Cali’s on the Farm 2014

This year’s Cali’s on the Farm event, organised but the California Owners Forum moved to Somerset and a much larger venue for the anticipated 150 vans. Predominately a T5 based VW California meeting, there were not too many Westfalia California vans at this years event, only three poptops – Koen and Jennifer all the way from Belgium, Ben, Hazel and their son (sorry, forgotten your name!) and us all with 1991 vans – and Peter and his California Exclusive.

A pleasant weekend, caught up with a few people we met last year, put faces to people we’d only met in Internetland and met some new people.

The three 1991 Cali’s. All looking pretty good for their age.
The 3 1991 Westfalia Californias

Team Westfalia!
Westfalia display team

Betty and her long lost sister. Registered one week apart, the last time they saw each other was at the Westfalia factory.

Betty Bus
Betty Bus

The event was across the road from the beach. Strong winds meant for challenging flying conditions though!

The Electric field
The electric field

Dinner. Ribs, slow cooked in the rain…


Pork Scratchings

The van screeched to a halt in the darkness, the dim headlights just about illuminating the startled family of wild boar sprinting across the road ahead of us. They were lucky, it was late and we were tired, but were travelling slowly as we were looking for somewhere to sleep.  We pulled into a secluded parking area, put the beds down and fell into a deep sleep, dreaming dreams of bacon rolls and crispy pork scratchings.

Thursday morning

As well as wild boar, the Forest of Dean is also home to some pretty decent mountain biking trails. We had planned to ride them earlier in the year when we visited the area to watch the Severn Bore but a broken bike meant we had enjoyed the forest on foot instead. Back now with two working bikes we parked at the Cannop Cycle Centre to start our ride. After spending some time playing in the skills area we headed off for a lap of the much acclaimed Verderers’ trail.

Rosana on a bike

In the late morning heat we rode up the first fire road climb, desperate to get some shelter from the sun and soon enough we were under the cover of the trees and racing back down the flowing swoopy bermed track. The day progressed, up and down, in and out of dappled sunlight, riding more interesting switchback climbs up hillsides and more flowing descents, culminating in a steep set of rollers and fast bermed corners on stoney ground.

Hot and dusty we made use of the centre’s shower facilities before looking for another spot in the forest to spend the night, eventually settling near a lake with a motorhome for company. There was evidence all around of wild boars’ nocturnal foraging, but we weren’t treated to a more sedate boar sighting.


Not a set of rules in sight

The next day followed pretty much the same pattern with another lap of the Verderers’ trail under the same bright blue skies. In the height of summer the forest was a vibrant green and as we raced along the trail we were accompanied by a soundtrack of birdsong. We stopped for a while to catch our breath and watch a bird of prey that we’d heard circling above us.

We were just as hot and dusty as the previous day so made use of the van’s own cold water shower in the carpark before heading south for a weekend of campervans in Sommerset with the California Owners Forum.

Rosana, still on a bike

The Longest Day

There’s something special about waking up to the sound of the sea gently lapping at the shore. Sliding open the door, the salty air outside mingles with the smell of coffee brewing on the van’s stove. We eat our breakfast while enjoying the view across the water, seagulls circling overhead hoping we’ll leave them something. The weather had been kind and remained calm overnight, Hook Head maintaining it’s serene beauty in the morning sunshine.

Our time in Ireland was coming to an end, we had one more night left followed by an early morning crossing. We decided to head back to Wexford and stay at the same campsite we’d used on the first night, it was near the ferry terminal and we felt we really ought to have a shower before getting on a boat full of people.

We stopped at the town of New Ross to visit the Dunbrody, one of the ‘Famine Ships’, also known as ‘Coffin Ships’, that plied the Atlantic emigration routes in the nineteenth century. It’s not the original ship, that was wrecked in 1875 and this replica was built in 2001. Along with the ship there’s a museum that gives a hint at the harsh realities of life for those on board and the problems the population were facing that led to emigration on such a large scale.


Cap'n Rosana

A final stop along the way to pick up some fresh County Wexford strawberries to keep us going on the journey home before reaching the campsite and a much needed shower. An early morning ferry returned us to Fishguard and we were blessed with another calm crossing, much to Rosana’s relief. It was the summer solstice and since it was such a beautiful day we decided to extend our trip another day and headed up to the lighthouse at Strumble Point where we found a peaceful spot for the night that gave us a perfect view west over the ocean. There were a couple of other vans there and as sunset approached a number of locals arrived to enjoy the moment as well.

Strumble Head

Strumble Head

As the sun set on the longest day, it also set on another Betty Bus adventure. We’d come to Ireland and found a beautiful country full of colour, interest and friendly people. Our short trip only just scratched the surface, hopefully we’ll be able to return one day to experience more.

That Sinking Feeling

It’s nice to feel welcome.

We were guided into the town of Cobh by friendly little blue motorhome signs, directing us to the carpark by the railway station where there are dedicated bays for vans to stop for a night or two. It’s not a campsite and there are no facilities. It was just some parking spaces and a little sign saying that we’re happy to have you stay a couple of nights. And it was pretty much full. We only stayed one night, but we went out for dinner, visited a couple of the museums and went to the supermarket – not a bad return for the town of Cobh.

Feeling wanted

The view was great, overlooking Haulbowline Island and the approach into Cork harbour. Behind us was the line into the town’s train station. It’s true to say that the trains were a little noisy, but there weren’t many running overnight.

The view

Oh, and we were dwarfed. Our little van looked lost in a sea of enormous motorhomes. As we sat by the van having a cup of tea and watching the world go by we could hear a group of teens approaching along the promenade that ran between the parking area and the water. “That one’s really cool” they agreed, before noticing us sat there. We smiled. They looked startled, they blushed, giggled and hastily went upon their way. So there you have it, Betty Bus – officially declared to be much cooler than your average motorhome.


Cobh has also been known by the names of Cove and Queenstown in the past and has a long history of emigration. Almost half of the people that emigrated from Ireland did so through the port of Cobh (then Queenstown). Many left via Cobh for entirely different reasons, as convicts loaded on ships to be transported to Australia. These in themselves were reason enough to visit the town, but there are also two infamous maritime tragedies are closely linked to the town.


On 11th April, 1912 the RMS Titanic made it’s final port of call at Cobh before beginning the final leg of it’s fateful journey to New York, a destination it would never reach. Of the one hundred and twenty three passengers that boarded that day, only forty four survived. The story of the Titanic is one we all know, but the museum housed in the White Star Line’s ticket office is still worth a visit. The first part of the tour is guided and we were lucky enough to get the tour all to ourselves. The derelict pier where the passengers boarded the tenders to be taken to the ship (The Titanic was too large to dock at Cobh) still remains, a ghostly reminder of that tragic voyage.

RMS Titanic Model

Loading pier

Across the road is the Queenstown museum, which gives a much broader view of the towns history, including the WWI sinking of the RMS Lusitania on 7th May, 1915, victim to a U-Boat’s torpedo attack. Both survivors and the dead were bought ashore to Cobh and over one hundred of the one thousand, one hundred and ninety eight people who lost their lives are buried in the town. There have been many controvosies and conspiracy theories around the sinking of the Lusitania. The Germans claimed the ship was carrying ammunition and was therefore a legitimate target. The British have always denied this. Divers have found some evidence of munitions aboard the wreck, although not in any great quantity. Some believe the sinking could have been prevented and was allowed to happen to bring the Americans into the war, although if that were true it was a tactic that failed. The truth is lost in the mists of time.

We’d enjoyed our time in Cobh, it had been interesting and educational, but it was time to move on and head further East. We’d visited Hook Head when we first arrived in Ireland and it looked a great place to camp for the night, but a broken alternator belt had meant we’d had to find a campsite and an electric hookup to charge our batteries. We decided to try again. In the calmer sunny weather we were experiencing it felt a different, much less wild place than we’d seen two weeks earlier. It was the perfect place to spend the night.

Hook Head