We love going on holiday to The Netherlands – this year we decided to go somewhere other than the Katjekelder park in Nord Brabant so we headed for a camp site just outside Maastricht, Camping De Oosterdriessen.

This was a great choice: It had a large areas to camp in separated by light hedges,

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A lake to swim in,

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And some good weather to sit outside and eat the tarts

 

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and drink the wine we bought in France.

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Lovely camp with a few friends – pleasant weather – a chance to try out the van – very very cheap campsite.

  

Teapots and cake – very important when you are camping:

  

Big kids and little kids all mixing together, going off swimming, reading etc:

  

Bell tents and BBQs – BBQ needed the help of the airbed pump to get going:

  

 Last night cooking dampers round the fire:

 

  

After disaster hit Brian, our first ever camper van, we went backwards and forwards over whether to buy another one. Much soul-searching and saving later, we have taken the plunge again. This time we’ll be building from scratch, starting with a second-hand ex-builders van. In order to avoid overloading the family blog, I’ll be posting campervan build related stuff to a new blog here. Details of travels to follow once the build is finished!

 

Don’t want to bore you all with things you’ve already heard, explained in great detail again, so I’ll just summarise on some of the things that we’ve been doing 🙂

Went to the Falkirk wheel (it was alright) but the best bit was the park! Ruth and I had great fun on the slides and random swingy things, while Jonathan sulked (the slides were too slidy or something….)

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Had “the best fish and chips in the WORLD”!” (yum) then a little walk in Anstruther.

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Sally, Brownie and Camo have been coming with us on our travels too. The two “cooler” members of our family didn’t bring their teddies.

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Mother playing the role of “Mad Hippy Woman”

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On the slides and outdoor gym equipment at Lockore meadows 🙂

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Cheesy tourist photo (one of many taken to embarrass Ruth) Ben Nevis is the mountain in the background, we didn’t get to climb it in the end, due to the weather.

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Loch Ness, Jonathan was lucky to escape as Nessie is especially fond of 9 year old boys.

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This was the dreadful “science show entertainment” in the bar at Craig Tara caravan park, it was as Jonathan described it “it’s trying to be a comedy show and is just for little kids” it was truly awful.

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Brian at Dobbie’s garden centre in Ayr being towed away. We had a 14 hour journey from there to Chichester, we finally arrived at 5am, I think I had about 20 minutes sleep. Have since had quite a nice time in Chichester, read a book, knitted a scarf and played Canasta, Patience, Demons and Crib. 🙂

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The pedants will point out that there will be one more, but this was our last journey with Brian.  We had planned to go into Glasgow on Wednesday, opting to drive to the station in Ayr and then catch a train.  Brian started puffing smoke (he never smoked normally except on a cold start or if offered a fine cigar) at idle every time we stopped.  At the station we popped the bonnet and heard coolant fizzing.  A quick inspection after it had cooled a bit revealed rather brown coolant.  We Googled local garages and found one nearby, suspecting head gasket failure.  The very helpful Ian at Ian Lamberton Autocare advised our chances of a quick repair where limited as it was a local holiday on the coming Friday and Monday but that he had had a lot of success using K-Seal as a temporary repair (though it was by no means guaranteed and he certainly didn’t buy their claims it made a permanent repair). 

Within 20 minutes he had got a bottle delivered and put in.  Initial signs were good but only time would tell.  He offered to check it over again the following day if we wanted before we headed off.  We decided we would just take our chances, pack up and head south, initially to Darlington and then re-assess the situation, but if recovery became necessary we would go for my parents at Chichester as we would have to pay the ferry fare for recovery to the Island.  We headed off, and things looked better, but then I caught sight of a little steam from the exhaust and the temperature gauge shot up, followed instantly be the temperature warning light.  On the approach to a major roundabout.  No choice but to drive on and find the nearest pull-in, a conveniently located Dobbies garden centre. 

The coolant was boiling, the phone call to Gem Breakdown was made.  Their initial response was that our vehicle was too big, but I had the terms and conditions of the policy which stated that we were covered, and after a few minutes the operator called back and apologised, assuring us we were covered.  A nice chap from Kerr & Smith came and picked us up.  After nearly falling over when we said where we were going “Chichester”  “Where’s that?”  “Erm…south coast of England…” “Ah….Can’t get there within my driver’s hours.”  A phone call sorted a relay from Penrith and off we set with Brian on the back.  Sniff.  At Kendal we transferred to the most bizarre recovery vehicle I have ever seen (and we have been recovered a fair few times over the years!).  We were put onto/into (Brian and us respectively) a Ford F350 truck – a kind of super-beefy American double cab pickup with a V10 engine powered from 2 giant LPG tanks on the back, with Brian on a Spec lift.  This meant his prop shaft had to be removed first, relying on the receiving garage or owner re-attaching it at the other end!  We were chauffeured down the M6 by the highly talkative (by his own admission) Roger.  He had some interesting tales to tell, but did eventually stop long enough to allow some dozing.  We dropped Brian off at a garage dad uses and we were offloaded at my parents house.  At my age I don’t think I’m still supposed to roll in at 5am and wake them up but…..   Sorry guys.

The next day,  no the same day, I trundled round to the garage.  “I have an LDV Convoy campervan with a suspect head gasket” “Scrap it”.  Not a great start.  I tried to illicit likely costs as the value of the van was greater than a normal van due to the camper fitments.  Guarded responses suggested at least £300, but much more if the head was damaged and/or their was an underlying problem causing the failure.  I know the head gasket has already been done in fairly recent history which doesn’t bode well for a cheap  option at this point.  Actual cost could only be found by dismantling.  They also would have to get a recovery firm to get Brian in from the road outside, again at more cost.  Added to this we had to consider the diesel leak we discovered in Forfar, the oil leak we already knew about onto the clutch (works ok just now but…) and the increasingly dire sounding noises from the back end AND the hole in the exhaust which has recently got serious.  Taking into account all this, and the fact that Brian is rusty in, ahem, one or two places underneath we felt we had little option but to end the ride. 

I’ve spent the last couple of days dismantling all the work I have done over the last 6 months.  It has been a sad process.  Ironically the saddest part was removing cup hooks.  We have peppered the interior with white hooks, holding everything from knitting bags to oven gloves.  Each was positioned to meet a specific need, exactly where WE wanted them.  I could have left them and avoided the pain, but I am more tight than sentimental!

So, we now have a load of campervan equipment and no campervan.  Watch this space?  Not sure.  We’d like to do it again (with a newer van), but need to go and shake the piggy bank. 

….must come to an end.

Brian has blown his head gasket. We have had a temporary repair attempt at local garage. Holidays here over the weekend so no chance of a proper local fix soon. Starting journey south now, plan to get to Darlington and re-assess. Journey may yet be completed on a recovery truck….

P1000529As gales continue to batter the west coast of Scotland, we continue to hide inside.  The decision to abandon reliance on Brian and his awning is looking like a sound one.  We have just adapted to being inside, and using the site facilities. The caravan has a big living space, which enables us to spread out inside, something which just isn’t possible in the van, especially without the awning (which is not designed for gale force winds).  The site has a pub/restaurant on site which is actually quite pleasant, and has the benefit of free wi-fi so we can save on the mobile data fees.  Most of the time is spent reading, swimming, playing cards (lots) and catching up on The Archers (2 omnibus editions and 2 episodes so far!) 

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P1130502 (768x1024)It’s not the holiday we had been planning, but we’re all still enjoying ourselves, and the only real source of contention is who gets to light the candles with the clicky lighter….

The second night we were here we thought we’d try the free entertainment as they had a science show we thought Jonathan would like.  Well, that was an…interesting experience.  Jonathan has also done some of the sports training sessions, but I think he plans to blog about that himself.

We have special plans for this evening which hopefully will make the blog shortly afterwards, watch this space.

Not literally, don’t worry. After a blustery night in Newburgh (in a nice warm house fortunately) we used the time waiting for Brian’s return from the garage to study every weather forecast on the Internet. Things were not looking good, with heavy rain and gale force winds forecast.

Our next planned stop was Ardmair point, a peninsular near Ullapool. We decided such an exposed site was not the best plan, and the aim had been just to lounge around the site, walk, read etc. A new plan was needed! Thursday’s forecast was looking better, and the girl’s were keen to climb Ben Nevis so we decided to head down to Fort William (the final decision was only made en-route) with a view to the girls and me climibing Ben Nevis if the weather was suitably dry and settled for us to make an attempt with limited equipment. We pitched at the wonderful and well-priced Glen Nevis Holidays site

Alas the climb was not to be. The weather did improve, but only made it to sunshine and showers, with low cloud hanging over Ben Nevis for most of the day. Instead we opted to head off in the van and made like tourists (much to Ruth’s displeasure, she hates being a tourist).

We visited Nepune’s staircase, and impresseive series of locks at the beginning of the Caledonian canal and then Glenfinnan viaduct, which has always attracted tourists but now has the added draw of having featured in the Harry Potter films (including in the flying car sequence). Then we moved on for the obligatory attempt at Nessy-spotting. The whole day was punctuated with stunning mountain and loch views, and only a few rain showers. It was a fantastic day, and a taste of what we had hoped for on this part of the trip.

Loch Ness (click for larger version)

View from the caravan at Craig Tara, Ayr

View from the caravan at Craig Tara, Ayr

A further weather forecast review though confirmed our fears, rain, more rain, still more rain, and some gale force winds thrown in. Time for a complete revision to plans. We found ourselves a cheap caravan deal with free leisure pool, booking into Craig Tara, the former Butlins site at Ayr, now run by Haven Holidays, for a week. The cost is only slightly more than we would have paid in site fees for Brian, and gives us more space to lounge around indoors while the wind and rain howls around us! It’s not the sort of site we would normally opt for a holiday on, but for our purposes just now it fits the bill. As I write the winds are battering the caravan, but the rest of the family are happily swimming in the pool. There is an extreme weather warning in place for tomorrow as the remnants of Hurricane Katia are expected to make landfall here. We will be staying put and hoping the caravan is obliging enough to do likewise. Later in the week we hope to go into Glasgow for a day, and maybe spend another day karting and (belatedly) celebrating Susan’s birthday stuffing our faces at Frankie and Benny’s.

While we were in Newburgh Jennifer took us for a walk along the beach next to the Ythan Estuary. The whole estuary was just full of seals, floating in on the tide, and popping up to peer at these curious humans gawping at them. I’ve never seen so many seals, or so close. The coast here is really quite beautiful, even for someone who lives on the Isle of Wight and so is spoiled for choice of beaches!