Saturday, 27 November 2010

Winter's Here

We are now in winter mode. As soon as it gets dark our homemade window insulation panels go up. They don't stop the condensation but it is reduced and we think that the temperature inside the Airstream is improved by a degree or two. Every little helps when we are experiencing the earliest widespread freeze for seventeen years. We also make sure that the internal water tank is full before we settle in for the evening. The external one often freezes overnight and you could end up witthout any water for your morning cup of tea. A bad start by anyone's standards.

Yesterday evening we braved the zero temperature and some mist and made the mile-long walk in the pitch dark to our very pleasant local pub where we enjoyed a few pints of Piddle In The Glass. I'm not trying to insult the brewer, or the pub, it's the name of one of the ales from the local brewery in the village of Wyre Piddle. Naturally, each of their brews is named with a pun on the word 'piddle'. Well you would wouldn't you? And, because when you stand at the bar ordering a drink whose name is almost a complete sentence you tend to abbreviate it to one word, Pete found himself ordering "A pint and a half of Piddle please." Nobody batted an eyelid, except for us two gigglers. The beer itself was lovely, quite fruity and golden, well balanced and entirely quaffable.

Today we awoke to a light dusting of the white stuff so perhaps another of their ales would be appropriate, Piddle In The Snow.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Hazy Day

While the Land Rover was having its Make-Money-Disappear functions tweaked we soothed our souls on and around the shores of Coniston Water.

Smoke from a bonfire had merged with a morning mist and hung in a thick ribbon in the still morning air above the lake. Above the haze the sky was as clear and as blue as you'll ever find in the Lake District. The blue reflected in the glassy smooth water and the autumnal shades on the trees were psychedelically enhanced through my rose-tinted glasses. Usually when you remove your pink lenses the world can look a bit drab, but not on this day.

We found a log to sit on by the shore. A fighter jet, a helicopter and a tiny sea-plane were the mechanical reminders that we were grasping at a few minutes retreat from the twenty-first century. Ruskin would be pulling out his wiry old beard!


Thursday, 14 October 2010

Autumn Pit Stop

We are back in the Airstream after staying with Pete's parents while the trailer was being repaired and serviced. Followers of this blog may remember that a wheel fell off about a year ago. Well, we have returned to Cumbria for the first time since then and had the damaged side panel replaced. We felt a twinge of tension as we drove along the same road where the incident happened and remembered the exact spot as we passed it. Well, we had stood there for about an hour in the darkening, rainy dusk, waiting for the recovery vehicle. Click here for a reminder of the story.

I had to avert my eyes as John and Scott removed the old panel. It was a cross between a visit to the dentist and watching a documentary about face lifts. You know that some brutality is inevitable for a renewed outcome, you're curious to know what is involved in the process, but you have to watch through your fingers.

Here's the old panel...

...And the new one.

Now it's all smooth and new. The trailer has had it's annual check up, it has had a power wash. The rig looks renewed and proud and we are very happy to be back on board. Needless to say, we have been obsessive about torquing the wheels since last year's painful incident.

And by the way, since arriving in Cumbria a fault developed with the airbag system in the Land Rover, which has also had to be fixed. I'm sure that all of our previous vehicles added together were cheaper than the upkeep and repairs on the Land Rover. Plus, it has occurred to me that one of the reasons we hunkered down in one place for six months from last November to March was because we'd had the trailer wheel fall off, four new tyres and repairs to the suspension on the Land Rover, then someone without insurance drove into us on a dark and misty night. Her old banger came off worse than our big ol' tank but that wasn't any consolation to our bank account. Going anywhere would just have been tempting fate.


Friday, 17 September 2010

Gathering Memories

I think we have just about caught up on our sleep. I've been waking up from deep, deep sleeps feeling pretty spaced out while Pete has had spasmodic sleeps disrupted by thoughts about last weekend and already planning for next year. And to think, this time last week a convoy of eight Airstreams appeared in this field, gradually followed by another twenty-one. As far as we have been able to ascertain, that is the largest gathering since the last caravan of American visitors of the Wally Byam club in the nineteen sixties. Certainly it's the largest collection of Brits with Airstreams, ever.

But as wonderful as that is, and as preoccupied I was about seeing Airstreams en masse, looking back on the weekend my memories are more clearly dominated by images of people getting to know each other, catching up with each other, hanging out together, and having a lot of fun and huge amounts of laughter. And that is very special indeed, most gratifying.

Of course we were too busy maintaining an illusion of effortless organisation to concentrate on getting great photos but here is a selection of what we've managed to cobble together between us.

The weekend included vintage and new trailers and motor homes, dating between a 1959 Tradewind and 2010 European Internationals; there was the arrival of a convoy of eight; drinks on Friday night under the shelter of the party tent as it chucked it down with rain outside; old friends and new, mingling and meeting; a bring-and-share barbecue; campfires; lanterns; late nights; Sunday breakfast in the sunshine; 'unhitch and stitch'; baseball; people becoming more and more relaxed as the weekend unfolded; children crying when it was time to leave. It rained some of the time but the sun shone for much of the weekend.

Unexpected hit of the gathering: the flush loo. We had expected something basic and chemical but Carl supplied us with a cute wooden hut, painted inside, with curtains made by Gaynor and photos of their 1959 Tradewind on the walls.


Carl and Gaynor, Connor, Jordan and Rory have all mucked in enthusiastically, and made so much happen just the way it should. From inviting us to their farm in the first place, to running in the water, putting up the party tent, supplying us with firewood, and so many extras that helped us to have the perfect weekend.

Many, many thanks to everyone who came and took part, and enjoyed themsleves and contributed to such a brilliant weekend. Shall we do it all again? It's already being planned.

There are more photographs on the UKAirstreamers Forum on the Meets Rallies And Gatherings thread. And there is more about the 'Unhitch and Stitch' on Notes From A Nomadic Knitter (Tracey's blog).

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The fourth UKAirstreamers Gathering

Back in March of last year, we posted here that we were going to be in a particular spot at a particular time and if you had an Airstream, come along and join us. I also posted on the US Airforums. It wasn't a particularly efficient way of getting in touch with Airstream owners in the UK, but we managed to get eleven together in a field in Wiltshire. Despite a hailstorm during the barbecue, a good time was had by all. You can read about it here.

Out of this was born UKAirstreamers.

What began as a means by which a handful of Airstreamers could keep in touch has grown into a resource-ridden, useful tool for dozens and dozens of UK Airstream owners to share knowledge, information and just chat.

A year and a half later, we're about to host our fourth UKAirstreamers Gathering. This one promises to be the largest ever collection of Airstreams in the UK! We have (at the last count) 28 Airstreams and their owners coming to spend the weekend of 10th - 12th September with us near Ludlow in Shropshire.

It isn't too late to join us! I'm sorry, but this isn't open to the public, but if you have an Airstream and would like to bring it along for the weekend, please email me at (you know the drill, replace the "-at-" with @).

Don't worry if you can't make it - we'll be posting pics here and doing it again (twice!) next year.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

We missed it!

The Fourth of July was a date to celebrate in some old colony or other, but a few days earlier, the First of July was a much bigger event in the UKAirstreamers household. You might have missed it (like we did), but it was a bit of a milestone for us (if we'd remembered) - it was exactly two and a half years ago that we set off on our one year trip.

I’m going to mark the occasion by sharing some of our better photos (out of the 25,000 or so we've taken) and by offering our own Semiquinquennial Campsite Awards.

It’s possibly worth pointing out that these awards have no value, no physical mantelpiece-filling aspect and, most importantly, no alcohol-fuelled, star-studded ceremony. They are just the rambling thoughts of a lightly seasoned traveller. I don’t intend to please or offend – it’s an entirely subjective meander through the highs and lows of our travels. If you don’t agree with any of my comments, please drop me an email at I won’t get back to you.

Firstly, I’ll start with “Best Campsite”. I was going to keep this one secret (we don’t want everyone to know!), but since it isn’t really a campsite and since you’re not allowed to wild-camp there any more anyway, here it is…

We spent four nights next to the airport on the isle of Barra in the Hebrides. You might think that being next to an airport isn’t the best place to spend your hols, but since the runway is a beautiful, white beach and the three planes a day can only land when the tide is out, it’s actually a wonderful place to be. Add the bonuses of (a) joining a fellow Airstreamer, (b) a friend flying in from London for a couple of nights, and (c) long, hot summer days and you have a perfect spot.

Sadly, coastal erosion has forced the local council to close the officially unofficial wild camping spot there. It will be missed by many.

There are a couple of places which “won” mutliple awards. Firstly, there’s a little CL or CS (I can’t seem to find it in either book now!) near Cromer in North Norfolk. It gets the “Cheapest Site” award for charging us a meagre £5.50 a night including hook-up! It also gets the “Slowest Tap” award. You could take the Aquaroll up to the tap and set it running, then go to the shops, have a couple of pints in the pub, read a short novel, catch up on your soaps and still be back to the tap before it began to even dream of overflowing. But with sunsets like this, who’s in a hurry?

On the other hand, “Fastest Tap” goes to a triple award winner! There’s a campsite up on Orkney where the water seems to be fed from several hundred feet above the highest point on the island. It was one of those modern plastic taps, which goes from off to torrential in a quarter turn - the 40 litre Aquaroll filled in just under 12 seconds, providing you didn’t mind wearing most of the last two-seconds worth as it rocketed out of the top. The same place wins the “Best Address” award. You can reach it at… Pickaquoy Campsite, Peerie Sea Loan (you couldn’t make it up), Kirkwall. This place must be special because it also wins the “Most Ridiculous Booking System” award. The campsite is attached to a sports-and-leisure centre and all bookings are made on the same computer system as the theatre seats. Which means that you are allocated a pitch when you book, rather than, for instance, when you arrive. The consequence of this is that you may have to move several times if you want to stay a while during busy weeks because someone has booked your pitch. Ludicrous. On the other hand, it’s very handy for Kirkwall, which is a smashing little town. Another added bonus came when we went out for the day and came back to find another airstream parked right next to us! What are the chances?

Best Welcome” goes, without a doubt, to the Crofton Hall CL near Carlisle. We were the second people to stay there just after it first opened last Autumn and were greeted by the owner with a bottle of wine! The manager is one of the friendliest people I have ever met and his whole family were thrilled to see an Airstream. It’s worth mentioning that the grass pitches are huge and each has its own electricity and water supply. If you’re ever in the area, stay there.

Worst Welcome” goes to the wardens on one of the Club sites (they’re probably not there any more, but I won’t name and shame). Having booked online, we arrived to a haughty “Well I don’t know where we’re going to put you?” We then endured ten minutes of huffing and puffing at reception and were “escorted” to the pitch, whereupon the warden asks Tracey “Can he reverse?” Some wardens are completely wonderful, some are complete arses. We won’t be going back there. Shit site anyway.

Having stayed in so many imaginatively equipped CL’s and CS’s, I find it impossible to pinpoint a “Worst Toilet Tank Emptying Point” winner; there are so many candidates. There is, however, one clear winner of the “Best Toilet Tank Emptying Point” award. Witches Craig Caravan Site near Stirling is a well laid out, pretty, beautifully equipped site. It could have been a contender for “Best Site,” were it not for an adjacent, busy road. I wish I could remember the toilet tank emptying point more clearly, but I was so blissed out at the facilities that I’m afraid it’s a bit of a blur. All I remember is that it was undercover but well ventilated; at a sensible height so that you didn’t have to break your back to either lift the tank or hold it steady; a light came on automatically when you entered and went off when you left; the “target” was a large, stainless steel funnel with a stainless steel surround and when you flushed, the whole lot (funnel and surround) rinsed itself down. And there was a hand-washing point too. I’m sure there was more, but my poor, addled mind can’t quite remember that far back. In short, a site owner actually thought about what a caravanner needs (rather than just what he can be arsed to provide) and managed to tick all the boxes.

Best View” is a tricky one with many candidates. The big problem is that it’s so hard to find a spot where you don’t have to look at somebody else’s white plastic caravan. There have been a couple of times where movers might have been useful to get us into a prettier spot, but the winner is probably the view from our pitch at the Caravan Club Tintagel site. Straight out to sea. Smashing.

Worst View” goes to a site in Pitlochry. From our pitch (I’m not sure that three inches of gravel floating on a layer of mud counts as a “hard standing”), we could see nothing of the beautiful surroundings, only a row of static caravans lined up like huts on a gulag. It did, however, have free, blisteringly fast WiFi and rather good (if dated – they even had a mangle!) laundry facilities.

Of course, no awards ceremony would be complete without a few "thank-you's." When we set off, we though we might only be on the road for a year. So I'd like to thank our families and friends for their support and for storing all our "stuff" while our year-long journey expands. We couldn't have done it without Airstream Europe - they have been encouraging and supportive since long before day one. We have met a lot of Airstream owners along the way, and even done our best to create an Airstream community in the UK - I'd like to thank all of them for allowing us to join in their journeys. And I'd like to thank you, dear reader, for your words of encouragement and for following us along the way. I hope you've enjoyed the ride a fraction as much as we have.

That’s about it for now. There have been other campsites. Many others. Some are good, some are utterly forgettable. Hopefully, the recent upsurge in caravanning holidays (and the corresponding increase in competition) will encourage site owners to up their game. The internet is playing a big part too - it's now very, very easy to find a campsite and even read reviews from other campers.

So, after two and a half years, what next? Well, we're planning to carry on for as long as we can. Come back in another two and a half years and see what we've found.. (actually, don't wait that long - we'll still be posting here regularly!)

In the meantime, here's a bunch of our best. Most of these (and a whole host of others!) are available to buy here if you fancy a postcard or even a poster. Your purchases help support our journey. These are all low-res versions (you can click on a pic for a better look), but the ones in the shop are all tip-top quality. Enjoy.