I had a near-perfect weekend. It involved cooking, eating, drinking, chatting, watching “Strictly Come Dancing” (yes, I know…). I discovered that stale bread sticks make wonderful garlic croutons to accompany freshly made soup, adding peanut butter to butternut squash in a soup really does work, and that we will never be a household who hold back when it comes to topping our home-made pizzas. The only thing it lacked really was a little gardening. Then this:

Camerons Broken Exhaust

That’s part of an exhaust pipe (I believe they are called “mufflers” in the US?).

We are V-Dubbers. We bought a ‘78 VW Westafalia camper van nearly 4 years ago now (Helsinki conversion if there are any other VW geeks out there). We spent that summer travelling all over the country, Oban to the New Forest to Weymouth to Anglesey.

Cameron

We christened the van ‘Cameron’. If you asked my husband he’d probably claim this was for Cameron Diaz, but it was actually for David Cameron, because the van may look green but appearances are deceptive…

It was because of Cameron that we ended up going on a spontaneous camping trip to Anglesey. We were supposed to camp on a huge commercial site in Treaddur Bay, but one of the friends we were going with rang to ask if we could stay at a place called Outdoor Alternative instead, because she’d heard that it was within 4 minutes walk of a beach she could leave her sailing dinghy on, and we could all sail from there. We said yes, and the rest, in a way, is history…

The (small and very basic) site is on the coast at Rhoscolyn, the Anglesey Coastal Path runs just alongside, and the whole area has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty. It attracts walkers, climbers, sailors, divers, kayakers. We loved it. It turned out the owners were looking for people to live on site in a log cabin, to look after the campers and the people staying in the bunkhouses in return for accommodation. We leapt at the chance.

View from the log cabin

For 10 glorious months we woke every morning to this view (that’s the Snowdonian mountains in the background). I used to go to Anglesey on camping holidays as a child, now here I was living there! Best of all, the owners and their grown up daughter were committed organic veg growers, and had a polytunnel to help extend the season in what was a rather challenging environment…

Polytunnel

The polytunnel became my second home. It’s where I fell in love with growing things from seed. True, dashing out in the middle of a gale to try and rescue the huge door when it came off wasn’t a lot of fun, but inside was a translucent sanctuary from the elements, where I could lose myself in sowing, pricking out, weeding the raised beds.

Growing In Polytunnel

There was also a kitchen garden, where we fought horsetail, built a willow arch for beans and later, picked wonderful salads and carrots.

Kitchen Garden

Our time on Anglesey may have been good for the soul, and certainly gave me what I suspect will be a life-long love for growing things rather than just buying them, but all that salt air played havoc with Cameron’s bodywork and, as it turns out, exhaust. Oh, and the heat exchangers, which are very expensive to buy, and fiddly – for which read “expensive” – to fit.

View from the log cabin

So here I am, waiting by the phone to hear what the damage is, unable to resent it in the least. Its money we don’t really have, but Cameron represents fun, hope, opportunity. Without the van we’d never have got live in such an extraordinary place, and discover we want to have chickens some day. People in car parks and motorway service stations talk to us, about their own vans or about how they’d love to buy one too and what’s it really like. I can take my nephews and their parents to Westonbirt with a full picnic in the back, and brew up tea on the stove to go with the birthday cake before we head off for our walk. People wave when I drive to the shops, and even when I am feeling lousy, clambering into the driver’s seat and starting Cameron up instantly puts me in a better mood. So I don’t begrudge him, and look forward to many other adventures in the future.

Besides, he is perfect for transporting bags of compost and new plants in…

20 thoughts on “Bay Window Blues

  1. Janet, it’s always good to meet another camper vanner and a Strictly fan too :) We have a Bedford CF Auto Sleeper who is now well into her 20s ~ a battered old lady compared to your snazzy looking Cameron. I will keep my fingers crossed that he can soon be revived and that you are back behind the wheel before long. Your Anglesey adventure sounds most exciting ~ what a glorious spot to spend a few months.

    1. Hi Anna. Hurrah! Gardening + Strictly + camper vans. Hard combo to beat! Thank you for the best wishes – I think Cameron will be back, we’ll just be rather poorer. It was good to put this post together, and be reminded of Anglesey and camping. Makes the wallet hurt less!

  2. Oh you poor thing! Our camper (T25 converted minibus) suffers terribly from the salt air here, although its all that he’s ever known (Darwin – part monkey (wild thornberries), part evolutionary biologist) – they do open up so many conversations with other folk don’t they? We’ve never been waved at so much when heading down the A9 as when we’re in Darwin – we often even just open him up and eat tea/lunch in him in the garden looking out at our view – we take him to the beach as often as possible – and like you say they are amazing at transporting compost and plants. This last year I also thought of growing a few tomatos in him (bush only) as I’ve not got a polytunnel up yet – the one you’ve shown on here looks amazing! Thank you for the post!

    1. Hi Fay. What a great name for a camper van! Love the idea of using him as a lunch shelter in the garden! Ours is rather too small for that, and lacks your fine view, but my time on Anglesey gives me a little hint of what your life is like. And yes, perfect for a beach visit. I love being able to brew up and make a sandwich wherever I want to stop too, rather than being tied to service stations. Growing tomatoes in a van is a new one, and I’m guessing it would hamper the beach trips, but hey! The Anglesey polytunnel was a serious beast, with tough tubular aluminium frame sunk in to concrete. Had to be, it was very exposed! The doors proved to be a bit of a weak spot, but mostly it was only ever the plastic that needed occasional patching. They got it second hand at an agricultural show, but even then it cost a fortune…

  3. It is worth whatever it will cost – you’ve already had such fun and for sure there will be more to come. Think of the money as a gift to a close friend rather than a payment to a garage. Christina

    1. Hi Christina. It was close run thing this time round. We got a call to say they’d found a “huge hole” when they removed the old exhaust assembly. Happily it doesn’t look like its going to cost a fortune, not compared the the rest of what we are already committed to anyway! So Cameron lives on…

  4. That sounds like an amazing adventure! And what a great vehicle for doing it in; I have a great fondness for VWs, there were many camping weekends at Santa Pod for the Bug Fests back when I was in college… Good times. I hope the news is good!

    1. It was rather special! Bug Fests sound fun! News is “OK” rather than “good”, but I’ll take that, there were a few bad moments and some anxious discussions with the garage…

  5. I’m NOT a V-Dubbyah… But I noticed your comment about the Butternut Squash soup with peanut butter. Was this the one from Hugh Fairly-Wotsit? We tried that too, but weren’t overly impressed. Maybe this had something to do with the large quantity of ginger in it, which I think overpowered the squash (and the ginger also had a lot of fibres in it — we realised too late that sieving the soup before serving it would have been advisable!)

    1. Hi Mark. It was indeed the Hugh F-W recipe, well spotted! I put less ginger in as my mother-in-law isn’t a fan, and grated it. We really liked it, though next time I’m going to try less peanut butter, in our household it makes it a special occasion soup rather than a regular if you bung a full jar in…

  6. Hi there, thanks for popping onto my blog and for your lovely comment. Never apologise for loving ‘strictly’ – where would be without anton du beke to brighten our Saturday nights! We love it in our house. I am loving Reading about your adventures. Cameron looks fab. Getting a camper is a long term dream of mine so it’s great to hear of the fin you’ve had with yours. I’m really looking forward to Reading more – thanks x

    1. Hi Emma! Good to “see” you over here. Can thoroughly recommend the VW camping experience, though well worth getting one you KNOW to be in really good nick unless you want to turn looking after it into a full time occupation… And yes, “Strictly” is a highlight of our week – Anne and Anton have us in stitches!

    1. Hi Mary Beth, thanks for visiting. It was (is!) a really special place, I am glad we got to live there for a while.

  7. Your camping experience sounds so peaceful – the opposite of the area I live in!! Good luck fixing Cameron!

  8. Your camper van is almost as OLD as David Cameron, but evergreen, you know? In the best sense of the word. (That picture conjures up a whole world. And is that a little pony from the New Forest?) I’m so glad that I didn’t miss this post . . . what a joy to read.
    Perhaps I need a long spell in Anglesey to get my veg gardening jump-started. We experiment every year, but we (little daughter and I) aren’t good about making the consistent effort.

    1. Hi Bee, yes that was a New Forest pony! The camp site was full of them, often invading tents to get at food – another advantage to the van!

  9. Extraordinary place! I love the gardens and am going right now to talk with my husband about putting up a tunnel over our raised beds. ;)

    “… cooking, eating, drinking, chatting… “… the best in living!

    1. It was a special place. Can’t recommend a polytunnel enough! Ugly, but greatly extend the growing season and make a wonderful place to retreat to and garden in on a foul day.

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