Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A new suit of clothes - update

So the new seat covers have arrived and very smart they look too.

Here's one of the front seats. These are stretch over covers, which are easy to fit and remove. Dee's folks actually fitted them for us.

And these are the covers they made for the sofas.

We're really pleased with the results. Those covers on the sofas are all enveloping ie they go right around the existing cushions with the fabric we chose. They all have openings fastened with velcro so should be fairly easy to remove for the occasional wash. We're particularly impressed with how the armrest/bolsters look. Please note that if the seat bottom looks a little loose it's because that's how we asked for it to be.

Dee couldn't have been more helpful and had several fabrics for us to choose from in the kind of colour and pattern we were looking for. We chose this one cos it doesn't argue with the fabric panels on the walls of the van. Difficult see in the photos but the fabric is a very short piled velour type. It's a fabric made especially for this kind of application and is washable.

Once again, find Dee's website at

They're based in Stockport but appear to do most of their business by mail order.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Our Garmin Zumo satnav

On our travels we use a Garmin Zumo 550 satellite navigator. This is a motorcycle friendly unit which I already had for my bike before we got the motorhome. Because it's a motorcycle unit it's waterproof and has nice big glove-friendly on screen buttons. In the box when you buy it are mounts for your bike and also a second one for in the car/motorhome. I think the 550 is still available but there's now a 660 model in a different case, but it essentially has similar features.

Here it is on its mount in the van. It comes with a self adhesive, shiny plastic disc which you can stick on the dash. Then, the suction mount can go on here, instead of the windscreen, making it, potentially, closer to hand. We've positioned it in the centre of the dash so either of use can reach the controls.

Of course it has many features, most I guess common to most satnavs. I particularly like the bluetooth facility whereby, once turned on, the unit automatically connects to my phone and then acts as a fully functioning hands free phone unit. It does this on the bike too and there I have a sophisticated comms system through an Autocom hub and helmet speakers and mic.

Useful on our trip to France was the ability to locate any campsites in its database wherever you are. You simply select lodgings, then campgrounds from the "Go to" page and you get a list like this, showing campsites and how close they are.

Then, if you select a site you get more details including the phone number and a "Go" button to instantly direct you there.

I've paid for lifetime updates from Garmin which give several updates each year for the life of the unit; about £100 if I remember correctly. We've also taken it to the 'States several times,having bought US road maps on a memory card for it. It comes loaded with the whole of Europe.

Garmin give superb customer service. Amongst the help I've had, they actually replaced the unit when it was out of its 2 year warranty. Fantastic! I'd recommend Garmin without reservation and can assure you that if this unit ever dies completely I wouldn't hesitate in buying another.

I think satnavs are an indispensible tool for travelling but we do use it in combination with paper maps to plan routes and check on progress. You soon learn how to use them and know when they make a mistake. Just don't follow them foolishly eg the wrong way down a one way street. Use your eyes and regard satnav as your servant not your master.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

"Facts & figs" page added, 19.6.11

Wot is says in the title. Includes insurance costs, info on fuel consumption and payload. 'Hope it's helpful/interesting. Take a look when you get a moment.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

"Van info" page updated today, 18.6.11

What more can I say? Have a look at the updated page. Also updated is, "Still to come".


Have tags, will travel!

Just this week the dogs had blood tests to ensure their rabies jabs have been successful. We await a call from the vet and hope to be able to pick up their pet passports soon. Then, it's simply a matter of waiting the required 6 months before they can come back into the UK with their passports. Prior to that we can take them out of the county, but not return, so it's pretty crucial to the process.

They also have to have microchips, but they both already had these. Dixie's amused by Steve's check with his scanner to make sure she's the same boxer on each passport visit. She's wondering if a Tesco scanner would work and what price it would come up with. We think she's priceless, but Tilly thinks that's b***ocks.

With luck we hope they'll be able to join us on our planned trip into the Arctic Circle next summer (2012).

Here they are, contemplating blood tests. Note that Tilly's smoking a twig; she reckons it helps her relax.

And they've been practicing for running on Norwegian beaches.

More news, hopefully in a week or so.

A new suit of clothes, June 2011

Having returned from our Pennine Way trip, and earlier reading a glowing report about a company making motorhome seat covers in Stockport (just down the road from us), we thought we'd give 'em a try. Chrissie's slip over covers had performed reasonably well up to now but we both felt we might be able to get something better. appear to do most of their business on the 'net but we'd heard you could call in. We phoned first and then took a drive into Stockport. Dee - who seems to be the owner - couldn't have been more helpful. He showed us loads of fabrics and, in the end, we left all the upholstery for the sofas/beds for them to make covers and also ordered some front seat covers in the same fabric. Front seat covers seem to be the main part of their business so they have patterns for many vehicles, including our 2010 Boxer van.
That was on Weds this week and Dee's promised they'll be ready to collect on Fri 24th. I'll post some photos here when it's finished.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Chrissie and Dixie's Pennine Way odyssey, May/June 2011

Chrissie wanted to do the Pennine Way so, a little recklessly perhaps, once we'd decided to buy a motorhome I promised that, when we'd got it I'd support her with this aim. So, over the spring of 2011 we had a number of weekend trips where I dropped Chrissie - and Dixie - off at various locations, picking them up again later in the day for grub and accommodation.

Now it was Chrissie's mid summer term break and over the two weeks she hoped to complete the route, aided and abetted by Dixie, not to mention Tilly and me. So, we set of on the Friday evening for a wild camp just north of Keld in Swaledale. My personal agenda was to wild camp for as many nights as possible over the fortnight.

On here, I'll focus on mine and Tilly's view of the trip. For more on the actual walk visit Chrissie and Dixie's blog via the link at the bottom of the page.

So, prepare yourself for lots of, "and here's the van at..." type pictures.

And here's the van at ... a location just north of Keld and south of the Tan Hill Inn. Very windy!

The next morning we kicked - sorry, dropped Chrissie and Dixie off at aforesaid inn. You can just see Chrissie's blue jacket as they cross the fence on their windy start.

Then the two of us set off west for a short way before stopping for a moorland walk. We walked into the wind up to some old mine workings and this hut which was so well maintained it could only be used for shooting - but don't get me on that soapbox ... please!

Despite my misgivings about blood sports I wasn't too proud to shelter from the wind inside.

But Tilly wasn't too sure about the gate. I did try to explain how lucky she was cos I reckon it's normally used to keep gundogs OUT! She wasn't having any of that rubbish,

insisting she needed a bath ... and a stick ... in that order.

We meandered our way back over the moor. Tilly having great fun leaping into every bit of water she could find. She's obviously keenly in touch with the heritage of labrador retrievers, descended as a breed from water dogs from the Labrador/Newfoundland region of Canada - so she says anyway.

You can just see the van as a small silver speck in the distance.

Tilly was a touch disgusted at being tethered up outside the van while she dried off in the wind.

Refreshed by coffee and pork pie - Melton Mowbray of course - we set off for Bowes on the A66, where we were due to meet the intrepid duo. And we found this excellent wild camp spot a little way out of the village.

And while Chrissie and Dixie rested, Tilly and I waked into Bowes for a newspaper, only to find ... not a single shop of any kind. Oh well.

Next day, after leaving the adventurers, and having now had two wild camps, we set off for the Camping & Caravanning Club's site at Barnard Castle to avail ourselves of their Motorhome Stop-off facility. This is available at many C&CC sites and means that, for a payment of £6.60, you can empty your waste tank and loo and fill up with fresh water. So we did.

And then, after a wander round their excellent dog walk, we went into Barney for shopping and I treated myself to a Costa Coffee lunch. On the way into Middleton we found a trail on a disused railway line for a quick, exhilerating walk. Then it was off to Middleton in Teasdale to pick up C&D - really can't be bothered typing Chrissie and ... oh, I nearly did! This was our next wild camp for the night.

Beautiful views as the sun went down.

From here C&D set off across the hills to Dufton. It's a strange dog leg in the route, taking in the grandeur of High Cup Nick. We searched without success for a wild camp spot around Dufton so, instead, pitched up here, right in the centre of the village.

A nice spot, if a little pricey.

We walked up to High Cup Nick to meet C&D, then returned for a well-earned rest for all.

From Dufton, C&D planned a two day leg with a wild camp on Cross Fell, so, after perusing the maps, Tilly and I decided the best plan was a return to our previous wild camp, since our next pick up was just north of there at Alston. Before settling down for the evening we got some much needed exercise along the trail we'd discovered a couple of days back.

That night the weather became exceptionally windy and I was a little concerned for C&D in their little lightweight tent. Turns out they had an eventful night - see their blog.

Next day, after a pleasant moorland walk for Tilly and I from the van, we met up again in Garrigill, just south of Alston, where Dixie insisted on sharing a much-too-small front seat with an indignant Tilly,

 and had a tolerable wild camp spot here.

Dixie had been limping for a while on the previous leg so Tilly acted as her understudy when we dropped her and Chrissie (C&T, please keep up) off in Alston. Dixie and I had a look at the small train waiting in the station.

Then we were offf in search of a camp spot near Haltwhistle. In the end we elected for a night at the C&CC's site there, and C&T walked to the site. We actually all had a days rest with two nights at this lovely site in the woods on the edge of a nature reserve. The next day, temperatures were in the high 20s and it would have been too warm to walk a dog anyway, so this stop was quite fortuitous.

From here we dropped C&D off at Hadrian's Wall for another two day leg while we set off on a shopping trip. We filled up with fuel on the A69 then went to Tesco in Hexham for a "big shop". On returning to the van I noticed my lpg level indicator was well down. Chrissie has spent ages on the 'net collating info on lpg retailers so I pulled out her file and found ... nothing nearer than Newcastle, about 25 miles away. I phoned a local Shell station - found using my Garmin satnav database - but not only didn't they sell it, but knew of no-one closer than ... Newcastle. So off we went to ... Newcastle. Having filled with lpg at Morrisons in Byker we turned round and headed for our actual destination; Kielder Forest and a possible wild camp. Success!

And a nice view of Kielder Water.

The next day we went for a wander, looking for potential camp spots for later on, around some quiet roads we'd explored before.

We had a lovely walk up the river from Bellingham and back across the moors. On the way we discovered, in the back streets of this small place, a garage selling lpg ... if only we'd known! Then we collected C&D and returned to our spot used the previous night where Dixie helped Chrissie repack her rucsac.

After we left the dynamic duo - off on another two day leg - Tilly and I went for a great walk along the reservoir trail and back through the forest. On the way we passed the Wave Chamber.

And Tilly did her best Loch Ness monster impression whilst swimmimg with a stick.

 After our walk we made for the C&CC site at Bellingham. Because we'd just flipped into the C&CC's mid-season I could get my over 55s discount so that meant I could stay the night for £9.58, less than £3 more than a Motorhome Stop-off charge; no contest!

Bellingham's a very good, level site with great showers.

It was pleasantly warm and Tilly took the opportunity to chill out in the sun.

After a peaceful slumber we set off on another Kielder Forest walk.

We found a, rather short, fire tower.

And Tilly took the opportunity for a little running practice.

On our way to pick the others up we encountered some wild Exmoor ponies - a little disorientated maybe.

We picked the hikers up at Byrness and made for the C&CC site at Jedburgh, across the border in Scotland, for a break.

Chrissie was concerned about taking Dixie on the next section since it meant two overnight camps and little chance of water. After lots of consideration and much examination of maps we found an alternative. The next afternoon we made for the, supposedly, dead end valley of upper Coquetdale. Finding a wild camp spot we settled in.

This was an interesting location, set as it was, on the very edge of Otterburn military training camp. The military were busy training, hence the red flag.

We were close to the site of a Roman fort on Dere Street.

From here, the next day, C&D walked back to Byrness ... and back again, while Tilly and I made up our own route around the Roman fort and across the moors passing this sign along the way.

We had great views north into Scotland,

and along the border fence following the route of the Pennine Way.

We got a rare shot of C&D approaching the van.

Then moved along the valley for another wild camp.

The following day we set the travellers on their way again and Tilly and I drove out of the end of the dead end road ... along an unmapped military road - open today I hasten to add. We passed this sign.

We wound our way down the valley,

trying hard not to disturb this magnificent bull, scratching his neck on a tussock,

 and then continued to our next pick up point near Cocklawfoot and another wild camp, calling in at Jedburgh for another motorhome stop-off at the C&CC site and shopping on the way.

We were parked right next to a ford.

We spent a quiet night here before C&D set off on their final leg to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland, but not before enjoying splashing through the ford.

After accompanying C&D on the start of the final few miles we had a leisurely drive to Kirk Yetholm.

It wasn't long after lunch that we spotted these two, emerging through the mist and rain.

We forced them to pose for this shot by the sign,

before dragging them inside for hearty soup and jumbones (dog delicacies); tea and sympathy.

And after all the above we made our way round to our final campsite; the Caravan Club's River Breamish at Powburn.

This is a great site with a superb dog walk. We'd arrived in time for a charity tea party and we even won a raffle prize.

The final day saw us on a leisurely drive home through the Dales, tired but happy. We all slept really well that night.

 Over the two weeks we'd used campsites for only 6 out of a total of 16 nights.

C'est finis!