Christmas 2019 Part 6

Monday 30th December

With friends and family arriving later I had no plans for the morning other than a steady time cleaning and tidying Patsy. I was soon busy with the duster - one of the er, joys of blown air heating being that it likes to distribute dust all over the ‘van. The little hoover came out too and being having done a quick bit of mental arithmetic, made sure that I wouldn’t be drawing too much power for the hook-up. Nevertheless the power tripped as I finished up - not in the ‘van but at the bollard. Easily rectified and I just assume some sort of spike or surge caused it. The likely culprit wouldn’t be revealed until later on.

Alison was first to arrive, soon after one pm and I pottered around helping her set up as well as serving up the all important cuppa. Andy & Janet weren’t far behind and after another cuppa, helped Andy with his erection - the awning that is. We had pondered walking to the village for a meal but Janet had come with a fridge load of pizzas so we decided to reconvene in their ‘van later. I went back to mine for a sit down, noticing that the heater fan seem quieter - and slower than usual. The water pump and loo flush pump both sounded a bit sluggish too and a prod at the caravan voltmeter confirmed that that battery was almost flat.

You may recall I had this issue last year and the culprit was a loose mains plug to the battery charging and 12v supply unit - then easily rectified. No such luck this time. A careful probe with the multimeter confirmed my worst fears - there was mains going in but nothing coming out of either the 12 supply or battery charging points. It appeared that the unit had failed, having only been replaced less than four years ago - then under warranty. I thought back to the power tripping in the morning and suspected that this was when the charger went tits up, with the elderly battery slowing draining ever since.

So what did this mean practically? Well for those that go ‘off-grid’ frequently you’d already know but if like me you usually use mains hook up, you might not. Most of the lights are 12v, the aforementioned water and flush pump are 12v as is the fan for the Truma blown air system. I’d still have heating - although without circulated air - and the water heater would still work as would the fridge and cooker. An inconvenience but hardly a disaster though I still wanted to sort it as quickly as possible. However at 4:00pm on the day before New Years Eve it wasn’t straightforward. Nearby Venture Caravans were not answering the phone, no doubt having packed up early for the day like so many. I found a couple of places online that could deliver ‘next-day’ but again phone calls went unanswered. There was no point in placing an order online if there was no-one in the warehouse to pick and pack it. Sandra, who would be traveling down from Chester the following morning offered to pick one up for me but she ran into the same problem. However her mobile service engineer came up with an idea that I had heard before but had forgotten; hook up a conventional car battery charger to the leisure battery until the proper unit can be replaced.

So off I went to nearby Letchworth to Halfords and having first picked up the cheapest, as per usual, decided that having an automatic one that didn’t need to be switched off was worth an extra few quid.20191231_110209

Back at the ‘van it took some fiddling about - the mains and charging leads weren’t quite long enough to site the charger either inside or outside under shelter, fortunately Alison had a small extension lead and eventually I manged to position the charger out of harms way under the ‘van by the battery box with the mains lead running to the external socket on the other side.

All the right lights were showing on the charger, the ‘van voltmeter was back to where it should be and everything was working. To give the battery the best chance of recovering I kept the heater fan switched off as it would be one of the biggest current draws. The less power used in the ‘van would mean the battery would hopefully recharge quicker. Satisfied that all was good I joined the others and gorged on various pizzas washed down with an ale or three. It was a lovely evening and was nice to relax again after a somewhat stressful couple of hours. Since I’ve been on my own I’ve always worried about sorting things that go wrong, conscious that there’s only me to put them right these days, although having friends around to call on for advice is always great comfort and sometimes I wonder how I’d cope without them.

For the second part of this blog post I’m handing over the reins to Sandra who has wrote about her trip down south to join us for New Year. Here we go:

Tuesday 31st December20191231_185821

With much anticipation I left my home town very early New Year's Eve to travel once again to the Cambridge area to join Richard, family and friends to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. The journey started well but a breakdown midway led to missed connections but I eventually arrived in good time for the evening get together. A spot of supplies shopping meant that we were well set for a lovely evening buffet, research samples, excellent companionship and a bottle of bubbly to toast the New Year ensured a perfect evening.

Wednesday 1st January

The next morning saw a reasonably steady getting up and a very welcome cooked breakfast in Alison's Caravan. At my previous visit to Cambridge over the summer, we had run out of time to go and visit Anglesey Abbey NT, just outside the city. Whilst it was overcast and not particularly warm, we wrapped up warm and set off for a visit.

The site was busy but not uncomfortably so and we were all pleased to see that the Winter Garden trail, including Lode Mill, (working waterwheel flour mill), came highly recommended. A nice level paved walkway made for a very pleasant stroll. Richard took some very beautiful photos of winter flora, as you will see here. Half way round we came upon the mill. It was good to see it working and flour was available to purchase. It was a shame that there were no refreshments available there, a hot drink would have been welcome.

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We moved onwards passing the waterway which fed the mill on our way to the house where we had booked a tour space. We realised that we had time for a coffee and shortbread biscuit in the café at the entrance centre. Fortunately, common sense had prevailed in the café and a drink only queue had been formed and was moving much quicker than earlier.

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We hit the jackpot on the way back as just outside the centre the golf buggy was about to depart. Given I use a walking stick, it was most welcome and meant a timely arrival back at the house to start the self-guided tour. It was a most interesting tour and the house, we all agreed, was homely not too big and full of personal touches, especially as it had originally been am Augustine abbey. We then made our way back to the site for a welcome warm up, snooze and time to get ready for our evening meal out.

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I had been asked to organise this and was very pleased to find the George IV Hotel/pub/restaurant in the nearby village of Baldock was actually serving food that night, (many other local places were not). The waiter had a very good sense of humour and regaled us with what was not available but in a way that had us all laughing with him. Fortunately, everyone was able to choose something they liked and enjoyed. Poppy behaved impeccably and got lots of fuss and the occasional sleight of hand treat, (okay confession time it was mainly me as I had a nice piece of steak). First prize for the biggest dessert was won hands down by Alison with her strawberry and cream choux bun! A thoroughly pleasant evening with much laughter and friendship.

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Thursday 2nd January

The following morning saw another steady getting up and about, ablutions completed, the sky clearing and sun starting to shine. Richard and I decided to walk into the village of Ashwell, about 10 minutes’ walk from the site.

20200102_102115The village site has obviously been occupied over many hundred, if not thousands of years. A mixture of very old, a little younger and right up to the present-day housing and buildings lined the main street. Several public houses all closed at the time, a baker, which handily sold take out coffees about completed the shopping available. 20200102_104257

I happened upon a peculiar out of place building, just off the main street. I had an inkling what it was, having seen several before. There followed much amusement when Richard read the descriptive plaque- it was the old-fashioned village lock up, (a one roomed cell really) used by the local police to lock up miscreants overnight prior to be taken to court, presumably in Cambridge the following day. Of course, Richard had to take his photo in front of this!

20200102_104536There were three other special places to mention. Firstly, on entering the village you passed a very English style cricket ground with pavilion, no matches today. Secondly, we visited the site of one of the Springs which feed into the River Rhee, which in turn feeds into the River Cam and Ouse and out to sea a particularly beautiful place and the water is constantly 52F year-round.20200102_103840

The final place was the rather large Parish Church, for the size of the village it did seem disproportionally so. Sadly, too it was obviously succumbing to weather erosion of the limestone. We were left wondering if it had been, at some time prior to the dissolution of the monasteries, an abbey. Unfortunately, there was no history information available to check. Richard was able to get a few nice sunshine photos, given it was the 2 January and mid-winter.

All too soon it was time to be heading back to site, a very good bowl of stew cum soup with dumplings and once again it was time for me to depart. A very pleasant few days, great company and an excellent start, we hope to 2020. Happy New Year!

After I dropped Sandra off at the station I headed back to the site and commenced a slow pack up ready for departure the following day. Andy suggested I join him for Poppy’s afternoon walk, the plan being a pint or two in one of the village pubs. The Three Tuns was the nearest and a glance at the website suggested they’d be open. We were disappointed however to find a note on the door advising closure due to maintenance. It would be open again later but we decided not to wait.

Dinner was again back in Andy & Jan’s ‘van working our way through more of the substantial left overs from New Years Eve.

Friday 3rd January

Time to go. I was first to depart as is usual having been up fairly early getting Patsy ready. We hugged and said our goodbyes, sad to go our separate ways but confident that it wouldn’t be too long until we met again.

The 132 mile journey home was trouble free, Rosie eventually managing nearly 28mpg on a breezy day and with a weighty right foot at times too. I must confess to feeling pretty glum as I pulled up at the storage yard; the end of a trip, saying goodbye, the return to work looming. There was something else too but as I prepared to manoeuvre Patsy back into her resting place the text came through that I had been waiting for. A friend had had to undergo an exploratory procedure that morning, a possible outcome of which was not good. The result though was an ‘all clear’ and buoyed by the news I finished getting Patsy sorted with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. It was the best possible news and a fitting end to a fantastic trip.