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Press reviews

Skoolie Stays in the Press

From the UK to the USA – what the papers have to say

Typing in a skoolie

By Ruth

Skoolie Stays has featured in local and national press, she’s appeared on television and in a book…  So what do the media make of Skoolie Stays? 

Quirky Weddings Magazine: What's love without a little rebellion?

Quirky Weddings Magazine featured us on a 4-page spread in their magazine and online . It was part of a collaboration with Eastbourne based photographer @thornandfound and make up artist / concept planner @makeupbychelsey_. We had SO MUCH fun staging the rock ‘n’ roll photo shoot on the bus. It was the perfect setting and the team were fantastic. 

Wild Escapes: Incredible Places to Unwind and Explore (National Trust)

Wild Escapes

The National Trust contacted us a year about a possible stay for their author Sian Anna Lewis, who was documenting Wild Escapes in the UK. We were thrilled to be considered and hosted her in early 2022 at our site in Beachy Head.

 

Of course the eagle-eyed will spot that it talks about our site at Beachy Head. Sian’s Wild Escape took place before we had the news that Black Robin Farm, our site, was to undergo works as part of the Council’s Level Up Funding project. The South Downs National Park could no longer let us stay at our spot and so we moved to Little Thakeham Farm.

 

But although some of the suggestions about pubs and hikes may not be relevant, the bus is after all a bus – it has many stops. Little Thakeham is just as wild a destination (and it’s a lot less windy!) so we think our guests will find it just the place to unwind and explore. 

 

Order your copy here!

Call of the Wild: Guardian / Observer

Guardian observer article Skoolie Stays
"Surprisingly chic and spacious"

Sian Anne Lewis, an award-winning travel-writer and blogger visited the Skoolie Stays bus at our site in Beachy Head so that she could write about the best UK wild escapes for a National Trust book. 

 

In preparation for the book launch, 10 of the best of the 40 escapes mentioned in the book, appeared in the Guardian and Observer on 7th May 2023. There was the Skoolie, in at number 2. 

 

She declared the Skoolie as a “big yellow home-from-home” whilst the photographer, the fantastic Annapurna Mellor, told us privately that they had both “loved (their stay) and it’s a really unique addition to the book.

 

Across the Pond: Florida Patch, Manatee School District and ABC Action News

We got in touch with the school district that had originally been home for the Skoolie Stays bus. They were so excited to hear from us. 

 

We worked with Melissa, the Communications Specialist at Manatee District Schools, to provide our side of the Skoolie story and then her team created an incredible film showcasing the reactions to the story of bus #25’s English retirement.  It was shown at their School District meeting, which went out to six thousand of their employees. You can read more about that on our blog

 

The story also led to coverage in The Patch, which goes out across Florida, and the ABC Action News.

 

10 Wild New Stays in Britain: Telegraph

Times article - meet the owners
"Original stays with the wow factor"​

We were interviewed by Laura Fowler for the Telegraph Travel Section. She wanted to talk to ‘glamping entrepreneurs who gave up their day jobs to create original stays with the wow factor. 

 

Laura was really interested in our idea of sharing the off-grid lifestyle that we had enjoyed in America through Skoolie Stays. 

Fire pits and frosty walks’: readers’ top UK winter cabin and glamping stays: Guardian

The Guardian article Skoolie Stays
"A tiny quirky home"​

This was a reader’s tip that made it into the Guardian top tip pages!

Tiana Wilson's Converted School Bus Tiny House Tour (Off Grid)

Teen you-tube star Tiana Wilson decided to book a weekend in the bus to create some content for her numerous channels. She created a couple of different videos for her 5.29m subscribers – a “haunted bus” series and also a tour of the bus.  We had no idea Tiana was staying, so had quite the surprise when the bus popped up as her film set!

itravel: Autumn Glamping Adventures

The itravel article Skoolie Stays
"All American quirky comfort in an altogether more English setting"​

We didn’t even realise we had featured in this until a family friend sent us the itravel article!  Here we are though, second in the list of places to hunker down for a cosy UK break. 

The Argus: Couple's Skoolie Stays Glamping Business Comes to Eastbourne

Argus online
Everywhere you turn there is something creative and interesting "​

The Argus interviewed us to find out more about our trip and how it inspired us to ship over the Skoolie Stays bus. 

Eastbourne Herald: A Look Inside the American School Bus

Easbourne Herald
"This eco-friendly self-catering accommodation boasts solar panels and renewable energy "​

The Eastbourne Herald ran a series of features on us when we moved to Beachy Head. A yellow American school bus was not a common sight and locals were evidently curious as to exactly what was inside that bus!

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Glamping reviews

Skoolie Stays Reviews

What do our guests really think… read on to find out what American School Bus glamping with us is actually like

Typing in a skoolie

By Ruth

Skoolie Stays has been running for 18 months now and we are on to our third location: Thakeham in West Sussex. 

 

We’ve told you our story – where we got the idea, how we built our Skoolie and how busy we have been, but we know that the one thing people actually want to know before they book is “what do other guests make of the bus?”!!

 

Well, read on and find out!

Beautiful or functional?

It looks pretty but is it well equipped for a holiday?

Skoolie Stays - equipped with everything
"An impeccably presented glamping property"

We’ve just got back from an absolutely amazing stay with Skoolie Stays. This is a memory that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. As short breaks go, this is the best we have ever done. The Skoolie is simply stunning. We wanted and needed for nothing. There is genius in every detail, from the murphy bunks to the kitchen design and sun deck. We felt at home immediately.” Sarah

 

“The bus is beautifully fitted out & has everything you need to experience “van life”Paul 

 

“We used the drop down balcony at the back of the bus constantly, lovely place for a brew” Emma

 

“Inside is immaculate with a toasty log burner, games and books to keep you entertained and the most comfortable bed I may have ever slept on.” Mo

 

“The bus has been finished immaculately with so many thoughtful details; this is small space living done well! Ingenious compost loo and lovely hot shower, perfectly formed little kitchen, beautiful parquet floor, comfy bed and nifty little Murphy bunks for the children”. Sophie

 

“The bus has been designed in an incredibly clever way which makes it feel cozy and homely, while still creating enough space for each individual. Beds are gloriously comfy, shower and toilet make perfect use of the space available and are user friendly without fault. Kitchen is practical and once again showcases careful thinking and planning so that it’s small enough not to be in the way yet also accessible and useable. There was absolutely nothing lacking in this bus for our short break. The wood burner was super toasty and heats the whole bus in no time. We used the drop down balcony at the back of the bus constantly, lovely place for a brew and to read, again it’s a brilliant size to relax in comfort.”  Emma

 

“Every detail on board had been thoroughly thought through, testament to the long US road trip that the owners undertook in one of these. Perfectly kitted out, the Skoolie is a labour of love!” Daniel

 

“A really exceptional and special place for a break, we feel really privileged to have been able to stay here. Thank you.” Emma

 

“We loved all the little touches; twinkly lights, cosy blankets and reading books. Our boys loved sleeping in the handcrafted bunk beds and we loved having a beautiful bathroom and shower to freshen up in. Everything had been thought of and we came away wanting to rebook as soon as possible.” Chantelle

 

“We especially enjoyed cosying around the log burner in the evening and cooking up a full English breakfast in the morning which we ate on the sun deck.” Sam

Family friendly?

It's great to see quirky but is it suitable for kids?

“It’s comfortable and stylish, with gorgeous quirky touches, and every single detail has been carefully considered. Plenty of space for a family of four”. Katy

 

“A special stay for our 10 year old son who is mad on ‘Miss Fritter’ the school bus from Disney Cars 3 demolition derby ! Absolutely stunning location and a fantastically kitted out cosy school bus. Highly recommend.” Oskar

 

“I really love the comfy bed it was cosy at night. Also I love the penny design on the worktop. We toasted marshmallows last night. They were delicious! My mum and dad also had a great time. Thank you for a really cool surprise holiday. We will miss it but will never forget it”  Daisy

 

“Definitely recommend to anyone and everyone from couples like us to a family with kids.” Ruby

 

We arrived late and collapsed on the deep slouchy leather sofa with a glass of wine whilst the kids gave us a break by playing at bus drivers and checking every knob and lever – luckily safety has been considered first, and they couldn’t cause any trouble!” Jenny

 

“From the grown ups to the little ones we were all amazed by the Skoolie’s charm and coolness. As a family we loved our time together playing American monopoly and reading books kindly provided”. Paul

 

“We had simply the best weekend in the skoolie, and our 3 year old absolutely loved it! The location is beautiful – better than the photos, the enclosed garden is great for kids to play in.” Nikita

 

“My family and I have just returned home from an amazing stay on the Skoolie bus. From start to finish it was an amazing experience. Each one of the family members enjoyed the experience and were sad to leave”. Jonathan

 

“Great fun for families with young children – sitting in the driver’s seat and pressing the many buttons was enjoyable for me as an adult!! ” Deborah

Does it work for winter breaks?

Will we be freezing if we glamp in the colder months?

“The bus was toasty warm and comfortable, even in chilly November, thanks to the wood-burning stove and sheep’s wool insulation”. Daniel

 

“We arrived in a huricane but as soon is the stove was lit were as cozy as anything.” Paul

 

“I was glad I ordered the fire wood – which I had hoped we would use outside but it was just too cold – but the log burner made it so toasty inside. The bed was the cosiest! Plenty of hot water in the shower”. Nikita

 
“We had the Skoolie experience with our grandsons and all four had a brilliant time!  The bus is the star of the stay, everything we could need including very comfortable beds and a welcome hot shower after a days walk! The log burner burned brightly both nights- cosy. We really hope to return in the summer but any season would be a pleasure!” Christine
 
 “With the log burner on, sitting in the bus with a glass of wine whilst the wind whipped outside was warm and cosy.” Chantelle
 
“For my 50th I had a desire to pitch a tent next to a river…,but… it is January…. So I found the Skoolie Bus instead! It was a wonderful experience and our kids loved it too.  The bus is very comfortable and with the log fire going we were never cold.” Claire
 
“The log burner and the diesel heating kept us lovely and warm despite the cold January weather.” Megan

Does off-grid mean basic?

And come on....it says smell-free but is the compost toilet really ok?

“I was slightly apprehensive about the compost toilet, but as promised, it really doesn’t smell, and is not weird at all!” Jen

 

“This is a mini boutique bolt hole . Being off grid didn’t feel like a compromise at all with solar lights & hot showers! “ Shehani

 

“This eco-sustainable accommodation seriously needs to be seen to be believed and we are already considering another stay next year. If I could give more than 5* I would!”  Mo

 

“The perfect place to reconnect with nature and each other. I highly recommend it!” Catherine

 

And what are the owners like?

What happens if we need to speak to Ruth and Guy?

Ruth and Guy Skoolie Stays
"Ruth and Guy were such wonderful hosts who made sure we had a lovely stay which we are very grateful for, thank you!"

Cannot fault the communication from the owners, professional yet also personal. Easy to contact, and gave clear and informative instructions.” Emma

 

“The owners are truly wonderful… friendly, funny and very helpful with providing all the info you need in advance and during your stay”. Moira

 

“Absolutely blown away. The attention to detail is amazing and the little touches make all the difference. Pretty clear that heart and soul has gone into creating this luxury bus stay and we loved every minute!” Daniel

 

“The bus was easy to find as directions were clear, everything on the bus was easy to use with the detailed user guide to hand, the bus itself was truly amazing and so much fun! I loved it so much that it has inspired me to buy and convert my own Skoolie bus one day so I can take it out on the road! Ruth was an amazing host going above and beyond to accommodate us! Thank you!” Ruby

 

“I had some minor issues with the gas hob but Guy arrived quickly to resolve them.” Elaine

 

“My daughter I had recently experienced the joy of staying on the Skoolie Bus! Amazing! The love & thought that has gone into the Skoolie Bus & your stay is evident throughout”Tracy

Should I book?

I would - it's not just the guests that love it. So do the press!

National / local press features: TelegraphTimes; Guardian; iNewsThe ArgusThe Eastbourne Herald

Categories
News Skoolie Stays Sustainable glamping

Converting the Skoolie Stays American school bus

ruth wimpory skoolie stays

By Ruth

Buying an American school bus and bringing it to the UK is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a lot of time, skills, creativity and contacts to turn an old retired yellow bus from a different continent into a rural bolt hole in the UK.  Luckily, after travelling 14,000 miles across America in our first Skoolie, we had the confidence, ability and network to take the plunge and buy bus number 2 and launch our new business: Skoolie Stays.  

Buying an American school bus from the UK

Chicken buses central america

There was a sense of de-ja-vu when it came to purchasing a new bus.  It felt very different this time though because of the financial risk. The major cost of a Skoolie project is not in the purchase of the bus – ex-school buses are plentiful in the States, so they are good value – it’s in the shipping and conversion. We needed to be sure we picked a good bus that would be worth the investment we were ready to make. When we found a bus in Florida that had our choice of engine, transmission and had the ‘dog-nose’ look we like (rather than flat-faced), as well as the interior height we sought, we had our friends check it out before we put it on the ship over to Southampton.  

 

In America, you buy your bus and then convert it before applying to change the registration from bus to a private vehicle. You get your insurance and hit the road. It’s a slightly more complicated process in the UK. You need an HGV license for a start. You also need to navigate the confusing world of DVLA guidelines about MOTs and imported vehicles to get your bus registered. Long story short, you need to get your MOT certificate before you begin your conversion as it needs to look like a bus in order to be assessed as a bus. We had to make a few changes to fit within UK rules and regs, but we sailed through our test and were able to send off our paperwork for registration. A few weeks later. we had our plates. 

First conversion job: stripping the bus

Seat removal is the first place to start with a Skoolie conversion but it’s a nasty job. Our seats were bolted onto rails, which meant they came out easily, but the rails themselves also had to go and the bolts were tricky to shift. 

 

 

It took us 3 filthy and exhausting days to remove some 500 bolts. Each one had to be angle-grinded and then hammered or drilled out. Mercifully, the wooden sub-floor was easy to wrench up. We’ve seen plenty of builds in which this stage is even worse – the glue refusing to let go of either surface – so we thanked the Skoolie gods and pulled it all back for the big reveal. What state was the floor in?

 

 

The condition of the floor is always a bit of a unknown when buying your bus. You can get an idea of rust from a survey of underneath and around the edges, but you never know until you rip the floor up what kind of state the bus will be in. It can be an expensive disaster to find a rusty, holey mess. The best way to prevent that, especially if you are buying remotely, is to purchase a bus from somewhere that stays warm(ish) and is not too near the sea, and that is built to drive on terrain similar to that which you will need it for. It’s no good heading to the Alps in a city bus that is designed to stop and start on flat roads!

 

 

Our floor was thankfully brilliant – just a touch of surface rust which is exactly what you’d expect. We sanded back the surface then treated it with de-greaser before spraying it down with a specialist metal prep. All the holes left by the bolts were filled with bits of old bus metal and pennies (the perfect size) and with the whole floor deemed waterproofed, we covered everything with a rust preventative paint, which is totally resistant to road salt, petrol, battery acid, etc, before adding a gloss top coat (which took forever to dry in the February snow!). g

Back to the metal ... and then out with half of it

Floor done, we moved onto the walls. All the unnecessary metal, fittings and insulation had to be removed, so there were a few more long days wielding angle-grinders, drills and hammers to remove the aircon units and the disabled door lift.  Dirty, dusty, achey days.

 

We then started on the roof, removing the two emergency exits. Climbing out the hatch to the roof-deck was one of our favourite things to do in America. They are not designed to be opened and closed as regularly as we did though, so ours broke. We wanted to avoid that this time and, as we weren’t building a deck on top, decided to replace the front exit with a glass marine hatch and the rear with a campervan-style vent. Neither were the size of the hole left by the original hatch, so we patched the hole, made a new frame to support the marine hatch (out of old bus rails) and then cut through again to fit. It worked brilliantly and now we always have a view of the sky, even when it is closed.

 

 

With the hatches done, the roof was cleaned and sanded down. All the rivets and seams were coated with silicone before a fresh coat of military vehicle paint was applied. The white top, as well as looking traditional for a school bus and making it pretty for the birds and paragliders overhead, has the added benefit of reflecting the sun’s rays and keeping the bus cooler on hot days. 

Taping out our planned layout

MArking out the space in a Skoolie

Once the interior was dry we put the insulation and the ply subfloor down. Suddenly it was starting to look like a useable space and we could dance around marking things out in tape. We had a plan already of course, but you never know how it will feel until you lay it out. Are those tight gaps workable? Can you squeeze anything better into that space?

 

Before we could get too excited, we hit a problem. We’d picked the worst time of year to begin our conversion. February was freezing but at least it was dry. March was wet, wet, wet. In this instance it was useful though. We arrived one soggy morning to find tell-tale wet spots below the windows. It could only mean one thing – leaky seals. This is a common problem, particularly with this style of window frame, and it was good that the issue was flagged up early in the build. Despite the foul conditions, Guy had to spend the day on a ladder re-sealing each one up while I dammed the drips with blue roll. When the wads of tissue came away dry, Guy was allowed back in again!

 

With a solid floor, sealed windows and our masking tape guides, we were able to start framing out the living space and lining the walls and ceiling with sheep’s wool insulation. We chose Cumbrian wool because of the eco-credentials. I also liked the idea of wrapping up the bus in a big woolly jumper, even though it smelt like a farmyard for a few days until we got the waterproof membrane taped on top.

Getting down and dirty with the plumbing and heating

Plumbing in a Skoolie

With the inside taking shape, Guy turned his attention to the plumbing for the water and heating. It was a tricky and messy period of the build and even though he had spent hours preparing detailed schematics and timelines for ordering, it was still an almighty challenge and nothing seemed to work quite as we had planned at the first pass. When you are building a bespoke conversion you can’t always buy things off the shelf and much of the time we ended up sourcing what we needed from companies who sold pond supplies or farming equipment. The measurements varied between imperial and metric, but also seemed to be dependent on different companies interpretations of how to measure. Things would arrive and be a mm too small or wouldn’t flex in the right way. It was endlessly frustrating and kept Guy on the laptop until late at night as that was the only time he had free to research and purchase new.

 

We got there in the end and once we had everything mounted and working, we set about rust-proofing the exterior underbelly with Lanoguard, a sheep-wool derived rust protector. It is a brilliant product and so much better than chemical protectors. Lanoguard even came down to help us apply it. We warmed up their thick grease and painted it on the bolt holes so that it could really soak in to the newly exposed areas, then set up the pressure spray to cover the bottom in a more diluted, thinner product. Mark and Jacob got under the bus with Guy, I went to make them all tea and by the time I came back they had finished and the bus looked brand new.

Fitting out the kitchen, bathroom and living room

Building the interior of a skoolie

Back inside, the framing was done and we had the skeleton of a bedroom and bathroom, as well as a kitchen carcass. It was time to call in the specialists.

John arrived to help us with the tiling, spending days coiled up in the bathroom turning an empty space into a luxurious bathroom. Lots of people are not sure whether you can actually use ceramic tiles in a vehicle conversion, but as long as you use the right kind of flexible grout and sealant, it’s fine. 

 

 

Once the bathroom was complete, we moved on to the panelled pine ceiling and made one of many last minute design changes that have gone on to become real features. This time it was to add a long wooden backbone down the length of the bus to help ensure the slats went in neatly and evenly, but also to provide a more solid base for our spotlights. It was time for the first fix electrics. 

 

With Guy plumbing, John panelling, Neily working on the cabinets, Steve fitting the wiring, Marcus doing the LPG and Andy from Hove log burners lying prostate on the floor trying to fit the log-burning stove, it was quite timely that the Government chose that point to send the kids home from school. It was time for me to leave the boys and work from home! 

Repurposing the bus seats and working from home

Repurposing bus seats

My fingers may not have been as cold as the boys but it didn’t mean I could take my foot of the pedal. In between home-schooling I painted endless panels of wood , all of which had to dry in the warmth of the house, and spent hours researching and ordering bits for the bus. It was also a chance to begin work on all the creative ideas that we had been thinking about. Home-schooling art projects began!

 

We wanted to reuse as much as we could from our bus and, with a whole bus load of seats at our disposal, it made sense to repurpose a couple and use them to create a dining area. Only problem is, those seats are wide – the aisle space on a US bus seems to be smaller than a UK bus. We decided to cut them down to 2/3 their original size, welding them together and reupholstering them in new vinyl to create our own American-diner. We found an original teak school table from the Wood Recycling Store, cleaned off the gum but left the graffiti, and used part of the disabled lift as a table leg to complete the look.

In for a penny - the epoxy kitchen countertop

Epoxy counter

My other big ‘work from home’ project was the kitchen countertop. Whilst travelling in America, we’d helped our friends create an incredible feature shower wall with glow in the dark epoxy on pecky cypress (wood that is full of holes made by fungus… we don’t get it over in the UK, although other woods get fungus holes) and I really wanted my own epoxy project on the bus. I had in mind a river table but when I started to research it, the huge amount of epoxy you need and the seasoned live wood were prohibitively expensive. I started looking into micro-cement instead but that too was pricey. Time was running out – Neily needed to move on with the kitchen – and I was moments away from ordering a boring butcher block surface when I realised that if we did a shallow epoxy pour over an interesting surface, an epoxy countertop was do-able. Scrap the butcher block and head to the bank – I wanted pennies and lots of them!

 

Neily cut me the MDF base, I primed it and then set to the job of meticulously cleaning and glue-ing 3000 (ish) pennies and halfpennies to the top. Grout went on next and then it was polished. I was nervous about the epoxy pour because you only get one shot at it. You mix the epoxy and hardener to exactly the right ratio and then stir for a specific amount of time. Once you start, there is no room for error. Get your ratios wrong and it doesn’t set. Set your timer incorrectly and it gets dangerously hot. Pour it badly and you get bubbles. Cure it at the wrong temperature and it scuppers the process. Yikes. We followed the instructions to the letter! The main concern was the rolled edge – to achieve this you have to tape the edge of the countertop to form a barrier. You leave it to cure for an hour or so until it has more of a gel consistency, then remove the tape. The gel doesn’t just stream off like a liquid, so it holds its shape as it drips and eventually rolls over the edge. It was still a bit bubbly, but we chose an epoxy that degasses itself as it cures so we left it for the night. In the morning it was crystal clear and looked sooooo good. It took 24 hours to be touch dry and then a further couple of days to completely harden up. A quick sand of the now solid drips at the bottom and we were good to go. It was a week in the making, but it was worth it – it’s a triumph, even if I do say so myself!

Getting off-grid ready - solar power, compost loos and a service vehicle

Solar panels Skoolie

We wanted the bus to be off-grid. We loved that we could just travel anywhere in the U.S, we didn’t need to plug in to survive and could stay in the wilds as long as our water tank allowed us, so our UK bus needed the same features.

 

With the help of some fabulous friends, we were able to install 6 solar panels. We hinged each panel on to aluminium boxing with gas struts so that they can be angled to 35 degrees, which is optimum for harvesting the low English winter sun. We will be able to generate plenty of power even on wintery days. 

 

The other eco-arrival was our compost loo. We thought long and hard about this one. There was no doubt in our minds that a compost toilet made sense – it not only massively reduces water consumption, which means we wouldn’t require a black waste tank, we lived with one for a year and we know that they are brilliant devices for small spaces.

 

The concern was guests being grossed out with the idea of a campsite-style stinky long-drop. In the end we figured that we just had to change people’s minds by promoting the benefits, namely the enormous amount of water you are saving, and addressing the fears, the biggest one being that they smell. They don’t at all. The liquids and solids mixing together is the main culprit of the lingering smells and with a compost toilet like ours, they are separated. Guy has fitted a tank under the bus for the liquids. The solids go into a container that is vented to the outside. A scoop of sawdust to hide the evidence and a sliding lid to cover the container, and you can walk away confident of no smells.

 

 

Our toilet choice was a Simploo, a UK make. They have been really helpful and their customer service is also top notch. We are pretty sure we will win our guests round with their product.

Adding design flair with repurposed wood, upcycled metal and an evolving cool colour pallette

Painting the wooden panels

From the beginning of the build we tried to make the most of the materials around us, re-using parts of the bus as I’ve mentioned, but also upcycling things we found along the way and hunting for the perfect pieces in second-hand stores.

 

Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and Ebay were my friends. Scouring through other people’s trash produced bus treasure which came with fascinating stories or brought us new followers. Our perfectly-sized Scandi leather sofa belonged to a local man who would chill out and relax on it as the tunes played from his fabulous Wurlitzer. Our retro leather pouffe came from a lady who was thrilled to find out that her beloved footstool (which didn’t fit her house) was going to move to a Skoolie. She was so inspired by our story that she went on to become one of our first bookings. 

 

 

The ‘treasures’ often evolved to be something entirely different. The old doors we picked up that were too heavy for us to use, turned out to be made from American oak slats that we were able to plane down and use to frame our old bus mirror as part of a feature wall, and a kitchen cabinet. A water-damaged teak futon was dismantled and brought back to life as a sliding barn door for the bathroom. The hardwood pallets were used for framing the hatches and even our cutting table from the build was chopped up to be turned into shelves, held up by a huge bit of driftwood we found on the beach. To smooth out the cut marks, I filled in the gaps with leftover  epoxy and glow in the dark paint.

 

With practically everything finished, it was time to paint. Our original choice of green was developed to create a pallette that matched the wood and copper tones. We added copper and cream paints and fittings and shopped for soft furnishings in soft greys, earthy maroons and teals with the occasional accent of orange because I’d found a fabulous retro Le Creuset ‘volcano’ kettle!

 

I spent the evenings sewing cushion covers that would tie everything together while the boys worked on their last big project: the murphy bunks.

The murphy bunks and the king-size bed

Murphy bunks in a skoolie

In America, the boys bunks were the worst part of the Skoolie. Our son summed it up:

“They were like coffins! You could barely sit up and there was no air – they sucked”!

 

Considering they were only being used to sleep in, they took up an enormous amount of space. We knew we wanted to do something different with our UK bus. 

 

Murphy bunks fold out from the wall, which means they have a much smaller footprint. Friends of ours have ones in which the top bunk drops down to become the back of a sofa (the bottom bunk), but though we liked the design we knew we wanted to keep the sleeping area separate from the living space. 

 

Guy and Neily excelled themselves with the design and build. They are roomy, comfy and really easy to put up and down because they are assisted with gas struts. It makes a huge difference to the space being able to close them up when they are not in use. And, judging by the social media comments, they are loved as much as the epoxy counter!

 

The last thing we brought in was the king-size bed mattress and slats. Underneath the bed is the pipework, diesel heater, batteries and the water tank so this was a key working area for much of the build. It was only right at the end that we added the wooden slats and finally brought in the comfy Inofia mattress, transforming it from a work zone to something beautiful and tranquil. The slats sit on a frame so we can lift the whole bed up to access the pipework if ever we need to. 

Laying the floor and the deck

Laying the floor

All that was missing was the floor. Or should I say, a couple of square metres of floor.

 

Way back at the start of the build I’d sourced 10sqm of old wooden flooring that someone had bought and no longer needed. It was gorgeous engineered, top of the range, oak herringbone-style slats. The problem was, when we took it out the boxes, we only had 6sqm. Gutted…. we needed 8sqm. Would we really have to source something new?

 

Buying expensive items at the start of a build, when you have the time to shop around, is much easier on the wallet than at the end of a build. We had neither time or finances on our side so I thought I’d try my luck and source the supplier to see if they would help us out with the last 2sqm. I found their name on the side of one of the boxes – Havwoods – and got in touch to see if they still stocked the wood.

 

Joy of joys, Havwoods still had stock. And, joy of even bigger joys, they loved our Skoolie so much they agreed to sponsor the last corner of the bus so that we could have our beautiful floor without breaking our budget. They even posted up an interview with us on their site. It looks freaking awesome – the shades and patterns of the wooden planks brought together all of the angular designs and warm tones we had used throughout the build. We couldn’t have been happier with the result.

 

 

The last thing to arrive was our deck. For this, Tristan, a local lad from Firle area, stepped in to help. He was brilliant and developed the original plan to improve the layout and functionality. It is amazing to be able to walk straight out from the bedroom onto a private sun deck – better than we even imagined and the perfect way to end our build.

The finished Skoolie!

american school bus firle

We are both so proud of what we have achieved – what a journey, what a finish and what a result: we own our very own fantastic Skoolie again. 

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Travelling chimps

Rye: glamping without the kids

I am a massive fan of ‘doing presents’ – hiding in the birthday present pile looking like another card in a nondescript envelope, until you open them up and unravel a delicious treat. Or you unwrap a weird present that makes no sense, until you work out that it’s a clue for something really cool. This year I had a card with a pic of some champagne on it… inside there was a plan for a night in a Shepherds Hut near Rye. Yay! I gave him an American school bus toy with Travelling Chimps on the side, which was actually a present to go down and hang out with a guy who I’d found who owns an American bus in Devon. It’s a chance to see a bus for real, imagine what it will be like to live in one and find out more about the pitfalls and pleasures of buying and travelling in one. That’s a blog for another time though – back to glamping in Rye.

Rye and Winchelsea walk

Walking map
Our route around Rye and Winchelsea

We arrived early and downloaded a 7 mile walk that would take us to Rye and Winchelsea in a loop. It was glorious sunshine as we parked up on Dumb Woman’s Lane – such a good name – and strolled along to Rye. We’ve visited the town before with the boys but fancied going back for a mooch among the antique shops, cobbled streets and pubs without them. On a sunny day it’s a lovely spot for a beer and we had to try very hard not to have a second!

The ‘Shifting Sands’ walk that we downloaded from Discovering Britain officially starts and finishes in Rye but we joined at point 17 and looped from there. It took us all around Rye (which we realised after we had already walked around it),  past Camber Castle and via a bird hide that looked out on a surprising marsh land,  and on to Winchelsea where there were apparently lovely views of the sea and the shifting sands, which was not apparent to us even though it was a perfectly clear day.

The route is full of commentary from ‘Raymond Molony a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society’ and you can actually download the audio guide or a massive booklet of written commentary. Most of his notes we ignored as it took too long to load up, but we did find some interesting stops using our own eyes! Sutton’s was a treat – a seafood and fruit shop just outside of Winchelsea that served up the loveliest cherries (for me) and cockles (for him), and we saw a great view of Dungeoness, ominously sitting on a peninsula and kick-starting a big discussion on nuclear energy.

Winchelsea didn’t have much going on but we found the one thing we were looking for – Spike Milligans Grave. Oh ok, we didn’t bother with that but we did find a pub. Again, a gorgeous beer garden and an icy beer. It was so delicious we failed to stop after one and found ourselves wandering round a ‘upcycled’ thrift barn where we bought a lamp. Useful for a walk!

Glamping in The Hut

Woodland path to the Hut
Our path to our secret hideaway

We stayed in a Shepherds Hut owned by Extraordinary Huts., following a path through woodland into our secret home for the night. From the deck of the Hut, set in the clearing of a wood on a slope,  you can see nothing but green hills and sheep. It feels very private and remote, even though you are only a short distance from the road.

The Hut was billed as luxury accommodation that has ‘everything you need’ for 4 people but i’d argue that it was probably better for two and it was more ‘glamping’ than ‘luxury accommodation’. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by a remarkable stay in Boutique Bothies  in Scotland, where Jane, the owner, had laid on strawberries from her garden, home-made jam and bread, as well as toiletries. The Hut, in comparison, had lamps with missing batteries, burnt out candles and not a local delicacy in sight! It was still lovely though – a fine balance of nature and comfort –  and after a brief spin back to Rye to stock up on snacks, we settled in.

Inside and out

View from The Hut – not a soul in sight

Inside The Hut there is living space with a sofa and a woodburning stove, a fully equipped kitchenette with sink and a gas hob, a wet room with a good shower and a flushing loo, and an upstairs mezzanine level with a low double bed on one side and two low singles on the other. There’s a ladder up to the bed level and it’s all open; we had toyed with the idea of bringing the kids (for 5 minutes, honestly!), but I’m glad we didn’t as without a guard rail to stop you falling down from the platform as you try to go to the loo in the dark in the middle of the night, one of them would have had an injury!

Outside the Hut there is a fire pit and a hammock, with plenty of wood and firelighters. We had a lovely campfire when we got home from the pub – screeching away to Radiohead until the early hours. Hopefully our neighbours weren’t in earshot – we discovered in the morning that The Hut’s older sibling, ‘The Hide Out’, offers a glamping experience just a thicket of trees and bushes away. Oops!

Dinner at the Plough

Although we could have cooked at The Hut, we opted for The Plough pub. It was a short walk and a lovely pub, although we had to order extra chips because the portions were small . This happens regularly… I’m beginning to think it is our appetites that are at fault and not the pubs we eat in!

If you do go with the family and you van…

Incidentally, If you are looking to stay in Rye in your campervan, the River Haven Hotel charges £10 for an overnight in their car park. It’s no glamping – there’s a fair bit of rubbish and a car wash operation going on in the corner – but it felt safe enough and if you hop over the wall it takes just 5 mins to walk riverside to the pretty parts of Rye. Bargain!