‘Blossom’ is a brand new VW California SE used on a daily basis by Mark, Jo and their family.  They love the appeal of just ‘getting away’, giving them much-needed quality time as a family.

‘Happy Campers’ is a series of posts featuring camper vans and their owners.  It’s designed to offer advice and inspiration to new and existing camper van owners – featuring members of the WildaboutScotland community. To take part, please send an e-mail to me answering the standard question format below together with a good photo or two.

1.  Introducing ourselves and our camper van 

We’re a family of four from a small village in Bedfordshire.  There’s me, my partner Jo, and our daughters aged 10 and 1.

Our van – named “Blossom” by my daughter – is a 2014 model T5, 180 DSG in Olympian blue.  It is a factory-produced VW California SE.  It was an pre-registered van at our local dealer but had only covered 40 miles when we bought it, so although we’re the second owners officially it is basically new.
We considered a T2 last year and hired one to test it out, but in the end we felt like we wanted something that was reliable (I am not very good at the oily bits).  Whilst the romance of a T2 was attractive, having hired we found the allure of “getting away” the real attraction. Once we started looking at T5s we were sold.
We looked at third party conversions, but in the end we liked the idea of the van being made by the factory rather than being a converted van.  The conversions we looked at were good, and the people great, but with kids we liked the idea of having some comfort that everything was bolted in and tested.  We also liked the idea that the whole thing was cover by a warranty.  I’m sure other conversions are fine, and each to their own, but that was our thinking.

2.  How do we use our camper van ? 

It is a daily driver for Jo.  With a recently expanded family, we needed a slightly bigger car so Blossom is used for school runs, shopping runs and everything else.  The “Plan” …. we wanted something that we could use for quick weekends away.  We’re located well for London, Cambridge etc, but we’re a good couple of hours away from the seaside and the outdoors.  The ability to extend our access to places further afield at the weekend by not having to return at the end of each day appeals.  Arguably, you could buy a lot of nights in a Premier Inn for the price of a California, but the adventure of camping for kids is fantastic.  In the end, we wanted to spend more time as a family.  We plan to do the occasional multi-day trip and holidays too.

3.  Best thing I love about my van ?

It’s early days but … about the campervanning experience generally, I love the fact we can just get up and go.  There is something freeing about having the option.  We could decide on Friday that we’ll pack up and go.  Again, nothing says you can’t do this without a van but with it just sitting there on the drive gives you a sense of possibilities.

In terms of the California itself, there is a lot and there is still a lot to discover.  I love the way there are these little design touches that make a difference: chairs in the tailgate, table in the door, torch that doubles as a footwell light, the fridge that is much more usable that you might first think.  It makes good use of the space for the basics that you need, leaving lots of space for you to put your stuff in.

4.  Pet gripes ?

Hmmm, we’re still at the honeymoon stage but …. the ISOFIX is a bit of a pain.  It’s not impossible, and I appreciate the bench has to move back and forth and turn in to a bed, but it is still a finger-scraping exercise each time to fit child car seats.  Secondly, the cabin plastics: for an expensive vehicle it does feel as though VW could have upgraded the cabin a little in the past 10-12 years.

5.  Favourite accessories ?

Again it’s early days for us but one “missing item” in the California (versus other conversions) is the lack of a grill.  We don’t expect to cook kippers in the van but having boiled eggs on toast with a cup of tea in the morning, and without having to leave the van, was something we have really enjoyed when we hired in the past.  Our solution is one of these – it really works ! (Other models are available .. I’m sure).  Oh, and QTM carpets – not sure what VW were thinking when they chose light grey for the standard carpet material….

6.  Best tip for new owners ?

Pack light and don’t rush to buy accessories.  Use your van a few times to work out what you need (and importantly, what you don’t need) and the best place for it all to live.  You can live without most things for a weekend away.

7.   Best trip in our van ?

Well that would have to be our first trip to the Sandringham Camping and Caravan Club site.  I’m not sure that the manicured sites are going to be our staple but as a first trip away, the site was clean and the owners very helpful and friendly.  Everything worked in the van and we had a great weekend.   But our best trip ever (not in Blossom) was to tour around the Lake District and then across the Yorkshire Dales and Moors to Whitby. There are so many great places and such fantastic spaces, a trip we intend to repeat in Blossom.

8.  Dream trip ?

An as yet undefined Mediterranean tour.  Both Jo and I see Blossom (or maybe “Blossom 2” or “Blossom 3”) in our retirement plans, so to meander at leisure in warm fragrant air with no destination or time limit …

9.  Favourite campsite ?

Favourite sites are about memories I guess.  We loved it at Crawshaw Farm in Lancashire (it’s in Dixe Wills’ Tiny Campsite book): a field on a farm with an outside loo.  It’s perhaps not a site to pick on a day when a steaming shower is required but with the van side door open, sipping wine, playing cards and watching the sun set it was the best !

10.  When I’m not camping we’re …

… gardening, and raising a family (gymnastics, drama, netball, etc).  I fly light aircraft when I can.


If you’re a Happy Camper and have a story to tell, please send me your story and a photo or two using the ‘Get in Touch’ form.



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