The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 9

Alison served up another lovely cooked breakfast Tuesday morning, satisfying my belly if not the nurse that keeps an eye on my cholesterol. We said our goodbyes to Adam & Jamie as they departed for what turned out to be a horrendously delayed journey back to Kent.

We’d a few things we wanted to do with our remaining time at Ashridge Farm but the forecast was depressingly accurate and the rain arrived mid-morning and hung around until late afternoon. We did manage an outing mind but to nowhere more exciting than the retail park outside Biggleswade a few minutes drive up the road. I’m a fairly recent convert to electric toothbrushes and having picked one up at Wilko’s when in South Wales last year, I needed some more replacement heads.

Now, I don’t know what it is about shops like Wilko but I either tend to come out with nothing or a basketful of stuff that a I didn’t realise I needed – and in truth probably didn’t. This was one of those occasions. Having located said replacement heads, more apparently essential bits and bobs made it’s way into the basket. By the looks of things, the same thing happened to Alison.

A lazy afternoon in Patsy followed and then later, as the rain cleared and the sun returned, I made the short drive cross country to finally catch up with Lyn & Richie at the English Caravan Company. We’d been friends on social media for ages and Trev and I had always wanted to come and say hello but for whatever reason it never happened. I was determined to put that right this time and it was fantastic to finally meet up in person. For those that don’t know Lyn & Richie design and build caravans, making them in their workshop from scratch. They also renovate and refurbish old caravans and there was an Alpine Sprite in the workshop with it’s innards removed as the slow process of restoring her began. Well, we had a really lovely chin-wag and they very kindly fed me too, with delicious jacket potatoes that had been cooking on the wood burner, with all the trimmings. Being a country boy myself I knew that it wasn’t always as tranquil as you might think in these parts but I enjoyed Lyn & Richie's tales of the carrying’s on they’ve seen and heard which, funnily enough, often coincided with the arrival of our travelling friends in the village and nearby. From hare coursing to vanishing lead from the church roof and more – as relative newcomers to life outside a city think it quite surprised them. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and I’m so glad we finally got to meet up. Again, the joy of social media is that we felt like we knew each other already.

Back at the site I had my second dinner of the day, Alison once again doing the honours. The cider, archers, beer and wine flowed and we probably overdid it a bit. Good fun though.

The forecast on Wednesday wasn’t too promising so we reckoned on a trip to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford would be ideal – mostly inside and we could dodge from hangar to hangar between showers. As it happened though the sun shone pretty much all day, but nevertheless we had a great time and the camera got plenty of use. I’d been a few times – particularly as a kid – but they’re constantly changing and expanding the collection and we didn’t get to see everything. You’ll need a day to do it all but it will be time well spent.

We had a rather odd encounter with a volunteer which had us giggling for a while after. He explained that the hanger behind us (there wasn’t one) was no longer there (ah!) because during the filming of The Battle of Britain they’d accidentally blown it up (got it). He laboured the point clearly thinking that we we having a bit of trouble grasping the fact, then went off on a tangent talking about my camera – and then his. You had to be there but it was amusing.

That night we tried one of the other pubs in the village – The Rose & Crown – and this was every bit as enjoyable as our meal at The Three Tuns two nights ago. There was even a black beer on offer – how very thoughtful of them!

On Thursday afternoon we headed into Cambridge, utilising the Park & Ride at Trumpington. This was a first me for me too and I nearly got us on the wrong bus – thankfully someone kindly put us right. We had a good wander around, through the Market Square and down Rose Crescent, stopping for coffee in Trinity Street, just along from the impressive Trinity Great Gate. I will never tire of visiting my home town and I’m still very proud of it though my tourist guide skills were no match for Trev’s – demonstrated so well when he took us around during a Twittercamp meet in 2016.

Suitably recharged we headed up Magdalene Street and across the River Cam, looking at the punts below and remembering our time in one back at the same meet. It looked as cold now as we found it then.

We crossed back over the Cam again at Jesus Green and made our way back into the City via Park Street before catching the bus back to the Park & Ride site.

We didn’t go back to the site but headed east to meet with a friend of mine for dinner at a pub on the other side of the city. The White Hart in Fulbourn is popular because of it’s food – Trev and I have been a few times in the past – and once again it didn’t disappoint.

Friday was my last full day on site – and the last of the trip – and I kept up with tradition of giving the old girl – Patsy that is – a bit of a clean up whilst packing stuff for the trip home. One of the less desirable features of blown air heating is the dust it circulates, though sadly, whichever way I look at it, I can’t blame it for the cobwebs. A certain someone would not have been amused!

That night I welcomed Alison to Patsy for dinner.. Fortunately she brought a slow cooker full of Chilli con Carne with her and all I had to do was the rice which I just managed not to bugger up. It all went down very well indeed – with a beer or two of course but with another tidy tow in the morning I wanted a reasonably clear head – as clear as mine ever gets anyway!

Saturday and time to go. I was ready in good time once again and well inside my admittedly generous target. Alison was up and about too and I stopped to say goodbye on the way out. It had been another great stay, made all the better with the company of friends. We parted in the knowledge that we would be meeting again at the end of May.

The 130 miles or so back to the south coast was trouble free and after a thirsty start Rosie had eventually managed 28 mpg by the time I’d pulled into the storage yard. The journey gave me time to reflect on the trip as a whole and without doubt it has been the best yet as a solo – and single – caravanner. I’ve revisited some great places. Stirred some happy memories and made a few new ones too. It wouldn’t have been half as enjoyable however had I not been able to meet up with so many friends whilst away – it made so much difference and kept the inevitable pangs of loneliness at bay. So, at the risk of this turning into some snivelling awards acceptance speech I want to say thanks to everyone that played a part in the Nostalgic Spring Sojourn and made it the success I had hoped for. In no particular order: Angela, Marc, Ken, Richard, Diane, Sandra, David, Gary, Mike, Jen, Peter, Pam, Alison, Adam, Jamie, Lyn, Richie and Pauline – Thank you – you’re awesome.

Right, until next time. Thanks as always for reading. I do appreciate it and your lovely comments too.

Cheers

Rich

The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 8

It had been a while but the wave came again Friday night – I’d felt a bit unsettled all afternoon and decided, following dinner, that a walk to the pub for a couple might help. It didn’t, that intense feeling of loneliness was hovering around so I went back to Patsy and stuck some music on. You’ll know the rest.

Saturday was my last full day at Kilnsea and I was feeling perkier after a half decent nights sleep. This was very much an ‘at the ‘van’ day and it might come as shock to you but I didn’t even venture to the pub for a couple of lunchtime pints as mooted. Since the start of the trip I’d been cleaning Patsy’s exterior with Triplewax Waterless Wash & Shine – an excellent recommendation from Dan Trudgian last summer - and finally completed that in the morning, except the back that is – that’s going to need lots of water. The old girl still don’t scrub up too bad though, bless her. I wrote a blog post, had a play with the new Wi-Fi gear from Solwise and started preparations for my departure on Sunday. With one hundred and eighty or so miles ahead and loosing an hour thanks to the clocks changing I wanted as little to do in the morning as possible.

My plan, such as it was, worked and I was pulling out of the gate at 0940 – in real terms 0840 of course – and that was probably as good as I could have hoped for. I needn’t have worried about disturbing anyone though as everyone seemed to be up an about. I noticed that my routine was being watched by a couple of fellas, standing just far enough away so as not to be within speaking distance, or ‘offering help distance’ as I thought somewhat cynically - and trying – and failing – not to look as if they were looking. Clearly I looked like I was managing just fine on my own – which in truth I was. My routine has gotten much more organised over time but still needs fine tuning.

My destination was the Ashridge Farm Caravan & Motorhome Club Site in the village of Ashwell in Hertfordshire and as expected it took nearly four hours in total, going through Hull and across the Humber Bridge, joining the A1 near Newark. I stopped just once for a quick leak and in all honesty felt fine, Pepsi Max providing the necessary caffeine boost. Rosie clearly found it thirsty work too, managing barely 25mpg, although to be fair to her it was windier than I expected and I did get my foot down a bit harder when circumstances allowed.

The club’s instructions were very clear – approach only via the A505 and I sensed the nice lady from Google Maps getting cross with me as I ignored her instructions three times to take cross country routes from the A1. Eventually she worked out what I was doing.

It was here that I was supposed to be meeting my cousin Andy & Janet – but poor Jan had taken a tumble in the week and, although thankfully had not broken anything, could hardly move and was in considerable pain, so they’d regretfully had to cancel. However some friends were already on site, although sadly not present to see yet another slick motor mover free reversing manoeuvre from yours truly. My neighbour to be was though, although he was doing his best not to look as if he was looking..

Now, this is the part of the trip where the title becomes slightly inaccurate – I’d never been to this site before, however it is a case of third time lucky. We were booked on here during our winter trip in the December of 2017, then Trev’s Mum died and we had to bypass it, going straight to Cambridge. Last year it was to be our final stop off on the way home after our summer trip – and you know what happened then.

I’d just about finished setting up when my friends Alison, her son Adam & partner Jamie returned from an expedition to get something for dinner. An earlier incursion to the village to book a table had proved unsuccessful, it being Mothers Day. Suddenly I too realised I needed the shops because if we were staying in I need something to drink – sorry, research samples - so off I went, this time listening to the nice lady from Google Maps. It was soon clear why the club had said not to tow through the village as it wouldn’t have been much fun with Patsy on the back.

Anyway, dinner – cooked by Adam – was lovely and we had a good chin-wag over an ale or three too. It was nice once again to be among the company of friends.

Monday and the weatherman was true to his word as the sun was making it’s presence felt after a chilly night. Alison did the honours with a very welcome cooked brekky then, later we headed out in Adam’s car for a look around this little part of the country, the first stop being in Saffron Walden, a lovely little market town just over the border in Essex. Always worth a visit and after a stroll around coffee was taken outside in the glorious sunshine. It really was a cracking day.

Next up was back in Hertfordshire and Royston. Pleasant enough but I don’t think any of us were particularly inspired, it did however provide an opportunity for some cut-price research in the shape of the local Wetherspoons, alongside some tasty nibbles.

Last stop of the day was Letchworth – the UK’s and World’s first ever Garden City and apparently the location for the UK’s first roundabout too. You may recall we stopped in Welwyn Garden City in December 2017 so I was keen to compare. Time was marching on so we didn’t have long but there were certainly similarities with the wide open airy spaces. A traditional sweetshop in one of the arcades grabbed our attention and was the recipient of some custom too.

That evening we walked - yes, walked – into the village and to the pub that had been fully booked the day before – The Three Tuns – for the Last Supper, as Adam & Jamie would be departing in the morning. It was worth the 24 hour wait as the food was excellent and afterwards we adjourned to then lounge and slumped into some comfy chairs well and truly stuffed. Not exactly a traditional boozer – very much geared for food as many have to be now – but they  kept some nice real ales, a couple of which I’d not sampled. That was soon put right.

The Nostalgic Spring Sojourn | Part 7

With just a short journey to my next site, there was no rush to get packed up and ready but even so, thanks to my body clock still being on term time, I was hitched up and ready to go before 10am. This was the second time in a row I’ve been ahead of schedule – most unusual for me but I know a certain person would have been impressed.

I knew the route roughly – we’d done the same two years ago – but Google Maps suggested a variation – turning off at Market Weighton and joining the A63 near the Humber Bridge. Last time we skirted Beverley hitting our required road to the east of Hull and I remember us both commenting on the number of roundabouts – three hundred was mentioned although it was in fact twenty-something. The variation suggested had a few less and I was happy to go with it after checking it out on a map.

The sixty-five miles took nearly two hours in the end thanks to some roadworks but in truth it was an easy run really. Rosie seemed to be enjoying the supermarket fuel a little too much as for a long while the MPG display made depressing reading, however by the time I had pulled up at the site entrance it had risen to 28. Given the route, the aforementioned roundabouts and a few twists and turns I was satisfied with that. Satisfied at least until later when I looked back to my blog post from two years and recalled that with Trev driving, Rosie managed 32mpg. Clearly I’m not quite as light footed as I thought. Oh well!

The site was, once again, Driftwood Caravan Site, located in Kilnsea, about three miles or so from Spurn Point. As I said we’d stayed here before and loved it. It’s remoteness made it a great place to unwind but with some lovely scenery close by and a decent boozer even closer. There’s just 10 pitches, five of which are occupied by seasonals, the majority of which are likely bird watchers. Having got Patsy thereabouts with the car I got her nice and snug on her pitch with the mover and went about setting her up, having popped to the house to hand over some folding for my stay.

A sandwich preceded something only vaguely resembling a nap – it was feeling a bit stuffy in the van so I figured some fresh air would do me good and might help to shift some of the muck currently inhabiting my airways. It may have also been on my mind that a late afternoon pint or two might go down rather well, but picked up the DSLR anyway as if to demonstrate there was something on my mind over than grog.

Well in the end I walked for half an hour or so, just up to the crossroads where the old road to the point starts. The little campsite just around the corner from the pub was open but the one a little further up was not, declaring that it was under new management. It really is a pretty part of the world and it’s rugged beauty reminded me somewhat of the Northumberland coastline, an area I love so much.

There was still an hour to the pub opening as I walked back and decided against a visit, returning instead to Patsy for another cosy evening in.

It did get a brief visit on Wednesday however, bisecting a relaxed day where I caught up on a few little jobs, read a lot and generally lounged about. This was was what I had planned for this part of the trip and so was not worrying about getting out and about much. Although I was beginning to wish I’d picked up a set of rods for my sinuses on the way down it was otherwise very enjoyable.

Thursday saw some friends come over from Sheffield for the day so I was up and about giving her Ladyship a bit of a tidy up first thing – a largely pointless exercise as we stood and chatted outside in the sun before adjourning to the pub for lunch. Peter knew Trev from the ‘old’ days back when Trev was working for the newsagents in Cambridge - way before our time - and it was one of those friendships that’s endured. They could go a long time without seeing one another but when they did, just caught up where they left off as it where. I hadn’t seen Peter or his wife Pam since the funeral so it was great to catch up again.

Friday saw me finally emerge from exile and back into the big wide world, making the fifty minute drive back in to Hull, the first port of call being the company Solwise who, you may recall have given me products to review in the past, most notably their excellent Outdoor Wi-Fi kit which has proved so useful to us. They had a new toy for me to play with - an upgraded version of the above – and we had a good chin-wag over a coffee too.

The Humber bridge was just a few minutes away so that was next on my list thanks to a suggestion from a Twitter pal. There was a massive – and free – car park serving the surrounding country park but was also handy for accessing the bridge on foot too.

OK, confession time – I didn’t walk all the way across, getting as far, I think as the half-way point – and even then I still clocked up a couple of miles by the time I was back at the car. It was very impressive, slightly disconcerting as it vibrates when vehicles rumble by, conscious of the water – and certain death – a long, long way below. Sadly, it was quite hazy so the lighthouse at Spurn couldn’t be seen but it was still a great experience and one I thoroughly recommend. Worth watching your back though – it’s a cycle path too and whilst there are signs indicating that pedestrians have priority, there was the odd cyclist who,in their attempt to seemingly break the land speed record, ignored it.

From the bridge I’d spotted what looked like a good view point so headed there next, pausing to devour the last of the sarnies and take in the view.

Next up was Beverley a half hour drive away. Louise at Solwise had given me the heads up on parking but it took me a few minutes to find it, although circling the town helped me get my bearings. Whilst I’d made sarnies I was uncharacteristically flask-less so first stop was for caffeine fix at Cafe Velo which came highly recommended and did provide a very tasty caffeine fix that perked me up no end.

I walked through the market square thinking, not for the first time in such a place, how much better it would look without the motor car, stopping at the Minster, once again handing over a few quid for a photo permit and the obligatory fridge magnet.

On the way back, roughly in the direction of the car I recalled what Louise had told me about local artist Fred Elwell. Copies of his paintings can be found dotted around the walls in the town and I did come across a couple without looking too hard, but I’ll certainly look to seek out some more on my next visit. The other thing I didn’t have to look for was pubs – they seemed to be everywhere – rubbing in the fact that I was in the car and couldn’t indulge. Oh well, there’ll be always another time.