Archive for January, 2011

Camperbug Sessions – Interview with Nick Connah Ltd Camper Hire

January 27th, 2011

The first Camperbug interview of 2011 is here. Designed to highlight the great and the good in the campervan community the Camperbug Sessions will provide a podium for individuals far and wide to tell people about what they’re getting up to and the work they’re doing.

Part of the rationale behind the Sessions will be to entertain as well as to inform, we want you to get to know the characters around the country that work on their campervans, whether they be enthusiasts, business owners and more commonly a little bit of both.

Think of these sessions as part fan fiction and part documentary, it’s a topic that really excites us and we’re going to help you meet the people that help thousands every year to adventure all over the country in these timeless and painstakingly looked after vehicles.

It’s all about the vans and where we get to travel in them, so we’re attempting to discover some insights and to look forward to the future too. Join us!

Our first Session is with Nick Connah of Nick Connah Limited who with his wife Bev have set up their campervan business. We came across Nick when his beautiful campervans were added to the Camperbug website. He’s got four and they all operate from his base in Cheshire. Journeying all over country Nick’s vans go across the age spectrum.

The company has been going for just under a year, previously Nick had been working as an agricultural engineer but after thirty years of doing this, the time had come to hang up his boots and try something a little different.

Sky Blue Camper

Conny the Camper



A change is as good as a rest and having a passion for campervans he decided to start his own campervan hire company. He has a fleet of four vans, called: Darcy; Huey; Freddy and Conny.

Huey, Freddy and Conny are great little campers of the relatively new South American import variety and Darcy is a classic 1979 Westfalia built between the rivers Rhine and Wesser.

Yellow VW Campervan

Darcy the Campervan from Nick Connah Ltd



Nick’s particularly meticulous about the upkeep of his vans. By its very nature hiring campervans can be an extremely tricky business, there is often a great deal to think about and to consider when making a hire to a complete stranger and saying goodbye to your van as it merrily goes off on a new adventure could unfortunately be the last time you see it intact! And so Nick is careful not to leave anything to chance, the vans are always serviced and he ensures that they are kept spotless.

When asked whether he prefers the young or old vehicles in his fleet, Nick is non-committal but you feel that his heart lies with the classic Westfalia, he speaks fondly of the trim and the attention to detail which this older generation of vehicle received.

Nick and Bev handle different sides of the business, Nick works on the vans and Bev handles the paperwork. They enjoy running the company as it brings together their two passions in life: “We love the great outdoors and always had a fascination for VW vans so what better but to combine them.”

Red camperin the forest

Freddy in the Forest



The hard work has started to pay off and this young company with four beautiful vehicles is finding itself busier than ever. Their vans are used for all sorts of social events as well as the usual trips to festivals and journeys all the country. Weddings are ever more popular than ever, with large numbers of couples foregoing the traditional Rolls Royce and being ushered from the church in a pristine VW camper.

White VW Campervan

Huey from Nick Connah Spruced Up for a Wedding



There are plenty of ups when hiring vans, Nick loves having a fleet of four amazing vehicles but he does urge carefulness when you choose a new vehicle “Always check the vans over carefully when you are thinking of buying one as the first one I purchased required more work than I had anticipated”

His vans have travelled as far as the South West of England where a trip to Penzance gave a family a lot of fun. For the future Nick is looking forward to organically growing the business, he doesn’t have any imminent plans to add another van to the fleet but with the way things are going he feels he might have no choice, which isn’t a bad position to be in.

Nick Connah Ltd Campervan Hire limited are a campervan hire company in Cheshire based near Chester, just off Junction 14 of the M56. They rent out their fleet of four campervans all around the United Kingdom. Enquiries for Nick Connah’s fleet can be made through Camperbug, on 01928 724 551 and also through his website @ www.cheshirecampervanhire.co.uk

 

Want to be February’s Van of the Month ?

January 24th, 2011

I’m looking for February’s Van of the Month and as me and my girlfriend are going off to Australia for 3 weeks in the middle of February (lucky us!) , it would be great to get March’s wrapped up now too. I know a number of you were interested in being featured, so please email me and let me know.

To try and do a little more with this slot, I’d also like to do a small feature on everyone whose campervan gets nominated as Van of the Month. Essentially, I’d send over a few questions, which you could answer with a view to us printing your responses on the website. The questions would take the form of a small interview.

If you hire out VW campervans whether it’s full time, part time or as a hobby then this is a great way to generate a little free PR about your enterprise. There will be lots of visitors to the website who would be keen to find out more about you, so please get in touch and let me know if you’re interested, I’m looking for companies big and small.

 

Some Forthcoming Features

January 24th, 2011

I’ve not blogged in a while as I’ve been busy writing new content for the website, which has been designed to explain some of the little idiosyncrasies and make Camperbug a little clearer to newbies. Also over the past couple of weeks since my last blog post, I’ve enjoyed speaking on the phone to a number of VW Campervan hire peeps that were keen to add their vans to the site. It’s always good speaking to fellow van owners and hearing what’s going on in their world.

Camperbug has been alive for a little over six weeks and in to date there are 137 VW campervans on the website, so so many great vans in such a short space of time is a real achievement and I’m really pleased A small trickle has become a stream and a number of new vans are being added every day.

I’m trying to think of the best way to present all these new vehicles. Obviously you can find all the vans on the Bug Locations map, but I’d like to introduce further shortcuts so visitors can get right in and amongst the new additions in a couple of clicks. Camperbug features a lot of wonderful content after all; I’ve never seen a website comprised of so many beautiful pictures of VW campervans all in one place- if I do say so myself!

So I’ve started working on version 2 of the website. There are going to be a host of new features to make it even more useful. For starters I’m going to add a forum. Forums are obviously useful tools for people to discover new information. Camperbug’s visitors are looking for ways to hire or to rent out campervans and whilst there are some great forums out there, like Club 80-90 I want to create a place where people that are interested in hires can get together and discuss various issues that they have overcome or somewhere that potential customers can visit and get more information about the hire process and what VW campervans in general are like.

Secondly, I want to clean up the enquiry messaging system. It’s a little sloppy looking, there’s no way to delete enquiries and thus no control over the content that’s appearing in the messaging section, a little spring clean is needed here to bring it up to speed. Finally I want to introduce SMSing into Camperbug by allowing users to receive an SMS on their mobile phone when they receive an enquiry through the site. I think this will be a really useful feature. I can’t wait until Camperbug has 1000s of enquiries being processed through it and everyone with a campervan featured on the site is getting lots of enquiries from it and I think this feature will help people to do that.

Plus these two there are a score of other things planned. Some cosmetic and other new features which I’m going to roll out with the intention of making Camperbug an ever more useful tool. Remember to keep your eyes peeled!

 

How Do I Rent Out My VW Camper Van?

January 13th, 2011

This isn’t a question that I’m asking! Of course I know how… You visit Camperbug and you upload all your details onto the website and hey presto you’re ready to go. However, I do understand that using a new website isn’t always the easiest thing to do, it can be a little bewildering and whilst I think that Camperbug is really really easy to use, everyone needs a little guidance now and again. So I’m written some instructions on this page, so if anyone asks you: do you know how I rent my camper then please feel free to send them our way.

Another page added, explaining how the Van page in My Camperbug works. Take a read about of this campervan hire page.

 

Holdsworth Camper Van Conversion Company

January 10th, 2011

About

The Holdsworth Campervan conversion business was a UK based camper van conversion company running from 1968 to the mid 1990s that was run by Richard and Heather Holdsworth.

The company was successful with the motor industry having contracts in place with British Leyland who gave their full approval for the conversion of their Sherpa vans into campervans and due to the quality of their conversions they were also popular with the public.



Success continued through the 80s but in the 90s the company ran into increasing financial difficulty and after one deal left the business with a surplus of stock to convert the company ceased trading.  The company would then go on to become Cockburn Holdsworth but this venture wwa short lived and it would shortly cease trading as a camper van manufacturer.

History

Starting in the late sixties, the campervans were converted in a lockup garage at Clapham Common in London.
The company began as is the way with many camper van conversion companies from a love of VWs and travelling.  Richard and Heather would return from a holiday in Australia where campervans and the open road are part of the culture and decide that they needed a campervan to explore the UK and Europe in.



They carried out a conversion with Richard constructing the furniture and Heather working on the upholstery aand soft furnishings such as curtains.
The conversion was successful and would lead to further conversions.  Companies became aware of their work and would ask Richard to build conversions kits that they in turn could offer for sale to their customers for fitting in their own vans.  During this time the Holdsworth conversion business would move to premises in Ashford, Middlesex offered by a vw campervan conversion company.



The success of the business saw a further move from Ashford to an ex-aerodrome hangar in Woodley, Berkshire during 1972. The company would convert many ordinary vans into campervans, these vehicles included Commer Standard and a Commer Super, Ford Transit, Bedford and two types of VW: one with a fixed roof and one with a rising roof. The line was extended with the addition in 1977 of the Leyland Sherpa van and the combination of VW vans that was offered was constantly evolving.



The company would branch away from camper vans into mini bus conversions and it was this side of the business that would ultimately see its downfall.  A deal to supply a few thousand minibus conversions collapsed and the company was left holding stock that it couldn’t sell. The financial burden of this overstocking would lead to its ultimate demise.

Legacy

The Holdsworth Conversion Company created some outstanding campervan conversions many of them panel conversions.  Innovative use of space created comfortable conversions that combined a utilitarian ethic with a sense of romance and adventure. During its life the quality of the company’s work was recognised by external motor companies such as British Leyland and most notably Volkswagen who gave the company approved status for its conversions.



The landscape that the company left behind was a healthy campervan conversion industry with many companies following in the wake of the Holdsworth Conversion Company.
Richard Holdsworth is today the president of the The Holdsworth Owners Club and we understand is now a novelist and at work on his second novel.
Breakfast in a Holdsworth conversion :-)



All the picture used in this article are of a vw camper van conversion called Notty. If you have a conversion of any type that you wish to share, please feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to post your photos and tales of personal campervan conversions.




 

Climbing The Ranks

January 6th, 2011

Before I begin, I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to the rather wonderful VW Campervan called Felicity, who is owned by Paul at North East Campervan Hire.  She’s an absolutely beautiful model and a really nice example of a new Brazilian van that has been converted by Danbury, who do a splendid job converting T2s.  It looks really well fitted inside and I love the way that it’s been finished to a very high standard.  I’ve pasted some blurb below about Felicity from the NECH website. If I didn’t have Notty and was looking for a little VW campervan hire action, I would certainly be giving those guys a call.

Felicity is a Brazilian T2 bay camper converted by Danbury and is a real affordable way to see the country in total comfort. She has seat belts front and rear for 5 people and sleeps four – there is a king size bed and a double bed above with mattress if required and for extra space you can hire a 2 man or a four man awning. The stereo system has MP3/iPod connection so you can take all your favourite music with you on your travels.

Aside from Felicity, I thought I’d let you know that I’ve been busy beavering away over the past few weeks writing good unique content for the site and refining the code.  I’ve been pleased with the positive response to the website and the physical effects of such a positive response are that a number of people have sent me traffic by linking directly to Camperbug.  Building a really good looking website does mean that people like it and are happy to be associated with it.  I’ve also been receiving a few requests for reciprocal links which is cool and with companies that I respect I am happy to write about them, describe what they do and generally get an idea for how they operate but am also careful of companies that link to everything and everyone and could potentially harm you by association.  Sending out a bad outbound link by linking to the wrong websites is extremely bad for by business! Being found linking to a bad company is a real no no.

With Camperbug I want to create piles of great and fresh content. The Camperbug website generates a lot of fresh news daily, which is great for organic search.  I’m building a database of beautiful campervans. Everytime a new van is added, we have a number of wonderful pictures uploaded too and also the description of the vehicle itself, so with every van the website creates a series of  web pages.  This kind of content is really useful. Where possible I try to avoid query string URLs.  You want clear URLs in the address bar, relevant titles to all your pages and clear descriptions , basically do stuff that makes it easy for the search engines to find and index you.  A clear sitemap submitted to webmaster tools and all the rest go without saying but the production of good and fresh content is always key. However, something I’ve noticed that has had a really big effect was when I connected up the Twitter account.  The Camperbug twitter account is called Camperbugz.  There’s is a web squatter who has taken the actual Camperbug username and is just sitting on it, in the hope that someone comes along and offers them money for it I guess but they’re welcome to it.  Anyway, Google couldn’t seem to get enough of fresh tweets appearing on the Camperbug pages, it had a very positive effect.  I guess everytime it spiders, there is something a little different, which it might like.  In the past couple of weeks for keywords like VW Campervan Hire, the website has gone from around page 14 where it just got indexed and appeared to where it sits on page 3 today.  I though it would take a bit longer to get here because some of these keywords are getting 19,000 hits a months but what I’ve been doing is relevant and good so it’s nice to see a positive reward for such activity.  Web marketing can be a hit and miss pastime so affirmation of work undertaken is nice to see.  So I would hope to break page 1 in the next couple of weeks, then I’m going to consolidate my positions and after that spend a few months going after the really big keywords! The ones that do 300,000 in a month. That’s going to be a much longer and harder task but I’m up for it.  Anyway, in conclusion, I’d put the recent success down to the Camperbug Twitter account. Who said Twitter was no good for anything.

 

A walk along the Devon coast at East Prawle

January 5th, 2011

I went for a walk on the coast in East Prawle before the new year came in. It was an overcast, cold day and much of Devon had snow on the ground but this small village on the southernmost tip of the Devon coast was free from snow but wrapped in a beautiful fog.





I took a route down the bridle-way from the village which lead down to the coast.  The path was rocky and wet but the views in the distance showed a sea that was shrouded in fog. The greys and blues of the landscape were beautiful and I had a lot of fun taking shots.





Walking along the coast for a few miles and really enjoyed taking shots of the view. The rocks taper down to the sea and the rhythm of the waves has created striated ledges which reach out to the sea. The rock pools which have been created by the eroding actions of the sea look like great spots to farm mussels and I hope to return to this spot with a bucket for a spot of foraging very shortly!





This is a really interesting and rugged part of the county. It tends to get ignored as it is a little harder to reach then the more popular and larger resorts found along the coastline but this would make a good spot for bringing the campervan for a spot of wild vanning.





Walking along the coastline fulfills two passions which I need to indulge more in 2011.  Namely walking and photography.  I got really into messing around with the white balance on my camera during the walk but have only included the photos on this blog which were shot using a fairly natural white balance.  I took quite a few other out there shots using iridescent settings which are interesting to look at but were a little outlandish and tended to detract from the scene. The cove below was very pretty and I’d very much like to sit down there when the tide is out and spend a few minutes looking out to sea.





Going around the headline revealed a respite to the rocky shoreline and a green grassy bank emerged. I recommend this part of the Devon coastline to anyone visiting Devon for their holidays. All along the coastline there are plenty of places where you can picnic and its relative isolation means that there are some great views of the coast line unspoilt by hoards of tourists.






 

A new Van of the Month!

January 2nd, 2011

There are more and more great vehicles popping up on Camperbug everyday. 112 campervans to be exact!

Which is rather wonderful and a lot more than I expected in a month.  What a great reaction to a campervan hire website! Anyway, a New Year and a new month so it’s time for a new “Van of the Month”. Over the coming months, I’m going to start making a real fuss of the van of the month competition, I think it’s really important to highlight the work carried out by the unsung enthusiasts who work hard to have these amazing vehicles and then rent them out  to members of the public to borrow and have awesome holidays in.  And this month in appreciation of the fact that he was the first person to sign up to the website,  then this month’s van is Dieago which is owned and run by Steve of Tin Can Tourists.  Thanks for your response to the website and for signing up so quickly.  When I announced the website there was a really fantastic response from the wider community and everyone I’ve spoken to on the phone has been so massively supportive so thanks a lot.  There are a lot of great people out there with a passion for travelling. But Steve was the first to sign up and it’s good to see him on here.

The last month has shown me that there are large numbers of enthusiasts who work really hard on and and are really proud of their vehicles.  I’ve spoken to lots of people on the phone who are beavering away and I imagine there are lots of people who face the same challenges and have different solutions for how to overcome them.  I think it would be really useful for me to find out how people have developed their vw campervan hire businesses and I imagine that this would also be useful for company owners to understand how others have developed a successful company and get tips and useful information relating to how they set their businesses up.  So I’m going to start conducting interviews with campervan hire companies, so that we can all understand how they are doing what they do.  If you’d like to share your experiences, then please get in touch with me.  I’m looking for established or new companies.  It really doesn’t matter, I’m looking for people with passion that are happy to have a quick interview about the obstacles that they have overcome and the things that they have achieved.

Last but not least here is a link to the new Van of the Month; Diageo, and also some photos of him below.

Diageo and pop top roof

Diageo and pop top roof

Diageo and pop top roof

Dieago with rock and roll bed down

Dieago with rock and roll bed down

Dieago with rock and roll bed down

Dieago interior show showing rock and roll bed raised

Dieago interior show showing rock and roll bed raised

Dieago interior show showing rock and roll bed raised

Dieago with sviel chair swivelled!

Swivel chair swivelled!

Swivel chair swivelled!

Beautiful looking van with all its doors open and appendages appended.

Doors opened and appendages appended!

Doors opened and appendages appended!

Also, if you want to rent out your campervan then remember to sign up to the website.  Get in touch if you have any questions about the process on hello at camperbug dot co dot uk.  Sorry about the confusing email address display but I am sick to death of spam email, although I guess it’s a necessary evil in a way.

 

Campervan types and thoughts…

January 2nd, 2011

Happy New Year everyone.

Just read an excellent article by Darren from Campervan Life which really inspired me. In fact I was reading it till gone 3 this morning so as well as inspiring me it’s left me quite tired! But seeing as it’s a bank holiday on Monday – what the hell.  I think it’s fascinating to see Darren take his Mercedes Van, a simple everyday vehicle and then with not much money but a lot of dedication create something truly wonderful.   The “stealth” campervan that he creates is a beautiful looking machine and from all the travelling that he has done in it obviously a trustworthy and efficient one. I’ve never built a campervan but when I have a little more time, I think I will give it a go.  The volume of comprehensive information relating to vehicle construction on the the internet is such that there really is a lot of guidance for anyone that wants to try.  So when I find the time, get a lock up and the gumption to do it I will, and I shall blog about my exploits right here.

The article also got me thinking about the nature of the Camperbug website.  It’s a lovely website that I’m really proud of but I’m starting to thing that the focus of it could be construed as being quite narrow.  From this I don’t mean the concept, which I am certain is essentially sound.  The concept being that Camperbug is a location for Campervan owners (commercial and non-commercial) to advertise their van for use by others during downtimes when the vehicle was not in use.  However, the narrowness that I mention is related to the scope of the website.  I decided to construct a VW campervan hire website which is fine…  but when you read articles like the one I mention above then you understand that there is more to life then the wonderful Volkswagen.  Mercedes are great and so is the Luton and even the Transit! And all these vehicles have ardent enthusiasts. The nature of the Camperbug website is such that these groups are possibly excluded from it  and I’ve been wondering over the past few weeks whether it is right to do so?  I think reading Darren’s article really made my mind up finally that it was not right to focus slowly on one type of vehicle. When I first launched Camperbug, someone on a forum mention this point earlier ( a Talbot owner I believe) and the more I think about it, the more I know that focusing on a single type of vehicle is a limiting past time.

The essential point of the campervan is the adventure, it’s about taking a van and taking it to the Glastonbury Festival or travelling all across Europe in it.  Campervans of all shades and hues mean freedom and adventure.  The tinkering and the building is great but the purpose is the travel.  Or at least it is for me.  I bought Notty so that I could travel far and wide in her.  I want to free camp on beaches, fish in crystal blue lakes, partying in Paloma or eating sandwiches overlooking mountain gorges…  There are more things I would like to do to but I’m beginning to wax a little too lyrical so it’s time to leave those thoughts for a little while.  Anyway, the ultimate conclusion is that I want the website to be a campervan community that welcomes one and all, so I don’t intend to be precious about other types of campervan owner who wish to place information about their vehicles on the website.  You’re all welcome!

In the short term I am going to optimise the website in relation to VWs as I think it will be  easier to get some traction on the search engines for a more specific series of keywords relating to a particular type of vehicle.  I guess once I have achieved this then I shall open the website up to the wider audience and attempt to market it to the wider community of travel enthusiasts that make up the fascinating world of van owners.