Nothing on this holiday had been arranged other than the first stop at Deepdale, which incidentally was done the the morning we left home. The second stop of our September holiday, sy. Sandringham Camping and Caravan Club, was booked on the fly also. We were comfortable with this as it’s late in the season, and the sites are not likey to be busy.
We arrived late morning, but couldn’t check in until 1pm. So parked in the car park and had a few hours cycling around to get out bearings. We knew that the Saturday was going to be by far the best day of the weekend, so we saw no reason to sit idle until we could access the campsite, and thought we would appreciate our accommodation more after a little exercise.
After approximately 3 hours we collected the van and were and entered the camp site. The grounds were really picturesque and we had lots of flexibility regarding pitch location. We didn’t realise until waking the site later that afternoon just how big it was, but ironically we feel for a location within a stone’s throw from the entrance with close access to toilets and shower block.
We awoke on Sunday to the forecasted rain which left us both feeling lethargic. We climbed out of bed well after 9am, and struggled to do anything but drink tea & coffee with the heater on for much off the morning. Breakfast became brunch and as we approached midday the rain turned to drizzle, and finally stopped. At this point we both knew it would be in our interest to take this opportunity to stretch our legs and get some fresh air before cabin fever kicks in. Initially we circled the perimeter of the campsite having a nosey at the variety of caravans, motor homes and tents. Not long after the sun appeared, so our walk extended to the forest behind the entrance, so all in all the day was a nice combination of chill and exercise 😊
Our September holiday has been a minimum two weeks for as long as we have been camping (6-7 years). Certainly since we have owned the van it’s been at least two weeks, and last year it was three. This year has been a little disjointed for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was always going to be later due to a wedding we had been invited to. This meant from the off we were going to be going later than usual. On top of that, I was in the process of trying to get a car ready for sale, which distracted me from finishing my solar upgrade. Suffice to say, this delayed our even further, so we were going to be limited to approximately 10 days.
We erred towards Norfolk as it’s not somewhere we have explored extensively, and it was a lot closer than the more familiar jaunts of Devon & Cornwall. I had my reservations, but we didn’t commit until the night before we left home.
Our first stop was booked on the Wednesday morning of departure after reading a online review of the best campsites in Norfolk.
We left home under extremely windy conditions, heading for Burnham, Deepdale. The wedge shaped, flat sided Wolfgang was a real handful to keep in a straight line during the strong gusts of wind. But I was relaxed knowing that if Google maps navigation was correct, in 3 hours we would arrive at the campsite.
At reception they had already penciled in a pitch for us and were all ready to chaperone is to said location. As seasoned campers we questioned the flexibility of other pitches.After a few taps of the keyboard and numerous biro scrawlings on the campsite map we had choices. Ironically, we chose the pitch right next to the reception area because it had a cosy feel to it. The grass was green, and it was effectively walled on all sides with tents aplenty. The alternatives were on higher ground, and far more exposed to the elements.
Other than a few tweaks to set the van up, a trip to the local Nisa store to get some supplies, and a stretch our legs (a whole 1 minute walk !) , the day pretty much ended there. We could both relax knowing we would be able to get up and explore in the morning.
So breakfast and a cup of tea saw us leaving the van at 10am. There are numerous, small independent arts, crafts and coffee shops within a few hundred yards of our campsite. It’s nice, and offered a couple of hours perusal, but not enough to hold our attention any longer.
With the bikes on the back of the van we decided to explore the local surroundings a little further. We spent best part of a couple of hours cycling out of the village, onto the Brancaster Straith Quay. It was really great to see Mandy enjoy the ride as much as I did. It rained 50% of the ride, but she still was in high spirits when we got back to the van.
After the ride, the weather took a turn for the worse. We were largely confined to the van, but with Netflix Series 2 of Ozarks downloaded on tablet, what better excuse to chill with the curtains closed 😀.
After a broken nights sleep due to exceptionally windy conditions, we decided to catch the early bus into Wells Next The Sea. I’m constantly amazed at just how beautiful our country is, and just when we think we’ve seen the best it has to offer, we find this!
For this evening we are chilling….
Tomorrow we head to Sandringham, so forests, villages and Staley homes will be the order of the day 😀
It may or may not be apparent that we spend a considerable amount of time away in the camper. I would estimate that we are away two months of the year, if not more, and since fitting solar over two years ago ( documented here) , it has made the time in the van a lot more flexible. We seldom used electric hook up (EHU), and this has saved us enough cash to pay for the original installation with money to spare. However, after some unreliability cause as a result of the original batteries failing in the last few weeks, its time to make some decisions about where we go next.
I have been really happy with the original install, and if we had not had any issues I am sure we would have just carried on the way we have been. The limited size of the battery compartment behind the front seats means battery options are very limited. On top of this, any battery that will fit the aperture was never really designed to provide consistent power to devices like fridges etc during lengthy periods away. The more I researched it the more convinced I was that the original leisure batteries could only really last a couple of years in my configuration. Deep cycle batteries are designed for continual usage of persistant charge and drain, but these are always going to be higher, if not longer or wider than the stock compartment would ever allow. So with this in mind, if I was going to push forward with my next generation solar solution, it was inevitable that the batteries were going to have to me stored elsewhere.
Once I got my head round this I felt like my hands had been untied! I started stripping out the contents of the cupboards so I could really get to grips with the space I had available. I soon decided that the small lower cupboard next to the fridge was probably the most suitable location for the batteries, and the cupboard above that would be for the fuse box.
The small lower cupboard had a divider panel in which essentially separated the storage side from some of the consumer electrics ( RCD breaker switch, power socket and EHU and associated cabling and junction box ), so this needed to come out to free up some space.
It soon became apparent that the RCD and some of the cabling would also have to relocated if I wanted to run a two battery setup. Once the cupboard was clear enough to get some measurements we looked online for the largest AGM battery that would fit the space and ordered it.
So I set to fabricating the base plate for the batteries out of a sheet of OSB I had lying around.
I wanted to do the whole install as sympathetically as possible, so drilling holes or applying fixings to anything that was an original component of the van would only be done as a last resort. Making a base plate for the batteries gave me an element of flexibility to be able to use this as a fixing platform for securing the batteries in place. It was cut just big enough to snugly fit in the base of the lower cupboard. From a previous project I had an excessive amount of thick black rubber matting, so I decided to place this on each side to create a non slip base.
This picture shows both the lower cupboard divider and the upper shelf which are going to be put into storage in a safe place in case the process needs to be reversed.
Due to the fact the lower cupboard is going to be filled with batteries, and the installation of them can only be achieved effectively with access via the upper cupboard, placing the shelf back into its location afterwards will not be achievable in one piece. In one piece the shelf has to be dropped in at an angle to the lower cupboard space and juggled up into position. On top of this It will need an additional hole cutting in the shelf to allow access for cabling. So this is my reason for fabricating a new shelf.
I chose to use 5mm plywood. This needed cutting to shape and bonding one on top of the other. Reason for not using 10mm in the first place is that I needed to create a lip that forms a resting point along one edge.
Here it can be seen in place.
And here after the cut is applied and the components are painted.
Next is the relocation of the RCD and fuse box. I used a piece of 8mm plywood board cut to size for the back plate. I used two stainless M8 bolts to act as fixings for the RCD onto the back plane. The fuse box uses two self tapping screws.
After some head scratching i fabricated the rest of the components to build up the casing for the RCD unit.
These were then painted in grey enamel to match the cupboard base.
It can be seen here offered into location. Still some way to go yet though.
So I have the new battery and have pretty much fleshed out locations for all of the components in my system. The original live wiring that goes to the old leisure battery location will need feeding back to the new battery location in the lower cupboard and connected to the battery.
My original solar charge controller was a PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) unit. It had feeds for two batteries and came with a LCD display. However, it is fairly basic in its technology and only really acts as a switch filtering power to the batteries when the panels receive sunlight, and stopping drain at night.
Dual Battery ChargerDuring my recent research into solar controllers I have come to the conclusion that I would probably benefit from moving onto the more expensive MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking). The MPPT harnesses the solar energy before sending it to the batteries much more effectively. The increase in power to the batteries can 30% more efficient if figures are to be believed. Along with this efficiency, they seem to have a lot more intelligence and diagnostics available to draw from this type of solar controller.
So in the next few days I will be placing an order for the above Victron Energy 100/20 , 20 amp solar charge controller with built in Bluetooth. This can be monitored by a phone app when within Bluetooth range. This will be positioned in the original leisure battery location behind the drivers seat. So I am looking forward to getting the rest of wiring completed ready for our two week break in September. On that note I will conclude for now by saying I will add more to this particular BLOG post as I move forward with the rest of the install to hopefully provide complete a guide to anybody that may be considering going down a similar route.
Our tenth wedding anniversary fell mid week just after the Tatton Park VW show so we took a few days off to make for a relaxing get away. Due to tight budget constraints after our month long euro trip, we chose to try and keep the affair simple and inexpensive. Last year we visited Chester on our 9th anniversary, but this was in the form of a hotel room very central to the city and its walls. This was all very nice, but we didn’t have the campervan on the road in 2017 due to gearbox issues, so that ruled out any chance of camping.
This year we found a nice campsite only a few miles away from the city, with immediate access to a canal path for walking, cycling and paddle boarding. You never can never really tell from a website what a campsite is going to be like, and to be honest i was so focused on the VW event that i didn’t give a great deal of thought to the second part of our vacation until we left Knutsford. The weather had been warm and sunny for most of this summer, and it wasn’t showing any signs of changing to the point it may spoil our three night camp over. It literally took 30 minutes to get to Netherwood Touring Site, and after a short conversation with the campsite owner, we pulled up the driveway onto a well maintained field.
Our location did not have electric hookup as this wasn’t a requirement for us, but there were numerous hard standing pitches available with electric. The grounds were well established with plenty of mature trees which gave it a nice feel.
Over the course of our three day stay we did plenty of exploring locally on our push bikes, which included a day in the city. We also visited the local Cheshire Cat pub only 5 minutes walk along the canal path which served good food and drink.
Tatton Park location has a great feel to it, and its one of my favorite VW shows in the calenda. Beautiful surroundings make it a great location for an Atlantic / California VW line making us contributors to the whole spectacle. It’s always great to hook up with like minded campervan owners, especially when the weather is as good as it was for us this year. Roll on Tatton 2019!