My van life weekend: Exploring the wild clifftops and enchanting woods of Kent in converted Peugeot Boxer ‘Franky’ – an amazing ‘rolling Airbnb’ with chic decor and a double bed
Britain’s van life movement has taken off in recent years. Laura Sharman spent a weekend away in Kent in converted Peugeot Boxer ‘Franky’ (above, with Laura) to see what the fuss is about
Waking up to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore on the Isle of Sheppey, I couldn’t be happier about my weekend away with Franky – a Peugeot Boxer converted into a home on wheels.
With the doors of the van wide open, I propped myself up in bed with the sea breeze in my hair and gazed out over the cliffs where a rosy sunrise painted the horizon.
Britain’s van life movement has taken off in recent years and I was here to see what the fuss was about before potentially spending money on my own conversion.
Quirky Campers allows you to do just that, without any of the hard work or investment, by renting out bespoke campervans across the UK for two nights or more.
From the collection, I chose Franky – a two-berth camper with a modern and chic interior that instantly evokes a feeling of home the moment you step inside.
Franky is ‘a two-berth camper with a chic interior that evokes a feeling of home the moment you step inside’. The van is pictured above during Laura’s trip at Clifftop Camping on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent
Laura found the van’s double bed ‘surprisingly comfortable’. The van is pictured above at Clifftop Camping
Clifftop Camping, pictured above, provided the perfect setting for a crackling open fire. Laura used Franky’s Dutch oven casserole dish to cook chargrilled vegetables and crispy lamb with tarragon
Quirky Campers allows you to try the van life experience without any of the hard work or investment, by renting out bespoke campervans across the UK for two nights or more
Inspired by owner Rebecca’s passion for beaches and winter mountains, not only does it look good but it’s extremely functional too.
After collecting the van from south London, I embarked on a road trip through Kent where I planned to stop for lunch at Blue Bell Hill in Aylesford on my 50-mile journey to Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey.
I then drove the 35 miles to Dering Wood, near Pluckley village, before heading another 20 miles to Whitstable before making the 60-mile journey back to south London.
Franky felt like a rolling Airbnb, with its stylish kitchenette equipped with everything you need to cook up a feast, from a dining set to pots and pans, a chopping board, and cooking utensils.
At the rear is a cosy dining area with a swing-out dining table that rotates out of the van.
Laura woke up to the sound of waves crashing against the shore at Clifftop Camping, pictured here
The stunning view at Clifftop Camping, above, which is part of a family-run hay farm where Laura was able to buy beef and freshly laid eggs
LEFT: Franky has a stylish kitchenette equipped with everything you need to cook up a feast, Laura says. RIGHT: The van features a compact indoor shower-come-drying closet, perfect for rainy days in nature
Everything was neatly held in place when I was on the road thanks to non-slip mats inside the cupboards and magnets that kept the doors and drawers closed
I enjoyed using it to prepare food outside during my September road trip where the wild cliffs of Eastchurch and the magical woodland of Pluckley felt like my own private garden.
At the end of each day, I folded away the table, which formed the base of a full-size double bed, along with three additional planks stored under the seating area.
I was surprised at how comfortable it was and I was even able to leave the door ajar and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the sea.
Other creative design elements I loved were a magnetic wall rack for metal coffee cups, Velcro curtains, a pop-out privacy screen to separate the driver compartment, and a compact indoor shower-come-drying closet, perfect for rainy days in nature.
Everything was neatly held in place when I was on the road thanks to non-slip mats inside the cupboards and magnets that kept the doors and drawers closed.
Staying off-grid for a long weekend was possible thanks to Franky’s self-sufficient appliances
At the rear of the van is a cosy dining area with a swing-out dining table that rotates out of the van. This table helps to form the double bed. Laura describes the van as feeling like ‘a rolling Airbnb’
Laura writes: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed my van life experience, which has spurred me on further to design my own camper’
On the second day of her road trip, Laura opened the van doors to miles of unspoiled forest at Dering Wood, a private forest on the edge of Pluckley village
LEFT: At Dering Forest, pictured, Laura said she woke up to birdsong and took a morning stroll ‘among the trickling streams and towering trees home to birds, badgers, bats, and deer’. RIGHT: The indoor shower and kitchen sink are fed by a 55-litre water tank and there is a 21-litre chemical toilet, pictured, stored in the shower room
Parking up on my first night at the Isle of Sheppey’s Clifftop Camping site, I opened all the van doors to welcome in the countryside views.
The stunning clifftop is part of a family-run hay farm where I was able to buy beef and freshly laid eggs.
At night, it provided the perfect setting for a crackling open fire where I used a cast-iron casserole dish that comes with Franky to cook chargrilled vegetables and crispy lamb with tarragon.
This was followed by an evening of stargazing, using picnic chairs and blankets from the van.
The next day, I opened the van doors to miles of unspoiled forest at Dering Wood, a private forest on the edge of Pluckley village.
When additional power is needed for plug-in electrical devices, the van has a shore-line hook-up point for mains power enabling four three-pin household plugs. Laura took advantage of this at Hampton Bay Park, three miles from Whitstable, where she connected to the mains power supply and transformed the van into a home cinema with her Samsung portable projector
Laura’s road trip in Franky took her to Whitstable, pictured. Here, she ‘saw first-hand the benefits of visiting a campsite with a mains power supply and a water tap’
Here, I enjoyed waking up to birdsong and taking a morning stroll among the trickling streams and towering trees home to birds, badgers, bats, and deer.
Staying off-grid for a long weekend was possible thanks to Franky’s self-sufficient appliances.
The indoor shower and kitchen sink are fed by a 55-litre water tank and there is a 21-litre chemical toilet stored in the shower room.
Laura’s very first stop-off – a picnic site at Blue Bell Hill in Aylesford – turned into disappointment when a height barrier prevented her from being able to enter the car park
After being unable to stop off at Blue Bell Hill, Laura continued the 50-mile drive from London to the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, pictured above
Plans to park up along the seafront just outside of Whitstable were foiled when Laura was met by parking restrictions for overnight van parking
Laura’s three-day hire for Franky cost £365. For more information visit www.quirkycampers.com.
What was even more useful was how the built-in electrical appliances are powered by a 190amp battery, 115w solar, and split relay charge that keeps you topped up when driving.
When additional power is needed for plug-in electrical devices, the van has a shore-line hook-up point for mains power enabling four three-pin household plugs.
I later took advantage of this at Hampton Bay Park, three miles from Whitstable, where I connected to the mains power supply and transformed the van into a home cinema with my Samsung Freestyle 2nd Gen portable projector.
Here, I saw first-hand the benefits of visiting a campsite with a mains power supply, a water tap, rubbish bins, a toilet waste disposal point, and an onsite restaurant.
While I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of van life, it did not come without its challenges.
My very first stop-off – a picnic site at Bluebell Hill in Aylesford – turned into disappointment when a height barrier prevented me from being able to enter the car park.
And another plan to park up along the seafront just outside of Whitstable was foiled when I was met by parking restrictions for overnight van parking.
In this way, renting somebody else’s van can become a game of trial an error, and I found staying organised is key.
Despite the hiccups, I thoroughly enjoyed my van life experience, which has spurred me on further to design my own camper.
FIFTEEN TIPS WHEN TRYING ‘VAN LIFE’ FOR THE FIRST TIME
1. Research height and weight restrictions – Make sure your van is not too tall to drive under bridges and that it doesn’t exceed weight limits for crossings on your chosen route.
2. Plan park-ups – Being spontaneous can be fun but many roads have restrictions for overnight van parking. Make sure to select a location where overnight parking is permitted. The park4night.com site is a useful resource for this.
3. Book campsites – When staying at a campsite, it’s best to book ahead to guarantee a place, particularly in peak season. This way, you can also request a more scenic plot if available.
4. Consider your view – When parking your van, consider the views you’d like to enjoy from the rear and side doors.
5. Arrival times – Setting up your van is a piece of cake compared to camping, but arriving before dark still has its advantages. It is easier to park and offers a sense of perspective, which can enhance your first evening.
6. Topping up water – Use petrol stations to top up your water tank between stops.
7. Limit your water usage – Make your water supply go further by not leaving the tap running and taking shorter showers with a lower water pressure. This is particularly useful when staying off-grid or deep in nature.
8. Pack light – Space is limited inside the van.
9. Use a backpack – Backpacks are easier than suitcases to store in a van and tend to slide around less on the road.
10. Shop on route – It may seem a good idea to buy food supplies ahead of your trip but this can result in carrying heavy bags to your van rental. Instead, consider making a pitstop at a supermarket on the way to your first destination. This will also allow you to check the fridge size and cupboard space before stocking up.
11. Cupboard essentials – Bring cupboard essentials, such as cooking oil and washing up liquid, from home to save money on your shopping bill.
12. Drinking water – Many vans have a water tank to supply the kitchen sink and shower, but this is often not suitable for drinking. Make sure to buy enough drinking water for your stay, especially when going off-grid.
13. Secure your belongings – Make sure everything is packed away and secure before driving off to your next location to protect both your items and the van’s interior from damage.
14. Stay organised – Van conversions are small spaces that are much more enjoyable to live in if you maintain a clean and tidy environment.
15. Plan for rainy days – Good weather is not always guaranteed in Britain. Bring a pack of cards, a compact game, a portable projector or speaker for a cosy night in when raining.
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