9. wensleydale

click on the picture if you want to suffer the full 127 photies of our adventures in the land of real cheese



This post is to thank the marvellous R.A.C guy - unfortunately I forgot to ask his name - who came to my rescue this bank holiday Sunday and got into my van so I could get my keys out, yes, like the stupid idiotic numpty fool I am, I'd locked the chuffing keys in Topsy... Oh it was bad - I was enjoying the sunshine doing bits n bobs to Topsy, I went in the house for a cuppa, and with the worst sudden nauseating feeling I've ever experienced, I realised the van was secure and I couldn't get back in it... I'm sure anyone who has done this will understand the sickening sensation as all options a thought of then discounted, I couldn't even bring meself to tell the next door neighbours what had happened, I just didn't think I'd be able to take any of the usual advice people give in dire situations like this! SO, after about half hour silent panic, I started texting folk that might be able to help (thanks to everyone who got back in touch - it was nice to know I wasn't alone!), and then it occurred to me that even though it might cost a bit, the R.A.C might be able to help, I mean, why else would I pay 70 odd quid a year?! Well, it seams the R.A.C could help, and it didn't cost a penny as apparently 70 odd quid a year covers the cost of a lovely guy spending a bank holiday Sunday rescuing me from the brink of despair! With bizarre magical equipment, from things that inflate and should be in a doctors surgery, to the more usual piece of wire (you know where you are with a piece of wire, though there was no half tennis ball) this lovely guy, with some help (or hindrance) from Dave next door (I'm afraid I did shout at Dave once or twice to move away from the van and let the brilliant professional do his job), eventually got the window down and magically opened the door... Oh what a chuffing relief that was! On Tuesday I think I'll get some new keys cut, emergency keys, and I'll also be telling everyone I know to join the R.A.C - even if they don't have a car, the reassurance it gives me when we're travelling has been worth the membership fee, but locksmith skills on a bank holiday Sunday are the icing on the biscuit! Anyway, the panic is now over, the nausea is subsiding, and the keys are not in Topsy but firmly in my pocket, and although the R.A.C man was exceedingly helpful, I hope to never require his breaking and entering skills again!! So, if you're reading this, Mr nice R.A.C man, 'Thank you very much', from one extremely grateful fool, but I'm glad I wasn't the camper with a 'goosed' engine (yet!)....


7. oh dear ...

OH dear oh dear indeed, I know I said I wouldn't, and maybe I shouldn't, but I just couldn't resist adding my own, erm, touch to Topsy ... so, with some help from Babz, Belle and Rebecca from next door, and thanks to a nice seller on ebay she's now got the remarkably easy to apply (almost idiot proof) hippy seventies daisy decals [I know it's a cliche van], sorry, but she also has the authentic real natural rabbit skulls that we found in Weardale - there's even a baby one, awww..

However, I like her like this ...

I think she looks great ...

A van of character ...

We've made her our own! ...


6. Northumberland

WELL, we've had our 2nd one night holiday in Topsy - two holidays in less than a week - oh the decadence of being a camper owner!! This time up the A1 towards Northumberland, Rog drove on the A1 motorway bit as I'm still on the provisional licence thingy, but I managed to drive the rest of the way - and it was pretty darn scary - with the wind hitting the side of the van she was wobbling around all over the place, I found myself not only checking the road ahead but checking the hedges ahead to watch for any gaps so I'd be prepared for the 200mph gusts (I may just be exaggerating slightly there) as I fought with the steering wheel - the trick seems to be just to go that few mph slower and she handles well...

SO, we eventually made it to Beadnell in Northumberland and found a great campsite right next to the beautiful coast, but yet again we were camped right next to a light, but not our fault this time as we parked where we were told to (and it wasn't bright enough to keep me awake after the bracing salty air!). After our first very successful boiling of the kettle with the newly installed gas bottle and two ring hob we went down to the beach to play in the waves whilst Roger went for a well earned pint (or two), and although the skies were cloudy it was warm enough for us to get soaked. Then it was back to Topsy for tea - a lovely meal of beans n sausages on bread, only mine was full of peppercorns as the top fell off the grinder - much to the amusement of all but me .... then off to the beach again in warmer clothes, where Bill n Babz were delight to discover the tide had gone out even further and we could now walk on rocks that we couldn't even see earlier, and we scrambled over rock pools and treacherous seaweed covered stones where we found tiny crabs in limpet shells, but we never came across any of Bill's 'sea enemies' ... 15 minutes walk later and just before sunset we found ourselves on a very beautiful beach with huge huge huge sand dunes that kids just can't resist scaling up then running down - and I couldn't either! We made it back to the van before the light went completely and after an hour or more of showering, teeth brushing, another drink, one more trip to the toilets, oh, just one more drink, loads of fuss getting beds comfy, the girls were finally ready to settle down for the night - phew!

THE next morning was rainy and cold - I was up first and had a walk down the beach and then to the shop for bacon, eggs, spade, bucket and fishing net, I forgot the milk though so that meant another trip down the beach, this time with the girls for company, and we made sandcastle in the rain next to the lapping waves of the north sea, now that's what I call a proper holiday! We all enjoyed a hearty breakfast and cups of tea/coffee/hot chocolate then we packed the van up and set off, but stopped very quickly when we spotted some long-horned northumbrian cattle, where we all did our best moo impression...then on the move again for Alnwick, hoping to see the castle where 'arry Potter was filmed, but we got side tracked by the gardens, and as you have to pay for the castle and garden separately we didn't do both, it did seem a bit off a rip off, but the gardens were actually well worth a visit - and perhaps we'll try the castle next time?! The girls and Roger loved the Poison Garden where they have various nasty toxic plants, Bill was very surprised to discover that rhubarb as actually dangerous! There are also many many water features for kids to get very wet in, which Bill did after Babz pushed her in them! Oh, and there is the biggest tree house we've ever seen, mildly disappointing as it set up to make money from the cafe in there, but it is impressive with it's rope swing bridges... Back to the van for a cup of tea (I can't stress how absolutley fantastic a feeling it is to make a cup of fresh hot tea in Topsy) then back down the A1, with a two hour traffic jam near Newcastle crawling along in 1st gear through torrential rain, even when we cleared the traffic and reached to A1m Rog was driving at 35mph, think I'll start checking the weather forecasts!! And there'll be another adventure soon - but who knows where as there never is a plan - and more things to put on the list for next time, like a proper awning instead of a tiny tent! ...

Topsy now has new front indicator seals, and a new passenger cab door seal, others to follow shortly!


5. first overnighter

AT last we have had our first adventure in Topsy up in woolly Weardale, with a slightly delayed departure due to her brakes - but thankfully this problem was swiftly rectified by the highly recommended Norm the mechanic at Gregg Little's, and he also put the new seat belts in so I can drive Topsy with the kids safely in the back - which is great as you can barely hear the constant questions from them when you're up front with the window open - ah peace!

THE first scheduled stop (not counting the brief halt in Stanhope for Rog to have a five min breather from supervising me driving, and where I did me seventeen point turn in the road!) was Killhope Mine which is one the the best museums of it's type - the kids got to search for their own minerals, and go down the mine kitted out in wellies and hard hat, and play with old-fashioned toys, and see a great collection of minerals and spar boxes, oh and lots lots more - and there was no interactive computers in sight! Killhope is great for a day trip from anywhere in the north east for adults and kids and is highly recommended by us all! (Belle and Babz found loads of bonnie crystals and Belle is now engaged in making her own spar box).

WE then drove back down the valley in Westgate where there is a great quiet basic campsite right next to the Weir of the Wear, with toilet and showers for Barbara and a five minute walk to the pub for Rog! One vw bus for the girls to sleep in - one tent for me n Rog (I will get around to putting the hammocks in!). After sunset we had the pleasure of watching very fast bats chase midges (of which several bit us - midges that is, not bats!) over the river Wear, and fish jumping out the water, and also one large trout (well nearly a foot and a half long) wriggle expertly over the weir. There was an owl somewhere near by, but even Roger's impression of an owl call didn't entice it into view!! And we saw the stars - lots and lots and lots of stars, it's great without light pollution - if only we hadn't camped up in front of the street light!!

BREAKFAST was a luxurious affair - we drove over the moors towards Teesdale, and stopped by a little river to eat strawberries and other goodies in the open air surrounded by nobody, the kids tried to build a damn, Rog went off for a little walk to a quarry, and I relaxed in the sunshine laid next to me bus .... a very nice time was had by all!

AND now we're back from the weir on the Wear where we were at (say that quickly after a few pints!) and I think we're all agreed that Topsy is the best thing we've ever had - excellent for the girls as a changing room after falling in river accidents, and great at just trundling steady away up and down the hills - though I have had her up to 60 mph, I much prefer cruising round at a modest 35-45! Also, we went all that way to see nature at its best, only to find a sparrowhawk in me own back garden! Next week a new adventure, but we don't know where as there is no plan! Well, there's a plan to write a list of things we might need, like insect repellent - we were hopelessly unprepared as always!

ps - I'd like to say thanks to the chaps at Homeplan DIY (Greenwell Road, Newton Aycliffe, DL5 4DH 01325 312037) who even at this early stage of my slow Topsy interior project have been an invaluable source of knowledge, materials, tools and very good advice, especially when it comes to camping stoves and gas bottles, connecting the right two things together!! So, THANK YOU, from the camper van girl... who can now enjoy a cup of tea anywhere!