Endings

The Elder Flower Orchard,

I’ve avoided writing this post, just as I avoided actually putting the Bongo up for sale.  It’s a bit of a wrench.  The end of something rather wonderful.

We bought the Bongo when my kids were 3 and 5.  They were so little when I look back.  The girls are now 9 and 11 and we’ve simply outgrown our lovely van.  We’ve had six wonderful summers of campervanning. I am so happy that it was a massive part of their early childhood.  When we bought the van we decided to use it as much as possible.  Pretty much any weekend from May to September where the weather forecast was ok and no other significant events were taking place we would pack up and go.  Sometimes just for a night, usually two.  We gained so much.

We explored hidden corners of the UK, some very close maybe only 30/45 mins drive away or sometimes a few hours drive.  We all learned an awareness and appreciation of the beauty of the land we live in.

Wookey Farm

My husband has a stressful job and it can be hard for him to switch off at weekends, being out camping forced him to slow down and nature worked its balm on him and all of us, each time.  Quality family time.

The best campsites are places you can walk from or around. When the girls were little our walks would be relatively short with a focus or game to keep things going.   Over the years our walking adventures have expanded.  Now we all walk up mountains and a 5 mile ramble is a no challenge at all.  It was camping that led us naturally into this activity.  Walking is just the best family activity but that’s another post!

Our enthusiasm for camping was infectious.  We often camped alone but we loved it when friends came too. Over the years we have cemented friendships over the campfire and created wonderful shared experiences.

The sea is quite far from where we live.  It is just possible to spend a day by the sea on a day trip but it’s a very long day.  The freedom of the campervan allowed us to enjoy sea views, sea air and beaches of every kind so much more often than we could have managed any other way.  Once we went to the beach early in the morning in our pyjamas!

Eweleaze Farm

Having a campervan at the beach is just brilliant.  Make a cup of tea, get changed without getting sand in every orifice, have a nap in the roof, a cold beer from the fridge, a place to shelter if the weather turns unexpectedly.  Just brilliant and one of the main things I will miss about owning a van.

There a few incredible things so easy to access and so often ignored as the night sky.  We’ve sat and watched the stars emerge, taught ourselves about the constellations, seen shooting stars, satellites and the ISS and simply been mesmerised by the beauty of the night sky.

We aren’t giving up camping, but I know, without the Bongo and with the children’s expanding social lives, we will be doing it a lot less.  We are all going to miss it.  Bye bye Bongo, its been totally amazing.

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Why you must fit a coolant alarm to your Bongo!

New year, new job.  The Bongo is now being put to use as my daily commute vehicle.  Not ideal as it is rather heavy on the petrol, but it is very reliable and, despite being larger than the average run around, it is fantastically manoeuvrable. So I’m not worried about it being up to the task.

Second day of new job. The coolant alarm has gone off, though intermittently.  So I top up the reservoir up with water.  It’s been at least 18 months since it was previously topped up so I’m not too worried a bit of evaporation etc is to be expected.  It takes a fairly small amount of water to top it up to the required level.

Evening of second day of new job, I’m driving across town in heavy traffic, a little stressed out at getting to the childcare setting to pick up the girls before it closes.  Nearly there and the alarm goes off again.  Not good.

The childcare setting is in a tiny village on the edge of Bath, it is pitch black and freezing cold.  I borrow a small bottle of water from the kind people at the setting.  I top up the reservoir but with only a low powered torch I can’t see very well if the reservoir is full or not.  I drop my keys into the engine bay. Stress levels are rising sharply.  A passing practical angel manages to retrieve my keys from the engine bay.  I’m all fingers and thumbs.  We get in the car and start driving.  The lanes between here and home are narrow and dark. The alarm goes off again.  Shrill, insistent.  My stress levels are hitting the roof.  I know I need to stop but it isn’t far home and there is nowhere safe to stop. I keep going. The alarm keeps shrieking.  The girls’ chatter is silenced.

We are nearly home and in the light of a street lamp I suddenly realise there is steam coming from the engine.  I stop.  I know I shouldn’t have driven when the alarm is going off, now there is steam.  Although the heat gauge on the dashboard hasn’t moved I’m now feeling certain I must have done serious damage to the engine.  The AA come quickly as I’m stopped on a tricky junction.  A leaking radiator is diagnosed and he helps me get the van home. I feel sick, if I’ve cooked the engine the cost will be in the thousands.  It may not even be worth repairing.

Fast forward a week.  There is a message on the answer phone. It’s the garage.  I’ve been dreading this call. ‘Your car is ready, come and collect it when you are ready’. That’s it. No damage to the engine block, no hideously expensive repair bill.  Just a new radiator, a fairly simple job in a Bongo, and we are back on the road.  I whoop!

But please imagine, if we had not had a coolant alarm fitted there would have been no indication of a problem, the temperature gauge barely budged, I could easily have not spotted the steam in the darkness and I wouldn’t have given it that extra top up.  The first sign may have been the engine simply blowing up.  The cost would have been huge.

If you have a Bongo get a coolant alarm fitted. The Bongo’s temperature gauge is notoriously unreliable and the coolant system is prone to leaks.  Ignore this advice at your peril!

 

 

 

Discovering the UK – Dartmoor

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The camper van is sitting at the end of the garden looking a little forlorn. It is still used over the winter but only as a second car. It is demoted. Just a vehicle. No longer a home, no longer an engine of escape.  I miss it during the winter months.  The escape, the exploring and the quiet times with the family.

But why let the end of the camping season stop us from exploring this beautiful country we live in? Continue reading

Adventures required.

Autumn sunlight Beech wood

Once again our camping season is over, we have done what is necessary to winter the Bongo and thoughts turn towards autumn walks, dark evenings and an excuse to buy a new walking jacket….However, whatever my intentions I always find that we spend a lot less time outdoors in the winter, less time getting away from the busyness of everyday life, less time just being a family. So this year I have a plan to increase the number of adventures in our lives even in winter!

I love to walk and now the girls are a bit older we have managed some good little adventures – last spring we walked up Snowdon. It was cloudy, wet and cold at the top but it felt like a real achievement and wet my appetite for more, more, more!

So now I am on the look out for family adventures, blogs like The Family Adventure Project and Alastair Humphrey‘s provide great inspiration.  I’m thinking small, big and medium sized adventures. Last night we walked home from school a very long way round just to get a little bit more time outdoors, looking at and appreciating nature. So a small adventure to start us off. But what will be next?

I am considering a guided canoe tour of Bristol Harbour, rock climbing, a night time walk….what else? Please share your family’s favourite adventures whatever size they are!

Keeping your Bongo in good nick – rust and mould!

Mazda Bongo

Two of the most common problems that Bongo owners encounter are mould in the Auto Free Top and rust.  We have now owned out Bongo for 4 years and I am happy to say that we have managed to keep both these problems at bay.

This is mostly due to my extremely diligent husband who takes the time to maintain, clean and protect the Bongo with care and attention to detail.  He has kindly written a brief of what he does to prepare the Bongo for winter.

Over to him.

Continue reading

Campsite Review: Pentwyn Farm, Cantref, Brecon Beacons, Wales.

Where:  Pentwyn Farm, Cantref, Brecon, Powys LD3 8LP.

How much:  £8 per person per night, £4 under 12’s.

Campfires: Yes, on ground is ok but ideally use previous pit or metal fire pit available for free.

Firewood: Available in the barn. Help your self to a bag and pay in honesty box.

Facilities: Two toilets, one shower and a campers kitchen and sitting area all housed in a block of re-purposed loose boxes.

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The review:  For the first time ever I actually considered not sharing this place with you.  It ticks so many boxes I nearly kept it to myself, I don’t want everyone to rush there at once! Continue reading

Campsite Review: Camp Hartland, Nr Wareham, Dorset.

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Where: Camp Hartland, Rural Camping, Hartland Stud, Norden, Wareham BH20 5DU

Contact: No website but Facebook page here.

How much: £7.50 for 11 year olds +, £3 for 3 -10 year olds, under 3’s free.  Only open in August.

Fires:  Ideally use spots that have previously been used but if not possible it is ok to start a new pit.  (I have confirmed this with the owner).

Firewood: Not available to buy on site

Facilities: Two Family shower rooms which also house two flushing toilets plus two composting toilets in another field.  Undercover, outdoor washing up area with hot water. Continue reading