If you are anything like us, that is, short on space and not the most organised packer in the world, then a brilliant camera may not be one of the first things you pack for a caravan or camping holiday. I have one, but I forget to pack it, or charge it, on a regular basis, and have kicked myself many a time for missing fantastic photo opportunities whilst away. Since the advent of the camera phone, this has changed somewhat. But although the iPhone 5s has really upped its game with the new camera, smart phones are still usually not equipped to make the most of the possibilities.
This where, I think, the Olloclip comes in. If you haven’t seen one, it is a very small, 3 in one lens addition which clips to your iPhone (different versions for different gen phones are available) to transform it in to a macro, wide angle or telephoto lenses.
The device is very small, retailing at around £70, and is small enough to slip in a pocket or zip section of a bag. It comes in a soft, microfibre pouch for protection and polishing, and is a small, double sided device with lenses both sides.
The larger lens is a fish-eye style lens, offering 180 degree vision, and the quality is pretty good. It does distort at distance, as you’d expect, but for close ups this is a really fun option, The angle lens is brilliant, doubling the phones field of vision, making it ideal for landscape shots, group photos and similar. I found this invaluable for impromptu beauty spots during the drive, and it is so easy to clip on, the convenience factor is high.
Unclip the lens, unscrew the cap, and you now have a passable macro lens. You need to get very close, say a centimetre or so, to your subject, but the close ups are very good, allowing you to capture unusual flowers, insects, leaves and so to give some fascinating images.
The nature of the Olloclip means it doesn’t fit over a standard phone case, so you need to remove the case, or look at one of Olloclips dedicated cases, which are a hard plastic shell with flip up corner to fit the clip on – worth if you will be using the Olloclip a lot. At first, we forgot about it and didn’t think to use it much, but after a couple of outdoor trips, the Olloclip really has come into it’s own. It of course can’t match up to a bell and whistles pro camera with dedicated lenses, but to transform the humble (ish!) iPhone into a camera which allows you to unleash you creative side, this is brilliant. It would be a great gift idea for the iPhone fan brigade, and those with twitchy trigger fingers who will no doubt get the most use from it.
Looking for something a little different for children’s Christmas presents this year? What about the Zinc Volt 24V Electric Scooter? Much as we love the quiet inducing qualities of the games console presents, I can’t help but think that outdoor toys which will get plenty of use in the Spring and encourage the kids outdoors in their leisure time are a far better bet. We were sent one of these electric scooters earlier in the year to have a look at, and wanted to pass on our thoughts – not a typical caravanners toy but brilliant for outdoor trips and holidays, and not bad as way to avoid school run whining, too.
The Zinc Volt is a small, 24V electric scooter with a rechargeable battery, suitable for children from about 8 years old (although if you are anything like us, the children may well fight to get a look in!) with a top speed of around 10mph. Our version came in the blue, and it’s a neat looking little machine. The frame is aluminium and lightweight, with small wheels and front and rear brakes. The undercarriage is fairly low slung, so it’s good to urge caution on kerbs etc, but the machine is sleek and has a very grown up appearance, with a lightening flash graphic and beautiful blue paintwork. Ours was tested by a 10 year old boy, who got the hang of it immediately and enjoyed every second.
Handlebars are comfortable- textured and easy to grip, and the foot deck, although small, is wide enough to accommodate an adult sized foot (specs say maximum weight 70kg, so do check!). After charging, we took it out for a spin, and boy, is it fun! The scooter can reach speeds of up to 10mph, but its small size and low down profile make it feel faster – a good quality safety helmet is a must. It’s easy to ride, and brilliant fun. The brakes are sharp, and the fact that it is belt driven means this is surprisingly quiet. As an aside, when the battery does run out, the scooter can still be used as an ordinary scooter, so if you take it out for the day, it can still be ridden.
The charge lasts for around an hour, which would be ample for the school run, and we were impressed by the auto cut which kicks in to conserve energy if they should forget and leave it whilst playing. RRPs at around £150.
The beauty of owning your own motorhome is that you can pick a destination at your leisure, pack up and head off – all without having to go through the hassle of finding accommodation.
What’s more, having this freedom means that you can choose to stay at the most convenient location to whatever has attracted you to an area in the first place. Whether your passion is for stately homes, country gardens or heritage sites, simply find the nearest campsite and set up base.
If you’re an enthusiastic walker with a passion for beautiful scenery and picturesque landscapes, take a look at our pick of the top five places in the UK to head for in your motorhome.
Sitting majestically in the Scottish Highlands, you’ll find Britain’s biggest mountain and most challenging walking opportunity. Ben Nevis offers walkers the chance to be the highest person in the British Isles, promising astounding views – you can even see Northern Ireland on clear days! And with a campsite at the base, there couldn’t be a more perfect destination for motorhome enthusiasts.
If you’re determine to tackle the highest peak in the UK, you’ll need to equip yourself for the challenges ahead with some decent walking boots. You should take a look at the range of Merrell walking boots and shoes at Cotswold Outdoor. The designs in this selection offer effective ankle support and cushioning, so they’re perfect for tackling the challenging, mountainous terrain that Nevis has to offer.
Cotswold have a full range of outdoor clothing that’s suitable for walkers and hikers of all abilities. Bear in mind that conditions at the top of a mountain can vary enormously from those at the bottom, so it’s important to equip yourself with a fleece and a waterproof coat before you embark on a climb.
The Lake District
The land of Wordsworth and the great English poets, the Lake District has a captivating beauty about it, regardless of season or weather.
Why not carry on your mountaineering accomplishments and scale England’s highest peak, Scarfell Pike? Or if leisurely strolls are more your thing, you’d be hard pushed to find a view as inspiring as that of the calm, blue waters of the area’s largest lake, Windermere.
Campsites are aplenty in the area, although we found this top ten guide from The Guardian useful when deciding where to stay.
Though the Yorkshire Dales often has bleak connotations for many people, we can’t help but be captivated by this dramatic rolling landscape.
If you’re something of a literature lover, why not fuel your passion for the Brontë classics by taking a trip to the small town of Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters?
Their family home still exists and has now been preserved as a museum, which makes for an interesting few hours. However, the true gem of a visit to this quaint West Yorkshire community, is the walking route from the family home, out across the moors to the ruins of a building which is credited as being the inspiration behind Emily Brontë’s Gothic masterpiece, Wuthering Heights. The walk is wonderful in good weather, but it’s especially inspirational on days when thick clouds and biting winds reveal the inspiration behind Brontë’s dark novel.
For something a little sunnier, make your way to the beautiful Cornish coast, where you’ll be delighted to find clear blue water and sandy shores that rival anything the Caribbean or Bahamas has to offer.
Walkers should head for the delightful Copper Trail on Bodmin Moor, so called for the number of abandoned copper mines walkers will find along the 60 mile route. You can obtain a copy of the Copper Trail Guidebook, which tells you information about the history and culture of the area, for free at the Visit Cornwall site. This is also a great place to find a campsite, although we heartily recommend the Tristram Camping, which occupies a fantastic cliff top location overlooking the sea.
There are so many fantastic walking opportunities in Wales, although this one warranted a special mention in our guide. Local Welsh legend states that this mountain is the home of the giant Cadair, who uses it to sit in and look at the stars – the name Cadair Idris translates as ‘Chair of Cadair’. Folklore also indicates that anyone who spends the night at the summit will be driven insane by the giants.
If this prospect is enough to put you off the idea of sleeping on the mountain, we suggest a stay at the Cwmrhwyddfor Campsite and Touring Park, at the foot of the mountain. This is a fantastic base for exploring the Snowdonia National Park and offers tranquil, relaxing surroundings for motorhome owners.
We’ve said it before, and no doubt we will say it again, but no meal tastes quite as good as one cooked and eaten out of doors. Maybe it is the fresh air, helping us to build up an amazing appetite; perhaps it’s the tang of vinegar on your chips on a windy day by the beach, or the woodsmoke from the camp fire. Whatever it is, campsite and caravan cooking can be a real pleasure, providing succour and flavour as well as simple sustenance.
Caravan kitchen are small, campsites kitchens don’t exist. Storage is minimal, and keeping fresh food cool can be an issue. We thoroughly recommend a large, good quality cool box and plenty of ice packs. An excellent tip for al fresco cooking is to freeze up ingredients for several one pot meals in generous amounts, transfer to freezer bags, and keep in your cool box. They should stay frozen for quite some time if properly insulated, and help any fresh perishables from spoiling too quickly.
Many of your favourite recipes will work this way – casseroles and stews particularly. Chop the vegetables and meat, add your herbs, spices and flavourings, a nob of butter mixed with plain flower, and freeze. When it has thawed, simply fry in a pan until beginning to brown, top up with water (or wine, or beer, or whatever you have handy, tinned tomatoes are also good) and simmer until tender.
4 chicken quarters or breasts, or 8 thighs
6 rashers smoked streaky bacon
1 medium onion
1 red pepper
1 medium potato
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons smoky barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon plain flour
½ teaspoon smoked paprika (or more, according to your heat tolerance)
1 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin butter or haricot beans
Olive oil or butter
Dice the chicken, bacon, onion, pepper and potato, and mix in a freezer bag with the sauce, flour, herbs and spices. Freeze until necessary. Defrost thoroughly before use.
Gently fry the defrosted mix in a large pan for 8 – 10 minutes until the bacon is beginning to crisp and the vegetables have softened. Add the tin of tomatoes, topping up with water to cover. Simmer for around 45 minutes until the potatoes and chicken are tender and the sauce beginning to thicken. Add the beans, stir well, and simmer for another 10 minutes until the beans are thoroughly heated. Serve with cheesy tortillas or rice.
Salmon Laksa (works with chicken, more veg, any seafood or white fish – adjust simmer time accordingly)
500g salmon fillet
2 spring onions
1 medium carrot
2 cloves garlic
200g mange tout / sugar snap peas
½ red pepper
Bunch of coriander
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons thai yellow curry paste (or your favourite curry paste, to taste)
Splash of oil
1 pack medium egg noodles
1 tin coconut milk
Stock or stock cube, 750ml
Chunk the salmon into bite sized pieces, and add to a freezer bag. Finely shred the spring onions and coriander, cut the carrot, pepper and mange tout into fine julienne, and add to the salmon, along with the oil, curry paste and peanut butter. Freeze until necessary. Defrost thoroughly before use.
Gently fry the salmon, spice and vegetables in a large pan for several minutes until the fish begins to go opaque. Stir in the stock, and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk. Bring back to boiling point, and add the noodles (1/2 a ‘cake’ of noodles per person is usually ample, add more for the very hungry) and cook over a medium heat, stirring, until tender. Try not to boil too fiercely to avoid the coconut milk separating. Serve in deep bowls. Crushed dry roasted peanuts make an excellent topping!