After an incredible first season, it was time for the Skoolie to hit the road again
Last week we moved the Skoolie to our new location at Beachy Head. The sun was out and the drive over Seven Sisters, past the silvery swirls of the Cuckmere river, was stunning. As we drove through small villages, cars honked us and people waved, thrilled by the sight of an American yellow school bus on their road. We felt pretty happy. Our last Firle guest had given us a 5 star review, continuing our run of lovely feedback from guests, and a news alert had popped up to tell us that not only had we featured in the i newspaper as an autumn break, we were in the Guardian travel tips for winter glamping too. Not bad for a first season!
But what comes next?
We moved to Firle Estate, near Lewes, in June. They were keen to try glamping and we were more than happy to move into their beautiful spot (all 7000 acres of it) that spans the South Downs. We got some strange looks as we turned down the tiny lanes in our enormous yellow bus, but we are used to turning heads on the road – everywhere we go, people stop and stare!
We were given access to three locations across Firle and guests had access to some incredible rural locations, gorgeous sunsets and delightful walks across the Estate to reach the array of pubs, tea-rooms and farm shops that were on offer. The glowing reviews suggest they loved it!
So why have we left? Well, all good things must come to an end. Our agreement with Firle was created so that we could offer off-grid camping on unused farmland. But no corner of a farm has empty space for long. Sheep had to be moved to different fields, rams separated, crops cut, seeds sown and shooting traps set. As our booking calendar became increasingly busy, it became a complicated process trying to work out where and when we could move.
We made the decision to try and find a new location. We wanted one that offered us the same level of access to the stunning South Downs, with some equally great eateries and activities on our doorstep, but that also felt off-grid. We also wanted to increase our outdoors offering to guests. At Firle we had to be mindful of crops and farm buildings . For our new location, we wanted space for kids to run around and adults to set up hammocks or sit around a firepit to toast marshmallows.
As soon as Visit Eastbourne showed us Black Robin Farm, we could see the potential. Our own field with views of the sea, less than a mile from the stunning white cliffs of Beachy Head and the South Downs Way, within walking distance of Eastbourne’s amenities. It was perfect.
The Visit Eastbourne team were just as excited about the idea of moving the Skoolie as us. For them, our tiny home offered tourists and residents an opportunity for high-end glamping at one of their most visited tourist destinations. It also fit their vision of an environmentally-conscious glamping solution, it’s solar panels and sheep’s wool insulation making it a year-round option for those who like to escape without abandoning all the comforts of home . Besides, they had fallen in love with the epoxy countertop and the big bug-eye mirrors by then!
We are already live on the Visit Eastbourne site and will soon be coming out in their accommodation brochure for 2022.
The day came for the big move and we turned on the engine. As the revs turned over, we surveyed the first obstacle – getting out of the field. Firle had received an obscene amount of rain over the past few weeks and our spot, at the bottom corner of a field, had been getting boggier and boggier. Normally, wellies suffice to get you through a muddy field, but you can’t put those on a 14-ton vehicle.
As soon as we tried to manoeuvre out of the field, we found our wheels spinning. Disaster. Or it could have been. Luckily for us, the farmer is lovely and sent one of his boys down with a tractor to tow us out the field. Problem averted!
During the initial build, our friends at Lanoguard had sponsored the application of their chemical-free rust treatment, derived from lanolin, to the bottom of the bus. Knowing we were off to the salty sea air of Beachy Head, they offered to reapply, suggesting we park up at Newhaven Beach so they could film it for their social media.
A stop-over by the beach? Who could resist!
After cleaning the underbody of the bus at a local garage (it was pretty muddy!), we parked up at the beach in time for sunset. It was lovely down by the water, listening to waves lap beside us. It reminded me of the times we parked on the beach in Texas at Padre Island. Sigh.
The drive to Eastbourne was the furthest we would had driven the bus ourselves since it arrived. Each bus is built to different specs – some are good for the mountains, others are better for the cities. Our Florida bus was one that stopped and started a lot – i.e. it didn’t get up much speed. There also aren’t many hills in that part of Florida. We could see the cliffs looming over Seven Sisters. How would it fare?
Thankfully, it was fine. It chugged slowly up the hills and descended gracefully! We made it to Eastbourne’s heritage coast, via the single file bridge at Cuckmere Valley, and one of the most beautiful views over the snaking Cuckmere river. We had no trouble with the field, not a bog in sight – I guess when you are a the top of a cliff then the water runs down!
We are now happily parked up in our field at Black Robin Farm, the deck down for sunset drinks and morning coffees. It really is a beautiful spot and we feel very lucky to have access to such a stunning part of the South Downs.