Looking for inspiration for your campervan’s interior?

It’s been a while since I blogged, about campervans at least. So I was utterly amazed when I checked the site stats recently and saw that around 600 people still click through to this blog every single day. And in the last 6 years, it’s attracted well over a million views. Wowee. People don’t seem to mind that I haven’t posted anything meaningful since 2011.

A good percentage of the total views (okay, probably 90%) are people looking for instructions to make cushion covers (thank you, Pinterest). And seeing as those cushions accounted for at least 90% of the angst generated during the conversion project, it’s probably appropriate.

So thank you to everyone who still posts lovely comments on the sewing blogs. (And to those who still send in intricate questions about seam allowances, I’m going to admit – just once – that my sewing machine was banished to the loft the moment the cushions were finished and I haven’t felt the urge to open the box since.)

With no campervan of our own on the horizon, I’ve been low on blog content since we left Australia. So instead, I managed to hook up with a UK campervan magazine (handily just called ‘Campervan’) and now test-drive and review campervans for them. It’s great fun. I’ve chosen my perfect van three times. It can also be a tiny bit stressful (but only when you’re told that the van you’re reviewing has already been sold, so please be ULTRA careful with the brand new upholstery and mirror gloss paintwork… and you remember you’ve brought your three-year old along for two days).

Anyway the editor rang me up about a year ago with a slightly different assignment. Later that month he was sending me to cover one of the world’s finest motoring spectacles for the magazine.

I KNEW it wouldn’t be the Singapore Grand Prix. Obviously. A glamorous vision of speed and power and dazzling harbour lights on a hot steamy evening did not even cross my mind.

So I was completely excited when he told me I was off to Busfest. At the Malvern Showgrounds. Well, of course. Busfest is the place to be.

As one of the world’s largest celebrations of Volkswagen campervans, it promised the latest interior designs and a muddy field show ground full of colourful inspiration for your own van. So off I went, along with a few thousand other enthusiasts, to discover a veritable melting pot of VWs, from splitscreens to transporters with high tops, pop tops, no tops…

If there were a league table of people most dedicated to their campervan, the owners I interviewed were all vying for Champion’s League places. (I thought I loved our little van but, in comparison, I’d be languishing perilously close to the Vauxhall Conference.) The hours they’ve spent transforming written-off VWs into modern masterpieces, not to mention the thousands of pounds sunk into leather seating, customised bunting and the now ubiquitous surf-board table was a display of complete devotion. There were some very cool vans and I came away with a heap of ideas for our next campervan.

It almost rivalled a beautiful F1 night race held under the stars. Almost.

This year, Busfest is being held next week from 8-10 September at the Malvern Showgrounds. So if you’re looking for inspiration for your campervan, it’s definitely worth a visit.




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Happy new year! Now, on to holidays…

Is it time to book a summer holiday yet? Can we, please?

Because a cursory glance in the fridge reveals that, once again, it’s salad for dinner.

Most of us are struggling to even stand up straight thanks to a new-fangled fitness regime (in my case just one class a week).

And dry January was a terrible, terrible idea.

BUT. The days are getting longer. Summer is a mere 143 days away. Surely it’s time to think about the next sun-filled mini-break? Yay!

Having spent the last 9 years exploring the southern hemisphere, we are now testing the lovely waters around the UK (I understand – they are not always sun-filled but it’s the start of a new year and my glass is resolutely half full).

So, where are the best places to take a campervan? Which campsites would you recommend?

We love North Devon in England’s south west and once we’d arrived back in the UK last year, one of the first places we headed to was Croyde Bay.

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Croyde is LOVELY. It’s got a fabulous sandy beach. Coastal walks. Great surf.

But let’s face it. The main reason any of us go to North Devon is the cream teas. Warm, fluffy scones smothered in homemade jam and clotted cream. And with every café, pub and beach shack serving their own special version, it would be rude not to try at least one every day you’re there.

That’s surely enough to get us through three months of lettuce.

Campsite review – Ruda Holiday Park

On our most recent visit to Croyde, we stayed at Ruda Holiday Park, which we’d watched being built before moving to Australia. Nestled in a perfect spot behind the sand dunes, Ruda offers a large campsite, touring pitches and a number of lodges.

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Still campervan-less, we tried out one of the lodges. Aside from the price, which – despite being outside school holidays – would easily rival the cost of an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean, our Clovelly Lodge was fantastic. It was light, bright and spacious and had literally everything we needed for a week’s stay, including high-spec fittings and appliances. Granted, it did officially sleep 6 and there were only 2.5 of us (6 would have been mightily cosy) but compared with my vision of a glorified static caravan, it was impressive.

There’s a well-stocked grocery shop onsite, a large swimming complex which our toddler loved and regular evening entertainment if that’s your thing. On the downside, there’s no 3G coverage and the wi-fi is only available in the bar area, where it was very temperamental.

Also, the eating areas were not overly inspiring – maybe a bit too child-friendly to allow for a civilised evening meal if you’re a group of adults. (Of course if you do have children in tow then the sight of a few chips on the floor might just make you relax about the prospect of your own carefully chosen kids’ meals being flung around. Nope? Just me then.)

Reading the reviews on TripAdvisor, the actual camping facilities at Ruda aren’t always rated very highly. But if you’re using your own campervan facilities (or are staying in one of the lodges) you can’t beat the location.

The beautiful beach could not be any closer. The cliff-top walk to Baggy Point is just around the corner and the pretty village of Croyde is a few minutes’ walk away. (And those few minutes would definitely justify another cream tea while you’re there.)

Campervan Converts - Baggy Point, North Devon

In the evening, try the lovely local pub, The Thatch, for dinner, or drive the short distance to Braunton for some amazing fish and chips at Squires.

So Croyde is definitely on our travel list for 2016. We could almost buy a new campervan for the cost of a week in a lodge though, so we might need to focus our efforts in that regard.

Okay, over to you. Where are your favourite spots to get us reacquainted with the English coastline?

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From Brisbane to Bristol

I have committed the cardinal sin of blogging. I haven’t, well… blogged.

Since February.

As a copywriter who regularly advises clients of the benefits of frequent blogging, this is probably not a good thing.

In my defence, after my last post when we had just sold our beloved campervan, we then left our jobs, sold our house and cars, said goodbye to everyone we knew, panic-bought a few souvenir fridge magnets to remind us of 9 years in Brisbane and packed up our entire antipodean life into 101 boxes and a 40-ft shipping container.

Campervan Converts - Sydney Harbour Fireworks
Our last night in Australia with a better than average view.

Oh, we then emigrated (or re-migrated?) 10,000 miles to the UK, found a job, found a house, started a business, and emptied those 101 boxes in a completely new part of the country.

I know, I know. It’s a weak excuse. Especially because we’ve actually only opened 80 of the boxes.

But we’ve made it, and are now living in a little village near Bristol. Despite having a similar name, Bristol is – unsurprisingly – not like Brisbane. I won’t dwell on the differences (it does rain quite a bit) but on the plus side, it is a similar distance from some excellent campervanning country.

Campervan Converts - Croyde Bay, North Devon

Croyde Bay, North Devon, UK

Campervan Converts - Baggy Point, North Devon

Baggy Point, North Devon

Just as Brisbane has the wonderful Sunshine Coast on its doorstep, Bristol is less than two hours from the rugged North Devon coastline and its long, sandy surfing beaches. It’s a place we know and love, having spent the first part of our honeymoon there. Okay so you swap warm summer evenings lazing next to a beach barbeque for bracing afternoons huddled behind a stripy windbreak, and Queensland’s spectacular pelicans have been replaced by absolutely ginormous seagulls. But it’s all okay. The fish and chips are good. There’s always the tinkle of an ice-cream van in the distance.

Campervan Converts - windswept on Croyde Beach

Raincoat and wellies instead of togs and flip-flops?

And amid the chaos of the last few months (loosely interpreted as a career break for CV purposes) we’ve managed to escape to both Devon and Dorset for a few long weekends for a proper medicinal dose of sea air. It’s been great. It would be amazing in a campervan.

I must admit when we arrived back in the UK it was tempting to replicate our to-do list from 2010, which went something like:

  • Buy minibus
  • Convert into fabulous campervan
  • Have lots of holidays
  • Write a blog

But our recently acquired status as Sensible Adults suggested that providing a new home for our toddler was probably a priority, so finding accommodation and employment were pushed higher up the list. For the time being, we are campervan-less.

So what’s the best way to explore counties such as Devon, Dorset and Cornwall if not in a campervan? The obvious answer is, of course, to find a gorgeous little whitewashed B&B hideaway perched on a remote cliff-top with a roaring open fire and fresh pastries delivered every morning… but while the AUD/GBP exchange rate remains resolutely in the doldrums, we were looking for something a little more modest.

Camping was the rational option, but with the three of us still very much in the acclimatisation stage (even in a centrally heated, double-glazed house), sleeping under canvas seemed like a step too far. So we eased ourselves into the northern hemisphere’s climate with a more comfortable combination of hotels and lodges. One of our favourite places in the country deserves its own post, so I’ll review where we stayed in the next blog.

Campervan Converts - Croyde Bay, North Devon

It’s sunny!

In the meantime, if any non-Queensland readers need convincing that it’s one of the best places in the WORLD to travel in a campervan, check out the summer edition of the UK’s excellent Campervan magazine for some familiar photos. Or take a look at the Surf n Turf article here.

Au revoir, madame campervan

So many people have been in touch since my last blog post to enquire about our campervan. We recently sold it to a fantastic couple – Ann and Nigel – who fell in love with it as much as we did. In fact, they flew all the way up from Canberra to view it, before driving it back (1,200km) later that day. Phew! And having suffered from a slight identity crisis over the last five years, the campervan finally has a name: Dolly. I think it suits her. I’m sure many adventures await.

We are about to embark on our own adventure, and relocate back to the UK after 9 years in Brisbane. It’s a sad farewell but we’re looking forward to spending much more time with our families. And with plans already afoot for our next campervan project (the lime green kettle and gingham cutlery have already been packaged up and shipped back), the blog will continue. Hurrah! See you on the other side 🙂

Taking delivery EBay pic of seatsCampervan convertsLayout - timber frameFlooring - completed Joinery - cabinets 3Joinery - seating area Campervan convertsJoinery - kitchen Interior - cardboard modelJoinery - bed and mattress 2 Interior - Happy camperInterior - patriotic back doorLifestyle 6  Plumbing - bathroomCampervan interiorLifestyle 5  Campervan convertsLifestyle 15MaroochydoreNSI 5Queen Mary Falls, Killarney

Montville - autumn colours         Lifestyle 3Baby in a campervan

Best bits of the Campervan Converts:

How to make fabulous seat cushions part one and part two

How to make TERRIBLE cushions (only one part required)

Everything you need to know about campervan plumbing

How to wire a campervan

Delicious food you really really need in your campervan

How to fit a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom into a glorified taxi

11 simple steps to achieve your diy campervan

How did it all start?

For sale: the best campervan in the world

Fabulous bespoke campervan now for sale DSC_7151 Low mileage! Free miniature pans and gingham cutlery! Discount for blog readers! One careful lady owner!* (*And her husband. Also the previous owner, which was a childcare centre, but we have all been very careful). DSC_7119 Campervan exterior 2 The time has come to embark on a new campervan build project that will accommodate a rather lively one-year old, so we are selling our beloved first campervan. The vehicle specifications are: Toyota Hiace Commuter van SLWB, 2006 model 2.7-litre engine, 4-speed auto gearbox 40,000km on the clock Air conditioning/CD player/electric windows in the front The living space briefly comprises: Living area with extremely stylish cushions which fold out to form a double bed. Fully equipped kitchen with:

  • Two-ring gas burner
  • Waeco 80-litre fridge
  • 24-litre electric boiler with hot/cold running water
  • Powerful ceiling fan and vent
  • Plenty of storage including wine cupboard

Dual entry bathroom/ensuite with:

  • Thetford cassette toilet
  • Large basin with hot/cold running water
  • Storage cupboard and drawers
  • Union Jack styling (can be adapted with additional stars if sold in Aust/NZ)

We can also throw in additional items such as the awning, wheel lock, table/chairs and fabulous lime green whistling kettle to seal the deal (although please don’t say yes to the kettle).
Campervan interior 2Campervan interiorCampervan converts - campervan bedPlumbing - bathroom 2 Joinery - interior doors 2Joinery - kitchenIf you know anyone who might be interested and would like further details, please contact me at rach680@yahoo.co.uk.

Calling all backseat drivers

So the blog has taken a bit of a backseat recently. In fact, our spontaneous mini-break adventures have also taken a backseat. And all because our lovely, little, grown-up campervan doesn’t have a backseat.

At least, not one that will take a new baby. A new baby and his monolithic car seat. Not to mention four changes of clothes per day, a bumper box of Huggies and Trevor his favourite life-size tiger.

Samuel arrived a few months ago, and is clearly another campervan convert.

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But, oh. The stuff!

Every inch of our campervan is already crammed with the essentials. Now, I’d be willing to forgo the pretty tealights, but that is not going to free up much space.

Here is our campervan:

Campervan Converts - campervan interior
Here is our free storage:

Campervan drawers

Last month, we managed a weekend away in a lovely child-friendly apartment on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Two-and-a-half people.
Two nights.
Two hours from home.

This was our luggage.

Campervan converts - Holiday luggage
Needless to say, the art of taking off at a moment’s notice with everything packed up is eluding us.

So how can we convert our campervan – again – so that it fits another person and all his paraphernalia? Is it possible?? It must be possible. In George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, he meets a couple who convert a tiny 1960s ambulance into a campervan that sleeps six. SIX!

Our sleeping arrangements would be okay; the fold-out bed is 1.4m wide so Samuel would squeeze in that.

Campervan converts - campervan bed

(Of course we would likely be sleeping upright in the front seats once he’d made himself comfy.)

We could fill the wine cupboard with nappies, use the kitchen sink for bathtime and have meals on our picnic rug.

The car seat is the real problem. The centre console between the two front seats is wide enough to be replaced with a third seat, but I’m not sure it could safely take a baby seat – certainly not rear facing.

Is this the end of the road for campervan#1? Is it time for a new conversion project?

If you have any other suggestions, please do let me know – our campervan is itching to go further than the driveway!

And while Samuel seems very happy sitting in a drawer, we really need that space for bedding.

Baby in a campervan

 

Campervan Converts - Baby in campervan

Campervan food essentials to inspire your camping kitchen

Imagine a world without lists.

Even if you’re able to make regular escapes in your campervan or caravan, running through a quick checklist before you dash out the door will always pay dividends when you pull up at your destination.

Well fellow campervanners, it’s time for another list! And this time we’re talking campervan food.

Campervan Converts - campervan food, a stocked pantry

As much as I love the philosophy of hunting for fresh seasonal produce at little roadside huts, the doomsday prepper in me can’t leave civilisation until the campervan pantry is bursting with some bare essentials.

With a bit of creativity you can produce loads of meals just from these ingredients, or you can supplement with fresh fish, meat and extra veggies as you go along.

Campervan Converts - campervan food, Greek salad

Campervan Converts - campervan food, prawn stir-fry

Campervan Converts - campervan food, couscous

Campervan Converts - campervan food, veggie curry

So here’s the list of basics that you’ll always find in our campervan kitchen. It seems extensive when it’s typed out, but we manage to fit everything in one large plastic tupperware box (which is easily transferred to and from the house) and a small fridge. Plus we have a ‘tea and biscuit cupboard’ which houses the rest.

And while you’ll rarely use everything here on a weekend break, when you’re reaching the end of your trip and only have a few fresh ingredients left to play with, a squeeze of lemon juice or a quick garlic and parsley butter can really liven up an old field mushroom.

Campervan Converts - campervan food, lemons

Campervan Converts - campervan food, garlic

Campervan Converts - campervan food, olives

Campervan Converts - campervan food, mustard

LIST OF CAMPERVAN PANTRY BASICS

DAIRY / FRIDGE

Butter

Milk

Yoghurt

Cheese (usually have cheddar, feta, sometimes haloumi and a small block of parmesan)

Mini pots of Philly (good for a quick sauce)

Eggs

Bacon

Meat (usually buy fresh as we go)

Fruit (selection)

SAUCES / CONDIMENTS 

Balsamic or red wine vinegar

Soy sauce

Sweet chilli sauce

Mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

Tomato ketchup

Sachets tomato paste

Branston pickle (of course)

Mustard  (usually have Dijon and wholegrain)

Dried herbs and spices (a selection, but the following are always there: oregano, chilli powder, ground cumin, paprika, ground coriander, sesame seeds)

Extra virgin olive oil

Carton ready made stock and a couple of stock cubes

Honey

DRY GOODS

Breakfast cereal (small box, also porridge sachets take up little room)

Bread/rolls (we actually rarely take bread with us – it takes up too much room in the fridge and doesn’t last long in the cupboard, particularly in the summer)

Biscuits / snacks / cake

Flour (only a small amount in a tupperware / ziploc bag – useful for a quick sauce thickener)

Pine nuts

Pasta and/or spaghetti

Risoni (great for a quick camping ‘risotto’)

Rice

Noodles

Couscous (small sachets are good – am currently addicted to Ainsley Harriot’s)

TINS/JARS (mini tins where possible)

Tuna

Mixed beans / kidney beans / chickpeas

Baked beans

Beetroot

Capers

Olives

Curry paste

Coconut milk

Chopped tomatoes

Pesto

VEGGIES

Peppers

Onions and spring onions

Garlic / ginger / chilli

Lemons

Tomatoes

Mushrooms

Ready washed baby spinach

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Avocado

Broccoli / bok choy / green beans / snow peas (easy to stir fry)

Bunch fresh herbs (whatever’s in the garden – mint / basil / coriander / rosemary / parsley wrapped in a paper towel)

DRINKS

Tea (many kinds!), coffee, sugar

Bottled water

Squash / juice cartons

Wine

________

Campervan Converts - campervan food, chilli con carne

Campervan Converts - campervan food, steak

Campervan Converts - campervan food, risotto

Campervan Converts - campervan food, prawn stir-fry

So all you need to do is fill a large tupperware box with some pantry basics like those in the list above, and there’ll be no excuse for serving sausages every evening – you’ll be creating fabulous camping meals that are the envy of all your neighbours. Recipes coming soon!