Bubba’s epic road trip from Belfast to Tolpuddle

01 Aug 2019

National Trust member Gareth Williams and branch president Paul Stewart drove from Belfast to the Tolpuddle festival in July. Here’s Gareth’s diary of the trip

Day one, Thursday

Paul and I left Belfast at midday in his very handsome 1974 VW camper and we zoomed out of town and headed off into the depths of sunny summer Ireland. We were en route to Rosslare to hop on the ferry across to land of the Red Dragon where it wasn’t so sunny –more like ‘rainy rain’ Wales.

Not long into the journey I found out that the camper has a name – ‘Bubba the bus’ but it likes to be called ‘Bubba’.

Bubba would generate huge smiles, big hand waves and plenty of headlight flashes from the other drivers.

The crossing was fun, full of sun and filled with fish and chips! The Stena Line honked its horns as we approached the port and so we prepared ourselves and Bubba for the rest of the journey for that day.

About one mile after leaving the boat, we arrived tired at the very large gothic looking ‘Guesthouse Paradiso’ and we were met by a happy looking chappy with an accent to remind us that we were on a different land. We were welcomed to Cymru! Time for bed…

Day two, Friday

A bright early morning and early breakfast. We wanted to visit Mandy and her new son Olly. Mandy was the National Trust Prospect organiser before she went on maternity leave and hopes to return to work soon.

It was great catch up with Mandy but there were huge dark clouds in the sky as we left her small village in the search for the Welsh/English border. The rains came down and they did it very well!

Still, Bubba has wipers that would put my 2012 Citroen to shame and so we plodded on with no worries… Well, sort of no worries.

I was the navigator. I was a terrible navigator. Paul was the driver. Paul was a very polite and tolerant driver.

I decided to trust the woman who lives in my phone and who works for Google maps. She said there was far too much traffic on the M5 motorway so I should let her show us a way through back roads that would lead to a much more exploratory journey and a larger mileage count.

A cup of coffee and a good old rant about work later, we landed in the village that housed our stopover for the night.

This was England. Our hosts were from Portugal and extra helpful in allowing us to sample and test their real ales that they had on tap.

After pie and chips, two sample slurps of Humdinger finest ale plus a full pint, our weary heads hit the pillows in readiness for the day ahead. Tolpuddle, see you in the morning!

Day three, Saturday

Bubba was still sleeping outside but the two intrepid travellers could smell the toast and coffee awaiting them so they ventured into the dining area and ordered breakfast.

After breakfast, we got back into Bubba and headed for Tolpuddle.

The sun was shining and the skies were blue as we parked up and raised the Prospect flags. A great way to find your way back to your vehicle in a sea of other campers!

We met up with Chris Perry and the gang at the Prospect tent and collected our oranges before we headed off on a guided walk which was partly organised by our National Trust colleagues from the South West.

Hannah, the general manager, was at the Martyrs’ tree when we arrived to view it.

One of the rangers guiding the walk was Clive, who has since become a rep for NT South West. Everything was in full swing when we arrived back at the festival, so Paul indulged in some live music while I made my way around chatting to other stallholders.

Day four, Sunday

Crikey! I thought the first day was busy. The sun was blazing, the music was loud and I squeezed through the crowds to find the team at the Prospect tent. They were gearing up for the parade – this was going to be a good one!

After the parade, Paul and I needed to start the return leg of the journey so we waved goodbye and got lots of waves back.

We landed back in Wales that evening at our hotel.

Day five, Monday

After another hearty breakfast, we loaded ourselves onto the ferry which would take us back home. The journey home was smooth with lots of storytelling and horn honking to all of the other VW campers out travelling that day.

We arrived back into Belfast in the evening where a weary, but very smiley, driver dropped me off at my car and we said our farewells until the next time.

Just over 1,000 miles completed and Bubba was still singing the same sweet tune as when we left just a few days earlier.

I just needed to cover 65 miles in my 2015 modern vehicle and I would be home.

But I didn’t quite make it! Three miles from my house, modern technology kicked in. My display told me that I had a blocked exhaust filter.

A mechanic picked it up for me and my car was fixed for just £200. I actually smiled when I handed over the money, my car doesn’t have a name so it doesn’t care.