Along with the rest of the world, we spent 2020 at, or close to home. That was not to say though that we were unproductive. As it was the first summer we had remained in one place for a number of years, I rediscovered the joy of growing produce and took great delight in my bumper crop of cherry tomatoes. That is until we were inundated and fed up with all things tomatoey.
In 2019 we had purchased the retired Outreach van from our Samaritans branch. She already had a kitchen fitted, but was configured for the outreach work that the branch undertook. So, whilst we peddled up to Orkney and back, we entrusted her to the multi-talented brothers who make up Van Dubby Dozy, to have her fitted for our specifications around Twolula, an upgrade to the electrics, and solar panels fitted so that we could be off-grid. She was though a little scruffy and drab; once we had removed the Samaritans decals, the distinctive lime-green paint that the van been resprayed with, for the recognisable Samaritans livery had come away in patches to reveal the original bright orange. Inside though she was serviceable, the units were a dull mottled grey. The time bestowed to us by COVID meant that I could undertake the project of smartening her up. However, this needed to be done on a budget, therefore we sought the wisdom of You Tubers and some research revealed that it is possible to hand paint a vehicle so that it does not actually look too much like a 1970s throw back. Thus Sam the Van is now resplendent with a new British Racing Green paint-job and jaunty interior thanks to the wonder of fablon.
With things opening up again, but foreign travel still being difficult, our plans for an adventure this year entail journeying up to Orkney via the West Coast, and then back home down the East Coast, incorporating some day rides along the way using the Van as our home and base. There was much prepping to do before we could embark, including ensuring that Sam the Van was fully serviced and MOT’d. Though she is 20 years old, she has done minimal mileage, and all those have been carefully driven – so she is in good shape for her age. Our day of departure arrive and on Monday morning we set off, fridge and cupboards stocked for the Gower Peninsular; a place that many have recommended to us, but we had yet to visit. It did not disappoint. Our pitch for the night had been booked at Kittle, through Brit Stops, which are a network of public houses/farm shop/vineyards etc, who for using their facilities will allow campers to stop over free of charge.
Having scouted out our stopover, we travelled on to Rhossili Bay, which is essentially at the end of the road – and man, what a road. The narrow twists and turns, and walls that seemed to lean in put me in fear that Sam’s smart paintwork would need some touching up!
Given that we had been driving for a couple of hours, we were in dire need of stretching our legs. First though, tea. Oh the joy of being able to pop the kettle on as soon as you park up.
We walked along to the headland and then retraced our steps and found the path down to the beach. When I say down, it was a long and steep way down – not so bad going, but it had us (me) puffing on the way up. With the parking meter running out, we headed back to our stopover and enjoyed a lovely meal before settling in for the night. Mr V and I had opted for separate quilts, he with a 4.5tog and I with a 10.5, as I do like to be cosy, and he is always hot. Given the warm weather of late, I had fretted over whether I should also go for the summer weight quilt, however, as the chill of the evening crept in, I was very glad of every one of my ten and a half togs! One thing that we had not considered though was that the skylights in Sam do not have black out blinds – cue early rising; not a bad thing though given it takes a little time to get sorted and abluted in our limited space.
We then headed on towards Pembrokeshire, a place which holds fond memories for us as we lived there before we had children, and then visited frequently as a family afterwards. We parked up at Broad Haven, and when assembling Twolula were approached by fellow ‘vanlifers’ to ask if they could check out our configuration. I gather this is a frequent occurrence amongst those with vans.
We peddled out towards Haverfordwest, making a slight detour to take in our old RAF house, we were though very disappointed to discover that the Snowdrop Bakery which used to be down the road and whose pikelets were legendary, is no more. We peddled on through ancient woodland and glorious countryside following the Sustrans route to Neyland, stopping for lunch at a tranquil spot before taking in the Cleddau Bridge which I used to cross daily to get to and from work. We then wended our way back to Broad Haven and enjoyed soaking up the warmth of the afternoon sun on the beach.
We had identified a stopover for tonight at St Anne’s Head, and though the journey along narrow roads was a bit hairy at times, the tranquility was worth it. We have had supper (and a small snifter) with a lovely view in the sunshine, Mr V has even made use of our camping shower. It is almost time to retire as the sun is setting and the birds are settling down, chirruping at each other to compete for the best spot to roost, and my cosy bed is calling too.