Camping (it up) in the Cotswolds – pt 1

Hello again. I’m taking a short break from  regaling you with our story of carrying a Teletubby half way around the world, because Patsy is on the road again! We are currently in Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds for our first outing of the year and I'll tell you more about that later, but first a bit of a catch up.

Since our last trip, to Wareham Forest in Dorset in December, we’ve had Christmas of course. Not our favourite time of the year, not least because, in the last few years anyway, we would have been snowed under with parcels – for other people of course – as the courier industry goes to melt down.

Last year of course was a real rollercoaster of the year, as it seemed that, when we weren't out and about in Patsy we were going to funerals, and I’ve always found that having lost most of my own family, Christmas always provides a stark reminder of those that are no longer with us.

Having said that, we did have a nice Christmas day, at a friends and neighbours who put on a terrific spread. There were twelve of us at dinner and it really was a great day.

New Year’s Eve was quiet which was exactly what we wanted, reflecting on the year past. As I said 2012 was a  mixed year – we discovered caravanning of course and had a great trip around the UK. There were two great weddings, but tragically, Trev lost two siblings and we said goodbye to a dear neighbour and friend too.

I am delighted to say that we are both working again, although only part time at present. Driving – and collecting and delivering - although thankfully there’s no parcels involved because our ‘cargo’ is mush more expensive. Thanks to some influence from a a friend we are now driving minibuses for one of Brighton's independent schools. Trev has a regular school run, which unfortunately means getting up at 5:15am. At the moment I am just doing bits and bobs, but have already had a couple of trips to Heathrow airport and a run up to my home town of Cambridge with a bus load of Chinese exchange students. There is the promise of another school run though after Easter which at least means our hours will be the same.

Working for a school of course means lots of holidays – hence the reason we are away this week. With the forecast looking, in the main at least dry, we booked up.

Patsy was virtually emptied out when we returned from Dorset and the wheels were removed too to protect the tyres, so that was the first job. I gotta tell you, it’s much easier to change a wheel on a car when you have three others to help balance things out. Having jacked up the offside to remove the axle stand prior to refitting the wheel Patsy lurched backwards landing rather more heavily than was ideal on one of the rear stabilisers. Thankfully, no damage was done and now know how to do it more safely next time.

The wardrobe was loaded and, as per usual for me there was a gothic theme with everything in black. My mowhawk/fin style haircut had been tamed to something a bit less extreme by my barber since staring work and I was relishing having it restored to it’s former glory for our week away, but sadly wasn’t able to get to the barbers before we left, hence the rather unkempt look you’ll see below.

So, fast forward to yesterday and, fully loaded – or at least so we thought – we were on the road again, out of Brighton, up the M23, around London on the M25 and then on to the M40 and through Oxfordshire, passing Woodstock and Blenheim palace on the way. There was a light dusting of snow through Oxfordshire and it became a little heavier further on, but almost immediately vanished as a road sign welcomed us in to Warwickshire. Just eight miles from Moreton is the settlement of Chipping Norton, famous, at least in Britain for being home to our current Prime Minister,  a  disgraced former News International employee, famed according to her ex husband, for a tasty right hook, and an outspoken Top Gear presenter. There is some perverse satisfaction from knowing that despite all that money, connections and undoubted influence their roads are just as pot holed and crumbling as ours down in Brighton.

The site we chose was a Caravan Club site – one of rather too few that open this time of the year. We checked in and went to pick our pitch. It’s one of the bigger sites, catering for 180 or so caravans and/or motorhomes, but it is a nice site with all the usual clean and tidy facilities and not too regimented in it’s layout. Having pitched I returned to reception for our barrier key, then went back to hook up the electric and set up the water. We were carrying a second aquaroll (that’s a water container for you non caravanners), having picked up a second-hand one through Friday Ad just after Christmas. The seller was also getting rid of some heavy duty levelling ramps and a nearly new electrical hook up cable too. I had brought the new cable having tested it prior but no power could be coaxed from the hook up bollard. Having examined the connections and finding all was well, we tried another bollard and the lights came on. I went back to reception for the third time and reported the fault, which turned out to be nothing more than a tripped circuit breaker.

With everything sorted we sat down for a cup of tea, only to discover that we’d left the milk in the fridge at home. I trooped, well drove, back to the reception for the fourth time to procure a pint.

On setting up the TV we found something else that we’d forgotten – the aerial extension lead! Normally the aerial on the roof of the van is sufficient, but bizarrely, with the changeover to digital transmission, coverage is now more patchy. There were aerial hook up points on the bollards too and the shop did sell leads for connecting up, but we decided we’d manage for the time being.

We had an early dinner then put up the porch awning, without I might add a crossed word uttered. Clearly, the more you do it, the easier erections become….

Of course, writing a blog like this carries a degree of responsibility. It is important that information presented is correct and that relies on accurate research. This was the only thing on our minds as we headed out in to Moreton to sample the offerings of some of the local hostelries.

First up was the Black Bear and a very tasty pint of Donningtons BB at a very reasonably £2.50 / pint. I nice traditional easy drinking bitter in a good old fashioned boozer. Across the road next and to The Bell. Saddleback Bitter was the ale of choice here. Quite tasty but a bit hoppier than the BB and at £3.30 a go, more akin to what we’re used to paying down south. Finally, to The Swan and a sadly unmemorable slightly cloudy pint that I didn’t note the name of. With the evenings research completed we headed back to Patsy with the idea of opening a bottle of wine to accompany some cheese and biscuits, but after repeatedly nodding off whilst watching some recorded travel shows on the netbook we decided to call it a night.

So, there you are, bang up to date pretty much. Trev cooked a delicious breakfast whilst I started on this. It’s set to rain all day but we’ll try and venture in to Moreton again later and hopefully start sightseeing in earnest tomorrow.

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