359-477 : Gin Journey Better than Vehicle Journey

Text by J

Pix By K … just in case you don’t recognise his inimitable style!

359 -362 Saturday 27th – Tuesday 30th August 2016:  Mooching at Ash Vale

Saturday in UK – sun shining – a good place to be… train to Ealing via Reading to meet Sarah, Sinead and the gorgeous Jade – all of one year old – mind you, the 2 S’s are very gorgeous too !

Proud parent/grandparent and the girls lunched well at a classy restaurant in Ealing – so classy Sarah and I had a classy hamburger – Sinead had been over partying the night before with the extended Clune family and was ever so slightly off colour… but a grand time…. SouthWest trains ferried me back to North Camp station.

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K’s walk over Ash Ranges … a haze of heather.

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And a distant view of Guildford Cathedral.  The Ranges are usually verboten to the public, except for high days and holidays, so it was great to be able to walk over some of my childhood haunts before the fences.

As Chardonnay was reclining at Fair Oaks (K’s sisters house), we decided to give her a wash and rinse. K had found a super product on the net “1drywash” – no water required – microfibre cloths, spray the liquid on and the cloths lifted the considerable grime – 6 months of dirt from France and Italy – the last wash was at Punta Braccetto on the south coast of Sicilia…  As I polished the surface to a gleaming shine, I was reminded of the song from HMS Pinafore – “I polished up the knob on the big brass door – and now I am the ruler of the Queen’s Navy!”  I suppose Chardonnay is a grand ship (the only one) in our navy and we need to keep her ’shipshape and Bristol fashion’!  The dirt was well above her ‘plimsoll line’ before we started – another nautical term that originated in Brizzle.   

The following day saw us commencing our income tax returns – what did Benjamin Franklin say? “Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes!”  We’ll pay the taxes and stay with the living…  Now, I have done self assessment online for years – this time HMRC didn’t want to let me log in – multifarious phone calls to a million phone menus and submenus – and emails – I gave up and I have decided to get a good old fashioned paper copy of the forms…  HMRC website is having technical problems – did Benjamin Franklin do it online…  it was in the 1740s! He inventd the lightning rod, bifocal glasses and the urinary catheter tube!  Are you all glad you read this erudite blog? Nothing geeky here then…

Following the excitement of the tax return debacle … (J can’t log in as his passport is Irish and you just can’t get hold of a person if you ring!), a still day – walking the dog and seeing K’s munchkin – Maddy!

Dawn next day saw Katherine driving her parents to Heathrow for a flight to Chicago – the windy city!  Another small piece of erudition – why is it called ‘the windy city’?  Nothing to do with the strong winds on Lake Michigan – in the 1870s (and now?), the city was full of windy politicians who delivered hot air!  I’m clearly on a roll – why is the baseball USA Championships called “the World Series?”  Many folk think it’s the USA stating it rules the world of baseball – but no, the original championships were sponsored by the New York World newspaper!  

Back to the intrepid Aged Ps and their latest world travels (and no – they are not sponsored by any newspaper!) – they are starting to drive on Route 66 on a Harley Davidson motorcycle with Diane piloting and Grahame on the pillion seat – ‘giving advice’ in fluent Spanish!  Diane replies in fluent German and they understand each other perfectly.  I am refusing to ruin a good story by substituting a Hertz rentacar for the Harley – you will all agree…

If you want a ripping read about the Chicago 1893 World Fair – read/download “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson….not for the faint hearted though… about the original serial killer. 

Afternoon – the gallant Autoglass engineer came to replace the windscreen in Grahame and Diane’s family charabanc…  and some house cleaning at Rothbury for the return of the not-hairy bikers from USland.

463 – Wednesday 31st August 2016:  Big Spend in Southampton!

Munchkin Maddy was encouraged to leave her bed in the middle of the night – 0830 hours actually – to accompany Mum (et moi) to Southampton for the big pre-Uni expenditure! Computer purchase in the Apple store followed by buying up most of Ikea!  I took Oscar and Chardonnay to Fiat to have a faulty engine sensor replaced at a cost of £300!  There must be blog followers out there that have suffered from the faulty engine management system light on the dashboard – something of a black art…  I must stress that Oscar does not have a faulty sensor – his sensors are particularly well tuned – to food especially.   

464 – Thursday 1st September 2016:  Dancing Cows – Really?

Thursday – and a mini MoT for myself – there appears to be no faulty (or Fawlty) sensors here either – varicose blood tests, etc.

New Forest was our next adventure – another joyful meeting with Frances and Edward – we have followed each other in our motorhomes around Euroland – first meeting for a liquid New Years Eve in Port Empedocle near Agricento (valley of the Greek temples) on the south coast of Sicilia… the motto on their van is “adventure before dementia”! We have had some ‘adventias’ with those lovely folk!   A grand New Forest lunch and reminiscing…Oscar learned one of life’s lessons – don’t walk up behind a New Forest pony – he received an educational glancing hoof blow for his troubles – the pony delivered this without so much as glancing up from his/her grassmunching! 

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Would this one be edible, or just beautiful?

Whilst in Lyndhurst, we discovered “Dancing Cow” gin! Distilled locally, it is strong – well, you know how a cow behaves after a stiff gin – she dances!  Marshfield Farm ice cream was a must – it comes from “Pennsylvania” village (not Transylvania) – and not in the USA – but on the A46 going in towards Bath…

Following on advice from Frances and Edward, we wild camped along the seafront in Barton on Sea – gorgeous views and starry night – looking out to the Needles on the Isle of Wight. There are three Needles but there was a fourth – a sharp shaped rock of chalk that collapsed in a storm in 1764 – called “Lot’s Wife”!  I’m not suggesting any of our wives have sharp tongues…

K has been reminded that this week is return to school for students and teachers – she really wishes she was there with you all in Cotham School…. well, perhaps not… but our sympathies to all teachers who labour far too hard and long – for their vocation and not for the money…

464 – Friday 2nd September 2016:  Wet so Nothing For It …

We walked along the fast eroding clifftop from Barton to Milford on Sea in pouring rain with soggy doggy – the only solace was hot sausage rolls from a burger bar… followed by a liquid and shared lunch in a pub.  Purchase of the Dancing Cow and Apple Vodka from across the road … we did not have to wobble far.

Keyhaven on the same coast was our nightly free bivuac – more starry skies and dreams of ice cream… 

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You can just make out the Needles off the Island, as the locals call the Isle of Wight.

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The cliff path was sort of officially closed as so much had eroded into the sea and the local farmer is objecting to the path encroaching more into his fields.

465 – Saturday 3rd September 2016:  Second Home & a Second and Third Boutique Gin

Walk around the wild life area and salt flats of Keyhaven …  We have deduced that ‘twitchers’ are not the most communicative folk – obviously wrapped up in their watchfulness – armed with ‘big uns’ – binoculars and lenses actually – not anything else!  


I want to ride in this boat … so to speak!  Just look at that name.


Looking back to Keyhaven harbour.  Chardonnay is just above the far right boat.  A super overnight spot.


View across to Hurst Castle.

Quick shop at Lidl in Barton and then food prep back along the coast … not far from the marshfield ice cream vendor … had to go back for another!

Michelle and Craig came to supper – we were now back in Coxbridge Farm CL – we sample another boutique gin – “Brockmans” and a rhubarb gin – is there a gin theme here? The lovely Tabitha (just passed her test!) was chauferrying her parents, gladly.


Umm, which to taste first?  And Michelle and Craig, are you sure you don’t want to leave them with us?!


J on a sounds like …  a win … gin!

466 – Sunday 4th September 2016:  Music in the Meadow

Lazy morning – benefits of retirement and the wonderful world of motor homing…

Off to “Music in the Meadows” in Farnham – with Sharon – free rock and roll – and ice creams – not free… 


Pic actually from a few weeks ago … this one was not so sunny, but we still managed an ice-cream … not Marshfields though!

Friends in the evening in a Guildford pub – another stress-free day – pretty much like all our days… 

467 – 468: Monday 5th September – Tuesday 6th:  Min Trip to Bristol

The lovely vet in Aldershot – Sarah – administered some of Oscar’s vaccinations – necessary for his travels in Euroland this winter – France, Spain and Portugal…

And onto Weston-Super-Mare is not “Weston-Super-Sludge” really but at low tide there is a lot of – sludge! We caninely ambulated to Sandy Bay headland and the views out over the Severn Estuary are quintessentially English. Lundy Island, etc.  Nightfall – a nice free lay-by with 2 other Hymers – friendly folk – as all charabanchomers are indeed!

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Water on my left …

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… and on my right.

469 – Wednesday 7th September 2016:  Catch Up Walk

Wednesday 0900 hours – our Mercedes station wagon/shooting brake/estate car into Merc Weston – for – another one of those pernickety engine sensors! Now, my theory is that there is a factory in charabancland that makes these things that catch you out just when you say “we’ve spent enough money on this vehicle for the current year”!

A walk along the Severn from Lovers Lane/North Warth Road to Severn Beach where I resided for 10 years as a hairy hermit (no bike though) before meeting the love of my life – Oscar! No – Katherine!  My grand residence was ‘bijou’ and was filled to the gunnels with – books – many on 16th century England and a certain poet called Christopher Marlowe whom I may just have mentioned before in these musings… An Elizabethan rake, spy, street fighter – and alleged author of the Shakespearean canon.  I must quote from “Doctor Faustus”:

“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships

and burnt the topless towers of Illium

Sweet Helen make me immortal with a kiss

Her lips suck forth my soul, see where it flies” 

According to the official inquest conducted by Colonel Danby, the Queens coroner, he was stabbed to death on 31st May 1593 in a lodging house in Deptford Strand – but we Marlovians believe he was secretly transported to france on the evening tide – to live in Europe for many years sending back plays to a Mr Shakespeare for publication under WS’s name…  One of the best books on the subject is “The Reckoning” by Charles Nicholl…

On our walk through the village, we met Amanda whom I knew from the local Estate Agents, Nicky who owns Downes Bakery – she provided us with half price coffee and munchies. I just had to visit the Second Crossing Maintenance Unit – where I re met wonderful ex-colleagues and firm friends – more tea and reminiscing… my time with Bridges was the most satisfying work experience – ever!

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The Second Severn Crossing.

K went Merc Weston to collect the suitably repaired car – and Oscar and I set sail for Hortham Farm CL – just a few hundred metres from our Brizzle residences. We corralled the wagons in a circle – fought off the ‘Injuns’ – rescued the womenfolk – too many John wayne films, James… Anyway, we set up our nest for the night to await Oscar’s Mummy. She arrived in the pm and a peaceful evening …… with a BBQ.

470 – Thusday 8th September 2016:  The Hab Door is Usable BUT …

Walking on Brizzle Downs – after we dropped Chardonnay at Family Leisure Travel …what an amenity – one adjoining road is Ladies Walk – ladies of the night – or the good merchants of Bristols’ ladies – who knows? our lovely lady K was there – with her men – moi and Oscar…  Time on our hands … Blaise Castle –  – beautiful forest walk (no shortage of perambulationing today) – and guess what again? Marshfield Farm ice cream!  

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Knobbly at Blaise.

Our home-from-home van was ready at 3:30 pm – a moderate bill to FLT (always reasonable) and I joyfully set course for Hortham Farm for a relaxing evening… “many a slip twixt cup and lip” !  One mile from FLT – the charabanc of love did a fair imitation of the Dying Swan – right on the dual carriageway!  I pleaded with her – cajoled her – prayed… but only engine sighs in response, alas.  Now James – “nil desperandum – non illegitimi carborundum” – get out your school Latin grammars, folks…   What does every man do in an emergency – you telephone your wife, of course!  K reversed her path from the nearby Lidl and went into the nearby Fiat garage to seek assistance. Fiat gentleman engineer came with her to our stricken swan – and plugged in the diagnostic magic box – have you ever seen a swan plugged into a magic box?  More sighs and head scratching – no result but lots of indecipherable code numbers – and no – not a lottery win – that would be useful!  AA engineer arrived to scratch his head knowingly followed by the chap that should have been a low loader (!) – this was 6 people thus far thread scratching – including Oscar!  9:30 pm saw a low loader to hoist the swan on board – so carefully that swan’s bottom was millimetres from the tarmac…  very sad to see our home being transported away on a truck.  We drove in our K Merc back to Hortham Farm to pick up a few things – and then headed for K’s parents house in Ash Vale – for a stiff drink!  Thank you very much Grahame and Diane – again…..

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About to be hoisted up…

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Just spotted in time that the large rear end was about to be scrapped alone the tarmac …  ‘sliders’ being put into place.

471-477 -Friday 9th – Thursday 15th September 2016:  Sitting Pretty and Comfortable

We have spent most of the last week doing jobs, dog walking, dining with Caroline and Terry … 

The Girls (some of K’s oldest, nothing to do with their age – although Al is now officially 2 years older than K … until December!) and families came over on Sunday afternoon …


I will get that bear from you …


 … how high?


The younger generation girls behaved and put on a dance show, the two dogs chased and play fought and even the adults sort of behaved!


The most amazing choc almond cake courtesy of Bron and her two girls. 

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How cute is he?

We popped down to see lovely Gladys in Eastbourne (94 years young) – walking on Beachey Head – reading sad memorials to the people who jumped in desperation of their lives… it puts our problems into perspective – our van can be repaired/replaced – but people cannot be replaced…  

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 Eastbourne from Beachy Head.

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A few of the memorials … a Chaplain’s car was parked nearby.

K has been out spending with Maddy buying more necessary items … folders, pens, 3M Command tape and …. makeup!

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OK, I may be about to go off to Uni, but what are these things?

As I write, Fiat of Bristol just phoned – to say they thought the solution was found – road tested the van – and it has broken down – a low loader is on it’s way – deja vu?   The glass is still half full, we say…..












450 – 458: The Lakes

450 – Wednesday 17th August 2016:  Up to the Lakes – Eventually

I took Oscar to the vet for his Rabies jab … he gave a non-manly, wimpy yelp.  Then the plan was for me to leave the car on the Aged P’s drive and James to pick us up in the van, as it is not easy to get it in and out of my parent’s drive … too many overhanging branches and an oak tree half way up, which I know only too well!  Many moons ago I reversed up the drive with the driver’s door open … it did not stay attached to the car!

However, J had managed to get hold of the right person at Viscount Motorhomes near Southampton, as we wanted the leak from the fresh water tank sorted … they would squeeze us in if we brought the van straight down.  So about turn and, not knowing how long they would keep the van, we took the car down too.  As it happened, Chris saw us straight away and, despite his suit trousers, crawled underneath and managed a sort of Heath Robinson fix.  And all for £20 cash.  Highly recommend Viscount!   The overflow pipe had come unattached and a proper fix would mean dropping the water tank.  He thinks that this will hold, but as we are heading off to Spain and Portugal for the Winter, we’ll get Family Leisure Travel in Bristol just to check it out in September when Chard makes a visit to them.  

We then drove back up to Ash Vale to finally drop the car … it was gone 3.00 p.m. by now.   Choices, do we drive till about 6.00 and stop or push on through and get to near Alderley Edge in Cheshire as was the original plan?  We hit rush hour traffic approaching Birmingham, so we made good use of the 2hr motorway services free parking time limit.  We cooked supper, washed up and had a nanny nap.  By the time we set off again with 5 mins to spare before incurring a ‘you’ve outstayed your welcome’ massive fine, the traffic had all cleared and we felt refreshed.  We drove on to about 12 km from Alderley Edge to an off road lay-by listed by wild camping.co.uk …. we drove in and straight out.  5 solitary men all waiting for a female to arrive, and it weren’t gonna be me!!!!  Fortunately there was another off road lay-by half a mile away.  This one was frequented by a couple of trucks, who were settled for the night without fee paying company!  Much more peaceful!


451 – Thursday 18th August 2016:  Alderley Edge (WORK) Walk

A short drive, passing the East Cheshire Hospice in Macclesfield, where a fellow motorhome blogger’s (manlyferry.com) wife was with cancer.  He blogged later that she passed away the next day.  

We parked up in the Alderley Edge National Trust car park and followed a walk I’d found on the internet … it took in a real mix of scenery:  the Edge and its rock formations, fields and some of the most expensive real estate I’ve ever seen … footballer territory.  Some serious renovations / extensions going on.  A Porsche next to a Range Rover, both with 16 plates was not uncommon!   Lovely rolling views across the Cheshire scenery.   

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Alderley Edge: we did not add our own names to the graffiti.

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A very classic Jag, followed by a Porche – no point us checking out price houses here!


A random bunch of flowers on a bench … has to be a story here.

Soup in the van and then we did a couple of hours work!  Yes, really WORK!  That dreaded word that J retired and I fled from.  J had been approached by a former business contact … would he be the critical friend on their bid to manage the transfer of the Severn Bridges back to the Government?  At a rather day good rate!  J read through the bid documents … he’d even written most of the bid spec!  I wrote his CV and Pen Portrait for the bid document … amazing how much he’d done that sounds really REALLY good in his career.  If anyone else is interested in using him as a ‘critical friend’ … in his specialist areas of construction, PFI, bridges, concession agreements, Gaelic Football and, of course, red wine … let me know and I’ll send you his most impressive CV!

There was an ice cream van in the car park and for once, it was not a Mr Whippy, but proper scoop flavours … we deserved it after doing WORK!

We packed up and headed on up fairly close to the Lakes.  We stopped along a pretty valley in the Trough of Bowland … never heard of it before.  Very rural and a lot of sheep.  In for a really quiet night … we thought.  We watched a tractor towing a box on wheels with a couple of youths in it.  20 mins later it returned overflowing with youths.  We twigged …. A Level Results night + a few tents in the field next to us + drunken youngsters DOES NOT = a quiet night.  So we washed up and drove a mile up the road, where it was quiet.  We made the observation that both Maddy and her friends were ALL hitting the night clubs, but here in the country they camped around a bonfire … know what I’d rather do!


452 – Friday 19th August 2016:  Ravenglass for a Week

Wet, wet wet!  And not a boy band!  Grr!  I needed to return a 12 volt light strip to the eBay seller as I’d actually ordered a 12 volt fan … they would send me the fan free of charge, if I returned the light strip.  We stopped in Ulvertson, put on all our waterproofs and I printed the return label in the Library.  I am now the proud owner of a Cumbrian Library Card … I had to join as a member to be able to use the computer for all of 3 mins to print the label!  Being wet and miserable, there was nothing for it but to repair to a Trip Advisor recommended hostelry for lunch!  A new experience for us … we had to sit outside with the smokers due to the dog.  

We’d booked a 2 bed with en suites cottage for a week with the Aged P’s.  We originally had planned to travel to France on 15th September when the Aged P’s were to be in the States (again!), so this was an opportunity for us to spend some time together.  Little did they realise at the time that we’d end up seeing quite a bit of us!   A really comfortable cottage on a working farm.  The owner had fingers in lots of pies … beef calf raising, firewood deliveries, holiday cottages, and bed sits … his family were just about to move out of dairy … farmers receive 13 pence per litre, but it costs 23 pence to produce.  Only downside of the cottage was the kitchen which lacked essentials so half the contents of Chardonnay’s kitchen ended up inside.  2 km walk down to the estuary and then across to Ravenglass.  A handy location just off the main A595.


453-458 – Saturday 20th – Friday 26th:  Aged P’s First Lakes

Given my parents travelled all my life.  I know no-one else who has been to all the States in the USA (bar Hawii, which they don’t fancy).  They have now hit the 100 counties visited.  Yet, they had not been to the Lakes!  J lived and worked up here for a while and we’ve visited together about 4 times and love it … we really wanted them to love it too.  But the start of the week was not propitious to generate a similar feeling in them.  It rained.  And rained some more.

On Saturday, we took delivery of our week’s food … Tesco delivery from 27 miles away … what good service.  Mum and I knitted!  And then she unpicked what I’d done!  A few days ago,I’d discovered she’d nearly finished her own jumper so I’d taken her to the local wool shop … she’s knitting me a thick jumper with a pattern and what are little hernias or nipples, depending in where they land!  I’m being supervised on a very simple poncho, where I still manage to fail to count 8 stitches accurately.  

In between downpours I walked to Ravenglass and then the Aged P’s ventured out.  We all got caught and came back drenched, down to our knickers!  J had bolted back to the house at the first hint of a raindrop, but stayed dry!!!

On Sunday, it was still raining.  J and I pulled out the trusty wet weather gear and packed a picnic.  The plan was to catch the ‘Lil Ol Ratty’ steam train up and walk the 9 miles back.  But the train had suffered a rain induced land slip and was not running.  In fact there had been so much flash flooding that a number of stations and roads were also closed.  We went to coffee and cake whilst we considered walking halfway up the Eskdale Trail and then back again.  We bumped into the Aged P’s who’d driven round to Ravenglass …. their boots were still wet from yesterday despite newspaper being stuffed in them and the heater and hairdryer from the van, and they did not fancy another drenching.  They put us onto the right path and off we set … stripping layers as the weather improved.  We turned back as I sunk up to my knee in mud and bog where a tree had blown over.  


The rain did clear but it largely remained misty.


Our spirits were not dampened!


Soggy Doggy!


This path is impassable!


A very high tide covering the path back from Ravenglass.  J sporting his multipurpose sun / rain hat.

Monday saw us go to Hilltop, the National Trust home of Beatrice Potter.  This was her home before she married the local solicitor.  She kept the house as her work studio.  She purchased a lot of land and farms and being passionate about farming and left it all to the National Trust, some of it in her lifetime.  


Beatrice did all the drawings; she had a Scientist’s eye.


‘Satisfactory in every way’ – Quite a warm commendation for a Victorian!


Peter Rabbit must be around the corner.

Tuesday boded changeable for the weather so we headed up to Cockermouth to see Wordsworth’s birth house.  Another new dog experience as J and I had to take turns to go in.  We had a picnic on a thoughtfully supplied table and benches along the river.  A local explained how the diggers were there to dredge the river as part of the flood prevention measures, but it had been too wet to put them into action.  She’d lost most of her possessions in flooding two years ago. 

“I wandered lonely as a cloud 

that flies on high o’er hills and dales

when oft upon my couch I lie

in vacant or in pensive mood”


Childrens’ poetry amongst the apples in Wordsworth’s birth house.

 On the way home we directed Dad (who did all the driving, as we’d never have got Chard down some of the lanes) along Wast Water to Wasdale Head.  This is J’s favourite lake which he introduced me to … the deepest in England and a good starting point for a climb up Scafell.  Although Mum and I had designated today a dry day … there was pub and the sun happened to come out so we sat on a bench admiring the bucolic scenery (water, hills and sheep) consuming a drink followed by an ice-cream for us and chocolate for them.  Lovely … so pleased to show them this area.


The sheep on the other bank were being rounded up at speed. 

Wednesday was due to be fair so we directed Dad up Hardknott Pass and Wrynose.  The wheels did scrabble on a couple of hairpins.  We tend to think of the fells rather than the lakes. And this is the Lakes at its best.  A number of hairy passing ‘situations’ including a blonde in a BMW jeepy thing who did not know her edges and very nearly took the wheel arch off the Aged’s car, totally ignoring my instructions.  The motorcyclist, held up by her incompetence, had a few words to say about idiots in cars too big for them!  

James had been threatening to get me to run up Hardknott and a few months ago, I would have given it my best shot, but I’d had a nasty touch of food poisoning recently and not been running … that’s my excuse anyway!  James, what’s yours?  


Up at Hardknott – it would have been a killer run.  Whoever thought I’d be grateful to food poisoning!





We picnicked at the south of Grassmere water … very pretty and again a generously provided bench.  Grassmere is the burial place of Wordsworth so we viewed the grave and consumed an ice cream … Mum didn’t you consume most of a bag of fudge???  I managed to consume two pairs of shorts and a pair of walking trousers in the Mountain Warehouse epic sale for £28!  The trousers alone should have been £50.  Love a bargain!  Can justify the spend with a bargain!!


Mum and I walked from our picnic spot to the southern point of Grassmere Water.


Thursday: Dad had been doing all the driving and tomorrow would be the long drive home, so today we decided would be a no drive day … other than we cadged a lift to Ravenglass to catch the steam train up.  Actually being the first train of the day, (yes we were up and at ‘em in time for the 9.25 am departure) it was diesel and we got 10% off :).  A pretty ride up and we managed to prevent Oscar from leaping from the moving doorless carriage!  Coffee and cake at the top.  The Aged P’s had a walk and caught a train back down.  J and I headed off to do the complete Eskdale Trail.  The place where I’d sunk on Sunday had largely dried up.  An excellent walk and really well signposted.


On the narrow gauge railway.



Other than the amendment to our EuroTunnel booking … this is Oscar’s first ticket.





We stopped to chat to a local near the house at the end of the walk … an exhausted Oscar found a soft spot of verge and went to sleep!

Being the Bank Holiday weekend, we all decided to leave really early on Friday to avoid the holiday congestion.  The Aged P’s left about 7.00 and we were 30 mins behind them as we had to try to de-fluff the house a bit … we keep seeing white fur balls from Oscar!  Seeing accidents is always unsettling, and sadly we saw a 7 car nudge up and then later a more serious rolled car … not a good start to the Bank Holiday.  We’d decided to stay at the Aged P’s as it is really handy for the station and J was catching the train on Saturday up to London to see his two daughters and granddaughter.







437-449: Settling Oscar

437 – Thursday 4th August:  Oscar Collection Day

A good run around the resevoir and we set of to collect Oscar.  He is indeed a handsome beastie, but somewhat scarred and very scabby from his most recent hammer and tongs fight with the other dog in the house last Saturday.  Apparently the battles commenced as soon as Oscar hit two years old and his testosterone started raging!  He has sores on his snout as well from where he was muzzled.  So he came from a loving home, but needed to be in a single dog household.  Another bonus … he’s used to travelling in a motorhome as the previous owner showed all her dogs.  Win win!

Only 5 mins away was Pets At Home …. £251 lighter, we came away with leads, bed, food etc!

We could have descended on my ever accommodating parents, but as we spend most of our time living in Chardonnay, we felt it wisest to book onto a caravan Club CL so we could be still and get Oscar used to us and being in the ‘van.  I’d booked 13 nights at Coxbridge Farm, caravan Club CL  in Farnham, which is:  

  1. very near the Aged P’s, my sister & family and a lot of friends 
  2. where J and I got married 5 years ago … was it really so long ago?  The time has flown by 🙂
  3. where I grew up, so I know the area really well.  

I was delighted to find that my old very pragmatic vet (Sarah who’d ‘vetted’ my previous 3 dogs … and put two of them down!) was still in Aldershot – appointment booked 🙂

IMG 0912 Maddy meeting Oscar. 

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Handsome boy.

438-449 – Friday 5th August to Wednesday 16th August: Settling Oscar

We’ve walked a lot and soon discovered that we can let Oscar off the lead … he does not stray far.  We are working on his recall, and unsurprisingly he can be a bit deaf, so we are careful where we let him off.  Strangely he has been discouraged from swimming … a Springer not like water … unheard off!  We are sort of encouraging him in, but on second thoughts could this be another Oscar bonus as do we really want a wet dog in our motorhome?!?  Training is going well as he is seriously greedy.  

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Not sure about this wet stuff!

The vet suggested we delay his series of jabs (normal jabs & booster as the previous owner did not believe in them, rabies for the pet passport and kennel cough as we don’t know the dogs he will be meeting) … a series of 4 appointments, each about 2 weeks apart.  Ho hum … we’ll have to put back our departure to France to the start of October.  Fortunately we are not inconveniencing Kay and Stephen who were going to travel out with their two collies with us, as their Taz is lame and needs to be kept quiet.  

We’ve also been catching up with a lot of friends and I’ve been able to see a lot of Maddy and the Aged P’s.  Maddy made the mistake of running at Oscar so he’s now nervous of her.  The Aged P’s are very dog friendly – they’ve dog sat all my previous Springers – numerous times.  For some reason Oscar is terrified of Dad and avoids Mum … can only think it is because we’ve been at their house a lot and he thinks we may leave him there.  Dad blowing raspberries at him may not have helped!!!

It feels like Oscar been part of our lives for ever already.  We are tripping over him a bit in the van, but his bead is under the table and we are training him to respond to “in yer bed” when we move around.  We also lifted the carpets, which to be fair were pretty stained and these have gone to that free and large repository, called the Aged P’s attic!

A great decision to ring the Welshie rescue organiser … we’ve landed a gem. 

We took the van to Southampton Fiat Professional to check out the diesel particulate filter and loss of power … all good, but the sensor is faulty … a known Ducato issue, but the part is in back order … at least we know we’re fine to drive Chardonnay.  We also managed to get a slot in Viscount Motorhomes in Southampton to look at our on board water leak.  It turns out the overflow pipe had come out of the tank … £20 cash for a 10 min turn around and what he hopes will be a permanent heath robinson fix.

289 – Feeding Frenzy

May 30th 206 – 12th June …. Repairs and Seeing People

Bristol for Chardonnay’s visit to the motorhome surgeon

From the Wildcamping.co.uk Rutland meet we stayed on Bristol Marina for 2 nights, courtesy of a friend.  Great location, right on the harbourside.  Dentist for K (just a filling), picked up my car from Mercedes, who had kindly agreed to do a bumper paint job FOC, and we dropped Chardonnay in for her repairs.  These were jobs that Family Leisure Travel in Brislington (Bristol) had not had time to do in April, had not been able to get hold of the parts and to deal with the dreaded damp they had found on her habitation service.  We did manage to catch up with quite a few friends in one sitting and had a great meal out.  

On one of our morning runs, J spotted a cyclist that had been knocked off her bike at a roundabout … he checked she was OK, whilst I got to control the traffic flow around the roundabout …. oh the power.  I was quite disappointed when the Policeman thanked me and told me he could take over!  But if I ever need a job, it fair beats teaching!


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Surprised to spot this advert!  And on a newish truck.

Ash Vale – Home!

Having left Chard in Bristol, we were now homeless.  So we moved into our ‘official’ residence.  Post comes here.  The car and Chard are registered here. Our Brexit Postal Vote came here.  We have occupied half the attic with a lot of our stuff.  We keep a wash kit here.  K’s parents are very long suffering!  Whilst here for a week, we managed to catch up with a few people and had a few days out with the Aged P’s.


Al & Mark, Bron & Dave and Gill & Gordon in Kingston

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Aged P’s impression of the stone Eagle at The Vyne, National Trust

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Maddy Munchkin – this is apple juice, honest.

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Lunch out – “Was I sharing the Black Sambucca? Better have one of my own!!!”

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A Basingstoke Canalside run … this poor swan had 9 cygnets.  Could have been all hers or perhaps it was a cygnet Play Date.

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More canal wildlife, which gave me an excuse to pause in my running!

We also managed to squeeze in a tea, and thanks for the homemade scones, with Sharon and Katharine and K had a great fish BBQ with Bev, Mike and Lottie, whilst James met up with his youngest daughter and eldest son in London.  The week past in such a blur and we did not manage to do everything we’d planned.  I think there may have been 11 loads through the washing machine!

We collected Chard on the Friday …. all repairs completed 🙂 and drove back to Surrey … I followed J in the car and received a phone all from an unknown number – Candida, an ex colleague, had recognised my car as she overtook me on the M4 …. great to have a catchup.

We park Chard at my sister’s house as she has room on the drive.  They also fed us and we fed the fire pit!  A bit of a later night than planned, but after a long day, we deserved a bevy.

I don’t know how, but we filled the car removing our sacks of washing etc from the Aged P’s house to take over to Chardonnay.  Dad came with us to take the car back to its official residence.  We arrived at Clare’s and the gate code would not work.  Clare, Chris and family all out!  Bugger – I’d got frozen foods that needed urgently to go into the freezer.  My hero came to the rescue … we lobbed James over the fence (his crown jewels took a bit of a beating whilst he balanced on the top) and he drove Chard down the drive to activate the gates … we then nipped through whilst he reversed several bendy hundred feet. 


Feeding Non-stop in the New Forest (Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June)

We’d originally planned to meet Penny, a motorhomer we’d met in Italy and kept in touch with, but she had to work. So J had got in touch with Geoff and Carole, who gave us tea, cucumber sarnies and scones!  They are both petrol heads who are celebrating their Ruby Wedding next weekend …. between them they have 3 MGs and two other cars … we both fell in love with this 1993 V8, which was Carole’s new toy …

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The pic does not do it justice … it really is a thing of beauty and given their wedding anniversary and the colour, it’s name …. Ruby!

We arrived in New Milton to be fed a BBQ by Frances and Edward … this is the amazing couple we met twice in Sicily and then again in Naples … they, like us, like food, travel and can knock back a glass or two …. no wonder we get on so well!  Not only had they offered us their driveway for two nights, but the electric hook up cable was ready and waiting for us.    The Sunday plan was to picnic at the town Queen’s Birthday celebration with another couple, but as you know plans do not always get stuck to.  We started on the sherry at 11.45.  Lunch was leisurely.  So leisurely that we did not finish until 10.00 pm …. I think this must have been the longest lunch record for us all!  The closest we got to the Queen’s festivities was the program of events that Edward printed off!  We did raise a glass to her Majesty.  

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Would that be the bottle of Benedictine we’re battling through?!  Was I posing for the photo, or can’t I sit up straight?

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Inspired by Frances and Edward, I too wore red, white and blue.  Being Irish, J was absolved.

289 – Monday 13th June:  Back on the Road again

The feeding did not stop … we were breakfasted on smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, followed by a choice of three homemade marmalades!   I would declare that we will stop this feeding frenzy and get back onto a carefully controlled diet (well for me), but I can’t quite see the end of it yet.  We have driven up from the New Forest to Scotland – just over the border to a wild camping next to Gretna.  Tomorrow we will visit a good friend of J’s from when he worked in Jordan … I suspect that more good food is to come our way … I have managed to remain tee total tonight.

Whilst it is absolutely brilliant to spend time with friends and family (and I am missing Maddy and the Aged P’s especially), we are both very happy to be back on the road heading for places, scenery and adventures we don’t yet know.  

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Our nosey neighbours on our overnight pitch.


376-381: Bristol Rugby, Exploring and National Trust in Cheshire.

376 – Wednesday 18th 2016:  Bristol Rugby v Doncaster Knights … VICTORIOUS

Doncaster in 2016 will now be famous for – giving Bristol Rugby half a leg up into the Premiership!  We met Tracey and John as arranged – and had a couple of beers before the game… the first half was inconsequential – but Brizzle opened up after half time and got clear by 15 points at the end.  These points will be carried forward to the second leg on Wednesday 25th in Bristol – we must find a pub to watch the return to top flight rugby – after 7 years of waiting…  But, many a slip betwixt cup and lips….

Before the game, we caught the 81/82 bus into the city centre.  The terminus was at the modern shopping centre; you could have been anywhere in the country!  Doncaster does not feature in any of the guidebooks, but google had revealed that there are some fine Georgian buildings, a Mansion House and a Museum.  The visit to the TIC revealed that they were all … shut today!  Ho hum.  There are the well renowned markets to see … but again, today mostly shut.  Obviously the RFU, Sky and Doncaster city did not liaise about what visitors might be able to see.


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Doncaster has been the victim or poor urban planning, but the historic markets are renowned for their fresh foods … just not fully operational today.

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The Minster was burned down in 1853 and rebuilt in gothic revival style. The architect was the prolofic George Gilbert Scott; amongst his works are Westminster Abbey and the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park.

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The Edmund Schulze organ was installed in 1862.  I KNOW we’ve seen another Schulze somewhere, but can’t for the life of me remember where and can’t find it on the web either.  

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What a nerve racking first half.  


377 – Thursday 19th May 2016:  Three Reservoir Bike Ride

Good parking near the Ladybower reservoir – and we set off with our silent bikes (we are missing the dragging hum of J’s rear brake that has followed us around Europe for a year … he’s not missing the extra effort of the constantly on brake though!)  – for an estimated 18-mile tour of the waters.  How can you have inclines, declines and reclines around flat water?  But, it was mostly flatclines to be fair.  An early stop for coffee and a cake – consumed, despite the attentions of the entire Mallard family!   Good easy cycling – and a lunch stop at the Slippery Stones – I managed a huge cheese and ham bap that was more like a cake!   Apparently they are called cobs up here.  Back at Chard, we calculated that our trip was more 20+ miles than 18 – good training…..


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Lady bower was completed during WW2, despite materials scarcity as the need for water was great.  The three reservoirs supply most of Derbyshire and Sheffield.

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The Derwent Rexevoir Dam, began in 2902.  Some was quarried in Grindleford and a specially built train line brought the stone up.

During WW2, Squadron 617 – The Dam Busters – practised low flying manoeuvres here with the bouncing bomb.

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At the head of Howden Reservoir – Slippery Stones, our lunch spot.

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378 – Friday 20th May 2016:  Hope and Castleton Walk Broken By A Pub Lunch

That good old British (and Clune family) tradition of the Pub Lunch had to feature sometime this week…..a perambulation to Castleford – and the welcoming arms – of the first pub we encountered. Wine, crab cakes, soup and cheese board (a bit steep at £43 pounds) – set us up for the return leg – across gently rolling fields – see the convenient stone steps instead of a stile. Hope village – and rest…..  Casterton though has little to recommend it.  We were ‘nicely’ accosted by some students conducting a survey: “Did we feel that Castelton’s economy relied on Tourism?”  A resounding YES.

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Clouds playing across the hills.

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This tin hut is one of the few remaining workers’ huts of which there were thousands, used to house the workers on the Reservoirs we cycled round yesterday. 

379 – Saturday 21st May 2016:  Shopping and Drive to Knutsford

I love Aldi!  A full trolley, including meat (lots) and booze (some) and the bill …. £114.  Remaining ingredients from Waitress – 1 bag …. £65.  Message to self … menu plan ONLY what can be bought at Lidl and Aldi!

We have left the rolling hills of Derbyshire and entered Cheshire.  It seems very flat and more built up.  Well, it is close to Manchester.  We are here for two nights as Kerstin and her mother are flying out of Manchester on Monday, but coming to supper with us on our CL on Sunday evening.  Our CL seemed to be on the flight path into Manchester Airport…. but it does not bother the numerous rabbits that are grazing near us.  The CL had a short fixed hose, so we could not fill our 95ltr tank.  It also had recycling bins, but no general waste.  A fellow camper told us we had to sort everything …. GRR what to do with composite materials and things that don’t quite fit into Plastic, Glass, Paper, Card or food waste?  We did what we could and resolved to find a normal bin on the morrow.


380 – Sunday 22nd May 2016:  Tatton Park

Prior to greeting Kerstin and her Mum, we thought – why not Tatton Park?  National Trust – free to us via our Italian FAI membership – and parking with the coaches.  Although owned by the NT, it is run and financed by the local council, so we had to cough up £6.00 just to enter the hallowed grounds.  More coffee and ice cream awaiting the 1:00 pm house opening time. The house is nice but not spectacular – neoclassical style.  But the gardens are quite something – Mr Joseph Paxton’s influence again…

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Minton masquerading as Sevres, with the family initials.  A lot of great porcelain on view.

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The last Baron had to build a massive hall to house all his hunting and collecting trips … animals like this right the way around the Tenants Hall.

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We preferred the gardens … wacky topiary.

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Rhododendrons and Azaleas were amazing.

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The Japanese Garden is considered one of the finest in the UK … but then it did actually have Japanese workers create it.

We had a lovely evening – with lots of stories from Scotland where Kerstin and her Mum had just been – and tales of our adventures.  They had been in Scotland in search of puffins.  The puffins had been absent, but we were able to inform them that we’d see hundreds, nay – thousands, nay – hundreds of thousands of them off the Northumberland coast near Seahouses.   

381 – Monday 23rd May 2016:  Quarry Bank Mill

We expected a nice museum with used engine bits and bobs……  What we saw – was a working mill!  Amazingly friendly staff – demonstrations of spinning and weaving taking you through from the cottagers to about 1920 machines.  Most of the machines were fully restored and about half were demonstrated for visitors today … a heating issue meant some were not running.  Really easy to see how the small children worked underneath the big machines cleaning the fallen materials and re-fixing broken threads … all in 5 seconds before the boom moved back again.  We saw the spot where one child had been crushed and were told of another who wrenched himself free, leaving behind his ear and half the skin on his face.  The workers suffered from the incredible noise of the machines, bone deformities from the constant crouching over them, throat cancer and bulbous eyes from the lint in the air.  

Yet on a tour of the Apprentice house we were told they were well cared for by their kindly employer compared to other mills.  The first factory doctor ever was employed here, they had plenty of food and only two to a bed!  Punishments were never beatings, but having to work overtime, or in severe cases isolation.  The Gregg family believed that the healthy workforce should  also be educated.  The question is … were they cynically looking after the workforce to get more labour out of them or was it true philanthropy?  We did not see it but the Channel 4 series ‘The Mill’ is loosely based on characters from here.   The working water wheel was majestic.  This is one of the best museums we have seen anywhere!  Top marks to all involved. 

After leaving here, we’ve headed back to Derbyshire.  We are on a site just south of Matlock and very near where we’ve cycled and walked before.

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There is actually a Steeplejack up on the chimney.  The heating in the mill was off so some of the machines were not running … they only like it warm.  We know two other people, who are still in layers, coats and scarves … whilst so many people have gone to T-shirts.  Is it because we did not experience the really cold British winter?

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Cottage Industry – Carding the cotton.  Usually performed by children.

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One of the multiple bobbin spinners … I think it was a spinning Jenny.

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As you walked through the mill, the industrial revolution developed and some of the machines were just huge.

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90 apprentices were indentured at any one time.  They arrived from Workhouses and were ‘enslaved’ / owned by the mill owner until they were 21.  This mantra was in the Apprentice House – my grandmother had this written into her school leaver’s book – guess it must have been from about 1920.  I’ve not seen it elsewhere and it really reminded me of Nanny.