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Travels on Orkney

(Click on any of the pictures to see a full sized view)

When we arrived at John o’Groats, it was about 2.30 in the afternoon. We aren’t too interested in the general tourist stuff, so other than an opportunity for a great selfie, there wasn’t a lot to hold us there. We hadn’t planned much past John o’Groats, so back in Elton the van we set about planning the next part of our journey.

We were actually a bit surprised to realise there was a ferry terminal in Gills Bay just a few miles down the road, that could take us across to Orkney.

                The ferry that took us across to Orkney

Orkney was definitely on our itinerary, and quite unexpectedly it became our next destination. A quick check on the weather revealed the winds would be going up to thirty or forty mph the next day – we didn’t fancy a fifty minute sea crossing in those winds so we made the snap decision to get across to Orkney that afternoon. Luckily being a quiet time of year they had space on the 6.30 pm ferry, so we turned up, paid our £107 (one way) and sat in the queue waiting to board. Scarily they made us reverse our 7.5m van down the narrow 30 metre ferry “on-ramp”, and then they threw a couple of planks under the rear wheels at the last minute to stop the van bottoming out as we actually rolled onto the ferry. Made me feel a bit of a wuss as I watched them reversing 50 foot artics down the same ramp.

We thought travelling across the water in the dark would be disappointing, but it was a lovely journey seeing the lights of all the coastal villages, and then as we arrived into Scapa Flow, the main piece of water through the middle of the Orkney Islands, there were three oil rigs brightly lit up making an amazing spectacle in the water.

Leaving the ferry at St Margaret’s Hope, we drove to our proposed wild camping spot in the dark, knowing we were parking close to the beach and waters edge but having no clue on what we would be seeing in the morning.

Our first daylight view of Orkney was when we awoke to a beautiful view across golden sands and lovely bay.

Our first daylight view across blue seas and golden sands

We spent four nights in Orkney travelling around “Mainland” – the main Orkney Island. Each of our stops was overlooking the water and beautiful beaches; in fact pretty much everywhere we went across the island we had stunning views of sparkling seas and amazing beaches.

What sets Orkney apart however is its amazing history. Most views are dominated by Scapa Flow, the piece of water in the centre of the Orkney Islands. Most people will have heard of Scapa Flow, this famous – or infamous? – piece of water that saw so much activity in both the first and second World Wars.

In both wars, being such a perfect natural harbour, it became home to the British Navy. And in both wars, to protect the navy from marauding enemy submarines entering into Scapa Flow, ships were intentionally sunk to block the smaller entrances into Scapa Flow. Many of the rusty hulls of these “block ships” can still be seen today.

Another rusty  “block ship”
Rusty remnants of a sunken “block ship” – intentionally sunk to prevent German submarines entering Scapa Flow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of events dominate the history of Scapa Flow:

  • With the surrender of Germany in the First World War, 74 ships of the German navy were interred in Scapa Flow pending decisions on their future. Seven months into the internment the German Commander made the decision to scuttle the entire fleet. 52 of the German ships actually sank in Scapa Flow. Most were later salvaged for scrap.
  • In October 1939, during World War 2 a German submarine did manage to find its way into Scapa Flow and managed to hit the British Destroyer “The Royal Oak” with two torpedos. The ship sank with the loss of 833 lives.

These are just two such examples of dozens, but with such a history, it was impossible to look out over Scapa Flow without being in awe of the history this single piece of water has seen over the last century.

We took a foot ferry across to the island of Hoy to visit the Scapa Flow naval museum and old naval base, a trip well worth the effort to see and feel the history of this amazing place.

Today the Navy’s abandoned Scapa Flow, and the view across the water view is dominated by three giant oil rigs.

View across Scapa Flow, with salmon farm in the foreground, and Oil Rigs in the distance

Our other main activity during our trip to Orkney was our visit to Skara Brae,

The insides of a 5000 year home – as it was found

a 4,000 year old Neolithic village which was uncovered from sand dunes during a wild storm in 1850.

This was an incredible place to visit, the walls of the houses are still standing, and alleyways are still rooved with their original stone slabs. The internal interior fittings of each house are still there – after 4,000 years! Gob smacking!

Skara Brae – Neolithic settlement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orkney Ale – decent beer at last

And having complained on previous blogs about the availability of decent beer in Scotland, a trip to the Orkney brewery set everything straight again! Decent draft beer at last, and while I decided against the 10% Dark Island Reserve, I did bring away a bottle of 8.5% Skull Splitter – which I’ll be saving for a special occasion when I’m not driving!

We just touched on what this place had to offer, but if you ever get the chance – visit Orkney!

There were a few other highlights and lowlights of our visit to Orkney – the biggest highlight was seeing Otters, our first of this trip. Two lowlights – a little bump in the van as we were reversing over some grass, broke a few bits of the plastic valance at the back of Elton the van. A quick fix with duct tape made it look ok, but it will need fixing when we get back down South. And our electric step’s broken on the van, suspect the gears are broken, it’s a pain having to get in and out without the step but we’re managing ok, I guess a trip back to CamperUK to get this fixed under warranty- there’s nobody in remote Scotland that can fix this!

Despite these couple of setbacks, we’re still absolutely loving being on the road. We still look at each other and grin as we talk about what we’re doing. It still feels like we’re on holiday. I guess this feeling may change eventually but there’s no sign of it right now! The phrase “Life’s one long holiday” is very apt for us.

It would be easy to sum up our experience of the Scottish weather on this trip in one word  – Windy!

It’s been an incessant wind since we arrived on the East coast, and the further North we’ve come it’s blown harder and colder. As we sit writing this blog, we’ve had to move the van away from the cliff-top; the 50+ mph winds are certainly giving our van a good shaking about and the cliff top doesn’t feel like a safe place to be. We’ve watched with envy the soaring temperatures back home and we are a tad jealous of that!

One other thing that has been a bit of a disappointment has been the Aurora – northern lights. We haven’t seen them yet. It’s very high on our list of things to see while we’re here but we’ve suffered with almost constant night-time cloud on our journey so far. We’re banking on that changing sometime soon and we do hope to be able to post aurora pics some time – seeing the Aurora is a bucket list item for us.

Finally – we managed to get our journey route published onto google maps. Anybody who’s interested in the route we’ve travelled and the places we’ve stayed can see the details on our blog site here.

Sorry for the history lesson in this blog, we’ll try not to do it too often!

Next Blog – Living life in a motorhome

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Two weeks on the road – our journey so far

(click on any picture to see the full size version)

We first holidayed in Scotland a couple of years ago, when we spent a couple of weeks travelling on the West Coast of Scotland, primarily on the isles of Sky and Mull. We fell in love with the country during those two weeks and vowed that we’d come back and spend more time here. That’s the reason the first few months of our big adventure is being spent up here.

Since we started our big adventure, we’ve now been back in Scotland for two weeks, and already our love affair has been rekindled. This is such a beautiful country, it seems around every corner there’s something new and awe inspiring to

          St Cyrus, overlooking the bay

see. If you’re a lover of the outdoors, I don’t think it would ever be possible to get bored with this place.

 

We first hit the east coast of Scotland just above Dundee after a couple of long days driving up through England and by passing the urban areas around Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

Our first stopover – and one of our favourite stopovers of the journey so far – was in St Cyrus, a small village perched in the hills overlooking the North Sea. Our stop was a tiny little parking space big enough for two vehicles, about 200 feet up, with views over the sand dunes, the golden beach and the crystal blue sea that was almost as smooth as a lake that night. We had footpaths that took us down a steep track down onto the gorse filled dunes where there was so much birdlife we didn’t know where to look next. When we weren’t watching the birds, we were on “dolphin watch”, our eyes glued to the water looking for the signs of the dolphin that inhabit these waters. We didn’t see any that day, and two weeks into our trip we’re disappointed still not to have seen any. 

          Parked up on the quayside – we’ve had a few stopovers like this
Parking on the harbour wall in Crudon Bay

Moving North, we headed up to Port Errol in Crudon Bay, where we parked on the harbour side with the sea immediately below us. We hadn’t anticipated being able to stay on the quay sides quite like this, but most of the harbours seem to allow you to park on the harbour walls which means we always get good views of the sea. The other advantage of parking up in the  harbour is that there’s generally a pub very close by. It was nice to go for a beer, however the selection of beers was pretty disappointing, just draft rubbish like (IMHO) McCewans and Tenannts – no real ale in sight! It’s been a struggle to find any decent beer since. Phil also took the opportunity to have a fish from the harbour wall but he drew a blank  that night, and every other time he’s fished so far!

 

          Abedour Bay – we had the place all to ourselves

 

Aberdour Bay was our next stop, a beach car park in the middle of nowhere, it was lovely having the place to ourselves. We didn’t see another soul other than a couple of cars driving into the car park in the evening, seeing us and driving away again – think we may have spoilt their fun ! There’s a big campaign that Sky TV are running right now about plastics in the sea. Walking along the beachside it was easy to see the problem, the high tide line was strewn with plastic bottles and debris. We made a decision that night that whenever we stopped at a beach location we’d take a sack with us and do our bit to remove the shoreline of plastic rubbish. 

           Phil on his try-out for the over 50’s skiff team

We pulled into Portsay Harbour mid-day on Saturday 18th March; the local skiff racing team were giving tryouts to potential new members….yep, they have an over 50’s team! Phil was easily persuaded to get into the skiff and have a little row around the harbour with a bunch other beginners – a few crabs were caught on the way round. This energetic activity deserved a beer, and we spent the rest of the evening in the quayside pub watching the England Ireland rugby international. Never realised there were so many Irish people in Scotland – every person in the pub other than us we’re supporting the green shirts. 

We moved northwards via Lossiemouth, a quaint little town where Carol sampled her first Ice Cream of the trip, there’s lots more to come! With 40mph winds forecast we gave up our coastal view and parked up nearer the town centre where we had more shelter. We should have learned the sense in this move – four days later on Orkney we parked on an exposed  headland, the Burgh of Birsay, where highish winds were also forecast. We woke at 3 in the morning feeling like the van was going to be blown into the sea…we had a dash in the dark to find shelter from the howling gale. There were some student campers also on the headland, they must have spent the night hanging onto their tents for dear life. 

          It’s been snowing!

Our travels up the last part the very North East Scottish coastline was fairly uneventful, more of the same beautiful towns, coastline and awesome stopovers, and more of the same dodgy beer.  The only thing of note was waking up on Tuesday morning to a white world – it had snowed overnight and the woods we were staying in looked pretty amazing with its white overcoat. 

John o’Groats was high on our list of places to visit on our travels, “Lands End” equivalent of the North, and all in all we were pretty disappointed.  Not really sure what we expecting, there’s obviously the hype of it being the northerly end of the longest distance between two points in the UK, but other than having a great signpost for taking a selfie, we were a bit underwhelmed.  We didn’t stay long.

So that’s taken us up to the top North East corner of Scotland….next stop, the ferry and across to Orkney!

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Our Journey’s begun, we’re finally on the road.

And we’re off! We’ve finally begun our travelling adventure.

Our 1st stopover on Ullswater in the Lake District
What started as a dream and fanciful chat six months ago, has become reality. We’ve packed up and stored, or sold all of our belongings, rented out and left the house, said our goodbyes to the family and have headed off on our big adventure. We never would have believed when we first started talking about doing some long term travelling that we could or would make that dream actually happen. But here we are in our van in a tiny little bay in eastern Scotland, overlooking the sea, and we can at last say our journey has truly begun.

It’s fair to say that while the last six months preparing for our travels has been exhilarating, it’s also been incredibly hard work, physicallyand emotionally. Getting the house emptied and ready for renting was much tougher than we anticipated. Picking the right van for our travels, and then committing a large chunk of savings to buy the van was was scary. Carol retiring from work was a lovely decision to make, but it did mean all of a sudden a big chunk of regular income disappeared.

Aberdour Bay – all to ourselves

The full glory of Abedour Bay
Saying goodbye to our friends and families was the hardest emotional challenge, and while we know we’ll always be having trips back to see everybody, it’s was still tough saying our goodbyes. Mum’s and Dad, all of our kids, our children, our grandchildren, friends and best friends, neighbours – we probably won’t be seeing any of them for at least three months, but at least it’s easy enough to stay in touch, Skype and FaceTime video chat is probably going to get regular use.

We finally set off last Monday after spending some time with Phil’s kids in Nottingham on Sunday. Our plan was to have a couple of longish days driving to get ourselves Into Scotland fairly quickly, and once there we’re going to spend the next three months on a leisurely drive travelling anti-clockwise around the Scottish coast.

We’ve been away a week now and what an amazing week it’s been for us. We keep looking at each other and smiling, hardly believing what we’re doing and so excited about the journey ahead of us.

St Cyrus – perched high on the cliff overlooking the North Sea
We travelled north via the Lake District, where we had our first stopover on the banks of Ullswater. Amazing stopover for our first night. The beauty of travelling this time of year is that the roads are fairly empty and there’s always room in the best stopping places.

Gardenstown – parked up in the harbour overlooking the fishing boats
We’re visiting Edinburgh for the Champions Rugby cup final in May (hopefully to watch Saracens), so we decided to bypass Edinburgh and head to the Scottish coast north of there. We finally hit the Scottish coast just north of Montrose. We’ve spent the rest of the week slowly moving northwards around the coast with a general principle of travelling not more than about 50 miles a day. It’s a lovely way to travel as it means we can take our time enjoying the journey itself, and not the destination. The Scottish coastline is breathtaking with amazing views, scenery and fantastic fishing villages seemingly around every corner.

One major benefit of motor homing in Scotland is that there are far fewer restrictions on where you can park and stopover than the rest of the UK. There’s also much more open space. As a result, our plan for this Scottish trip is to “wild camp” as much as possible. Not only does wild camping save us camp site fees every night (c. £20 a night) but this also means that wherever we drive, if we see a nice spot and there are no specific parking restrictions, we can stay there.

Stonechat – jumping in and out of the gorse

Beautiful yellowhammer – they’re everywhere
In our first week of being away, we’ve managed to wild camp every single night. We’ve stayed in some incredibly beautiful places – beach car parks in the middle of nowhere, village quays overlooking harbours and the fishing boats, and cliff tops overlooking the wild North Sea.

Permanent wild camping does mean we need to manage our resources carefully – battery power, water supplies etc. We set up our motorhome Elton with a solar panel, and an extra leisure battery so we could be fully self sufficient – everything’s working exactly as planned so far. Our only minor scare so far is how few garages have LPG pumps to fill our gas bottles. We are slightly nervous about this as we go further north to the wilder parts of Scotland. We need gas for heating and cooking!

So, all in all, an amazing first week. We could write pages and pages about this first week…….but maybe the pictures on this post will give some idea of the things we’ve seen and the places we’ve stayed. (Click on the pictures to see them in full size)

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Holidays, Holidays…

Its been five weeks since our last blog post, four weeks since we left our house, and four weeks we’ve now been resident in our new “home on the road”….well, almost! We’ve been parked up at mum and dad’s for the past couple of weeks and mum wouldn’t dream of letting us sleep on the drive!

We’re desperate to start our life on the road proper, but – poor us – we’ve had all sorts of holidays in the way before we can make our final getaway. Retired life can be hard. This week we’re away with Phil’s mum and dad in a beautiful little cottage down in Cornwall, and next week we fly off to Austria for the annual ski trip with the family. Hopefully next year we’ll make our own way there in our van.

We’ve had two major milestone in the last month. The first was when we finally drove away from our home four weeks ago. With the excitement of starting our new life, coupled with the sadness of leaving the home we were expecting it to be an emotional day for both of us. The reality was somewhat different. We were so worn out having spent the previous week getting the house cleared out and cleaned ready for renting, by the time it came to leave we were so knackered we were just desperate to go!

Driving away from the house, Carol’s car and our motorhome Elton were both full to the brim with all of the last bits and pieces we needed to empty out of the house. Lucky we weren’t stopped and taken to the weigh station – I think both of our vehicles were probably overweight

After we left the house Carol still had two weeks at work before she retired, so we hunkered down on a camp site in Cambridge for a couple of weeks. That was a pretty uneventful period, but it did give us our first mini taste of living in our new van. We had no problems settling in. We both love being in our Motorhome and we didn’t have any negative reactions to leaving our house behind. I think the excitement of moving forward to the next stage of our dream overcame any negative emotions we may have had.

Our second major milestone was Carol leaving work – forever, that’s it, retired!

It was a fabulous feeling for us both when her last day was over. That was the final hurdle and stepping stone to enable our new life to happen. No more commitments to anybody other than our families and friends. It’s been two weeks now and Carol hasn’t looked back once.

We’ve also had our first taste of being landlords. Things could have gone better! While our tenants are lovely, the house has been playing up a bit and causing a few problems. Maybe it’s missing us! Storm Doris knocked some of our fences down, and the central heating’s been playing up so we’ve had all sorts of tradesmen in and out of the house since we left. Things we would normally have done ourselves we’re suddenly having to pay for – that’s a cultural shock for us! We’ve paid for an agent to to manage the house for us, and they’ve been great in sorting everything out. Hopefully things will settle down a bit now.

We’re very much looking forward to writing our next blog post. After months of planning and preparation, our journey and travels will have started and we’ll be writing our blog from somewhere in the North of England, or maybe even Scotland, where we’re spending our next three months.

Hoots mon!

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Our life on the road begins

Our new life has started, and what an adventure we’ve got planned. The places we’ll go, the things we’ll see, the freedom to travel and go wherever we fancy.

What started as a bit of dream just six months ago passed its biggest milestone when we handed over our keys and drove away from our house on Sunday.

We’ve still got a few weeks before we really hit the road and start our adventure; we’ve got a couple of weeks around Cambridge while Carol finishes off at work, some family time and then skiing at the start of March, but after that, we’ll hit the open road, first stop Scotland.

We were given a beautiful cushion for Elton (our van) at Christmas. It had a line from a Dr Seuss book printed onto the cover “Oh, the places you’ll go” – We looked up the full story and loved it. It probably summarises what we’re expecting with the highs and inevitable occasional  lows of our journey, so we’ll close this short blog update with a couple of excerpts from that book by Dr Seuss.


Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
By Dr. Seuss 1990

Congratulations! 
Today is your day. 
You’re off to Great Places! 
You’re off and away!
 
You have brains in your head. 
You have feet in your shoes. 
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose. 
You’re on your own. 
And you know what you know. 
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
 
You’ll look up and down streets. 
Look ‘em over with care. 
About some you will say, 
“I don’t choose to go there.” 
With your head full of brains 
and your shoes full of feet, 
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
 
And you may not find any 
you’ll want to go down. 
In that case, of course, 
you’ll head straight out of town. 
It’s opener there in the wide open air. 

Out there things can happen
and frequently do 
to people as brainy 
and footsy as you. 

And when things start to happen, 
don’t worry. Don’t stew. 
Just go right along. 
You’ll start happening too.
 
OH! THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! 

...........
Except when you don’t. 
Because, sometimes, you won’t. 
I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true 
that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you. 
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. 
And your gang will fly on. 
You’ll be left in a Lurch.
 
You’ll come down from the Lurch 
with an unpleasant bump. 
And the chances are, then, 
that you’ll be in a Slump. 
And when you’re in a Slump, 
you’re not in for much fun. 
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done. 

You will come to a place 
where the streets are not marked. 
Some windows are lighted. 
But mostly they’re darked.
 
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! 
Do you dare to stay out? 
Do you dare to go in? 
How much can you lose? 
How much can you win? 

.........

NO! 
That’s not for you! 
Somehow you’ll escape 
all that waiting and staying. 

You’ll find the bright places 
where the Boom Bands are playing. 
With banner flip-flapping, 
once more you’ll ride high! 
Ready for anything under the sky. 
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy! 

Oh, the places you’ll go! 
There is fun to be done! 
There are points to be scored. 
There are games to be won. 
And the magical things you can do with that ball 
will make you the winning-est winner of all. 

......

Dr Suess Copyright recognised and acknowledged

There’s more of this marvelous tale here :

http://www.ncra.org/files/mcms/f54dbcd1-4e78-47b1-916c-c73d66200335.pdf

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The final countdown has begun…we’re off in 6 days

As we sit here in the lounge, in our comfy(!) garden chairs, and peruse the chaos around us, the reality has finally hit. It is happening, we’ve rented out our house, we’re leaving in less than a week !!

It’s been a fast moving, and incredibly frustrating couple of weeks!  A week ago, we were still in limbo and being increasingly frustrated by prospective tenants. We had a lovely Welsh couple come round, adored the house, said they wanted it, then disappeared. They were quickly followed by a single guy, went into the agent’s after viewing and said he wanted the house, then he also disappeared never to be seen again!  People are strange things, and these two potential renters made us realise that no matter how enthusiastic people appear to be, don’t believe their enthusiasm; save your excitement until they’ve paid their deposit!

As a bolt out of the blue last Wednesday, we had a call from another agent, for an immediate viewing “today if possible”. They came, they saw, they loved it, they paid their deposit….and yes, the house is finally rented, to an absolutely lovely couple. We’re sure they’re going to be ideal tenants and right now, they’re everything we could have hoped for. The HappiHalls are very happy !

They’re keen to move in, we’re keen to get going, so we agreed to be out of the house by Sunday 29th Jan. Carpet cleaning and inventory taking on Monday/Tuesday, and they’re moving in on Wednesday 1st Feb.

Needless to say, that caused a bit of a panic in the Hall household. We’d assumed, with time rolling on, that we were never going to hit our end of January target, so while packing the house had been progressing, it was being done in the knowledge that we still had a few weeks to go. All of a sudden we were left with ten days to get the house cleared and moved out.

The magnifying glass dilemna – We didn’t realise quite how tough closing down a house was going to be. It’s easy when you’re moving house. You know that anything you’re unsure about you can just pack and decide on what to do with your stuff at the other end. When you’re renting out your house, when your storage space is limited, it gets more difficult. We know that eventually we’ll – probably – be settling down in a normal house again, and eventually will need a “full complement” of furniture and things around us. But how many of those things do we put in storage, and how many do we sell or give away, in the knowledge they’ll need to be replaced one day.

It’s not just the big things, but the little things as well. All the little knick-knacks that you’ve built up around your home over the years, the things that make your house your home. And all the little things in the bottom of drawers that you haven’t looked at for three years, but you know it’s there and you cant bear to get rid of it. Phil has a magnifying glass, he’s had it for years, never used it but can’t bring himself to get rid of it. The house is full of things like that.

The bigger things strangely have been much easier. We don’t have the same attachment to things like the three piece suite which we put up for sale thinking it would take a week or so, and it was gone within a couple of days – hence the reason why we’re sitting in the lounge on garden chairs! There’s a few pieces of furniture that we love, and practical things like the bed frames that we’re storing away, but pretty much all the other furniture is going. Hope we enjoy the travelling, it’ll be frustrating having to rebuild if we want to come back in six months!

Before the final rush on the house, we did manage to get some jobs done on Elton the van, ready for us to move in; the biggest of these were ;

Upgrading the gas system, installing LPG – We installed two 11Kg LPG refillable gas bottles into the van, with an external fill point in the side of the van. This means we can now stop at any garage that supplies normal car LPG, and fill up our gas bottles. While its a relatively expensive installation, it’ll make life so much easier moving forward, removing the need for having to swap out gas bottles all the time. Drilling a three inch hole in the side of the van was certainly scary but it went ok, much to our joint relief ! For those interested, we’ve done a full write up of what we installed and why, HERE 

Overhead storage in the garage – when we first put everything into Elton’s garage, it was immediately clear that we needed to sort out a way of storing our stuff. We couldn’t live forever with everything just piled on the floor. Phil built some storage in the top of garage space across the full width of the van. This meant the important things like the fishing rods and kayak paddles etc could be stored safely away, making better use of the space and giving us more room in the floor space. There’s a write up HERE  for those interested in what we did.

We also took Elton to the Weigh Bridge to see how well we were loaded up against what we’re allowed to carry.   It’s important that we don’t overload the van; if we’re stopped by the police and taken to a weighbridge for testing and we’re overweight, we’d be fined, AND  we’d have to lose all excess weight before they’d allow us to leave the weigh station and continue our journey. We were pleased with our first weigh-in. We still have plenty of capacity to load more things into the van – which looking at the huge pile sitting in the lounge still  waiting to be loaded, we’re going to need ! Here’s what happened when we went to the weigh bridge and a bit of information about how you weigh your vehicle.

A lot of people ask us about our travel plans – here’s our plan for the next six months, after that, who knows!

  • We’re leaving the house at the end of January, and then mooching around Cambridgeshire until Carol gives up work mid-February
  • Staying at mum & dad’s in February, then flying off to Austria for a weeks skiing at the start of March.
  • Then we’re heading up Scotland for three months, to meander around the NC 500 coastal route. This will give us some proper time to try out the van in the UK, as well as enjoy the beautiful Scottish scenery which we got our first proper taster of last year. We’re also calling into Northumberland on our way home
  • Back into middle England for the summer for family stuff, grand children birthdays and family holiday

30th August – our ferry is booked, Europe here we come, first stop Holland !

 

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Our 1st trip to the Weighbridge

We took our motorhome Elton for his first “test” weigh-in at the Weighbridge today. It’s important that we don’t overload the van; if we’re stopped by the police and taken to a weighbridge for testing and we’re overweight, we’d be fined, AND  we’d have to lose all excess weight before they’d allow us to leave the weigh station and continue our journey. Potentially that would mean having to leave some of our possessions – or Carol  – behind (don’t worry fishing tackle, you’re safe). We’ve heard of many motorhomers being tested and having problems being overweight, particularly in Europe; we don’t want to have problems with this.

All vehicles have a VIN plate that includes the weight limits for the vehicle –  the maximum weight the vehicle weight can be, the maximum (train) weight including a towed caravan or trailer, and the maximum weight of each axle. There’s actually a whole industry built around managing this, and more ways of looking

Weight limits from our VIN plate

at different measurements  and acronyms than you can shake a stick at. But for us it was simple – keep our max weight below 3,850 KG, and making sure neither axle exceeds its specified weight limit.

There are weighbridges all over the place where you can pay to get your vehicle weighed, such as farms, industrial areas, and public council run weighbridges. They’re easy enough to find on the internet, and a quick phone call will let you know if they offer weighing services to the public. They vary how much they charge, but the one we use charges £5 per measurement, so overall £15 for our three measurements.

Before we went to the weigh station, , we loaded up the van with most of the things we want to take with us when we set off travelling, so we’d get a reasonable view of where we stood against all of our maximum weights. We were nervous about doing this, as if we were over our limits, we’d have to cut down on what we could take with us !

When we arrived at the weigh station, we needed to take three measurements, overall weight, and then each axle individually. To do this, you start off by just driving the front wheels onto the weigh plate and getting a measurement taken. Then drive the full vehicle onto the weigh plate and getting another weight measurement, and then just leaving the rear wheels on the plate and getting the third measurement taken It’s simple to do and the operator then gives you your three measurements.

Our results :

  1. Total Vehicle               Target –  below 3,850Kg,         Actual 3,500Kg
  2. Front Axle,                   Target – below 1,950Kg,         Actual 1,520Kg
  3. Rear Axle,                     Target – below 2,000Kg,       Actual 1,900Kg

So all of our measurements are within their weight limits and overall, we have plenty of capacity on the Maximum Gross Weight, but we are within 100Kg on the rear axle. That’s because most of our stuff is stored in the big garage at the back of the motorhome, and because we have a large overhang at the back of the vehicle behind the back axle, actual weights of items are magnified (because of lever principles etc etc).

Nothing to worry about right now, but we will look at redistributing some items from the garage – such as heavy bike batteries – towards the front of the vehicle. We’re also going to have another clear out and rationalise of the things we’re going to take with us. Think my toolbox is going to take a hit !

Our next weigh will be when we set off and we are fully loaded – that’s going to be very scary !!

Open post

A New Year, and time’s moving so fast.

Happy New Year everybody, we hope 2017 brings happiness and health to you and all of your family.

As we lay in bed on New Years day talking about the year ahead, we reflected on the fundamental change that we’re about to take in the way we live. We’re conditioned from an early age to build a stable home and fill it with better and nicer stuff;  this year we’re throwing that conformity out of the window and taking our lives in a completely new direction. We’ll still have a home, albeit a lot smaller and with less stuff, but a different garden, different view and new neighbours every day! We’re not nervous about what we’re doing, we’re actually incredibly excited, but we do know we’ll probably face some big emotional as well as practical challenges in the year ahead, and not everything’s going to be a bed of roses.   Time will tell – I wonder how our blog post for New Year 2018 will read.

We’ve still not rented out the house – we’ve been close and still have one hot prospect who are due back from holiday in the next couple of days. We’re not overly concerned -yet- though it would have been nice to have got this sorted by now. We’re probably at the worst time of the year for renting, nothing happens at Christmas time !!

We had lots of family to stay and visit over Christmas so we tried to keep the house looking homely for the holiday period. We had an amazing Christmas, but now it’s over there’s a step change in our attitude to the packing and all of a sudden everything’s fair game. The pictures are down, the ornaments and trinkets are all boxed up and suddenly the house is looking strangely bare. The bare house has given us a new focus and realisation that we’re now only four or five weeks away from moving out of the house. Carol leaves work on 10th Feb  (25 more working days), so we’ll definitely be gone from the house by the 12th.

We’ve spent a lot of time making an inventory of everything that we’re packing away, what shape or colour bag or box it’s packed in, and where it’s actually being stored.

With our stuff being stored across four locations we need to know where everything is so we can find whatever we need without too much heartache! The key stuff will be what we store at mum and dad’s – that’s the stuff that we’ll need to get to over the coming months and years depending on where we’re travelling to and what we’ll need to take with us.

We LOVE our new motorhome “Elton”, though we’ve been so busy with Christmas we’ve not yet had chance to get him out on the road – there’s still only 75 miles on the clock from the single journey back from CamperUK in Lincoln where we bought it. One of the first jobs we did when

We need a bigger van !

we got the van home was take all of the stuff that we intend taking with us on our travels, and load it into the garage of the new van. We thought we’d have a ton of space with the massive garage in the van, but we couldn’t believe how quickly we filled it up, and there’s still loads of things around the house that we’re planning to take.  We’ll need to build some sort of shelving or racking so it’s not all just one big heap on the floor!!  We have a load of kayak stuff, lots of fishing stuff (too much?) and our bikes, plus all of the other things that we’re going to need for living and being comfortable. Our plan is to put everything in that we want, then unload the whole lot and rationalise it all down to what we actually need. We’re going to have to develop a different mindset on the things we need around us in our new life.

 Phil’s going to take the van to the local weighbridge this week to see how we stand with what we’ve currently got packed – that will help guide us on what we can take with us. We had the van uprated from 3.5 to 3.85 tons. Looks like that was a good decision, that extra 350Kg is going to come in useful.

We’ve been like kids the last three nights and had sleepovers in Elton the van, on the drive, practising living in it and working our how we want to set ourselves up.

As a result, the first job Phil’s going to do is install some USB sockets around the van – these things are essential to living nowadays, why don’t van manufacturers realise this and install them as standard?

The other major van job this week is to get the gas system sorted out. We need a second refillable gas bottle, and then a fill point installed on the outside of the van. That’s going to be a scary job drilling a 4 inch hole in the side of the van – wish me luck !!

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