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Russell Ayling

Operations Manager

Russell Ayling joined Southdowns in 2004. Having spent nearly 15 years in the motor industry, in sales, business development and automotive IT, lately with what used to be DaimlerChrysler he believed he could bring useful experience and a range of skills to the company. He has also owned a VW campervan for most of his adult life - possibly all the qualifications required!

Q What made you decide to join the family business?
A I started to wonder why I was working flat-out all day for someone else's business when I could work all day with my family, running our own business!

Q What is your role at Southdowns?
A The rule of thumb is if it isn't anyone else's job, then its my job. I'm mainly behind the scenes at Southdowns; we have other members of the family and other members of the team that look after things 'front of house'.

Q Briefly describe your average working day
A There isn't one.

Q What is your first memory of travelling in a motorhome?
A Driving in a VW campervan on a road that was cut through a snow drift. Probably late 60's or early 70's. The snow was higher on both sides of the road than the roof of our van - it was like a tunnel with no roof. I must ask the Managing Director where that was - he's probably got a slide somewhere in his collection...

Q What is the appeal for you of motorhomes?
A Being in my motorhome reminds me of the first day after I passed my driving test. The day after you pass you driving test, and you drive in your car on your own for the very first time; you get to the end of the road, stop at a junction and you realise you can decide for yourself which way you want to go. At last, no-one is sitting next to you saying, 'turn left, turn right.' I remember that feeling of freedom really well. That's what getting in my motorhome feels like. It's me, it's my van, it's my agenda, it's my journey....'

Q Do you use your motorhome much?
A Yes quite a lot. Not as much as I'd like to, we're busy running a business, but I probably spend more nights in a motorhome than anyone else at Southdowns. I tend to take my van to Europe when we go to see our various manufacturers rather than fly. It's not that I hate flying, I just prefer my motorhome. I tend to find some interesting places to visit or to stay over at on my way. I like my history and Europe is so full of it.

Q If you could take a motorhome anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A I'd get over the channel to mainland Europe and head east as far as I had the bottle and the time to go? Peenemunde on the East German / Polish border is as far east and Tuscany is as far south as I've taken the Concorde so far, and the South coast of Spain was as far as I took the old VW camper. I'd love to go and see the huge 'The Motherland Calls' statue in Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd; it commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad. My next big trek might be to 'The Wolf's Lair' near what used to be called Rastenburg - I'll keep you posted.

Q Tell us about the Stone Painting?
A Each year we go to Lyme Regis on holiday with the children. We sit on the beach or in our Beach Hut and paint pebbles to collect money for the RNLI. It seems odd that as a island nation the Lifeboat service receives no government funding. If you have an accident in your car the police and the fire service might attend, but if your boat is sinking you get saved by an organisation that raises all its own money. The real fourth emergency service. In the ten years we've been doing it, we've raised over £4,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. We are not exactly talented painters but we make an effort and the generosity of the public is overwhelming.

You can see our stone painting blog at

Q If you could fulfil one ambition, what would it be?
A To get a good night's sleep. Or maybe at least two in a row.

Q Finally, tell us one interesting fact about yourself?
A I once stood on top of empty and derelict Reichstag. I also once saw Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler's second in command, whilst he was still a prisoner in Spandau in Berlin. It's a good story - buy me a beer....

Russell mainly lives in front of a screen in Chichester with his wife Lesley and their two children Lily and Alfie. Other times he's in his motorhome in search of history.

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