My wife and I had always wanted a Type 2 Bay after spending a weekend in Newquay in 1993, we didn’t know it at the time, but the Run To The Sun festival was on and after spending the weekend watching Campervans and Beetles drive around we had been bitten by the VW bug. However, still being an apprentice and being on apprentice wages there wasn’t much chance.
Fast forward 7 years to November 2000, I had heard about a van from a lady that I worked with and she told me that her husband who was a gardener, had spotted it in a barn at a large house in the Cotswolds that he had been working at. When the gardener asked about it, the owner told him that it had been sat there for 2 years and that they wanted to sell it. When I heard about it, I rang the owners and arranged to go and see it.
It was poking out of the barn with one wheel arch split through with rust and hanging off, a damp fusty smell inside of it, some of the brakes were seized, the engine was running on 2 cylinders, there was various rust holes in all the usual places and it generally looked very sorry for itself. The owner agreed to get it taken to a local garage on a trailer to let them have a look and give me an idea of the work required to get an MOT pass on it. After looking at the fail MOT sheet, we agreed a price and the van came home with us.
It was placed on my in-laws’ drive and work started right away. I spent most of the weekends that winter welding and replacing parts with a view to getting the van ready for a trip to Cornwall the following Easter. After lots of cold, hard work, 2 weeks before Easter we got our MOT Pass certificate and had a great first trip.
Spend since last report: £294. Total hours labour since last report: 12.2
What is the key upside of our camper vans over motorhomes? The Type 2, from the first split screen, the Bay, the T25/T3/Wedge/Brick, T4, T5 and even the T6. They can all be driven on a car licence, because they are all small enough to be about the same footprint as a standard car. No need for special car parking spaces.
What is the key downside of our little camper vans over motorhomes? Space inside.
Have you ever been a little frustrated at permanently having to move things around? Or finding that the cupboard or drawer has something in front of it or on top? Trying to navigate the tiny floor space past a loved one?
In general, across all models that are termed the Type 2, we have a similar layout. Seating at the front, sometimes that swivels, a seat towards the rear and maybe boot space behind that. In between all of that is about 5 feet or 1.5 metres each way of floor for the living quarters. That gives you maybe a buddy seat, the sink, the fridge, the cooker, the toilet. Perhaps the removable dining table on a pole, or a cupboard but not much else as there simply is not the room.
During an evening conversation with a T5 owning friends, he mused that it would be great if our little vans had a sliding side like the huge expensive motorhomes and so an idea was planted. Fast forward several months, a lot of thinking and some hours experimenting in the garage. The non-sliding door panel can be seen in some models as a traditional sliding door, sliding backwards and called a double slider. Therefore, Volkswagen are happy that this does not impact the strength of the vehicle and that is good enough for me. As noted in the last write up, Eric’s non sliding panel has seen some accident damage and the repair was not great by me a few years ago and was removed. With that composite side panel and sill gone, I added a new outer sill.
Some extra heavy duty kitchen drawer runners were purchased and the original idea of two runners and two roller bearings has now become four runners at the bottom and two at the top. These runners will slide the external panel of the vehicle including the middle window out from the van. To make it secure and weatherproof, new steel will be added to form the floor on top of the runners, sides of the structure and a roof. The entire unit will be on an electric ram and the entire kitchen will be in there.
In summary, the floor space taken up by the fridge, hob, sink and associated cupboards will move away from the van giving back all of that floor to the inside. In addition, with easy access below the sink, the water bottle can then live outside giving more cupboard space inside as well.
An item called a linear actuator was ordered, which is the gas ram that pushes and pulls. Not expensive and then I also got the controller for it… Effectively an in button and an out button and it stops at any point along the way. Sheet steel picked up from the local ironmongery is hopefully big enough and the project started.
The two outermost runners are within an inch of the B post and C post to give strength at the edges. Then a further pair on the van floor between those runners but only six inches apart which means that one is just under the other side of the fridge and the other is just under the corresponding place for the other cupboard. Under the centre of the whole unit will be this actuator to push and pull everything. The slide out tray then received a little box to hold the worm screw of the actuator plus the whole tray had some strengthening lines pressed into it and the sides folded up to attach to the pod sides in due course.
Now we have a working plan. A tray sits on runners and slides out of the van. Attached to that is the outer wall of the van complete with the window. Attached to both of those are vertical sides either side of the window and the whole thing has a roof that will be inclined not flat, to help water run off.
The tray is the easy piece. Finding exactly where it does against the outer wall when the outer wall is not fitted is a little trickier.
Trying to shape the sides as the outer wall is not flat is quite fun, and the sides need a 90 degree flare to attach to the outer panel as well. After much wasted time, I finally made a template from wood of the inside wall and transferred that to the flat sheet steel.
Having four runners means that to get them working they need to be perfectly parallel for the tray to sit on them. Lots of adjustments there, plus making brackets to attach them to the floor and the tray plus clearance for everything to move.
It is not finished by a long way, but the kitchen takes up around five square feet (3.5 feet by 1.5 feet) or half a square metre (1 metre by 0.5 metres). When your floor space is about 25 square feet / 2.25 square metres, you can potentially gain 25%. That’s a lot of floor space.
Next time, I hope to be able to report that the majority of the box is built. Courtesy of eBay, I have an inexpensive fridge already, and I managed to get a three ring new cooker with glass lid as well for a great price too. “All” that I need now is to assemble it all and hope that it glides in and out!
Bluebell is a ‘79 Bay Window, Devon Moonraker conversion with a full side elevating roof. When we first decided to take the plunge into campervan ownership, we had our hearts set on the Moonraker conversion as the interior space was excellent both in the elevated roof and the interior build.
We spotted Bluebell on eBay and watched her sell very quickly, much to our disappointment. But then, whilst searching further, we noticed that she had been relisted and jumped at the chance to investigate. So after a short phone call confirming some minor details, we were off on a trip to Frome in Somerset for a viewing. When viewing we found Bluebell to be in original condition, apart from some interior wooden surfaces had been replaced for pine and the exterior paintwork had changed from Sand Beige to an unknown Blue. This was perfect, the bodywork and paint had been worked on within ten years, keeping it fresh and clean (with receipts for work). After a test drive through the countryside, a deposit was paid and date set for collection. We had several trips away in the first few months of ownership and during a trip in Wales had our first spot of engine trouble, only firing on 3 cylinders. We spent some time investigating but couldn’t work it out so decided to limp home (back to the southeast!) and investigated further. It turns out that we had a burnt valve and so the start of restoration commenced. We took the opportunity to give the engine a good overhaul and carry out required repairs and paintwork in the engine bay area.
Once these repairs were completed we got an excellent year of camping from Bluebell, including a trip back to Wales for a friend’s wedding and a 20 day trip around the Southwest during the summer. Winter came back around and we decided that Bluebell’s bodywork and paint and needed attention in a few places, with the white, top half of the van needing most of the attention around windows and roof guttering. After talking to a good friend (who also happens to be a classic car restorer) we had set a date to get Bluebell into the workshop to begin the strip down and repairs. These repairs included removing all glass, repairing all window frames, replacing any scratched or dull glass, removing the elevating roof (it is huge!), repairing roof areas and replacing the pop top material.
This work had to be done to keep her looking fresh and clean, but we really needed to give the interior some attention as well as the wood was rotten in places and looking generally tatty and the original upholstery had also seen better days. So we took the decision to remove the interior and started looking for campervan interior design and build companies. So with all top half work completed, Bluebell was sent to The Campershak in Ormskirk to have a new interior fitted in the same Devon design, but with some modern and personal tweaks, including a new overhead side locker. Work completed on the bodywork and interior in time for another excellent year of camping. Winter had arrived again, now phase 2 of the bodywork and paint was to be done. This time the work would incorporate the underneath of the van… this turned out to be around an extra two months of work!
With all work completed, we have had another excellent summer of camping and looking forward to a winter where the work required on Bluebell is reduced somewhat! Despite all the hard work and effort, we wouldn’t change our campervan and the memories we have with her. Here’s to more memory making and we wish our members happy memories in their vans too!
From the archives, this is taken from Issue 143 from November 2016.
From Publicity Manager Derek Leary
With less than a week away from the start of this year’s August Bank Holiday, a request popped into my email inbox; “Wanted – Volkswagen Bay Window Camper Van with original livery for a photo shoot with 99 other classic vehicles”. The request was from Practical Classics Magazine. Requests such as these are either deleted or farmed out to a fellow member, however it was a chance to fly the VWT2OC flag and I was looking at the bus with the required spec in my driveway.
Since retiring Daisy from camping duties, her role in life is the classic car scene. So with picnic, flasks and camping chairs packed, we set off at some unearthly hour to get to Millbrook by 10am. On arrival, the outer car park was filling up with various “Pride and Joy’s” and Daisy’s bright bitter-sweet orange colour meant she did not arrive unnoticed. Christie and I felt a bit conspicuous parking up against more subdued coloured classics but were soon joined by a bright green beetle, not a standard VW green but defiantly a tone to be noticed. All mobile phones had to be presented to security and the camera lenses sealed. NO PHOTOS inside the facility were allowed, what a shame, but hey ho go with the flow. We were then escorted into the facility a few cars at a time and each vehicle photographed individually with and without their owners. Daisy was called to go in with the third batch just as I had nipped off to inspect the plumbing…! However Christie got Daisy into line picking me up on the way. Once that part of the shoot was over it was picnic time and the sun came out, adding to the jollity of the occasion of 99 other classic cars to look round and their enthusiastic owners to talk to. We were given an extended lunch break to make the most of the occasion and were so relaxed that when we were needed again, the officials had a job to get us going.
There was one final shoot of the day where all 100 classics were driven onto the famous Millbrook test track; a 6 lane super highway with a velodrome style embankment. Daisy was near the back of the line up but can be seen with a magnifying glass as an orange smudge. Not to worry, we had a wonderful day out and Daisy had lots of admirers. We have subsequently been sent a PDF file of her portrait as a thank you and there is a chance for any member wishing to buy the December issue of Practical Classic Magazine at a discount.
Spend since last report: £471. Total hours labour since last report: 31.3
For those who had forgotten and for those who have joined as new members recently, I will start with a recap. My name is Nick, I am 50 and since I was a teenager, I have always wanted to restore an old vehicle. My previous experience and skill until I bought this first project was minor tinkering with renovating a set of brake disks, and replacing an alternator. My wife Lorna bought a 1972 Volkswagen called Poppy back in 2011 and that gave us the bus bug and we joined the committee of this club back in 2016, you may have met us on the club stand at some point.
Six years ago this month, I put in a bid on a 1973 converted panel van online having never seen it and I knew nothing about which is a good one to buy. My offer was accepted and Eric the Viking came to live with us. Named after my comedy hero Eric Morecambe, the panel van came with a plastic full length roof called a Viking roof and the most famous Viking being Eric, it all seemed to work and Eric was born. At that point I owned minimal tools and had never used a welder. I went online, started reading, bought a book on restoring Volkswagen Bay windows and started having a go. If you try woodwork and make a mess of it, you throw it away or glue new bits on. When working with metal, if it goes wrong, you take the angle grinder, chop out the wrong part and have another go. No-one knows! Well they know if you write about it at length in a club magazine.
The more recent story
Apologies for the delay in further work, you may have heard of this COVID thing. I spent the first month of lockdown in the garage every day then I was asked to help dig some footings in the garden. 6 months later, every weekend had been spent building walls, foundations, a sun terrace and a lot of new lawn planted. Winter came, spring came, then more gardening and Eric was left languishing. Finally in July, I decided to get back to the grind (literally).
Pull up your drink of choice and join me on my next journey of discovery about how badly treated Eric was under previous ownership.
Rear brakes on my Bay are drum, and with Eric spending a lot of time rotting outdoors, they were in a shocking state. The castle nut in the middle of the rear wheel was so rusted to the end of the hub that no amount of leverage would shift it but an hour with an angle grinder got it off in pieces! Then the drum refused to budge until a lot of heat and persuasion on the bench freed it off. Inside looked ok at first but a CV joint bolt was jammed and needed cutting off which meant that I had to chop through the brake back plate to access it!
The rear offside was dismantled last year, stripped and primed. That left the driveshaft (whatever that is) and the CV joints (vaguely heard of them) attached to the gearbox somehow. In other words, I was vaguely familiar with the concept but that was about it. Everything was filthy covered in rot, rust, grease, grot and generally in need of love.
Waiting on parts deliveries from Just Kampers (don’t forget your club discount), I turned my attention to the front suspension and brakes. Calipers are expensive to replace and generally only need a good clean, reassembly and new rubbers on the ends of the pistons. I did that job 15 or so years ago on my Matra Bagheera as the only job I really did on it. Quite pleased with the bright green caliper paint finish and you can follow 2 articles on how to do it that are on our club web site (thanks Jonathan!) as well.
The starter motor was in the way of getting to the underside of the fuel tank to restore that, so I unbolted it, separated the two cylinders and cleaned them before spraying them black.
Eric has been on his side now for 20 months and I finally got him ready for the topcoat on his bottom. I chose to use L90D synthetic enamel as I wanted hard wearing and easy to apply since I am a novice.
Attached to the front beam are the front suspension arms. Pressed into the tops of 2 of these on each side of the Bus are the ball joints. I dutifully borrowed a ball joint press, inserted the arm and ball joint but could not work out how to press it out. I tried various options, I made a little jig out of 10mm steel railing, I watched Youtube videos and eventually with the help of friends, I found out the trick. The ball of the ball joint sits in the cup of the joint, if you angle grind the shoulders off the ball joint, you can remove the ball, once that is done, you angle grind from the top, cutting just the top of the ball joint and not the arm holding it.
Once the top of the ball joint is ground through into a hole with the angle grinder, you need to cut it with a hacksaw to split the ball joint cup into 4 pieces being careful not to cut the arm at all. It is back breakingly tiring, hot and dusty. Each one took an hour and I have the other 2 on the other side later this year – if anyone has any faster ideas do please get in touch! FINALLY the 2 ball joints were clear of the arms allowing those to be cleaned up ready for top coat and with their ball joint holes ground back of dirt and rust ready for the new ball joints to be pressed in using the borrowed press.
More another time, hope to see many of you at Busfest!
I have always dreamed of owning a T2 VW Campervan, but until last year (2016) I had never been in a position to do so. Being a complete novice when it comes to anything mechanical (I can just about do the tyres and oil on my car), I soon realised that buying a T2 was a complete minefield, for which I was woefully ill equipped. I wanted one that I could drive and enjoy straight away and not a renovation project, so it had to be in very good condition, both mechanically and bodywork wise. This meant I needed help; Hubbie is not mechanical either, so luckily my help came in the shape of a friend’s husband, who not only is a trained mechanic but owns his own racing car business (featured on Dragons’ Den), AB performance Ltd. So in 2016, the hunt began in earnest and after several failed missions with Andy telling me “NO!!” because of rotten bodywork or needing too much interior work, I spotted Florence. She was for sale in Gloucestershire, a long way from home and too far to extend the good will of Andy to help inspect her. From the advert and pictures, Florence looked perfect. She was born on 01/09/1974 in Australia and only had one owner whilst over there. She was originally an 8 seat micro bus, with an 1800 petrol engine but when imported to the UK in 2005, she had been extensively refurbished with fresh paintwork and an engine re-build with new twin Solex carbs. Florence has a no fuss camping set up, with sink, gas cooker, rock ‘n’ roll bed and 12v leisure battery. There were only two previous owners in the UK, making me her fourth proud owner. In the interest of not wanting to buy a duffer I decided to use the services of Type 2 Detectives in Burwell. They acted on my behalf and went to inspect Florence, carrying out a full external and internal examination. Paul’s words to me on the phone were “I’ve never seen such a good example of a T2 and if you don’t buy her, we will”. There was some work that needed doing and bearing that in mind, Paul negotiated a price at £21,500, £3,500 off the asking price of £25,000. The owner was very reluctant and sad to sell her, keeping her in a garage with a dehumidifier, but needs must. So Florence was brought back to Suffolk by Type 2 Detectives on a trailer, where they then did some work on her. They completed full rust proofing as her under carriage was perfect, rewired the choke, fitted new shifter couplings, new front discs and brake hoses, new clutch conduits and a few other bits and pieces. Florence has the added
bonus of a roll out canopy, which has proved invaluable for doggy events!
So on 29th June 2016 I became the very proud owner of Florence, a dream come true! I purchased her with 54,772 on the clock and she has averaged 120 miles a month from her importation date to the UK in 2005. So what do I use Florence for? I run a Doodle club with two friends called “Doodles Do Splashes N Dashes” (any poodle cross). We currently have 345 members and me and my chocolate doodle PERCI have so much fun! We organise doodle dashes (walks) and splashes (swims) and also fundraise at our events for our local hospice “St Nicholas Hospice” with an aim to raise £1000 this year. Florence is used as our base camp at these events and we use her as a stall on our fundraisers. This year we are going to Doodlefest for 3 nights – a kind of Glastonbury for Doodles! I just love every minute we spend in her, making us and lots of other people happy. I have now finally got her interior exactly as I want her. A lady in our club Christine Winkless who owns the Doggy Cookie Company has made all the doggy accessories, campervan designed dog bed, leads, collars etc. I feel privileged to be able to own and thoroughly enjoy a piece of history. Florence has clearly been cherished for 43/44 years and I will continue to do so. She is currently having her winter health check with Mark at M&J servicing and repairs. Mark is a VW fanatic and air cooled specialist who will continue to cater for Florence’s needs in my mechanical ignorance!
For this edition of Member’s Motor, we look at how our Editors’ Bay “Bluebell” played a key role in their wedding day. On December 21st 2018 Phil proposed to Sophie at Chatsworth House, somewhere they had been visiting traditionally at Christmas for most of their relationship. So when they were looking for a wedding venue, it’s no surprise that Chatsworth won the day and began to plan for their wedding in August 2020.
With almost two years to plan, they had most major parts of the day organised by early 2020 and then in March, the world was turned upside down. The Coronavirus Pandemic hit the UK and just like that, all social gatherings were off, including Weddings. As the year progressed, it became clear that the wedding would need to be postponed until 2021. With April set as the new date, 2020 passed and with the situation still unimproved in January 2021, the date was postponed again to August 2021. With plans now underway, it was only right that Bluebell would be used as the main wedding car on the day and on 21st August this year, that is exactly what happened. The wedding successfully took place.
Bluebell was decorated with flowers from the Chatsworth estate by the Chatsworth house florist and then used to drive Sophie and her Father to the church (on time), driven by one of Phil’s best men and then Phil and Sophie drove themselves from the church to their reception. On arrival Bluebell then took pride of place in the middle of the courtyard at the Chatsworth House Stable Block. Bluebell did Sophie and Phil proud on the day and they then had a week away after the wedding camping together in some of their favourite spots in the UK, still decorated with the flowers!
For this edition of Member’s Motor, we look at Paul and Vikki McManus’ recent purchase of Beryl, their 1973 Early Bay Window. I’m Paul, I work as a designer in the civil service and Vikki works in HR with the NHS. We have 3 children: Ella 20, Dylan 18, Jonah 15 and Buxton, our 3 year old Cockapoo. I have always wanted to own a classic vehicle. My dad was an engineering fitter by trade and a talented mechanic. I have fond memories of watching him work on the family cars and he took myself and my siblings to the annual Steam Rally at Shanes Castle in my native Northern Ireland. My love of classic cars was nurtured there and a favourite family photograph shows me sitting on my Dads Citroen DS Safari! Vikki’s first car was a VW Beetle which her mum christened, Baldrick! We decided that we wanted to buy a VW camper whilst we were walking Buxton in the grounds of the local cricket club, when a gentleman pulled up in his late bay. The brief conversation we had with him continued as we walked, and a seed was planted. I tend to research things fairly thoroughly before committing. It was important the van suited our lifestyle and it was something we were both keen on. My research led me to Westfalias, which I understand were one of the few companies that purchased mini buses to convert, others opting to buy panel vans and cut their own windows. I particularly liked the interior styling of the Westfalias. It was then the question anyone who’s bought a classic vehicle has to answer what condition and how much?! We did consider a project, but as we looked further, we came to the conclusion that a fully restored Westfalia Bay was what we wanted. Our search criteria was fairly specific and I was able to locate a few options online and discovered our van on Facebook; it’s a 1973 Westfalia Continental, first registered in 1974.
I contacted Adam, who had restored the van and was very impressed by his knowledge and the work he’d done. I asked if it was possible for him to send me a video and he and his partner Alex kindly did so a few days later. I kept Vikki fully informed on the vans I’d found and we both agreed Adams van was one we wanted to go and view ourselves. We set off to Doncaster in August 2021 and met up with Adam, one of the pictures shows Vikki standing next to the driver’s door and her smile says it all. It was love at first sight! I had a slight concern that Vikki might find driving a classic off putting, but it brought back lovely memories of her Beetle and she was hooked. The van looked even better in real life too, Alex, Adam’s partner, had chosen the upholstery and we loved the nod to the plaid interiors of the late 70’s bays and how it toned with the overall colour scheme. The interior is completely original aside from the upholstery, the floor and the fridge. I agreed a price with Adam subject to an independent review, but was somewhat embarrassed to get a second opinion, as to my untrained eye it appeared to be a stunning restoration. Adam was more than happy to have someone review his work however and Nick, an aircooled specialist in Doncaster, put the van on the ramp and inspected it thoroughly. Nick was so impressed by the van that he refused to take any payment for the review, saying he was delighted to find someone with Adam’s expertise locally and reviewing such a van had been an absolute pleasure. This was my first taste of the special bunch of people that VW owners are. Nick runs a Splitty and his mate has a show winning bay. Nick said Adam’s van would provide stiff competition for his mate’s van, so I was more than happy!
Some of the work carried out during the restoration includes: Paintwork taken back to a bare shell. Welding repairs to body and chassis. Running gear and steering overhauled with new parts where necessary. Braking system has had a full replacement of all hydraulic and friction components. Engine stripped down to bare casings, cleaned, inspected, and rebuilt with all new bearings, seals, refurbished cylinders and pistons, reconditioned genuine cylinder heads and finished off with a genuine Ernst exhaust. The original Solex carburettor has benefited from a strip, clean, and rebuild. The fuel pump has been upgraded to an electric version with safety cut off. The ignition has been replaced with an electric item to eliminate the constant and often problematic maintenance of the points and condenser. A large, fully functioning fridge is in place of the old cool box. Underslung fresh water storage tank twice the size of the original has been fitted. 240v mains hook up with the addition of a leisure battery for off-site camping. All seating has been recovered and the rear bench seat has been fitted with three seat belts. 12v socket for charging of phones etc and an iPod compatible stereo. New pop top canvas with side opening windows
As soon as Nick confirmed the van was indeed the superb restoration we believed it was, we paid the deposit and I began clearing the garage to ensure she had a new home. We drove over to Doncaster again in late August 2021 and I drove the van home over the M62, which I understand is the highest motorway in England. I have to admit, I was slightly nervous, having only had a brief test drive up to that point, but she never missed a beat and coped with the hills without issue! Strangely enough, I saw 3 other cars at the roadside that day with overheated engines and another on fire! Since getting her home we have named her Beryl. She is painted Beryl Green and Lotus White, so ‘Beryl’ seemed like a good fit. I have installed a period VW Stereo and the batteries are linked to a Noco Genius 2 x 2 to keep them in tip top condition. We bought Beryl at the end of the season but have managed a day trip to see Vikki’s parents in Thornton Cleveleys and an overnight stay with Buxton our Cockapoo at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire. We loved staying in Beryl and look forward to many more trips and shows in the coming years, perhaps we will meet a few of you along the way. Paul and Vikki
Continuing our 2020 Social Distance Summer Road Trip, we left Wales and headed north to Scotland, but we had to reach the border first and decided to spend a night in the Lake District on our way north to break up the journey. The journey from Wales to the Lake District was long and uneventful. 200 miles in a VW Camper at 55mph is quite a slog, but we are used to long durations on the road and somehow in the camper it never seems as bad as being in a car. Maybe that’s because the camper feels like being at home? At least you can pull over pretty much whenever you like and make a cuppa! On arrival at the Lake District, we hit Windermere. We aren’t staying here, but it’s the starting point for a road through the mountains that I have wanted to drive ever since coming to this location by accident four years ago; the Kirkstone Pass! For those who know the Lake District well enough, you may know there are two places called Troutbeck. One of them is close to Penrith and has a campsite, the other is near to Windermere and doesn’t! Four years ago I drove to the wrong Troutbeck and haven’t been able to live it down. The Kirkstone pass pretty much runs between the two, but we weren’t brave enough to take on the pass last time we visited (first time towing the camping trailer and didn’t know if we would make it!… bearing in mind one of the roads on the pass is called “The Struggle!” and so we took the long way round instead. From the Windermere side of the pass in the south, it’s a long uphill jaunt along harsh mountain roads with tall, threatening, exposed rock faces, narrow sections and tight bends. After what seems like a lifetime with my foot flat on the throttle (I don’t dare back off incase we can’t get going again!) we make it up to the summit of the road, which is surrounded by even taller mountain peaks and rocky landscape
The area is partly submerged in cloud, but there is a cafe at the top and there are bikers gathered (cars too) who have been enjoying the twisty black stuff. The road back down the other side towards the North is very similar; steep, twisty and narrow! One main difference now is the pedal choice. Instead of the right one being hard to the floor, I am covering and pumping the middle one in the hope that we don’t get brake fade! (That’s a story for another day!) The route down treats you to magnificent views over Ullswater in the distance and when you do eventually reach it, the road follows the undulating contours of the shoreline, providing a few places along the way where you can stop and enjoy the views over the water, maybe even have a paddle. We don’t stop as we are keen to get a decent pitch secured for the night and head to our campsite at Troutbeck Head. To get to the site from Ullswater you have to climb the hill at Aira Force waterfall, which is understated at steep. Don’t forget to look in your mirrors to appreciate the stunning views! We have visited Aira Force waterfall in the past. It’s a very popular National Trust attraction and has a sizeable car park, but on a day with decent weather it gets extremely busy. Here’s a top tip: Visit the waterfall on a really rainy day. It will be virtually empty and the falls will be even more spectacular! Just make sure you pack your waterproofs as you will get wet! After checking into the site and enjoying a cuppa, we head back out down to Ullswater and see if we can find a spot to stop on the shoreline to let Ruby (our springer spaniel) have a paddle. It’s rammed. It’s summer, it’s the school holidays and people have been in a covid lockdown for 4 months! We follow the road around Ullswater and up to Penrith to get some supplies. If you’re in the area, this is a great spot to pick up essentials before heading off into the wilderness for a few nights. Within 5 minutes of each other, there is a Morrisons, an Aldi and a Booths! There’s also a Pets At Home and a Go Outdoors. So everyone, including travelling pets, should be well catered for. With stocks of essential supplies and the fridge filled with dog food (should really be cold alcoholic beverages in there), we head back down to Ullswater again and Bingo!.. The crowds and families have now left as it’s tea time, so we park up and head down to the shore. I pack a towel and my swim shorts… just in case.
When we get down there, the views are simply stunning. There are some beautiful and picturesque places in the UK, but this has got to be up there. It is hard to believe that we are still in England, this could easily be the Italian lakes! The sun is shining on the mountains on the other side of Ullswater, which is flat calm and quiet. Ruby needs no persuasion and is straight in the water. I follow in my flip flops… wow! That is seriously cold!! Feeling brave, or possibly just delirious from driving all day, I don my swim shorts and head in. After 5 mins of walking up and down up to my waist with excuses about how it’s too cold and how I will develop hypothermia, I go for the dunk. I’m in. It’s freezing! As I paddle I start to loosen up and feel the refreshing water washing over me. After 5 minutes or so I realise that the water is so cold it is making my skin tingle and I feel bits of me going numb. I carry on a while before making the decision to get out whilst I am not shivering with teeth chattering together like one of those wind up toys! I dried myself off and we headed back to the camper. Ruby got to have her favourite towel dry and we head back to base at the campsite for dinner. We have a short walk in some nearby footpaths before the sun goes down and head to bed in preparation of another long day that will take us further north and across the border into Scotland! Phil Aldridge “Tales From The Driving Seat” is on Instagram @talesfromthedrivingseat and blogspot www.talesfromthedrivingseat.blogspot.com