Kiri and


Would you like to run away, sometime?

September 12th, 2020 (by Steve)

So ask the opening words of our motorhome videos from a few years ago. Now, more than ever, the answer is “yes… please?”. This summer we were going to attempt to give our two wee ones a taste of motorhome life on the open road in France. Well, we all know that this didn’t happen. So when the chance came for Kiri and I to have a couple of nights away in a motorhome in late summer, we leapt at it. I say “a motorhome”, but this isn’t just any motorhome. Let us introduce you to Fifi.

Now you may remember Bertha, our Talbot Express Autotrail Chinook who will have just turned 30 this year? Well, according to latest MOT details, she’s had 8000 miles added since we sold her, so that’s not bad. But enough about Bertha – let’s talk Fifi. Fifi is a 6-berth Fiat Ducato Sunliving S70DF belonging to Kiri’s parents. She’s got a clever bathroom door, a snazzy control panel that shows you levels of water and batteries and a diesel cap that talks to you. But even more incredible than that – power steering, and a top speed higher than 60mph!

So, with two nights away, where would we go? To the top of Scotland? The middle of Wales? Land’s End? Nope – Forest of Dean. After a quick Lidl shop (the first time we’ve shopped together since March) and with Kiri at the helm, we powered our way to Mallards Pike. Only once did I have to hop out and guide us through a three point turn when we went the wrong way… and technically I didn’t have to hop out, as Fifi has a reversing camera, but old habits die hard. Once in the car park, we parked up, opened the windows, turned the gas on, fired up the fridge (no electric hook up you see) and boiled the kettle. It was nearly disastrous as we’d forgotten to buy tea bags, but luckily as Fifi is hired out by the Motorhome Holiday Company, we found a hidden stash and the day was saved.

So why were we at Mallard’s Pike? Go Ape. When you’re an exhausted parent, it’s the natural place to go and relax, right? Following a socially-distanced briefing, we donned our harnesses and set off into the trees for a couple of hours of fun. According to Kiri, it would have been more fun if we hadn’t had to wear harnesses. According to both of us, it would have been more fun if we hadn’t had a cuppa just before spending two hours in the tree tops. But saying that, once we’d done our final Tarzan swing, slid down our last zip wire, filling our shoes and covering our backs with bark chips, we agreed that it was over too quickly. And if we’re after climbing with no safety ropes, we know where to go.

Sadly, but understandably, it’s not possible to stay overnight in any of the Forestry Commission car parks in the Forest of Dean, but we’d noted a spot just down the road where we could spend the first night; Lydney Harbour. Our only adventure was when we went down a road that said it was unsuitable for vehicles over 7 tonnes (we were 3.5) and found ourselves in a very narrow spot. The cars coming the other way were very understanding as they all reversed, and the hand signals they gave us were certainly rather European. We styled it out though; as the livery of Fifi clearly shows the logo of the Motorhome Holiday Company people probably assumed we were novices, when actually we should have known better.

Putting our experience of parking on chocks to good use (Kiri’s learned a lot since her first experience 7 years ago), we settled in for the night at Lydney Harbour, cooking up halloumi, mushrooms and steak and cracking open a beer. We learned that the cupboards in Fifi weren’t designed for the vertically challenged when we were attacked by some nuts, but we put that to one side as we went for a sunset walk around the harbour with lovely views down the Severn estuary. The tide was out and on our return to Fifi a V-shape of geese flew low over us, and a lone feather drifted down to us. Celtic Christians used the wild goose as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. Co-incidence?

We retired to Fifi and received news from home of an “interesting” bedtime from the grandparents.

We’ve had a lovely afternoon with some successes that have made us smile… bedtime wasn’t one of them but we’re there now

Been there. Many nights actually. So our reaction was to crack open a second beer (unheard of these days) and play crib, whilst pondering that drinking in a car park is generally frowned upon… yet legitimate when in a motorhome. We’d splashed out on special beer from St. Peter’s brewery, as they do the finest gluten free stout around, so maybe that makes things better? The evening drew on and random cars pulled up for a short while before driving off – pretty standard in our experience of overnight stops in car parks. Finally Kiri announced “I feel so tired – it feels like the middle of the night; what time is it?”. Readers, it was ten past nine.

The following morning was a lazy one (well, for me – Kiri went for a run), watching the birds – cormorants, woodpeckers, robins, pigeons, but alas, no wigeons. What’s a wigeon? Apparently an estuary bird, but we think the sign writer was having a laugh. As we weren’t on the continent, I couldn’t indulge in the standard Schoko muesli motorhome breakfast, but we were able to slip back into our routine of reading the bible together, thinking about walking and listening to God. And what better way to put it into practice than to go for an amble around the local area. Now we like to get off the beaten track and at times we commented that it seemed like no-one had been on these footpaths for years… until we realised we weren’t actually on the footpaths! A shortcut involving barbed wire, brambles and stinging nettles got us back on track. Forget walking and listening to God (well, maybe not) – we should have walked and consulted a map! The two and a half mile jaunt ended with a woodland path along the cliff, which, according to the harbour regeneration project noticeboard (from around 2005) had some lovely views. Turns out trees can grow a lot in 15 years… maybe the noticeboard will be updated as part of the current regeneration project?

The tide was back in (I won’t bore you with details of tidal estuaries) as we returned to Bertha (oh dear, Freudian slip – I mean Fifi) for a lunch of cheese. And then it was time for some planning. With another night to go, where could we go for more adventure? What could we do? With COVID-19 cases on the rise again and the new government announcement about laws regarding groups greater than 6 we ideally wanted to avoid campsites and pub car parks… but there wasn’t much choice with regards to wild camping in the immediate area. Kiri decided to lie down and nap to aid the decision; the first time she’s had an afternoon nap since she was pregnant (before you ask… just no!) and I settled into a book. I glanced up from my book with a start when some youths in a car next to us were examining the various dents in their motor and mentioned that one of them was from a camper van. Fifi winced too. But they moved on without any drama and I returned to my book.

By the time the nap was over, we decided we’d stay put. Now one of the joys of motorhoming for us is the moving around, setting up camp in a new place, exploring the area and living a simple life from a mobile base. But as a parent, it’s rare to have time where you think “I don’t have anything to do”, so I continued reading and Kiri did some reading, then some sketching. If we’d followed our original plan of 2 weeks in Fifi in France with the kids, we wouldn’t have been afforded that luxury and it would have been a very different experience. We follow the adventures of Marmalade Tour (a family of four, with two young children, full time motorhoming) on Twitter with equal parts envy and respect – could we do that? Possibly not with our children the age they are… but maybe in the future?

Tea this second night was the simple, hearty, staple Bertha tea of pasta in a vegetable and tomato sauce, which we followed with another evening stroll, before washing up and settling down for more beer and crib. Mid-evening a group of youths congregated in the car park and started playing loud music, but they were no hassle. It’s lucky they didn’t stay for long, as I was ready to burst out of the door and bust some moves to their sick beats. That would have shown them. Instead I was thrashed at crib by Kiri. Once dark, we headed out of the motorhome to empty our grey waste and we spent 10 minutes or so just marvelling at the stars, whilst bats darted around above our heads. It was a bit nippy though, so we headed back to the motorhome and Kiri commented that she hoped the earlier youths had coats. We then had a pretty uneventful night again… apart from being woken up by youths (maybe the same ones who had returned once they’d got their coats?) setting off fireworks whilst holding them in their hands. We prayed for their safety and ours before rolling back over into a deep slumber.

Any good holiday has to end with a bacon butty for breakfast. We cooked the bacon alongside some frozen mushrooms (next time we’ll learn how to turn the fridge down!), before turning off the gas, rolling off the chocks and stowing everything away. It was my first chance to drive Fifi and I certainly noticed the increased length and width over Bertha, whilst also being disconcerted by how little effort it took to turn the steering wheel! I soon got into the swing of it, although I welcomed the new road markings that had appeared in one village since we’d passed it on the way in – they must have known I’m a less experienced driver than Kiri! And before we knew it, we were home – just in time for me to roll into my first meeting of the day (luckily with no video, so they couldn’t see that I hadn’t showered for a couple of days!)

So, reflections on the two days. Not quite the shape of break that we’d envisaged for this summer, but definitely what we needed. Would we resurrect our original plan for Fifi with the kids? No question! So many things reminded us of how much we love the motorhoming lifestyle. Would it be challenging? Of course, but we love a challenge. And now let me put on my 1970s infomercial voice.

Are you dreaming of a couple of nights away from it all? Do you want all of your facilities in one place? Do you want that place to be somewhere of your choosing? Then why not book Fifi? Just visit the Motorhome Holiday Company website to find out more. Terms and conditions apply; you may fall in love with motorhoming and end up buying your own.

2 Responses

Hi this is soooooo good it is great writing and I can see it in my minds eye Love you both ❤️❤️

HOW CAN YOU FORGET THE TEABAGS, STEVE AND KIRI? And the biscuits? (A definite must for me!)
Seriously, a a great story. Made me chuckle along the way. Thanks for sharing.

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