As mentioned in a previous post, the wait for our new campervan was hard! Initially, I was apprehensive that it wouldn’t arrive before the end of the summer holidays due to the 12-16 week lead time but when the van itself arrived within 9 weeks, I was more relaxed and started to plan a summer of weekend jaunts. There were a few moments as we approached the July 1st completion date, that I thought we wouldn’t be collecting the van as planned; there was a hold up with the leather supply and Neil was unable to source the wheels we originally wanted. I needn’t have worried as Neil and John, who was working on the build, managed to pull everything together and had the van (Ernie) ready to collect on the Sunday of the first weekend in July.
I’m not sure who was more excited about collecting Ernie. Not only were we looking at this event through the eyes of a 4 year old, but we actually felt like 4 year olds ourselves! Even Heidi, aged 2, had got wind that something special was afoot. We arrived at the address given to us and were slightly concerned that there didn’t seem to be a van, or anywhere to keep a van. This concern was quickly alleviated when John’s wife told us that it was actually a couple of doors up the road at another property the family owned. John had the van set up: pop top open, awning out and ready to view. Wow, it really was everything we had hoped it would be.
You can imagine after two hours in the car travelling to Westward Ho!, the children’s excitement at seeing and exploring the van quickly turned to impatience to get to a campsite, where we had promised them a first night sleeping in our new camper. During the demonstration, John realised he needed to make some adjustments to the water tank and I was quite relieved when he pointed us in the direction to the sea front, where we could have an icecream.
As a side note, I was very impressed with Westward Ho! The sea front was lovely and had some really nice areas for the children to play and burn off some energy. Tony and I had a cream tea and the kids had an ice cream at the Rockpool Cafe, which I would highly recommend. I would like to revisit the town at some point; the beach looked very inviting.
Eventually, we took ownership of our brand new campervan – Ernest Van Kampen. I’d never driven a van before but I was desperate to have first go and Tony, knowing how excited I was, didn’t argue. We arrived at our campsite with van and car and enough ‘stuff’ to keep us occupied for a week. Our fellow campers watched us set up and must have clocked what noivices we were. It was already 6pm and we had planned to find food out. We knew we would literally be sleeping in the van and then leaving yet we wanted to set Ernie up in all his splendor.
We had chosen a campsite in the very centre of Croyde called The Orchard. Had we been there longer, I would have possibly wanted to stay closer to the sea but this was perfectly situated for grabbing a bite to eat. The site itself was on quite a slope but we had bought some wedges and Tony arranged them perfectly to get the van nice and flat. This taught us that we needed to pack some sort of step to help Heidi in and out of the van! We ate at Blue Groove, which was the first eatery that we stumbled upon. We sat at the first table and I pretty much ordered the first thing I saw and thought was a safe bet- the burger. In retrospect, a trip to the around the place with Heidi (she likes to explore) enlightened me to the fact that the back part of the resutant is far nicer-I think the front section is reserved for those who have rolled off the beach. Also, Tony was more deliberate in his food selection and I had serious food envy!
So the first night in the van. The kids were obviously excited and didn’t settle easily but we found that the back part of our bed formed a little cot, which we were able to use to get Heidi to sleep before moving her back up with Dougie. It wasn’t a particularly warm evening so we didn’t sit out as planned but relished the opportunity to sprawl out in the van. We set the iPad up and watched a bit of TV: how very civilised!
I have to admit, I slept beautifully. I didn’t even begrudge the children for waking me at 6:30am. Come 7am, which is official wake up time in our household, we set the children up with iPads before getting ready for breakfast in the van. I should point out here that we don’t plan to be so reliant on technology whilst camping, the point is to get away from it at least a bit, but with the weather as it was and us not really knowing what we were doing, they were a God-send.
Tony had taken the Monday off work so we took the opportunity to explore the area a little. We parked the car in a side street an all piled into Ernie. We headed down to Woolacombe where Dougie (well Tony) flew his kite and we had a very short walk on the beach. Dougie and Heidi both moaned about their sandy feet and lack of foot-wash as they are used to at the beach in Javea, but were elated to discover that Ernie had his very own shower for just such occasions.
After grabbing a pasty we headed to Croyde for another little walk along the sand and an icecream. Again here we were introduced to the joys of having a van: the children were asleep when we first pulled up at Baggy Point so we swivelled and reclined our seats and enjoyed a cuppa and five minute peace and quiet.
All-in-all; a successful first outing and we were saddened that we could only have one night on this occasion but on to the next trip!