ACTIVITY & ADVENTURE Memoir

Preparing to Travel – VW Campervan Tour Of The South Coast

Jake in Bertie

I can count the number of times I’ve been camping on one hand, well 2 fingers to be exact. Both times were 100% enforced by parents and teachers alike. It was 2001, Geri Halliwell’s It’s Raining Men had somehow made it to number 1 and I was trying my hardest to be enthusiastic about a Duke of Edinburgh expedition. I hadn’t seen the inside of a campsite since.

Camping

14 years later and I find myself curled up in the back of Bertie, the baby blue VW campervan we’ve hired, anchored to an electricity point in the middle of a field in Dorset. This time the decision to go camping was 100% my own.

When we first decided to embark on our Inca to Inuit adventure we had planned to leave the UK two days after Jake’s 30th birthday in mid August 2015. As with most things in life, our original plan didn’t quite materialise. As such it’s two days after Jake’s 30th and I’m sat in Dorset on a hired camping chair with our VW campervan Bertie proudly parked behind me. We now have just five weeks before we leave our family, friends and London lives for the Peruvian coastal capital Lima.

The magnitude of what we’re about to embark upon is becoming increasingly real. We have stopped starting each sentence with “We should really start thinking about” to “ Holy crap, I can’t believe we only have 5 weeks to do all of this, where has the time gone!!”. I’ve somehow managed to swing from being the most organised traveller on the planet to the most frenzied.

We have taken 10 days out of our hectic and heavily listed lives to celebrate Jake’s 30th birthday. Over the course of the past ten days, we have weaved our way from London through the Berkshire countryside and into Hampshire. Taking in as much indulgent food, wine and sleep as humanly possible. Gluttony has definitely been the name of the game. 6 days into Jake’s marathon celebration and I surprised him with Bertie the VW Camper. In my mind, it was a chance for an Inca to Inuit dry run, a chance to have a mini expedition and gain a sliver of insight into what life will be like “ on the road”.

With Bertie at capacity (with everything I could possibly think of packing), we set off down the M27 heading for the Jurassic Coast. We were lucky enough to stumble upon a last minute reservation at Hix Oyster Bar in Lyme Regis. An 8 pm reservation which gave us enough time to find a campsite to pitch up in and “hook up” Bertie. Hix Oyster Bar is a definite must, their Scrumpy-fried rock oysters are out of this world as is their Barbecued St. Mary’s Bay huss. Of course, I ended the evening with a rather topical Peruvian Gold chocolate mousse (another must!)

Full to the brim we sinked into our pull out camping bed. Luckily a combination of sleepiness and being so full we could hardly move meant that we both resisted a land grab for mattress space. Land grabbing would become an evening ritual, we would perfect over the course of our trip. VW’s were most certainly not designed for the long-limbed.

My morning run in with the communal showers was somewhat of a wake-up call to what we might incur over the course of the next 12 months. It very quickly made me realise that it’s the most basic of items such as a waterproof wash bag that you can hang up that would be of the most value to me over the coming months.

Communal Showers

Over the course of the next three days, we would get more accustomed to Bertie’s lack of suspension and questionable gear changes. We would trade campsites for open forest and showers for wet wipes. One thing, of course, remained constant, our need for a good meal and an evening tipple.

Having worked our way through some fantastic pubs and restaurants from the Jurassic Coast to The New Forrest, here’s our top pick:

DORSET

Hix Oyster and Fish House, Lyme Regis– Try and get a seat on the terrace if you can as the view is simply stunning. The terrace is heated and woollen blankets are provided if you need one.

The Three Horseshoes, Burton Bradstock – This beautiful country pub is situated in the centre of Burton Bradstock. Fantastic simple pub grub, very friendly staff with a tasteful interior.

Kings Arms, Portisham. Fantastic for a cream tea on the way back from a walk around the Thomas Hardy monument.

HAMPSHIRE

The Royal Oak. Fritham – One of my favourite pubs in the UK. You are guaranteed the best Ploughman’s of your life, fresh bread straight out the oven and a warm welcome for humans and dogs alike.

The Rockingham Arms, Canada Common – Set on the edge of Canada Common this lovely pub has seen many a change in hands and as a result menu’s however they have hit jackpot with their menu of staple pub favourites

BERKSHIRE

The Yew Tree, Hollington Cross This has to be my new favourite pub. A family favourite of Jake’s, The food, ambience, interior and location are all nothing short of exceptional. Look out for the random squirrels dotted around the place.

The Bunk Inn, nr Newbury The Bunk’s food and accommodation are as equally charming. Their bedrooms are large and spacious with large victorian bath’s to indulge in after too much food in their dining rooms. The food is exceptional, with hearty portions and a decent wine list.

The Vineyard, Stockcross If you like your wine this is a definite must. Their wine matched tasting menu allows you to choose the price bracket of your matched wines across all four courses. With a fully flexible and customizable menu that enables you to have any dish as a starter or main. You can even start with dessert and work your way through to your starter.

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