Technology update in the van

Two new batteries and an inverter: 120Ah batteries and 2000w modified sine wave interter.

It took a week, but Ken Peachy Caravans have upgraded the battery system and installed an inverter in our van. We only had one 100Ah battery and had issues with it running down so much that the alarm flashed. Our van was two years old when we bought it and the owners were living in it full time. I’m not sure how they coped! A couple of times we’ve run the engine for about half an hour to replenish the battery. Our concern has been the fridge, which only runs on 12v power.

We don’t have a habitat heating system installed, but have thought of running the engine and using the van’s heating system if we are in really cold conditions. Even in the larger motorhome we would only run the diesel heater for about half an hour, so would expect that it would only take a relatively short time in our smaller van. I don’t expect the van’s heater to work as well as a diesel heater of course.

We never have the gas on when running the engine and I wanted to have a way of boiling water for our morning cups of tea without having to switch the gas on. My research suggests that I shouldn’t run the engine whilst using the inverter as it puts too much power back into the system and might fry the cables. However, I will contact Appolo Campervans to check on this. With an inverter we can quickly boil the kettle, switch off, then start the engine and heat the van whilst we have our tea. We also need hot water for washes, but it doesn’t take very long once we switch on the gas (after first switching off the engine). It sounds more complicated than it is, we are used to being careful about gas.

The new installation is two 120Ah batteries. One replaced the old battery in the electrical box, the other had to be mounted in the bottom of our pantry. The workman was also able to fit the inverter next to it, and we actually don’t lose any space as the pantry is actually a little wardrobe and is quite high. Our dishes and stuff have just moved up onto a new shelf.

I’ve been trying out our applicances to see what works. The 2000w induction cooktop doesn’t, a pity, but not vital. I was surprised to find an ordinary 2000w electric kettle works just fine. I can now use our electric coffee grinder, that’s a win as hand grinding coffee is quite hard work. The 800w Instant Pot works, with no difficulty getting up to full pressure. Next thing to check is how much power it uses to stay at pressure for half an hour to cook a meal.

I’m not sure about my coffee machine, it seemed to give an error message, but then was OK, needs more testing. It’s rated at 1300w. At least it didn’t trigger the alarm on the inverter as happened with the induction cooktop. I’ve got a little travel hairdryer that is about 1200w and works just fine.

We went for a modified sine wave inverter because we have six USB ports around the van to power all of our sensitive electronics. There is a 12V plug in charging point near the TV if we need to charge higher powered electronics. The laptop and all the cameras come with USB-C ports which can work either from the normal USB ports with an adapted cable, or from the higher powered port where we use a 75w USB-C adapter. The inverter is only needed for kitchen appliances which are less sensitive to power fluctuations. By the way, all of my knowledge comes from watching YouTube videos about power solutions for vans. It might be wrong, but this is the consensus. Modified sine wave inverters are cheaper than pure sine wave inverters.

We have one solar panel panel on the roof and absolutely no room for more. We think the panel is 150w as it registers up to about 140w in good sun. We think its probably enough, given that we also drive the van most days, which also charges the batteries. If we need more power we could consider a portable system, good for when it’s hot and we need to park in the shade, but still want to have good solar. However, our plan is to go with our present system for the time being and only look at getting more solar panels if it is really necessary. Thing is, solar panels work on light (even moonlight and street lamps) and are very good at providing some power even in cloudy weather or in partial shade. At the moment we have a lot of smoke haze, the solar is drawing 95w(17v  5.6 amps) and the batteries are at 100%.

At this stage we don’t have a way of directly measuring the power usage of applicances. I can only keep an eye on the battery levels. The device I want, with Bluetooth, is $320, plus the cost of installation. It’s possible we can get something much cheaper that will work just as well and Bluetooth is not really necessary, just fun as I can use an app on my phone.

I’m very happy with the new setup and have sent an email to Ken Peachy Caravans to let them know.

From tomorrow we will have access to more regions of Western Australia for camping. We are all set to go.

UPDATE:

One of our big concerns has been that we don’t have a heater in the van. Running the engine and using the cab heating was a possible workaround. However, I have just tested our little ceramic fan heater. It is rated at 1800w and should, in theory, work. And it actually does. It doesn’t appear to be a big draw on the batteries either. We are unlikely to have it on for more than about 20 minutes at a time as it’s more than enough to heat such a small area.

The odd thing is that whilst an appliance is running the battery level goes down to about 80%, but once the appliance is switched off the batteries go back to 100%. I thought it was because of solar power replenishing the batteries, but this time there was very little light outside. I’m very puzzled.

Rainy Tuesday in Cragg Vale

Fortunately the morning got a good kick with the handing down on the Supreme Court judgement on the legality of Boris Johnson’s prorogue of the UK parliament. Of course, we all feel that the unanimous judgement is a triumph for democracy, but there are dissenting voices.

At least now they can get back to business and work on a deal or a referendum or an election, whatever.

Knowing that today would be a very wet day I have checked on movies in iTunes and we have one that none of us have seen, but which promises to be interesting called ‘Never look away’ about a German artist.

Another small project was to photograph some of the artwork in this house. At first I found it very confronting, but I’ve gradually got over the sense of it being very spooky. Stephen, of course, doesn’t mind that nude women feature quite a lot, even though they are not painted or sculpted in a realistic style. The artist, our host Michael, was a music academic before retirement, but a visual artist as well and the house could well be a sort of gallery as he has worked on many different types of art. Overall, the feeling is of a dark, demonic mood, though I can also sense that it isn’t for Michael, and that some of the pieces are purely for fun and meant to evoke laughter.

Here goes:

This is one of the nicer ones which is on a ceiling beam in the kitchen.

Spiders and snakes in the downstairs bathroom. The overall effect of the room is rather nice, with attractive tiling around the bath. However, real spiders sometimes come into the house and sit in the upstairs bath tub for Eversley to gently force out the window.

These four photos some just some of the artwork in the main bedroom that Stephen and I use. It is a large room that takes up the whole side of that floor, with windows on either side.

Eversley has a smaller bedroom, but there is a nice sunny little sitting room next door which she uses for reading and writing. The following photos show part of some of the many artworks in that room – not necessarily contributing to the comfort. Best ignored.

Finally, there is the lounge room. It has lounge chairs, not very comfortable, a TV and a piano that is in tune. My beloved is having a play on it at the moment. The lighting is a bit dim for reading music.

Imagine having this confronting you every time you walk into your lounge room. We go there fairly often because the downstairs bathroom is reached by walking through this room.

This photo is of a sculpture in the rear garden. We can see it from the kitchen window.

Not all of the artworks are ugly, I like this one. There are some musical instruments hung from ceiling beams.

We are not sure that all of the pieces throughout the house are Michael’s work, some may be bought because he likes them. There is an attic with oil paintings spread out and stacked to dry, which would be more of his art. The kitchen has a great deal of pottery – fairly conventional designs and I didn’t bother to photograph them.

We can smell the paint used in the paintings and have some concerns about the toxic effects.

We were glad to get away to York to a house which was more conventionally furnished. But, even there, the owner had got carried away with movie themes. There was a large jukebox in the kitchen dining room – annoying because it wasn’t a large room and who really wants a jukebox at home. There were posters and bits in the smaller bedroom featuring weapons, etc., which made it not as comfortable for a woman to sleep in as it could have been. The main bedroom was not particularly quirky.

We didn’t take a photo of the large, black creature to the side of the house, holding a weapon. We don’t know what movie it is from. Our host was formerly a policeman and perhaps feels that guns are a normal part of life. My advice to people on Airbnb generally is to go for neutral furnishing and artwork as themed decorations may not sit well with some of your customers. We didn’t say anything to him, of course. He was very kind to us, the kitchen was well equipped, and the lounge furniture and beds were comfortable. The house was spotlessly clean. Hence, we found it far more comfortable than here.

So, the thing we love about being here in Cragg Vale is the locality. Our surroundings are beautiful and the local villages very quaint. We were talking to a young business owner at our local cafe yesterday. She is from Hebden Bridge, but has travelled a lot. She has come home because she feels that this is a very beautiful place to live and can’t be bettered anywhere she has seen. She said she might be tempted to move to Australia, but has a daughter to a man who lives here and doesn’t want to separate them. She has a friend in Sydney and will be visiting next year.

We are constantly finding that people we talk to here in England have some connection to Australia, whether having family or friends living there, or they have travelled to Australia and often visited Perth. It feels surprising to us because Australia has such ethnic diversity that we could be forgiven to thinking that there is no longer such a strong connection with the UK.

Let us acknowledge the artist, Michael Wilson, who might or might not have created all of the artworks featured in this blog. For his original works, he owns the copyright, of course. However, it does seem to be acceptable to photograph artwork, as often happens in galleries, as long as the artist is acknowledged. Hebden Bridge is well known as a place where artists like to live and there are artist’s workshops in the town. I noticed something of a theme of skeletons, which also feature in this house.

My photos were taken with the Sony A6400 and a Sony 50mm 1.8 lens to allow for maximum light hitting the sensor. On a cropped sensor camera this meant I was working at about 85mm, a long lens rather than wide angle. Hence showing parts of paintings rather than the whole. This house is not particularly well lit and on a grey day we are not getting much light from outside.

The photos were transferred wirelessly to the iPad using compression to take them from full sized to about 2mb each. This works well for the web, but wouldn’t hold up for enlarging them for a big screen. I haven’t processed them in any way or added a watermark regarding copyright, but they are too small to be useful apart from in the blog.

York: summing up

Our stay in York began with booking accommodation and train tickets. Because we are now three people we were able to consider having a small house with two bedrooms. We stayed at an older house that has been renovated to a high standard. Our host provided everything we could possibly need, even to supplying a French press as I requested when we arrived. Eversley took a free tour with him, which basically consisted of walking from the house into town, with history points on the way. He contacted us last night to ask if we wanted a lift to the station today, and of course we said yes. Stephen had checked out a left luggage place near the station where we left some bags. He was appalled at the price however, and it was probably a better idea to travel to and from the house this morning as I’m sure our host would have held our bags for us until we travel.

Our train booking is at 2.00 p.m., but actually we can catch it any time out of peak hours (don’t apply on Sundays anyway). We chose this later time because of the cycle challenge which passes past our house today, resulting in the road being closed to normal traffic until 3.30 p.m.

This has meant that we have time to do a little more sight seeing. Stephen was able to extend a museum ticket until today, so has gone back to finish off. I walked around the Minster again to pick up on things I missed last time. Eversley is also wandering around and thought of going to a church service. I chose to spend some time on my own in a cafe to do some writing and this will be our meeting point for lunch.

Where we are staying has a very good bus service for getting into the city centre, plus we were able to catch the bus to Whitby from the same stop. The city centre is very pedestrian friendly, in fact, it is best explored by public transport and on foot. Many roads in the centre are closed to cars and more closures are planned. We didn’t check on parking costs, but actually finding parking might be difficult as well.

There is one more thing I would like to see which is the Railway Museum, strategically located near the train station, but I don’t know if we will have time.

Monday 23rd September.

The journey home wasn’t very long, but we were tired when we arrived. Eversley said the morning service at York Minster was good as the choir sang through the service. Stephen was happy that he finished off his museum.

Now all we need to do is decide what to do for our last week here in Cragg Vale.

Eversley, Shaun and Susan, plus bags.

We saw this apparently lost bear near Clifton Tower.

Although York is very pedestrian friendly with many streets closed to cars, this carpark is near Clifton Tower and has lots of spaces.

York: A visit to the Clifton Tower

Yesterday was a day of rambling around, enjoying the city on foot. The Tower gives a great view over the city, with explanatory notices as you walk around the top. In the evening we watched a Michael Portillo video about York, which gives a summary of some of the main historical events. He went into the Jorvik Museum and confirmed what we thought – that it was a sort of Disney style exhibit. We would certainly go if we had children in our party as I think it is a good way for them to catch up on history.

After the Clifton Tower Stephen and I went in search of a cooked breakfast for lunch. Some cafes have all day breakfasts, many stop at 11.00 a.m. We found somewhere immediately near the tower, but decided to walk on to see if we could find a place that was more open. After half an hour we caved and went into a cafe that offered seniors meals. But, not on weekends, unfortunately. We decided to stay as we had a table at a window in a booth, very comfortable. We ordered, and after half an hour queried the delay with the waitress. Of course, there had been a mixup with our order and it would be arriving in about 10 minutes. We made the best of it.

After that Stephen and I did our own thing for a while before meeting up with Eversley who had taken a tour. We couldn’t make up our minds whether to go to Evensong at York Minster again or not. In the end, we must have been too tired. It was very crowded today in the streets and fighting that all day had left us feeling we wanted something peaceful. We walked along the river, then diverted back to the Railway Station where our bus stop was nearby. The station has some little shops and we were able to get some fruit.

We had a scratch tea, leftover this and that, plus fruit. Then watched the video.

York has a fairly bloody history and I could say things about the tower, but not good things, so perhaps we will leave it that it was originally a wooden construction and has been used for hundred’s of years.

This sign shows a layout of the castle complex, with the tower behind.

There were steep stairs up to the entry.

This is a zoomed view towards the North Yorkshire Moors from the tower.

These photos show views of the city. As you can see, yesterday was particularly clear and sunny.

These photos of the interior show some restoration taking place. There are buildings shrouded in scaffolding all over the cities and towns we have visited. Old buildings require constant upkeep and tourist places like this must partly rely on entry fees to keep up.

There are buildings on three sides actually, showing that the same configuration of the Clifton Tower and outer buildings is still in use after all of these centuries, updated with the times.

The following photos were taken as we wandered through the streets looking for a cafe for lunch.

Stephen had a free ticket to tour the inside of the Minster. I wandered in as well and took some photos.

We had a drink at a little place on the bridge. Non-alcoholic as we didn’t like their prices and had wine back at the house for later.

This shows one view of the Victorian railway station. After walking along the river we found a path back to where we could catch our bus which took us through this part of the station.

A visit to the seaside town of Whitby

A 2.5 hour bus trip took us over part of the North Yorkshire Moors to Whitby. The moors themselves perhaps illustrate that the English are not used to sweeping views over treeless landscape. It was impressive, but coming from Australia, something we have quite a lot of.

Whitby, on the other hand, was interesting as the fourth seaside town we have been to in England, or fifth actually as we went to one with Stephen’s cousin Alan many years ago. This one is at the junction of a river and is/was a fishing village. Eversley had set her sights on climbing up 199 steps to an old monastery. Although the steps were shallow and an easier climb than expected, we decided to do the opposite headland where Stephen was delighted to find a statue of Captain Cook. We visited Botany Bay earlier this year and it rounded off his excursion into history very nicely.

We had taken a picnic lunch with us, which we ate on arrival at a pub which advertised that we could eat our own food there, but had to buy a drink. Because we would be arriving home after 8.00 pm we had an early tea at another pub, fish and chips, which was delicious, in an upstairs room at a pub. There was a sign saying we couldn’t use our mobile phones, laptops, etc. to promote conversation, which was annoying as we wanted to see Eversley’s photos. I could show off mine as cameras weren’t forbidden. I’ve seen this sort of sign in cafes in Perth, but not been to a place where it is enforced.

We were tired by this stage and hung around enjoying the late afternoon ambience of the town whilst we waited for our bus. We napped on the way home.

And some the North Yorkshire Moors, through the bus window.

Castle Howard – another stately home visit

Not that I go to these places for the ‘home’ part. What is appealing is lovely gardens, excellent cafes and tempting gift shops. Castle Howard has three cafes and we sampled them all. This was on Thursday.

I spent extra time in the main cafe at the house writing in this blog, then followed Stephen into the house, where I soon ran into him. That was because he started at the wrong end. The most interesting thing for us and most visitors is that this was where both versions of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ were shot and there was a display in one of the rooms. We also went into the chapel that is part of the house and where Charles Ryder nearly died of class envy.

It was a sunny day and a pleasant temperature and we enjoyed time out in the grounds enjoying the views. Stephen went on a bit longer walk at the end, but I was too tired.

The house is apart an hour bus ride from York which meant we got to see more of the surrounding countryside. It is much dryer here than where we are staying at Cragg Vale, with fields of stubble after harvest. The first photos are from the entry part to the grounds, which have a cafe, a takeaway coffee shop, a produce store and a gift shop.

A little train to travel to different venues.

Afternoon tea at the garden cafe

This contraption allowed the person to be taken down the steps in his,own wheelchair.

York: Day 2 Yorkshire Museum and Art Gallery

Eversley went on a tour with our host in the morning, Stephen and I wandered around, considered going to the Yorvik Museum, but decided it would be something like a Disney experience and went to the Yorkshire Museum instead.

On the way we met up with Shaun, then Eversley, and had lunch.

Stephen did the museum and I went to the art gallery after some rest as I had a headache. The headache cleared, and I enjoyed the rest of the day.

We went back to the house at about 4.30, having had enough. Eversley let us know that she didn’t want to go to Evensong and we felt relieved that this sort of let us off the hook as well.

After a fairly early night for all, we were ready to tackle today.

In the park near the museum there were a number of birds in a display, apparently injured and undergoing rehab. But, as people were allowed to handle them, perhaps they would be too acclimatised to people to go back into the wild. Anyway, it was interesting to see this huge owl closeup. It was as big as a cat.

The photos above are just some of the sights we saw on our wanderings. There are remnants of Roman times, like the bottom part of this tower, and buildings from the different ages. The city wall is still standing, having been repaired over time, and it is possible to walk around much of it.

The river has paths along each side, though they sometimes come to an abrupt ending in restaurants, buildings or repair work.

A view through to York Minster

The central part of the city is small enough to walk around and see many interesting places. Perhaps takes a bit of stamina!

York: travel day and first exploration of city

We left the house in time to catch an early bus to Mytholmroyd. As the buses only run once an hour we were concerned about possibly missing our train if we went later. It meant that we had quite a long wait at the station, but Eversley and I went for coffee at the Bridge Cafe to fill in time.

As it was a bright and sunny day, waiting at the station was more pleasant than it might have been. Eventually we caught our train and made the change at Leeds for a train to York. That train actually went to Glasgow and was very comfortable compared to the Northern Line trains. We sat in booked seats which were free until after York. Stephen and I remembered this dance from our four week trip through Europe.

At the train station we had to meet Shaun, our AirBNB host. This took a little while and some messaging, but eventually we connected. He had to park his van away from the station, so got us to stand in a spot where he could pick us up. His kindness meant that we didn’t have to immediately negotiate the bus system and was much appreciated. When we said we wanted to do some shopping, he offered to take us to a large Tesco.

I enquired about coffee making when he showed us the kitchen and he said I was the first person to ask. When we went to the Tesco he bought what we call a French Press and the English call something else. It will be a valuable addition to a kitchen with everything else we could possibly need.

This is the very nicest AirBnB we have been in, really on the level of a Bread and Breakfast. It is quirky, despite the attractive decor and comfortable furniture, he has added some ‘boys toys’ with a juke box in the kitchen and odd other things around. Even the kitchen gadgets are ‘boys toys’ like the George Foreman grill. But, we love it and hope we get a chance to use some of them. When you are visiting a city as a tourist most of the time is not spent at home cooking.

There is an Evensong Service at York Minster every evening at around 5.15 p.m. After a rest we walked into town and arrived more or less just in time. But, we had to go really fast and didn’t enjoy the walk as much as we might have it strolling along.

York is a walled city and to get to the older part of the city we walked through this gate. Shaun says that a walk on the wall is one of the things we might do here.

Dinner was at a pub which boasted of being the oldest in York. Two meals shared between three worked well. It was cold afterwards and there was a bit of walking before we could find a bus to catch, plus a bit of a walk after being dropped off. Fortunately the central heating was on and the house was fairly comfortable.

Despite the comfort it was a bit difficult sleeping in a brand new environment. Still, being in such cleanliness and comfort made up for it for me. The house isn’t new, but has been newly renovated. Our host lives in a granny flat at the rear, which he built for his mother when she was poorly. He said that ‘then she got well’ and didn’t need it, so he has started using the front house as an AirBnB. The cost to us of under $50 per person makes it really good value and now that we can make coffee he will get a top recommendation from us!

The beginning of the day in sunshine as we waited at the bus stop.

Sunset on the river Ouse in York.

It was easiest to do a short video of the York Minster as we were standing so close to the building. Eversley said going to the Evensong could be our meditation time and it happened that they were celebrating Hildegarde of Bingen in the service. I have used her music for meditation in the past. The only thing was that there was a requirement to stand for some things, which meant it wasn’t as restful as it might have been after our fast walk into town. You could resist, but it seems discourteous.

Our house in York
Walking through to the main road.
Outside our pub

On the bridge

Stephen walking ‘The Pennine Way’

Can you read the poem carved into the rock? We could, but with difficulty.

Yesterday was spent packing and preparing for our trip to York, but by afternoon the sunshine was calling. We drove to a place we had seen from the road on a previous outing and when we walked up to a reservoir found that we had stumbled on a section of the Pennine Way. The walk was easy, a path all on one level, with lovely views.

Stephen had a problem with his boots when the sole gave way. We worked out that they are at least 25 years old and may not be worth repairing. Hence walking in a ‘Pennine Way’.😀