Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Coming home

Having set up camp on arrival on Good Friday, we then went into Church Stretton for dinner.  After eating we had a look around the town.  It seems a pleasant place with many interesting and historic buildings.  We were treated to the scenic route back to the van over the moorland above Church Stretton.  It is a beautiful area nestled in the Shropshire hills.

We had a comfortable night camping and enjoyed seeing round our friend's land the following morning.  It is an interesting venture.  He is creating a forest garden and his partner is converting the stable buildings for growing mushrooms.  We have taken to calling our friend 'The Squire' now that he owns a patch of land.  His methods are 100% organic and aim to disturb the land as little as possible as its current status is transformed from grazing land into horticulture.  The Squire has planted a great many trees of many varieties - choosing some species for their production and others for the way in which they can benefit the others.  It is a long term project and will not start to become viable for at least four years.

After our guided tour it was time to pack up and prepare for the drive home.  After a brief panic not being able to find the van keys, and then a relaxing cup of tea, we set off, travelling home on a slightly different route via Llandrindod Wells to Brecon.  This time we did not find a tea room unfortunately - they do not seem to be so popular in Wales as they are in England, and most of the journey home was through Wales.  At last we did find somewhere nice to stop for refreshments - The Llanfaes Dairy Icecream parlour, 19 Bridge Street, Brecon, LD3 8AH.  Their orange and mascapone is the most divine icecream I have ever tasted.  Sadly, with the weather so hot and still being a fair way from Cardiff, we decided it would not be possible to get a tub of icecream home without it melting.  Llanfaes do not supply outside a 20 mile radius of Brecon, so we may have to visit Brecon more often to taste their icecream delights.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Spring camping

This blog has been severely neglected because we have had little time for expeditions over the winter.  We have however been working on improving the van and making it more comfortable for camping.  The layout in Pema the Peugeot is that the front seats swivel and the back seats flatten to join up with the front seats to make two beds.  This makes too very narrow and slightly short beds however which are not entirely comfortable.  In so many ways this van is perfect for us that we have wanted to invest in improving it. The awning we kept from Bertie is great in some ways but really too big for this smaller van.  Having a small fridge is cute, but takes up a lot of space.

So we have made some changes.  First we bought a new awning.  It is only slightly smaller than the old one (which we have decided to keep as well) but has a sewn-in groundsheet, a detachable inner bedroom and is of a lighter material.  We bought suction clamps for attaching it to the van and this works well.

Next we removed the fridge and gave it to someone on Freecycle.  This liberated space has made a nice little wardrobe - sufficient for four or five coat hangers.

Now for the sleeping arrangements.  We discovered that a 19L Really Useful Box fitted snugly between the seats and was about a cushion's depth lower than their height.  I made a cushion of the right size and the three boxes in a row with it on top turns the two narrow beds into one reasonable width bed.  It will still be a bit snug for the occasions when we have to both sleep in the van, but usually one of us sleeps in the awning, so it is roomy for one.

So with everything sorted out it was time for a try out.  On Good Friday we travelled up to Shropshire to camp on a friend's patch of land.  We took a motorway-avoiding route to the site, just north of Church Stretton, and were lucky to meet little traffic.  We stopped at a delightful tea room just outside Winforton on the A438 in Hereford.  I give The Buttley Tea Room 5***** even though the flackjack was a little too sweet for my taste.  The garden is pretty and well-kept.  The refreshments were presented beautifully in nice crockery and with fresh fruit decorating the plate.  The staff were most pleasant and accommodating.  We shall certainly be calling there again next time we are heading that way.  They do not seem to have a website but their postcode appears to be HR3 6EA.