National Trust Hinton Ampner

Monday 9th August and the post festival blues kick in. We didn’t want to come straight home – that seems like a waste of a day, so we visited the closest National Trust property – Hinton Ampner. A great couple of hours strolling around, scoffing delicious ice cream and eating expensive sandwiches. Interesting Country house.

We got off to a shaky start though: Campervan drivers beware, the gate is really narrow and not very tall! We couldn’t fit so had to phone up and get the alternative parking arrangements that coaches use. We ended up parked right in front of the house. A reminder that for much of our european travels, we need to research our day trips and make sure we can park!

Parley Glade & Studland Bay

We started a multi day adventure on Sunday 29th July, beginning with a nice trip down to the south coast and three nights at Parley Glade – a C&C Certificated Site near Bournemouth ( .

T was able to work Monday and Tuesday, so it was a good test that all the tech worked as it should. The site was nice and quiet and had great cell phone coverage! It feels odd sitting in a campervan, but still being part of the rat-race.

We met the site wardens and had a great chat with them about the good old days! The only thing to watch for at Parley Glade is the Bournemouth Airport flight line. Didn’t bother us – we’ve lived near Gatwick for a long time!

On Monday, dropped Charlie at Studland Bay for his volunteering week on Brownsea Island.

Bournemouth Aviation Museum & Fort Nelson

Wednesday August 1st and it’s Festival time! Leaving Parley Glade, It’s two quick stops, one at Bournemouth Aviation Museum and another high up on the hills overlooking the Solent at Fort Nelson – and then it’s off to Wickham. 

The Aviation museum is great. It was saved from closure a few years ago when it looked like redeveloping the airport would put an end to it, but a small parcel of land was found over the road and the museum was saved. 

There are a few whole aircraft and a few fuselage sections – probably 20 aircraft in all. What is pretty awesome about Bournemouth is that most of the aircraft can be clambered into, so it’s a hands on experience. It was a great day to visit as it was not at all busy and a couple of hours was blissfully spent clambering in and out of aircraft like the Avro Vulcan and flicking various levers and switches and just generally appreciating what a bugger warbirds must be to fly. (

Multi-vanning into a festival is much easier if you meet up a few KM away and arrive together. 

So it was a quick slog over to Fort Nelson for the meetup for Wickham. Fort Nelson is a Victorian fort set in 19 acres of fortifications and secret underground tunnels and on top of a big hill overlooking the Solent ( Parking is £3 and it’s free to get into the fort – yes, free! There is a good selection of modern and ancient artillery pieces including a couple of sections of Saddams supergun.


Wednesday 1st August and both campervans head to Wickham from Fort Nelson. We did Wickham two years ago and we were instant fans. It is a relatively small festival with two main tented stages and a couple of smaller stages. Less than 10,000 people.

Highlights for us were Steve Harley, Squeeze, Richard Thompson, Black Kat Boppers and of course our favorite Gerry Colvin. The Undertones were also great but reminded us that we don’t know many of their songs.

Ranty comedian Jonathan Pye was something to behold. Selina bumped into an ex work colleague and Toby bumped into an old friend not seen for 20 years, so it was a great social weekend too! We only have one festival left and then we will get across la Manche as fast as we can!

Fuel, LPG and the Gaslow system

Mothership II is currently doing about 21 to the gallon. That is down on Mothership I which managed 35 or more, but we have to allow for it being double the weight.

Another first for us a few days ago was our first ever LPG fill-up for the gaslow system – this is the permanently installed LPG gas bottle system that can legally be refilled by the user.

The great big hiss disconnecting from the pump made us jump even though we knew it would happen! 39 litres for £24. At the local Calor dealers, it’s £22 for a 6KG (11.7 litres) and that’s already cheaper than camping supply stores, so you can really see the saving – about a quarter the price.

But the big benefit for European travel is the hassle saving. Although there is now a European standard for regulator pressure, there are still national gas bottle providers in each country so it’s not practical to have lots of different canisters. Campingaz is a solution and the canisters are pretty common all across Europe, but it’s expensive and the largest size is just 3KG.

For refillable systems, there are still differences across Europe but it reduces to just three different filling connectors (plus the UK) so it can be achieved with a bag of 3 brass adaptors which screw into the UK system. So our only constraint is LPG filling stations. We’ll probably carry a small LPG generator too so the LPG supply will also double up as our emergency power supply if the sun fails to shine! LPG filling stations are pretty common all across mainland Europe, but tend to get harder to find on islands, so the fix is to attach a locally sourced pigtail and just use whatever propane source is hand such as the Campingaz bottles noted above.

We’ve tended to be pretty frugal on propane in the past, and have only got through two or three 6KG bottles in a year. That works out to about 15 bottles over 12K miles. With the new system being double the capacity and filling both bottles at once, that works out to about four refills over 10,000 miles for the same usage profile. Our power budget estimates that the fridge will run for around 50 days on the full gaslow system and that’s by far the biggest gas user. We still have a couple of tricks up our sleeve to reduce that further, but it does depend on getting the solar panels working efficiently!

Shakedown trip 2: Cornbury Festival and Blenheim Palace

Summary: Weekend was great, the van was *almost* great, the water tank leak is sorted, all our gear is now packed in the van. Sadly, the solar panels are still not working. 

Thursday saw us head up to Great Tew Park in Oxfordshire for the return of the awesome Cornbury Festival. Everything *except the solar panels* worked just great. We are still learning the personality of the new van, but getting there.

The weekend brought us great music from the likes of UB40 and Squeeze and then on Monday we decided to avoid the traffic by spending the day at Blenheim Palace which was just around the corner. We had passed loads of cops and demonstrators on the way up on Thursday and it took us a while to work out that it was all Trump related.

It’s been a decade since we visited Blenheim, so it was high time for the return trip. It felt a little more seedy than last time knowing the feckless chump had been there, but what made it an interesting day was that the palace was hired for a film shoot by a Bollywood film company, so we got to watch a few scenes being shot, which was pretty cool.

But it does look like Mothership will need a trip back to the dealer before we leave to get those panels sorted.

Selina has only a few days of work left and then the heat is on to get out of the country and hit the road!

Dog Tags

Once you hit 50, even with a set-off checklist, stuff will still get forgotten. Trust us!

Driving with the LPG on is irresponsible, driving with the corner steadies down will plough fields and also cause sparks like an F1 car (cool!) and trying to move off over the top of your chocks just makes everyone laugh at you, so we made these dog tags to attach to the steering wheel to remind us of the most important stuff to fix before driving off.

Which dog tags do you think would be the most important for your van? Do you like these? We can make them for about £5 each. They are double sided with the warning text one side and an icon on the other and they are on a wrist sized mini lanyard. Most people already have a system like this we think!

Mothership II Shakedown trip #1

We took MS2 on a shakedown trip down to Horam in Sussex and had a delightful couple of days in Horam Manor Touring Park. We had a couple of niggles including a leak from the fresh water tank. It seems that the tank covers were not screwed down tight enough. There is also a little seepage from the drain hose and the overflow hose. The tank covers are now numbered and marked so we know if they come loose again. We’ll drain the tank properly and check the drain hose in the next couple of days. A leak in either of the water tanks is a big deal in a double floored van because the water leaks inside and not down onto the road as with underslung tanks. We probably lost a litre so there was half an hour of careful mopping out and it’s sorted now. We think no damage has been done. This is an important thing to fix as we do need to travel with the water tank full – we don’t have the budget to be on campsites all the time, so wild camping means carrying everything for a few days with us.

The acrylic mount for the sat nav works reasonably well – it seems to flex a little so some strengthening strips to glue on the back over the next few days. There’s a niggle or two with the captains table – it has a latching middle leaf that seems not to latch properly plus some magnets that hold it together that are not fitted properly. Again, on the snag list they go!

We’ve been fitting the obligatory tack matting to the cupboards and storage spaces to try and stop things sliding around and we still have to sort out the bathroom cabinets – they have only a tiny lip so almost everything falls out when you open the doors. I guess this luxury tourer is meant to travel from place to place without anything in the bathroom lockers!

The fridge needs another shelf – so we’ve emailed Dometic to see if we can buy a spare. The auto switchover for the fridge seems to be non-intuitive, so we’ve turned it off for now. 

The underfloor storage areas seem to be naturally morphing into beer, wine and soft drinks storage.

We decided not to test the power budget this weekend so we stayed on hookup. We have a music festival in a couple of weeks so that will be the first wild camping weekend. We don’t expect any issues, but we still want to make some changes to the solar setup before we go away.

It was a scorching weekend and the van was certainly warm, but we have found that the Alpa layout allows us to completely partition the cab off and that makes a big difference. The 7(!) skylights mean that we can get plenty of air in and the windows all open really wide too. The overcab bed was really comfortable and we hope to have proper bedding for it in a week or so.

All in all, we tested pretty much everything on the van this weekend and apart from the above niggles everything seemed to work just fine, although the snag list is longer now than it was on Friday! But we are moving onwards and upwards!

Selina and Toby are proud parents again!

10,000 pounds with deep baby blue eyes. Well, orange daylight running lights actually. Born after 6 months labour. German labour. So we have the new beast, Mothership II has landed! A long day made up of train, tube and bus journey to the dealer near Colchester and a 100 mile trek round the good old M25, and she is home. We have spent the weekend tracing cables, pressing random buttons and even reading the manuals. She’s swallowed everything from MS1 and we have plenty of space left. So we’ve been doing the thousand tedious things to learn the new camper.

We are working through a couple of issues – the solar system is not really performing right, so some diagnostics over the next few days and there are a couple of odd setup issues to iron out in other systems, but we are working them through.

A big ticket item is whether we can run the laptop off-grid long term without buying a genny. So we have started making an energy budget to try and predict how long we can go without gas fill-ups and battery recharges. We specced the solar system based on the laptop so we’ll try to factor the solar power into the energy budget.

Mothership I has also gone to be mended, and then we can try and sell it – then that should be it. Pretty much the last thing tieing us to blighty sorted! Oh and the last few music festivals!

Mothership II

Mothership II or ‘Eff Off’ as Selina has christened her (EF18OVV so it does make some sense) is a Dethleffs Alpa. The Alpa is a cracking layout that has a large garage, but still has a rear lounge. It has a big bathroom and twin fixed beds over the cab. It’s a tall beast with a double floor – meaning plenty of storage, good insulation and plenty of carrying capacity. The compromise is no dinette, but we worked out that in three years we only used the old one for additional food prep.

There are three alpas in the range – ours is the ‘baby’ alpa. It’s a lot more cost effective then the next model up and we have used the savings to have various upgrades fitted based on advice from other alpa owners.

The Alpa is meant as a couples luxury tourer and has only two belted seats as standard, but we think that’s a little selfish, so ours has two extra ‘jump seats’ fitted in the rear lounge. This costs some under seat storage but means that we can move family and friends when we need to!

This is one advantage of buying new – extra seat belts can’t be fitted as an aftermarket option due to safety reasons, so they have to be ordered from new.

We have seen ‘baby’ Alpas both new and used and have never yet seen the jump seats fitted, so we knew that we would be buying new to get the layout we wanted.

In terms of spec, she has twin leisure batteries and twin solar panels. Dethleffs have an inverter option as part of the enhanced electrical package, but it was £4K so we couldn’t justify that.

We have the Gaslow twin refillable system fitted so we should be good for cheap LPG on the trip.

There are a few bits and pieces like air suspension, awning, tow bar, external gas point etc, but we’ll go into that another time!

Mothership is (unexpectedly) an Automatic. Neither of us like autos and we ordered a manual, but having taken her for a spin, we think it will be fine. The automatic box fitted to the Alpa is an Iveco unit and it’s actually a manual box with a added servo shift mechanism and clutch rather than a viscous coupling. More on the Mothership soon. Hopefully less than two weeks to go before we pick her up!