Midweek trial run in freezing temperatures

Our pitch at Ferry Meadows
 Cleopatra came home with us on a Monday and the weekend was just too long a wait to get to use her for the first time and so we booked a campsite overnight for Wednesday. Temperatures on Tuesday morning plunged as low as -6C and so it looked like we'd be getting to experience one of the extremes of temperature on our first ever expedition.

We arrived at the Ferry Meadows Caravan Club site site at around 6pm and a lovely lady signed us in and explained how to hook up to the electric. We were allowed to choose any vacant hardstanding pitch and opted for one within a short walk from the toilet block. A few pitches were taken, though most were caravans without occupants.

The roof popped open without problem and we opened the ‘Cali Topper’ for the first time. It’s a tough, waterproof, thick, canvas cover that protects the original roof and helps the van to retain its heat. It turned out to be easy to fit even around the awning.

The electric hook-up proved challenging and we were left wondering if it was on or not. The manual describes a trip switch that should be red for off and green for on. Unfortunately, in practice, the switch is awkwardly positioned so that it can be felt and not seen, so you can only tell if it’s up or down, but not which of the positions is red or green! It wasn’t until we plugged in a mains extension lead that we knew which position was which, but for future reference, up is on.

Cleopatra has 78 miles on the clock
Tony turned both front seats around and then made the upstairs bed. The bed can be raised again once made to give full head height in the pop-up roof which is useful. We also discovered that climbing up into the top bed is far easier than we’d expected. When we did it in the showroom the front seats were in the driving position and it was awkward and so we’d purchased a collapsible ladder. It hasn’t occurred to us just how much easier it would be with the seats turned. At least the ladder is one thing we know we can now leave at home. We could do with paring down our kit a little further once we know what we really need.

I assembled the necessary implements and ingredients to prepare dinner, and plugged in the electric hob which we cooked on outside under the awning. We cooked Moroccan meatballs and eggs, a one-pot recipe that was easy to prepare and could be left cooking on its own.

Our friends Jules and Pete, work colleagues of Tony called in to see Cleopatra and joined us for drinks, so dinner was turned off until later and we chatted campervan stuff for ages.

Tony chops veg for dinner
Later, the meatballs turned out to be absolutely amazing, thanks to the ras el hanout spices, one of our 16 ‘essential’ herbs, spices and condiments in our homemade travel spice racks.

It didn’t take long for Tony to suggest we take the washing up home, but I didn’t want to slip into bad habits so soon and we trotted off to the washing up room.

All clean and tidy, I adjusted the parking heater to a setting of five (out of 10) and we climbed into bed. Despite the outside temperature being around zero, the van stayed warm and in fact I was too warm owing to a thicker duvet than I’m used to.

I have to say I’m very impressed with so many things about the VW T5 California Beach. There are so many great little touches, like the five cigarette lighter sockets all over the interior and the little light provided to plug into the one upstairs.

We paid extra to have the parking heater fitted and this is absolutely brilliant. There’s no way you’d go away in the winter without it, so it’s well worth a little extra cash to have 12 months’ use of the van. It’s remarkably quiet and very efficient at quickly getting the van warm and maintaining the heat. It draws a little power from the leisure battery (about 40 watts, I think), and burns diesel from the fuel tank.

Campsite visited: Ferry Meadows Caravan Club
Miles on the clock: 78
Meals cooked: Moroccan meatballs
Money spent: food £3.43, site fees £13

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