VW Transporter wrap-up


We returned the hired campervan to Oxcampers on Monday morning and a quick return process was followed by the refunding of our £500 security deposit.

I would recommend this company for any campervan hire requirements.

Now to the camper van. Are we going to buy one and use it as a towcar for our caravan? That’s a very good question and fortunately not one we can answer at this point in time. Not that it’s relevant because there simply are no Transporter vans (new) to buy and allegedly the order book is presently closed to new orders whilst VW sort out production issues.

Will we go down this route when / if supply problems recede?

Well, feedback from some questions posted on Facebook groups have allayed our fears that the 150PS version could be under-powered. Also we have seen numerous pictures of a Transporter campervan towing with a bike rack on the tailgate so there is enough room to turn without snarling caravan and rack.

On the plus side, the campervan was everything we expected. It’s perfect for a long weekend off-grid and probably good for a week or two touring with decent site facilities. The Rock and Roll Bed would need additional comfort measures to be serviceable. The upper bed in the SCA roof likely the same comment. This would be a great space in summer, avoiding the need to convert the main bed.

If we do go down this route, we presently have three preferred options (subject to availability!):

  • A conversion by Hillside Leisure
  • A conversion by OxCampers
  • A factory produced VW California

There is little to choose between the two conversions above so it would be decided on price. The main benefits of the Hillside leisure conversion were underslung water and waste tanks, hot water and a fancy food cupboard in front of the fridge.

The water availability in the Hillside leisure conversion is fine but hot water is only when hooked up to 240V and with a tiny sink, just how much water can you carry before it’s no longer fresh? So “nice to haves” but probably not key in a small van conversion.

The VW California is an interesting option. We had a tour of one at the Wharfedale CMC site by its owner and it had some really neat features:

  • Outside chairs attached to the tailgate
  • An outside table stows away in the door panel
  • Better storage overall
  • Looks like a more comfortable bed arrangement
  • Fixed pull-out awning

But do they justify probably an extra £10k of investment…

VW Transporter Tour – Day 5 – 7


A walk into Grassington from Long Ashes was the daytime activity for Day 5 (Friday). Whilst the Wharfedale CMC site is some distance out of Threshfield (via road) there is a short path which eliminates walking any distance along the narrow roads. It is a 40 minute walk into Grassington which has latched onto the popularity of the filming of the latest “All creatures Great and Small” series.

In the village there’s a wine bar opened called “The Darrowby” and the Devonshire Arms in Grassington was the “Drovers Arms” in the said series.

Joe is still suffering from a back strain suffered whilst twisting and opening the pop-top on the Campervan. The bed comfort level isn’t helping this to heal so we took the bus back from Grassington. £1 each and the service drops you off at the main reception area of Long Ashes.

Dinner was at the Old Hall in Threshfield.

The campsite has been busy all week although now the weekend has arrived, it is a complete sell-out. Every pitch booked out and we are at the end of December – unbelievable.

Morning view across CMC site, Wharfedale

Saturday and it was back to Threshfield and “The Avenue” to watch the National 2 North game between Wharfedale and Chester.

John Inverdale from the Daily Telegraph once wrote – “To be among a large crowd at a National League match at Wharfedale Rugby Club . . . . was to have found sporting nirvana. If there’s a more wonderful sporting venue in the country for serious competitive sport, I’ve yet to visit it.”

We met with old school friends and dined at the Fountaine Inn, Linton in the evening.

Wharfedale v Chester 20th November 2021
“Old” Friends!!!
Joe and Moe at Wharfedale RUFC

Sunday and it was time to move on. This time to Savernake Forest near Marlborough and a very cold night with temperatures well below freezing.

Camping in the Forest – Savernake – crazy tent dwellers at the red car!
Savernake forest

Dinner was courtesy of some good friends in nearby Ogbourne St Andrew.

VW Transporter Tour – Day 4


Day 3 had concluded with our arrival at Tarn House, near Skipton around teatime. During my childhood and early adult years, Tarn House was a magnificent country pub; a small group of my friends would regularly meet on a Sunday lunchtime for a few beers before roast dinner with our respective parents.


Tarn House is now a massive Static park with 18 touring pitches… The once magnificent bar and dining room has been converted into a reception area and a smaller bar which was at least open (until 10pm). But the view from Tarn House itself, is now a landscape of static caravans…

A few pictures from Tarn House.

View towards Tarn House from the Touring park
Our pitch at Tarn House

Notwithstanding the somewhat altered landscape, the touring facilities were excellent and it’s just a 30 – 40 minute walk into Skipton. Moe and I enjoyed drinks at the Boat House, overlooking the canal basin and then Fish n Chips at Bizzie Lizzies (still highly recommended). A night cap at Tarn House following the predominantly slow uphill walk from Skipton.

Thursday morning and we filled the Transporter with Diesel. I was pleasantly surprised that we still had half a tank remaining (300+ miles) and the van had been returning in excess of 40mpg. Quite impressive.

It’s beginning to get a bit wet and wild up here in the Dales and after a morning shopping in my home town, we headed to the Caravan and Motorhome Club site at Long Ashes near Threshfield.

An afternoon worthy of staying in the van with the doors and windows fully closed and the heating on. A time to catch up with the blog.

Joe catching up with the blog
Our pitch at Wharfedale CMC site

A sandwich for tea and then a couple of drinks at the Gamekeepers Inn (part of the Long Ashes park). It got somewhat busy later on as the local Rugby team descended for drinks, presumably post-training.

VW Transporter tour – Day 3


We wrapped up our short visit to Devizes with a nice meal and drinks at the Three Magpies, Seend near Devizes.

Wednesday morning was our first attempt to pack up the Campervan. It was very easy to stow everything away and collapsing the sunroof and bunk bed very straight forward. Everything is nicely balanced with the gas struts. Our sleeping bags are still constantly getting in the way as we haven’t needed anything in addition to the quilt overnight.

The diesel heater soon warms up the space and we have been quite comfortable. The Rib 112 bed still isn’t as comfortable as the one in our caravan, even using the upper foam mattress as topper. If we go this route there’s definitely some work to do to get a great night’s sleep.

Our travels on Wednesday would take us to Tarn House near Skipton (my birthplace). A drive of around 250 miles but with a detour via Hillside leisure in Derby. We have identified Hillside Leisure as one of the companies we would potentially purchase from. We thought it would be really useful to compare our hired campervan with Hillside Leisure’s Birchover Classic – their most popular van conversion.

We had some specific questions:

  • Location and size of the water tank
  • Ditto the leisure battery and gas bottle
  • Porta potty location
  • Storage

We were met by Ron at Hillside leisure full of doom and gloom. He could show us the conversions but he has nothing to sell. Apparently VW have closed their order book on Transporters until 2022.

Hillside have 257 on order for 2022 with very few confirmed build dates. All the 257 on order are spoken for if they ever arrive…

Still, we have to hope this situation improves so we spent time comparing the Birchover Classic to our OxCampers conversion – Colwyn. Bear in mind that Hillside leisure are a huge conversion company with maybe up to 10 workshop bays whilst OxCampers is a man and wife team.

Overall, both conversions compared very well. The Hillside leisure guy thought our Colwyn was excellent and appeared top quality. There were a few differences between the two, which would probably push us towards the Birchover Classic, assuming similar pricing. I suspect a Colwyn conversion will be less expensive making the choice rather more tricky.

The main points were:

  • Both conversions were on the VW Transporter Highline so base vehicles were identical
  • The Birchover Classic comes with two swivel front seats whereas our Colwyn only has the passenger seat rotating. Again this isn’t a clear-cut advantage as you loose height adjustment with the swivel seat and the drivers seat can’t rotate more than 45 degrees due to the location of the cupboards.
  • Both utilised the top quality SCA extra height pop-top and Rib 112 Rock and Roll bed
  • Both opted for a Dometic two burner hob and miniature sink unit combined
  • The Birchover Classic has a 65l water tank and 35l waste tank slung under the van. Our hire van has a 10l on-board container
  • The Birchover Classic has hot water, so long as you are hooked up to 240v electric
  • Gas bottles and leisure battery were probably better located in the Birchover but either way, they eat into storage.
  • Storage solutions were good but slightly different on both vans
  • The Birchover Classic had a very clever food cupboard which was hinged and latched closed in front of the fridge. We really liked this.
  • The Birchover classic comes with a Porta Potty stored under the bed. Some loss of storage though.

Overall, the main advantages of the Birchover Classic were the hot and cold water and the underslung tanks. But… you need electric hook-up so are likely to be on a site with hot water facilities and can you really utilise a 65l water container with a miniature sink!

I must also add that we haven’t spoken to OxCampers regarding conversion so some of the differences may be solved with some bespoke customisation.

Here are some internal pictures taken during a prior visit to Hillside leisure.

Birchover Classic
Birchover Classic
Birchover Classic
Birchover Classic cab

And a link to a video we took of Colwyn.

VW Transporter Tour – Day 2


Our first night in the Campervan. Neither of us wanted to climb onto the upper bunk so we converted the Rib 112 Rock and Roll bed into a flat small double bed and settled down for the night. The quilt supplied as part of the bedding package was more than adequate to keep us warm. The bed itself is a work in progress.

After a few hours of broken sleep, we rolled out a sleeping bag onto the converted bed and this helped the comfort levels a little bit. Tonight we will use the upper bed foam mattress (that’s stretching things a bit!) as a mattress topper.

Not much else to report on the Campervan. Most of the cupboards are full and with a small conversion like this, space is at a premium and meticulous organisation of paramount importance.

Today we visited Devizes and the Wadworth brewery. Brewery tours are still not in progress due to health and safety issues.

Wadworth Brewery, Devizes

The Brewery site is a Grade II listed building and it’s a real shame that it’s destined to become apartments once the brewery relocates to a new site across town.

Our friends had requested the talk to be given by their favourite host, Jim and he entertained us for something like two hours with tastings of the Wadworth beers and general chit-chat about beer. It proved to be a great way to spend a Tuesday lunchtime. At the end of the tasting and included in the price is a very tasty pie of your choice.

Wadworth Tap Room
Wadworth core beers

A 3.5 mile walk back along the Kennet and Avon canal rounded off the daytime entertainment, with a coffee at the cafe on the locks. Presided over by this little guy.

Robin at the Cafe on the locks

Tonight’s entertainment will be dinner at the Three Magpies…

VW Transporter Tour – Day 1


The journey to drop of the caravan at Swindon Caravans was quick and uneventful. We then headed for OxCampers just a 20 minute drive away.

We have rented “Colwyn” for the week and Kyja spent nearly an hour with us running through how everything works.

OxCampers – Colwyn

The VW Transporter is a six speed manual version, probably the 150PS engine. It’s got an infotainment system which immediately connected to my Android smartphone and projected Google maps onto the display. It has aircon and lots of controls on the steering wheel. It looks pretty sophisticated for essentially a “white van”.

The conversion includes an SCA pop-top with integrated bed, rated we believe at 200 – 300 kgs. This has a thin foam mattress on top.

The main seat / bed is a Rib outfit which cleverly converts to a small double bed. During the day time, there is ample storage behind these seats.

We have a fridge, small gas cannister, 10l water container, a 3-burner hob and small sink (cold water only). For heating there is an on-board diesel heater.

We rented also a bedding pack which means perhaps we should have left our sleeping bags behind.

After the tour, literally deposited everything onto the van floor and set off for Devizes. We’ll sort everything out when we arrive!

Our temporary load space in the campervan

The drive to Devizes Caravanning and Camping club site took around an hour and the VW Transporter drives beautifully. Just like a quality car. Responsive and comfortable.

We would have no concerns over the driving aspect of this campervan as a Towcar.

On arrival at Devizes, we set everything up, tested the upper bed before heading off to see our friends in Melksham.

Most of the clothes fit into a side locker but we had pre-packed them in small clothes storage bags. Two draws under the seats have been filled with food and household essentials. The bedding will sit in the boot space during the day and we’ll probably make up the bed at night time only.

Here’s some pictures of us pitched up.

Colwyn at Devizes Camping and Caravanning club
Colwyn at Devizes Camping and Caravanning club
Colwyn at Devizes Camping and Caravanning club

VW Transporter – Preview


We have been toying for a while about using a converted VW Transporter as a towcar. This would allow us to pull the caravan and then when on-site, stay overnight at nearby places using the van as its own accommodation. It would also be useful for short trips around Blighty.

We feel this could offer the best of all combinations – Campervan & Caravan versus Car & Caravan versus Motorhome & Towcar.

The VW Transporter should fit inside a standard car parking space and the pop-top roof should nullify height barriers.

It’s probably not something we would want to reside in for more than few days or the odd week, but who knows?

Tomorrow our Caravan goes to Swindon for its annual service. We have hired a VW converted campervan for the week. We will be heading to the artic tundra of North Yorkshire, my birthplace long abandoned for the warmer climate of the South coast.

Follow our experiences with the campervan over the next week…

Devizes Wrap-up


Saturday and tomorrow is time to move on from Devizes. We have had a good time here, the site is at a stunning location.

One final evening out – our first visit to the “Brewery Inn”. Head west along the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath and at the Barge Inn, it’s 200m along the road towards Seend.

The Brewery Inn Seend.

Brewery Inn, Seend

We had booked a pod for the evening. The landlady was welcoming and whilst the food was perhaps a little basic, it was traditional pub grub. Washed down with a couple of pints of Inndependence American Pale Ale from the Plains brewery.

Pods at the Brewery Inn

Sunday was a mid-morning departure, destination Oxfordshire.

Devizes and The Courts Garden


Thursday morning and we caught the bus departing close by the campsite, destination Devizes. There were a large number of campers from our site waiting for the bus which on arrival, was standing room only. Not ideal given most of the passengers would have received their Covid jabs much earlier in the year. Out of 20+ who boarded the bus at Seend, Moe and I were the only two who paid! We figured maybe one other person on the bus was of an age where free transport wasn’t provided.

Bus to Devizes

Once in Devizes, we realised it was market day, hence the full to capacity bus.

We headed for the Wadworth’s brewery, hoping for a tour,

Wadwosth’s brewery – tours suspended

Lunch was at the Black Horse which is pretty much at the top of Caen locks – 29 locks in total over a distance of 2 miles and a change in altitude of 237 feet. We spoke to someone leaving the upper lock and she said the fastest she has been through the locks was 2 hours and 20 minutes but every lock was in the correct position. Otherwise it can be the best part of a day.

We walked the 4 or so miles back to the campsite from Devizes, capturing a number of pictures along the way.

Caen Locks
Caen Locks, two boats buddied together
Caen Locks – Heron at one of the pools
Caen Locks – long boat starting to descend

Friday we returned to the National Trust “The Courts Garden” at Holt near Bradford-on-Avon. This classic early 20th century garden is laid out in a series of yew-hedged “rooms” with a neo-Georgian temple and conservatory. We strolled through the shade and tranquility of the arboretum before finding the tea-room.

National Trust – The Courts Gardens
Lily’s at The Courts Garden
Topiary known as the Bears – The Courts Garden
Pond and Bridge at The Courts Garden

Dinner will be at the Three Magpies – again!!