On the road again
PUBLISHED: 06:46 23 June 2014
Bob Crawley and wife Bianca, from Hethersett, have owned “The Colonel” for 18 months.
“Why do I own a 38-year-old, gas-guzzling, bone-shaking, wallet-stripping, left-hand drive, temperamental, Type 2 VW Campervan? Well, the pace of life slows right down when I get behind the wheel, not just because it has a top speed of 60mph, but because I feel transported back to a quieter time. Time slows right down and the journey becomes the reason rather than the destination. It just makes me smile and when parked up outside a pub, in town or on a campsite people of all ages and from all walks of life take time to come and ask questions about him.
“And there is a shared experience in owning a VW Camper – pass another on the road and you will always get a wave or flash of lights to acknowledge the joys, and tribulations, of keeping such an iconic retro vehicle going. I have always loved camping, but travelling to a new place and just ‘popping’ the top, and putting the kettle on takes it all to a completely, and more comfortable, level.”
Rachel and Matt Dunscombe, from Norwich, own “Stella”, a 30-year-old T25 VW campervan.
“We had long hankered after buying a VW camper, but with no mechanical know-how and two very small children, it didn’t seem practical. But then one day we saw a slightly later T25 model advertised and we were able to have rear three-point seat belts fitted for the car seats and just thought why not? Living somewhere like Norfolk, it almost seemed rude not to.
“Stella (named after my very spirited late nanny, who would definitely have approved) has been with us for nearly four years and she has been worth every penny. We have had so many adventures in her and Zach, seven, and George, four, absolutely love her. Nothing beats driving up to Cromer on a warm summer’s evening, parking up on the cliffs and letting the boys run about on the beach and search the rock pools before heading back to the van for some tea in the van as the sun goes down. After the initial outlay of the van, these things all cost very little and are a real reminder of the simple things in life. It’s just wonderful see that while Zach and George are surrounded by technology and gadgetry, what they actually love most is these exciting outdoor adventures.”
Ronnie Harvey, from near Norwich, has had her 1979 campervan since 2005 and has owned four Beetles.
“VWs always put a smile on my face whenever I drive one; they don’t go fast, but I always say I’m tootling along. My VW bay camper is now purple and I have painted spiral trees inside it, one which greets you at the slide sliding door. It is decorated in vintage fabric bedding and patchwork curtains and I also have my own crystal-adorned bunting, which I make as part of my business.
“We have been all over in my camper – to Scotland, Wales, and almost everywhere in the UK. We also love to cross at Dover and head off into France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria and Luxembourg. I have flags of each country sewn onto the back of my patchwork curtains. It’s a home from home, and you can just leave at a moment’s notice and wake up anywhere.”
Thinking of buying a van? Paul Roberts, partner at VW specialist Woolley’s Service Station at Hingham, says there are three key areas to check:
“Unless the van has been imported from a hot climate, the chassis will either be corroded or will have already been repaired or restored. Have a good look underneath or pay someone else to. Even when they have been repaired or restored, often the repairs are so poor they need doing again at great cost. Imported vans are, in my opinion, the way forward.”
“Most leak a little oil but if there is a lot of oil underneath or in the engine bay, it can be a sign the engine needs replacing.”
“The gearboxes don’t usually give too much trouble but are now quite expensive to repair or replace due to a shortage of spares, so check the gearbox when you are looking at one.”
Woolley’s Service Station, 25 Norwich St, Hingham, NR9 4LJ; 01953 850428.
Hit the road
Seven favourite Norfolk sites to spend a night in your van:
Touch of royalty – The Sandringham Estate Caravan Club Site (non members also welcome), Glucksburg Woods, Sandringham, PE35 6EZ; 01553 631614.
Sound of the sea – Waxham Sands Holiday Park, Warren Farm, Horsey, NR29 4EJ; 01692 598325; www.waxhamsandsholidaypark.co.uk
Stunning sea views: Manor Farm Caravan and Camping Site, East Runton, NR27 9PR; 01263 512858; www.manorfarmcampsite.co.uk
Coastal retreat – Deepdale Camping, Burnham Deepdale, PE31 8DD; 01485 210256; www.deepdalefarm.co.uk/camping
Magical marshes – High Sand Creek, Vale Farm, The Greenway, Stiffkey, NR23 1QP; 01328 830235.
Woodland adventures – Clippesby Hall, Clippesby, Norfolk NR29 3BL; www.clippesby.com
Campfire fun – Breck Farm, Sandy Hill Lane, Weybourne NR25 6QL; 01263 588236; www.breckfarm.co.uk
See and be seen
Dubs at the Hall, Holt Hall, Holt; www.dubsatthehall.co.uk; July 4 to 6.
VW Whitenoise, Euston Park, Thetford, IP24 2QW; www.vwwhitenoise.com; August 1 to 3.
VW FAB Festival, Sutton Staithe Hotel, Stalham, NR12 9QS; www.vwfabfestival.co.uk; Setember 12 to 14.
Lisa Upton and Michael Flynn run wedding company Vintage VW Experience, and Bay67 Camperhire, a self-drive hire businesses at Brooke.
“It has been a long love affair with the original split screen VW campervans, starting in childhood. Initially we were just going to hire them out to people for holidays or day trips, but when we got our beautiful 1967 purple split screen Ruby, I just knew I would worry about lending her out. So we decided to use her for weddings – it is not only a lot of fun for bride and groom to be chauffeur driven in one, but looks fantastic in photographs.
“For the self-drive hire side of the business we have bought another three vans, a T25, a 1973 T2 Viking and a newer 2002 T4. The great things about the VW vans is that they come in so many different styles and there is something to suit everyone’s needs.”
They are about to take delivery of more VW vans to add to their fleet, including a rare 1979 bay window Silverfish, one of only seven known to be in the UK.
“They are just iconic vehicles. They break down, they are not the easiest to drive but there is something about them that is just magical. As soon as I get in it and drive it I just smile – can’t help it.”
www.vintagevwexperience.co.uk; 07896 896880.
Gordon Given, at Brooke, started his business hiring out VW vans for weddings in 2010, fitting them with a camera in the back to create a unique photo booth.
“We have two vehicles Minty and Connie which originate from South America. Connie is a gorgeous red and white split screen and is just beautiful. I imported Minty from Peru and he was in a very bad state of repair. We have rebuilt him, but kept all the original parts where possible.
“Everybody loves climbing into the back of a campervan and it works so well at a wedding. The bride and groom use it as their transport and then during the day and night, the campervan is open for guests to get their photographs taken in, creating a fantastic memento for the couple.”
www.vintagecarandcamperhire.co.uk; 01508 558082.
Hannah and Simon Holbrook run Retro Campers at Weybourne, hiring out at a fleet of classic VW vans for holidays.
“Simon spent his childhood in California and discovered his love for surf and VW campervans, having many trips in their family green camper,” says Hannah. “Hiring a camper instead of buying is a great idea as VW campervans can be an expensive hobby now. We all have busy lives and can’t all commit to the love and attention a VW camper needs. Hiring means you can have the ultimate experience without having to worry about the maintenance, insurance and the cost of buying one.
“Norfolk is a beautiful place to relax and unwind, and after exploring the area ourselves we felt we would love others to experience our passion, and so Retro Campers was born. We now have five different campers for hire, including Maggie May, Wild Thing and Mr Blue Sky. It’s a really rewarding business to meet so many excited families and couples wanting to hire a campervan. We have been involved with many surprise birthdays, and special occasions, including weddings.”
Retro Campers Norfolk, Weybourne; 01263 821999; www.retrocampersnorfolk.co.uk