Our usual posts are about converting our big yellow US school bus, but what about our small yellow riot bus in Brighton? While we travel the States, our magical yellow camper is up for hire!
Think bespoke … hire a ‘Quirky’ campervan
We had originally planned to give our campervan a rest on someone’s driveway for the year but several people approached us for private rent, hoping to have their own campervan adventure.
If you have a van like ours that you want to hire out, there are two options. The first is via your own contacts and Facebook page. The second is on Quirky Campers – a great way to reach a wider market. Their niche is characterful campervans. Don’t bother trying your luck if you have a factory-fit shiny, modern vehicle – it may have cost more to fit-out but they will send you on your merry, if not slightly more boring way.
Hire a campervan – rules and regs
Of course it wasn’t just as simple as signing up. The campervan needed some attention. All those scuffs and rusty bits from his previous life as a riot van had to go! We also has to get the van gas-safe, which means a gas safe box, isolator valves and actually drilling holes through the floor. You even have to get a gas safety certificate – it’s quite a painful process when you only use gas for cups of tea and the occasional meal.
Anyone who wants to hire a campervan on Quirky is looking for personality and styling. New furnishings replaced tired curtains; tables were decoupaged… three times (it is harder than it looks!). and we even cleared out all the tins of beans we had been hoarding for emergencies (seriously – anyone would think we were preparing for war!). We also had to give him a name that summed up his personality. We embraced his history and Old Bill went live for bookings!
Riot ready at Rushbanks Farm – Campsite review
Hire a campervan as lovely as our riot bus? Yes please! Old Bill was looking better than ever so we selfishly kept him to ourselves over the sunny Easter weekend. We headed out to Essex and found a wonderful campsite – Rushbanks Farm – on the River Stour, right on the border between Essex and Suffolk. The site is in west of Dedham Vale, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the heart of ‘Constable Country’.
Rushbanks Farm is lovely. The site is small and you can camp wherever you want. It is electricity-free and so there are no electric points or wires trailing everywhere. The choice spots are along the banks of the river. There is a second row behind this (separated by a hedge), then an overflow field further back.
Showers are in a porta-cabin type affair, mostly hot (sometimes too hot!), and there was one block of toilets and a wash up area. The guys who run it have kept things simple, marking out a ‘hammock zone’ and a ‘sunset spot’. They also hire out Canadian Canoes so that you can paddle on the Stour direct from the site.
Best campsite ever… or so the kids say
If you have kids and you want to hire a campervan, take ours and go here. Kids love this site. What’s not to like? They have a swing set and space to run around but they also have a river! Ours spent ages getting in and out of the dinghy that we brought, paddling back and forth across the river. It was so calm we felt safe having them attached to a long rope (wearing life jackets of course). The River Stour marks the ancient division between Suffolk and Essex so they had this amazing sense of freedom paddling to another county!
The site is not manned but the owners / their team regularly came around on their tractors with wood and fire pits. It costs £5 to hire the pit and then £12 for each bag of logs). You can bring your own logs and fire pit, which I didn’t think was clear on their website, it just has to be raised off the ground. They are a friendly and helpful bunch – when we ran out of gas, they lent us a grill to cook on and also a small gas canister to make a cup of tea.
Paddling to Nayland
Canadian canoes from the site cost £55 for the day. You get the training and the life-jackets and the boat will take 2 adults and 2 kids. We had our kayak and dinghy with us with us so we didn’t need to hire. They have launch sites from the campsite but it’s easy to just get in from right outside your tent.
The river is wide and deep and there is a mile and a half of unobstructed water. We headed downstream to the village of Nayland where we were told there was a pub – The Anchor Inn. It’s an easy paddle, the water is very still, and there was lots of wildlife. There are also two-step weir portages en-route which makes for an exciting voyage.
The pub at Nayland was rammed because of an Easter event. We went for a short wander while it calmed down at the bar; Nayland itself is very quaint – full of wonky 15th century buildings. Apparently there are over 100 listed buildings some of which date from the 14th century. Unfortunately for the kids, none of these wibbly wobbly buildings had a shop that was open in it. No ice creams for hot paddlers. We returned to the pub and they had to make do with orange juice and lemonade. Mum and Dad were a little luckier in their choice – those cold beers went down a treat!
Walking to Nayland
You can also walk to Nayland largely off-road. It takes about an hour but took us much longer as we had a grumpy 8 year old who didn’t want to walk and we took a detour to another pub that was closed (oops!). The six year old was happier – he had his Stick Book and wandered through the woodland looking for elder twigs to make pea shooters. There were loads of amazing badger setts in the wood, a whole metropolis, that went deep, deep down to nothing. It must be a hub of activity at night.
The route took us out of the wood and along the river, past several fields with deep furrows. Apparently potatoes have been planted and they are keeping their fingers crossed for rain. We were rather enjoying the sun though and those endless ridges made for great parkour opportunities.
Once again, Nayland was completely closed up apart from the pub. Once again though, those beers tasted glorious. An electricity-free site is nice but on sunny weekends you miss cold drinks.
The return walk took us past the glorious old 5-storey Wiston Mill that we had seen the day before on the river. We were so busy admiring it that we took the wrong turn and ended up asking an elderly dog-walker for directions. The diminutive lady was, in fact, the owner of the mill house. She invited us to walk through as a shortcut to get back on track. It was fascinating to get up close to the old building and hear all about it. Did you know fire was a real threat in a flour mill because men wore hob-nailed boots? Sparks would fly!
All in all a lovely weekend and a definite recommendation for Rushbanks Farm. Hire a campervan, take a kayak, take a coolbox, take a fire pit and then sit back and relax……!