Couple renovate VW camper van – only for a tree to smash through roof

Couple renovate VW camper van – only for a tree to smash through roof

October 5, 2020

Couple spend lockdown and £4,000 renovating their Volkswagen camper van to tour Scottish Highlands – only for a tree to crash through roof and destroy it on first day

  • Stefan Barankowski and Alice Radford, both 28, spent seven months renovating
  • The couple had spent £4,000 doing up their 1999 Volkswagen T4 camper van
  • On the first day of their road trip around the North Coast 500 it was crushed 
  • They were out in Golspie in Sutherland, Highlands, when the tree fell on their VW

A couple who spent lockdown and £4,000 renovating a camper van had their dreams crushed when a tree fell on it. 

Stefan Barankowski and Alice Radford, both 28, spent seven months renovating their 1999 Volkswagen T4 camper van. 

But on the first day of their holiday, a road trip around the North Coast 500 (NC500) in the Scottish Highlands, a large tree crashed through the roof and destroyed it. 

The couple, from Sandy, Bedfordshire, had set off from Inverness on September 22 and stopped off in Golspie in Sutherland, Highlands.

Stefan Barankowski and Alice Radford, both 28, spent seven months and £4,000 renovating their 1999 Volkswagen T4 camper van. A tree fell on it and crushed it on the first day of their North Coast 500 trip when they stopped in Golspie in Sutherland, Highlands

The couple, from Sandy, Bedfordshire, had set off from Inverness on September 22 and stopped off in Golspie in Sutherland, Highlands. Pictured: Alice Radford

The couple were counting their lucky stars they weren’t in the van, fearing they could have been killed had they been inside at the time

They were told while out on a walk that a tree had fallen on their van. 

But they were counting their lucky stars they weren’t in the van – fearing they could have been killed had they been inside at the time.  

And after an eventful trip they splashed out £14,000 on a newer VW camper van with all mod cons. 

Mr Barankowski said: ‘It was the first day of our NC500 trip. Some cyclists told us a tree had fallen on a van in the carpark. 

‘We were quite shaken up, it was absolutely wrecked. If we’d been in the vehicle when it happened we probably wouldn’t have been here. 

The renovated 1999 T4 VW camper van is pictured before the accident after they set off from Inverness on September 22


The interior of the renovated 1999 VW T4 camper van before and after it was crushed by a tree

‘I was shaken and heartbroken. I couldn’t get my words out or speak to anyone at first. 

‘It was bizarre and unusual – you never prepare for something like that.’ 

But a kind passerby helped Mr Barankowski, who works as a marketing assistant, and Ms Radford, a graphic designer, find temporary accommodation. 

After posting about their misfortune on social media, the couple were inundated with messages of support. 

Ms Radford sits inside the 1999 Volkswagen camper van before it was crushed in Golspie, Highlands 

Within three days Mr Barankowski (pictured) and Ms Radford were back on the road after a woman from Thurso, Highlands, offered them a VW camper van to hire at a reduced price of £25 per day instead of £120

One woman from Thurso, Highlands, offered them a VW camper van to hire at a reduced price of £25 per day instead of £120. 

Within just three days Mr Barankowski and Ms Radford were back on the road. 

Mr Barankowski said: ‘A member of the local council helped out. We were so grateful to him. 

‘He got us free temporary accommodation and they had to get a recovery vehicle out and the woodland estate had to chop up the tree and a crane lifted it off the van.

‘We had to decide whether to get transport back home or continue the trip and get another vehicle. 

A passerby told the couple a tree had crashed a van in the park while they were out on a walk

The couple had to return the hired van by September 30 but fell in love with a newer 2013 model VW T5, which they ended up buying for £14,000

Ms Radford is pictured eating a meal inside the new 2013 model VW T5

‘I’m part of a Facebook group that deals with the van I’ve got, it just took off. A lovely lady from Thurso said she had a van we could hire at a reduced rate.

‘She said she would look after all our belongings and we could go and finish our trip. We were overwhelmed by the trust from this stranger. 

‘She picked us up and gave us the keys.’ 

Setting off again on September 25, Mr Barankowski and Ms Radford drove the rest of the 500 mile NC500 route – including a visit to the Isle of Skye, Highlands. 

The couple had to return the van by September 30, but after having to scrap their old van and falling in love with the newer 2013 model VW T5, which they ended up buying for £14,000. 

Mr Barankowski said: ‘The new van has everything, like cupboard space, gas stoves, sinks and beds – it’s a model up. 

‘When we went to Skye we went to Neist Point and saw the sunset – we really enjoyed the west coast. It was like a fairytale. 

‘We felt blessed that everybody was so kind to us and enjoyed the rest of the trip as if the accident had never happened.’  

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