2 humans. 2 dogs. 1 converted T5.
I love it when a plan comes together. With less than 24 hours to go until the weekend all we knew was that we wanted to go to the Peak District. But we hadn’t found the right place yet. I remembered Rich, a fellow vanlifer/blogger/instagrammer from Derbyshire and thought that being from there(ish) he might have a better idea about where to go. And of course I was right (I also love it when *that* happens!).
Rich sent me a few links and from one of them I ended up picking Waterside Farm in the Edale Valley. The Valley is beautiful! Majestically impressive. Stunning views literally round the corner from some of Manchester’s suburbs [I know!!!! Who would have thought!?]. As soon as we drove down what seemed to be the only way in and out of the valley I could feel myself relax and started to look forward to another great weekend in the Peaks. We arrived at the campsite just after 8pm, picked our spot, grabbed the dog and headed straight to the pub ^_^
The Rambler Inn is roughly a mile or so from the campsite and all we needed to do was walk across some fields at the back of the campsite. Win/win: Maisie didn’t mind and we didn’t have to drive. It’s a nice Inn and although not super packed (good) was nicely busy that evening. We enjoyed some German beer (another one of my loves. I guess there’s just no getting away from one’s heritage) then merrily walked back to the site. The campsite consists of 3 fields behind the back of a VERY old farmhouse, one of them kinda reserved for ramblers and cyclists in very tiny tents. It’s a case of turn up and pitch up; we ended up next to a man and his young son on one side and a couple in their bongo on the other. As it was the first weekend of the school holidays my guess is there were a few more children around than we’d normally come across but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – I don’t mind watching the next generation of happy campers. As long as they’re nice’n quiet of course, ha! ^_^
The weather was a little weird. Boiling hot yet no sun.
From the campsite we walked straight to Hollins Cross and from there down to the George Hotel in Castleton for a couple of drinks and some well deserved junk food.
This was our first camping trip without H. It was a little weird but I guess that was to be expected.
And for those of you wondering about Maisie’s sexy little corset: although she can jump (as you can see) she’s a little girlish when it comes to stiles and sometimes needs a little help getting over some of the obstacles we encounter. With her Ruffwear gear it’s easy to lift her. It’s like a little uniform now – as soon as it comes on she knows she’s off exploring ^_^
As for Waterside Farm: can thoroughly recommend! No WiFi or hook-ups. Basic shower/toilet block. In the middle of nowhere. Tenner a night for our little unit (that’s 2 adults, the dog & the van). Happy campers!
So. Here’s the one I didn’t want to have to write.
I took the picture above around 10am on Monday the 8th July 2013. Two hours later my beautiful boy was dead.
I still cannot believe I just wrote that down.
He’d had his last visit to the vet on the Thursday. He hadn’t been up on any of his legs for approx. 10 days. We were still hoping that rest would do the trick but when he was in the room he hated the most and although his flight instinct kicked in he just couldn’t get up. We knew then that time was up. We took him home and didn’t know what to do. Actually, that’s a lie. We KNEW what we had to do. We just could not bring ourselves to do it. He was 9 years old. His mind was as active as always. He was still enjoying his food. He was still obsessing about and playing with his favourite balls. He was still the gorgeous loyal obedient fun loving and child like dog he always was. But his legs had literally died off on him and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Maybe it was a tumour. Or a lesion. Who knows.
Fact is: I feel cheated. I was happily preparing to live with a limping dog until his time was up. I was not expecting this.
So on the Sunday night we finally accepted that we needed to be good parents and do the decent thing. We slept downstairs on the sofa with him that night. We woke up at 6am and Mr. B carried him outside. We wanted him to spend his last day doing the things he loved most. I spent the morning glued to his side and let him push a ball around with his nose.
At 12:00 o’clock the vet turned up. We cried. We held each other. We cuddled him and we said our goodbyes. I remember thinking it was too surreal to be real. But then we went ahead and killed our dog. That’s what it felt like to me.
I have dreaded writing this post. I am truly heartbroken. But life goes on. Perhaps you think I’m crazy when I tell you that I truly believe some of his spirit has passed on and managed to find its way into Maisie. Maybe I AM crazy ^_^ But it’s somehow comforting to know that she seems to be coping with the loss of her beloved companion by having adapted some new traits that remind me of Henry every single day.
We miss him.
Henry, 20.06.2004 – 08.07.2013
PS: Yes. We are spreading the love we had for him. The weekend after H was taken away from us, two little boys were born in Builth Wells. I hope they will turn out to be as loyal, playful, beautiful and unique as he was!
PPS: nothing else that happened in July matters really.
I’ve recently thrown myself into a somewhat different project. No vans. No dogs. In fact – no outdoorsey type photographs at all (can you believe it!!!). Just people. And faces. And all in glorious black’n white. What d’you think?
This was a special project for a special birthday and there’s some pictures I cannot show for confidentiality reasons. So if you recognise where this is (or who they are) let’s keep it to ourselves ^_^
I have a lot to learn when it comes to grouping people or shooting people full stop but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Shame that it had to end. I guess I’ll have to find myself a new little project now!
So June was a shockingly bad month. First dog drama. Then job drama (Mr. B is now *inbetween jobs*). Little money, lots of stress. No time to play & only one trip away.
Nobody likes a moaner and instead of fluffy images pretending June wasn’t THAT bad really I’ve decided on *back to basics*. So here’s how vanplusfour was born.
Our T5 comes from Shrewsbury and in a previous life was probably properly abused by some dirty delivery driver on some form of lease arrangement. It was super shiny and colour coded and came with 2 tinted windows on the side and nothing else. As Mr. B is 6’5 he dictated that it needed to have a long wheel base (LWB) so we could fit a homemade bed in it.
Mr B got straight down to it. He bought masses of timber & boards from our friendly merchant and ordered carpets, rubber flooring and other stuff on the internet. He spent weeks researching what’s out there, watched countless tutorials on YouTube and drew up plans that he could work with. Once he was happy with what he wanted to do he got the van in the back and got started.
[The guy with the weird hat is my father in law. He knows EVERYTHING there is to know about DIY. He's also super cool & retired and loves to get stuck in. As you can see ^_^]
There was batons being fitted. Sound absorption going in. Insulating materials being stuffed into gaps. Boards were put on top and then rubber flooring went down [nobody wants dogs sliding up'n down the van] and carpet was glued to all the sides and the ceiling.
Work would often go on until very late at night. Building your own van is EXTREMELY addictive. *Luckily* I’m not as talented as Mr. B so I guess my role was more, ahem, *supportive* (ha!). I made loadsa tea and took some pictures now’n then [and not even pretty ones]. Oh, and while Mr B was getting super excited about his fridge, two set of switches, the leisure battery and his ceiling downlighters (nice!) I dreamed about super glossy flush white kitchen units.
Once Mr B had figured out all the basics [I won't bother with all the details. You need to ask him really. Best done by hooking up over a nice pint (or two). Have van, will travel ^_^] it was time to get started on our furniture. We knew right from the beginning that we wanted an L shape living arrangement, a) more living space for the dogs and b) we didn’t really want a rock’n roll bed (expensive. and short). He thought about how to build a pull out base and how to fit my white kitchen units around it.
Then he put all the electrics in (clever!), wired it all up, put carpet on his homemade units, tarted it up with steel edges, cut a worktop to size [ably assisted by our van-loving brother-in-law], connected a sink & a hob, had some bespoke cushions made by a local seamstress [the type of cushions that serve as seats & backs during the day and then neatly fit together to make up a mattress at night], fitted a removable table in the middle [the type that is made of exactly the same material as my cabinet doors] and then one day, it was all finished and vanplusfour.com was born ^_^
What happened next is amazing. We took it to *a few* places [some of them in France. some in England. some in Wales. and some in Scotland]. We bought a camera. Mr B stopped working in Iraq and we put some roots down in North Wales. When we get itchy feet we jump in the brilliant van my husband built for me and we dream about living #vanlife. So when times get as tough as June 2013 I ought to remember that. Life’s great ^_^
[since then, we've also fitted an awning. chucked out the horrible seats and put in some nice leather ones. but are still in desperate need of some nice curtains and some hot wheels. but seeing as patience is a virtue that can wait until pockets are full of money again ^_^]
First things first (if you’re not into dogs just skip this part): Henry. Does not have arthritis (hoorah!). And no parasite has invaded his spinal cord to block the *move legs* signal in his brain (phew!). But the neurologist suspects an old spinal injury is now given him jib or he could have even had a stroke and so the dog has not moved an inch in aaaaaaaaages. Having had an Xray, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, Gabapen, suspected Neospora, Toxoplasmosis or even Polyradiculoneuritis (love that term) he is now back on the Metacam and full rest. Let me just stress to all you pet owners out there how important it is that your pet has insurance. Ours do not and I do feel very guilty that we are not able to diagnose him better. After the Xray (coming in at £240) the next step would have been an MRI which – at £1,000 a pop – simply isn’t an option. Regular medication isn’t cheap and return visits to the vet cost £16 every time we turn up. Hannah (the vet) has been great and we even managed to sneak in a video of Henry to the teaching hospital at Liverpool (where they don’t liaise with the general public and consultations start at £300!!!) which is how we got a *video diagnosis* from the neurologist but obviously this isn’t a confirmed diagnosis and we can’t detect tumours or lesions on videos and so we’re just hoping for the best and that one of these days the bad days will come to an end and H will recover.
Anyway. That didn’t stop us from enjoying a weekend in the beautiful Lake District though and here he is chillin’ a nice afternoon away:
But back to the story. I’d come across this guy’s details in the camping & caravan club magazine (don’t laugh. we’re nerds!?) and promptly signed up to one of his workshops. A weekend in the Lake District finding out how to take better pictures? Win/win!
The workshop was due to start @ 9am on the Saturday morning at the White Moss car park. For one reason or another [Mr B's deafness. No Wifi. My inability to write down post codes or telephone numbers.........] we ended up being the most disorganised people on the planet and were half an hour late for the meet. Suitably embarrassed I was relieved to find out that when we finally got there the others were very nice about it all and after quick introductions we went for a little stroll around the lake.
Stuart is a brilliant photographer and his pictures have (quite rightly!) made it into some of the biggest UK walking magazines. I was in absolute awe about just HOW EASY he makes it look to take a great shot and by the end of the day I pretty much knew that I have TONS to learn. So here’s some of the shots from the day [no ND filter. no long exposures. nothing new really, just some behind the scene shots I guess].
I thoroughly enjoyed the day! I now have extreme camera envy and a burning desire to take pictures 24 hours a day! I guess it’s all part of a massive learning curve but I really wish I could re-publish most of my posts on vanplusfour. Which – considering I can just about manage to push out a couple of posts a month – is like mission impossible.
Mr B and the dogs spent the day chilling by the lake, taking a look at some of the stunning views (Maisie) or taking a nap by the van (Henry).
We were looking forward to going back to the camp site, Baysbrown Farm is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! Outstanding views. Lots of space. Curious farm animals [we particularly liked the free-roaming chickens ^_^]. Excellent toilet & shower facilities [this is the kind of site you could happily bring a camping virgin to and then leave with a freshly converted camping addict!].
On the Sunday we can’t wait to start exploring the area and it’s exactly then that we decide: must. come. back.!
To finish off, some #vw #vanporn :)
It’s late Friday evening by the time we get there. Just enough time to set up and take some moody pics of an empty showground.
The next morning: sun. Finally!!! ^_^
Woodfest can best be described as an interactive festival, a step back in time to see craftsmen and women carry out traditional crafts and skills – creating beautiful, fascinating and functional art, sculptures, objects, buildings & more. Well that’s what it said on their web site anyway. We were there to help man the NEWSAR Mountain Search & Rescue Team stand and launch loadsa balloons to generate some cash.
Time to meet some of your friendly local Search’n Rescue Team members ^_^ (oh, and Mr B, obviously!)
Somwething to remember the weekend by: sunburns. balloons. kids. dogs. great people. Hop. timbersports. extremely fast climbers. free camping. glorious Welsh landscape. happy campers.
Last weekend we took up an invite to get together & watch some horse boarding in Cheshire. Be rude not to ^_^
Here’s the deal: we met at Hale’s Superbole Mountain Boarding Centre near Chester, parked up, got out and took some pictures.
We took a picture of the van (of course!):
We took some pictures of trees:
We took pictures of a demolished barn:
Even further up we included the showground and some actual horses:
Right at the top we found out what Hale’s Superbole is all about: it’s actually a Mountain Boarding Centre [a very picturesque and brilliantly laid out one at that] and the horses are used to pull people on mountain boards (think slightly bigger version of skateboard on wheels) across the showground. Well, I call it showground, I have no idea what the correct term is. Field? The grounds are also used by mountain bikers and the kids we came across up there were super talented:
Then we walked even further up and into the woods.
We found some amazingly beautiful looking trees and because we love a good lense flare we took some pictures of them, too:
We were also going to take some pictures of the Abseiling taster session on offer but unfortunately our retired mountain dog’s legs weren’t up to it so we carried him back down the hill and then he happily chilled out on the grass. But before we got back down there we finally took a picture of an actual horse:
After that we sat down to watch the competition and couldn’t stop taking pictures of horses……..so I’ve narrowed it down for you [it's actually surprisingly difficult to take a great shot of people & animals in motion, if, like me, you're not used to it, boohoo. Apologies for the blurriness, I promise I'll try'n improve my photography skill set. Soon!].
I heard Horse Boarding was invented by some stuntmen and is now a recognised sport. How true that is I don’t know but it’s definitely fun to watch and I’d happily sit and watch it all again. Happy campers.
This is without doubt the most scenic location we’ve been to since the Isle of Skye. Apart from a toilet on the farm there are absolutely zilsh facilities but who cares. No Wifi. No hook ups. Just sheep. Barns. Mountains. Fresh air & vistas to die for, and for £6/night/unit you can’t go wrong. Happy campers. 6/5 for sure ^_^
Man. This place is AMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZING! I knew as soon as we turned off a main road across the Peak District that this place was going to be very. Very! Very special indeed!
There’s a second part to this simply because if I don’t push this post out right now I will most probably never ever ever write another post ever again….so if you enjoyed the pics above then you’ve got another treat to look forward to ^_^
So. April. Memorable for being… Well. Kinda dull really ^_^
It just seemed to drag on FOREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVER. With little money to spend on hobbies and not much spare time to get stuck into stuff anyway we only managed ONE day trip and one over nighter, booh!! I didn’t even get to indulge in blogging and am now waaaaaay behind. Ah well, it is what it is ^_^
On a positive: Mr B has finally been re-united with his beloved iPhone 5 which he savagely destroyed in water literally a couple of weeks after he first purchased it last December. Weighing up several (legal & illegal) options we finally decided to bite the bullet and replace the damaged one with a brand new one in the nearest Apple shop [45 minutes away by car. Good God, looks like we DO live out in the sticks]. The trip to Liverpool to exchange the phone was super exciting for me: I got to sit in the passenger seat for 45 minutes while we drove down there. I got to sit on the driver’s seat while I dropped Mr. B off at some dodgy looking corner so that he could rush to the shop before it closed 10 minutes later and so that we didn’t have to pay any parking charges. Then I got to sit on the passenger seat for another 45 minutes on the way back, brilliant!
Henry is still injured and has been on full rest for the whole of April. To break the monotony of not being able to go for walkies we took ourselves to a local tourist spot and spent a couple of hours exploring Chirk Castle.
More positives: new seats for the van, finally! They are A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. So amazing in fact that I demanded we take the van out to see how van life would change. On a whim, we ended up taking it to Whitchurch/Shropshire [in England, and don't worry, passports were packed......) to a tiny simple field by the canal where we could all chill out, heaven!
On the Newsar front: Mr. B now in full training mode. Wednesdays are earmarked for *women on the remote* *boys out to play*. As he's doing really well I'm obviously v proud <3 Seems like this guy & his dog are becoming a household name for all the right reasons ^_^
Here's more pics from the home front [some blurry. let's call it *rustic*]. Happy May everyone.