ArchieVan unwrapped – and holidays at home.

    Wrap. Unwrapped.

    Four years ago we were stupidly excited at the transformation of ArchieVan from one time delivery vehicle to a gorgeous, but subtle, camper that was to be home for three years.

    We spent a rather large sum getting the van wrapped in a wonderfully coloured  Avery product called Midnight Sand. 

    We fitted sexy 18” gloss black alloys.

    And wow! It looked the bomb.

    ArchieVan in Germany, where the alloys performed well.

    Those 18” alloys were the first things to go.

    They looked fab. And on smooth German roads they were pretty swell.

    Once we’d crossed to the asphalt horror of Poland’s pitted, rutted and broken roads things weren’t so good. The painted on thin strips of rubber that passed for tyres did little to absorb the shock, the tread was soon shredded and bare.

    Instead of replacing the tyres we refitted the steels and sold the alloys. 

    ArchieVan didn’t look as good, but it handled so much better.

    The cosmetic deterioration didn’t end there.

    The first Greek mega storms of winter 2018 soon had drips falling on the sleeping Wanderers from badly fitted roof lights, and not quite sealed van windows. 

    No one could see my rudimentary repairs to the roof lights, but the red tape sealing the windows was plain to all.

    Rudimentary repairs. It didn’t last long.

    Less inconvenient but equally annoying was the fast breakdown of the wrap. Within a year little spores of what appeared to be mould started sprouting across the vinyl. Unfortunately while I noticed it I didn’t do anything about it, thinking I’d sort it out when we got home, after all, Corey, the guy who fitted the wrap had said there was a 10 year colour guarantee.

    By the time we got home the wrap had gone to ratshit and ArchieVan had transformed from super-camper to crusty crate. 

    The deteriorating wrap (and our luxury home behind).

    Avery (the manufacturer) wasn’t interested. The company quoted its suspiciously specific guarantee terms which came down to fractions of a year and varied depending on the angle on the wrap. Corey, the fitter at WrapCapital wanted to help – but he could only hope to have the value of the product refunded – the majority of the cost is in the fitting.

    Four years on the van looked pretty bad and I opted to have the wrap stripped.

    Four years on and Archie is back to his roots, a bright white panel van, albeit with windows.

    I don’t like it much. I haven’t always been polite about white vans after all. I need to do something about it. I have a plan. Watch this space.

    ArchieVan in white. With a rare appearance from Jazzy.

    Touring without the miles.

    How many of us take off to the other side of the continent every time we get a few days for a holiday? 

    How many of us know what’s just around the corner?

    This year we’ve been determined to see more of the wonder of Cornwall rather than covering hundreds of miles to visit another country.  At first that stay at home approach was government imposed, but then it grew on us. 

    Porthscatho, Coverack, Mortenhampstead, Exeter (admittedly they’re over the border) Plymouth (no man’s land) and now Porthleven.


    I certainly didn’t expect it to be so interesting.

    The van needed some electrical work at the excellent Batteries and Solar near Plympton (new fridge. Another small fortune). I left it with them and walked into town.

    Plymouth was bombed to hell in the Second World War. 

    Mum talks of seeing the orange skies of its burning 60 miles away from her childhood home of Porkellis. But unlike the Axis towns such as Dresden that were painstakingly rebuilt using Marshall aid, Plymouth was thrown up in a mess of ‘50s concrete that even the most dedicated Brutalist would find hard to love. More recent interventions have done little to lift its fortunes – it’ll go down in history alongside Coventry as one of Britain’s town planning case studies.

    Hold up though.

    Keep walking past the market, miss out Union Street, but instead climb the grandly named Athenaeum Street and there’s a delight in store. The first hint is the Regency Grand Hotel with its decorative portico. Just past that The Hoe opens out and your perspective is forced to change.

    Plymouth’s waterfront is beautiful. The view expands onto The Channel with the old Naval College to the west, just before the Tamar Estuary with Cornwall beyond. Drake’s Island and the breakwater both have their fortifications. Good cafes, the lido and a swimming beach line this stretch, ideal locations for kicking back and taking it all in.

    From The Hoe. Across to Drake’s Island, with Cornwall beyond.

    The star-form Citadel still has a military presence, tours are available through English Heritage. Then your path drops down to the cobbled streets of the historic Barbican from which the Mayflower set sail. Here the walls are littered with plaques commemorating now famous expeditions to lands then unknown.

    Britain’s oldest bakery. At The Barbican. Plymouth.

    Plan your route well and you could spend a good day absorbing culture and eating fine foods without suffering the shock of the city centre.


    Top spot in town? There are many. Here’s our favourite from this weekend.

    Sit in The Ship above the western harbour and sup well priced interesting ales with glimpses of the waves crashing over the breakwater below.

    The food looks simple and delicious, but I’ve promised to cook in the van tonight. 

    The Ship, and so much more. Porthleven.

    The West Cornwall clubber’s jamboree known as The Masked Ball is happening up the road later and there’s a good crowd of well dressed attendees warming up in the bar. They’ll dance through until morning and not look as fresh again until the end of next week.

    The Square. Amélie’s. Kota. The Deli. So many gorgeous food offerings to tempt us. But I’ve promised to cook in the van tonight. I’ve promised to cook in the van tonight.

    When you walk past café after restaurant after chip shop after pasty shop each selling delicious looking food you set the expectation high. Fortunately our dinner of a simple ragu using Vivian Old’s St Just beef was spot on and The Wanderers were tucked up in bed before the clubbers had even started dancing.

    Sunday 7th November. I keep shedding layers in the morning sunshine. We could be on Lefkada’s Kathisma. But I’m delighted to be here.

    Diarist. And van. White van.

    Last night I declared The Ship one of the world’s great pubs, up there with The Star in St Just, Chorlton’s Electric, The Golden Hart in Shoreditch, The Dungeon Ghyll near Langdale. Places that deliver so much more than just a decent pint. Places that stay in your memory, that evoke tides of nostalgia when mentioned years after a visit.

    Today after an appetite boosting walk to the curious and deadly Loe Pool we took our rest at Amélie’s where the best Sunday lunch was served. Roast beef, or a mushroom wellington, was served with a huge Yorkshire Pudding, the best roast parsnips, and four other veg, and the only way to finish such a treat was a return to The Ship to sup another.

    At £25 a night, including electric hook-up, our campsite behind the Out Of The Blue bar (Spingo on tap – it’s owned by The Blue Anchor) is well placed and well priced. We’ll be back. 

    Our gift. Our curse.

    Cornwall’s beauty is both our gift and our curse.

    There’s a demonstration planned for next Saturday to raise awareness of the second homes issue.

    It’s complicated.

    People are attracted to Cornwall for its beauty. They’re lured in deeper by our strong sense of community. Wanting a slice of the joy many buy houses here and in so doing erode that very community that lured them in.

    This is a delicate subject. We did that very thing. We had our home at Tregiffian long before we moved back to Cornwall full time. We had a holiday lettings business, the success of which encouraged others to do the same.

    Without the vast numbers of visitors this would be a poorer place than it is even today. Without the vastly inflated prices of potential holiday homes perhaps locals might stand a better chance of buying a home of their own. 

    It’s a huge and complicated issue. It won’t go away. For now Porthleven still has a decent community, but it’s fast heading the way of St Ives, and its positioning as a foodie destination will only accelerate that.


    In spring 1942 the Luftwaffe launched a bombing campaign to destroy cultural and historical institutions across Britain, in particular targeting our cathedrals. It was cynically called the Baedeker Blitz. The magnificent cathedral of Exeter was hit, but thankfully damage was limited, and it stands today as one of our great buildings.

    It’s easy to amble through a great building and mutter a respectful “wow!” but think little more about it. Over two visits to Exeter I spent several hours wandering the hushed vastness of the cathedral and that was just enough time to begin to understand the witness it bears to its near thousand year history.

    Exeter Cathedral. Magnificent.

    The cathedral incorporates its two Norman towers into the later building showing the engineering skill and ingenuity of the architects who would never see the completion of their lives’ work. It’s home to modern sculpture and art that sits well alongside medieval neighbours. It has phenomenal detail to works that were carried out long before the concept of modern tools and engineering. Every nook and cranny has something to offer.

    A modern interpretation of the cross. Exeter Cathedral.

    A simple but interesting piece that caught my eye was the carving of an elephant done by a man who could not possibly have seen one at that time. It has horse’s hooves, but other than that the description he worked from was true.

    On our second visit a young fellow was stretching his fingers on the organ. What a sound! I’m sure the fine churches of the land would pull in far more visitors if their organs were played each day.

    A walk away at the Exploding Bakery near the university we indulged in a wholesome breakfast of dahl and strong coffee as ever more tempting creations emerged from the ovens. We have great artisan bakeries around us at home, but these guys are pushing harder at the boundaries.

    Dahl, focaccia, coffee. Breakfast for the brave. Exploding Bakery.


    Not so many miles away in the little hamlet of Poughill the church is a more modest affair, and there its beauty is its simplicity.

    This particular flagstone tugged at my heart strings.

    A field. A cabin.

    For my 52nd birthday (yes, I’m even older than that!) Minty booked a rather special cabin in the woods near Mortenhampstead.

    After leaving ArchieVan at Wrap Capital for his next transformation Minty took us to another built by the same hand. Holly Water cabin is near Crediton and sits in a wild flower meadow where a river runs through.

    Holly Water Cabin. Natural beauty.

    There’s little to do from there without getting in a car. We both drive so far for our work. We weren’t keen on clocking more miles. We sat, we read, we cooked, and we bathed (outside). We slept like the dead in the synthetic free surroundings of Rupert McKelvie’s latest creation. And we left recharged.

    Light, and shadow. Holly Water Cabin.

    Wonderful. I hope one day Goldings will offer a cabin such as this.

    ArchieVan. The fourth incarnation.

    White van, stealth van, white van, dark van.

    The new ArchieVan has Raptor (super hard paint) below his scruff panels, and a green black wrap above. Terry’s team at Carn Bosavern Garage diverted their attention from super expensive classic car restoration to apply the Raptor, while Corey finished our home on wheels in a new wrap called KPMF Platinum Sage.

    I like to believe I’m a little more socially acceptable in my advancing years. ArchieVan has gone the there way. Darker. Moodier. More foreboding. I love it!

    ArchieVan. The fourth coming.

    Now we have to carve out time from our working lives to go and enjoy it again.


    Meanwhile on the home front.

    This winter we’ve planted another four hundred or so trees. Some replacing those that didn’t pull through last year’s drought, others creating future shelter in newly identified areas of need. We even had a windfall of an unexpected delivery of 120 holly saplings. The nursery said to keep them. They’re now spreading their roots in Goldings soil.

    We may finally begin building this month. Concrete was scheduled for this morning, the fact it didn’t arrive has given me the time to knock out these words.

    Tamp that lake. Nick and Colin tame the concrete.

    I’ll update on – but don’t hold your breath. Time is a different commodity here to the beast we enjoyed on the road.

    18 Replies to “ArchieVan unwrapped – and holidays at home.”

    1. ArchieVan is now the Beast it was intended to be! Looks amazing. I’m tempted to add “a bit like you” but I will resist.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        At my last birthday (September) I set myself a challenge to avoid shearing the locks for 12 months.
        That doesn’t sound too hard, but driving with the windows open leads to my eyes being lashed by the beard. That hurts.
        We’ll aim to get away in March, probably the second weekend.
        Cheers. KC

    2. Hurrah you are back! Archie looking splendid hope you can make the time to get back on the road if only in the UK.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks for writing.
        I wondered if there’d be anyone out there still. So I was delighted to get a few comments.
        As the rain lashes Goldings today those Greek beaches of 2020 feel so far away, but nonetheless I love being in our faraway hideout.
        Love to you both. Do call in if you find yourselves this far west.

    3. So nice to receive an update this morning, not only that but I discovered your Goldings blog too! I’ve spent my morning reading all your Goldings blogs, what a great start to the day! Thank you for the update!

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        The trouble with real work is that it leaves you too little time and energy to write.
        I do intend a Goldings update soon too. Work has started at last and I need to record it for reading when I’m a dotty old man!
        Thanks for writing G.

    4. How lovely to read your latest update- I’ve been wondering what you’ve been up to. Hoping to get a few decent miles under our own wheels this year, and one day (if you’ll allow) I’d love to come and have a look at Goldings. Take care both, and dream big. A

      1. Andi
        Great to hear from you.
        Writing is a different matter when real life is happening too.
        I had hoped to do a quarterly update on the Goldings project, but I’m usually too tired when I finally stop work. That’s not a bad thing, I enjoy grafting.
        Give us a year and this place should be taking shape. There’ll be plenty of room to come in the van, in fact I plan putting in a hookup and welcoming like minded travellers.
        I recommend Porthscatho for an out of season weekend. We went last June and will certainly return.
        Best wishes for a good year, and a few enjoyable miles too.

    5. Great to get an update missed them!
      Sorry to read about your wrap problems, my Rubicon Jeep has been wrapped for 7 years out in all weathers and it is as good as new. Good job as it’s matte grey on top of wrangler orange original colour!

      1. G.
        The wrap went to ratshit!
        So the Rubicon is still going – beauty!
        Writing when working is a different task to writing on the road. How people manage novels while holding down full time employment I have no idea. That said, I was pleased to get a post out.

    6. The opener of Season 3, can’t wait for future episodes 🙂

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Don’t hold your breath!
        Having said that, there are a few small van trips booked which should help the blog morph towards a guide to the far west.

    7. And so a new era begins as the barn rises from the granite, like the Phoenix from the flames, and grows into its plot to become a thing of beauty blending I into its surroundings.

      Great to have a blog to read once again. Looking forward to more in the coming seasons. 😉🍀

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks Jay. There’s lots of work and that leaves little time for writing about it – but I will try.

    8. Gillian Cooper says: Reply

      Hi Kelvin,really interested to read your last blog.Archie was looking a little travel weary ,so it is really good that you have given it a fresh coat of vainly
      It looks really good.
      We hope you are all safe and secure after the recent storms,you must have been in the worst of lt ,quite scared.
      We were not supposed to be in the storm area,but we have had two scarey days
      Of stormes
      Only damage a few panes of glass out of the greenhouse,but nothing serious.
      Hope you still have electricity etc.and that your caravan was secured down !
      We have had snow today (Sat)but things have calmed down tonight.
      Amanda said you are coming up to York’s inApril to visit Holmfirth on particular,we look forward to seeing you all then,
      Take care,see you soon John/Gill

      of stormes.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        The next storm is hitting us now.
        Fortunately it’s another south westerly gale. As that’s the prevailing wind we sited the caravan to be protected from it. It’s still frightening when the whole thing shakes, but at least we’re not rolling down the hill.
        Some of the surrounding cottages have been without power for a few days, but we’ve been lucky on that front too.
        Lots of love from the far west.

    9. Gillian cooper says: Reply

      Hi Kelvin, apparently I could not spell (vynil)computer said no!
      Take care JOHN

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Vynil, vinyl, vainly. It all makes sense in its way.

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