Travelling in a VW Camper with a lively dog sometimes presents its challenges
Travelling in a VW Camper with a lively dog sometimes presents its challenges not least of which is getting him to go to bed and stay there until we want to get up. We have long since given up the notion of a lie in but it would at least be nice not to be woken or get up with the sunrise.
Fred has gone through several sleeping travelling arrangements since we got him. Like all dogs he likes an enclosed sleeping space overnight and indeed at home he has an indoor kennel built in to a utility cupboard. He also has a nice folding travel kennel that still comes with us if we go to stay in other peoples houses. At one time we did try travelling with him in this but it wasn’t popular so now he travels on the back seat with a view out of the window and he is happy to do that all day long. At first we had a large drive away awning with a bedroom section so we put his travel kennel in there but it could be cold and we fretted about him being outside the van. Then, because we hadn’t put the awning we tried using it in the van but it left zero space for us to get in and out of bed. Anyway we got rid of the large awning because it simply didn’t suit our style of travelling.
So for the past couple of years we have tried various versions of sleeping Fred in the passenger footwell with a soft basket and blankets. At first we had to restrain him to persuade him to say in there. Then we tried a mesh curtain to divide the cab area but he found his way through that. However for the last year or more he has pretty good and simply gone to bed there and stayed until 6 or 7 in the morning. That is until Le Mans this year when he took fright at the noise of campsite revelry outside and slept on our bed! We have sort of decided that it is OK if he goes to bed and stays there until 06:00 and then he can get on our bed but not into our sleeping bags. Something else we had to do with his bed arrangements was to drape blankets over his bed area as draughts or light will wake him.
Before we set of for 5 weeks in Norway we are determined to have a good go at making a secure bed area in the footwell that he will look upon as his own and stay in. We decided to make a foam base to make the most of the space, iron out the irregularities and provide some insulation with a tent like top that would provide the draft and light protection. And finally that would fold flat for travel and not require too much effort to put up.
We started with some 20mm dense foam floor mat cut into a main base with 2 pieces that would take up the shape of the seat base. On to this we stuck some foil backed form van insulation. This provides a stable base without lumps and bumps and that will retain warmth. Sue covered this with some of the left over material from the seat back and door cards and also made some sides with a bit of stiffening to form the base basket.
We had thought to make a tent frame structure but in the end we opted for a much simpler upside down bag supported by a tent frame rod that clips to the head rest. It means the the tend isn’t held rigid but it leaves plenty of room for Fred to move around, stand up and have a shake. Once he is in the tent his weight holds it down fine and tends to push the side out to maintain the space.
The whole thing folds flat into a 600mm2 bag along with his mat that goes on the seat when we are parked up and in his bed overnight. It will take a matter of seconds to put up and take down and takes no more space than his soft basket did once it is packed for travelling.
So here is hoping he makes a lot of use of it.
This is the begining of our 6 week trip to the North West tip of Spain, Galicia, and back around the entire coast of the Bay of Biscay ending up in Brittany, to be precise Douarnenez-Treboul where we used to have a house. We will travel down through France and across Northern Spain and then back with the Atlantic on our left and Spain / France on our right – if it happens the other way around then we are going the wrong way. Don’t expect daily posts rather I will group together bits of interest and photos.
We had originally planned to go at the end of May and return in the middle of July so the weather would have got warmer as we came North but a family bereavement caused us to postpone so now we will be heading North and it will be getting cooler with shorter evenings but hey ho. As we cross the Channel to France the school holidays are about to finish so at least everywhere will be quieter and we get home the weekend before the clocks change. So we are hope desperately for a long Indian Summer.
The way we have got Van Blanc fitted out with the cupboard space and sliding seat is proving to be better than we had hoped. The cupboards below the worktop take all of the cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery with room to spare. The fridge has room for plenty of essentials including the odd bottle of vin blanc. The tall cupboard soaks up tins and bottles, medicines, cleaning things and more. We also carry a 12V cool box mainly for bottled water, cold drinks and of course more vin blanc. In the base of the sliding seat are our hold all, wash kits and sleeping bags. So with the seat in its travelling position that leaves amasses of space for camping equipment, decck chairs, canopy, Fred’s food and paraphernalia, outdoor shoes and so on.
We had the van loaded by midday the day before so we were scratching around for something to do for an afternoon. An early night was followed by a walk with Fred before breakfast and we joined the 07:00 rush hour traffic along the A27 to Newhaven for the 09:00 sailing to Dieppe. The ferry was fairly busy and the crossing much like a mill pond so Fred had a comfy ride in the van. Having booked as a campervan and paid for Fred we did think the yellow card they gave us to dangle from the mirror would have afforded us at least the opportunity for an early disembarkation but not so. The yellow card really meant diddly squat and we were on the mid deck in amongst all the other traffic so poor Fred had to cross his legs even longer before he got off.
We shot into Intermarche for some bread and bits and headed a few miles South to Deux Riviers municipal camp site at Martigny. We have stayed here before on the way to and fro and can’t recommend it enough. Pitched up next to one of the rivers with the facilities even at this end of the season are spot on. There are many walks from the site around the lakes, mostly old gravel works but now very picturesque, and of course the rivers. There is also the Avenue Vert following the path of an old railway toward Paris so very much like our own Cuckoo trail. Indeed it has been created in partnership with East Sussex County Council all of which might explain all the French tourists on push bikes we and Fred see when we are walking at home.
I hit the shower while Sue rustled upper signature pasta for supper. As soon as her back was turned Fred decided that he was in France and going to get into it properly so he started byfeasting on the end of our French stick. Clearly he is going to make the most of his first trip to France!
Watching Fred’s first year growing up and developing was a largely joyful experience. He is a handsome dog with great intelligence and character. He is also a wilful little soul and can be too clever for his own good.
This is Freddy. He is a working Cocker Spaniel and was born in February. His parents are both working dogs. He has come to live with us – this could be life changing.