Touring North Wales in a Camper-van with kids
I’m writing this, sat at the table in our camper van, gently swaying from side to side with each gust of wind as the rain hammers at the side of our house on wheels. The boys are in their den watching a movie we downloaded in that brief moment we had wifi earlier and Ed is sitting across from me reading.
We’ve been away for a mere three nights and tomorrow we start our journey home. Not for the first time I wonder out loud “who’s idea was it to go away in a camper van in the middle of February?” And once again, Ed answers “yours!”. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought it through when we first started discussing the idea, I’m pretty impulsive and once I get an idea in my head that’s it. Of course, there’s no way I could have foreseen that Arlo would come down with chicken pox the day we left or that we would encounter such a horrific storm on our first night right? But despite all that we’ve had a wonderful time (spoiler alert) and all agree we’ll be doing it again soon.
We were hoping to make a trip down to Cornwall for the half term, but when that wasn’t possible, I threw it out there that perhaps we could borrow Ed’s uncles camper van. A few watsapp messages later and it was booked in. With the camper van being in Birmingham, North Wales seemed like the perfect place to escape to. I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t really think things through and in reality we were incredibly lucky with the weather despite the storms, folk we met along the way kept saying “you’re so lucky its so mild” and I guess they’re right, this time last year the country was freezing. In truth, I’m pretty impulsive and once that thought of a few days in a camper van entered my mind, it was going to happen one way or another!
Planning the journey
Aside from summers spent travelling to Turkey by land with my mum when we were younger and spending 6 weeks on a beach in a caravan, I had never done this before. I’ve always fancied a nomadic lifestyle and thrived when Ed and I travelled together in our twenties. But where to start when figuring out a holiday like this? I could have googled for hours on “top tips for travelling in a camper van with children” or “what not to do when camper vanning” but that’s not my style. The problem I have with googling answers to problems is that you tend to lose your connection to gut and instinct. And it can sometimes provide you with that one fact or figure that seals a doubt in your mind and stops you moving forward, when without it you may have taken a risk and discovered something new.
So instead, I reached out to the wonderful network of people on Instagram. Chelsea from Living Life in Wellies, responded immediately with some some top tips on places to visit as well as guiding us to the picturesque campsite (basically the only one open in February - I didn’t realise that at the time) that became our base for the week. We visited every spot she recommended and would have been lost without that insider knowledge of the local area. Thank you Chelsea, we are ever grateful for your advice.
So the journey began
With Ed at the wheel we set off on our adventure, waving goodbye to our friends in Shrewsbury who had very kindly fed and kept us warm for the first night. Looking at the map, I felt a bit lost, with unpronounceable names and an absence of any sense of direction. With anxiety sitting on my shoulder, I calmed the voices that whispered in my ear, reasoning with them and pulling my thoughts back to present. It was fear talking and its so easy to let those voices take over if you don’t reason with them. As we grew accustomed to the clattering of the pans in the back of the van and the Welsh landscape began to open up in front of us, I felt my shoulders visibly relax as my eyes took in the space around us. There’s something mesmerising about the craggy hills of Wales, with waterfalls at every turn and sheep nurturing lambs in their tums, life outside our van windows looked pretty special.
At one with nature
I talk a lot about the benefits of staying close to nature and whilst I truly believe I do that as much as possible, being in the camper van has made me realise that I am still so removed from the natural world despite my efforts to be less so. For many of us on in the developed world our homes are cosy and warm with all we could need within the four walls, it makes it ever so easy for us to not step outside. When its cold or rainy we hunker down and get our hygge on which I’m in no way undervaluing but when those home comforts are taken away and replaced by a different kind of comfort, one that takes you closer to nature, its obvious how shielded we are from the goings on out there. Being surrounded by craggy Welsh mountains, at the mercy of the weather, made me feel pretty insignificant. No matter what is going on in our lives, nature and all that it encompasses continues regardless and isn’t that a humbling thing? Each day I threw my running gear on and forced myself out there, to run up and down the hills, taking note of the green shoots of spring and the symbiotic relationships between the lichen and trees. Marvelling at the bountiful waterfalls, the vast quantity of sheep and at the fact that I didn’t pass another soul along the way. I felt more and more invigorated each day that passed.
We’re leaving here stronger, the achievement of surviving a mid Winter trip in a camper van to North Wales with a two year old in the throws of chicken pox and some crazy storms is real! No phone signal and being in close confines meant so quality (also fractious) times together and this is something that can be so elusive in our busy lives. We’re already planning our next trip, perhaps this time going at a more sensible time of year!
I haven’t even touched on the places we visited and stayed during our trip, I’ll share all that with you in a blog post later in the week as there are some amazing spots out there!