Little Things Can Make Your Day ?

It must be getting to that time of the year again, ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, as a week or so ago I realised that my Fulltimers Motorhome Insurance was coming up for renewal, but I had not received my usual renewal notification from my Insurers, Comfort Motorhome Insurance, who I had been with for the last six years, ‘Best I give them a call’ I said to Shazza. I usually speak to Katie, although I realise that they would have a number of different staff who answer the phones, so it was probably just by coincidence that I had always got through to her every year ? however, on this occasion it just so happened that I was greeted by a different unfamiliar voice, still very cheerful as always though. I gave my details and stated that unusually I had not received my renewal quotation, the pleasant young lady, well at least she sounded young, checked her records and informed me that an Email had be sent and suggested that I check my ‘junk’ folder but asked whether I wanted her to do the renewal quote over the phone, which of course I confirmed that I would. Now with Comfort they do not give the more usual ‘No Claims Discount’ but they do give a ‘Loyalty Discount’, not something they openly advertise, last year’s renewal only saw an increase of £20 on my annual premium from the previous year which I was mightily impressed with, so I was very interested to see how this years increase would fair in comparison. As well as taking out the ‘Fulltimers Insurance’ I also ask them to include full UK/EU Breakdown Cover at the top level of cover, always better to be safe than sorry, and when we needed to use it in 2016, when we unfortunately suffered from Fuel Contamination, it proved invaluable and the service provided was outstanding. She came back with the quotation at £755 which was £690 for the vehicle cover and £65 for the Breakdown cover, an increase of just £35 on the previous year, again I was more than happy with this as the cover is fully comprehensive throughout the EU, whereas some other’s only cover ‘Third Party’ in the EU, on top of that the policy allows me to make up to six claims in any one insurance year, it covers replacement glass in the whole of the Motorhome, not just solely to cover the windscreen, up to the value of £3,000 and also provides us with £5,000 personal contents cover, more than enough to cover our meagre possessions.

Whilst I was speaking to her I thought I had better just check out the procedure for obtaining the ‘Green Card’, something which will be a requirement for all UK drivers after Brexit for travelling within the EU and of course something which we will now require for our own upcoming Winter escape. Comfort have been pretty good with sending out regular updates on this, stating that if a ‘Green Card’ becomes necessary they would issue one to policy holders at no extra charge, unlike a lot of other Vehicle Insurance providers who are charging for the issue of such documentation, Shazza’s insurance providers for the car have quoted us £80 for a green card and that is only to cover a 90 day period !! The nice young lady confirmed that, if it became necessary, they would issue me with a green card for a 90 day period at no extra cost and that I just needed to notify them twenty-days prior to my travel date. Happy with this I stated that I would be renewing my policy with them but would leave it until nearer the renewal date at the end of the month.

So okay, I was more than happy with this but things got even better when a week later I decided to get my Motorhome Insurance renewal sorted. Again I did this over the telephone and surprise surprise it was Katie who answered the phone, I know that in reality she would not know who I was, she, and all the other staff, must deal with many thousands of different people every year, those just enquiring about quotes, new customers and of course renewal customers like myself but I always remembered her, because she just has such a bubbly personality, very efficient but also very personable and always has time for the odd bit of personal conversation. Anyway, she got my records up and went through the usual bits and pieces to ensure that nothing had changed to effect the Insurance quote, as usual I asked for her to send me a hardcopy of all the documents, normally they would Email them, but as you needed to be able to produce the original Insurance Certificate if stopped, I always get my documents sent to my ‘Contact Address’. At which point she that told me that as a I held a ‘Fulltimers Insurance Policy’ that she would send me out a ‘Green Card’ with my documents, I was a little confused as I thought they only issued them for 90 day periods, however she stated that as a Fulltimer they were now issuing a Green Card with the policy documents as a matter of course and that this was valid for the full period of the Insurance, so a full year, absolutely brilliant. Shazza and I had thought that we were going to have to apply for these ‘Green Cards’ twice a year, to cover each 90 day period that we would be spending in Europe, if we leave without a deal, which is looking ever more likely to be the case, but now that is an administrative burden that we can forget about.

There has also been a lot of confusion on many of the Motorhome Groups that I am a member of, around the International Driving Permits (IDP’s) required by UK motorists travelling within the various individual EU Countries if we leave the EU ‘Without a Deal’. Now whilst, in theory, there are three such IDP’s thay may be required, on checking the official UK Government Website, which now clearly states ‘We are leaving the EU on 31st October‘, the only Country where we would need to be in possession of an IDP, irrespective of length of stay, is France (now why doesn’t that surprise me ?) as for the others, whose dates do vary slightly, in general, provided that we have the newer Drivers Licence, the one with your photograph on it as opposed to the older style paper licence, then provided your stay is no longer than 180 days there is no requirement for an IDP, so even less administrative beaurocracy than what everyone has been anticipating.

Now none of the above is earth shattering news I know, but when you are planning travelling to and through EU Countries, not just for Winter escapes, but moreso for the near future when we once again become motorhome fulltime nomadic travellers, then knowing what documentation you require, and need to be in possession of, before you travel, and getting it all organised in time, especially with no permanent fixed residence, well this had just added to our already extensive ‘To Do List’. So, in all of this Brexit fiasco and with many of the uncertainties around it for us normal folk, it is the simple things like this that will make our future nomadic lives that much easier to organise and it is amazing how these ‘Little Things Can Make Your Day‘.

As we move closer to escape day, just twenty days, and yes we are still counting, we are getting ourselves sorted and not just the work side of things. The car has been through its annual service and MOT test and passed with flying colours, not bad for a vehicle that is very nearly ten years old, the van is not due its first annual MOT test until next year but had its first bi-annual service earlier in the year, we each have our six monthly dental check-ups all pre-booked for before we leave the UK, we have virtually finished re-organising the van for ‘travelling mode’, it just needs a good final wash ‘n’ wax, all our ferry bookings to and from Spain have been made, and with our brief return to the UK over the Christmas period, this has entailed a few more than normal this time around !! We have also pre-booked our campsite for our family visits when we leave site and travel North in three weeks time and also pre-booked a pitch in advance for our Christmas period back in the UK. So I think we are well on top of everything now, we really do not give Brexit much more than a cursory glance in the media headlines these days, Brexit Fatigue has certainly struch this household and we reckon, like everyone else, that Boris will call an election in the Autumn, but we will not be in the Country when it happens, even if we were, we probably would not bother voting again as this current fiasco has just proven what we have known for years, the Politicians do not give a hoot about Democracy or the National Interest, they are just in it for themselves, so we will just get on with our own lives and deal with any fall out from the beaurocracy as and when it effects us. We have more important matters to think about like, will our ferry crossing to Spain in four weeks time be a bumpy one ? Will our favourite watering holes on the sun drenched promenade in our little Spanish seaside town still be open or will they have closed down for their Winter break ? Will our ice-cream stall now have started to stock my favourite Rum ‘n’ Raisin flavour ? These are much more important things for us to be spending our valuable time wondering about, wouldn’t you agree ?

Not long now Shazza and that view will be of the much deeper blue and greens of the Mediterranean Sea !!

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Saving The Best Till The Last

There is a touch of nervous excitement, perhaps even a touch of trepidation, when your life is spent living on the road in a van, whether that be a standard production built or your own self-build, it does not matter, the important thing is that it is your van, the one which has your stamp on it, your possessions in it, it is your home, and, if you are a genuine nomad, you generally do not really have much of a clue where you will actually be parking up and spending the night, not just that one night but future nights as well, unless of course you are staying on a campsite which you have pre-booked, but for us campsites are a bit of a luxury and not really a necessity as the Motorhome ‘Aires’ network provides, in the main, everything you would need as far as services for the van are concerned and many now have more of life’s luxuries like, Laundry facilities, Electric Hook Ups, Showers, WiFi etc all at a fraction of the cost of campsites, many are still free or only charge a couple of Euro for 100 litres of fresh drinking water, so we tend to leave the campsites to the holiday brigade. Free Camping (or Wildcamping as some refer to it) can sometimes be daunting, at first, but it does not take too long before you relax into it, your gut feeling will tell you whether you feel safe and as ‘Newbies’ to the lifestyle there were many times that we parked up but then moved on, however, we would probably have no concerns at staying at those self same locations now. The worst thing for us, is that having had a taste of that lifestyle and then stopped doing it, for our own personal reasons which were supposed to be just temporary, however, that temporary has broadened into a much longer period than we had ever envisaged, but I can tell you that from our own brief experiences of enjoying that lifestyle, you certainly never forget them, they forge memories that are carved into your mind, memories which can so very quickly be brought back, no matter where you may be, by simple sights, sounds or in some cases just aromas that waft past your nostrils, and then your memory transports you back instantly to a place and time that you once knew. But we have not finished with that lifestyle, okay so we have for the last six years been living primarily in our vans on a fulltime basis, but it is not the same as being on the open road with the freedom to roam as you like, or remain in a location for a bit longer than you may have initially thought that you would.

For those of you who have been following our adventures, and the last six years have been adventures, experiencing new things and different locations, you will know how often we have spoken about returning to our nomadic existence, well that time is now nearing reality once again and we are getting quite excited at the prospect. Interestingly, there is no trepidation this time, we are probably better prepared now than we were six years ago. Brexit had caused us some anxiety, the not knowing how much it would impact on our wanderlust, but now, like very many people I would imagine, we are suffering with ‘Brexit Fatigue’, we have had enough and so we have made the decision that Brexit does not matter, we are now ready for all eventualities and although we have planned for the worst case scenario, it will not actually be that bad. There is so much of our own Country that remains unexplored, well by us that is, so remaining here in the UK for extended periods of time, if that is what unfolds, will actually have it’s advantages. The remainder of Europe is still out there and we can still choose to travel to many different locations, albeit in all probability in much smaller bite size chunks than we had originally planned for, back in the days before the referendum. We will keep the ‘Bolt Hole’ in Spain, in the short term at least, so that we have a bricks ‘n’ mortar base for when we want or need a break from our smaller much compact residence.

What is strange is that when you are living long term on a campsite, hooked up to an umbilical cord that is the EHU, with unrestricted access to drinking water, grey and black drainage and even readily available WiFi, or not having to use the confined washroom space in the van because we have a proper Toilet/Shower/Bath/Handbasin provided as well as a full size domestic fridge/freezer and a Washing Machine and Tumble Dryer, it is so easy to forget certain things about using the van, like how does the gas heating system work ? we have been used to just turning on our small 240v portable fan heater. What is the best and most economical settings to heat up the water, for showers or washing the pots ? How many of our electronic devices can we charge up at any one time off the internal 12v supply, these are all silly little things that when you are constantly living ‘off grid’ on the road come as second nature. Storage space is another issue, there are things that we have in cupboards and drawers and wardrobes now which we will not need, or use as frequently, as we do now when we are back on the road and so the internal and external storage areas will be re-arranged somewhat differently. We were dab hands at very quickly changing the internal of the van from ‘Travel Mode’ to ‘Home Mode’ but we have just got used to, over recent years, parking up in our Wardens compound and it remaining in ‘Home Mode’ for the rest of the season.

So, whilst we have now taken down the additional living/dining space that was the awning, it has now become more convenient to get the van off site and get ourself re-familiarised with living back in the van properly and it was a wonderful experience, as my last published post outlined, to be back out in the ‘real world’. But, apart from the bacon butties, we didnt cook in the van and in such a limited space, even smaller than we had in our previous van ‘Big Momma’, there is a certain order of things when it comes to preparing and cooking a meal in the van and then washing up all the pots afterwards, so we needed to rehearse these forgotten skills. The enjoyment and freedom of being off site may also have had something to do with our decision to take the next available opportunity to get back off site again and although our next period of time off would only be a half day, well there was no discussion or debate required, it was a done deal. In the meantime, being totally reinvigorated after our wonderful day out in the van, I took the opportunity on a lovely warm evening to completely empty the ‘Little Fokkers’ large exterior garage space, I had forgotten how capacious it really was and it took quite some time just to pull everything out. We took the opportunity to also have a good clear out, there was stuff that we were carrying that we had never used, even stuff that we had transferred from ‘Big Mommas’ garage space !! We were ruthless, it was a lot like when we were clearing out the house, but probably on a slightly smaller scale, what we had not used got thrown out, how much vehicle cleaning kit did I really need ? How many tarpaulins did I need ? The essentials were maintained like ‘Kevin the Kayak’, both BBQ’s (Charcoal & Gas), 2 x 25m EHU Cables and a wide assortment of continental adapters, 2 x Hose Reels (Long and Short), Picnic Table, Reclining Chairs, Torches and Candle Lanterns, Watering Can, Cleaning Kit (much reduced), Solar Showers and several other bits ‘n’ pieces. We also needed to keep some room for a crate to carry some of Shazzas kitchen equipment which would not fit inside the van and space for our snorkels, flippers and water shoes (currently in our Bolt Hole). However, by the end of this exercise we (that is the Royal ‘We’ of course but really that should read ‘I’) had totally re-packed the garage and ended up with a bit more usable space, perhaps enough to fit our Honda Generator in, which was currently stored at Shazza’s mums place. Whilst I was re-packing the van Shazza had made a start on making an inventory on what electronic gadgets we had, but stored away as we did not need them, things like the small portable 300w Inverter, the handy ‘Power Pack’ which was ideal for re-charging mobile devices when there was not enough available solar (provided we had remembered to re-charge the power pack beforehand) and also how many charging cables we had. As you may imagine, by the end of the evening we were both pretty much charged up ourselves, with all our conversation dominated by our lives back on the road, I knew that neither of us would sleep that night as in our minds we were in the ‘Little Fokker’ and back on our nomadic adventures, I was right and so as night turned to morning, and we drank far too many extra cups of coffee, we may have both, in our minds, have been in different places, but we were both in the van somewhere other than a Wardens compound on a campsite.

It was a fantastic dry and sunny morning on the Sunday, we were working until 1pm, but the van was ready to go as soon as we locked the reception, and when that time came we wasted no time in putting up the sign on the door that stated we were ‘Closed’ and would re-open at 9.00am tomorrow. We were heading back to Woolacombe Beach, but not to the car park where we stayed just a few days previously, this time we were heading just a little bit further up the road from the seaside vilage to a parking area that was perched high up on the cliffs, overloking the sand dunes and the wide sandy beach and we did not need to be near any facilities, we had everything we needed on board.

A prime position !!

Perched high above the sand dunes looking over the expansive Woolacombe Beach

We had a terrific view of Lundy Island

What I enjoy about the van lifestyle is that you never know what you will encounter, what you will see, or hear, but if you wait long enough, even in the most isolated areas, nature will come and find you. Okay, so on this occasion we are hardly hidden away from civilasation, but we were far enough away from it to be able to just sit, look and listen at what was going on all around us and there was far too much going on to satisfy my noseyness and which would prevent me from having any sort of meaninful personal contemplation time !!

Just a couple of the throng of people on the beach, kitted out in wet suits, surf boards under their arms, or body boards and paddle boards and all making a ‘B’ line for the waves.

Braving the sea without a wet suit ?

A Gentle contemplative stroll

Kayaking

Not sure what these three were actually doing but they appeared engrossed ?

A Point Of Interest perhaps ?

Mountain biking in the dunes

There was lots going on down on the beach, in and out of the water and this stretch of beach is ‘dog friendly’ so they, and their owners, were out in force. The warmth of the morning had carried on into the afternoon, it had turned out to be quite an unexpected scorcher and so there were plenty of picnics being held on the soft sand, behind windbreaks, although there was no need for such protection as their was only the merest hint of a sea breeze. We looked across towards the car park where we had been parked a few days previously, it looked pretty full and whilst the area we were in was not exactly desolate, their was a lot more elbow room up here, probably because it is a long trek up and down the sand dunes to the beach below with water toys.

You know the feeling, you cannot hear anything but you just know that there is something happening behind you, as I turned I saw this para-glider who was obviously enjoying a much better view than the one I had.

An even better view than ours !!

Descending for a beach landing

Other than the surf boarders, body boarders, paddle boarders and kayakers there was not very much other nautical activity out on the water. It seemed strange to me that everytime we had visited Woolacombe, over the past couple of years, we had never seen any boats, sailing or motorised or even jet-ski’s, perhaps under the waves it was far too rocky to risk damaging a propellor. As if in response to my query, I had no sooner got up out of my seat to go inside the van when I heard the distinctive whine of a motorised vessel, it was a jet-ski, typical, just when I had put my camera down and by the time I had got to it, it had disappeared from view as quickly as it had arrived. But I was ready when I heard the next, more gentle humming noise of a motorised engine, a small motor cruiser and then in the distance, just before it disappered behind the headland a larger vessel making its way into the Bristol Channel.

As the afternoon wore on, more and more campervans started to arrive, it was a bit like being on a Motorhome Aire in Europe, which are generally pretty empty until late afternoon (although probably not in the main tourist season) and then they start arriving to park up for the night. This however was not an Aire and the parking area closed at 10pm, with a notice advising that vehicles must depart by 9:30pm as the gates would be locked and no overnighting was permitted. The tide was well on its way out and the waves had diminished considerably so I doubted that it would be late Surfers, probably just people coming to try and catch a nice romantic sunset, something that we too were hoping to witness before we had to depart back to Cell Block ‘H’

We were not alone !!

‘Spag Bol Al Fresco’

Waiting to see if we would have a nice view of the sunset !!

We waited and we waited, in hope that we would ‘Save The Best Till The Last‘ but as the last Campervan disappeared, we realised that perhaps they knew what it was that we were to discover ourselves, that the big swathe of dark cloud hanging over Lundy Island would block any chance of seeing a nice sunset. But it had not spoiled our afternoon of bliss, in fact the last piece of solitude reminded us of being parked high up on a cliff,  underneath a lighthouse on the South Western coastline of Portugal, we had also had that place to ourselves all night and all we could hear then was the crash of the Wild Atlantic on the rocks far below us, above us a clear dark sky with thousands of stars and far out to sea, the lights of large ships silently making their way to wherever. On this occasion, although there were no crashing waves, no thousands of stars and no lights of vessels on the horizon, but we still had that feeling of freedom and for a brief moment we felt like nomadic travellers once again…………..

 

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Escape To Freedom

Well, as far as the Campsite season goes, all of the families, along with their ‘little darlings’, have now returned home from their Summer holidays, but you would be forgiven for thinking that this is now the time for us to ease back and able to take a breath. Far from it, now it is that time again, for, well let’s call them the more mature of age campers, the one’s with no major commitments or routines, like jobs to go to, or children to look after, to come back out and enjoy the relative calm and a little more space and lots of peace and quiet. For us though there is no change, the daily routines remain much the same, the bins still need to be emptied and the grass doesn’t stop growing so still has to be cut as regularly as before. However, whilst the number of guests on site may have declined a little, we now have other, more urgent tasks, that need to be organised and dealt with. Unlike the majority of the sites on the network, who remain open until the end of the first week in November, some even longer, our site will be closing in just twenty-six days, on the 30th September, even less days than that by the time I get around to publishing this current post and you are reading it. So there is no time to sit around, arrangements need to be made with external Contractors to ensure they arrive before we close, so that they can do the essential stuff like the final emptying of cess pits, final emptying of rubbish skips, collection of Calor Gas bottles, draining down of the site water services, scraping of accumulated grass in my grass dump and so on and so forth, and also to pre-book advance dates for next year to ensure that certain services are switched back on. For our part, before we can leave the site it has to be completely dismantled, the list of jobs appears endless and I feel sure I have listed these before in previous blog posts so I will not bore you with it all again. So, for most Wardens, it is the start and end of Season tasks that makes the final weeks that bit busier, not that we are complaining of course, the closing down part is the best part of the season, it is the part that confirms that we are rapidly moving ever closer to our Winter break and we will soon be basking in the heat of the Spanish sunshine, but the downside is that at this end of the season we are both feeling pretty tired, physically, so our energy levels are waining fast.

As well as getting the site ready we must also get ourselves sorted, both with our van, and our Wardens compound which have basically been our static home for the last six months and so we also have to fit time in to get ourselves ready to depart. Our larger Vango ‘Galli’ Airbeam awning, which has served as an extra living and dining space, as well as sleeping accommodation for our own visiting guests, now has to be taken down. Normally it would be washed down and packed away ready for use next season, however, after two years of constant battering by Storms, heavy rains and gale force winds, as well as hailstones, this has taken its toll and it is time to send it to the final resting place for Awnings, we refer to that place as the ‘rubbish skip’. We do have another Airbeam awning, the ‘Kela’, which, although much smaller, can still accommodate our reclining sun chairs and a camping table and although we had that one before the larger ‘Galli’ awning, it has not had the same amount of use so it should see us through next season.

There were also a couple of small DIY tasks in the van that needed to be done, jobs that until now were the kind that could always be done ‘tomorrow’, but as we all know, tomorrow never actually materialises !! However, the one job that certainly needed to be given a priority, before we actually drove away, was to fit a bolt to the drop down lid of the TV cabinet.

The Lower cupboard houses the TV

The cupboard cover is hinged at the bottom and is secured at the top with a plastic catch, and not a very good plastic catch at that. Whenever we start driving and go over the first uneven service the cupboard drops open and makes a loud ‘bang’ as it hits the floor. As well as not doing the cupboard door any good it certainly doesn’t do my heart any good either, especially when I am driving, it always takes a few seconds before I realise that the loud bang is not a major explosion and anything more serious to the van. We thought about several simple and effective solutions but we did not want to spoil the aesthetics of the cabinetry so, after much deliberation, with she who must be obeyed, we agreed on fitting a bolt, and although this would involve drilling a hole and inserting several screws into our nice wooden interior we also agreed that we could put it in a location that was discreet and I was made to promise that I would not mess it up by lining up the hole incorrectly, thereby requiring a second or even a third hole to be drilled, or that I would slip with the screwdriver when attaching the back plates and scratch the wood surrounds, “Oh yea of little faith” I said under my breath.

The plastic catch that isn’t up to scratch !!

Simple but more solid bolt

Fitted so as not to obstruct the flip up table mechanism or its holder and not one scratch mark in sight !!

The bolt is discreetly hidden from view when the flip up table is in the down position

I think that I did a really good job, I was able to use wood filler in the three misaligned holes from my first attempts at drilling and a bit of furniture polish applied to the wooden surrounds to disguise the screwdriver scratch marks on the wooden surrounds !! Only joking, honest !!

Our one days off a week were getting fewer, we knew that we probably wouldn’t use our last weeks day off as an actual full day off, we were more likely to use it to get more pre-closure stuff done without the interruptions of having to answer office phone calls, or see to new arrivals, and of course there was no guarantees with what the weather would be like, so we had to make the most of the three that we had left.

Another ‘personal’ task that would need doing was to re-fill our two 11kg gas cylinders. Although we were on an Electric Hook Up whilst on site we still used LPG for the hob, grill and oven and with Shazza baking her own bread this year, we had used the cooker much more this season than last. Having a Bathroom supplied, a Fridge/Freezer, Washing Machine and a Tumble Dryer, we were saving on the wear and tear of our own on board facilities and for heating, when it had been chilly at night, we used a small portable electric fan heater, so all in all our LPG usage had been minimal. We had arrived with full cylinders (44 litres of LPG) and have been on site for nearly six months so it would be interesting to see just how much we have used in that time, I am not that confident with the accuracy of the gauges that are fitted on the gas bottles, they currently indicate that we have used one full bottle and have now just switched over to the second (automatic change-over valve fitted), so by my reckoning that should mean that we have used probably somewhere in the region of around 23 or 24 Litres of gas ?

After taking down the awning, and salvaging parts that could be used on our other Airbeam, it was discarded into one of our re-cycle skips and our compound now looked quite empty. It seemed strange to see our small van stood all alone in the compound and it only served to re-instill the desire to use it, for the purpose it was purchased, and the reason why this had been selected to replace our previous much larger van, and that was to get back out and travel and explore the UK and Europe amongst the rapidly growing band of van life fulltimers. The smaller overall length would enable us to explore nooks and crannies that previously we were unable to venture into, without compromising on what we needed internally to live comfortably in the van and, with that in mind, it brought my thoughts back to the days when we will once again get to taste and enjoy nomadic freedom, we have a plan but it is too soon to share that with you but the big day is growing ever so much closer ?

I could see the tiredness in Shazza on a daily basis now, the end of the season couldn’t come quick enough, for the both of us, but moreso her. She needed a boost and I had an idea !! “So, how do you fancy getting up early on our next day off” I said, in quite an upbeat manner. The look on her face at missing out on her once weekly lay-in spoke volumes, “Why, where do you want to go ?” she responded, in a less than positive tone. “Well, and this is only a suggestion” I said cautiously, “What about we take the van to Woolacombe Beach for the day, get up and go, have breakfast when we get there, have a lazy norning, lunch and then go for a walk in the afternoon before going out for something to eat in the evening, then, before we head back to site we take the van to the local BP service station and fill up with LPG ?” Her facial expression changed in an instant and gave me her answer without her needing to speak a word. It was almost as if I had just informed her that we had just won the Lottery and to pack up the van we are hitting the road, well okay, her smile probably wasn’t that big, but almost !!

I had felt very envious over the Bank Holiday weekend when Stacey and Dean had arrived in their self-build campervan and we had gone to Woolacombe and witnessed the row on row of vans, then for them to spend the following day in their own van down on the same beachfront, whilst we got on with our Campsite duties really made us miss the freedom of life on the road. We could of course have done this ourselves on many of our days off, but to be perfectly honest it wasn’t as straightforward as just driving off a pitch. With our awning up, some of the the guy ropes and storm straps would have had to have been removed first before we could get out of the gates, the unhooking of the EHU and the grey waste pipes, removal of the silver screens, then there was the opening of the compound gates, manouevering out of the compound then securing the gates again, a little bit different from simply unhooking a EHU cable from a bollard and driving off a pitch !! Then, upon our return, all of that in reverse order, it was all too much of an inconvenience so we hadn’t bothered. But now, we had no awning or guy ropes to impede us, we knew that we needed to fill up with LPG before we departed and there were no convenient LPG services on our route back up North, without serious deviation from our route that is, so doing it now would be extremely beneficial.

We were up early and had done most of the internal van preparations the evening before so it was just the outside stuff that needed doing, but we were motivated and worked together like a well oiled machine and before long we were driving out of the gates of the Campsite and heading the short four miles down to the beach car park at Woolacombe. We may not have been the first to arrive in the car park but it was still pretty empty and we had the most marvellous unrestricted view.

Now this is a much better view than the one we usually have on a daily basis on the Campsite !!

When we were on the road and travelling, when we arrived at wherever our new location was, which was generally late morning, the first thing Shazza would do would be to make me a piping hot cup of coffee and a hot bacon baguette, it is one of those things that has now turned into an on the road tradition and today was no different, apart from the fact that we did not have a baguette, so the minute we had got parked up and had transformed the ‘Little Fokker’ back into ‘Home Mode’, the kettle and gas hob were singing away cheerfully.

Bacon Butties for breakfast !!

There was a real sense of freedom at being off the campsite and out of the constraints of our Wardens compound and that sense of freedom was enhanced even more by being out in our home on wheels, probably moreso for Shazza as for once she was not having to do any driving, she could sit back in the co-pilots seat and just enjoy the scenery, although with it only being a twenty-minute  journey it was a bit short lived, but its the thought that counts !!

We had been to Woolacombe beach on many occasions so there was nothing inparticular that we wanted to do, other than just put our feet up, drink coffee and look at the tremendous scenery around us, listen to the surf crashing onto the nearby beach, watch the surfers catching the waves and just generally doing a lot of people watching and perhaps spending a bit of time in personal contemplation, which as you well know by now is always best achieved with one’s eyes closed !!

We did venture outside the van briefly, we went for a stroll around the handful of shops to get a spot of fresh air, picked up a spot of lunch and took it back to the van. Whilst we were sat eating our lunch we received an Email on our iPhones from our Head Office, it was the publication of next years site allocations, we had of course requested to stay where we were, there are not many sites on the network that offer short six month contracts and we didn’t want to be working any longer than was actually necessary. We ran through the long list of site names on the spreadsheet until we came across our site name, scrolling across until we came to the Wardens names in the end column, we were more than happy to see our’s, so yes, we have committed to another six month season next year, and after that………….. ? One year at a time, that is our methodology, just to take each year as it comes as who knows what opportunities may be around the corner ?

Chips and Curry Sauce Lunch for Shazza, now that has put a smile back on her face.

We had been blessed with a beautiful warm and sunny day, albeit a little blustery outside, but as we spent most of our time just chillaxing inside the van, with the sunshine pouring in through the skylights and windows, the wind was having little effect on us. The car park closed at 8pm so our plan had been to go out and eat our evening meal in a local hostelry first, then come back to the van and depart the car park just before we got locked in for the night. However, neither of us were actually feeling hungry so we just remained in the van until the beach and car park had virtually emptied and then decided to drive the fifteen or so miles to the service station to fill up our LPG cylinders. We were both amazed when the LPG pump stopped after having only just put 20 Litres of gas in, we were certain we had used more, but obviously not, but the important thing was that we would be commencing our Winter break with two full cylinders of LPG.

Days off generally mean that we eat out, it was getting late and we still had to put the van back into the compound, however, the last thing either of us wanted to do after such a hectic day !!!!! was to then have to start preparing and cooking a meal, let alone do the pots afterwards, so conveniently, on the way back to the site we called in at a pub that we had eaten at before, where we once again enjoyed a very nice meal.

So now it is countdown, in a little under four weeks we will have waved off our last guest, dismantled the site and wrapped it up ready for its Winter hibernation then padlocked the gates and we will be driving away with ferry tickets in our hands, bring it on………….

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Summer And The Last Hoorah !!

Although it was the last of the Summer Bank Holiday weekends and Dean and Stacey were spending it with us in their new self-build campervan, its maiden voyage no less, Shazza and I were unfortunately still working. Our campsite was looking fairly busy, well with Caravans, Motorhomes and Campervans that was, there was a distinct lack of people on site as they, understandably, were all out enjoying the Beaches and other local tourist attractions. For once, the weather was behaving itself and we were enjoying another period of wall to wall sunshine, but we did have the Sunday afternoon off, so we decided to take the short four mile drive to Woolacombe Beach. We knew that it would be packed out and were not even sure that we would manage to get a parking space, but we wanted to show them what campervan life was going to be like for them. Both of the main car parks were full, even the overflow car park was overflowing !! However, just a short drive away from the main hustle and bustle was the car park at Marine Parade, located at the top of the sand dunes, at first glance it did not look as if there would be any space here either, even though it advertised that it had 600 spaces. But lady luck shone down us and offered up one valuable space, we were glad that we had made the decision to take the car and not the campervan, with Louis Hamilton as our driver (Shazza) she expertly did a handbrake turn into the narrow space and we commenced the short walk back towards the very busy main beach and amenities.

The ‘Overflow Car Park’ was overflowing !!

The beach was packed to the gunnels but still they came !!

“Big Beagle, Little Beagle”

Of course we had visited Woolacombe beach numerous times over the last couple of years but we had always steered clear during the main busy holiday periods, just getting to anywhere in the height of Summer along the narrow Devon roads is a challenge in itself, but once their, finding a place to park is yet another obstacle to be overcome and it certainly did not help that we decided to do it after midday !! But we met the challenge, we got parked and now it was time to just enjoy the sunshine and a pleasant walk.

The Chip Ambushers In Surveillance Mode !!

The dedicated and experienced campervanners were well ahead of the rest of the day trippers, arriving early to nab the best spots both in the main seafront car park and the front line seaview parking along the top road. This is what we wanted to show Stacey and Dean, the row on row of campervans, all shapes and sizes and many self-builds like theirs. Some came for the surfing, sea kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing whilst others just came to sit out and enjoy a spot of relaxation, picnics, BBQ’s and ample people watching, cannot say that I can fault any of that !!

The Campervans were out in force and must have been queuing at the crack of sparrows to get the front line parking positions !!

Vans of all shapes and sizes were on display

Appropriate Name (enlarge photo to check out the registration plate)

Dean, Stacey and of course ‘Humphrey’

The beach was crowded but we found a bit of a ‘green area ‘ and it provided some breathing space to just saunter along

Barricane Beach (and the Curry Hut)

Barricane Beach is well known for its beach hut that serves ‘Srilankan Curry’, in the evening. You bring your own chairs and preferred beverage, find a space on the beach then go to the hut and for a few pounds you get served with a generous plateful of curry, rice and all the associated acoutrements. But the tip is to check the high tide time before you arrive as pitching up too far down the beach may involve having to move as the sea rapidly rises on the beach, so a spot at the top of the beach is a good idea unless you enjoy a cold salty foot spa whilst eating your curry !!

A spot of Kayak fishing on the gentlest of sea swells

Or a bit of a two up on a Paddle Board !!

Great day for rock pooling or just exploring amongst the many crags and crevices

Well it would have been rude not to !!

Well our afternoon trip had certainly got their campervan juices flowing, although Stacey and Dean had planned to travel back home on the Bank Holiday Monday, they were not scheduled to be back at work until the Wednesday, so a quick change of plan and whilst Shazza and I re-commenced our daily duties on our campsite, they packed up their van and disappeared very early to try and get a prime spot down in Woolacombe.

They managed to snaffle a front line pitch !!

Alas, all good things must come to an end, especially if you still have to work for a living, but neither of them were very happy at having to return home, they had well and truly got the ‘Campervan Bug’, which of course, rather smugly, we knew that they would. Although no consolation to them, I had to break the news that no matter how many trips they had in the future in their van, no matter whether it be a weekend, a week, a fortnight, a month, six months…….. on each occasion they would never want to come back again, more nomads of the future me thinks ?

Not too happy at having to go back home, even Humphrey was having a sulk in the back !!

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Campervan Self-Build (A Dad Review)

In one of my previous ramblings I mentioned that my daughter Stacey and her Australian partner Dean had purchased a second-hand Mercedes Sprinter Van which had been used as a Commercial vehicle, and that they were converting it into a Camper Van. Neither of them had done this before but Dean was pretty good at DIY stuff and with his background in Military Avionics he had the knowledge and skills to do all the work himself, with Stacey as his apprentice. They had sent me some photographs of it previously, just as Dean had started ripping it to pieces and I had also seen it in the flesh so to speak, when we had visited them on a couple of occasions. However, they had refused to send me any more of the ‘works in progress’ pictures, wanting to wait for me to see it when they had finished converting it so that I could see it in all its glory. With no workshop or suitable garage to conduct the work, they had to work on it at weekends whilst it was on their small drive outside the house, inbetween having to conduct their normal everyday jobs so progress was hampered a little with the changing elements of the weather and the shorter dark nights over the Winter.

They had pre-arranged to come over in the van to our campsite over the last Summer Bank Holiday period in August, if it was finished, and more importantly if they had managed to obtain their amended V5 from the DVLA, got it through an MOT, Taxed and Insured it in time.

On the day before they were due to arrive my daughter phoned to say that they had received the V5 but that the van had failed its MOT test on something to do with faulty lights, I couldn’t believe it, Dean was a qualified electrician, surely he would have ensured that everything had been serviceable before taking it for its test ? I was severely disappointed, I had been really looking forward to seeing the finished project, but at least they would still be coming to see us and stay over the weekend and we could put them up in our Awning, and whilst it would have been nice if they had been able to come in their newly converted camper van so that I could have done a proper ‘on location’ photo shoot, we do not get to see them that often so with van or not, just being able to spend some quality time with them was the most important thing.

It was mid-afternoon, I had just got back to the office after having cut grass on another area of my Country Estate and was checking the remaining days arrivals on the computer when Shazza states “We have another new arrival, do you want to check this one in ?“, unusual for her to ask me to do it when she is in the office, “No problems” I replied and she scurried into the back office in a very suspicious manner. I went to look out of the office side window to note the registration number, from that I would be able to check the system and see the name of the guest, it always impresses new arrivals when they walk in through the door and you greet them by using their name, however, they had parked so as my view was obstructed, as I looked up into the van a familiar face was peering back at me, that of my daughter, the buggers, they had tricked me, and Shazza was in on it too !! No wonder she had scurried into the back office out of the way, for Shazza cannot tell lies or keep secrets, her face always gives her away.

So, without any further delay, I will let the photo’s below tell their own story…………

With the new Windows in it now looks like a Camper Van and not a Commercial Works Van

From this…………..

To this !!

They have fitted a solar panel on the roof and installed an internal space heater which runs off the vehicles diesel supply. There is still a bit of finishing off to do, Stacey is completing the upholstering of all her own seating cushions and back rests which will double up as mattresses and since these photo’s were taken Dean has also installed a roll out awning along the side and above the sliding door, but he plans on putting in an external gas filling point on the side of the van, for the underslung 20 Litre LPG tank, the existing filling point is currently located on the underside of the van which will not be very convenient when re-filling at service stations, and as for his boys toys, a bit more tinkering and refinement with his onboard electric gadgets.

The self-build team and proud owners

A Room With A View

If it had been a new boat then breaking a bottle of Champagne on it’s paintwork may have been the way to go, however, as Dean is Australian there was only one real way to celebrate this vessels maiden voyage, a BBQ and a few ‘tinnies’

Very many years ago, when I purchased my very first motorhome and we went away in it on family holidays, Stacey, aged about 10 years old at the time, told me that when she grew up, and could drive, that she was going to get a campervan so that she could use it to come camping with me. Twenty-Five years later and she has fulfilled the first part of that dream, now we have lots of years ahead of us to fulfill the camping togteher part.

Well I have to say that I am very impressed with them both, a lot of hard work and long hours have gone into this self-build and they have made a damn good job of it. Their first real test will come in just a short three weeks when they are driving to the Munich Oktoberfest followed by a drive to Poland for Christmas, they are certainly wasting no time in using it and I am sure that after these trips Dean and Stacey will both be thinking about any tweeks that they may need to do on it. Certainly, until they have used the camper vans and checked out the real practical ‘livability’ they will not know if it is just right for them, but that is the advantage of a self-build over a factory produced van like ours, they know how they built it, where the cabling and plumbing is located and so it would be easier to re-position the internal layout if required. On the other hand of course, they may just have got it right first time….

 

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When The Sun Shines, Britain Really Is A Beautiful Place !!

Somewhat to my surprise, my beloved tells me that, in my written ramblings, I can sometimes be very critical of the ‘Works of Fiction’, “surely not”, I thought to myself !! “Talking about the weather is a normal occurence, in fact, one would consider it more of a British Institution” I said to myself, feeling myself going a little on the defensive, “You know I have always stated to my readers that in these blog posts I will be completely honest and I always aim to tell it like it is“, but I found myself having this conversation with nobody other than myself, a frequent pastime not uncommon for me. So, and just to prove that the relationship between myself and the ‘Works of Fiction’ is nothing at all personal, I feel that at this point I should really say a big thank you to the ‘Works of Fiction’, and, I hasten to add, it is not because that I feel in any way pressured to do so, but I feel that it is only right to state that out of the last twenty-one days here in North Devon, we have only experienced one day of rain, accurately forecasted by you know who, the remainder of that time has consisted of the most wonderful extended periods of sunshine and with it, some very welcomed pleasant temperatures, primarily hovering around the low to mid twenties which has been just perfect for me and confirms something that I have known for many years and that is, ‘When The Sun Shines, Britain Really Is A Beautiful Place’. Now, whilst not wanting to appear to be giving with one hand and then taking away again with the other, as I now start to pen yet another literal masterpiece, the weather has broken, the light rain is spotting on the windows and the farmers hay barns that sit atop the adjacent hill have disappeared from view in the misty shroud of drizzle, but credit where credit is due, the ‘Works of Fiction’ did forecast this adverse change so I cannot be critical of them for getting their predictions right, for a change !!

It was one of our local farmers who gave us the advice about these hay barns sitting atop the hill and, although these particular hay barns did not belong to him, he informed me that they were a good mist, fog and wet weather warning, “Aye my lovelies“, he started, that, by the way, is how the local Devonians talk in this part of the Country, “When thy dost not sees them thar barns, then heed thee warning, thee rains be a comin and ye ave aboot twenty or so of them thar minutes before it splats yee on thee heed”. Now at this point I must offer an apology as I may have incorrectly inserted punctuation in the wrong places in the above sentence, however, as the farmer who spoke these words did not take a breath from start to finish, I have only inserted the punctuation of my own accord in order to at least attempt to make it in some way readable for my readers !! When we were first provided with this local weather forecasting, when we first arrived on our site in Devon in March 2018, I have to admit to being a little sceptical, but I take my flat Yorkshire cap off to this local farmer because he was spot on and this landmark is now my most reliable wet weather predictor, but only when the rain is approaching from the West. My other source of visual warning of the impending wet stuff, from a Southerly direction that is, are the twenty-one wind turbines that stand between us and Dartmoor, and when they start to disappear from view that gives us only around a five-minute early warning, but if the wet stuff ambushes us from the North or East then we just get wet, unless I am out on site and can see the dark clouds approaching first and can finish what I am doing and make a hasty retreat to the sanctuary of my workshop, or man shed as Shazza refers to it.

The other great thing about the heat, and the continuous daily sunshine, is that it tends to encourage my nine-acres of grass to relax, to take life at a much slower pace and therefore become less active, on the growing front, although unfortunately it does not provide me with the same opportunity of relaxation, however, it does give me an opportunity to spend some valuable time cutting back the tall hedgerows, in particular the very long and thick prickly fingers of the brambles as well as the giant leafy ferns that invade the grass touring pitches, and then, once I have done battle with these invading armies of nature, and forced them to retreat into more neat and orderly lines, like soldiers on parade, its then time to get around to all my borders and the long grasses that attack from the lower levels, it is a constant battle with these forces of nature and so there is never a dull moment on my country estate and I have to confess at taking some great pleasure upon completion of my victories, often blood-stained and bearing the scars of battle for days afterwards, I can stand back and admire, with a certain amount of self-satisfaction and pride, in my handywork in keeping my site in pristine condition. I may not have all the luxuries of some other campsites, toilet and shower blocks, fully kitted out play areas for children, swimming pools or a cafe, or restaurant or even an on site mini-supermarket, but what I do offer is a site that has fantastic views, even a few that have sea views, Electric Hook Ups, Service Points for both Caravans and Motorhomes, peace and quiet and lots of well manicured green green grass and orderly hedgerows !! Being a single couple site with no day relief cover throughout the season can be very demanding physically, in keeping the site always looking at its best, but our reward, other than personal pride, is that this year it is only a six month season and we have now just a little under nine weeks left before we can close the gates and enjoy another long Winter break.

Last week we had some more family visitors who stayed with us for two nights, sleeping in our Awning. Shazza’s Aunty Margaret and Uncle Tom, who had also visited us last season, on that brief visit we showed them around Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, so we needed somewhere different to take them this time around. Although we had been to Lynton and Lynmouth on a number of occasions, both on our own last season, and more recently this year with other family visitors, as the weather was forecast to be very sunny and hot, we decided that as Margaret and Tom had not been there before it would be worth another visit. Tom had recently had knee replacement surgery so we were not sure just how far he would be able to walk, although we knew that we could descend from Lynton down to the harbour town of Lynmouth using the water powered clifftop rail carriage and their were plenty of Cafe’s to stop and rest if required. The only downside was that there would be no ‘free rides’ on this occasion for, although we had still had complimentary tickets, they were not valid during the peak season.

The last time we visited, the parking we had found restricted us to just a couple of hours, so on that occasion we were limited on time and so it was all a bit of a rush, but this time we found a car park which provided all day parking for just £5. We elected this time around to do the walk around the clifftop town of Lynton first, then descend to Lynmouth to explore that later. The plan had been to take the Lynton and Lynmouth Coastal Railway in both directions, to save Tom the steep downhill and uphill walks, however, after completing our saunter around Lynton we discovered a footpath route down and Tom was up for attempting it, the best way to recover from the operation on his knee was to do plenty of exercise and we decided that we could stop and rest as often as he needed to. It was a good decision, the footpath did not do a straight descent, it zig-zagged its way down which not only made the descent a little easier, on all our knees, but more importantly it afforded us some really spectacular views. Tom handled this walk impressively, in fact, had we had not already have known about the surgery on his knee we would never have guessed.

Once at the bottom the footpath delivered us right into the heart of the small harbour town of Lynmouth, which, not unsurprisingly on such a lovely day, was quite busy with tourists. All four of us needed a well earned sit down and refreshment stop so we found ourselves a table at one of the numerous Cafe’s available and just enjoyed a spot of people watching, as you do, well it would have been rude not to !!

Although this had now been our third visit here, each time we visited we seemed to discover different things to both see and do, whilst we were aware that there was a steep road down, we were oblivious to the existence of this scenic footpath, so that was a first and whilst, on both previous visits, we had seen the promenade that ran along the beachfront, we had not walked it, so we decided that this time it had to be done, along with the mandatory saunter through the narrow street where all the ‘tourist tat’, picture galleries and pastie shops were located and although we very tempted by the aromas that wafted up our nostrils, we did not succumb to either the savoury delights or the fish ‘n’ chips.

 

After enjoying our explorations in the lovely warmth, the pleasant gentle coastal breeze had prevented it from being unbearable, although for some the inviting shallow river was too much to resist and a cooling paddle amongst the rocks was essential, we resisted the urge, although it was a close run thing !! But, there There was no way we were going to attempt the climb, on foot, back up to Lynton and although it had nothing to do with Tom’s knee, that did serve as a very convenient excuse for taking the much easier, and quicker, asccent using the clifftop rail passage. For lunch, which we were all more than ready for by now, we decided once again to take our visitors to the very pleasant ‘Hunters Inn’ which is hidden in a wonderful thick wooded valley, before returning to relax in the late afternoon sunshine back on the campsite with a cooling glass of falling over juice and perhaps, without any need for discussion or debate about it, time spent in a period of individual personal contemplation, always best done with one’s eyes closed !!

The following morning, for Shazza and myself, it was back to work, commencing with the normal morning routine of the site bin run before commencing a bit more physical landscaping on my nine-acre country estate, Shazza checking that the those who were scheduled to depart during our absence on our day off had actually vacated their pitches, or if not, waiting for them to come in to extend their stays and also to check to see if the guests, who had been scheduled to arrive on our day off, had actually turned up. Normally on our day off, once we had returned from wherever we had been, we would both take a walk around the site in the evening and go and say hello to new arrivals and ensure that they had settled in okay, but with having our own visitors this time, we had been otherwise engaged and to be honest, we were both too tired and just wanted to enjoy our family guests last evening sat enjoying our evening meal and relaxing. Margaret and Tom finished loading their car, they were not heading straight back up North to South Yorkshire but taking another couple of days sightseeing in Cornwall, staying in Bude but also taking the time to visit Tintagel.

With just a few weeks left of our season our thoughts were very much taken up with our Winter break in Spain, however, before then we would be spending our next day off travelling to Swindon to wish our twin granddaughters a Happy Fourth Birthday, which they would celebrate with a party on the Saturday, a couple of days after our visit to them. That was another disadvantage of being on a single couple campsite with no day relief, no weekends off. Also, at some point before we finally close our gates, we were anticipating a visit from our daughter Stacey and her partner Dean, in their newly completed self-built campervan conversion, they were just awaiting the issue of their new vehicle registration document from the DVLA, we were probably just as excited at seeing it, and them of course, as they were of getting to use it on what would be probably its maiden voyage.

I will finish these ramblings on the same conversation point at which I started, yes, the ‘Works of Fiction’, who have forecast a whole week of the wet stuff to commence as we awoke this morning to the greeting of heavy rain on our roof and followed by a couple of hours of Thunder and Lightening !! We still await in eager anticipation for these events to materialise, and as I await I stand looking out of the window from our office reception, the sun shining, at intervals, through the white clouds and I can clearly see the hay barns atop the hill, and the sea beyond, and the twenty-one wind turbines……………… well, I guess it is as they so often like to tell us, ‘this weather prediction lark is not an exact science’ ?

 

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The Conditions Were Right, So Time To Go !!

The extreme temperatures that had swamped much of Europe over the last few weeks had fortunately side-swiped and shimmied past us on the Northern Coastline of Devon, so whilst other areas of the United Kingdom were melting in temperatures reaching up to a record breaking 38 degrees(c), we were lucky enough to have only experienced just one day when it had reached a searing 28 degrees(c), but predominantly the temperatures had hovered around 21-22 degrees(c) which, from a personal perspective, was much more bearable, especially when you consider that the majority of my daily work is conducted outside !! Apart from experiencing some warm and dry weather for a change, the much better news was that we had just completed two thirds of our seasons contract, four months down just two more to go then another Winter in Espana !!

We tend to make ‘To Do Lists’ at the start of our season, things that we want to do or places that we would like to visit in our immediate local area, subject to the weather that is. On our list last season was to take the two-hour boat trip from Ilfracombe harbour across to ‘Lundy Island’, unfortunately, due to poor weather, rough sea conditions and/or inappropriate high tide times, on our one full day off a week, we had not managed to tick that particular ‘To Do’ off our list, so it was added to this years list. Because of the number of tourists that swarm to this location during the Summer months we tend to stay clear of the popular tourist attractions, we do not particularly like crowds, whether that be towns or cities or popular tourist destinations, and that applies to anywhere in the world for us, which is why we enjoy the freedom of the Motorhoming lifestyle and the oportunities to pick and choose where we go, but for now, whilst we still fall under the category of ’employed’ as opposed to ‘Retired’, we have a campsite to manage so escape time is severely limited and therefore we have to be more selective about when and where we visit places on our weekly day off.

After finishing work on the Wednesday evening we closed up the office, had our evening meal and then sat in our awning, in the very pleasant decreasing heat of the day, we commenced discussing our options on what we could do on our day off the following day. The ‘Works of Fiction’ had forecast another sunny and warm day with temperatures around 23-24 degrees(c), but we knew that with the habitual breezes that regulary waft across this particular coastline that it would actually feel a bit cooler and therefore be very bearable. All of the beaches were now jam packed on a daily basis, the Coastal Path crowded with walkers, the narrow roads packed full of slow moving traffic, cars, caravans, motorhomes, tourist coaches and amongst all of that holiday traffic there would be the local inhabitants trying to get around and conduct their normal daily business. So, as well as the crowded roads there was then of course the problem of finding a parking space when you eventually got to your destination. Staying on site and just lounging around was not an option, I was beginning to get more than a litle stir crazy now, we remain on this site every single night of the season and every day, except on our one and only day off and only then if the weather permits our escape. I was getting really fed up of looking out upon the same views day in day out, it wasn’t as if we would get time to ourselves either if we remained on site, as once the guests saw that we were on site they would feel the need to pass the time of day with you as they walked passed the compound, or, even though there was a sign on the office door stating that we were closed and would re-open the following morning, the bell would still ring, “I know its your day off and sorry for disturbing you but…………… ?“. So no, we needed to get off the site to somewhere where we would be less likely to have any problems with traffic or crowds, but where to go was the big question ?………… “What about going to Lundy Island ?” Shazza said.

It certainly would be good weather for walking around the Island, provided we took plenty of water, the sea conditions would be perfect for the two-hour crossing, so we just needed to check the tide times as the boat had to time its departure, and return, on High Tides. Everything was in our favour, the departure from Ilfracombe was scheduled for 10:00am returning at 18:30pm, that meant that we would have four hours on the Island, as we had to allow for being back at the boat thirty-minutes before it sailed. “I dont think we will get a better opportunity to do it this season” I said to Shazza, “The Conditions Were Right, So Time To Go” she said, quickly followed by “better phone and see if they have any seats left first“, so in my Captain Kirk voice I replied, “Make it so Shazza“, she just gave me one of her weird looks, she has never ever watched ‘Star Trek’, what planet has this woman been living on I asked myself ?

Lundy Island (Now, as our loyal readers will already be aware, the two of us are both self-confessed History heathens, therefore the following blurb has been snaffled from our Customer Information Room tourist brochures and ‘edited appropriately’, to prevent me from having to re-type it all here and fall asleep with boredom in the process !!)

Lundy was bought by the National Trust in 1969

The Island is three miles long and half a mile wide and it lay 10 miles off the Coast of North Devon.

A place of outstanding natural beauty. Skies full of birds. Pirate haunts. A Medieval Castle. Seals. Three Lighthouses. Black Rabbits. Rocks like Great Cheeses. Undersea marvels. Climbers cliffs. Cannons. Lundy Ponies. Wildlife. Smugglers Cove. Lovable Puffins (Lund-ey being Norse for Puffin Island) and saving the best until last, peace and quiet !!

Explore around the chasm created by the tremors from the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

The ‘Marisco Tavern’ is the heart of the Island a place of friendliness, fine food and perpetual shelter. (Eric note: It would be as it is the only pub on the Island !!

Lundy Island is the site of 137 shipwrecks………… (What ? And we were willingly choosing to travel there on a boat !!)

Shazza duly informed me that we were successfully booked on the ‘MS Oldenburg’ the following morning and we had to collect our tickets from the Lundy shore office on Ilfracome harbour at 09:15am. “How much has that cost us ?” I enquired, “Well” she started to say, I always know that it is never good news when Shazza starts a sentence with the word ‘Well‘. She continued, “The normal price would be £40 each” I took a large gulp and felt the colour drain from my face. “But” she paused for effect, “Because the Island and the boat are both owned by the National Trust, for which we are currently fully subscribed and paid up members“, she was building the moment, I already knew that we can get into other National Trust venues free of charge so I was waiting for the moment to punch the air and shout ‘Yes, Get in there !!“, however, that moment never came, she finished her protracted statement with, “So, we can get a reduction of £3 each on the ticket prices“, she laughed mischieviously.

The following morning we were up a bit earlier than we normal would be on a day off, we packed our rucksacks with a warm sweater, just in case it got a bit too breezy on the boat out at sea, then our Picnic, Water, Camera and Binoculars and off we went on the short four mile car journey to the harbour at nearby Ilfracombe. Those unfamiliar with the area would have parked their car on the harbour car park and paid £11.80 for the priviledge of parking all day. We on the other hand did not mind taking a five-minute walk from a different car park where we paid £4.40 for an all day ticket, local knowledge does have its advantages.

Our ship awaits us in Ilfracombe harbour, the ‘MS Oldenburg’ (Thankfully the larger of the two vessels seen in this photograph)

Under the watchful gaze of the Damien Hurst designed monument of ‘Verity’ we depart on a relatively calm sea on our two-hour crossing to Lundy Island

Amongst the ship captains on-board messages, first the safety instructions, we hoped we would not become the 138th shipwreck but you just never know, fortunately for us their were no icebergs today and no reports of any sightings of any Iranian Revolutionary Army fast patrol boats in the vicinity !! I wondered what the reaction would have been had we have had to make the frantic phone call to Head Office, “Cannot open the site tomorrow we have been kidnapped and on our way to Iran, oh yes, and can you please tell my Mum that I may not manage to Skype text her this evening !!”  Mind you, Head Office would have probably said, “Can you copy in your Regional Manager so that he can organise Site Support for your site in your absence”. Then the next flurry of on-board messages, the length of time of todays sailing, 2 hours, then the time the on-board Buffet and Bar would be opening, no mention of the ‘Duty Free’ shop though ? Were all these announcements just a ploy to pass the time on an otherwise uneventful, or as some some may have called it, a rather boring, crossing ? The next message made my ears prick up and take notice, “If you keep your eyes open you may get to see the resident pod of Dolphins playing in the bow waves as we approach Lundy Island“, now that message was worth staying awake for, the camera was hastily recovered from one’s rucksack, lens cover removed, nothing worse than viewing all your snaps at the end of the day to discover nothing but black images !!

After two hours of imagining that I had seen hundreds of dolphin fins out to sea, the Lighthouse at the Northern end of Lundy Island came into view, a pleasing site as it meant we were nearly there, unfortunately, their had been a distinct lack of any sightings of the alleged ‘resident’ dolphins, but I guess, to be fair to them, it is the Summer holidays and so they had probably taken a cheap crossing to the French Coast for a couple of weeks or so, on an ‘All Inclusive’ package incorporating as many Mackerel as they could eat ?

The Lighthouse on the Northern tip of Lundy Island

The church that indicates the location of Lundy Village

What once used to be the Castle is now accommodation for the visitors who choose to remain on the Island for several days, unlike us who would be spending just a few brief hours.

It was a steep fifteen minute climb to the the village nestled at the top on the Southern side of the Island, this photograph taken at around the half way point

We had looked at the plan of the Island whilst we were on the boat, it helped kill some more time as in our boredom we had already devoured our picnic lunch !! There was a track that ran from the village at the Southern end which cut right through the centre of the Island to the Lighthouse at the Northern tip, apparently once there you could climb the two hundred steps to the top to gain some amazing views. Then there was an Eastern Coastal footpath and a Western Coastal footpath. We did not know how long it would take, but decided that we would just head straight along the central track to the lighthouse and then return along the Western coastal path, as the map showed much more wildlife to be visible from that side than from the Eastern coastal path. We knew the Island was three miles long but we did not know what the terrain underfoot would be like, so after a brief rest stop to catch our breaths from the steep ascent from the jetty where the boat had moored, we decided that we would do a military ‘yomp’ to the lighthouse, no stopping for photographs, just get to the farthest point as quickly as we could, then assess how much time we had left for the return walk along the coastal paths, taking of photographs and ensuring that we did not miss the boat for the return journey.

We did not miss very much, in the way of photographic gems, along the central path, a few sheep, a sty with a handful of domestic pigs, a herd of Lundy Ponies, which looked just like any other normal horse like animals I have ever seen, and one white goat. The only other slightly stand out image on that part of an otherwise dull walk was of a couple of Highland Cattle, it isn’t as if we had not seen dozens of these animals before, however, that was usually further North, as in Scotland, these were the first we had seen this far South, so I took a photo just to prove that I wasn’t suffering from sun stroke and had become dilerious !!

Tremendous views out upon the Atlantic, but do my eyes deceive me, Highland Cattle this far South !!

Nothing wrong with my eyesight thank goodness !!

Still no signs of the Northern Lighthouse or of very much else !!

At last, something other than grass and sea to look at on what appeared to be a never ending walk

It was like one of those nightmares, the track just appeared to go on to infinity !!

After nearly an hour and a half of walking, with the occasional stop to take onboard plenty of water, we were closing in on the clifftop at the Northern end, although there was no sign of a lighthouse, which I think it would be fair to say, would usually be located on the highest point of the cliff, seemed logical. Then I remembered seeing the lighthouse from the boat as we had approached the Island and it was perched on a cliff below the top of the headland. After a little more walking the track ended and parked at the end was an abandoned land rover vehicle, my assumption being that their was probably a footpath down to the lighthouse but no vehicular access. After peering hesitantly over several steep cliffs we eventually discovered it, well to be honest Shazza did, I was searching in one direction and she in another, I had all but given up and said to her, “It is nowhere in sight” when she replied, “This what you are looking for ?“.

The end of the Island, no sign of the Lighthouse just an abandoned Land Rover near the cliff edge !!

Then we found it, but no obvious route down which is why the landrover had been abandoned at the top !!

We looked down and both decided that it wasn’t worth bothering finding a route down to the lighthouse, probably because neither of us fancied doing the steep climb back up !! So we retraced our steps back to the central track until we found the path that led us onto the Western coastal footpath. We had used up half of our allotted time on the Island and we knew that the coastal path would provide us with much more of a challenge, twisting and turning following the rugged clifftops with the inevitable descents and ascents, so after another brief refreshment break, Shazza armed with the binoculars and myself with the camera, we commenced our walk back hoping to catch sight of some Puffins, Seals, maybe Dolphins or a Whale or anything else a bit more ‘Sir David Attenborough’ rather than the everday ‘Springwatch’ stuff, like Seagulls, Crows, Sparrows, Sheep, Cows, Pigs, Horses, Squirrels or Hedgehogs, we can look out of our motorhome or office window on the campsite and see that kind of wildlife on a daily basis with deer and foxes thrown in for good measure.

Time for a break and a well earned refreshment stop

Along the Western Coastal Path we came across loads of these mountain goats

They were used to seeing bipeds on their Island so they were not phased by our presence, letting me get almost eyeball to eyeball with them as they nibbled away on the rough grass.

There had been over 200 other passengers on our boat but it felt as though we had this place to ourselves, a lovely feeling of isolation, space and not one white plastic Caravan to be seen for miles, bliss !!

The old disused lighthouse came into view, the location of the helicopter landing pad

Our one and only view of Seals !!

We had enjoyed the walk but it had taken us a bit longer than we had anticipated and so we did not have time for the pre-planned stop in the ‘Marisco Tavern’ for what would have been a very welcomed glass of something cold and preferrably alcoholic. At least the last fifteen minutes of our walk would be all downhill !!

Our ship awaits !!

We were both well pleased to re-board the ‘MS Oldenburg’ and to rest our weary legs on the two hour return crossing, the wooden, cushionless, latticed bench seating had not been comfortable on the outward leg of the journey and so was no better on the return, but we at least appreciated the chance to sit down, we wondered how fit we really were and wether four hours of near constant walking would take its toll in the morning, one thing was for sure, we would soon find out !!

As usual, after such mini-adventures, we conducted a post-mortem of our days activities and both concluded that we should have perhaps taken this trip earlier in the Season, when the Puffins returned to the Island from their months at sea to breed in their hundreds, when the marine mammals would have been much more prolific, but then it would have been at the mercy of the weather, rough seas, the much greater likelihood of rain and gales and lets face it, neither of us are that fond of seeing wildlife in their natural habitat in the cold and wet, unless of course it is on wildlife documentaries on the TV, sat in the warmth with a hot mug of tea. So a ‘Sir David Attenborough’ experience it was not and to be quite honest, neither was it a ‘Springwatch’ experience, it was however a good walk with some stunning views, but we could get all of that a few miles down the road from the campsite on the South West Coastal Path and we would not have had to pay anything for the priviledge, so as Shazza summed it up, “Another day of her life she will not get back !!“, as for me, well I could have thought of more practical ways of spending £74. On a concillitary note, if people who live primarily in suburban areas of Towns or Cities, and who do not venture very often into the Countryside but came to this area on a holiday, they would probably have been wowed by Lundy Island. And to finish on another positive note, it is another thing to tick off the ‘To Do List’

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