Clara goes to the Malverns

Where did we breakdown this time? I hear you ask. Well guess what? We didn’t. Just for once, Clara behaved beautifully. Getting us from A to B without a hitch. Our temperamental old VW campervan does work occasionally. However, incident free our weekend away wasn’t. Hence the blog post.

Our destination for the weekend was Busfest. The world’s largest VW campervan festival. Excess of twenty five thousand fellow VW campervanners sprawled across the huge Malvern showgrounds. It is a vast site. Rather wisely, we’d decided to shun the sardine packed main campsite and had opted instead for the nearby Langdale Woods. A stone’s throw from all the action and dog and child friendly. Not to mention hugely spacious. With an excited eight year old and a crazed springer spaniel on board, we definitely needed spacious!!!

At around 4:30 in the afternoon we trundled into the practically empty Langdale woods and went in search of a nice parking spot. Making sure we had enough space for our friends to park their VW when they arrived…

‘I’m going to stick it next to that tree there,‘ I said as Clara bounced across the grass.

‘Ah look there’s a bee box on the tree. That’s sweet.‘ It looked like a bird box to me, but I’d not really given the thing much of a look. I really wish I had…

Our friends were running rather late, so when they finally rolled into the woods the last of the daylight had almost gone. Clara had been unpacked, our awning was up and the bbq was already glowing hot. As the light faded, we helped our friends to unpack, popped a few lights on and began to cook our tea. All was rather lovely and peaceful.

The first unwelcome guest arrived just as food was about to be removed from the bbq. Tracy heard the low droning noise, seconds before something large hummed past her head. A scream followed. We spotted our interloper fly through our awning and disappear into Clara. Tracy and I had seen one of these beasts many years ago. Once seen, never forgotten. All thought of bbq food was instantly abandoned. Our unwelcome guest was this…


Vespa Crabro aka the large European hornet. Back in 2000 we’d incorrectly identified one of these as a wood wasp, but I’m guessing the Internet wasn’t really up to much back then! These stripey beauties are big; Over an inch long. A wee bit smaller than your thumb. A hell of a lot bigger than the buzzy things you usually find in this country!!!

Back in 2000 a Vespa Crabro buzzed into our french holiday gite one evening. It banged against the ceiling light as we sat staggered by the size of this strange giant wasp. As one of our friends was rather susceptible to wasp sting reactions I offered to do the gallant job of removing Vespa Crabro. I’ve known some people burst into hysterical flayed arm fits at the mere sight of a wasp. I’ve always been fine with them. My removal plan was simple. Grab a small towel, perch on a nearby chair, wrap Vespa in the towel and take him outside. I didn’t want to kill him. I don’t  do that sort of thing. He did take a bit of persuading but eventually he was wrapped and on his way to the door. Which is when Vespa Crabro rammed his stinger through the towel and into the end of my finger 😯

What happened next is a little hazy in my recollection. I may’ve let out a small yelp? Vespa’s sting had been rather painful. I definitely remember hurling the towel and Vespa out into the garden, whereupon the door was loudly banged shut. I then remember having wine poured onto my throbbing finger. Apparently it was cheap wine that we’d all deemed unfit for human consumption, ideal therefore for medicinal use. The next thing that I clearly remember is falling towards the tiled floor at great speed. Thankfully someone caught me just before my head reached the ground 😯

For whatever reason; reaction to the sting, shock of the incident, or something else, I had fainted. I’ve fainted before, a few times actually. Once with sunstroke and a couple of times because of a lack of food. I know what it’s like to faint. You remember heading towards the ground and then the next second you’re wondering why all of these strange faces are peering down at you. The time in France was very different. Eerily different in fact. I can’t remember being caught or being put on the floor, but at some point I do remember thinking, ‘oh I’ve fainted.’ I also remember feeling more relaxed than I’ve ever felt before. This was like the best sleep I’d ever encountered. I can remember hearing voices, my name being called, but I just didn’t want to wake up. I could’ve happily stayed in my little comfy dream world for ever. Something did eventually snap me out of my dreamy coma. Probably the thought of all that wasted wine!!!

All that remained was a tiny spot on the end of my finger. No swelling or any other issues. However in the years that followed my run in with Vespa Crabro my fingers would endure some rather bizarre incidents… I stuck a drill through my finger, chopped the end of my thumb off, stuck a fork prong up through my fingernail while emptying the dishwasher, a rather messy cheese-grater mishap and many many more finger related accidents. Vespa Crabro was later christened Voodoo Bee. I’d clearly been cursed by the stripey bugger.

So as you can see, me and Vespa have history and fifteen years later, here he was buzzing around inside our campervan. We needed him out. Our removal plan this time was a little simpler than before and certainly didn’t involve wrapping the nasty beast in a towel. I would man Clara’s large back door, while Adam wafted Vespa towards me. This was an insanely stupid plan and we soon realised why. It was now dark and Vespa had been drawn in by Clara’s interior lights. He was crawling all over it. Wafting him anywhere was not an option. Adam removed his shoe, took a deep breath and whacked Vespa about a million times. I’ve rarely seen a shoe move so fast. Then just before I’d pulled Clara’s rear door shut, three more Vespa Crabros flew into Clara to check up on their mate!!! They were far from happy. I then remembered the ‘bee box’ we’d seen on the tree when we arrived. I went to investigate and sure enough this was Vespa city. A wooden bird-box almost entirely encased with the papery pulp that Vespas make their nests out of. An average nest can house around 400 (yes 400!!!) of the stripey beauties. We were parked less than twenty feet from Vespa city, it was dark, most of Clara’s interior lights were on and most of her windows were open. All that was lacking was a giant bowl of sticky jam with a ‘Vespa come here’ neon sign stuck in the top!!!

Vespa city was now emptying at alarming speed. Eager hornets all keen to enter the brightly lit promised land. As I raced round to the driver’s door, armed with a hefty walking boot, all I could hear was the constant thud of insects bashing into the side of Clara. My deadly walking boot accounted for many, but still they came. Finally I plucked up the courage and reached my arm into a Vespa ridden Clara. A quick scramble with my fingers eventually located the switch to the electrics and then darkness. All windows were now shut and we had no lights to attract any more of the buggers. The Vespas that were now trapped inside Clara I’d tackle later. For now it was time for alcohol and extremely blackened bbq food.

Later in the evening I tentatively ventured into Clara, armed with my trusty boot and a torch. A few loud thumps later and the Vespa Crabro death toll had risen by a further four. I was now pretty confident that Clara was Vespa free. A clearly shaken Sawyer was far from confident and had a torrid night’s sleep. The last time he woke, he’d been convinced he could hear buzzing.

You’ll be absolutely fine. I made sure I got them all out of Clara,‘ I confidently declared.

Sawyer reluctantly crawled back into bed and I tried once more to grab some sleep. Tracy woke me at just after 6:00AM…

There’s one just above your head!!!

The final Vespa Crabro was killed with a child’s badminton racket by a demonically angry man, wearing only his  pants 😯 I was not about to be cursed by the evil voodoo bee for a second time.


The following morning we discovered that the mostly placid Vespa Crabro is a protected species 😯 Is it illegal to kill a protected species? Does the punishment directly reflect how many you kill? If so I could be in big trouble. Even when dead that wretched Vespa Crabro can curse me 🙄