I mentioned some time ago that the Keswick football club was letting people park in their car park and charging £3 per full day by using an honesty box. Given the sheer greed of the local council’s parking fees I think this was a massive step forward and I use and pay for the parking there regularly, partly as it’s cheap, and partly as I want to let the footie club know that I support their decision, and of course any money can go to helping them out.
It’s not just Allerdale council, all of the lakes has disgusting parking charges now and I really hope more and more places like the football club offer their parking cheaply.

Another one to do so is Fitz Park Trust. Their car park is in fact adjacent to the footie clubs car park, accessed off Crosthwaite road. The same deal is to be had, £3 per day although you can pay for an hour and 2 hours as well. They have a proper pay and display machine there and apparently all money goes to the Fitz Park Trust to help look after Fitz park. Now, whether the council has set up this trust as a back door way of raising money for parks I have no idea, but the deal is good so what the heck.

Finally, the Pencil Museum has also opened it’s car park up to anyone for a fee of £4 daily. If you visit the museum and take your parking stub you can get £1.50 off the entry too.
There’s a large space of clean and flat waste ground next to the tarmacked bays and motorhomes tend to park there. Again for all day parking this is not a bad deal however like the other car parks mentioned, there is no overnight parking allowed.

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As the solar panels I fitted last August have proven so reliable I’ve decided to order another one. My controller can handle about handle 390 watts which in all likelihood is more than I will get from my 4 x 100 watt panels as they’re never likely to work at 100% efficiency.
There’s space on the roof too for one more and then that’s it. So what the heck, judging by performance so far I’d say all 4 and all of the gear to fit them will have been paid for by the end of spring if not before, by not having to run the generator.
These are the panels I have:

If anyone wild camps I’d suggest this is a way to go if you have space on your roof and some capital to spare for a few months.

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As many of you will know I’ve had countless problems over the years with leisure batteries, mostly related to the fact I was ignorant of battery technology and use in the early days.
I bought 4 x 120 ahr lead acid batteries, then I replaced them with 6 x 110 ahr batteries, they got replaced with 5 x 85 ahr batteries, which were replaced with 6 x 80 ahr batteries, which were replaced with 2 x 240 ahr batteries. Oh yes, I’ve spent a fortune on batteries!

I also spent a fortune on fuse boxes, connectors, distribution boards, and cabling, several hundred pounds on cabling alone would you believe, as you have to have thick cabling to prevent voltage loss. I also attribute the early demise of my original leaf springs to the sheer weight of carrying batteries in the rear of the van. Currently the 60 kg Trojans live behind the front seats so at least they offer traction to the front wheels.

Anyway, both inverters I’ve owned have an alarm that sounds when you hit 10.5 volts, so often I would wait til the alarm went off then recharge. I never realised at the time that draining batteries below 12 volts actually damages them. The Trojans claim you can occasionally discharge right down to 20% of their total rating without damaging them although I’ve never tried that.

I also used to mix and match batteries: 1 x 120 ahr with 2 x 100 ahr batteries, and 2 x 100 ahrs with 2 x 85 ahrs. I never knew that this also decreases efficiency and longevity of the batteries. Often batteries would be part charged and then left for long periods. This was another thing that I never knew affected batteries lives and effectively breaks them prematurely.

So it is with no surprise that you’ll here I broke all of the batteries I’ve ever had. I recall being in Rouen and having to run the gennie every day to enable me to work. 1 set of 6 batteries actually only lasted months before starting to deliver much lower voltage, a consequence of being discharged too far on a regular basis.

The ones that lasted best were Elecsol. They were billed as super light as they used carbon fibre technology, and supposedly could be discharged down lower than any other battery with almost no damage, and remain discharged again, with no damage. In eventually broke all of those too.

When I learned about exactly where I was going wrong was when I bought the 2 x 240 ahr Trojan batteries. They’re massive with tons of lead in and are built to be reliable and withstand bad treatment. However I have treated these better than any other battery by never discharging them below 12 volts, never leaving them discharged for long periods, and always charging them fully instead of part charging them.
The fluid level dropped in them once when I forgot the check the electrolyte level when I drove to Italy, but it wasn’t low enough to damage the lead plates thankfully.

However, in the time I’ve had them they are now giving noticeably less performance than they used to do. When I first noticed this I was incredibly disappointed given the Trojans great reputation and their price.  Thinking more about it though I realised that I’ve had them over 2 and a half years and at £550 or something, they come it about the same as the 80 ahr Elecsols which cost almost £100 each for 5. The Elecsols lasted about the same amount of time, although I treated them very, very badly. On balance, it makes me wonder if the Elecsols are indeed a better bet as if I’d treated them well, I wonder how long they would have lasted?

So I probably need to think about new batteries but given that my solar panels help to keep the batteries topped up and it’s coming up to spring, I reckon I can safely leave the decision til late autumn and see what deals there are at that time.

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Coming back form the lakes I noticed the battery warning light flickering on the binnacle. I stopped and checked and the alternator was only putting out 11.72 volts grr. Luckily the battery was fully charged so I quickly diverted the leisure batteries to they would feed the engine battery and set off.
I phoned my favoured garage, GC Autos in Gateshead and he quickly had me booked in and a new 150 amp alternator fitted for £166. First class service from them as always.

I probably demand much of an alternator as I have a battery to battery charger. What this device does is it fools the alternator into thinking that the leisure battery is flat so that the alternator puts out it’s max voltage. The charger then checks that the engine battery is fully charged and when that’s done it starts charging the leisure batteries with up to 50 amps and 14.8 volts. So my alternator is working a lot harder for a lot longer than most.

That’s the second alternator and the van has done 130,000 miles now. The first one failed at year 2 and was replaced under warranty, so lets hope I get almost 10 years out of this one as well, especially given the work it has to do.

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Keswick visit

I was out last night with some work colleagues so I decided to head to the lakes today. The weather was appalling with loads of snow and freezing wind. Nevertheless Jack and me got out for a nice walk around …

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Dabs drops me in it now!

Jeez…hard on the heels of the Western Digital drive saga, Dabs have now dropped me in it with the two drives I ordered from them! They were sent to Inverness Post Office, but the post office ‘lost’ them so they …

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Tubular ching ching?


Forget tubular bells, lets hear it for Tubular ‘ching ching’. That’s the sound the till makes when the hardware store in Keswick racks up an incredible £5 for 1 metre of this piece of clear plastic tubing. I actually drew …

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My friends are up in the north for a funeral, so we decided to meet up and spend the day in Keswick as I was over here anyway. Although it was cold the sun was out and we enjoyed  walk …

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Post office woes

The Post Office in Inverness luckily does Poste Restante so I’ve had a few items delivered there. The last things to be collected were the two new portable drives I am going to use as replacement for the exiting backup …

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The mouse bites back

Exciting times! I bought a computer almost a year ago from PC Specialist and it’s been faulty in several ways since a month or two after I got it. At the moment I have been over 3 months without a …

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Sly, deceitful. Yes, Western Digital.


I bought my new 3 tb hard drive, I would dearly have liked Seagate but Western Digital was the only one around at the time. However after buying it with 7200 rpm on the side I was curious as to …

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Ohhhh Driver heaven!

I can’t quite believe it but…I’ve fixed my computer! I’ve been trying to fix the driver problem on my computer for almost a week now. I’ve failed at every attempt although I’m not entirely sure why as it’s a pretty …

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My life

It’s 02:37 in the morning. I’ve been up doing stuff and watching Wild with Reece Witherspoon, and messing on Facebook, and I let the dog out for a quick wee. I’m in a lay-by right next to Loch Ness. It’s …

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Movie night

Been working all day trying to get this computer sorted but nothing I do can fix it yet. Not known anything like this in my 35 years of messing with computers. So I’m settling down with a movie called Wild …

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The Nutcracker Suite


I was walking the dog along the river bank in Inverness this afternoon when I passed a large building which turned out to be the Eden Court centre which houses amongst other things a theatre.  There were adverts for the …

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Water carry on…

The main fresh water inlet on my van is a hole in the side of the wall with a lockable cap. It goes in about 2 inches, then a hose much like a hoover hose turns 90 degrees and goes …

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Mountain bike and his coat of ‘no’ colours

Something else that suffered in the storm was the cover on my mountain bike. It was a Halfords one for £20 and by far the best bike cover I could wish for. However there was no way it could withstand …

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Damned leak

The rain has been almost non stop here for nearly 2 weeks now. And I went into the wardrobe for something and there it was, a leak. Really bad too. So bad that my brand new, never used Canon printer …

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Pets at home without their food!

I have to LOL at this. I’m running out of food for Jack and he does like the James Wellbeloved turkey and rice, so I log on to Pets at Home in the small hours to make sure there is …

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Weather or not

The weather is still awful and the power is still out on the whole of Skye and an awful lot of the mainland too.  There’s absolutely no value sitting there as I’m wasting time doing bugger all, so off I …

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Lights out on Skye


The promised weather has arrived on the Isle of Skye. The rain wasn’t really bad, but the wind is pretty wild, and the lightning was amazing. However one of the lightning shows was actually a sub station going out or …

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Neist Point


I got here ok, I actually came to Malasaig which is across the bay from Neist Point. But you get a lovely view looking across at the spit of land with the lighthouse on that juts out into the sea …

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Skye is awesome


After Christmas I decided to just keep on going. So I travelled over to Falkirk to see the Kelpies which you can see here. They’re the most amazing thing, costing £7 million to build and standing 60 metres tall. I got …

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Merry Christmas!!!

It’s Christmas morning, and this is my 8th Christmas in the van now. I decided to leave Bamburgh and come north and I am now sitting in view of the Forth bridge in Fife. I hope this weekend to get …

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Solar panels are ‘wow’

I installed my solar panels 17 weeks ago today. 3 x 100 watt Biard panels on the roof. Normally I’d recharge batteries with the gennie once every 3 days and it costs a tenner in petrol for the gennie each …

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All cabled up

Well I got booked in at G C Autos at Gateshead and he replaced all the cables and checked the braking system out all for £94. I’m chuffed to bits now as they actually work and it proves how bad …

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More brakes…

I was very pleased with the job done on my brakes when I came back from Italy, although I have since then found some vented discs, which I intend to buy and fit. However I did ask that the brake …

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Caravan clinic has had it

I came back to the Caravan Clinic and the boss got the gas fitter to come to talk to me. His only comment really was that the regulator was already loose. Well, that’s not really the point. He didn’t even …

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So, the van was back at Caravan Clinic today to get the burner fitted but I’m unhappy with them. The gas fitter asked me to look at something and I can’t even recall what it was now, but I decided …

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Van service

The burner has not arrived yet so I agreed to a habitation check. It was only £85 so I felt that wasn’t a bad price given that my cupboards are full and it will be difficult to carry it out. …

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