Kiri and


Peak motorhoming… with kids

October 9th, 2022 (by Steve)

Ever since our wee ones stepped foot inside Fifi a few years ago, we’ve tried to figure out how it might work to take them away in her. Covid put a stop to our original plan in summer 2020 to do a mini road trip of northern France with them… and it’s somehow taken another 2 years to get our act together to attempt it again. Not northern France, but “up north” in the Peak District in mid August. Kiri would argue it’s Midlands really… but we headed north from home, so technically we can both be right! The occasion was a family get together in the area where my grandparents met 80 or so years ago.

So… first step in going north is to go south, right? Well, actually south is left from our front door, but in any case, we had to head to Hewish to pick up Fifi, which meant braving the southbound holiday traffic in a hot car on the M5. Finally we got to Fifi, swapped keys, got the kids’ car seats strapped into the back of Fifi, rescued our little one from flying through the fly screen on the door and we were off. Well, as far as home, where it was lunch time by now. So we grabbed a bite to eat, loaded the bikes onto the back of Fifi and threw the rest of our stuff into cupboards and we were off. Well, kind of. Might have been faster to walk.

At the 2 hour mark, we were yet to hit Birmingham. The youngest was asleep and we were crawling. We set our sights for Tamworth Services on the M42 for a bit of a breather in the journey… then took our sights off the signs for the services whilst we updated our fellow family travellers that we had set sights for the Services… and somehow ended up on the M6 toll road. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Quite a costly lesson. However once we were on the A38 we realised we weren’t the only ones who might be navigationally-challenged. A white van ahead of us indicated left, got onto the slip road, then swerved into our lane at the last minute, stopped completely, then turned right. We learned two other lessons. One, how to wake up a small child in the back of the van. Two, that Fifi has very good brakes.

Our alternative to the services was the faithful yellow and blue friend of the motorhomer; Lidl. We’re still using the same “offline” satnav from our KIST 2EU travels and the Lidl POIs continue to be helpful. We had a quick game of tag in a quiet corner of the car park and a whip around the store where there weren’t any cucumbers, but there were 4 cookies with our names on! Was the journey then plain sailing from there? If your definition of “plain sailing” includes stunning rolling hills, fields of heather, evening sunlight on sundried grasses, us ignoring the sat nav and ending up going down a 1 in 5 hill (we’ve done steeper in Bertha who had worse brakes!), passing on the wisdom of how to have a poo in a motorhome toilet to the next generation… at which point both kids wanted to try… then yes, it was plain sailing! We’re so pleased we (and the kids!) were out of nappies before doing motorhoming with them!

Finally, 9 hours after we first left home, we checked into our campsite just outside Bakewell at the time the kids would normally be in bed. They were sent off the playground whilst I prepared the standard motorhome fare of pasta, then we sent them packing off to share the fixed double bed in the rear of Fifi whilst I headed to do the washing up at the campsite sinks. I got into a lovely conversation with a local who gave me all of the tips for the local area. With my head spinning with facts, I clambered back into the van at the time I would normally be in bed… to find the kids were still awake! The lights were out in the van to see if that helped, and as I sat at the table I watched my first ever moonrise. Absolutely stunning. With one down and one still awake, we cracked open the wine and chocolate. In any other setting wine, chocolate and whispered conversations in dark could have been quite romantic! It was 11 by the time we got to bed.

We really have been spoiled with our previous Fifi adventures where it’s just been the two of us. The luxury of a lie in. Alas, not today. 6 o’clock. We managed to stay in bed until half past, but breakfast was necessary. We realised that there’s a lot more stuff to manoeuvre in a small space where there are 2 kids travelling with you and fewer free surfaces to use! As the campsite woke up around us (hopefully not caused by us), we scarpered just in case, driving to the agricultural centre car park in Bakewell which could facilitate motorhome parking. Online it previously seemed to imply that you could stay overnight for a pound… but there were clear signs in the car park forbidding overnight stays – glad we didn’t try it.

We unloaded our tired children onto bikes and pedalled our way onto the Monsal Trail towards Hassop Station. This was the venue where our kids would get to meet some of their great aunties and uncles, first cousins once removed (not sure who removed them) and second cousins that they’d never met before… as well as some closer family. After greeting everyone, two parties set off in the direction of Monsal Head; some on bikes and some on foot. We were in the cycling party; one of our kids on their bike, one on a bike seat and with another child on a bike too, progress was a little stop-start, but we overtook the walking party after a while.

I reckon that had the kids had a bit more sleep the night before, we might have gone a bit further, but we made it as far as the first tunnel and the Monsal Head viaduct; re-assuring our kids that the dank, dark tunnel they were cycling through did have light at the end of it! Icecream is always a good bargaining chip and in this case convinced our eldest to get back on the bike rather than staying put on the viaduct. It’s a good job we found one at Quackers; a cafe about half way back to Hassop Station.

The next few hours at Hassop Station provided a brilliant backdrop for a family get together. There were gifts from our Germany-based family (thank you Story Snug!), family albums from the 1930s and 1940s to pore over, a leisurely lunch with plenty of chair swapping, a chance to reconnect with wider family and a very patient teenager who seemed more than happy to play with the children! Who by this stage were absolutely exhausted, and still had to cycle a few miles back to Fifi!

We made it though, covered in dust. Bikes onto the bike rack. Gas off. Back to the campsite. Swift shower. Bite to eat. Kids into bed. Straight to sleep. Except that last one didn’t happen for both of the kids. An hour and a half later, our eldest was still loudly awake, at risk of waking our youngest. Should we maybe have abandoned our dream of being able to have an evening when we go on holiday with kids? Eventually it was beer and crib o’clock – once around the board, before we too settled down by 10.

We must be thankful for small blessings – we had a lie in until 0645! And that was followed by a very chilled breakfast, washing up (with a spider incident involving lots of scared grown men and a woman who saved the day saying “don’t worry boys, I’ll look after you”), playing on the campsite playground and emptying the loo. We’d agreed to meet my brother’s family at the splash park in Bakewell for some splashing and a picnic, so we stopped off at Aldi on the way, where we each chose one favourite item to take on a picnic. I’ll leave you to guess which of us might have chosen honey on bread, olives, smoked salmon and chocolate biscuits.

We arrived at the splash park after a quick game of pooh sticks, met the other family and got the kids into clothes ready to splash, at which point the water stopped. We were assured that it would only be off for 15 minutes… but Google told us otherwise – that it was off for a whole hour over lunch. So instead we consumed our picnic of champions and played on the playground until the water resumed. It’s amazing how water can entertain children for so long and it was lovely watching the cousins all playing together. However, all good things must come to an end – we lured the children away whilst they were still asking for more, with the promise of icecream. Skirting past the icecream van where cones and lollies were 4 quid a pop, past the huge fish in the river, past the lock bridge (not lock as in lock gate, but lock as in bridge with padlocks on) we found Co-op where for 4 quid we picked up 6 mini magnums and a large bottle of ginger ale. That’s more our style!

Once back at the campsite we tried a different tack after tea; we got our younger one to sleep on the fixed bed whilst the older one lay reading in the drop down bed. There was then a pivotal life moment; the teaching of crib to our eldest. In the background, the campsite was slowly settling down for the night. A little girl in pajamas waddled past our motorhome with icepacks wedged down her trousers and there were reports of the Macarena happening in the ladies toilets. You don’t get that when wild camping!

Luckily for us though, there is still coffee and bacon when on a campsite – both were needed following the 6am wakeup the next morning, but once again we had a quiet morning. It was cooler today with cloud cover as we picked up my parents from Hassop and drove to Bakewell. Our normal parking spot at the showground was taken; someone was reserving the spot for some friends who had bikes on the car roof which couldn’t fit under the height barrier of the main parking. We were too British to risk inconveniencing them by suggesting that maybe they could have just removed the bikes, and as we were not going to decapitate Fifi, we found a parking spot by the side of the road around the corner.

It was market day (which explained the busy parking) so we had a lovely wander around the stalls in town before going on a lunch hunt which ended in another picnic eaten al fresco in some gardens by the river. This was followed shortly afterwards with a Hope Valley icecream for all… well, nearly all – I decided to go for a Bakewell pudding instead. A few spots of refreshing rain arrived, to take the edge off the sweltering heat we’d been having, so we headed back to Fifi and returned my parents to Hassop. They very kindly offered to look after the kids if Kiri and I wanted to go for a cycle ride together at that stage, which in our sleepy delirium made us both chuckle… so we all sat down for a coffee, entertained by our little one who was dancing around, refusing to admit that a toilet stop was needed!

The campsite was quieter on our return (we must have frightened everyone off) and it was cool enough to eat our hot dogs outside before we adopted the same strategy as the previous night with getting the kids to sleep. Either the plan was a good one, or maybe they were too tired to resist, but there was no fight, leaving a little time for a game of Uno washed down with some local beer (including gluten free – what a find!).

Normally when you strike camp that’s the end of the holiday… but given we’d got quite a long drive to return Fifi we had decided to tack on an extra night near Hewish. By this stage we’d got into the swing of mornings and were resigned to the reality of no lie ins. The journey back home to drop off bikes was fairly uneventful. At one point we took a left hand corner a little too fast (not for the van… but for the drawer catches). A drawer slid open with a bang, surprising the kids. The solution? Take the next right hand corner a little faster than normal. It worked. In totally unrelated news, a couple of minutes later there was a plaintive call of “Mummy, I feel sick”. Oops.

A service station stop solved sickness sorrows, although with the playground shut, we had to find alternate amusement in the form of a chain curtain and hearing a child coming out of Waitrose moaning “but Mummy, I absolutely must have some olives”. After a bite to eat, everyone’s stomachs were settled enough and we dropped off the bikes and panniers at home and once again headed south – this time to Brean. We trundled down a single track road with passing places, then onto a slightly wider road (where we met a double decker bus!) before finally arrive at Diamond Farm Holiday Park where we pitched up in a spot next to the River Axe in a part of the campsite with no marked pitches or hookup.

We just had time to turn the gas on (for the fridge) and pop to the campsite shop for an icecream when the thunder started… and then big spots of rain. We retired to the van to appreciate the storm whilst the muscle memory of being in a motorhome in the rain flooded back. Cooking tea was a balancing act of circulating air to let steam out, but trying to prevent rain coming in. There’s something really lovely about hearing the rain ping off the roof of a motorhome whilst you’re all cosy inside, with no reason to go outside. We didn’t fancy walking to the sinks to wash up, so we just did it in the van, watching the field getting more and more waterlogged.

When the youngest went to bed, we let our oldest stay up to play Uno (under strict instructions of “we don’t talk about Uno, no no no” to the youngest in case it’s seen as unfair) which led to some incredibly creative wildcard rules. Never before have we had an Uno rule that “when you play a 1, if you see and name a bird, you get another go, otherwise you miss your next go”. Sadly the birds seemed to stay away on my go! Once both kids were in bed we had a drinking water conundrum – do we fill up a 2 litre bottle in the dark and dry (the rain had paused), or wait until the morning, pre-coffee, when it would potentially be raining? I splashed across the field.

I needn’t have worried though – when we woke the next morning it was dull, but dry. Everything was packed into bags and Fifi was cleaned, then we headed to the campsite waste area to “empty stuff” whilst Kiri and the kids had a quick play. And then to the beach! Well… we tried at least. The only car parks we found were paid for on a per day basis rather than by the hour and with the dearest at £16 and the cheapest £6, I stayed in the van whilst Kiri and the kids got out to see the sea for a few minutes (not that it’s easy to see without binoculars at Brean!). Everyone was bundled back into the van and we headed off to find the elusive Sainsburys petrol station from our last trip where we topped up, glad that the price of diesel had fallen to “just” 182.9p per litre. Ouch.

When we returned Fifi, we just about managed to fit everything back into our car and were just doing one last check around Fifi when we found a cupboard with 3 more bags in it. We debated whether to leave one of the kids behind in Hewish, but settled on all just being a bit squished for the final leg of the adventure. And then we were home – arriving just as a broadband engineer was knocking on our door. As that would have been a bit of a rubbish end to a blog post, we decided to finish the holiday with one last icecream. There’s always space for icecream.

One Response

Is that a duck in the middle photo of rain? Maybe just a window lock?

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