Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Shakedown Cruise

We finally took delivery of our new motorhome on Friday of last week, which was a pain as we should have gone to get it on Tuesday but "it wasn't ready".  So all our plans had to change, but we were eventually ready to set off on Saturday afternoon.  In the interim, I had made the discovery that it is easier to put the duvets in their covers before you take them out to the van!

We ended up spending the first night outside the Daughter's home in east London!  We did try to book into the Lee Valley campsite, but couldn't get an answer from them, and by the time we had filled it with water, installed the gas, discovered how to get hot water, brought the loo into use, and so on, we were exhausted.  So we pulled all the curtains and clambered into what proved to be an incredibly comfortable bed!

We could, of course, have showered in comfort in the Daughter's bathroom, but did she really think we would, the first morning?  Unfortunately, we had set the thermostat to 60 to flush out any lurking bugs, and because it took some fiddling about, we ran out of hot water half-way through my shower.  I was not impressed!  I have now ordered - and received - the kind of shower head which only actually runs the water when you press your thumb on it, so that turning it off while you lather up doesn't mean more fiddling around with the temperature.

The Boys appeared just as I was trying to make toast and eggs - and setting off the smoke alarm, which is positioned just above the door, rather too near the stove - and so we invited them to breakfast.  They sat and ate bread and honey and bananas (and then went back indoors and ate a huge bowl of cereal each) and drank milk, thoroughly enjoying the experience.
After washing up and making sure we had remembered to do all the things - plugs in the shower, wash-basin and sink to prevent nasty smells from the grey water tank, gas switched off, stool inside the van, fridge switched to 12 volt power - we set off to East Anglia to my sister's B&B, where we were to spend the next 24 hours.  My sister had invited us to lunch, and we spent the afternoon and evening with her and her family, watching the climax of the Tour de France and inspecting their delightful garden.  All the vegetables at lunch had been home-grown, and were absolutely delicious.

After dinner, we retired to the van for the night, but I must admit that I did take my sister up on her kind offer of a shower in comfort the next morning!  She runs a B&B, and the room most suitable for disabled guests is just inside the front door, so we were able to use that.  We also had a wonderful cooked breakfast before we headed off.  I usually make myself an egg of some kind, but this was egg, bacon, sausage, mushrooms and tomatoes; all the ingredients of a "proper" Full English.

We had decided to go to a "proper" campsite for our final night, and had booked into a Caravan Club site in the Broads, near Ludham Bridge.  We stopped off at a camping accessories shop my sister knew of, but were not very impressed - they were incredibly expensive!  But we did buy a 10 metre EHU cable (this won't necessarily be long enough, but they suggest buying two shorter cables rather than one long one; we have a further 14 metres on order from Amazon), and were able to hook up to mains electricity for the first time.  And cook our first main meal in the van. 

The old camping saucepans have turned out to be very old indeed, and rather too thin, so we are going to replace them.  My "not-bubble" caught rather badly, alas, and the sausages did a bit, too.  I also have a tiny saucepan for boiling milk for the SW's coffee, and a tiny frying-pan for my egg, and my mother has since given me another small saucepan, which may or may not live in the van - we do have plenty of storage space; more, I think, than in our new kitchen!  But things rattle when on the move.... that's another reason for replacing our old camp saucepans, as the strap has perished, so they rattle terribly!  I shall go down to Halford's when I get a moment to replace them.

However it was all very good, and followed by an apple pie from Tesco's that had been looking at us when we went into the branch near Norwich to get milk....  Mind you, after lunch (bread and spreads), I did think a fruit cake would have been a plan!  Certainly if and when we go off for a longer trip than overnight, I shall make one.

In the morning we again showered in the van - I didn't wash my hair, and hoped it wouldn't be running over with small animal life by the end of the day - and took the opportunity to empty the loo and the grey water tank and so on.  And then we drove down to Sussex, crossing the Dartford Bridge, which we'd not done before (a gorgeous bridge in an unlovely area!)
and round rather a lot of the M25.  We let the Satnav direct us and it took us a way we hadn't expected, down the M23, but then coming off at Pease Pottage and joining the A24 at Broadbridge Heath (so we stopped off at the Tesco's there and bought more milk and some cookies as we planned to invite my parents to tea; I also bought some new cutlery for the van, as our old set, again I think dating back to our tenting days, felt cheap and nasty and didn't add to the eating experience.

We arrived in Sussex and showed my parents all around the van; they were very impressed, although my mother said bags her not sleep on the inside of the bed  because of needing to get up in the night!  We gave them a cup of tea, and put the stuff I have been rescuing from their house move (we've all been squirreling stuff, often childhood treasures) tidily in the van to stay there until we can come down in the car to collect it. 
You know what - this is going to be wonderful!  It is blissfully comfortable, and we will work out how best to live in it.  Our first major trip isn't until October, when we will be away for nearly three weeks.....


  1. Hi Annabel, this is Linda, so enjoyed reading this! I didn't think about all the little things you have to get right in a camper van, but it means you can stop anywhere, if you are allowed to!

  2. There are not all that many places in the UK where you can park for free overnight, alas - something we are just not as good at as they are on the Continent.