Upgrade One – Adding a Heater

This year Barb and I decided we wanted to be far less dependent on the need for electric hook up, partly because its more economical, but also because we prefer sites which are a bit quieter and closer to nature and these generally tend to have limited amenities.

Our biggest energy dependency was on heating, so our first project was to install a Gas Blown Air Heater. The two most widely used RV heating systems seemed to be Truma, which uses gas, and Eberspacher, which uses diesel from your van fuel tank. Both these systems cost between £700 – £900, which at the time was beyond our means. We’d also found a few references which stated that some of the Eberspachers could be quite noisy, not great when trying to keep warm and get some sleep on those cold wintry nights.

After a fair bit of on-line research we settled on a Propex Heatsource HS2000 which cost us £420 supplied with flue, ducting, gas fittings and temperature control panel included.

Propex Heatsource HS2000 Gas Blown Air Heater

The next big problem we encountered was where to position the heater. Our two main aims were to minimise loss of storage space and have clear space under the van to route the air intake and gas exhaust pipes. Owing to the location of the Leisure battery, the water storage tank, the water heater, the plastic fuel tank, and the prop shaft running down the middle of the van to the rear axle, the only suitable location available to us was in the cupboard under the ‘kitchen’ sink and cooker.

In order to get enPropex Heaterough access to drill the required holes through the van floor we had to strip out the cooker unit and the shelf which it rested on.

This also gave us access to the main gas supply pipe and enabled us to take a gas supply to the heater via the existing 3 way gas manifold.

The hardest part of this job was drilling the holes through the very tough floor of the van. I strongly recommend you use new sharp drill bits to do this, we didn’t, it took ages, and the resulting holes were not as tidy as we would have liked leading to a fair bit of follow up filing being required.

With the heater being situated next to the rear wheel arch we were able to route the heater exhaust pipe alongside the vans engine exhaust pipe with the air intake being routed in the opposite direction secured at a couple of points to chassis cross struts.

Once the heating unit was connected to the gas supply and screwed to the floor it was a fairly straightforward job to route the internal intake and output vents into the van via the water tank and water heater storage area and connect the unit to the heater thermostat controller unit.

Heater vents into van

Next job: adding a solar panel.

Easter Break

For our Easter break we decided to make one more attempt at travelling to St David’s in Pembrokeshire, having failed to get there on two previous attempts both of which ended up with us being brought back home on the back of a rescue trailer. Thankfully this time we managed to not only get to St David’s but also to our two other planned destinations and safely back home without incident in our new, to us, van.

Our first destination was Lleithyr Farm, Whitesands Bay, St David’s.  This was a really nice site with a very well stocked shop, nice clean facilities and a small animal petting area which housed goats, pigs and ponies amongst other small farm animals. Whitesands Bay was only a 15 minute walk away and St David’s could also be reached on foot within 20 – 30 minutes. The site was fairly quiet owing to the recent heavy snow, which hadn’t actually effected the site, but had made travel through parts of Wales more difficult than usual. We spent 2 nights on the site and would definitely use it again if in the area.

Next stop was a site just outside Caerleon called Whitehall Farm. This is a small Camping and Caravan Club Certified site which has space for 5 motor homes or caravans. The site is run by Trevor and Ann. We were made very welcome by Trevor on our arrival who was a perfect host making sure we were settled into our pitch and showing us all the facilities on offer. We even had access to a whole field just for exercising Gromit which was brilliant because we could really wear him out chasing his ball frantically up and down the field for ages which meant we got a peaceful evening whilst he settled down for the night in the front cab of the van. Spent two nights here and will definitely visit this site again.

Our third and final site was another Camping and Caravan Club site although this time it was a large site run by the club itself called the Hereford Club Site. The site was ok but there was a constant smell of silage coming from one of the nearby fields which was a bit off-putting after a while. We had booked two nights on this site, but ended up not returning to it on the first night as we ended up staying at Barb’s cousins house, preferring to join in the drinking and revelry than driving back to the site late at night. The site did have a dedicated dog walk and a very large pond which was very picturesque and well stocked for fishermen, many of whom use the site for this purpose, but it just felt a bit impersonal to us. I don’t think we are very keen on the big overly organised sites much preferring the smaller more relaxed sites.

This was the longest period we have spent in a van, mostly our breaks are 2 or 3 nights, but we really enjoyed it. Gromit making the front cab his own sleeping area was great as it gave us time to relax on our own and made it easier to move around the back of the van when using the toilet or kitchen area’s. I think we both agreed we could have easily stayed on the road for a few more nights if we’d been able to.

If you go down to the woods today…

First camping expedition of the year, 2 nights at the Camping and Caravan Club Delamere Forest Site.

Snow was coming down heavy as we left for the site on Friday evening but I’m glad we persevered as we got to enjoy a lovely winters weekend in the forest.

Most of these pictures were taken on the Saturday morning. I went out really early with Gromit and we had the forest virtually to ourselves.

When the dream becomes a reality

For several years now Barb and I have dreamt of spending our weekends out and about in our ideal camper van with our perfect family dog enjoying all the splendours of the beautiful British countryside and beyond. We can’t remember the exact beginning of that dream but we can absolutely pin point the day it came to fruition, Saturday 27th October 2012

Barb has not shared her life with a dog since childhood, and Pooch had met an untimely end when hit by a car. I’d shared my childhood with our family dog, called Lucky, and I’d briefly owned a dog in my early adult life, an Alsatian called Blitz, but circumstances led to me having to find a new home for her. And whilst together we had housed a fair menagerie of pets including, several rats, a very large Iguana and numerous cats, of which we still have three, we never felt we had the time to devote to caring for a dog whilst we we’re both working.



It was only after Barb started working part-time for a small charitable organisation in Wales, where she met a colleague whose dog was having puppies, that we decided to revisit the idea of dog ownership. To be honest the deal was sealed as soon as Barb visited the puppies, although it was only after a few visits that we finally settled on the puppy for us, who at the time was named Bruiser.

Bruiser eventually became Gromit, who grew into a larger dog than we were expecting, and considerably bigger than the size of dog we had dreamt of sharing a camper van with, in fact there are many aspects of sharing our lives with Gromit that have come as quite a surprise to us, but that’s a separate story

In relation to our dream, one of the main impacts Gromit’s arrival has had on our plans to build our own custom van, was that I was never going to find the time to build anything in the near future as most of our spare time was now taken up with taking Gromit for numerous walks, to burn off his endless supplies of energy, or stopping him from trying to chew anything he could get his teeth into including the furniture, the cats and frequently us!

We decided, therefore, that we would just see what we could get ready built for the same budget as we’d planned to spend on our custom build. Fortunately it didn’t take us long to find a very suitable alternative which, whilst there were several compromises on our dream specifications, certainly met our immediate needs and we only had to go slightly over budget to get it.

Our VW Camper van

Our new VW Campervan in Derbyshire

And so it was, that while driving along the M56 heading for Derbyshire on Saturday 27th October 2012, it dawned on us that our long-held dream had finally come to fruition.

Did the reality match the expectations of the dream?

Of course not, in our dreams we were probably wandering through golden meadows of beautiful wild flowers with a cute little dog running gaily by our side. In reality we slipped and slithered along a sodden muddy footpath struggling to get over obstacle course styles in the pouring rain whilst trying to stop Gromit devouring every bit of sheep poo he came across!

Do we regret it?

Not one bit. We love getting out in our van, whatever the weather, and we love having Gromit as our four-legged companion, although we are both very much looking forward to when gets beyond the puppy stage!

Barb and Gromit

Barb and Gromit living the dream!

The Campervan Project begins..

Our Old CampervanJust before the Christmas break (2011) we unfortunately had to sell our much loved Renault Traffic Campervan. After several years of use the van needed some much needed TLC that we couldn’t provide at the time and also we really needed a bit of an upgrade in space and facilities.

Fortunately a bloke called Steve was prepared to take the van on and after the exchange of a few squids our old van headed off to North Wales for a new lease of life.

One short winter later, as the sun begins to show its face more frequently, we are missing having a van waiting ready to take us on our next adventure. So the Campervan Project begins today!  ‘play fanfare’

Big problem at the moment though is..  we can’t decide which make of van we want to use as the base vehicle. Front runners at the moment are either a Long Wheel Base (LWB) Hi Top Mercedes Sprinter or a Ford Transit of similar proportions. So, in order to make an informed decision the best course of action is to do as much research gathering as possible.

First bit of research: What exactly qualifies (legally) as a Campervan, or, as the DVLA refers to it, a Motor Caravan. Here are two links which should answer that question.



I also found a pdf on the VOSA website but in its current format its offending my sense of aesthetic so I’ll upload it when I’ve tidied it up a bit..

Much, much more to follow 🙂