2004-2005: Covid Concern and Another Watery Pitch

2004: Portumna to Meelick Wier

Wednesday 25th September 2021

On the way towards Clonmacnoise, we stopped off at Portumna.  As we ended up spending longer here than planned, Clonmacnoise had to wait for another day.  Portumna was owned by English landlords and is therefore semi-fortified … God forbid that the natives should attack!   … they seemed to be related to every great British house … the list of marriages read like Debretts Peerage.  It was gutted by fire … a laundry room cause apparently … not the locals!  The Office of Public Works for Ireland, who very kindly waived all entry fees to their properties for the summer, have put a roof on (EU funding helped!) and have an exhibition about the family and castle inside.  The stable block is the restaurant so we have a lovely quiche and walk around the grounds with CO2.  There is an aire with services at the marina here, but it was choked and we hadn’t fancied being within 2m of the neighbouring motorhome, so we headed up river to Meelick

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Portumna Castle.

Meelick Weir proved to be another gem.  A car park right on the water.  A sunny afternoon so families were swimming.  A farm behind with a friendly farmer and wife.  A lot of work going on here … a new walkway at a cost of millions and the car park being given a coating of tarmacadam and big post with plants … J watered these.  In a few weeks the Taoiseach ({rime Minister) was arriving for a grand opening.  The weir was built originally to control the flow for that hydro power station that we couldn’t get into.

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The new weir … apparently it used to be much lower with boards and the farmer’s wife said the was always worried her kids would fall in.

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Corrie wasn’t impressed with all those holes, but she got used.  Interestingly the boards are the same as the ones we have for standing Jez on when the ground is soft … although Dad cut ours into 6  manageable pieces.

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Another pitch perfect, in fact so lovely we stayed another day.

2005: Portumna to Meelick Wier

Thursday 26th September 2021

Part of the decision to stay here was so we could isolate.  James 3 children had had negative PCR tests to fly back to their homes straight after the wedding.  Within days of arriving in Doha, Simon felt unwell … yep, Covid.  Had he caught it and spread it at the wedding?  Lots of guests had PCR tests … we had NHS antigen tests so we did one this morning and one the next day … fortunately everyone was testing negative.  Our biggest concern was that soon after getting back to the UK I’d booked to drive Zorba the Greek car to Crete with Maddy as co-pilot.  If we tested positive, we anticipated being stuck in a government isolation unit … and what would happen to CO2?  Fortunately … we didnt have it, but it was a worrying 2 days.

After our first negative tests, we walked to the Victoria Lock and then onto the narrower original canal and tiny lock.  Then in the afternoon we set off to St Francis Church – the oldest Catholic Church still in use in Ireland.  There was a statue from Portugla of Our Lady of Fatima … nice to join up dots … we’ve been there.  Talking (at a distance) to the farmer’s wife she had also visited Fatima and goes there with fiends once a week to pray.  

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Victoria Lock.  Actually had a lock keeper on duty.

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CO2 were unimpressed by this activity so close. Barking!

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St Francis Church and former monastery to the left.  I am not religious, but it really was a peaceful place.  The grave yard led down to the river front.

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Huge roof inside St Francis.  But really didn’t like the orange new wood of the pews and up by the alter.


2001-2003: Seeking the Source

2001: Irish Craic

Sunday 22nd September 2021 

Having filled our tanks we drove to the other side of Ireland.  It wasn’t the plan … that had been to do a trip down memory lane for J, going to places he’s lived.  But all good plans are sooo apt to change.  We drove over to Clarinbridge … family home of Shane.  Both bride and groom were staying there for a few days and Shanes Parent’s hosted a BBQ for friends and family.  Needless to say the booze and chat flowed … amazing hospitality. A guitar was presented to the chap who’d played at the wedding service and Tom, Shane’s father, got his accordion out.  Even James sang a little song!  Whilst we’d been given a lift to the house, we opted to walk with CO2 back the 1.5km to where Jez was parked.  We were loaned high vis and weaved our way back!  Amazing stars.  Craicing night.

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Lunch from a new motorway service station …  my munchy crunchy burrito …  j ordered chicken and chips and was given the wrong order … lots of soggy chips … YUK!

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Our pitch close to water at the Clarinbridge pub.

2002: Quin & Stop 1 Along the Shannon

Monday 23rd & Tuesday 24th September 2021 

A slow start day!  We decided since we were over on the west, it made sense to follow the Shannon (longest UK river) back to its source.  But on the way to the Shannon, we stopped off at a small town called Quin … source of the Clunes in Ireland.  Originally from France, a lot settled here.

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Lunch in the Quin pub that was just opening.  OMG … I had the fish platter … it was just superb.  It was full of locals having their one meal of the day … huge portions and really reasonable prices … no wonder it was busy.

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Quin Abbey.

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J beside some Clune graves … some old and newer so Clunes still reside in Quin.  A lot of James and Catherine Clunes … oh dear!

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Quin Abbey:  walls still standing.

We decided to not to explore Limerick city.  Tried to see the massive original Irish hydro electric power station on the way, but it was currently closed to visitors.  But we did see the dams further up stream at O’Briansbridge.  I walked upstream upon arrival and the next morning we both walked downstream.

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Walks in either direction.

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Walking up stream to the dam.

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Canal and Shannon both converge.

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Pitch perfect.

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Local children had contributed to this Fairy Glen … said it before, but will say it again … In England I suspect this would have been vandalised.  

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One of the hump backed …. bridges, not James!  Built over tributary streams for the horses.

2003: Killaloe and Ballina

Tuesday 24th September 2021

A very SHORT drive up river to Ballina … a free carpark by a very busy open air pool. Whilst J rested, I walked the Tourist Trail.  Late afternoon we crossed over the bridge to Killaloe church … cant remember why the cross was special, but it was!  For such a tourist place, a dearth on Logh Derg (!) of places to eat … all fully booked, so back to the van for home cooked supper.  And look at that sky … it was super warm.  Shame it hadn’t been like this the day of the wedding.

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Looking across to Killaloe Church.

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Ancient bridge … the metal work in front of it was for fishing.  Lovely mellow hills all along our route.

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A railway was extended to service guests at a hotel on the banks of Lough Derg.  Local washer women staged a protest … unusual in those times.  They lay on the train track until a bridge over the line was built.

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Killaoe Church and Cross.

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In the absence of a meal out, we had this for pud.  Forgotten how good they are.  Ice cream and chocolate … what’s not to like?


1996-2000: An Irish Wedding

 1996 – Stupid O’Clock Ferry

Tuesday 17th September 2021 

Ferry booked Fishguard to Rosslare.  CO2 Passports updated with worming table and Irish Pet Advance Notice form submitted.  And just like that, we were off.  Arrived in plenty of time to walk CO2 and eat.  Ferry at 23.45, well past out bedtime!  Had to leave CO2 in the van but reckon they slept.  We took blankets up and after an ice cream for me (no surprises there) and a wine for J (equally no surprises!) we dozed on the benches in the bar.

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Great dog walking from free park up.  Local lady said quite a number of dog traffickers had been caught at Rosslare. View across to Port.

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Tourist Trap?  Possibly, but told motorhomes welcome and food reasonable.

1997 – Sleep

Wednesday 18th September 2021 

Landed at 4.00 am, Yes AM!  Drove to a park up … gate locked so onto Plan B … Murrintown Community Centre car park.  Perfect until about 6.30 … why do people need to hurl glass into recycling bins at this hour?  

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Murrintown Car Park … it was empty and QUIET when we arrived!  Despite the wafts of bacon form the butty van, we brunched chez nous.

We’d pre-booked a campsite not far from Sinead’s wedding venue …Moat Farm Camping.  A great site in that hard standing, views, dog walking nearby BUT at EUR25 pn, one would expect warm showers!  Fortunately, another guest tested them first so we showered aboard!

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View from our pitch.  Doesn’t it look damp?

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Local walk led me to a semi permanent pitch at the end of a long path … 4×4 needed.

1998 – OMG What Is This Wet Stuff!?

Thursday 19th September 2021 

An easy day … we walked up a hill … full wet weather gear adorned.  Primped a bit for the wedding the next day, me not James!  Just a hair trim for him … with the dog shears!

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Somewhat limited visibility … they don’t call this the Emerald Isle for nothing!

1999 – THE Wedding

Friday 20th September 2021 

Sinead had organised us a motorhome parking at the Rathsalagh Hotel … just had to get there!  We followed the hotel signs and I carefully negotiated the main entrance gate … wafers either side.  Got hollered at … you ain’t getting down there … there’s an arch … you’ll have to reverse and you can follow us to the MH parking.  By this time there were 5 cars backed up behind us … we were stopping other guests from arriving at the the wedding!  A bit of jiggling and cars got past, I reversed and followed the hotel van for about 2 miles to the ‘trade’ entrance!  Lovely chap complimented my driving skills with a ‘fair play to you’ … typical Irish understatement!

Parked up … usual wedding … drinks, lots of people to chat to … especially J’s other offspring and some siblings.  Lovely wedding … chapel with a friend playing and singing, great readings and band … 

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The day before outfits!  And real bonus was the M&S sale shoes at £3.99 … niece Zozo has her eye on these!

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J walked Sinead down the aisle.  Very special as we hadn’t known till Monday that we would make it.

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Wicked veil / train.

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J’s 2 sons Stephen and Simon annihilated Sinead in their speech … definitely X rated.

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Cake, bride and groom … all stunners.

The only incident was 25 mins of (cash up in flames) fireworks.  Knowing our Corrie doesn’t like storms and our gun dog (NOT) Oscar loud bangs, I left the display and went to check on CO2 … cushions and rugs completely disarranged!  

Given Sinead and Shane had not been able to visit the venue, this was the 3rd date rearrangement  … what a feat of organisational excellence.

 

2000 – National Stud … Not the Bride Groom!

Saturday 21st September 2021 

Breakfast at the hotel and a leisurely departure from friends and family.  We discovered Sinead had not made it to her suite last night.  Shane had spent a few hours of slumber alone.  Sinead was overheard explain to a chamber maid, whilst wearing an oversized Tshirt, that it was not what it seemed.  She had passed out in her brother’s room … honest.  Shane didn’t make it down for hours as his clothes had been mislaid.  J’s 3 other children headed off to Dublin for pre-flight Covid tests.

And we headed off to the National Stud.  A title aspirational English landlord threw money at the horse stud even giving  a winner to Royalty, and eventually got his peerage. Then left the Stud to the nation. 

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The grounds were stunning and you could smell the money.

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Current sperm donors and their fees … top billing is Invincible Spirit at EUR80,000 per shag!  Apparently the stallions have a very high success rate and it only takes minutes.  A quick recovery and they can ‘ service’ the next mare.  Some get shipped off to Australia  in the down season so sex all year round!  The window of opportunity, so to speak, is relatively short as owners don’t want young runners in the age bracket.

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Can’t see his wares, but he’s a stud!  Double railings keep the boys from brawling.

But for us the real joy here is the gardens.  As well as general the well tended and invested in air, there are two gardens.  Native species garden dedicated to a Saint, I forget which.  And a Japanese garden where you walk the 15 stages of life.
 
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With all the rain, this path was a mini steam.  Coordinated hopping by J and Corrie, neither of which appreciate wet feet.
 

1977-1995 : Is that Stonehenge?

Catch Up Continued .


1977-1981: Strawberry Fields, not The Beetles

29th July – 2nd August

As members of wild camping.co.uk we are also members of motorhomes.com, the less wild party sounding arm that arranges meets.  Over the years we have got to know a few folk that attend these and there is always someone to natter to, or ignore should you so wish.  We’d failed to find a suitably mutual date with Sue and Mick (we’d met them in the Peloponnese and have previously stayed on the drive of their eco house), so they booked onto the same meet for a few nights.  Sadly the weather was pretty rubbish which limited our sitting out late opportunities.

With the Merc in dry dock and Zorba packed to the gunwhales with our stuff to go back to Greece, we didn’t bring a car to mooch around in.  The campsite was on a busy road and not that close to anywhere, we deployed the bikes and doggy ride trailer.  Its been a long time since we were in the saddle and a long time for CO2 since they’ve been in the Os-car (trailer), but they certainly remembered that they got biscuits for climbing in!  Our derrières were OK for us to do two consecutive days of cycling.  We got very wet BOTH days, so the phones didnt make it out of waterproof bags for photos!

The Lymington market was on, so we cycled to that … the sky looked heavy, so we headed into a very dog friendly pub and had lunch … good timing as it downpoured.  The next day we cycled whilst Sue and Mick drove into Brockenhurst … a light lunch outside … than goodness for the large table umbrella. We aborted the village walk after about 30 mins … the paper map was turning to papier mache.    On the third day, with rain forecast, I put the bikes away … we chilled and did some chores….  Not Laundry … as we left here for two days back in Chichester and abused Mum’s machine again.

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But I did manage to get one shot of some New Forest ponies.

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On the last evening there was a gathering … both Chris and Linda the blanket hoodies … but not as Pat Butcher as mine!  Looking cool girls!


1984-1987: Holbeach, The Wash

5th-8th July

We headed up to Lincolnshire for 4 nights for another motorhomer.com meet.  Not their usual sort of venue as we were jammed in on the rally field attached to a crowded campsite.  Not our cup of tea … a lot of children.  There was a pub and small pool on site.  The night we arrived we drove off to a neighbouring village and had a supper.  This time we had the Merc with us and we were very pleased to have it as we escaped for two days.

The first outing was excellent … we’d seen signs  along the road for the rearranged wood work show merged with a craft and food show at Sandringham Palace.  And only a few showers!  Crafts included wood, jewellery, glass etc.  A food demo tent and falconry.  We got chatting to a lady minding the birds and she gave me a couple of the feathers off one of her own birds.  Ever since I got one of the rooster tail feathers from our Turky lockdown camp site, interesting feathers now get stuck into one of the two knitted hedgehogs on the dashboard.  We thought we’d be there an hour, but spent 3 hours.

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Think there must have been a chainsaw competition as a number had all been given a similar sized huge lump of wood which they were working.

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After the show, I took CO2 for a walk along the Great Ouse on the opposite bank to King’s Lyn.  It doesn’t look big from here but sprawls …

I’d never been up to Norfolk Lavender when I had a holiday home in Norfolk, so was keen to visit.  I was really disappointed.  I’d expected to see fields and fields of lavender, like the Dutch bulb fields, but just a small area of different  varieties.  Brunch and a good ice cream … but not worth the drive.

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I had read that Hunstanton had an amazing beach and cliffs so headed there to walk CO2 … got a bit of a shock when we arrived … have not seen so many amusement arcades in a good many years.

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The beach was amazing with a long promenade / sea defence wall.  Some interesting houses and then caravan park.  Two fun beach hut names … Sandy Bottom and

May (contains Nuts)

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We contemplated driving out on the third day, but hadn’t really read of anywhere we fancied going … so did a jobs day.  In the evening we watched the Barbarians game in the pub.  Since we were there we ordered food … it was burger night, so I ordered my chicken naked.  It truly was … not even a side salad until I asked. And not cutlery, so I asked again! Virtually indigestible.  I used a lot of mayo to get it down!


1988-1989: Jez Repairs and Stonehenge

9th-10th July

On the Monday we drove down to Andover and parked up in the forecourt of Abacus Motorhomes.  They are expanding fast: car and motorhome hire and motorhome servicing, with a huge new complex just off the A303.  H, the mechanic, is a van lifer and had supper with us with her gorgeous new Westie/Poo pup who’d not yet had her jabs.

Whilst Jez was being worked on, we drove the car to Stockbridge and had a walk along the Test Way.  I think we must have chosen to walk the most boring part of it.  An old railway track, dead straight through bushes.  Lunch at a waterside pub was much better.

We were asked if we could bring Jez in again the next morning to finish off … so we spent the night at the well used lane right next to Stonehenge.  As well as all the permanent and travelling vans, there were also two cars being slept in and one pop up tent … this contained a couple who asked me if these large stones over there were Stonehenge!!!

More parts to be ordered for Jez so we will back to Stonehenge and hopefully it won’t be misty and I’ll get a sunrise shot!

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So close, I even set the alarm for 5.30 a.m. and put the zoom lens on my camera to get an early sunrise shot … went straight back to bed … a blanket of mist!

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It hardly seems worth paying to get in, except you would be funding the 24/7 security guards.  Apparently they don’t have any shelter and are not allowed to sit in cars to keep warm even in the depths of winter!


1990-1995: Chichester

11th-16th July

We tried another Chichester Campsite called Sunnyside not far from Bognor.  It had hook up but the hard standing was some compacted gravel and we’d have to drive over the grass to get to it in winter … so not sure this is our Autumn / Winter home.  Some OK walking from there … although the first night I was out with CO2 I suddenly found myself flat on my back.  Oscar had galloped up as he was out of his comfort distance from me and careered into my leg.

Maddy come down once for a walk and supper and then we met her in Parham Park for a walk and picnic.  You pay (unless you’re and National Trust member) to use the car park … a very reasonable £3 for all day.  But God forbid you should want to use the visitor facilities such as the toilet or the cafe … we were told no … we’d have to buy a ticket for the house!  We couldn’t have minded paying a fee to pee … but al fresco it had to be!

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Looking back to Parham Park.

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Oscar does love a stick, better than chasing deer.

Goodwood is very close to the Aged P’s so we went to lunch at the hotel restaurant … it was very good … well Dad didn’t make the best starter or pud choices, but the rest of us did.

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White chocolate coated strawberry shortcake parfait.

Monday 16th was a super busy day.  We saw J’s consultant in the morning in Southampton, who said he could travel to Ireland for his daughter’s wedding, but not OK for him to go to Greece.  In the afternoon, I attended my ex-father-in-law’s funeral in Aldershot and then we bought J a new suit, shirt and tie … the tie almost cost as much as the shirt!  We had booked flexi tickets  for the stupid o’clock ferry for the night of Tuesday, and now booked a campsite near the wedding venue.  

In case we could go to the wedding, we’d previously sorted out CO2 for travel too … we had eventually found a vet who after much negotiation would administer working tablets and sign their EU Pet passports.  Vets are in short supply apparently … many leaving the profession as so many practices are now owned by big corporates and expect staff to work 60 hour weeks.  Compounded with no supply of young vets from Romania or the Australia.   If we had needed an Animal Health Cert, CO2 would definitely not have been able to come, as most vets seemed to be booking these in 8-10 weeks hence.  They nearly didn’t come as it was … I mistakenly went to one of the satellite vet offices and rang James crying … they’re shut!  What do we do with CO2?  J was checking their pet passports for kennel cough and about to look at kennels … when I realised my mistake and the correct office agreed to see me!  Phew!!!  Getting dogs into Ireland is harder than France … as well as worming tablets administered by the vet, you also need to send their animal agency an advance notice form and the animals are checked on arrival.

So I’m just about all caught up and the next blog will be from Ireland and the wedding.



1954-1976: Mostly Dorset and Chichester

Catch Up Continued .


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Should’ve been in the last post … ignominious!

 

1954-1958: Corsham then Chideock, Dorset with Frances and Edward

6th -10th July

On leaving Snowdon we spent 2 nights in Corsham and Alison came to supper on night 2.  We really have done pretty well with catching up with folk on our travels.

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Gift from Alison.  Perhaps I should start a small portable garden.  Got herbs now.

Frances and Edward arrived ahead of us at the C&CC Temporary Holiday Site in Chideock, Dorset and in proper motorhomer style had set up well away from everyone else!  I discovered that another Alison and her family were camping at Eype where we used to hold our annual Girlie Camping May trip … well they weren’t actually camping.  In the wind they managed to snap 4 out of 5 tent poles and were in an emergency static caravan.  On our Girlie Camping weekends we were under canvas.  The only time we used a caravan was when one of us was pregnant … Alison assured me it was not the Caravan of Confinement but of Convenience!  It hadn’t even crossed our minds that guests would not be allowed to sit outside for a drink … major events were allowing crowds … but the Camping Club have not caught up so as we asked to make it quick.  So it was a quick drink and then they went off for a pub supper.  We managed to eat pretty well too, with us hosting one night and then Frances cooked the second.

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Being close to Golden Cap, we went for it. … we came from back there.

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James and Edward at the top.

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Oscar and I to prove we were there too.  Last time we were up here was during my 50th house party in the February before we set off on our travels.  

With the weather not being brilliant we took the car and drove to a village Frances had visited before … Moreton.  On the way we stopped off at Poundsbury for coffee and cake.  This is a massive new village on the outskirts of Dorchester … brain child of HRH Charles … him who dislikes bad architecture!  What we saw was lots of modern replica old style properties but completely crammed in next to each other … very few open spaces and high density of population.  Not at all a desirable location.  We nearly lost both James and Edward … navigating the garden centre amongst the spades and pot plants on the circuitous route to the toilets!

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  Moreton church:  Pretty unprepossessing on the outside …

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All windows had been blown during the war and Lawrence Whistler (brother of the more famous artist James) had engraved all the replacements.  Stunning.

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We wandered through the local gardens, which pretty much were going to seed … obviously insufficient volunteers.  If only she’d’had her trowel; Frances was itching to sort it out.

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T E Lawrence’s grave is also in Moreton.

1959: Sunday Lunch in Farnham

11th July

Leaving Dorset, we one last reason to stay over in our usual site … Coxbridge Farm in Farnham.  A much rearranged (down to my piss poor planning) Sunday lunch with my old school friend Michelle, Craig and their daughter…  and we managed to catch the end of the Wimbledon Men’s final between courses.  

And on the next morning we had our second vaccination in Basingstoke.


1960- 1976: Chichester

12th July

We are trying out a number of 5 pitch sites in Chichester as we will be here a lot longer than planned .. certainly into winter. James has discovered a medical issue and we are waiting for surgery … he really is high maintenance man!  So we split our time between Woodlands with more space, woods and lots of deer at £8 p.n. and Cobnor House with less space, but fabulous walking around the Chichester Harbour at £12 p.n.  We really cannot work out which we prefer, but neither have hard standing or EHU … which we will need when there is less sunlight to harvest from our solar panels. Further local camping options to investigate.

Brian and Zoa were already installed when we arrived … glad he was first as he had to be towed off the boggy ground, so we knew to park on the track!  And I got another night off cooking as Brian cooked one night and I the other.

We did quite a number of day trips out with the Aged Ps, including Bosham, Haling Island … not as full of caravan parks as we had expected and a mini tour of information boards about the WW2 army presence followed by … another good lunch!  We also walked from the Aged P’s new house down the Cirencester Way (no idea why it is so named) into town and tried a veggie cafe, food was good by no alcohol was less so!

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Woodlands with lots of space.


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Handsome pooches.   

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We’ve managed to eat out a fair bit … on our own and with the Aged P’s.  Several ice creams, coffees and cakes on day trips out with them.

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Part of the set menu in Purchases in Chichester … went with the Aged Ps and liked it so much we went back with Maddy to celebrate her getting a FIRST in her Business degree with Surrey University … fast tracked in two years!  

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The BEST chocolate fondant ever. 

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The espresso martini was lacking something compared to when I make it … enough alcohol!

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Maddy and Jordan came to Fishborne Roman Palace.  Interesting but when you’ve seen the mosaics in Sicily and Greece ….

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Emsworth is really pretty.  Another eating out venue for J and I and then we came back with Maddy and Jordan.

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Hake and alioli on a crab risotto with seafood bisque … yummy.

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Emsworth with its protective harbour wall / walkway.

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It wasn’t my decision to get CO2 a doggy ice cream each, but I did end up paying for them!

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Evening walk around Cobnor.  I said what a good climbing tree … Maddy had have a go.

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Competitive Jordan went further and Maddy’s imperious arm of “Get down NOW, you’ve gone far enough!”

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Looking over to Bosham.  Interesting pronunciation … Drop the H and say it like bosom!