The Adventures of
Captain Barnacles

Sussex Campervans Bring Out the Child in Us All, So We Were Captivated by Elli’s Delight at Her Parents’ New Manhattan MPV – and Now I Can Reveal the Adventures of Captain Barnacles Since Last August.

Will and Mel requested special “Captain Barnacles and the Octonauts” graphics for their three-year-old daughter Elli, when they bought their Manhattan MPV from Sussex Campervans last Summer. When little Elli saw it she was thrilled, and as soon as she got inside, she started to play peek-a-boo with her dad, using the curtain between the cab and the lounge. Since then, the family has enjoyed plenty of holidays, short breaks and days out, as Will explains.

“For our first trip we went to Wareham in Dorset and explored the New Forest. When we arrived there was an absolute deluge – they were having the worst rain for ages – but we just parked the van up on the campsite and were fine.”

Will pitied the tent campers, who were either packing up their soggy tents and going home, or trying to stop new rivulets of rain coming in.

“Before we used the camper, I thought we wouldn’t use the Porta-Potti that came with it, stored under the rock and roll bed. I almost took it out of the van and left it at home. But as we watched the rain, Elli suddenly said, ‘I need the toilet’, and we were very glad not to have to head off in the rain to the washblock!”

They were snug and dry in their campervan for the night. The rain cleared and Will said that they had a good holiday. “We went to the Beaulieu Motor Museum to see the cars, and visited the River Dart Country Park. Elli learned how to put up the inflatable awning, too.”

They had their compact Nissan Camper conversion built to order by Sussex Campervans and collected it in August 2015. Steve asked for no stag livery, but instead embellished the sleek Twilight Grey bodywork solely with his favourite creature – a lizard.

Why a lizard? “I like climbing with lizards – it means that I’m in a warm and dry place,” says Steve with a smile. He enjoys climbing, especially calling into Fontainebleau on the way home from the Alps, an area just outside of Paris used by many Alpine mountaineers for training. There were certainly lizards climbing alongside Steve as he tackled the famous boulders in the region. 

Warm, dry weather is clearly a luxury for Steve. He recalls a more typical camping trip, which really made him appreciate the shelter of the campervan: “In North Wales I was climbing on Cader Idris, which was cold, wet and miserable. I was belayed on a ledge and watched a slug beat me up the rock!”

happy family beside their blue campervan

Since then, where has Captain Barnacles taken them? Will says, “We’ve had day trips, for instance to the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum. I show off my Series Three Land Rover there sometimes, so we know it well. We use the van for day trips so that we can make a picnic and save some money so that we can go out more often. My mother is getting older and when we take her out it’s handy to have somewhere to shelter and rest whenever we need to.”

“We went to Buckler’s Hard in the camper for a long weekend, staying at a campsite in Brockenhurst. We had lots of walks through the New Forest and a boat trip from Buckler’s Hard, while they told us all about the Tudor wooden ship building industry here. It’s funny being on a campsite in Captain Barnacles the campervan because the children on the site recognise the characters. I’ve heard them doing stage whispers to each other as they walk past… ‘Captain Barnacles! Do you think the Octonauts are inside?’ It’s great fun.”

“In April this year we went to Wareham and visited the Tank Museum. Other times we went to Kimmeridge Bay, Corfe Castle, had a steam train ride on the Swanage Light Railway, and found fossils on the beach.”

“We stayed with another family at Longthorns Campsite and Alpaca Farm, where they do ‘walking with alpacas’ as an activity. Elli was too little in the past for us to do it, but this year she’s four and they happened to have a photographer on the campsite, taking spring photos. So we were invited to walk the alpacas for the photos. There were other children there too, but a photo of Elli leading an alpaca was used in The Times newspaper! We told her, and explained that lots of people would see the photo of her, but she wasn’t particularly excited about being in the paper.”

“Another time we went to Bournemouth SeaLife Centre. We do get out as a family quite a bit for day trips.”

“The campervan has also had four work trips with Mel. She designs quilts, quilt tops and craft kits and sells fabric at craft shows. She puts the seats down and then she can load it up with the stand and merchandise for a show.”

“We use the campervan every week for Elli’s performance classes. Mel and her friend take the girls there straight after school, so the kids use Captain Barnacles as a changing room. Then Mel and her friend can make a cup of coffee in the van while the girls are in the class.”