Why I love the Lake District

Lake District

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed the great outdoors. I loved the difference in weather, I loved meeting different people and of course the different views each day brings. What better place to get all of these things in one place than the Lake District. Mike and I met in the Lake District over 10 years ago and every time we go back we find some new route to go and explore. However there are things that we do time and time again. We go to the Picnic Box in Ambleside and order rocky road – it is the best you have had! We have brunch in the Apple Pie shop, again more scrumptious pie that is pretty darn good. The sticky toffee pudding in the Wainwright Pub in Langdale needs to be tested out too. This blog is should be called my favourite Lake District food!

Some of my favourite walks are around Coniston, including the Old Man. I enjoy walking the Langdales and I do love a good climb up to Stickle Tarn, then weather dependant nipping up to Pavey Ark as the views from there are some of my favourite. I have started to use walking poles now, not only do they help my knee on the way down but they are lightweight so are no extra effort to carry. You can buy some great gear on the top floor of the Epic Centre, also we love a good look around Adventure Peaks, who also have a climbing wall incase the weather outside is pretty bad. There are loads more things I love about the Lake District but I will share them another time! Ciao for now!

Supporting Artist – Background Extra

Why do we need to protect Ancient Woodland?

We know that trees are home to such an array of wildlife and we already know that being amongst them is good for our mental health, but all that aside, and apart from the fact they create oxygen, why should we protect them?

 

Trees are the lungs of the earth, they are all interconnected, they talk to each other in their own special language. Next time you are out, turn your phone off and just place your hands on a tree, any tree, the gnarlier the better. Close your eyes and just breath. Once you are there, don’t worry if any one is looking, clear your mind of the every day stresses. Everyone in life has these – you are no different. But take this moment to just connect. I do this on every walk, normally with a hug and it really helps me be me.

Ancient Woodlands only started to be mapped out in England and Wales since 1600s and 1750s in Scotland and the earliest findings are in the Domesday book which was compiled in 1086.

 These inventories show that 7% of ancient woodland was cleared around the 1930s and 38% has been replaced with plantations of non native species (probably a lot higher now). Our land is now only covered by 2.4% ancient woodlands, which is a scary number. A number which doesn’t even cover the Caingorms National Park, or which is about 2 times the size of London, pretty tiny… (estimated by the two white dots).

Now, whilst I fully support replanting native species throughout the country, this cannot support the current wildlife whose habitat is currently being destroyed in the UK on projects such as the HS2.

So what is an ancient woodland?

An Ancient woodland, or “old-growth forest’ for our American friends, I would describe as a complex home to many species from micro-organisms to deer, which all rely on each other.  Without one, they others cannot survive to their full potential. 

beautiful tree tops.JPG

Each individual tree is a habitat to the invertebrates, which feed the mice and shrews,  which in turn feed the owls. I found a great diagram of the food  chain online which explains how everything is connected. Without the leaf litter from the trees to feed the worms, the mice will go hungry and the owls will have to find their food (and shelter) somewhere else.  Or foliage gleaners like warblers feed directly on the trees. Or woodpeckers break into the decaying wood for their food – these ancient trees provide birds with more essentials resources than any other types of tree on the planet. 

Credit: igcse-biology-2017

Here is a list of great ancient trees to visit: https://www.ancienttreeforum.co.uk/ancient-trees/ancient-tree-sites-to-visit/

So what can you do? You can find advice in the links below if you are a:

General member of the public, Landowner or a Business owner

Plus – you can sign my petition to protect the woodlands from HS2 here.

Oh an a little bit extra…

Have you heard of a Phoenix Tree? 

Ever seen a fallen tree with it roots still absorbing nutrients from the ground and the branches continuing to grow vertically? Well this is a Phoenix tree. A horizontal tree with it’s crown in the ground can create new roots and allow the old ones to decay. This regeneration is so important for the soil and the old branches can be left to protect the new growth so the tree can go on. 

So in conclusion, all ancient woodlands need our protection, the best way that we can do it is to educate ourselves about what it is that are damaging them and to work out ways every single one of us can do our bit. 

Phoenix Tree in West Sussex Credit: Dave Spicer

The North Pacific gyre and Ocean Pollution

In 1909

Bakelite is introduced to the Chemist Club in NY as the “first thermoset plastic,” meaning once formed, it was set for life.

In 1939

Nylon stockings debut at the World’s Fair.

In 1946

Earl S. Tupper produces a 7-ounce polyethylene tumbler, the first of many products available from Tupperware Home Parties, Inc.

There are now 5.25 trillion macro and micro-plastic pieces floating in the open ocean.

This is my presentation about the 5 gyres so please browse the slideshow above to find out more about these human made wildlife death traps.

Petition to save ancient woodlands from HS2

My petition is for the Government to “Review the route and construction plans for HS2 for environmental reasons.”

Current plans for HS2 involve the destruction of woodlands and use of unsustainable building materials.We want all ancient woodland left untouched and modern, environmentally friendly materials to be used, not materials like concrete.

This petition is not saying stop HS2, but is calling on the Government to review the route and construction plans for this project, because of the concerns of people who care about our environment and wildlife and we want to reduce the irreversible destruction to our ancient woodlands.

At 10,000 signatures, government will respond to this petition.

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.

Deadline 12 April 2021

#savethetrees🌳🌳🌳

Thank you. Holly.

Ancient Woodland in Cambridshire.JPG

Secret Suffolk

Being a Brega I am Suffolk born and bred. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to travel – I love exploring new places, but I wanted to share some of my favourite places with you,  these are my Suffolk Secrets. 

Boxted, Hartest and Hawkedon

These three villages are in the secluded Suffolk countryside, near Sudbury and I love them because I grew up in them. Boxted Hall can be rented out for family staycations. The Queens Head in Hawkedon is a great pub for an afternoon in the sunshine, or by the fire in winter. There are some great places to visit when in this neck of the woods, including Wool Towns like Lavenham, Kersey and Hadleigh. 

Here are some Suffolk places to stay near Sudbury…

1. Hylton Cottage, Lavenham 

2. Mulberry Cottage, Hadleigh

3. Ayres End Studio, Kersey

Moving towards the coast now and as we head to the east we get to another place where my family has a connection to. Walberswick, this old fishing village, now labeled as the most expensive place to buy a house in Suffolk (Aug 2020) is where we spent many family holidays crabbing. The whole area flooded in 1053 and that was when my Dad’s side of the family ran the pub, The Bell Inn. My dad had to be rescued by boat from the attic window at the age of 3. We still have the newspaper from that time. 

Here are some coastal places to stay near Walberswick…

1. Hex Cottage, Sibton

2. Flint Cottage, Wenhaston

3. Snow Hall Barn, Peasenhall

The most southernly area on my list now is Dedham Vale. Mike and I went to explore Constable Country a year or so ago and this area is very characteristic of Suffolk with its meandering river and lowland arable fields. A visit to here isn’t complete without visiting Flatford Mill, where John Constable painted one of his most well known pieces of art. 

Here are some lovely places to stay near Ipswich

1. The Presbytery, Colchester

2. Rose Barn, Stoke by Nayland

3. The Old Post Office, Higham

I hope you enjoyed reading about my favourite places in Suffolk. I will be following up with a second blog about my favourite places in the Chilterns and the Lake District. There are affiliate links in this blog, but all the places linked to are truly gorgeous. 

The DIY Vanlife Adventure

Welcome to Mike and Holly’s Vanlife blog. Here we will share our renovation stories, things we have learnt, found useful and that have gone wrong… Follow our story on Instagram here.

Stage 1 – buying

We had been keeping an eye on the market for a long wheel base since Autumn 2019. We had a great time testing out living in a van in New Zealand for 6 weeks the previous year (read blog here). So we knew 2020 was the year to make the leap.

We started looking for a van properly in March – just a Covid-19 approached and lockdown happened. That was when everyone was looking for a van as staycations were going to become more popular and people started delivery driving jobs. Vans soon became a rarity. After three months and hours scrolling through the internet we eventually found one! (We did find one sooner, but I wont bore you with the details, it had various things wrong).

Stage one realisations:

All garages will say they have that van coming in next week – they do not.

They say they will call you back – they will not.

That advert you see online isn’t of the exact van you are enquiring about – they just can’t be bothered to update the ad.

Stage 2 – windows

HPI checks complete and the van was finally on our drive, hooray! Our dream is now a reality. We have a set budget in mind and fingers crossed we stick to it. The first job was to sound deaden using Dodo Matting (you can buy it here) and take out the safe. We haven’t managed to open it yet – I wonder what is in there?!?!

We took a while deciding where to buy our windows from, but eventually chose the website and brought the fitting kit with them. It was the simplest thing to do and also doesn’t work out that much more expensive. Josh, Holly’s brother was the first person to help us out! He, and his tools were amazing with getting the windows in.

Our roof fan was the next thing to go in. We just wanted to get all the holes in the outside of the van cut as soon as possible, as you can’t move on with anything else until it is done. The fan we chose was a MaxxAir MaxFan Deluxe. We chose this because of the thermostat, remote and automatic features.

Stage 2 errors:

Make sure you clean off every teeny tiny bit of metal from cutting straight away, they will rust and are a pain to sort. We can’t stress this enough.

Don’t put the black primer too thick and wide onto the panels as you will see it once the window is on, and again, is a pain to hide.

Allow for the edging thickness when marking up the window cut lines, this will add an extra 6mm on (roughly) and will save you cutting it again!

Stage 3 – solar & battening

It took us ages to find the right Solar Panel. It was a large expense which we didn’t want to get wrong and have to send back. We finally found the one that was right for our set up. We needed it to power our usb sockets, fridge, laptop (via inverter) and that’s about it as the oven, hob and shower will be gas. We chose a Perlight 320 Watt Mono Panel. The white one was cheaper than the black so we went for that.

We decided we wanted our solar panel to be able to lift up, one because we could clean under it and second because if we were say, in north Norway then we could angle it to make the most of the sun! Just note that it didn’t come with cables long enough so that set us back a few days as we had to wait for new cables.

Here you will see that Holly is repainting all the specks of rust (after being painted with Hammerite Kurust, we mentioned earlier. It took ages and was a pain but hopefully it will work.

Battening was the next job at hand. We tried to use what the van had in terms of panels. We used self-drilling screws. Our friend Jen came to see us and help out. Thanks Jen! I am looking forward to getting family and friends involved in this build, as that is all part of it I guess.

Stage 3 realisations:

We didn’t make too many mistakes at this stage actually but we did learn that having nice weather makes this process so much easier! We have now ordered our insulation for the next stage. Oh, and we have just brought the fridge. Exciting!

Stage 4 – electrics & insulation

So before the insulation could go up, we had to wire in the electrics. This is something that neither of us have experience in. We decided to crack on and buy the wiring and put it in place ourselves. This is where we made a big mistake, we brought the wrong two-core wiring, who knew there were so many different types. So once it was in, we found out it was wrong so had to start again, this time with the correct wires! The wire we ended up using was 30 meters of 2mm2 Thin Wall 2 Twin Core Cable Wire.

We scheduled in a day with our friend James who happens to be an Electrical Engineer who slaved away for over a day but by the end of it we had power! Such a great day, thank you Upton!!

This is probably one of the stages that took the longest ordering things, we brought a sine wave inverter, a 12v battery, battery charger, battery isolator, a 12 way blade fuse box, mppt controller and little things like terminal connectors.

For our insulation we chose 10mm Dodo Thermal Fleece which is made from recycled plastic bottles, and then we chose to do a thermo vapour layer too. Might be overkill, we’re not sure yet. Our main reason was that if we wanted to go away in winter or to cold countries then at least we have the option without freezing.

We found the fleece really easy to work with. We applied it with a little spray glue and noticed the difference in temperature straight away whilst working in the van. The vapour layer on the other hand was okay to work with, the backing is really tar like, which I guess it needs to be. But it is definitely a two person job.

Stage 4 errors:

Double check the wiring you need, there is more than one type of 2-core!

It turns out you can’t buy everything for your van conversion from Screwfix and Wickes!

Don’t even bother with the wire clips where you need a little screw driver thing, just get yourself some of these orange clips in the image above and save yourself so much time and hassle.

Stage 5 carpet & bed frame

So once all the vapour layer was in we put up the 32mmx32mm battens for the cladding to screw into. We just used the vans curves to work out where was best for these.

Whilst Mike did most of the battening, Holly was carpeting the 5mm ply board which is going to line the garage and the back of the wardrobe space. The carpet we used was 4 way stretch van lining.

Also, side note, if you are doing your own conversion and need a bit of a sugar rush, then you have to get a delivery (plastic free) and pick your own little bites of joy from Glossop Pick and Mix. You can thank me later.

So once the ply was in, we started building the bed frame. This was quite exciting as it was the first bit of structure which wasn’t going to be hidden. For the rectangle base we used 2×4 studwork. Then for the extra supports we used mainly 32mmx32mm battens. We made it high enough to fit a mountain bike in with the front wheels off. The bed size was based on the mattress we have which is the Outwell Dreamcatcher Double 7.5cm. So we made the frame to fit, which is 130x195cm. Whether basing our design on an inflatable mat is a good idea or not, only time will tell!

Stage 5 notes:

Looking back, make sure you take photos of where your battens are as this will be useful for future reference.

Make sure the roof battens go all the way to the end, even if this means carving them to fit the curve of the van.

We ended up buying two lots of 11m2 carpet. You will need more than you think.

Stage 6 – wardrobe & cladding

The wardrobe – Initially we made the wardrobe 35cm wide, but because of the mattress we had, we made it 40cm wide. We used 32mm battens for this and 9mm ply for the flooring of the wardrobe. Not quite sure what the finished look is going to be like but we are not carpenters so we are just doing what we can to make the most of the space, and to keep the weight down.

The wardrobe is lined with carpet and the wood is painted in an off white colour. It will do the job but now it is working out how to make it look good! Pinterest, here we come!

For the cladding we went for Wickes softwood 8x94x2400mm. We also ended up using a couple of longer 3meter packs for the ceiling. We started at the bottom side of the bed and up to the small vent window. We chose screws instead of cladding clips just for ease. It actually went in reasonably well. But you will find that you have to loosen off each piece before placing the next one in, something which we always forgot so kept screwing them down tight, before remembering we need to loosen them off again now for the next piece. Durr!!

Once we completed the side, we did the roof, this is where we had to have organised the roof light placement so we could drill the holes in the right places. After this we completed the roof. Then we did the side wall that is going to be in the kitchen area.

We have left the corner join as we haven’t worked out how to tackle this yet. We next need to clad the bulkhead and where the rest of the lights go in the roof.

Stage 6 Changes:

We would have stuck to our guns and kept the bed wider and made the wardrobe smaller.

Buy more than you think you need. You will use it and it saves you going back and forth to Wickes again and again.

Make sure you check the cladding packs for the grooves as some packs didn’t have it and therefore redundant for the task at hand and taking it back to the shop is a pain.

Stage 7 – lights & sockets

Initially we started looking at lighting styles for houses, I thought maybe they could work, but in such a small space they all would have stuck out too far, also the depth they needed behind the cladding is too deep. We only have a few cm to play with. So that idea went out the window.

We knew we wanted touch lights and so I found these Dimatec 12v 18 LED 1.2w lights in warm white. They were perfect for what we wanted but weren’t sure how many we would actually need. I knew we needed some over the oven, and then for the bed area but for there I wanted two reading lights on the side.

We started looking on caravan and motorhome specific websites for lights, and were flooded with some really awful, plasticy designs. I was adamant we would find something that looked good. Eventually we did. They touch on and off individually but only turn off all together on the switch. We can’t work out how to make them all turn on from the switch.

I found these little beauties which are touch sensitive, they dim and they have a pretty blue light on. Perfect!

Also in the kitchen we have put in an under shelf led strip in warm white, which flicks on at the side. I love this feature and I think it looks stunning.

When it comes to sockets we wanted usb chargers for things like the speaker and phones, then the 3 prong for laptop and camera batteries from the inverter. We put these 12V/24V plug socket close to all the other appliance pieces. We then put one usb by the bed head, one by the other plug socket.

Stage 7 thoughts:

Might have gone a bit overkill with the lights, but there’s only one way to find out.

Perseverance works when looking for your perfect lights, don’t just go for the first ones you see.

Might need to add some fairy lights, but we will only be able to know where to put them once we are living in it.

Stage 8 – the bulkhead

We had a couple of options when it comes to the bulkhead, remove it or clad it. We chose to clad it as that allows us to have more space in the lower part of the kitchen. (An extra 15cm or so!) We put some sound deadening sheets onto it and then carpeted the cab side and reused some old silver bubble insulation of the ‘home’ side. Then we clad and carpeted the holey bit at the top. But then we had to work on the escape hatch!

Initially we were going to put in a porthole which I really wanted however, it was too thick and was going to be too difficult so we chose to put in a hatch. I love this feature and we will be sharing all the final details like latches and curtains as and when we get to it in this blog!

Stage 8 thoughts:

If you have the carpentry skill then it would be worth taking the bulkhead out and just cladding the whole area with the angle to save space and weight.

It’s worth putting the slats in for the kitchen area at the same height at the work top so the same piece of wood can do two things.

When cutting the carpet from the cab side for the hatch, make sure to cut excess carpet so you can fold it over the sharp metal neatly. I did not allow for so much space so have had to stretch it and its not the neatest of jobs.

Stage 9 – the kitchen!

So, we built the frame from 32x32mm and loads of corner brackets. We got the Oak worktop from good old Wickes. We played around with the design quite a bit, initially the sink was by the doorway but we ended up with the fridge by the door. Ian was a great help with cutting the straight edges for the worktop and the hole for the sink. He was also great at advising us with the plumbing! We brought our undermount sink and Chrome Kalel tap from Wayfair.

The blue Fiamma water container is 70 litres (from Leisure Plus Direct as it was way cheaper than everywhere else) and we do have a backup waste one which needs to still be plumbed in. We put a tap on the edge near the side door so it is easy to fill up.

Then once the sink was sorted we put the gas oven in place and then the fridge. We chose a Dometic CRE-50 Compressor 45 litre fridge – it was the biggest we put in our budget and probably the most expensive item in the van. The oven we chose was a Thetford Spinflo Triplex LPG oven, grill and hob. I can’t wait to try baking. The Fiamma Water Expansion Tank Accumulator was also used but not in these images. Will be uploading final images in due course!

The drawers we done at a later date and we went for a mix of soft closing drawers and just plain doors. The handles we got from Wix and I had the green paint made up at Homebase. I am really happy with the overall look so far!

Stage 9 thoughts:

We would have insulated the pump against the back plywood as it is quite loud. We are going to make a box and insulate it around the pump.

This is probably where we spent most of our money so research here is key!

Stage 10 – the seating area

We decided for two chairs either side of the pull out table. Both chairs would have storage in them. The one of the left will house the gas heater and the one nearest the door will slide out so two people can sit on it if we want.

I’m really happy with this design. I wouldn’t change anything about how they turned out. Whilst here we did some other bits and pieces, like adding a side onto the wardrobe section (photo below) and adding a piece of J piping above the sliding door so the rain water wont drip into the van. It worked pretty well when we tested it with a watering can.

During this stage we started on the pull out table and middle storage section that is under the foot of the bed. We will have storage for shoes at the bottom, then a book shelf. Then the table and a pull out drawer on the top. These will all get painted white and lined with wallpaper I have stored which I brought for £1. It is finally starting to feel like a home!

Stage 10 Things we would change:

If we could we would have made the slide out seat on an incline so we have a bit of storage behind the back rest section, but we aren’t the best at working with angles so we decided to keep it simple.

We have a narrow gap to the left of the bookshelf so are now working out what to do with it. Probably will put a retractable tea towel rail in there for drying clothes.

Stage 11 – gas, side door & extra bits

The gas is in! We have the oven, hob, shower and the heater running off the gas. We decided to go for a Gaslow refillable system which seemed like the simplest option when thinking about refilling etc. We also got the whole system tested for leaks and it was fine, plus we have fitted a carbon monoxide monitor above the stove.

Initially we were going to clad the side door but then decided against it because it would be too much weight and you never see the lower part of the door so we decided to carpet both. It looks really smart now so I am glad we did this.

The final bits we did before my final post of the finished van includes making some dividers for our wardrobe. We made these out of cardboard foam, fabric and some double sided tape. Then we made an extra insulated box to try and quieten the sound from the water pump. It has quietened it slightly but you can still hear it.

My sister then got involved and helped put sealant around the waterproofed mdf on the back doors. This is where our shower is going to be and will also get rained on so need to make sure that not water gets through to the insulation. One of the final stages is putting up the rope around the edge to finish off the van. My lovely friendly Teale helped with this step. Then finally I wanted to share a picture of my late dad who oversaw the whole build…

One of the last things we did was put the flooring in and then I made head rests for the front seats from some more remnants of material I had. I was so excited to share with you the colour that we are painting the drawers. It was one we had made from Dulex. So pleased with how it came out!

So I think this is the last blog post of construction. The next time you hear from us will be with the final images! Thanks for everyone’s support throughout the whole build and I hope this blog has helped many others on their van diy journey.

Remember to follow us on Instagram.

To view the blog about the items we recycled visit here.

To view the blog about our favourite parts of the van conversion, visit here.

This blog includes affiliate links (all genuine!)

Robens Ambassador

If I could sum myself up in a few words, I would like to think it involved the words ‘walking, filming and drinking tea’. These are a few of my passions (yes, I do enjoy tea that much…) However they delve much further than just those three things, I am passionate about connecting children with nature, I am passionate about spending time out in the woods and feeling the temperate drop before the rain comes, or the owls calling in the night to their neighbour. There are no other feelings like them. 

I have been hiking and camping since I could walk, maybe even before. My parents would take me up to the Lake District, one of my favourite places to visit, where I later studied a BA in Wildlife and Media at the University of Cumbria. So I guess it is understandable why I enjoy being out in the fells so much now. 

Walking is my passion, you can’t beat being out for the day walking amongst the hills, barrows, tarns and woodlands, actually, you can beat that, you could be out for the day and night! Wild camping is also something that I enjoy. I guess that is what led me to help develop Julia Bradbury’s online website The Outdoor Guide. I have made some great friends and been introduced to some wonderful brands; one of my favourite has to be Robens.

Robens is part of the Oase Outdoors family-run Danish company that designs camping gear for people who love real adventure. It was created over 45 years ago and they continue to provide high quality gear that looks great and can put up with demanding use. 

I’ve been to the Roben’s HQ (video below) a couple of times now and the whole team are actual outdoorsy people who go camping and hiking in all weathers and seasons, so they know what to look for when designing outdoor gear. 

I am proud to announce that I am a Robens Ambassador, this stems from a relationship which has blossomed from our shared love of the outdoors. This is not a paid partnership, the gear has been gifted and all my views are honest. As much as I would like to share some great wild camping videos with fantastic backdrops, Coronavirus lockdown has kept me in the garden. So I will be sharing some ‘Garden Camping’ videos over the next few months.

Up first, you can see me pitching Roben’s Challenger 2, followed by a 5 minute yoga session: 

For 2021 the showroom was held in the UK so the 2021 range of gear video can be seen here:

Please follow myself and Robens on instagram to keep up to date with competitions, news and videos. If you have any questions please shout!

Let’s Explore … The Blog

My ‘Let’s Explore…’ videos are snapshot POV edits that I put together to give a taster of what I get up to when I’m not working! Below you will find edits from a few of my adventures from the last few years from exploring the Chilterns on our doorstep to venturing in the Swiss Alps. There will be more to come so watch this space, and if you have any ideas on where to go next leave me a comment!

Nepal was the big trip in 2017. We walked the Annapurna Region which is just spectacular. I am looking forward to going back and walking some more, harder routes!

My backpack of choice: Osprey Ariel 55

Gryon is a beautiful little village in the Swiss Alps. I have been going now for about 5 years. I always stay with Merlin and Gemma in Chalet Martin, you can check out their website here: www.gryon.com

My ski goggles of choice: Oakley O Frame

This is a little video from a road trip around Dorset. It isn’t just a walking edit, we get some cycling in there too.

My beanie of choice: Barts Feather Beanie

‘Let’s Explore… Sardinia’ is another adventure using the Sony action cam. The underwater case makes it perfect to use on a holiday by the sea.

My bikini of choice: Rip Curl Tropic Sol Bikini Top and Bottoms

Croatia is a beautiful country. We have a lot more exploring to do so need to go back, but here is a taster of the scenic national parks and surrounding islands.

My Short Wetsuit of choice: Sisstrevolution 7 Seas

The Ridgeway is something a bit more unusual for myself, this was solely biking. This is a route that travels through ancient woodlands, valleys and has beautiful views pretty much throughout.

My sunglasses of choice: Animal Oxidize II

Ireland, mainly Northern Ireland in this edit, again we will have to go back and explore further West, it is on the cards!

My jacket of choice: Patagonia Classic

Our first edit, strolling through the countryside that is on our doorstep, a beautiful Chiltern walk. Many more have been had an will create a new edit once I have collected more footage.

Six Weeks in New Zealand

It is Saturday night at Gatwick airport and I am still working on an edit of the wonderful Julia Bradbury planting trees with Premier Paper Group and the Woodland Trust in Surrey. Finally finishing the video, laptop shut, I boarded the plane, the adventures begin.. (video can be seen here) For this trip myself and partner Mike are heading out to New Zealand for a six week ‘vanlife’ trip exploring both the north and south island.

I have been to NZ before, but it was about 10 years ago, and so I was very excited to head back for a second time to see what I missed, which turned out to be a lot as 18 year old Holly was very different.. and no, I did not bungy jump again… nor will I ever!

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Our first stop was Auckland where we met up with some friends then took our little van up to the Bay of Islands. We had the best kumara chips in the whole of NZ here in Russell and it is also where we booked an eco boat ride. We were hoping to swim with dolphins, but once we found a pod they had juveniles so we couldn’t. I am glad they stick to protocol and don’t take advantage just for the money. But luckily, as I was testing out the new mirrorless Canon EOS R from Park Cameras  I happened to get some lovely shots from the boat! I found the camera much lighter than my 70D and the fact I could use my lenses with the adapter really helped. There are a few settings which are in different places which takes time to get used to, but once you have, it is a wonderful alternative to an SLR camera.

Our journey then continued through the north island gradually heading towards Wellington. During our walks we found some lovely hidden beaches, some gigantic Kauri trees over two thousand years old and of course some wonderful waterfalls. The best thing of all was the lack of plastic pollution, probably in the whole six weeks I saw about five pieces.

You can’t take a trip to the north without recognising some of the most stunning volcanoes (whether you’ve watched Lord of the Rings or not!) Maori legend says that the beautiful Pihanga has to choose a husband and all seven males had to battle for her. The last battle of the mountains was between Taranaki and Tongariro – which was a burning battle of rage, where, in the end Taranaki was defeated and he retreated to the west coast carving out the Wanganui River on his way. There are a lot of Maori legends but I think this is my favourite.

Once in Wellington, our ferry crossing was delayed by a few hours because of the weather, but once we were onboard it couldn’t have been nicer, even if it was a bit windy! Once on the south island we took to the water once again, and the perfect bag for this was our 20l Overboard rucksack. We brought it with us as it was lightweight, also it’s so easy to roll up in our luggage and pull out for snorkelling, kayaking and other water adventures..

On the south island, thanks to Viewranger we managed to plan and map out a decent day walk pretty much every other day.

Some of our favourite walking locations were along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which was mainly flat but you had contact with the sea throughout. Inland we headed to Arthur’s Pass, where were trotted up Avalanche Peak. We woke up at 3am to start walking up to Roy’s Peak for the sunrise. They are all so different but all were truly spectacular!

Then there’s the wildlife…

I am so glad I had my camera and brought a variety of lenses with me. The kea were very inquisitive and at the top of Avalanche Peak they joined us near the top as if to say ‘come on slow coach, nearly there!’ Then you have the seals. One of the best places we went was Surrat Beach and Shag Point. We went to the latter on Christmas Day and saw hundreds of seals just resting on the rock. We stayed for hours just watching their behaviour and how they interact with each other. It is fascinating. Then of course you have the whales. Kaikoura, whale watching capital… the good thing here is that there is only one company who have boats that go out, and they do not get too close and give the whales space. I have to say that I did get a bit queasy (twice actually) but that didn’t seem to matter when there were whales to watch.

This was our first van trip and the great thing about doing it in a campervan was the flexibility. Tired, no problem just pull up. Fancy a cuppa, no problem just pull up. Everywhere we stopped was beautiful, I can’t think of one place we went and thought we best be moving on. But if you do fancy something a bit more structured I found out that the Camping and Caravanning Club run escorted tours where they have packaged together some highlights on both the south and north island. It’s worth checking out. On our trip we were freedom camping, I could write a whole other blog about that! But I have to say, we found some spectacular spots.

I have been thinking about what was the most useful piece of kit that I brought with me.. and I have to say that my Water-to-Go bottle was probably up there in the top 5 pieces. Along with my mini photo printer and watercolours! Whilst the bottle can’t make salt water drinkable, it can be filled up from any water source. Now I know that there are more polluted countries than NZ but for the type of trip that we had it really was very useful! My TOG Buff is of course on my list too.. Also I am so glad I packed our waterproofs, so even if the weather was pants we still managed to get up the mountains. No excuses! I think that Cotswold Outdoor have the best selection of waterproofs and their staff are knowledgeable so can help you out.

Overall, I would most definitely go back to NZ. The scenery is just stunning, the people are lovely and the weather is pretty much perfect (who minds a bit of drizzle!) I would highly recommend spending no less than 6 weeks there though as it is a long way and even 6 weeks really isn’t long enough!

Happy travels,

Holly

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