Silly Season Has Arrived

Not a great deal really to update this time around with no ‘Shazza Adventures’ to write about and one of our weekly days off just ¬†being spent doing routine domestic stuff.

We did have a nice visit from our relatives a couple of weeks ago, Tom and Margaret, who travelled down all the way from Yorkshire to spend a couple of nights with us, fortunately, both days were dry and sunny which was a bonus as they slept in our Vango Air Awning on a camp bed. On the first evening, after we had finished work, we had a Barbecue and spent the rest of the evening just chatting and catching up with family gossip, and polishing off a couple, or perhaps a few more, bottles of falling over juice, as you do, well it is thirsty work all of this catching up stuff !! The following day was our day off so, after morning coffee’s and breakfast and taking turns in getting a shower, we started the day by a visit to the wonderful ‘Woolacombe Beach’, only four miles away and after a short wander around, and another coffee, we headed back to Ilfracombe and just had a general stroll around amongst the hoards of holiday makers. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at a cafe we had not frequented before then returned to the site to just chillax before deciding where we would go for dinner that evening. There are plenty of cuisine choices around and about our location, from pub meals or Indian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and French restaurants but we all agreed that you cannot come to the seaside and not have proper Fish ‘n’ Chips and so we went to the best restaurant we know, and have frequented ourselves numerous times, ‘Squires‘ in Braunton, a local town just a few miles from our campsite and once again it did not fail to deliver. Why is it that when you are enjoying yourselves that the days just pass so quickly and no sooner had Tom and Margaret arrived and they were packing the car up again and heading back to Yorkshire. But we would see them again in eight weeks time when we have closed the site for Winter and return to Yorkshire ourselves to prepare the ‘Little Fokker’ for its own Winter break, this year we will leave the van behind and drive across to Spain in the car, so the van needs to be drained down and prepared for its winter storage. Wednesday 10th October is fast approaching, the day we get on our ferry to return to what we refer to as ‘home’, we love our site, our van and its spacious awning, which provides us with extra living space, but after seven months of living in a relatively compact space it will be nice to be back in our apartment with a proper big bedrooms, en-suite bathroom, guest bathroom, large kitchen, lounge/dining room, but more importantly, the lovely sunny balcony with views of the sparkling mediterranean sea and the boats passing to and fro.

A Family Day Out At The Beach

Shazza and Margaret dressed for Summer

A good way to raise funds for the RNLI but not in the ‘Operational Vessel’

Silly Season Has Arrived‘, we call it that for two main reasons, to begin with, the weather, I know we have been experiencing phenomenal scorching temperatures recently, some having higher temperatures than others, but in the UK you can almost guarantee each year, as the school summer holidays get under way with those long-awaited holiday breaks that have been booked months in advance, buckets and spades, sun loungers and umbrellas, swimwear, snorkels, buckets and spades, inflatable dinghies and air beds, barbecues and gallons of sun creams and lotions squashed into every inch of space in cars and caravans, the holiday makers arrive at their holiday beach locations and then….. the sky clouds over, the sun disappears, the rain starts, a gentle pitter patter followed by an increase in wind speeds, the black foreboding clouds approach, the rumbles of thunder, flashes of lightning light up the sky and then the torrential rain beats deafeningly on the plastic roofs of the vans, it lasts for three or four days, yes, silly season has once again returned to our shores. Although I have to say that the weather this year has been reeking havoc all around the world, mega forest fires in the USA, Sweden, Portugal, Spain and the UK, widespread drought in Australia, Mud slides in Switzerland, major flooding in the South of France and Asia, it appears that there is little we can do to prepare against these mighty forces of nature, it is what it is and we must cope the best that we can.

As well as these catastrophic global events, the ‘Silly Season’ also affects those who work on campsites, although not quite as devastating as the other major events I have mentioned. In order to provide both safety and comfort for all ‘guests’ there has to be a set of standard rules that apply to everyone to prevent injury and even fatalities, general anarchy, total chaos and arguments between temporary neighbours. Such rules apply to things like safety distances between camping units in case of fire, such incidents are thankfully rare on UK sites, but those that do occur can be quite scary, not just for the victims whose caravan or motorhome goes up in flames, but for everyone else, other campers and the Wardens who have to initially deal with the incident until the Emergency services arrive. Speed limits are imposed when driving around the sites for everyone’s safety but arriving guests are always in a hurry to get onto their pitch and so do not listen to the brief verbal information provided to them upon arrival at reception, returning guests often having a favourite pitch and they want to get on it before anyone else, if that pitch is already occupied when they get to it they then race around to a vacant pitch they eyeballed as they did their first ‘Lewis Hamilton’ circuit, they become oblivious to other vehicles manoeuvering on and off pitches or pedestrians and children around the site. Of course none of them were going faster than the 5mph when you request them to slow down !! Children themselves forget that busy sites can be dangerous places and ride their bicycles, scooters or skateboards the wrong way around the one-way systems. I often wonder if parents sit at home in their gardens in the summer months, enjoying a glass of wine or beer in their gardens and are oblivious to what their kids are up to or even their whereabouts, perhaps for some this is normal, out of sight out of mind, they are on holiday so let someone else keep an eye on their little darlings. So basic rules are implemented and let’s be honest, if everyone adhered to them it would prevent accidents or injuries from occurring and would certainly negate the territorial feuds and disputes between their fellow campers. But alas, the ‘silly season’ means that whilst many remember to pack their holiday essentials they often tend to leave their common sense at home, they are on holiday and they are here to enjoy themselves and bugger the comfort or enjoyment of anyone elses holiday. Fortunately, the mindless and inconsiderate anti-rule brigade are certainly still in the minority but, unfortunately, they all seem to arrive within this certain period in the annual calendar that we Wardens refer to as the ‘silly season’. The ‘compliant’ campers rely on the Wardens to ‘police’ the site, day and night, and to intervene and restore the peaceful co-existence on site as appropriate, which is done, generally, in an amicable and non-confrontational manner, but occasionally a more formal and forthright stance is required !! It is noticeable that our regular visitors, and our guests who have seasonal pitches, all do a disappearing trip for these silly season periods and return when the natural peaceful equilibrium is restored, just a pity us Wardens cannot do the same !! I had not expected to have had to call upon my previous military experience as a NATO peacekeeper or Policeman, in my role as a campsite warden, perhaps as part of any future site refurbishment we should suggest the building of a few detention cells ūü§Ē welcome to ‘Camping Colditz’ ūüėā I guess we Wardens here in the UK should count our blessings, my experience as a customer on many campsites in Europe is worrying, pitching between units being so tight that you could quite literally open your caravan window and pass your neighbour a cup of tea or glass of beer, if one Unit catches fire you all go up in flames, not something you want to dwell on too much and let us face it, ¬†such things you only read about in the newspapers happens only to ‘other’ people, it would never happen to us would it ?

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Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 8 Comments

What Dreams Are Made Of

So what can I say about the ‘Works of Fiction’ that I have not already said on numerous other occasions ? For the last six weeks or so here in the UK, as well as further afield in the World, we have been experiencing a superb heat wave and the forecasters have been enthusiastically announcing record-breaking temperatures. We always check the forecasts for our ‘guests’ and we have a board outside the office where we write on the anticipated days temperature, as well as the High and Low tides for that particular day, some of our customers are not of the technological age so do not have ‘Smart Phones’ or the like and many do not bring televisions with them and so they consult our weather board every morning. We tend to check the forecasts every evening, both on our weather ‘Apps’ and the evening televised forecasts and we were happy to see that on one such check the weather for the following day was going to be 23 degrees(c), Sunny with just light winds, great I thought, but you would think that I would know better by now wouldn’t you ? On this particular morning, as is usual, I opened the large ‘Heki’ roof lights¬†and expected the sunshine to come flooding in, instead, I discovered that the outsides were completely covered in water, not raindrops and not the sort of moisture you get with early morning dews, no this was definitely what you would call ‘drizzle’ and the sky, what I could see of it through the rain shrouded ‘Heki’ skylights, looked a foreboding grey. I opened the van door and saw that the majority of our nine acre site was covered in quite a thick mist and it was still drizzling !! This lasted all morning, although it did clear up by lunchtime and the sun eventually made an appearance by late afternoon. But thereafter, every evening and on all of the weather ‘Apps’ the ‘Works of Fiction’ kept enthusiastically declaring the likelihood of record-breaking temperatures for the days ahead, no mention of the potential risk of torrential rain and gale force winds anywhere in their forecasts, until the rain and winds actually arrived that is, a bit too late me thinks, so we went, without any warning, from ‘Heatwave to Monsoon’ for three full days¬†!! So they have all this modern technology, satellites even, but even with all of that, it would appear that they had not seen it coming, really !! This must be one of the few professions where you can get things so consistently wrong without losing your job ? But i guess I should not really moan about the actual weather, six full weeks of glorious hot and sunny days, that is the equivalent of three years worth of British Summers all at once !! The ‘Works of Fiction’ are saying that these sort of heatwaves will be the ‘norm’ in thirty-years time, which to be honest will not probably count for much as far as I will be concerned, by then, if I have not already shuffled my mortal coil, I will probably be in a nice comfortable care home where some nice care assistants will be looking after me and keeping me cool with ice-cold baths and feeding me with ice creams, either that or Shazza will have left me by the side of the road in a wheelchair with a cardboard sign saying ‘Free to good home’ whilst she scoots off in our Motorhome continuing her Shazza adventures !!

But enough of all of this futuristic rambling, what about the here and now ? I mentioned in one of my previous ramblings that we had subscribed to the ‘National Trust’, well our membership cards arrived and so we decided to start making use of them, after all we needed to recoup the annual ‘joint’ subscription fee of ¬£114 that we had forked out. We decided, as our day off was a nice and sunny one, to go and visit a local National Trust property only a few miles away from the site, ‘Arlington Court‘, an Estate house set amongst lovely gardens but which also housed the ‘National Trust Carriage Museum’, think horse and carriages and not railway carriages.

Now you all know by now that Shazza and I are ‘History Heathens’, we normally don’t care who built what, who destroyed it or how many times it was rebuilt, we just like looking around old Country Estate Houses, Castles, Cathedrals, Large Gardens and Country Parks etc. But the house at Arlington was a little different for two reasons, first, as far as old country estate houses go, this was relatively small in comparison to the likes of ‘Chatsworth House‘ or ‘Longleat House‘, but it still had the same sort of grandeur. The second difference was that inside there were lots and lots of model ships throughout the house. Knowing, from visits to other such places, that the owner’s wealth usually came from some sort of business activity, income from Woollen Mills, Mining, Steel production etc. I made the assumption that the owners of this Country Estate, the ‘Chichester Family’, were probably involved with the Shipping Industry but I was wrong. The family had no interest or involvement in any sort of Commercial Industry, they made a modest income from their 2,700 acre estate by leasing the land to tenant farmers. So who had the interest in collecting all these model ships ? It was the last surviving relative and owner of the estate, Rosalie Caroline Chichester, whose Father and Grandfather both¬†served in the Navy, but the remarkable thing about the models is that they were all carved out of ‘bone’ by French prisoners of war incarcerated in the prison on Dartmoor. The other bit of information I acquired, but which had not registered with me when the name ‘Chichester’ was first mentioned, was that the second cousin to Rosalie was a young boy called ‘Francis Chichester’, who I now know is the same person that I know better as ‘Sir Francis Chichester’, who was the first person to sail solo around the world in his yacht, ‘Gypsy Moth II’, quite interesting some of this history stuff isn’t it ?

I know we are preparing for ‘Brexit’ but I didn’t think expectations were this low. Not a bad deal though, wonder how much to take a small Motorhome across as well ?

Shazza was a little disappointed with the house tour as she was expecting to be able to go and look ‘below stairs’ in the working kitchen, larders and scullery, unfortunately these areas had not been preserved so the house tour was restricted to just the ground and upper floors. After the model ships, I got a little excited again at the prospect of having discovered Bruce Wayne’s (Batman) secret UK hideaway………………..

Could this be where Bruce Wayne takes his annual holidays from Gotham City ?

Disappointment again, but that was for me this time, no Batman or Batmobile or Batbike only………. ‘Bats’ !!

They look more like an invasion of Alien species !

After the house and ‘Bat Cave’ it was time to venture out into the Estate itself, which, paled into insignificance my own current nine-acre Country Estate. Within the Estate grounds was a Church (and graveyard) and the stable block which housed the carriage museum. The wider estate grounds have over twenty miles of footpaths but we would leave them for another day !!

Shazza picking out a nice spot for me !! Looks like the nice care home option is out of consideration !!

We keep finding these great renovation projects !

Even the wildlife were seeking out the shade.

Just outside the entrance to the stable block buildings we saw a brick building (Picture below) which was raised off the ground and supported by concrete mushroom-shaped platforms. I was frantically trying to retrieve the data stored inside my brain, I had seen similar structures like this before but for the life of me I could not recall why such buildings were raised on these particular shaped supports.

I later discovered that these buildings were grain or hay stores, the mushroom-shaped supports were to prevent rats from climbing up into them and eating and/or contaminating the products stored inside.

Impressive architecture which forms part of the Estate Stable Block which now houses the Carriage Museum

The carriage museum contains over forty vehicles dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries, below is a selection of just a few of them………

A ‘Britzschka’ – Explanation below

She gave me that look as if to say, “Don’t know where you would sleep darling”

I gave her a wicked look and winked at her, “Plenty of space on top sweetheart”

A ‘Park Drag’

A small coach but it was not a toy !!

I did not know that he was a real person !!

Nobody took her up on her offer !!

After the very interesting walk around the museum, it was time to get some more fresh air and enjoy the sunshine again.

Impressive entrance to the formal garden and ‘walled garden’ beyond

More ‘Alien’ looking stuff in the garden !!

Took this for no other reason than I liked the lovely blue colour !!

That was enough for one day, the heat of the day was taking its toll on the both of us, we had taken a brief stop during our visit to see what delights were on offer in the Cafe, but next time we will bring our own picnic as the prices were quite expensive just for a coffee and a sandwich !! The fee for non-members in the car park was £5, Admission to the house and rest of the estate was nearly £13 per person, so with the free car parking that we had a couple of weeks ago at Croyde Bay, the free parking here and the free admission to the Estate, we have already recouped £36 of our annual subscription fee. We also noted that there was dedicated parking for Motorhomes but not sure whether they permitted overnight stays.

I thought we were heading back to site to enjoy the rest of the evening relaxing in a horizontal position in the sunshine on our reclining sun chairs, hopefully with a bit of time for personal contemplation, best done with one’s eyes closed, but apparently not. “Where are you taking me now ?” I enquired, “Wait and see” came the response !!

Summer on an empty Devon Country Road, this is not normal, where is the traffic ?

I wonder where Shazza is taking me now !!

Just in case you cannot read the writing on the sign on the right, it reads ‘Farm Shop’, now whereas I like the water and boats and stuff, Shazza likes food !! She cannot resist stopping at Countryside traders whether it be meat, vegetables, fruit, jams and chutney so on and so forth, so this had been her plan all along, Arlington Court had been a ruse as she knew I would not have come out with her just to go shopping. Could this be a first for her, to look but come away with nothing, she was not impressed with what was on offer, she preferred our other farm shop, the one where we got our Cider from, so on this occasion she came away with…………… just a pack of Beef Burgers and two packs of Pork Sausages !!

Since that particular day off another week has flown by and we now have just under ten weeks of our current season left, sixty-eight days to be precise but whose counting ? The good news is that we have just had our second visit from our Regional Manager and he is very pleased that we want to stay here for another season, so that is great news. As I may have mentioned just a couple of dozen times or so, we really enjoy this site and this area of North Devon so are looking forward to coming back again next year. So that means that our work/life balance will continue to be good, although this year we will have worked for seven months, we will get a six month Winter break then next season the site is only open for six months so we will have another six month Winter break next year. All in all, our life now is extremely good, let us just hope that by the time we return that we will have some more positive news about ‘Brexit’, perhaps our Government and the EU may even have struck a deal whereby there would be no EU travel restrictions, now that really is ‘What dreams are made of’

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 2 Comments

Keeping The Dream Alive

I can still recall the day that we drove ‘Big Momma’ off the drive that we once called our home, the trepidations of selling our home and all of our furniture and possessions was replaced by a sense of nervous excitement and as we drove to our first night of freedom we were like young kids giggling. It felt liberating not to have the shackles of a mortgage, to no longer have all the utility bills, insurance and maintenance costs that come with owning a home. Of course the Motorhome was now our home and that too had associated costs, Road Tax, Insurance, Maintenance Costs and Fuel, but we had them anyway whilst we still had the house so we were now able to look at what expenditure we didn’t have and that was mind-blowing. At that time we had not got jobs, we were prepared for a nomadic lifestyle, living and travelling in our home on wheels for 12 months of the year for as many years as it took to go wherever we wanted to go in Europe, and the UK, and to see and do whatever we wanted to. For those of you who have been following our adventures from the very beginning you will know of all the twists and turns in our adventure to this point and some may even consider that we have lost our way and are not now ‘Living the Dream’ that we originally intended, however, that is not how we think of it, to us, we are still on our adventure because true adventures do not follow predetermined paths. Our dream is still very much alive and we both still have a burning desire to travel in our home on wheels both within the UK and Europe. Although ‘Big Momma‘ is no longer our home on wheels, we have downsized and now have the ‘Little Fokker‘, a name that Shazza is still not happy with by the way, but that is what I christened it and that is what it will stay. But with the twists and turns came a requirement to adapt, the downsizing option was not a decision we made lightly, ‘Big Momma’ was extremely comfortable, the perfect internal layout for long-term living with every accessory fitted to provide us with an exceptional level of living on the road, but what we didn’t know then was just how restrictive the nine metre length and tag-axle would be, the ‘Little Fokker’ although not as capacious, does open up even more opportunities for us, the vehicle is small enough to drive in, and through, most villages, towns and cities and to park in the majority of normal car parks, provided they do not have height barriers, yet it is still large enough to provide a cavernous garage to carry all of our essentials (Including our Inflatable Kayak and Vango ‘Air Awning) internally it has a fixed double bed at the rear, a bathroom and shower, a galley with large fridge, cooker with separate oven and grill and a lounge area, on the roof we have a 150watt Solar Panel that supplies power to our vehicle battery and two leisure batteries and, as we had fitted on ‘Big Momma’, we have had two 13kg ‘Gaslow’ bottles installed with an external filling point so the ‘Little Fokker’, at just six metres in length, is more than capable of providing us with both comfortable and practical long-term living and equally as important, it will fit into our six metre long parking space at our ‘Bolt Hole’ in Spain, something we could not have done with ‘Big Momma’.

I guess at the moment it would be true to say that we can understand why some say that we have got ourselves back into a certain ‘comfort zone’, with my regular monthly pensions income and the incomes we both get from our current jobs and the fact that we own a property in Spain, without a mortgage, yes we are pretty comfortable, not in the ‘rich’ category of comfortable but not exactly on the poverty line either, just ‘Comfortable’, also, we are now finally enjoying a very good work/life balance, working for just six months of the year then having the other six months off and yes it is comforting to know that whilst the complexities of leaving the EU are still being finalised we are in a position whereby we can be content to just be patient and sit, watch and wait to see how it all pans out in the grand scheme of things and if that is a ‘Comfort Zone’ then, for the time being at least, we are happy to be in it.

However, it does sometimes still get frustrating for the both of us as we read blog posts, or Motorhome Forum posts, from other’s who are currently enjoying the freedom to travel in Europe without restrictions, as well as seeing lots of Motorhomes come and stay on our site, people who have retired (not all Pensioners I should add) and who are enjoying the freedom of just meandering around the UK at their own pace, with no time constraints and exercising the option of deciding at short notice to stay on for another few nights before moving on elsewhere because they can !! Frustration is probably not the right word, envy would be nearer the truth or possibly just simply because we still get ‘Itchy Feet’. But this is tempered by the fact that we are thinking ‘long term’ now, well actually I think I am the calming influence here, Shazza would certainly have the van packed and ready to go tomorrow if I let her !! I am not just sitting around waiting for the outcome of ‘Brexit’, although that is still a major consideration as to the logistics of our future travels, I am actually working towards our future nomadic adventures, when I do finally choose to retire, it will be a proper retirement, no more work, just a freedom to go and enjoy life, better in many ways to the plan that we had five years ago, although to be honest I am not really sure that we actually had a plan then, it was more just a case of let’s go and see what happens, what’s was the worst that could happen ? However, that brief experience was advantageous, so I have some knowledge which will enable me to put in place things, that when that time comes again to head out into the great ‘blue yonder’, we will be better prepared and will have options in place to cater for any potential impact that leaving the EU may bring. I am preparing for the worst case scenario, for us that ‘worst case’ simply means the introduction of travel restrictions which may preclude any extended periods of travelling within EU Countries, extended to us means travelling for more than ninety days at one time. One of the ‘initial’ grand tours on our bucket list was to head up to Scandinavia, then down through Eastern Europe to Greece, back up via Italy (including Sicily) to Austria and Switzerland then into France, Spain and Portugal, with a brief interlude in the UK to visit family and friends whilst we had the vehicle undergo its mandatory Annual MOT. We of course may still be able to do spend some time in these Countries, but it may have to be in smaller bite size chunks. I have also now been able to take into account that we may have to spend a lot more of our nomadic lifestyle in the UK, there are of course lots of wonderful areas of our Country that we still want to explore but it would not be unfair to say that the UK, as yet, is not one of the most Motorhome friendly countries in Europe, in comparison to others, as far as providing parking and facilities for Motorhomes, unless of course you have deep pockets and can afford to use Campsites, so we are utilising our current ‘Comfort Zone’ periods to cover that issue for when the time comes.

When I started writing my initial blog, when we were actually touring in ‘Big Momma’, I sometimes received comments on my blog pages and Emails from strangers who told me that I had inspired them to have their own Motorhoming nomadic adventures, some still in the dreaming stage and others well into planning and preparing, I was pleased to receive such communications but part of me also felt a little bit responsible, “What if they sold up everything and hit the road but did not like the lifestyle ?” We are in a similar situation now whereby we need to keep our own ‘inspirations’ alive, which is why we keep reading other people’s BLOG posts about their adventures, we have also found many Video Logs (VLOGS) on ‘You Tube’ but one that is truly keeping us inspired is ‘Explorer Buddies‘ which we have been following for a while now. It is primarily a couple who renovated a van (Florence) and although they are not fulltime and only conduct their travels during weekends and extended holidays, they do cover many parts of the UK. Why we like this particular VLOG is that unlike many, who primarily just publish long video clips of scenery filmed from ‘Drones’ with continuous music playing throughout, this couple combine Drone Footage with normal Camera Video Footage and both of them do an excellent documentary to accompany each adventure, they are so honest and include some of the downsides they encounter, even mechanical failures on their van, but they are so natural and often humorous and we always end up slightly disappointed when the video clips come to an end, like a good novel we are left wanting more. So our own return to more nomadic adventures may currently be on hold, but we are still being very much inspired for the day when complete ‘freedom’ becomes a reality for us once more.

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 11 Comments

‘Feeling Comfortable In My Own Skin’ ?

To be honest, I do not really have very much to write about since my last ramblings, the day job is business as usual, albeit in consistently hot temperatures, not something we British are used to, not having experienced summers like this for such a very long time, normally after a week we get a break in the weather and it would be back to rain coats and umbrella’s but not recently, this must be our third or possibly fourth week of consistently hot sunny weather and long may it continue I say, right up to the tenth day of October as far as I am concerned, that is the day we get on the ferry back to Spain, although I am sure the farmers and gardeners will be praying for a break in the weather much sooner than that !!

Our last day off was I guess a dual hatted affair, visiting a local retail outlet so that we could add to our increasing ‘knowledge bank’ of ‘Tourist Information’ for our guests, our area of Devon is fantastic for outdoor activities but we need to have alternative suggestions for the days that are not conducive to outdoor activities. I say dual hatted because this destination was yet another suggestion by you know who, more of a mini-Shazza adventure that would involve her engaging in a spot of retail therapy for herself as well as enjoying a spot of lunch, well it would have been rude not to, ‘Atlantic Village‘ it was then, probably only around twenty miles away along a road named the ‘Atlantic Highway’, although the brief bit of highway we travelled on we couldn’t even smell the sea air let alone catch a glimpse of the Atlantic !! It was a successful adventure in more ways than one, the grand sounding ‘Atlantic Village’ was no more than a small shopping mall which, if you pushed yourself, as we did, you can make the visit last a whole two hours and that included lunch !! For me, just two hours walking in and out of the different retail stores was a big plus, a larger ‘Mall’ would have seen us spending a whole day walking around, heaven forbid, so a successful outcome for me, as for Shazza, well she managed to lighten my wallet, so that in itself was another success for her, and to top that off she managed to buy several new casual shirts for herself, I wonder if she will remember the policy of buying new stuff and limited storage space in the van, ‘One In and One Out‘ policy, I will have to keep an eye on that one !!

Now just by way of a discussion topic, I do not know about you and perhaps it is just me getting older, but the use of the English language appears to be deteriorating, not just it’s use by ‘ordinary’ people, normal members of the public, but by TV and Sports personalities. The biggest irritation to me is the people who say ‘free‘ as in the number ‘Three‘ or ‘fink‘ and ‘finkin‘ instead of ‘Think‘ or ‘Thinking‘, I heard an ex-football player on TV say, “I fink I dun it two or free times when I was a player” !! Now if that was not bad enough the latest popular piece of terminology that is really grating on me is when people turn around and say ‘I feel comfortable in my own skin‘, now if that was an expression used by a person who enjoyed ‘Naturism’ I could understand them using that expression to describe being more comfortable when they are not wearing any clothing, but it isn’t comments coming from Naturists. So it makes me wonder, what other skin have these people been wearing to be able to compare the difference between that and their own ?

June and July have been unusual months, we do not generally tend to watch very much TV other than some good ‘real life documentaries’ and ‘Nature Programmes’ like ‘The Lakes and Dales’ or ‘This Farming Life’ and ‘Countryfile’ but recently our routines have been seriously disrupted, for me it was the World Cup, and well done France for winning it this time around, they did come through the hardest Group stages so a well deserved win, for others it was the Tennis at Wimbledon or was that just the excuse to get off the diets and eat loads of strawberries and cream, not that I am moaning about it especially as our sales of ice cream have soared over this period and it was not all down to this glorious hot weather, just a pity Wimbledon could not have gone on just a little bit longer, ‘ker ching‘ ? But both events are now over and it is now a case of watching the back log of recorded programmes and attempting to get back into some sort of routine and re-learning the art of conversation with Shazza, who has had to put up with me shouting at the TV screen, only when England were playing though !!

So for now, our life here without the distraction of the football, reverts to some sort of normality, the sun continues to shine, we still love this site and the local area, so I can say quite confidently that once again I am still “Feeling Comfortable In My Own Skin“…………………….

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 11 Comments

A Typically British Institution We Enthusiastically Uphold !!

We had returned to the UK on the 25th February this year, earlier than normal due to us having to attend our ‘Wardens Training Course’, in one respect that feels an eternity ago, but on the other hand, as I commence drafting this current blog post and we are into July, the last four months really do appear to have just flown by. We are now coming towards the end of our seventeenth week of our thirty week contract, well past the half way point of this season’s duties and just three more pay days before we will be heading back to our ‘Spanish Bolt Hole’, we had already pre-booked the ferry back to our Winter sun bolt¬†hole before we left Spain in February this year and, as our site opens a little later next year, Easter not being until Mid-April so we do not open our site to our guests until the 5th April, we will therefore get to have a much longer Winter break at our ‘Spanish Bolt Hole’ this year, making up for the much shorter stay last year when we didn’t get there until mid-December due my knee operation. In previous years, with us not arriving in Spain until late in November and leaving at the end of February, we had tended to miss out on the last of the really good weather, when I say good I mean still hot enough to take a swim in our pool or a swim in the sea without one’s ‘nether regions‘ losing any feeling when the cold water hits them !! We usually have to depart just as our local town and area starts to come back to life, the beach bars, restaurants and the one hotel that had closed over the Winter, start to re-open again, the promenade and green areas being spruced up and planted with new shrubs and flowers, the beaches cleared of litter washed up on the tides, but this year we will hopefully get to use the swimming pool in our small apartment complex, instead of just looking at it from our window. Our pool, unlike many that close by the end of October, if not before, does remain open all year but it is not a heated pool so although it looks inviting, the water temperature in mid-November through to February is in the region of the ‘numbing of one’s vital parts‘ sort of scale, not a pleasant experience and you only make that mistake once !! So this year we are looking forward to catching our town a little busier than we normally find it upon our arrival at the beginning of October, just before the official end of their Summer season and then enjoying it waking up again after its Winter slumber. Although it is not a typically ‘British’ tourist beach holiday resort like those further up the coastline, Estepona, Marbella, Fuengirola, Torremollinos, Cala Longa etc. and whilst the Marina does attract a small International community of visitors, it is primarily a location to which the Spanish come for their holidays. Whilst it is a ‘open all year’ Spanish working town with all the amenities and services you would get in any other European town, Banks, Post Office, Hardware and Furniture stores, Supermarkets, Butchers, Bakers, Greengrocers etc. the occupancy levels do increase noticeably during the major holiday periods, primarily Easter and Summer which is when the majority of the local and regional ‘Fiestas’ take place and Shazza and I are looking forward to the time when we too can be out there during those periods to enjoy them. However, we do not sit on our site here in the UK just thinking about returning to Spain, those thoughts only tend to come to the forefront of our minds on the days when it is cold, grey, dismal and foggy which, at the start of our season, was the first couple of months, but now, as we bask in a very welcome Summer heat wave we tend to just enjoy where we are and of course, for part of this year at least, we have the added distraction of the ‘World Cup’, I wonder if we will get a few more German, Portuguese and Spanish Motorhomers over this period, well it isn’t as if they have anything else to keep them glued to their television screens now is it ?

I guess that regular followers of my ramblings will already know that Shazza and I love this site and we very much hope that we will return again next season, we will have to wait a little while longer though, to actually get confirmation of that, but we are hopeful. If we do return here next year it will be a little different to our arrival at the beginning of this season, we did not know the site and had to familiarise ourselves with it pretty quickly, finding out where all the essential services were, Mains Power Distribution Board, Mains Water supply and the stop-cocks, local suppliers and contractors etc. etc. but next season, if we return, we will be fully conversant with all that kind of stuff and as we will have closed the site down and put everything away we will know where to find it all again without having to hunt for things. We will have arranged for the day our tractor and ride on mower are returned to us from their Winter storage and annual service and maintenance checks, both machines being the most essential pieces of equipment here on site, more so the tractor and trailer for setting up the site at the beginning for carting all the equipment around, pitch markers, signage, dustbins, fire extinguishers, drainage grates etc. Additionally, we now know all of our current ‘Seasonal’ guests who have already informed us that they will be back again next season, there may of course be new additional ones as we have had several enquiries this year about availability for next season, then there are our regulars who place their vans into our storage compound and visit us frequently throughout the season, also we have quite a lot of regular ‘touring’ guests who book onto our site each year for part of their annual holiday, so coming back to a familiar location and site will certainly be a less tentative start to our season.

As I have already mentioned, from the initial dismal start to the season, weather wise that is, we are now enjoying the heat wave that has covered most of the Country, although being by the Coast the breeze has helped keep it bearable especially when we are out working on site wearing the necessary protective clothing required for cutting hedges and grass strimming !! Although I have to say that I have worn shorts more frequently this year than I have done over the last four years. Whilst we are enjoying being on a single couple site, with no ‘Facilities Buildings’ to clean and maintain on a daily basis, it does mean that there are only the two of us to do all the site maintenance and whilst having a ride-on mower to cut our nine acres of grass makes that task much easier, there are lots of areas where you cannot get into with the ride on, so we have to use either the petrol hand mower or the strimmer, as well as that, I hadn’t realised just how much hedgerow we had until I started the task of cutting it !! However, Shazza and I work well as a team and so between us we can cover all aspects of the site maintenance, from the office admin and reception duties to the daily site maintenance. Thankfully Shazza has, at whatever sites we have worked on over the past five years, always maintained her competencies on using all of the ground equipment machinery, so whilst I can be out working on one part of the site with one bit of equipment she regularly goes out working on another area of the site, but not out of sight of the office so she can attend to any arrivals or guests who require replacement gas cylinders or toilet chemicals, but between us we are able to ensure that the site is always kept meticulous, something that our guests regularly comment on. There is an added advantage to doing all this physical activity, all of the extra weight we put on during our Winter breaks, due to over-indulgences of ‘Tinto Verano‘, amongst other things, well we are on holiday after all, but those extra ‘Kilos’ are very quickly shed within the first month of getting back to work and then throughout the rest of the season, so we do not have to pay subscriptions to ‘fitness centres’, so there are health advantages to working as Wardens on a campsite as well as the enjoyment of working outdoors in wonderful natural scenic surroundings (Don’t mention the Snow, Hail, Rain, Fog and Gale Force Winds Eric, it will spoil the idyllic picture you have just painted !!)

Because we are a generally quieter site, occupancy wise, than all of the previous sites we have worked on, we find that we are able to interact with our ‘guests’ a lot more. One of the most frequently asked questions to us from them is “When you finish here do you go back to your house ?“, which is quite a reasonable enquiry, but the varying expressions on their faces can be quite amusing when we tell them that we sold our house, and all our furniture and personal possessions to live in a nine metre long plastic box on wheels, our Motorhome !! After letting the shock on their faces sink in for a few moments we do tend to follow that up with the complete story of our travels and adventures, our ‘fuel contamination’ incident in Morocco and then the purchase of the property in Spain, well perhaps not the ‘complete unadulterated version’, to do that with me telling the story they would have to extend their stay on site by a month, or perhaps more !! The reactions from them can be put firmly into two categories, the response from our female guests, ‘Oh I couldn’t sell my house and all my personal possessions’¬†or the reaction from our male guests, ‘That is something I would love to do but the missus wouldn’t go for it‘, but both parties tell us how brave we were to do it !! Brave, really ? The truth is, if we were considering the full-time Motorhoming lifestyle now we probably wouldn’t commit to it, not with the current uncertainties in relation to how leaving membership of the European Union (EU) ‘may’ effect our freedom to travel around Europe for extended periods. Fortunately for us, we took the decision two and a half years before this absurd referendum took place and with the particular twists and turns that have arisen in our adventures, both before and after the referendum, we are very fortunate to now find ourselves in a much better situation to deal with whatever falls out of this ‘Brexit’ business.

But let me get back to the here and now, first, I really must contact the ‘Guinness Book of Records‘ to see whether I hold the record for having the most number of heart attacks, in a space of just two hours, and surviving without any medical care !! I of course refer to the stress I was put under watching England playing Columbia in the World Cup, first it was having to be a bystander and watching what can only be described as Columbian violence and thuggery towards the England team, at least England were trying to play football !! Then after England nearly grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory, I had to suffer a further thirty minutes of stress and anxiety and when that didn’t result in England getting their early flight home we had to sit through a penalty shoot out, now I am sure that every other nation in the World Cup know of England’s record of penalty shoot outs, surely this was it, with a tearful choked up voice I started the England chant, “We’re going home, we’re going home, England’s going home“, but Eric, yee of little faith in Sir Gareth’, his young squad did what no England squad have been able to do in god knows how many years, yes we actually went and did it didn’t we ? we actually won the penalty shoot out and we now progress to a quarter-final match against Sweden, who are a much more civilised football playing Country and Columbia go home, deservedly so. It is a shame because in the latter stages of the match, when they actually decided to play football, I have to concede that they were much the better side, they outclassed and outskilled us, if they had adopted that approach from the very start then I strongly suspect that I really would have been singing that England chant !!

But life here in Devon is not all about tending to our nine acre country estate, chatting to our ‘guests’ and watching football, no, we do still try to get off site and explore our local area as and when we can. Now I know that some non-UK citizens may consider us Brits watching football as being a ‘National Institution’ for us, and they would be correct, especially when it comes to watching and supporting the National Squad, even my Eighty-year old mother is watching the England games, in between watching the tennis at Wimbledon that is, her favoured option. But there is, believe it or not, a far greater ‘Typically British Institution We Enthusiastically Uphold‘, that of the Sunday Roast Dinner, be it Beef, Lamb, Pork or Chicken with Yorkshire Pudding, Roasted Potatoes (Sometimes Mashed Potato or both), three or four different types of vegetables and proper gravy, you just cannot beat it and no matter where we Brits are in the World, on a Sunday we will seek out the establishments that serve the ‘Sunday Roast Dinner’. Now I have to be perfectly honest, when we are in Spain we do not uphold this British Institution at all, which may mean that now that awful confession is out that we run the risk of having our ‘British Passports‘ cancelled and being classed as not truly British citizens but more ‘European’ citizens, perhaps I may have to hold a ‘EU citizens passport‘, well now, let me just consider the implications of this for a nano second, okay I have made my decision and yes, it would be a hardship that I could very easily learn to live with !! However, whilst we are in England, we do try to conform to British expectations, after all, we are not total rebels, so with us having a half day off every Sunday afternoon, and their just happening to be a very nice local pub in our village that serves this British Institution, we have, on the majority of Sundays booked our table and partaken of this very pleasant experience, we have missed it only the once, but I feel sure that we will be forgiven as it clashed with that other very important British Institution, that being the World Cup match between England and Panama, and with the result of that game it was certainly well worth the sacrifice of our Sunday Roast Dinner.

On our last full day off, with the Devon temperature sitting at around 27 degrees(c), we decided to go and explore the Coast again but this time we would stop at a few of the places that previously we had just gazed at out of the car window as we passed them, probably because on those occasions it had been raining, or it was foggy or just too damn cold, no excuses on this occasion though. Our first destination was not in fact the beach or the sea, we had been informed, by one of our regular ‘guests’, that their was a ‘free’ car park nearby and it was right next to the ‘Tarka Trail‘, which is part of a cycle path and footpath network that stretches for miles, sometimes connecting with the South-West Coastal Footpath, so with the directions provided off we went to find it. Sure enough, no more than a couple of miles drive from our site we located the car park, it was small but would accommodate half a dozen cars, if they all parked correctly !! The ‘Tarka Trail’ footpath was literally right next to this car park and you could choose whether to walk North towards Ilfracombe and beyond or South to Barnstaple, Instow, Bideford and beyond, so, another ‘Shazza Expedition’ to be formulated for another day off, deep joy !!

We continued our exploratory drive, first to a place called ‘Lee‘, very narrow roads, and do I mean narrow, Shazza was doing the driving and I knew that she had wished she had put on her ‘Brown Trousers’, I closed my eyes, my thinking being that if I couldn’t see what she hit, whether that be another vehicle, a cyclist, a pedestrian or two, or even the walls of the nice country cottages, then I couldn’t be called upon to attend Court as a witness !! We inadvertently drove past the well concealed and very small village car park and their was no way that my Shazza was going to even attempt to try to turn around, so once again we just gave ‘Lee Bay’ a cursory glance as we drove past it, well I glanced whilst Shazza kept her eyes firmly affixed to the track road ahead. We did not stop at ‘Mortehoe‘ because we had already been there, done it, walked it and got the tee-shirt as they say. ‘Woolacombe‘ was very busy and although the very long stretch of sandy beach and lovely blue sea looked inviting, we had already been there twice, once on our own when it was still pretty quiet and before the tourist hoards descended upon it and then again when Chris, Sarah and the ‘Twinnies’ came to visit us for a couple of days. So we drove a little further down, only a couple of miles, and entered the very pretty but small village of ‘Croyde‘. As we entered the bustling village we noticed that they had a small craft market going on, it was worth a look so we parked up and had a walk around the handful of stalls. We did see one stall that was selling framed pictures, many were Coastal scenes so we spent a bit of time looking to see if anything caught our eye that would fit perfectly on a wall in our ‘Spanish Bolt Hole’, we had been looking for some time now to discover just what we were looking for, but nothing so far had jumped out at us well not enough to separate us miserly northerners from our ‘brass‘ (the old terminology for money for any of my readers not from these shores). What had really attracted us to this particular stall was not the actual gallery of paintings on offer but the quite unique light coloured wooden frames, not orderly and symmetrical but more as if they had used driftwood, unfortunately, although there were some nice paintings, there just wasn’t one that had that certain something, neither of us could actually explain or put our finger on what that certain something actually was, but ‘we’ would know it when we saw it. We finished our meandering in and out of the remainder of the craft stalls, painted pebbles and modernistic jewellery, herbal oils, soaps and hand balms, cards etc. We made one small purchase, a card to welcome our daughter Stacey and her partner Dean to their new home in the UK, it was a hand painting of a typically English thatched cottage with a Camper Van parked outside, the perfect picture as they had owned an old VW Camper whilst in Australia but had sold it before coming back to the UK, although they do intend purchasing another Camper Van, not necessarily a VW, and then they can get back to enjoying the outdoor life and exploring the marvellous locations here in the UK, perhaps even join us on a road trip or two here in the UK or in Europe, that would be good.

We had a brief walk around the rest of the small village, it was brief as the village ‘really’ is small, but a lovely picturesque place and in the sunshine, with the streets, pubs and cafe’s all busy with tourists it had that lovely holiday feel. It was getting close to one o’clock and we were getting hungry, Shazza’s tummy clock alarm had been sounding numerous times, I thought it was a nervous reaction you normally associate with fear, from having to negotiate the narrow perilous Devon roads, but she assures me the strange noises were coming from a different part of her anatomy !! a grumbling hungry stomach and nothing more !! We decided to purchase a couple of sandwiches, freshly made to order on lovely thick cut granary bread and a couple of drinks and to drive half a mile up the road from the village to the beach at Croyde Bay. The public car park was crowded when we arrived and they wanted Seven Pounds to park there !! We drove a little further and came across a National Trust car park, they were charging just Five Pounds or, if you were a member, parking was free. We had previously been members of the National Trust but had let this lapse as we hadn’t had the opportunities to use it. We quickly deliberated and decided to re-join there and then, not just to get that day’s free parking but there were several National Trust properties, gardens and monuments within easy travelling distance of our site, free to use if you are a member, but if not you would have to pay for the car parking at each location as well as any admission fees, as the membership lasts for a full year we could use it for the remainder of our current season and also the start of next season, it was a no brainer really.

We had not come prepared for an afternoon on the beach, it was so very unlike us not to have had the forethought to put our sun chairs in the boot of the car and brought along our iPads and iPods. However we made the short walk from the car park back to the beach, found a nice shaded place to eat our lunch, look at the views, the sea and of course the mandatory pastime of ‘people watching’. A couple of our site ‘guests’ recognised us, even out of uniform, and we passed some time engaged in not so deep or meaningful conversation, generally about the gorgeous hot weather and the lovely beach and views.

Croyde Beach

At High Tide all of these rocks are totally covered and at Low Tide it makes for great Rock Pooling !!

Now that’s what you call Properties with a view !!

An old wartime military observation post, would make a decent renovation project for someone….. “Shazza, you know that Bolt Hole here in the U.K. I was talking about ?”

Shazza enjoying the sunshine, the smile tells you that she has been fed and watered !!

I feel right at home here, unfortunately my pockets are not deep enough to purchase a property here !!

We have a small motorhome on site, a retired couple who originally booked to stay for just one week, they are currently still here and now into their third and final week, the maximum period you can stay on a club site is Twenty-one consecutive days, then you have to leave for Forty-Eight hours before being able to return for another Twenty-one nights. They go off site in their van everyday, returning around 9pm, they only return earlier when the England matches are on the TV, see, it really is a National Institution !! As lots of our Motorhoming guests are discovering when they visit us, there are actually lots of places in our locality that provide parking for Motorhomes, local towns and villages as well as many coastal car parks, certainly for those with vans up to around a maximum of Eight and a half metres in length so just because they have Motorhomes does not mean that they are confined to base camp. We have had numerous Camper Vans and Motorhomes arrive, having only booked in for one night, then once we tell them how easy it is to get out and about they extend their bookings for a week or more. However, I digress, the elderly couple who we have got to know quite well, returned one evening and told us that they too had been on Croyde Beach and had been told by our other guests that we were there, they said that they had seen us eating our lunch but had decided, as it was our day off, not to bother us. We of course told them that we would not have minded and that we do still remain friendly and sociable with our guests even when we are not in uniform, they laughed and said, “But I bet you wouldn’t have shared your lunch ?“, I smiled back, “Well I¬†may have done, but you wouldn’t have stood any chance of getting anywhere near Shazza’s food !!

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | Leave a comment

Afternoon Tea With The Queen !!

Although we very much enjoy our site, as you will probably tire of me saying over and over again, when you both live and work at the same location day in and day out, it is nice to get off site whenever the opportunities arise. However, there are some occasions when you do not feel like going out on full day explorations and you just want a quick change of scenery then enjoy a day relaxing. That is how Shazza and I felt on our most recent full day off, it was nice to be able to have a bit of a longer lay in, no alarm clock to shock us into life, a leisurely start to the day with time to wake up gently with a mug of coffee. We opened the cab window blinds and the three ‘Heki’ skylights and the sunshine came flooding in, there is something about feeling the warmth of the sun first thing in the morning that immediately makes you feel good, probably just one of the primary reasons we enjoy spending our Winters in Southern Spain. We have often discussed about how, in all the different locations that we have lived, when we used to be ‘normal’ people living conventional lives, having ‘normal’ careers and living in ‘normal’ bricks ‘n’ mortar habitations, that we tended not to enjoy what was right on our doorstep, we seemed to go further afield on days out when sometimes there was plenty to do and see in our immediate locality, there was a danger of us making that same mistake here. Ilfracombe town is a mere ten-minute drive from the site, we have been there several times, each time we say we must come on another day and walk up to the Chapel perched on the cliff above the harbour and then, a little further away, walk up the steep hill that overlooks the town and the Sea, we have often seen people at the top, near the flagpole that proudly flies the National Flag (Union Jack), but we never go and do it. We decided to put that right and as an additional incentive to go into Ilfracombe¬†this week they were celebrating Victorian Times, each day there were different activities going on with locals and visitors alike dressing up in Victorian attire, the event, on this our day off, was going to be afternoon tea in the ‘Gardens’. We left site a little before lunchtime so that we could get into town, park ‘Wuxly’ then our first stop, a Cafe for a light lunch and energy intake before scaling our first cliff top of the day.

Another fully laden trip boat returns to Ilfracombe harbour

Others preferred a more solitary experience !

This Chapel stands on the clifftop overlooking the harbour, but it was also once a lighthouse. As admission was ‘free’ and we had taken the time to make the climb, we took the opportunity to have a wander around inside.

Some lovely views over the inner harbour and town

The views from the old Chapel are amazing, this view looks across to part of the South West Coastal Path

The clifftop houses to the right of this photo must have sensational views

A great place for a spot of Personal Contemplation although probably in this instance, it is not best done with ones eyes closed !!

An alternate route down to the Quay from the Chapel with our next clifftop ascent in the distance

Although the late May holiday was over and the children were back at school, there were still plenty of people about and the place had a bit of a buzz about it, perhaps it was the ‘Victorian’ events that had attracted the large number of people to town. We strolled along the quayside and perused some of the shops along the way making our way towards the next part of the Ilfracombe seafront, there is no typical stretch of sandy beach that you would normally associate with a seaside town, but there were plenty of ‘rock pools’ if you wanted to search for anything that had been stranded in them when the tide had last gone out. Ilfracombe does have a couple of beaches, known as ‘The Tunnels’ but you have to pay to gain entry to them and with lots of ‘free’ long stretches of sandy beaches available just a short drive away, why would you want to pay to go to one ?

Another Ariel view of the town taken from our second clifftop vantage point.

An almost perfect pose my love but better if you could perhaps just go back a couple of feet !!!!

Looking across the sea for any Welsh Invaders, what do you mean they arrived earlier on a bus ?

There is just something so relaxing about being by the Sea

As we walked further along the clifftop we could see caves that had been hidden from our view earlier

There are so many pathways to choose from, some will test the calf muscles !!

After looking at the lovely views we descended from our second clifftop vantage point and decided that it was time to head for the gardens and afternoon tea with the Victorian gentry.

I guess in Victorian Times in the Military it didn’t matter about the length of your hair !!

The Town Cryer announces that the afternoon Garden Tea Party has commenced

Who is the Explorer type chat ? ‘Livingstone I Presume’

Queen Victoria was also in attendance, looking quite well for her age wouldn’t you say ?

“I believe he is a Groundsman on a local Country Estate your Majesty”
“Well please inform him to remove his hand from my seat and that ‘We are not Amused’

It had been a pleasant afternoon, we had enjoyed the sunshine, the walks had not been overly strenuous and we sort of had ‘Afternoon Tea With The Queen‘. We still had ample time to get back to site and put our feet up and relax for the remainder of the afternoon and evening, our internal batteries duly re-charged. The next highlight, our Sunday Roast Dinner at our local village pub !!

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 4 Comments

A Real Taste Of A Devon Country Farm !!

It may have been a bit of a rough start to our current season working on the Campsite here in Devon, but the weather has redeemed itself with lovely hot and sunny days, warm nights and daylight hours stretching to beyond 9:30pm but my goodness where is the time going, as I pen this latest instalment we have just completed thirteen weeks with only seventeen left before we board the ferry back to our apartment in Spain. We always enjoy our Winter breaks, although our last period over there was much shorter due to the delay caused by the knee operation, but it was worth it as I am fully recovered with no evidence of it having caused any lasting issues. We are really looking forward to this years Winter break though, because we get longer over there, with an earlier finish to our Seasons duties this year and a later start next year, we should get twenty-three weeks in Spain this time around instead of the more usual fifteen, bring it on !!

Although this is a much quieter site, guest wise that is, compared to the previous sites we have worked on, the people who come here appear to be much more relaxed and happy right from the minute they arrive at our reception to book in. Whilst many are regulars, who have been coming to this site for Thirty years, some just for the last Twenty and the ‘Newbies’ only for the last Ten years or so, we are also seeing more ‘first timers’ here, including some from Europe. What is nice for us to see is that a large number of the ‘new’ visitors, who initially book for just two or three nights, are extending but their stay once here, one couple booked for seven nights but ended up staying for fifteen whilst Motorhomers, who generally just book in for a night stop, have ended up extending for several more days, perhaps because we can tell them where they can go off site with their vans to park up, Ilfracombe and Bideford both have Car Parks with dedicated areas for parking Motorhomes and many of the local beaches and places of interest have enough room to park vans. We can only put their happy and relaxed demeanour down to the fact that they already know that there is no toilet and shower block, or the other related facilities, such as a Dishwashing Area, Laundry Room, Disabled Washroom or a Baby & Toddlers Room on our site so are already aware of having to use their own on-board facilities. All the pitches are provided with a 16amp Electric Hook Up (EHU) point and there are four ‘Service Points’ located around the site providing facilities to obtain Fresh Drinking Water, Drains for ‘Grey Waste’, Dustbins and four ‘Chemical Disposal Points’ and even a separate ‘Motorhome Service Point’. This particular site has been operating since 1965 and the ‘regulars’ are full of tales about the site, what it was like when they first started coming here, tales of local goings on by the farmers whose land encircles us or of the local villagers living at the bottom of the hill, and of course lots of stories about former Wardens, one day we will be added to that list, but hopefully for all the right reasons. They often pop into the office for a chat with Shazza, and on their way out of the site they will pop in to ask if we need a newspaper from the village community shop, or they are going to the Supermarket and do we want them to pick up some groceries for us or, especially on a Friday lunchtime, when they go to the Fish ‘n’ Chip shop, they pop their heads around the door and ask if we want some bringing back, they really are a nice group of people and they do not miss a trick, it is like having unpaid security guards. They see everything that goes on, from watching new arrivals turn up and where and how they pitch, watching us doing the groundwork, the morning bin run, grass cutting, painting, moving caravans in and out of the storage area, and they are not shy at letting us know if any of the ‘temporary guests’ don’t do anything quite right, if we thought that this was ‘our’ site and that ‘we’ were in charge we would be sadly mistaken !! But they are all lovely people, the majority being the senior generation but fiercely independent, there are couples, mixed gender and same gender and several who used to have partners but now continue on their own, it is very much like having our own local community. That does not mean that we do not get the younger generation or family groups and over the May Bank Holiday period we had lots of children on site but they were all well-behaved and extremely polite, during the evenings they were all back at their respective vans and not screaming around the site roads on their bicycles, skateboards or running in between other guests vans, so I think I can safely say that we appear to attract guests that exercise parental responsibility for their offspring.

Now that the sunshine and warmer temperatures have finally arrived in Devon, the site feels more alive as our guests spend more of their time outside of their vans, the sound of conversations, the chinking of glasses or sound of crockery and cutlery and of course the much-anticipated aroma of food being barbecued, it is wonderful. The farmers are busy in their fields harvesting the first of their crops, the sound of the tractors right up to the last remnants of daylight, the hedgerows and trees now in full splendour, the wild flowers now in full bloom, the reds, purples, blues and yellows creating a beautiful rainbow of colours growing along the embankments and the birds chirping away in the trees and bushes, we had three nests in my ground equipment storage shed, all had baby birds, unfortunately one of the nests with three babies was ravaged, I arrived one morning to get my tractors out only to discover the mother dead on the floor with all the signs of having tried to fight off the attacker and protect her babies, sadly there was no sign of the youngsters, one of our guests told us that the aggressor was more than likely a ‘Magpie’, we have many on our site along with the much larger and threatening black ‘Crows’. Fortunately, for whatever reason, the other two nests are still in tact and Shazza checks on them throughout the day, it is her maternal instinct. The parent birds do not seem to be concerned about our presence or the noises from me removing and returning equipment throughout the day, they sit on an overhead¬†telephone line just watching me and then when I leave the storage shed they fly in, insects in their beaks, and feed the kids !! We also appear to have two pairs of Hawks residing locally as we see them on a daily basis hovering above the fields around us, waiting and watching for the slightest movement that may indicate the opportunity of grabbing a meal, we have the usual abundance of rabbits and our regulars tell us that occasionally, if you are up early enough, we sometimes get Deer that come out from the woodland below us by the river and at Dusk, foxes use the cover of the long meadow grass in our ‘Environmental Area’ to stalk the unsuspecting rabbits. At the lower end of the site, down a steep bank you can hear the sound of the river gently flowing by and, because we sit atop a hill, you can look out to the West and the Coast towards ‘Appledore‘ and ‘Westward Ho‘ and to the South we can see the Northern edge of Dartmoor and to the East the rolling green hills that stretch to Exmoor, this is such a wonderful and beautiful countryside location but within just four miles of the Sea and numerous sandy Beaches as well as lots of towns and villages, we both just utterly love it here.

As usual, wherever we have been located around the Country, whilst working for the ‘Caravan and Motorhome Club’, we like to use our days off to explore our new surroundings. With only one full day off each week, sometimes such days having to be utilised for personal commitments, Dental Appointments etc. our ‘Shazza Adventures’ have been a little more limited than on previous sites, however, we do still try to get out and about whenever the opportunities permit. We did spend one of our half days off visiting the small Coastal Town of ‘Coombe Martin’. Unfortunately it was a last-minute decision to go so I was unprepared and left my camera behind. However, I do not think that their would have been many photographs to take, it was just before the late May Bank Holiday weekend so not quite the bustling holiday period and it was a Sunday afternoon, which may explain why the place appeared to be closed !! Once upon a time this small community would have been idyllic, nestled around a small harbour we could imagine what it would have been like with the small fishing boats venturing out to catch Crabs, Lobsters, mackerel a typical coastal community of folk, but modernisation, the decline of the fishing industry and stocks of fish and the desire and need to diversify to eek out a living have turned this place from a picturesque quaint town into an anonymous tourist haven, holiday cottages in abundance and holiday rental flats dominate this place with the amusement arcades, burger bars and ice cream parlours all fighting for a share of the tourists holiday cash, but right now there is a distinct lack of tourists, the holiday homes are empty and the holiday flats are still shuttered, we were disappointed and did not even stop to partake of a cuppa in the one and only open but forlorn looking cafe, instead we ventured back to site and enjoyed the late afternoon and early evening sunshine sat outside our awning listening to the varied sounds of nature that surrounded us, bliss !!

We made a conscious decision to spend a future full day off exploring a little more of the Northern Coastline so we would prepare for it, read that as me having my camera battery charged and ready to go. A check of the ‘Works of Fiction’ showed a positive outlook, whether (no pun intended) it would get it right was another matter though, but we decided to drive along the narrow country roads towards ‘Lynton and Lynmouth‘, the first being a coastal town perched up on the cliffs and the latter being more of a village than a town but situated down at sea level with only a very rocky beach, rocks the size of small boulders would be a more accurate description, the two places could be mistaken as being one and the same place with Lynmouth, at the bottom of the hill being accessed either by a steep and winding road or alternatively the ‘Narrow Gauge Cliff Railway’. It wasn’t a long drive and we even made a detour en-route when we saw a brown tourist sign pointing to a ‘Historic Medieval Village‘ ? My lack of words in respect of this minor detour sums up just how interesting it was, the only thing medieval about it was that, although there were a handful of houses, many empty, the place looked rather ghostly, although the parked cars were from today’s modern era which indicated that there was life somewhere but no quaint Cafe or Village Pub, not even a nice Church to have a wander around, I am certain that there must have been something there to attract avid historians, perhaps the architecture of some of the old buildings, but for us history heathens it was more of a ‘drive through’ visit.

We arrived in Lynton and found a ‘free’ curbside parking spot for ‘Wuxly’, we opted to leave exploring the ‘top’ town of Lynton until later so headed towards the cliff railway.

The entrance to the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway

Quite a steep descent but with wonderful views !

A Great View from my vantage point at the front of the carriage !

Looking back up from Lynmouth to Lynton

The tide was out at the particularly small Lynmouth Harbour

The Crab Pots stacked up and ready to go on the next High Tide, some older pots were for sale as garden features at ¬£35 each, funny old thing though, the exact same ‘used’ crab pots were for sale at only ¬£25 in ‘Appledore’, it pays to shop around as they say !!

It may have been a sunny day but Shazza wearing a coat tells the real truth about the rather strong wind that was blowing and the cooler temperature !!

Lynmouth was pretty enough, well worth a visit, but again it was all geared towards parting tourists with their holiday cash, well I guess they have to make a living somehow. Being miserly old Northerners we kept our wallet and purse deeply secreted in our pockets, gone are the days when we were tempted to purchase all the tourist tat, that is a good thing about living in a Motorhome, the minimal space is for essential items only !! After a wander around, even spending time to look inside the handful of Art Galleries, are we beginning to get cultured you may ask ? not on your Nelly, but we do still need a couple of nice paintings or pictures for a couple of walls in our apartment in Spain, we are looking for something with a nautical, beach or general coastal type scene but nothing has jumped out at us yet shouting “Buy me, Buy me“. Back up to Lynton, via the cliff railway, and a leisurely wander around the couple of streets with their mixed bag of shops trying to tempt tourists inside, their efforts were wasted on us, that was until we came across the candle shop, it didn’t look very much like a shop, more like a shop that had gone out of business and had half empty wooden shelving. Stepping inside we saw that the large floor space had been divided into two separate areas, one half was where we observed the solitary man, we guessed the owner and artisan candle maker, making his candles and the other half where he had the finished articles on display and for sale. The man stopped his work when he saw us enter, he glanced up and invited us to take our time to smell the vast array of scented candles he had on display, there were varying sizes of candle and varying prices, but I have to say that it was quite a relaxing experience taking a sniff of the many scents and for once, spending this much time in one shop didn’t get on my wick !! We succumbed and purchased a medium size candle, it would go into our box marked ‘Spain’ and would fit very nicely on one of our balcony tables. As we paid, the elderly man thanked us for making a purchase from him, i guess a lot of people come in, wander around have a sniff here and a sniff there then leave again empty-handed, we like making purchases from small local artisan industries if they have something we want or would use, although generally for us such purchases tend to usually be wine or food related !! Time to get back on the road but our route back would be via the very narrow single track coastal road which had passing places at strategic points, not a road for motorhomes much longer than six and a half metres I would suggest !! Hopefully we would come across a nice hostelry where we could partake of a nice spot of lunch……………

I was certain I could see a path leading up to the top of this formation of rocks ?

When we have been in Europe doing our touring we often ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the most breathtaking, stunning and marvellous views but here in the UK we have many equally wonderful views and this particular coastal road has them around every corner.

Breathtaking, Stunning, Beautiful !! Now where have I heard those words before ?

 

“No need to look so concerned mate, she really is a good driver, but you may just want to move your foot in a bit !!”

The only thing between us and a sheer drop off the edge of the cliff was the undergrowth and a few trees !!

We saw lots of pretty roadside cottages like this one

I was only too pleased to be in the passenger seat on this journey, Shazza had to fully concentrate on her driving with the narrow road, lots of bendy bits and some very sharp blind bends whilst I could sit and gaze out at all the lovely scenery. We saw a sign for the ‘Hunters Inn’ and decided that we liked the sound of the name, it just had a certain ring to it, one that said that it would be a hostelry in a very scenic countryside location that would serve some very tasty ‘fayre’ for the weary and famished traveller, so right up our street then.

We were not disappointed, just the exterior look of the place was enough to entice us inside, hunger may also have contributed a little. It was a pub that served bar meals as well as having a more formal restaurant area if you preferred, we chose the less formal dining experience, a home-made fish finger baguette and a coronation chicken baguette, we had half each and yes it really was tremendously good.

The rather lovely ‘Hunters Inn’

After a pleasant lunch with liquid refreshments we continued along the Coast Road, the day had got warmer as the time passed and with the sun streaming in through the windows, the blue sky and lovely scenery our conversation returned to thinking about when we had experienced such trips in our Motorhome, no rush to be anywhere and no time limits on our travels, these thoughts and conversations are a regular theme in our daily lives, even when we are in Spain in our apartment, the wanderlust is still within us and our goal of continuing with our nomadic adventures is still very much our main ambition, those days are growing ever closer.

Beautiful green rolling hills which sometimes secreted farms amongst them !

Lush green fields and woodland sometimes gave way to Heathland

From Devon, looking across the Bristol Channel to the Welsh Coastline, pity about the Haze but you can just about make out Wales across the water.

So, eventually we leave the Coast Road and head back, slightly inland in the direction of our campsite. A few miles from home and we see the sign for the Farm Shop. Shazza had seen this before and some of our guests had mentioned it so we turned down the rough track road towards the farm to see what was on offer. When we pulled up to the barn housing the farm shop we discovered that it was padlocked shut. We got out the car and a young man appeared from one of the cattle sheds, he looked to be in his early twenties, we asked if the shop was open and he said that it was and he would go and fetch his mother. He disappeared behind some other farm outbuildings but returned within a few moments telling us that his mother would attend to us shortly. Whilst he was gone I had a mooch around and looking inside a smaller lean-to style structure I saw what I knew to be was an old manually operated cider press. I asked him if it was still used and he told me that he still uses it to press the apples from their orchards and make the cider. He had been taught the skill from his Grandfather who had been making cider from when he was a boy, having himself been taught the skills from his Grandfather, so a long-standing family cider producer still using the traditional methods.

Once inside the barn, the young farmer boys mother took us down a narrow corridor into a larger room, a room that housed around twenty-five wooden cider barrels, some ready and some in differing stages of the fermentation process. She told us that her son is in charge of producing the Cider and he makes three types, Dry, Medium and Sweet. We had not suggested that we had intended to purchase any of the amber nectar but she proceeded to provide us with a tasting session, pouring a glass from each barrel. I heard a noise behind me from the doorway in which we had entered, an elderly gentleman was stood, shoulder resting on one side of the door frame and a cocker spaniel stood obediently at his feet. At first I thought it was one of her local customers but after a brief conversation about how nice the weather was, as you do, the elderly gentleman introduced himself as ‘Jeff’ and told me that his Grandson now makes the Cider and that he had taught him. I enquired as to whether he still gets involved and with a wry smile he said that he occasionally makes his own ‘Special Brew’. At that point the lady farmer disappeared, with Shazza in tow, leaving me and Jeff to talk ‘Cider’, he had already re-positioned himself inside the barrel store and with a slight tilt of his head, to ensure the coast was clear, he bent down and reached behind one of the barrels and produced a bottle that was labelled ‘Captain Morgans Spiced Rum’, but he told me to ignore the label on the bottle and the contents, his Cider Sherry, was seventeen per cent proof !! He poured us both a generous glass each, I was a little hesitant at first but my taste buds rather liked the experience and we soon emptied our glasses. He then moved across to another barrel that was still fermenting, he withdrew the plastic tube and bung and reached inside with one of those long-handled cup things, the sort you see when they take out samples of a wine barrel for tasting, he poured us both another ‘generous’ glass full and asked me to tell him what I could taste ? Because it was still in the fermentation stage it had a slight fizz to it, there was a definite cider taste but there were undertones of something else which I couldn’t identify, I told him that it did taste a bit different and he smiled and winked then said, in a hushed voice, “Gin“. I asked him if I could be impolite and ask how old he was, he raised his eyes and then said “I can never remember wether I am 85 or 86 but they tell me I wont get much older if I keep drinking this stuff” then he gave a mischievous chuckle. I could see where this cider tasting was leading, not towards a purchase, although we had already told the lady farmer that we would have a three-litre medium sweet mix, no, this session with Jeff was his way of having his own ‘legitimate’ tipples with a customer although I am guessing that they probably already know of his secret brews !!

Jeff was keen for me to taste his farm brew Cider, especially his ‘hidden’ stash !!

After making my polite excuses, before Jeff got me totally inebriated with his ‘Special Brews’, I made my way out to where Shazza and the lady farmer were stood waiting for me, Shazza with her purchases of locally reared farm meat in a bag, they smiled and told me that it was a good job that it wasn’t me driving us home !! But what a totally unexpected experience and it rounded our day off just perfectly, a day out in the Devon countryside finished off with “A Real Taste Of A Devon Country Farm‘…………..

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 10 Comments

“Much A Do About Nothing”

Spring, don’t you just love the sights and sounds of nature starting to come to life ? We had not had many opportunities so far this season to enjoy sitting and relaxing in our awning so decided that we would risk it one evening after work, surely we would be warm enough with our six fan heaters all set to maximum !! Instead of being cooped up in the van watching the television we were able, instead, to listen to the sounds of Spring……..the Gale force winds making our awning flap like a flock of demented swans attacking someone who had got too close to their signets, hanging on for dear life to the patio table and chairs, and anything else not bolted down, whilst the wind attempted to uproot our marquee sized tent pegs from the ground and send us flying over the cliffs way out into the Atlantic, next stop Canada !! Accompanying the cyclonic force winds was the noise of the heavy rain pounding on ¬†our thin polyester fabric awning roof, so noisy that, although being sat only inches apart, Shazza and I had to shout at each other to just have a normal conversation. Surprisingly enough, through all this tumult of noise we could still hear the birds who appeared to be just normally happily chirping away in the trees, however, on closer visual inspection we observed that the poor little buggers were clinging to the branches with both their feet and wings, otherwise they would have been shredded as they were hurled through the spiky hawthorn hedgerows below, I am sure I heard a pair arguing, something about should have gone South to warmer climates much earlier !! Yes, this is Spring in the UK this year, it feels more like still being in the grips of Winter, a few days earlier we had wandered along a footpath by the River Taw, I commented to Shazza that I thought a cloud appearing out of the mist appeared to be floating on top of the water, as it got closer we realised that it wasn’t a cloud but a bloody iceberg !! Okay, perhaps a slight over exaggeration but I guess you get the picture ?

This was the view out of our office window, it was the afternoon !! Think they may have to start painting caravans day-glow Orange, white may be good for stealth camping in Winter (or a UK Spring) but these just blend into the eeriness of the gloom and those in the lower touring area, well, I think they were still there ?

We get one full day off a week and, subject to the weather, we are trying to use these opportunities to get out and visit the local area but unfortunately sometimes a day off has to be utilised for normal personal commitments, for instance, on our last day off Shazza had a Dental Appointment, no big deal you may think, a Dental check-up and Hygienist appointment would only be around one hour out of the day so that, ordinarily, in the grand scale of things would be nothing. However, Shazza’s dentist just happens to be a three-hour drive away in Swindon, she has kept this particular dentist as she has been going there for the past twelve years and it is hard these days, if you move areas, to get on to the books of another National Health Service (NHS) practice. There are plenty of ‘Private’ dental practices but they come at a great cost, even for the basic annual check-up, or, as I have discovered, a ‘Kings Ransom’ if you need any actual work doing !!

So, with her appointment being at lunchtime, we left the site at the ‘crack of sparrows’ allowing sufficient time to get through the busy areas at commuter rush hour, or so we thought. We had only been on the road around a quarter of an hour when we found our progress halted, not just slow-moving traffic, but actually at a stand still. It was too early to have been hit by the ‘School run’ traffic and we certainly hadn’t anticipated this to be the morning commuter rush. We kept looking at our watches as eventually we started to edge very slowly forward, I remember thinking how impolite the local inhabitants were as I lost count of how many snails and slugs raced past us sniggering, but to really take the biscuit was a tortoise speeding past with a ‘Taxi For Hire’ sign painted on its shell with rabbits and hedgehogs sat aloft with their shopping bags !! We had already lost forty minutes by the time we reached the Police car, parked in the middle of the road with its blue lights flashing, one officer stood in front directing us to leave the main road and up a very narrow single track country road, we were still stuck in a queue, we couldn’t go forward, we couldn’t turn around instead we had to wait until we eventually came across a junction. The majority of the traffic winding its way towards ‘Barnstaple’ but we decided to take the opposite direction and head back towards ‘Ilfracombe’, where, after passing the road that led back to our campsite, we took the cross-country back road that eventually led us to the Motorway. I will give Shazza credit for making a valiant attempt to try to make up the time lost, one hour, but it was not to be, so we telephoned the Dental practice and explained the situation, fortunately, they made another appointment for later that same day so we could now relax a little bit. We re-arranged our planned schedule for the day to fit in with the new appointment time, first we stopped off at the large ‘Retail Outlet Park’ in Swindon where I managed to purchase a new pair of walking boots, then a flying visit to see Sarah and the ‘Twinnies’. After the Dental appointment we didn’t want to get stuck in the evening rush hour traffic trying to get out of Swindon so we headed for home. Fortunately the return three-hour journey was more relaxed and uneventful, but it had been a day off that had comprised of seven hours sat in a car and we were both just happy to get back to the site and the ‘Little Fokker’.

You may have heard the fable of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, well this is the shortened version ‘The Wardens New Boots’, only these do actually exist which means no excuses for not getting out on more ‘Shazza Adventures’ !!!

We have both settled in to our new site and we love it, okay the weather has not been the best but we have had a handful of lovely sunny days and as I keep saying to Shazza, it isn’t just us that are experiencing these unseasonably wet and cold conditions, the whole of the UK has been getting this mish mash of weather.

The following week passed very quickly, there is always something to do on the site, the normal routines which include the cutting grass, strimming banks and hedgerows, repairing damaged pitches, the repairs and maintenance tasks and just dealing with everyday ‘stuff’ as it happens. Before we arrived here I did wonder if it would be a bit too quiet, even boring at times, but the truth is that with it being a single-couple site there is always something to be doing and although it can generally be done at a nice pace the weather does have a strong influence on prioritising the daily activities. The farmers saying of “Make Hay Whilst The Sun Shines” interprets to all Wardens as “Cut Grass When The Opportunity Permits”,¬†this applies to all of our sites but¬†here,¬†with a nine acre all grass site with no hard standing pitches, that is very important as once you have finished cutting it all, it is time to start again !! But, we both love it, the site, the views from the site and with the local area having so much to see and do, with only one full day off a week, perhaps we may just need to stay here for a year or two longer !!

We are now into our Eighth week here and another day off, we had forgotten about registering with our local Medical Practice, always worth being registered as you never know when you may need one, as I discovered last season with a certain knee injury, although, the hospital last year were fantastic and fortunately, although not having registered with a doctor, I do have my official personal NHS Number which saves complications in establishing that I am actually entitled to free NHS Treatment. Anyway I digress, so, today, because it is a warmer, drier and brighter day our first port of call is the local Medical Centre in Ilfracombe to get registered then we are just going to enjoy strolling around Ilfracombe and exploring the town centre, uphill from the harbour and seafront then this evening we are going to the Cinema to see a bit of a comedy starring ‘Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren‘, it is about an elderly retired couple, one with the early onset of Dementia, taking their old Winnebago RV out on a ‘Road Trip’ adventure. Then we will finish off with a meal somewhere in the town or down by the harbour. We do not spend very much money in this job, especially now being on our own so we eat in every night, so we decided that a day off is exactly that and includes a day off from cooking and pot washing.

So, although this post has been a bit like one of the ‘Bards‘ Shakespearian Play Titles, “Much A Do About Nothing“, it has brought you right up to date with our goings on, next time I may have another ‘Shazza Adventure’ to write about, after all, my new boots need to be broken in, it would be rude not to……………

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 6 Comments

Did He Jump Or Was He Pushed ?

At last, there was a break in the weather and we had a day off to enjoy it, this is it I thought to myself, sun chair, a glass of something cold, preferably alcoholic and adopt the ‘horizontal’ solar basting position. It was a nice thought, the picture was painted firmly in my mind but unfortunately for me, it was not the same picture that Shazza had painted in hers !! She was thinking, walking boots and rucksack, so by now ¬†I am sure you can guess the outcome of this one………. ? So, if I have to spend my treasured day off walking, you lot are coming with me……

Rolling Green Hills, Sheep Grazing, Blue Sky and Sunshine…….what more could you want and it’s all for free !!

Lots of choices ?

Perhaps a route for another day ?

A Feast for the senses and as Shazza would say, “Food for the Soul”

Beyond the haze we could see Lundy Island, we will do the boat trip across there on another day off

We could see another walking route below us, but that too was another one for another day !

It was very tempting, but far too soon to be stopping for lunch !!

Shazza doesn’t do photography, she views it much the same as I do Golf, ‘A Good Walk Ruined’ but I will catch her up again soon enough !!

Simply amazing views !!

We reached our first destination, ‘Bull Point Lighthouse’ but were disappointed to discover that we could not look around it.

So, our chosen route for today, anti-clockwise along the Coastal Path to ‘Morte Point’ then back up to Mortehoe Village, not a major hike, only 4-5 miles

It didn’t look too bad from here, but we could not see the ‘other’ steps, a grand total of 91 of them, a real knee tester !!

Someone found the perfect ‘pitch with a view’

Looking at our route ahead, it hadn’t looked this far on our walking map !!

But around every corner there were the most breathtaking views, breathtaking for more than one reason !!

We discovered steps down to a beach, I wouldn’t want to cart my sunchairs and wind break down here, never mind the steep steps but the nearest car park was a two-mile hike !!

But it would have been worth all the effort !!

“Did he Jump or was he pushed ?”

Back to the walk !

Back to the views !!

How much further !!

“Don’t even think about it Eric, we cannot afford it !!” but I hadn’t even said anything ?

The Coastal Path continued to stretch out before our eyes and not a single Ice Cream or Burger Van anywhere in sight !!

But, at last, we made it to ‘Morte Point’

A better view without the two idiots spoiling it !!

A quick nimble shimmy around the jagged rocks and we were back on the Coastal footpath, with the popular Woolacombe Beach ahead of us (Left of picture in the distance)

With the Winter weather over the last five weeks, this was a nice reminder that it was in fact Spring !! Although in reality my mind was thinking Mint Sauce, Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Gravy !!

Sometimes in life you should never look back, but there are occasions when it is nice to reflect on where you came from ?

This time it’s Shazza lagging behind but it isn’t because she has stopped to take photographs !! why is there always one more bloody hill to climb ?

My faithful and extremely comfortable walking Boots, just one Shazza adventure too far !!

Not much chance of a repair job me thinks, they now need a worthy and fitting resting place ……..

The perfect location for a pair of trusty and hard-working ‘Old Soles’……..the boots I am talking about not Shazza and me !!!!

It had been a very enjoyable day off, I mean who would want to waste this glorious weather laying on a sunbed drinking something cold and preferably alcoholic when they could be burning up calories and exercising muscles ? It was nice though, to get back to the site and collapse in our sun chairs with a glass of something cold…….. ‘Blackcurrant Juice’ !! But it was our day off and the day was not yet over, it had been Shazza’s birthday the previous day but we had been working, so after a lovely hot shower and change of clothing we went out for a nice meal, the perfect end to a most enjoyable day, next day off………..shopping for new walking boots !!

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 2 Comments

A Tale Of Two Devon Cream Tea’s

And it came to pass, that on the twenty-eighth day of serving our penance, the almighty one forgave us sinners (although strictly speaking that should be ‘sinner’ as it was not I that uttered that sacrilegious ‘Custard’ comment, but after all, I guess we are both in this together I suppose). The maelstrom that was sent down from above, the snow, hailstones and rain, in torrential proportions along with winds, of Gale force proportion, were finally cast away, we had taken our punishment and learnt our lesson……. well perhaps one of us had, I cannot speak with any certainty about my beloved !! But the sun had returned, the sky had turned from foreboding grey and tormenting black to the most wonderful blue, the breeze was now but a gentle breath of fresh air upon our faces. The keeper of this particular piece of land (the¬†Campsite Warden – me !!) was now permitted to freely go about and tend his ploughed fields (Repair the grass pitches that had become very soggy and got churned up !!) and to breathe new life into his land (re-seed the grass pitches that had churned up but were now drying out)¬†and to wander amongst his flock once more (the¬†paying guests).

Our little piece of heaven, sits atop a hill, from which we have some wonderful views, to the South East, the rolling Devon Hills adorned with windmills, well they are wind turbines really, but they actually add to the scenic outlook rather than detract from it, to the South ‘we can’ actually see Dartmoor and to the West we have a Sea View, well it is actually the mouth of the Estuary with its two tributaries, the first forms the beginning of the ‘River Taw‘ that flows to, and beyond, ‘Barnstaple‘ and the second that forms the ‘River Torridge‘ that flows to and beyond ‘Bideford‘.

Rolling Devon Hills and Windmills !!

A view of the Estuary

Welcome to our little piece of Heaven in North Devon

We can only get to explore our new area when we are on our time off, half a day on Sunday afternoon and a whole day in the week, we have currently selected to take Thursdays, as it breaks up our seven days quite nicely, however, we may adapt that once we see how busy we get as the season progresses. With Ilfracombe being our local town, being just a short four mile drive away, we have been there on a couple of occasions and had a mini-exploration, there is plenty to see and do but the weather to date has not been conducive to any substantial or in-depth investigations. On our last visit we decided, regrettably as it turned out, to eat out, and what do you eat when you are in a typically British seaside resort, yes that’s right, good old ‘Fish ‘n’ Chips but on this occasion there was nothing good about them whatsoever, in fact I would go as far to say that they were the worst fish and chips we have ever tasted, under-cooked anaemic batter, greasy and the chips were much the same. On our way back to the car, feeling rather despondent, we both agreed that our English owned ‘Fish ‘n’ Chip Restaurant at the bottom of the hill near our apartment in Spain, were much more superior, but we felt sad that a British Classic on our own soil had been so bad, I blame ‘Brexit’ myself, for no other reason than every ‘Fish ‘n’ Chip meal I have had, whilst we were happy to be part of the EU Community, have always been top class, now we have opted to leave our European neighbours our British Standards are already declining, it has to be down to Brexit doesn’t it ? Mind you, there is also a conspiracy theory, since hearing of our plans to reclaim our fishing grounds, the French are already sabotaging our fish stocks and let’s face it, the inferior French fish do not have to swim far to get to Devon, food for thought maybe ? I have to say though, that we had partaken of a Fish ‘n’ Chip meal in ‘Squires’, a Fish restaurant located in ‘Braunston’, a smaller town just a few miles away, three weeks earlier, and they were absolutely superb, so perhaps all is not lost just yet. On our walk back through the town, after our disappointing meal, we stopped at a small shop that sold Pasties and Cakes, Shazza had noticed a sign that advertised ‘Take Away Devon Cream Tea’ (minus the tea ?), “Didn’t that just make it a Scone with jam and cream” I suggested, “Do you not want one then ?” came her somewhat chastising response. I lowered my head ashamedly, “Yes Please Mum, Sorry Mum” I said, with my bottom lip all a quiver, she just looked at me, laughed and called me an idiot !! After a very disappointing lunch I did not have very high expectations of this ‘Take-Away Devon Cream Tea’, surely these are best consumed at a quintessential English Tea and Cake shop, off the finest bone china plates ? We saved our sweet purchase for the evening and my goodness what a delightful surprise, inside the cake box were two enormous fruit scones, and I mean enormous !! Two tubs of Clotted Cream and two tubs of thick fruity Strawberry Jam, they were absolutely magnificent, not being one who is particularly fond of clotted cream at the best of times, this is another one of those food conversion moments, first it was the ‘Kebab’ conversion in Bristol and now, Devon Cream Tea (not minus the tea, as I enjoyed a nice mug of hot freshly brewed PG Tips with it), if this is how good a ‘Takeaway’ version is I cannot wait to try one in a proper tea shop !!

We had also spent one of our ‘Full Days’ off doing a bit of a drive around the Coastal roads, stopping first at ‘Woolacombe Bay’ with its well renowned long sandy beach, crowded during the Summer months, the weather was dry but it was very cold and the wind had an evil nasty icy bite to it. We took a brief walk around the small town but virtually all the shops and Cafe’s were ‘closed’ so we went back to the car, turned the heating on full and continued our sightseeing adventure, whistle-stop tours of ‘Croyde’ and ‘Saunton Sands’, both very popular ‘Surfer Beaches’, but we remained in the car and looked out of the windows at the uninviting and desolate beaches before heading for Barnstaple, the nearest largest town to us. I had looked on ‘Google Maps’ and had seen that the ‘River Taw’ ran past, rather than through the town, so had hoped that we may have had the opportunity to find a Riverside Walk, not that it would have been good enough to walk on this particular day but for another time when it was a lot warmer. It turned out that whilst there was a Riverside Walk, because the river is tidal, it was only actually a riverside walk at certain times of the day, or night, dependent on when the tide was actually in otherwise it was a rather boring ‘mud bed walk’ !! We strolled into the town, I found it pleasant enough, not jaw droppingly magnificent, it was just a normal town with every shop you could ever want, if that is your thing ? However, Shazza, who is very biased towards Spain, did not find it a very enjoyable experience even though I had tried to explain that her comparisons with Spanish Towns were not on a ‘like to like’ basis, but I may as well have been talking to a brick wall. If we came back to Barnstaple in the Summer months, hopefully when it is warmer, the streets will have throngs of people, the Cafe’s, Pubs and Restaurants will have their tables set up outside and perhaps even the tide will be in and the Riverside Walk would be a whole different experience, but then again, whilst I enjoy our Winter breaks in Spain, I really enjoy the UK and I want to tour and visit so many places that I still have not seen. “But” she said, “Wouldn’t you rather be walking down the Promenade in Tee-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, the blue azure Mediterranean on one side, the lively bars and cafes on the other, sat in the warmth of the sun drinking a cold Tinto Verano ?“, all very good arguments, very well presented and………. with temperatures over in Spain currently averaging around 20 degrees(c) whilst here we are struggling to get above 8-9 degrees(c), I guess she had a point, damn it !!

On another one of our days off we decided to visit another Riverside town, ‘Bideford‘, which we were surprised to discover was only around 15 miles away, it looked much further on the map. It was a warmer day, the sun was shining although it was not warm enough to forego our coats. Our initial impressions were good, we were able to find a good parking place, on the river frontage and within just a short walk to the centre of the town, or a bit longer if, like us, you like to stroll at a gentle pace along the river frontage. The car park was both a short stay and a long stay and at ¬£2 for four hours was the best value we had found in the area and for Motorhomers you can overnight for ¬£5 (6pm-10am), nice location next to a park, overlooking the river and a short walk from all the facilities provided within the town, however, there are no services.

Looking back up the River Torridge towards the mouth of the estuary with the main A39 Spanning it.

Looking down the river to the less modern, but very much nicer, road bridge that spans the river to the small village of East-on-the-Water on the opposite bank.

Looking directly across the river from Bideford to East-on-the-Water

We found the town did not live up to ‘our’ expectations, it had a full range of the usual retail outlets but it was quite a steep walk up the main street and apart from a couple of small alleyways to explore, it did not have the ‘WOW’ factor, but again, it may have a different ambience during the Summer. We had intended to have lunch at a nice ‘Bistro’ or something similar, a belated Anniversary meal, but the town was sadly lacking and it was looking like a Pub lunch was on the cards. However, we had followed a sign to the ‘Pannier Market’, up another flipping hill !! The market itself was an indoor affair, very small and basically it just comprised of the usual bric-a-brac and ‘tat’ and it didn’t take us long to walk the full length without being tempted to part with any of our hard-earned money, but fate must have brought us to this area because as we exited the market we saw, across the road, a small Italian Restaurant. We perused the menu board outside and saw that in addition to the ‘normal menu’, they were also offering a two-course lunchtime menu. Shazza opened the front entry door and looked inside, she screwed up her nose, not a good sign, then shut the door again without going inside, “What is wrong” I asked, “It’s empty” she said, “So what is wrong with that, the menu looked good and we don’t seem to have too many options unless you want a pub Steak and Ale Pie“. She had a defeated look on her face, I knew that she didn’t really fancy a pub meal, not that there is anything wrong with pub meals generally, although they can be a bit hit and miss at times, and although she wasn’t bothered about a gourmet lunch she just wanted a nice meal in nice surroundings. “What do you want to do” she asked me, which was because she was fed up and didn’t want to have to decide. “Let us go in here, the menu looks nice and if it isn’t any good you can blame me” I said. We entered, it wasn’t empty, a lady, sat drinking a glass of red wine was at a table just inside the doorway, she gave us a cheery ‘hello’. A young girl, neatly attired in her waitress uniform came to meet us and showed us to a table. It was nice to see a waitress dressed appropriately, it certainly projects a nice first impression, so many staff in eateries these days appear to wear jeans and training shoes and tee-shirts, of course the way they dress in no way reflects the quality of the food, perhaps we are just old-fashioned in our expectation of standards. After taking our drinks order she left us to peruse both the ‘normal’ menu and the ‘Lunchtime Menu Del Dia’. We could have eaten from either the choices all looked good but the value of the lunchtime menu won out at two-courses for ¬£11.95. Now I will not bore you with what we ate but suffice to say that both courses were absolutely superb, the wine was good, the service was excellent especially when the Italian owner, who was not the chef, presented us with our main courses and asked if we had everything we needed, a nice personal touch. It is worth saying at this point that by the time we received our starter course, the place was buzzing, we had timed it just right as the tables filled up pretty quickly. Shazza’s mood had changed within seconds of sitting down at our table, the internal decor was ‘rustic’ but very pleasant, the service was attentive but not overly intrusive and the food was delicious, sometimes you just shouldn’t judge that book by its cover, now where have I said that before ?¬†

In between all this gadding about we have the day job, a little matter of maintaining our nine-acre grass estate. We may not have a toilet block and all the facilities that come with it so no cleaning of said facilities, but there is always something to do, normal routines of morning bin runs and ‘pot’ cleaning and of course with nine acres of grass there is quite a lot of grass cutting, using either the ride on mower, the petrol hand mower or the strimmer. However, there are always the ‘other’ tasks, repairs and general maintenance accounting for the majority of those ‘other tasks’. I have to, very sincerely, say a big thank you to all of my previous Wardens that I have worked with and for, as they have been instrumental in teaching me a great deal from Plumbing skills, Woodworking skills and lots of ‘tips and tricks’ on general maintenance techniques. Imparting and sharing their knowledge and experience has been very useful in the short time we have been here, I would have had to manage without this knowledge, but it would have taken me a lot longer to achieve the desired results after a few (lots) of occasions of ‘that didn’t work, back to the drawing board‘ !! The days are just flying past and we love it here, I know it is early days yet, but it is a wonderful site in a wonderful location with wonderful views and many of our guests so far have been ‘regulars’, as in coming to this site every year for the last 30 years and as you may imagine they know how this site runs !! Actually, everyone we have met has been absolutely brilliant, very friendly and very good-humoured, they don’t even moan about the constant rain we have been experiencing, they just deal with it and either go out, dressed appropriately or remain in their vans watching the TV, DVD’s, reading books and magazines, baking, or watching and waiting for the opportunity to stop me for a ‘natter’ when they see me passing. We are not a busy site, well not as yet at least, probably because lots of caravanners and motorhomers that use campsites these days, although having perfectly usable on-board facilities of their own, prefer to use sites that provide these for them. Before arriving here I had anticipated that our customer base would be either single people or couples, of a certain age, and not families or the younger generation of camper but that theory was blown out of the water pretty quickly !! Having now spoken to a large selection of our guests they all state, without exception, that they enjoy this site for its quiet location yet close proximity to everything, towns, beaches, numerous attractions for all ages, walking routes, cycling routes and the views. They have the on site facilities to service their camping needs, Electric Hook Up, Calor Gas bottle exchange, Fresh Water Points, Grey Water Disposal, Chemical Toilet Disposal and a Motorhome Service Point, Large grass play area, Large dog walking and exercise field and for those who do not want to keep carting their home on wheels up and down each time, they can, for a nominal charge, store their vans in our storage compound, what more could they want ?¬†

So, as our working days are passing by pretty quickly, that means that our ‘split’ days off are coming around quickly as well, although not being quite as hardy as some of our more seasoned guests, some of those ‘off days’ have been spent relaxing in the warmth, dry and comfort of the ‘Little Fokker’. However, now that we have served our penance we are making the most of the drier and warmer weather and on our most recent half day, on the recommendation of one of our regular guests, we decided to explore the small Coastal village of ‘Instow’ at the mouth of the Estuary where the ‘Atlantic Ocean’ turns into two tidal Rivers, ‘The Taw’ and ‘The Torridge’.

Looking up the River Torridge towards Bideford from the mouth of the estuary at Instow

On the other bank of the Estuary lay the pretty coastal village of Appledore

Oh Yes ! One of these would suit me perfectly !!

On entering the village we could not get over just how busy it was, people everywhere, on the pavements, in the Cafe’s, sat on benches outside the local pub, on the beach and unfortunately they all had to park somewhere !! We drove the full length of the village, the car parks were full, the roadside kerbs were full, we thought we would be disappointed and have to leave our visit for another time, but fortunately, eagle-eyed Shazza saw a parking space just big enough to accommodate ‘Wuxly’ just outside the village, just a short five-minute stroll away.

Instow really is one of those chocolate box coastal villages, lovely seaside cottages and houses overlooking the Estuary and on the opposite bank another charming looking village of ‘Appledore’. We walked the full length of the village, Stopping to admire the sea views, the hoards of people on the beach, just walking, playing football and even sat on blankets on the sand eating their picnics, locally purchased pasties or ice creams and we thoroughly enjoyed just being part of the throng of happy people enjoying a warm sunny Sunday afternoon. We had agreed not to eat out again, well not of meal sized proportions at least but the walk by the sea has a way of getting the gastronomic taste buds going. We had passed a local Bakery, come Delicatessen, come Shop selling local produce which had a sign outside advertising ‘Devon Cream Tea’, well, that was it, what a splendid way to end our afternoon stroll by the sea, it had to be done, it would have been rude not to ?

The Cafe part of the establishment was not large, it only accommodated six tables, which were all occupied, but there were four bench type stools that were positioned in front of a large picture window that gave views over the Estuary to Appledore, two of the stools were empty, but not for long. It was a waitress table service arrangement, so whilst we waited to be served, we perused the list of highly tempting ‘edibles’ on the menu cards, out of curiosity more than anything else as we already knew what we were going to order, I still had the memory of the fabulous ‘Takeaway Devon Cream Tea’ and couldn’t wait to have another, but this time a proper ‘Tea Shop’ served one with a pot of strong hot tea that I didn’t have to make myself. We did not have too long a wait, the waitress arrived and we ordered our ‘Devon Cream Tea’s’, but one with Coffee, as Shazza does not drink tea. We waited for ages but eventually Shazza’s coffee arrived, she tried to not drink it too quickly so that she could enjoy some of it with her Strawberry Jam and Clotted Cream Scone. After waiting for around ten-minutes, there was still no sign of our much awaited tasty treat arriving so Shazza drank the remainder of her now much cooler cup of coffee, we had observed other’s who had arrived after us, sit down, have their orders taken and subsequently delivered whilst we were still waiting !! Perhaps they had gone to Ilfracombe to get our Devon Cream Tea from the ‘Takeaway Shop’ ? We were just about to give up, pay for the coffee then leave when finally the waitress headed in our direction, no best china crockery here, a small wooden platter, more like a small cheeseboard affair with a handle, upon it were two scones, if we had joined them together they still would not have equalled the size of just one of our ‘Takeaway Scones’, one small tub of jam and one small tub of Clotted Cream, had she got our order wrong, was this platter in fact a single persons portion and another would follow ? We soon discovered that was a ‘No’ then, and to make matters go from bad to worse, another missing item was ‘my’ pot of Tea !! I kept trying to attract the attention of the waitress but she was having none of it, no eye contact, no looking in our direction and so I had to make a choice, stop eating my poor excuse for a ‘Devon Cream Tea’ and go and ask where my pot of tea was, or, finish our poor excuse for a ‘Devon Cream Tea’, pay and leave totally disgusted with a promise to ourselves never to return. We agreed on the latter course of action, we approached the till and, with a smile on her face, the waitress who had taken our order said “Was everything okay for you“, now a typically British person would have responded ‘Yes, thank you’ paid and left, we British do not complain, we even take our place in a queue and wait, and wait and wait, we may not be happy but we are British, we never complain. However, being not typically British and someone who hates bad service, poor standards of food and generally paying for a service and not getting it I said, “Actually no, we waited for ages before my wife got her Coffee, the Devon Cream Tea came out twenty-minutes later, by which time my wife had finished her Coffee, and to top that I didn’t even get my pot of tea“, her face dropped, a lady behind her at the counter, I assumed she was either the owner or the manager, said “You didn’t get your pot of tea, I am so sorry, would you like it as a takeaway ?” I am not sure how I stopped myself from saying, “Are you taking the Piss !!” Instead, I maintained my composure and simply stated, “No thank you, I just want to pay the bill minus the cost of a pot of tea“. We paid our discounted bill and walked back to Wuxly, what had started as a lovely afternoon was soured slightly with a rather disappointing finish, so, I guess my experience of a traditional Devon delicacy could be summed up simply as ‘A Tale Of Two Devon Cream Tea’s

And the perfect sunset to end yet another day !!

 

Posted in Winter 2015/16 | 4 Comments