered up 100 yards or so to Kielder Castle and set up. The sky was phenomenal. We saw the Milky Way with our naked eye, and thousands of stars. Absultely breathtaking. Until a snowflake landed on my face. Then another. “Keith, did you just feel that” by the time he answered “Yes” we found ourselves in the middle of a snow storm! Northumbria, your weather is mental. 

Monday 2nd Jan

We had another quiet yet cold night’s sleep, the temperature dipped to -3c, but we were toasty inside. We both woke early, a little apprehensive that the snow shower we found ourselves in the middle of, may have settled, causing us problems getting out of Kielder. We needn’t have worried, although there was an awful lot of ice on the ground, the road out of the forest park was clear. The weather again was gorgeous, a perfect winters day.

Our Brit Stop pitch in Kielder

About 12 miles away from Kielder, we passed a large car park and viewing area for Kielder Dam. We pulled in for a leg stretch, and slip slided our way across the footpath across the dam. I also managed to get some more good drone shots despite poor Jazz’s protests, he’s not a fan of the flying camera!
Kielder Dam

Aerial shot of Kielder Dam- taken from my Parrott Bebop drone with HD camera

 The light was beautiful. After a cuppa and the last of my gingerbread house (Annie, it really is yummy!!) we hit the road once more- our destination was Hadrian’s Wall. 

Until next time 
Lx  

On the road with CoPilot Caravan App

Getting from A to B in Bluebell the motorhome is quite different to getting from A to B in our little Yoda the Skoda. We need to consider many different factors when planning our jaunts in the motorhome, but mainly the issues we run into (sadly literally in one case back in 2010!) are our height and weight. We’ve used the standard Garmin satnav for 4 years now, and don’t get me wrong, its been ok, but this year we found ourselves looking at new satnavs and particularly one which we can input our vehicle dimensions in, so that the best route is found having taking these into account.

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For the last year or so we’ve used Google Maps as a secondary sat nav, although because it uses data to download the map it relies on having a decent internet signal, something which we are not blessed with sadly, even in not so deepest Norfolk! We enjoyed using the phone as a sat nav, finding the screen on my iPhone 6 a good size for clear mapping.This led us to looking into an App based sat nav,which works offline and more specifically one which we could enter Bluebell’s vehicle dimensions into. Enter “CoPilot Caravan Europe”

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At £49.99 I wondered if it was a bit pricey as I don’t tend to pay more than £4.99 for an app, but then Keith reminded me that actually having looked into Caravan/Motorhome/HGV sat navs, we were hard pushed to get one for less than £100. We decided to give it a go, and trial it on our recent Scotland trip- a handy test as most of the time we were without Mobile data.

Set Up

After download, a user friendly screen prompts you through set up, with clear and easy instructions to navigate through. There are lots of options to tailor the app to your own personal requirements, something which we found useful- we could even personalise the welcome to say “Welcome Lydia and Keith” – not the most important factor on a sat nav I realise, but a nice touch nonetheless- (I’m such a girl!!) You have the option to display safety camera alerts (and change how much distance ahead you want to be warned of them) and set it to save battery, another useful tool when you’re doubling your phone as your sat nav. Finally it’s time to enter those important measurements- the app allows you to input your Height, Width, Total Length and Total Weight. You can also select how it should naviagate- the fastest route or shortest.

Map Choice

I like the fact that you have the option of which maps you want to download- having got the Europe version of the app, I had the option of downloading “Europe”, “Eastern Europe”, “Western Europe” then the individual countries as separate maps. This was useful for me as I have limited storage on my iPhone 6, so I was able to just download UK, although when we go to Germany over the summer I have the option of downloading “Western Europe” or just “Germany”.

 

 

 

On The Road

With CoPilot you have the option to save certain addresses as favourites. For those one off entries, its easy to input, especially if you have the postcode of your destination. You get the option to select a “cross street” too, making pinpointing your destination much easier.

There are several ways to view the app whilst navigating- the one we preferred was the larger instructions with a mini picture of the next junction and a countdown to the next junction. This made navigating really easy. Other options included a smaller instruction but more details for future junctions. I guess this would be useful for the passenger if they are navigating you. It reminded you several times which junction to take on a roundabout and although that was a bit annoying, it was useful and saved us going round roundabouts several times…ahem!

We LOVED the fact that it was easy to change the proposed route by a simple drag of your finger. For example- our route up to Loch Lomond from Norfolk wanted to take us up to Edinburgh on the A1. We wanted an overnight stop at Carter Bar border crossing near to Jedburgh so simply dragged our finger to the route we would rather take and it automatically updated. Fab. Equally you could add via’s etc and also it comes with an extensive list of POI – even more when you are online.

Traffic Updates are included for a year, however depend on Mobile signal. Our journey home was affected by a huge accident on the A1- we were delayed for nearly 3 hours (ouch) but sadly it didn’t do a great job in prewarning us (and we had 4G).

Verdict 

We travelled nearly 1500 miles using the app and in general we were extremely happy with how it worked. The only criticism was that sadly it did still try and take us on single carriageway A roads near to Inverness rather than the duel carriageway A Roads (it wanted us to take the A833 to Beauly to cut off the corner of Inverness, rather than staying on A82 then A9. It thought it would save 30 mins but when we ignored it, suddenly the ETA decreased by nearly an hour!) If we could get an update to make sure that duel carriageway roads take priority then for us, it would be 5*. Until then, we give it a very useful “does what it says on the tin” 4*.  We look forward to using the app in Germany over the Summer.

In Summary– yes it’s nearly £50, but it made travelling round in a great big motorhome much less stressful and we were confident we weren’t going to find ourselves in a tricky bridge situation! We will still continue to use a road map alongside the app, but, find me a motorist that doesn’t do that!

CoPilot Caravan Navigation App is available from the Apple App store for iOS devices or Google Play store for Android devices.

Additional Accessories to make life easier

Phones are so much more than phones nowadays aren’t they? Here we are using my phone to guide us 300 miles up to the Scottish Border, whilst using Spotify to serenade us- what happens when we arrive at the border at 01:00 – I have no battery left to take the obligatory “we have arrived” selfie! This was a worry for me- read into that what you will… ;0)

Our Solution – a decent Apple Certified Car Charger and Phone Holder for Air Vent, Magnetic Cradle Car Mount

Everywhere we went, despite using my phone as our sat nav and DJ, my battery was 100% charged and ready for #selfie action!

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01:15 at Carter Bar England/Scotland Border following a day at work and a 7 hour drive north!

*Disclaimer*

I was given this app for free by CoPilot Caravan in return for an honest review of their product. All opinions are strictly my own having extensively tested the product. 

February Half Term ~ Fun and Frolics in Norfolk, Part 1

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on her lonesome on the Caravan Club CL Deodara, a small 5 van site near to Burgh Castle on the outskirts of Great Yarmouth. Despite being close to the arcades and amusements of Great Yarmouth, we’ve gotten ourselves a slice of peace and tranquilly all to ourselves- it’s a large field with pleasant and quiet (kind of- more on this later!) outlook within walking distance of The Angles Way, Burgh Castle and Breydon Water.

Facilities here are basic, but that’s what we like and at £9 a night (electric hookup is on a metre, so far we’ve used about £3 amd had heater on lots!) it’s well priced. We arrived lunchtime on Saturday after an easy and short journey from home, with a stop at Norwich Camping and Leisure shop where we picked up a new couple of outdoor chairs (not that we will need them this time of year…brr!) and some sausages and eggs.

The weather was dull but dry so after a quick lunch we set off to find Burgh Castle Roman Fort, about 40 mins walk off road away from us, some of the route is on The Angles Way and follows the waters edge.

Burgh Castle Roman Fort is one of the best preserved Roman monuments in the country, and has 3 of its 4 walls still in tact.

 It was pretty chilly but luckily despite forgetting my gloves, we’d remembered the hip flasks! Priorities! 😉 A quick walk back and we settled in in front of the television for the night!

❤️ St Valentines Day dawned an unusual one… We were woken abruptly to gun fire sounds, which was a bit frightening!

Turns out (after 2hrs of intermittent shots, then a full blown war zone type sounds I rang the owner of the site!) that we are 200 yards from a clay pigeon shooting range. Naughty of him to not pre warn us when we booked as they shoot every two weeks. Luckily Jazz wasn’t too freaked out with the noise from the guns, but I expect some dogs would be as it was similar to having our own firework display behind us.

Anyway, after a quick fill of water we headed for another walk up to Burgh Castle and beyond. I took my new drone with me yesterday but managed to switch the video off instead coming out with some fisheye shots, so I wanted another go today – plus the sky was a nicer colour! 

Yesterday’s fisheye shots \/

  

Sunday Angles Way

 

 

 

 

We had a nice walk further up Breyton Water and a picnic sat at the view point.

 

 

Before returning back to Bluebell the motorhome in time for an afternoon nap! Having lots of luck with our motorhome wifi aerial here we have picked up a good BT Fon spot, so currently have some Spotify on and are about to cook a valentines steak and chatuneuf du pape dinner before watching the movie “Valentines Day”

Hope you are having a good day!

Until next time

Lx

Edited with BlogPad Pro

1 day to go :-)

Bluebell the motorhome is all packed, plugged in and ready for the big off tomorrow evening!

It’s been a staged prep, as we’ve had a busy old week or two what with concerts, exams and general end of term ness

Last Friday Keefy had a day of tinkering inside the van, washing curtains, cushions and fixing little bots and bobs here any there.

On Monday we sorted out all out clothes so they were ready to pack in. Then we took Bluebell out to get diesel and do the food shop which we loaded straight into the cupboards (apart from the fridge stuff)

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Today (Wednesday) I loaded the clothes into the wardrobes and cupboards, Keith plugged Bluebell in so her fridge gets nice and cold and I loaded the fridge stuff in.

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I also got busy in the kitchen making loads of sweet treats for the road 🙂

Everything gadget wise is on charge, so I think we are ready for the off now! Just got teaching this afternoon, a school concert tonight, and a full days teaching tomorrow to get through then we will be on the road and heading for the border crossing at Carter Bar!

In other news, I found out today that one of the places that we are heading- Loch Etive near Glen Coe is where Daniel Craig and Judi Dench filmed Skyfall so that’s very exciting as we will definitely be hunting that one out! >

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REVIEW- Folding Solar Panel

When we first got Bluebell, the thing that most excited us aside from the Rear lounge, was the good leisure battery set up, which was going to allow us to wild camp more (stay off campsites more) 

We started off by doing a campsite every other day to maintain a charge ready for our night of wild camping- but soon our adventurous sides wanted to stretch the days between campsites. This, and our plans for our 3 weeks Europe tour, where we REALLY didn’t want to stay at a €40 pn campsite when the Europeans cater well for Motorhomes away from sites, saw us looking into options for fitting a solar panel to Bluebell’s roof!! We were both a bit anxious about drilling into Bluebell’s outer skin to affix the solar panel, so started looking  at other options. Luckily for us, the leisure battery is under the drivers seat, therefore this folding solar panel kit was the ideal option for us:

40W 12V Photonic Universe folding solar panel kit 40 watt 12 volt battery charger for camping, caravan, motorhome, boat or any other 12V system

When in use, it sits neatly on the front dashboard and attaches to the leisure battery with crocodile clips. When not in use, it folds easily in half and goes behind the seat in a sturdy briefcase style case. It’s very quick and easy to get out and attach- we get it out when we’ve parked up for the day and it has an indicator on to show how the battery is doing. We managed three weeks in Italy without a single night of electric- therefore we are very happy with it! What is also nice, is that it still charges even if it’s not brilliantly sunny (like most British days….haha) 

For example- last week, we toured the Peak District (in Feb so not long days…) We managed 7 nights away, with only one night of electric on night 3. Not once did our 12v battery go and seeing as we only drove 5-10 miles per day, we put this down to the good ol solar panel! 

 

 

REVIEW- Films/Music/Speakers

When we are out and about our evenings are often spent chilling with a beer, g+t, wine etc listening to music and taking in the surroundings/view. During the winter months, when the nights have drawn in we will often settle in and watch a movie- Keith is a huge film fan, so one of his must have gadgets is something to watch films on.

Until only last month, our preferred set up for film nights was 20″ Ultra Slim LED Digital Freeview USB Record TV DVD. Caravan HGV Boat. 12 / 24 VOLT DC 12V + 240 along with Betron Bluetooth Pop Up Portable Mini Travel II Capsule Rechargeable 40mm Speaker For iPhone, iPod, iPad, Samsung, Nokia and MP3 Players for music on the move.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with this set up- we were very happy with the tv system, it plugged in to our 12v plug and we could watch films and tv when “wild camping” and away from electric hook up. The tv itself gave a great picture; the inbuilt DVD player made taking films with us easy; we could play CDs through the TV; we could pick up free view through our arial point whilst on 12v; it was light and easy to store; we could watch tv for a good 6-8 hrs whilst running other 12v appliances (lights, water pump etc) no problem at all- it ticked all our boxes and we were very happy with it.

The portable speaker was also a great item- it’s tiny; we could plug it into our phone or ipad and play music at a level that won’t intrude on anyone else’s peace and quiet; our music sounding good on it; it had a fab battery life; it was rechargeable through the 12v; it was ideal for motorhome travel, where we wanted music just slightly louder than what we could achieve through the inbuilt speakers.

So why look for something new?!

Well, we enjoyed a good 4 years using the above set up, but as we all know- technology moves fast, and we wanted an alternative option- less cables and less things to carry ultimately. Also, Keith’s DVD wallet was becoming as big as the TV itself, so finding something where we didn’t need to carry 100s of films with us would be good!

Since getting our 12v TV four years ago, we joined Sky TV at home, and one of the perks (for an extra fiver a month) was Sky Go. This, along with Keith’s Ipad mini Apple 7.9-Inch iPad Mini Retina (Space Grey) – (ARM 1.3 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB Storage, Wi-Fi, iOS 7.0.4) meant that we could download before we go episodes of series we may be watching, films etc ready to view offline on the road, with no need to carry the DVDs in the van.

Now (2015/2016) we are no longer with Sky, however the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have all caught up and we download episodes on their iPad Apps.

As Bluetooth seems to be the new mode of connecting things – yay, no wires! – we were on the hunt for a new set of speakers that we could connect via Bluetooth. After extensive searching and researching Keith found Sumvision Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Psyc Mako Bluetooth Speaker Stand with Built in Microphone for Smartphone Tablet which have been beyond marvellous! For a very reasonable £15 they are dinky, create a fantastic sound, and best of all, we can slot our ipad in the top so it’s like a mini tv. Nothing I write can emphasise how good the sound actually is- it’s truly awesome, and look how cool it looks with the iPad sat on top! The battery life is wonderful. During our week away we only charged once, and this was because we could, not because we needed to! When it comes to charging,you can charge the speakers via 12v or mains. Perfect.

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We will still carry the tv when touring the UK, in case we want to catch anything live on the tele, but we can finally banish the expanding DVD wallet to the loft!! Hurrah!

REVIEW- getting online on tour with Motorhome Wifi

As much as we try not to, we can’t help but want to get online when we are away in the van. First and foremost, being self employed musicians means we rely on email for gig enquiries and new student enquiries. Being unable to get online means we can’t keep tabs on our business, let alone keep an eye on our bank accounts, keep in touch with family on longer tours and back up our photos. So as much as we sometimes may crave being cut off from tinterweb, in reality it just cannot be.

After 4 years of touring Britain and Europe and relying on our iPhones, and dodgy 3G signal, not to mention an almighty large phone Bill following our last trip abroad (facebook addict alert!!) the time had come for us to invest In a better solution for our internet needs.

Enter Motorhome Wifi which I’d read extensively about in various magazines, blogs, forums etc.

Right from the onset, I knew we’d made the right choice- Keith spent a good half an hour discussing our requirements with Adam, who was friendly, knowledgeable and “user friendly” I.e didn’t bombard us with techno jargon!! As fellow motorhomers themselves, they understood our needs when off site- as we mainly tend to stay on BritStops these days, or aires/ France Passion sites abroad, we were interested in an antenna that would allow us to pick up pub wifi networks in the comfort of the motorhome, or Free wifi hotspots (more on that later)

After a lengthily discussion, it seemed that the directional iBoost antenna would best suit our needs, promising to pick up signals up to 1km away.

Having just left BT broadband, and signing up to Sky, we would no longer be able to use the BT hotspots (or so we thought) Adam told us about a system that allowed us to buy a Fon account for a one off payment of £34, and this would enable us to still use the BT hotspots. Perfect, and info that we would not have known otherwise, so thanks Adam.

We placed our order at 3pm on Monday with the also friendly Sophie, and at 8.30am Tuesday morning it arrived! Outstanding service!

Once unpacked, it was easy to assemble and set up (although I have to be honest, Keith has rang a couple of times with questions, both of which have been answered quickly and non patronisingly- thank you again!)

We enjoyed giving it a trial run on our weekend away last weekend, and even at a pub in the middle of nowhere we were able to pick up 4 or 5 BT Fon hotspots, not to mention both pub’s networks. It’s also worth mentioning that without the iBoost, we were unable to find these networks on our iPads, iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones.

The other thing that is worth noting is that the antenna collects one signal and then allows you to connect numerous devices to that one signal- excellent for those of you, who like us, have more than one device. When we used to use BT hotspots we could only log on one at a time as we only had one username. This takes that problem away! Hurrah!

We were able to keep an eye on our business email (I know we were only away for 2 nights but…!) update the blog, back up photos, use spotify, Stream music, use facebook/ twitter, and my new favourite site walk4life which I’ve enjoyed looking on for walks local to where we are staying , and updating my miles walked (55miles since 10th Jan!)

So, without a shadow of a doubt, we would give this an almighty 10/10, excellent service, easy to use, and a great product and want to recommend it to anyone else who values the internet whilst on their travels!

Thanks for a great addition to our motorhome gadgets cupboard 🙂

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