Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Where shall we go next?

Summer went out with a big bang this year didn’t it? Our standard prediction of a glorious late summer run of great weather in the Westcountry almost went awry until the last dying moments of September. Then we hit gold with a few days of high temperatures and a couple more of high waves. We like to think of it as our reward for August’s drizzle and flatness.
For me, the last morning of this late year brilliance was spent putting the finishing touches to a wonderful six months of writing, travelling and cooking. Just before the sun disappeared behind the heavy clouds of autumn proper I slipped under the wire to snap a shot that I hope will end up being the cover of The Camper Van Coast (it's not the one above). I’m glad I ditched everything for a dash to Widemouth Bay because the way it seems now it’ll be the last time we see a deep blue sky for a while. Or will it?
We’re already planning our next great escape. The line has been drawn under one big adventure and it’s time to plot another. The Camper Van Coast is now in the hands of Elizabeth, my editor, so I don’t have to worry about it as much as I did a few weeks ago. She and the designer will do a fine job. All I have to do is die in a ditch over some minor point or other from time to time, then eventually concede. Or not. It’s the part of the process that can be uncomfortable but also extremely surprising. Usually it’s a great and pleasant surprise to see layouts, spreads, the way it will be. The monster that began as a conversation during a walk on Peppercombe Beach more than a year ago is coming to life. I have loved writing it and the next stage is to send it off into the world and hope that everyone else loves it too. That, I hope, will be in April next year.
But in the mean time, just as we are about to catch our breath and read the paper by the fire for a couple of nights, we are planning our next great escape. That’s the way it is with escaping. There always has to be a plan. Without one you’re just sitting around, doing time. Don’t ask me where we’ll go because I really don’t know. But the proverbial map is spread out on the floor waiting for those proverbial pins to be put in it. So far we have a start and an end. The first is a week in Ireland in May at the best beach I’ve ever been to, Derrynane on the Ring of Kerry. We are meeting old friends for a celebration of birthdays and anniversaries and will be raising glasses to health and happiness. With any luck we’ll also go surfing, play on the beach and perhaps catch a fish or two. At the tail end of next summer we have a wedding to go to, in Dublin. That’ll be a cracker, as they always are.

So that’s the bookending sorted, now what about the bit in the middle?
I want waves. The kids want snorkelling. Jo wants warmth. Bob, as always, wants a decent walk. We all want to relax and have some fun. And after the 5,000 or so miles I’ve done this summer the van will need a run out too.
Ideas anyone?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

From the four corners of the compass...'s nice here.

I can’t pretend that I’ve just whisked off my sou’wester and dashed in from the boat to write this. It’s been a little while since we got back from our trip to the Outer Hebrides.

This year has been all about the four corners for me, even if I haven’t quite got right in there to the absolute extremities. Mind you, I’ve been close. The furthest north we got on our trip to Lewis was Eoropie Beach near Port Nis. That’s very far north. It's also very beauftiful, with good surf and lovely views. That's it in the picture. Eoropie is only 0.1 degrees further south than John O’Groats, which is generally considered to be the furthest point north in our country (even though it actually isn’t).
The trip was incredible. We covered over 2000 miles in a little over 2 weeks and saw some marvellous stuff. Unfortunately Maggie broke her arm on the beach at Eoropie the day we arrived so she wasn’t able to make the most of the clean sea and gorgeous sands, or even ride her new bike. She was excited to have a plaster cast but gutted when she realised what it meant for her holiday.

I can recommend Lewis to all but those who insist on sun for their summer hols. You won’t find nicer beaches anywhere and the people were lovely that we met. In fact, Scotland was, as usual, wonderful. We bought tweed hats on Harris, got bitten by midges in Loch Lomond, picked myrtles in the Great Glen and picnicked on the banks of Loch Ness (nothing stirring). On the way we rode the UK’s oldest roller coaster and cooked a whole bunch of recipes from my new book, The Camper Van Coast, including camper van pizza. Yes, it is possible.
In May I went to another of the extremes with a rain-free visit to Ireland. We surfed the most north westerly break in Europe at Bloody Foreland Point. Camping out, with nothing but ocean before you – next stop America – gives me that wild feeling I love. There’s comfort from the camper, but wildness all around. I cooked a rum cocktail made with seaweed on the beach that’s usually more Caribbean than Irish, but it worked.
As for the eastern point. I went to Great Yarmouth. It's not quite the most easterly, that accolade goes to Lowestoft, but not far off. Mind you, I did go on the pier, so I must have been nearly there. There, in this most sea-sidey of seaside towns I found out how they make seaside rock and met a man with not all his fingers who has been known to make spelling mistakes. On the same trip I saw Maggie Hambling’s sculpture at Aldeburgh and was speechless.
The southern point, like Great Yarmouth, wasn't quite the most southerly, but pretty much. That was the Isle of Wight, where I stopped to take a picture of one of the UK’s most beautiful coastal drives and nearly lost my car in the process. I had to dive through the window as it began to roll towards the sea. Thank goodness I wasn’t in the van that trip. There, on the island, I visited a curious museum that’s devoted to the work of the most famous saucy seaside postcard designer that ever dipped his little nib, Donald McGill. Did you know he was prosecuted for obscenity?
For the last point of the compass I count home, the west country. Even though we’re right in it, it’s still a couple of hours to Land’s End. We didn’t quite get there but, as usual, close: the beach at Sennen. It is one of the Uk’s finest and the drive from St Ives along the coast, spectacular. Mind you, St Ives isn’t bad. A little crowded in summer, yes, but glorious too. I spent a summer there in 1991. It was good to be back.
And it’s good to be home after our trip to Lewis. Maggie's out of plaster and the dog's pleased to see us. There's also a little bit of summer left until our most favourite month of the year comes rolling in. Where shall we go?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

It's not an adventure without some of this

We've got a big trip coming up. It's exciting. Our aim, however misguided, is to see if the fish and chips at 'Sweeny Cod The Frying Squad', possibly Britain's most remote fish and chip shop, is as good as we've been told. Fresh fish, fresh spuds: what could possibly go wrong? Well. It is remote. And by remote I mean 750 miles away remote. It's at Port of Ness on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. See what I mean? If you're going to go on a trip, do it properly...

Along the way we're hoping to ride the UK's oldest working roller coaster in Blackpool, drive over the UK's curliest bridge, marvel at Gormley's Another Place in Southport, see whales and dolphins on Sky and maybe even visit the UK's most westerly lighthouse at Ardnamurchan. Our first stop will be at Dubs at the Castle to see the guys and girls who made us feel so welcome when we were filming the TV show last year. Oh yeah, and I'm very excited about going diving in Oban.

We'll also be cooking as we go and have a whole bunch of new recipes to put to the 'trip test' and photograph for my new book 'The Camper Van Coast: Eating, cooking, living the life' which is now being knocked into shape by my publishers Saltyard Books. All I have to do is catch some mackerel...

After thousands of miles of driving around the UK over the last six months or so, this will be the final trip to capture a few shots before I hand over my hard drive to the designer. So far I've driven around the Causeway Coast, seen rock being made in Great Yarmouth, tasted ice cream in St Ives, seen saucy postcards in the Isle of Wight and learnt how to smoke fish. It's been a wonderful journey and all relatively without incident.

So why the picture? Am I expecting failure? Not at all. This trip, unlike any other trip I've ever been on, begins with a jaunt on a yellow truck. It's not the first time Gordy has been escorted home by the boys in Yellow but, when the engine started a heart breaking clunk on the M5 last week, it turned out to be by far the most serious.

So the poor old van has had a rush job to get a recon from JustKampers fitted and running by the time we set sail for the Outer Hebrides. Thankfully Ian at South West Classic VWs had some time on the ramp for a swift changeover this week. He's the man with the big spanner in The Camper Van Cookbook. It means an unscheduled stop off in Morecambe to get a 500 mile service but so what? We'll be cruising. It may also have cost us a small fortune but that's all part of camper van ownership isn't it? Eyes open, rough and smooth, pain and pleasure.

If you want to follow our journey we'll be blogging every few days for Dorset Cereals as part of their great campervan give away this summer. They have a whole bunch of copies of The Camper Van Cookbook to give away (as well as some very nice VW campers) so we're more than happy to keep them up to date with how we're going. Check out the blog here. It'll be fun.

So I hope you'll wish us luck on our trip. And let's hope it ends better than it started.


Monday, 4 July 2011

Surfing is pointless. Discuss.

This post was written for Corduroy Lines Surfing Magazine last year. I wanted to post it here, now, because I spent the whole of the last weekend engaged in surfing activities, whether surfing myself, helping out at Bideford Bay Surf Life Saving Club, teaching Maggie to surf or just dicking about on the beach. We achieved absolutely nothing, spent very little and had one of the best weekends we've had for ages. It reminded me of this:

....I thought it’s about time we got on to something altogether more important than my misadventures in Franglais. Something to provoke a bit of lively discussion, perhaps some embittered emailing and hopefully a few imaginative death threats (just remember to make it really, really good or it doesn’t count).

So here goes. Surfing is pointless. As sports go it is completely lacking in purpose and meaning and the people who do it, on the whole, are wasting their lives. There. How does that feel? To be told you are frittering away your time doing nothing much at all? Does it hurt or does it make you feel good? Does the work shy tosser in you relish the fact that you have got to the point in your life where you are throwing the whole thing away in spectacular fashion? (Hey, you could be golfing.) Or do you feel a bit dirty and disappointed with yourself? Perhaps a little embarrassed that you could have spent the time earning money, developing a cure for cancer or building bridges? Has your contribution to the progress of man been little more than a fine cutback and a couple of unconfirmed tubes?

If it has then you should be proud of yourself. Tubes aren’t that easy to come by. And being considered a useless, good-for-nothing waster is nothing new in surfing circles. It is a fine tradition that goes back to the ancient Hawaiians, Tom Blake and all those sixties surf bums who made a living as extras in Gidget movies.

It’s a long time since I did my dissertation on ‘Advertising and the Sport of Kings’, but I can safely say, even from this distance, that surfing has always been, pretty much, a pointless activity. (Dissertation was the Old Spice Advert versus the Surf Automatic advert on a socio and cultural level. For real. And I passed. And yes, in case you were wondering, Old Spice is just one big cum shot.)

The Hawaiian Kings surfed because they had bugger all else to do (my theory) because life was so easy they’d start killing each other if they didn’t surf. In those days they had no books, no telly, no cars and lived in small island communities where the nearest blokes to have a scrap with were thousands of miles away. They were well fed, warm and had the lower castes to take care of their every need. They probably didn’t even need to compete for a shag, unlike the rest of the population (more of that later). So they pissed about on ‘Olo’ boards for the thrill, the glide, the buzz, the serotonin kick that it gave them - because they had time to spare. Humans, living on an island paradise, with mangoes and pineapples and Waikiki Beach and hula girls, never had it so good!

Surfing is pointless because riding waves doesn’t get you anywhere, unlike something seemingly pointless like paddle boarding, which has a destination. It doesn’t clothe us, shelter us, help the environment, put food on the table, heal our ills or protect us from the beasts of the night. If it did I suspect it’d be even bigger than it is today.

For most of us it is the same. Very few of the surfers who take to the water around the globe will make a living out of surfing. Some might make a few bucks out of the trappings that go with it, but very few will be lucky enough to go out there and earn money just for catching waves and riding them to shore. If you do then you are very, very lucky indeed. Some might say that you, like a Victorian surfing sideshow, are even more pointless than the rest of us. At least those of us who work to surf can claim some useful human purpose like flipping burgers or pumping gas. And those of us who make a fortune out of Ollypop towels and popular lifestyle clothes brands are doing the same: finding an easy way to put food on the table in order to waste the rest of their lives doing something with no purpose whatsoever. Just for kicks. Those kicks must be something mustn’t they?

Most other sports have a purpose and have grown up from some kind of competition, survival technique or way of living - even if they have forgotten where they came from. Take football, for example. It’s all about getting your prize home and stopping the other village from getting it back to their home. Territory. Hunting. Tribalism. And so it goes on: archery is bleeding obvious. Skiiing is all about trapping and tracking, covering long distances, finding food. Athletics, likewise, running jumping, spearing things to eat, killing your enemy. Even a modern sport like Mountain biking gets you from A to B. Surfing, in its purist form, isn’t even about competition. It is non competitive because it is about you and the wave, not you and the rest of the world. Can you think of another sport that has no point at all and isn’t even about beating the other fella? No? There you go then.

Unlike most sports, surfing was never about anything other than showing off. The side benefits prove it. These are being physically fit and looking cool, which ultimately, might lead us to attracting the attention of a worthy mate and perhaps getting us laid. Today though, with modern wetsuit technology and easy paddle shapes, this is becoming less and less true.

Surfing shows how far we have come that we don’t need to spend all our time searching for food, building mud huts or fighting wild animals and lurgies. It’s the thing we can afford to do when everything else has been done. Fun. Recreation. Nothing more, nothing less. We, like wave riding dolphins, are so good at what we do that we can arse around for the hell of it.

And you know what? It’s absolutely excellent. That buzz is enough to sustain a whole lifetime’s worth of kicking back and refusing to go with the flow, grow up or buy a suit. I am proud to say that I have wasted many, many hours of my life. I am a spectacular under achiever and I feel all the better for it. I live in a cultural wasteland and a backward backwater and I love it. I compete a little for food and have to put in the hours at work to keep the pointlessness alive, but I don’t mind because it’s fun to go out and ride waves, to be beside the sea, to spend time in the company of other wasters. Even as I write this I should be writing something else for money. But that’s just the way it is. I am a waster, having fun. Nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Camping wild. The choices we make.

I love wild camping. I’ve done it regularly ever since I learnt to surf way back in the eighties. It was a necessity back then. I was a skint student and didn’t live near the coast. The only way to do it was to hitch a lift with friends who owned campervans and kip down with them wherever the surf took us. We slept in boatyards, on quaysides, among dunes and in pub car parks just so we could go for an early surf the next day. And it was brilliant fun. I still do it now and recently spent 10 days in Wales and Ireland in my camper van without paying a penny for accommodation. We had no hassle. At home in Devon I have a few of my own wild camping spots that are near great surfing beaches. From time to time we camp to make the most of the sunset or just to get away from home. We are lucky. But the fact remains that wild camping is illegal in England and Wales.
As ever, the choice to drive a campervan is something that I do for all the right reasons. I do it because I don’t want to have to pitch my tent on over crowded and expensive campsites and I want to have a little more luxury than a few wet nights under canvas (don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there. I know the feeling.). The campervan is all about freedom, about choosing your own path and seeing where the road takes you. Oh yes.... until you realise that you are committing an offence just by parking up and kipping the night.
The Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 makes it a civil offence to pitch your tent or park your camper without permission on someone else’s land or to operate a caravan site or camp site without a licence. There are exceptions (for clubs and societies and for licensed gatherings) but on the whole the act means that you are causing an offence by camping on unlicensed sites without permission. Landowners too, are restricted by the amount of time that they can allow anyone to camp on their land, even with permission. However, it is a civil offence, which means that it is a matter for the courts, not the police. You make your own choices there but it is as well to remember that parking up on the hard shoulder or in a layby (that is a part of the public highway) means that the police do have the power to move you on. Although in my experience a policeman in a good mood would rather see you snatch a few hours kip than drive tired. Just don’t have a glass of wine with dinner.
So, on to more about choices. The law also offers choices to landowners, particularly local councils, when it comes to allowing campervans on to their land for overnight parking. Some (enlightened) councils have designated spaces on their car parks where campervans can park up overnight and make use of washing or toilet facilities for a small fee. It is similar to the Aire system you find in France. Find out more about them here. I think it’s a great idea. How many times have you found a beautiful parking spot only to find you can't stay for the night because of the ‘no overnight parking’ signs? It’s infuriating. Here, where I live in Torridge in North Devon, there are a few beachside or quayside car parks with great toilet facilities that could be earning the council money after everyone else has gone home for the night. With a little careful management they could attract people to their towns and villages who want to wake up in beautiful locations and who aren’t going to trash the place. They might even spend some cash in the local pubs and restaurants. Start with the owners of the 170,328 motorhomes that are registered in the UK (figure from DVLA) and then start thinking about the thousands upon thousands of campervan owners who might like a little bit of that too. Councillors do you hear me? But no, they are paranoid about gypsies and travellers and riff raff. And more than likely own a campsite themselves and can’t face a little bit of competition. For goodness’ sake.
However, there is a part of me that can understand the worries. At Easky in Ireland the local council set up a fantastic shower and toilet block for travelling surfers. It encouraged people to come to the village and surf the great waves there. People came and spent money and stayed for weeks on end. It was a good place with a good vibe. Then, one day, someone made the choice to abuse the facility. And then someone else decided they couldn’t care less and didn’t clean up. And so on. Today everyone has all but given up on the place. The building remains but it is full of people’s camping trash: old tents, beer cans, clothes, broken cookers, bits of campervan. Shit even. It is truly disgusting. I stayed there on my trip last month but sadly the vibe has gone.
Then you have to look at Scotland. The land reform act makes wild camping legal on public access land. It is a great and truly liberating thing that means Scotland is viewed as the holy grail of wild camping by wannabe wild campers all over the UK. I’m heading up there soon with my family and can’t wait. But it isn’t without its problems. When I camped at Lunan Bay in Angus during the making of One Man and His Campervan the local landowners told me that they have had problems with wild campers leaving rubbish, toilet mess and even discarding tents on their land. It’s not pretty.
In the Trossachs I also saw appalling rubbish at the most beautiful spots. It wasn’t as if someone had been fly tipping, rather a general level of dirtiness between the pine trees around the loch I fished at. Again, not nice. On certain areas of Loch Lomond there are areas where wild camping is now illegal. These measures came into force on June 1 2011 and, as I understand it, are as a direct result of people making the choice not to respect the environment and not to camp responsibly. Bad choice for the rest of us wouldn’t you say?
The reality is that local councils will always look to the few to make their decisions. So if those few make a mess then we’ll all get marked with the same brush and the ‘no overnight parking’ signs will stay in place.
Of course, where wild camping is tolerated it’s up to us to take charge and make sure that no one has any reason to complain. Ever. Yes, it is our responsibility to take our litter home but I’d like to propose that it is also our responsibility to protect our hard earned rights and the places we love by doing more than that. So it becomes our duty to have a word with those who cause litter or even clear up after them.
As a surfer I am at war with beach plastic. I pick up other people’s plastic bottles because I don’t want them to get into the marine environment. As a camper I should be doing the same (and I do). So should we all. The old hippy notion of ‘leaving nothing but footprints, taking nothing but photographs’ needs to be updated. It’s not enough anymore. It should now be ‘leave it better than it was when you arrived. No exceptions.’ Admittedly it hasn’t got that romantic ring to it but who cares? When what we love is at stake it’s not important how the tag line sounds. It’s the environment and our ability to slip under the radar that matters. I’ll fight for it.
So go safe, camp happy. And if you camp wild, please remember to leave it better than it was when you arrived.
No exceptions.

This blog first appeared on Camperstar.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Why do we do it? Because life's too short.

Yesterday (15th May) was a very special day. It was my youngest daughter's 7th birthday. We celebrated with a visit to Eden and, once again, thanked our lucky stars for the life we have been given. It would have been special anyway, even if it wasn't for the promise that Joanne and I made to ourselves at around the time Charlie was born.

Charlie popped out in Bristol. It was just as her big sister Maggie was finishing treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia. I won't go into that side of things too much other than to say it was a genuinely terrifying time for all of us. Jo left in an ambulance threee months pregnant and didn't make it home until Charlie was a month old.

I carried on working in Devon, commuting most evenings to do my share of the hospital night shift whilst Jo moved in to CLIC House in Cotham to get some rest. As the time got nearer to Charlie's due date we all moved in to the home from home provided for us by CLIC. Eventually, thanks to the miracles that the team at Bristol Children's Hospital were able to perform on Maggie, we all came home. All four of us.

And what of the promise that Jo and I made to ourselves? Thankfully it came true. We promised ourselves that if Maggie got better we would buy another camper (we hadn't had one for a few years as we were living by the sea) and take time out to enjoy the life we had missed out on. We'd get ourselves a T25 and go to see our friends in France. We'd spend time in ireland. We'd be free. We'd celebrate life.

Just a few months later we set off for Ireland on an adventure in our new van to see Joanne's family and tour the West Coast. Charlie slept on the front seat in a moses basket whilst Maggie slept upstairs. Funnily enough it was the only time we ever gave up. The weather was so bad that we checked into a hotel for a couple of nights in Dingle. I didn't mind at all and I know Jo was grateful for a proper bed. We were grateful just to be there in the first place. Wet and windy it may have been, but it was a wonderful time for us as a family.

So there you have it. That's why we do it. Because life is too short, even though we made it through. We're lucky. Not everyone on Maggie's ward did.

Whenever people ask me about how I got into camper vans I say that it's all about the surf. It isn't wrong. I first started travelling and hanging out in campers when I was in my late teens. But the real reason I love them so much is that the promise of camper van adventures offered us hope when we really needed it.

So it's a very happy birthday to Charlie. And a very happy seven years in remission for Maggie. And a big thank you to all our camper vans.

And that's why we do it.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Another great big camper van adventure

Whilst there might not be any more TV to film at the moment it doesn't mean that the adventures have to stop. There's work (ahem) to be done. And that work has taken me around a few hairpin bends and coast roads recently. The purpose of the latest trip was to experience and photograph a few things I think we should all have a go at before it's too late. It's all for a new book, The Camper Van at The Coast (working title), which will come out next year. As a follow up to The CamperVan Cookbook, this book will contain almost 100 delicious recipes from the camper van kitchen, a few ideas for campervan living throughout the year, my guide to the very best stuff at the coast and a bunch of really amazing campsites that are 'within a decent cast's distance from the sea'. It's not a bad way to judge a campsite is it? And it's one good reason to get in the van and go see for yourself. The one we photographed was, as expected, unbelievable.
In 10 days the van and I (in the company of Nico Chapman an up and coming photographer)covered 1600 miles around Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland to visit a few beaches, lighthouses, RNLI stations and to drive some of the best coast roads. I drove from home in Devon to the most north westerly corner of Europe and back again. And it was absolutely brilliant. I paid nothing for accommodation and wild camped everywhere at some incredibly beautiful spots. No hassle. One night in Ireland a guy came by with a bag of home cut turf for our fire. How about that?

No matter how hard we pushed it, the van never failed to start, never complained and even made it round the horror that is the scenic drive around Farr Head on the Causeway Coast (it said no caravans or coaches but not campervans). If you have the clutch for it, go. The only problem we had was a broken hinge on the roof but it needed replacing anyway.

The best thing about the trip was that I had a chance to see and do some of the things I'd wanted to do for a long long time. It was mostly simple things, like jumping off stupidly high walls into clear blue pools, driving roads that make you gasp in breathless excitement that you made it there at all or cooking the world's best ever sausage sarnie overlooking a delightful beach. That's the kind of stuff I like. And it's all made possible by the humble camper. You drive, eat, sleep, play.

There's an awful lot more to the UK and Ireland than you might think. Did you know, for example, that the UK has one of the world's best driving roads? Or that there is only one lighthouse in the UK that's licenced for weddings? How about one of the world's most beautiful beaches? It's true, although I have a better one for you, with clearer water, better wildlife and a great pub. And it's not that far away.

Along the way we went to Ireland's newest VW festival where we met with the Eireball crew. They drive their campers around Ireland every summer to raise money for charity. They have raised over fifty thousand Euros so far. And they have fun along the way. One of them told me she was so intrigued by the convoy one year that she got in her car and followed it. The next year she bought a van and joined up. She said she had found her family. I love that. I can understand it.

So I'm a lucky man all over again. To set off in search of good things and call it work is a very nice position to be in. And it's all been made possible by my friend the humble camper van.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Good news, bad news. And the adventure goes on.

I heard from BBC2 today. Sadly they are not going to commission a second series of 'One Man and His Campervan'. It is upsetting as I was really hoping that the show would take off and that I'd get to head off on another adventure. I have been contacted by so many people asking about series 2, and had such a positive reaction to the show that I'd thought it was a strong possibility. Still, the show didn't do too badly, with 1.95 million viewers for the final episode. That's more than Frank Skinner's Opinionated (1.75) this week. Anyway, it's disappointing but that's the way it goes. And who knows what else might be around the corner for me and my van.

Of course the experience of doing the show in the first place was unbelievable so I'm not complaining. It was a wonderful thing to do and it's taught me that there's so much more to the UK than quite good surfing beaches (and not so good surfing beaches).

So that's the bad news. Now for the good. I am working on a second book at the moment which has been keeping me busy. With more easy two ring recipes and more lifestyle stuff it's my guide to the UK coast. So I'm heading off in the van to see if I can find out which is the best ice cream, where the best lighthouses are, where you can see great coastal art and how to keep warm in your camper in the winter. So it's more camping, more food, more adventure.

I'm off to Wales and Ireland next week to meet up with forager and a lady who cooks with seaweed, to take a dip in the famous seaweed baths in Sligo and to take a swim in one of Kate Rew's favourite swimming holes (from her book Wild Swim). Then I'm going to drive what is supposed to be one of the world's best driving routes, along the causeway coast.

Along the way I'll be cooking recipes from the new book and photographing them. I am also hoping to perfect the exhaust pipe oven, which sounds scary but isn't. So far all I've managed to do is warm a sausage so there's a way to go with that one.

I'll be blogging as I go so keep an eye out for videos and shots from the trip here or at

In the meantime, here's a shot I took this week to go with a piece in the new book about summer stargazing.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Harry Hill and the Campervan Man

Firstly, apologies for neglecting this blog. I've been tweeting madly and have been getting lots of lovely feedback from everyone, but somehow I've been unable to string sentences any more than 140 chracters together. Still, it's quite astounding how well recieved One Man and his Campervan has been. It's really quite touching. I've been recognised all over the place and everyone has been so positive about the show. "Hey, you're the Campervanman." That's nice. So thanks.

As it is, the show did well. The last night, which saw the Gordy the campervan experience a little cluctch trouble, was watched by about 1.8 million people. That's amazing! So we must have been doing something right! As it is I think that camping and campervanning are subjects that touch everyone in Britain. We love our country, we love the countryside within it and we can't wait to get out there and enjoy it. You and me both.

So what's been up since the show finished? Well, Harry Hill had me on his show. That was watched by about 5 million people so I shouldn't be surprised that people say: "Hey, you're the campervan man. Love the show! Loved Harry Hill more though!" Brilliant! Magic scone anyone?

I've also been writing. After all it's how I make a living and I'm not about to give up the day job anytime soon. I've been writing the first few chapters of a new campervanning lifestyle and food book. Today I was looking at the shipping forecast and making sense of the code they use to describe - very precisely - exactly what the weather is doing. I've also been cooking. This evening Joanne and I were mucking about with a colcannon recipe for St Patrick's day.

I am really looking forward to learning SUP surfing and maybe even tow surfing over the coming months (for the book of course) and I'm booked in to learn to sail in April in Poole Harbour. This weekend, with the big tides that come with the vernal equinox, I am heading upcountry to photograph some friends surfing the Severn bore. Now that is exciting.

We're also waiting to find out if a second series of One Man and his Campervan is on the cards. I hope so because I had such a great time making the first series. You'll be the first to know.

Magic scone anyone?

Monday, 31 January 2011

Countdown to a camper van adventure

On Monday 7th February at 6.30pm my TV show, One Man and His Campervan hits BBC2. It's going to be a wierd and wonderful night. It will be the first time that I've appeared in anything like this (apart from being a little blue man in an Erasure video back in 1991) so I haven't a clue what to expect. Will anyone watch? Will anyone like it? Will anyone even notice it was on? I hope so.
I also have higher hopes for the TV series: that anyone who watches it will be inspired to fire up the old van/car/bus/bicycle and take a look at Great Britain for themselves. I always knew that there was more to it than just a few great surfing beaches. It's a very cool place. With very cool people. And a lot of very delicious food. You don't even have to be a Michelin starred genius to enjoy it. All you have to do is want something more than beans on toast.

Ambitious? Maybe but not really. Although it can sometimes take a little effort to get off the sofa, go to new places and eat new food it's always worth it. It's not that hard to cook something fresh and delicious in a camper van.

So why not? Set your digital thingumybox for 7th February at 6.30 and take a trip with me on my food-foraging, campfire-cooking, two-ringed, four-wheeled adventure.

It's Devon first for a spot of fishing, then the New Forest to seek out a forager's supper. After that I get muddy in Norfolk in the search for samphire and head for Yorkshire to eat a very strange bird's egg. After driving to a Northumberland island to catch a snappy chappy I head north to Angus to scoff the best tasting fish I've ever eaten. Then it's a short hop to the Trossachs for some huntin' and fishin' and a wet few days in the Lakes. Never mind! I'm on a bilberry hunt. Next I cheat at polishing in preparation for the Show and Shine at Wales' friendliest VW show. Finally it's on to Pembrokeshire for a foraging outing and an unexpected end to the adventure.

But of course it doesn't end there, because it'll be your turn next. And that's the point. Anyone can do it.

What do you call yours? #mycampervaniscalled LOVE!

A few weeks ago I (with the help of my friends at the Caravan and Motorhome Club) asked the good people of Twitter and Instagram to...