I don’t know if it’s an age thing, or because of my new found love of camping in my VW T25, but the last year I’ve not really been bothered about having a summer holiday abroad. Don’t get me wrong, the sun is lovely and all and if I had it I’d pay good money to lounge around on a beach in Mauritius for a couple of week, but the sort of holidays I could afford is much less exciting and relaxing.
As well as saving money (UK campsites are pretty reasonable) the other pluses to holidaying in the UK are being able to change your plans quite easily if the weather looks pants, not having to worry about getting a mobile signal and having familiar things on hand such as the kids favourite foods, easy access to mobile casino refer brands like vipclubcasino for chilling out with and being able to incorporate visits to friends and family along the way.
So instead of day dreaming whilst staring at pictures of long white sandy beaches, I’ve been putting together a UK bucket list of places I want to visit and take the kids to next year.
since the discovery that there are 5 campsites inside the M25, close to London, I’ve been planning a trip with the van one weekend. It would be ace to be within a short train ride of London and there is so much I would love to take the kids to see and do.
Beefeater tour at the Tower of London
I’ve never been on one but have watched a few on Youtibe and they look hilarious
Natural History Museum
The brilliant and free Natural History museum is home to loads of dinosaurs including a roaring T-Rex. Which is sure to thrill my children.
We have been to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester more times than I could possibly remember and the kids absolutely love it, so I can’t wait to take them to the one in Windsor which has roller-coasters and rides as well as lots and lots of Lego.
I love cornwall, it’s like visiting a different country with it’s amazing coastline and lovely weather. But it’s not somewhere I’ve taken the kids to yet – it is quite a long drive. But I think next year will be the year to visit. And there is so much to see and do.
The Lizzard Peninsula
The Lizzard Penisula is a gorgeous stretch of coastline in Cornwall with the warmest climate in Britain and an abundance of sub-tropical vegetation. It’s like journeying to another country and absolutley has t be visited very soon.
I’ve taken the kids to the theatre and they absolutely love it, so I can not wait to see their faces when they arrive at the stunning outdoor theatre that is the Minack Ampitheatre.
I visited the Eden Project many years ago when it was still being build and was amazed at it then – I think they only had one of the domes open to the public at that point and were still building the other. So I can’t wait to see what it is like now, 15 years later. And I know my daughter will be completely bowled over by it.
An exciting network of trampolines stung in underground caves in north Wales, Bounce Below looks really exciting! I’ve already got tickets to for us to go to this and I absolutely can not wait.
What about you, where would you put on your bucket list for the UK?
VW campervan ownership is a bit like parenthood. It all sounds like such a good idea at the beginning and years down the line you can’t believe that nobody ever warned you about all the weird and wonderful things that it brings.
You’ll fall in love
You’ll suddenly find yourself (quite possibly for the first time ever) becoming emotionally attached to a vehicle and giving it not just a name but an entire personality and relationships with other similar vans.
This is Poppy, she’s a feisty old bird who is prone to the occasional sulk if she doesn’t get to go camping often enough. Oh, and she has a boyfriend, a younger model – the little cougar.
Yes, it’s weird.
You’ll gain lots of new friends
You’ll become really well acquainted with the people at your local garage. So much so that you can just ring them up and say ‘Hi, it’s Heather,’ and they’ll offer to fit you in as soon as possible.
To be fair, I’ve gone through a number of garages until I hit upon Campershack who know VW T25s like the back of their hands and I think I love them a little bit.
Anyone else that owns a VW camper is immediately a good friend of yours and you’ll spend a ridiculous amount of time waving as you pass other VW campervans on the road – there’s even a special wave and everything.
Breaking down is all part of the experience
Bits of your van will simply fall off in your hands for no particular reason that you can see. When you ask other VW owners about it they’ll just shrug and say ‘yeah, it happens.’ Luckily they usually just slide or stick straight back on.
Other bits will wiggle and shake and make funny noises and eventually you are going to find yourself at the side of road with an unresponsive van. Luckily, there’s a high chance another VW owner will pull up and help you out. Cause everyone with a VW is now your friend.
Best to have breakdown cover though, just in case.
You’ll start lying (to yourself and others) about how much it costs
VW vans aren’t cheap. I don’t mean to buy but to keep on the road. They seem to get through parts and petrol like you and I go through clean underwear but you’ll never allow yourself to really tot up how much she costs you. Because well, who wants to know that? Much better to bury your head in the sand and consider possibly getting a second job or finding another lucrative way to make some cash.
I know a woman who pays for her vans repairs with her Bingo Extra winnings and another who ‘decluttered’ her whole house and paid for a new exhaust with the items she sold. Admittedly she now has little in the way of belongings but hey, at least her van sounds sweet.
It’s a sickness isn’t it?
You’ll vow to do it yourself
You might never have had the slightest interest in cars or engines or how things work but (and I know it’s hard to believe) you’ll find yourself Googling problems on your van to see if you can fix it yourself – no offense lovely people at the garage but you’d quite like to be able to afford food this month and hey, how hard can it really be?
And become an expert
You’ll spend long weekends up to your armpits in engine oil armed with nothing more than a spanner set and an ipad to re-watch the YouTube instructional video on. Seriously, I spent an entire week watching youtube videos in the evenings about tuning carburettors. Up until that point I wouldn’t have known a carburettor if someone had hit me over the head with one.
You’ll also join forums about your van (I know – car forums!) and spend hours searching for information on your particular problem. You’ll eventually ask for advice and receive about 47 conflicting pieces of advice. At least one of these being not to bother your silly girly head about all that complicated boy stuff and take it to a garage.
You’ll become a stubborn ‘expert’
You’ll spend a further 3 weekends trying to prove the bugger wrong . It doesn’t matter that you’ll miss the camping trip you wanted to go one, no-one is going to tell you that you can’t fix something! And you will, eventually.
Feeling victorious you’ll book a camping weekend and end up being towed home because something else has fallen off or broken. But hey, there’s always those lovely people at the garage to help out. After all you saved a load of money fixing the last problem on your own so you can afford to splash out, right?
So err…anyone fancy a game of free bingo?
You’ll fall deeper in love
You won’t care one jot how temperamental she is and will fully believe that the next fix will be the magic one that will have her running perfectly for years. You won’t even care about all the rust that you can’t afford to fix or the splutters and backfires. You’ll not give a hoot that sometimes she can only make it up hills at 30mph on the motorway because, when you’ve been upto your nicky nacky noos in engine oil for several weekends in a row and got her on the road yourself, when you’ve spent weekends sleeping in her, been waved at by tonnes of fellow dubbers, you’ll not be able to help falling even deeper in love.
It seems like everyone except me is planning a camping trip to France this year. I swear everyone I know with a camper or caravan is off and every other discussion on T25 forums seems to be about route planning in France or what fancy plug thingies you need there. And well, I’m not having it. I refuse to be the only person in the known universe that isn’t going to France camping soon.
And so I’m trip planning. Probably for next year, but trip planning nonetheless. Me, Poppy (the van) and possibly the kids if they are good, are going to take a wee road trip for a few weeks and see some of France. Ooh la la!
Poppy the VW
The thing with taking the kids though is making sure there is plenty of stuff for them to do. Whilst I may have dreams of vineyards, unspoiled coast-line, pretty fishing villages and castles the kids are going to need something a bit more… well, fun. Like other kids to play with, a pool, entertainment, activities and so forth. This sort of thing…
Luckily Yelloh! Village, a company that has won loads of awards for their campsites in France including from the Michelin Camping Guide, have asked me to take a look at some of their sites and write about them here. Planning a camping trip in France is both fortuitous and much more exciting than looking at holidays in Bognor watching acts that failed to win televised talent shows, right?
Yelloh! Village have loads of camping sites around France that seem to offer the best of both worlds: swimming pools and fun for the kids, whilst set in gorgeous natural surroundings and close to local points of interest. And they all seem to cost just €18 per night for a pitch which comes to around £12.
The trouble is which one to choose: I counted 62 Yelloh! Village campsites in France!! Crikey. I guess this is where the road trip planning comes in.
I’m thinking of taking the ferry from Portsmouth to Roscoff, see some of Brittany and then head down to the beautiful sea-faring town of La Rochelle. And I guess there is nothing to stop us spending a few nights at lots of different sites.
Les Mouettes campsite is close to the port of Roscoff. It’s a seaside campsite with heated swimming pools, paddling pool, a tropical river, leisure pool and slides – everything you could want for a relaxing few days after taking the trip over to France.
Heading down the coast through Brittany the lovely looking site of La Plage is set in a prefect location for exploring some of the medieval and fortified villages and towns of the region. Plus it has pools, slides and is close to the beach to keep the kiddos happy.
And then down further, La Rochelle, a town I have long wanted to visit, is close to Le Littoral, the five star Yelloh! Village camping site. This campsite is also really close to the famous seaside resort of Les Sables d’Olonne which has the ‘most beautiful beach in Europe’. Plus it has it’s own draw too with a 2000m2 pool area with slides and a beach nearby.
I think 4 nights at each site should provide us with enough relaxation and fun time, enough time to explore the surrounding areas without feeling as though we are constantly on the go. And without the kids whining too much that they are bored, which is basically the most important element of any family holiday, lets face it.
So what about you? Where would you go camping in France?
I swear my kids are bonkers, completely off their heads. An affliction that seems to effect them most exactly at the point where I say “right kids, bedtime!”
You know, that bit of the day where you think you can start to relax and unwind. Maybe even put your feet up and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Ha ha ha. Peace and quiet. Yeah, right.
So far in the last couple of weeks we’ve had toothpaste spat up the bathroom walls instead of down the sink.
The bathroom floor flooded
Nerf guns filled with water cause they really want a water gun
All of the little dental stick floss thingies flung out of the bathroom window and onto the trampoline below.
The bathroom turned into a armory; the bath filled with all manner of swords, guns, and hitty shooty things.
Naked sword fights with wooden swords up and down the stairs.
And then a couple of nights ago, just as I thought they were finally quieting down and going to sleep my son comes running down the stairs shouting “look at me, mummy!” I look up and there is half a toilet roll trailing him, one end stuck up his bum!
He thinks he’s fricking hilarious, his sister is up stairs wetting herself laughing and I’m trying to keep a straight face whilst shouting “Will you go to bed!”
Several months ago a home ed friend of mine discovered a camp that had been built, way off the beaten track, at her local woods. The camp had been made from logs, rope and tarp and there was a lean-to shelter, campfire, table and all manner of logs and stumps pulled into the camp for seating arrangements.
And the best bit was that is seemed to have been abandoned.
And so, as we often do us home educating types, we decided a few of us friends would take our kids into the woods for the day and hang out at this camp whilst the children played together. It’s one of the first things people ask when you mention that you home educate – oh but what about socialisation, how will they ever make friends? And it’s something at the forefront of our minds – making sure they get enough downtime to play with friends and have regular meet-ups with their mates that have nothing to do with teaching, and are all to do with hanging out, playing, fitting in a group and further cementing their friendships.
The camp was an awesome place to do this. Us parents could sit, natter and cook food over the campfire for the brood of children who would be off having adventures in the woods around us, playing at whatever games their imaginations could come up with, often morphing three or four games ideas into one so that nobody felt left out. This last week one child brought some sweets in and two of the kids decided to lay a treasure trail with a map for the others.
Basically lots of harmless, wholesome fun was had in the outdoors on public land. And so we decided to come back the week after, and the week after that. We had found a perfect spot for the kids to safely enjoy the forest and each others company and we were looking at what improvements we could make to the camp that had been built, which bits could do with replacing and the kids wanted to add on some extra structures – get involved in the planning and building and help create something that they could be proud of.
Except the Forestry Commission didn’t like it.
Despite the fact that the first Forestry Commission worker that first discovered us said it was all okay as long as we had plenty of water to put the fire out and were behaving sensibly, they were nothing but objectionable afterwards, at one point demanding our contact details before we were allowed to go to the woods again. And this week destroyed the camp entirely, removing our belongings from the camp, dismantling all structures and cutting any long poles into small pieces
When asked why we were given the following reasons:
We did it to discourage you from coming into the woods.
You aren’t supposed to be here in the woods
You need permission to do everything in the woods
You need insurance to bring a large group to the woods
You can’t bring such a large group to the woods
You need insurance to come and teach in the woods
You need to pay an admin fee to organise any group activities in the woods
Let me just reiterate: This was 5 parents and their children.
Five women that wanted to bring their kids to the public woods once a week so that they could have fun.
This wasn’t an organised activity. No money had changed hands. Every single child in the woods with us had a parent with them. No teaching was happening. There was lots of playing, there was probably a large amount of self-led learning going on. We were no-where near a footpath, we were not in anybodies way nor were we disturbing anyone, littering or otherwise disrespecting the woods.
But when we arrived at the camp yesterday we found it chopped to pieces.
Well done Forestry Commission. Well done for intimidating a bunch of women and kids. Well done for bullying us and destroying something that was causing no harm to anyone.
I hope you are all very proud of yourselves.
Especially the gentleman who, when questioned by my daughter about why he destroyed the camp, said “to discourage you from coming back”.