Christmas 2019 Part 1

Sunday 15th December

With most of the loading done in the days prior there was mostly just the pre-flight checks to complete in the morning. Nevertheless I’d allowed myself an hour at the storage yard to get Patsy shipshape and she was hitched and ready to go at around 10:15am. I’d decided to avoid the problem of the sharp right hand turn from her resting place and instead used the mover to drive her around the bend which also avoided hitching up in the lake that had formed in front of her thanks to the recent rain.

Progress on the open road was soon halted however as we came to a standstill only a couple of miles in. Had I bothered to check traffic reports I would have known about the RTC that had partially blocked the road but, to be honest that wouldn’t have made much difference. There were a couple of options to turn around but that would have meant towing along and extremely windy seafront – something I was keen to avoid and the reason that I hadn’t put Patsy on my local site on the edge Brighton over the weekend.

About twenty minutes later though we were moving again. Both police and an ambulance were in attendance at what looked like a four car collision – one of which was buried in the hedgerow off to the side. It looked nasty and hopefully all involved were OK but whilst it’s impossible to say how it occurred, knowing the road well, I bet excessive speed combined with wet slippery roads played a part. There’s some extremely tempting twists and turns.

There was inevitable congestion on the M25 before the Heathrow turn-offs but it could have been and often is, so much worse. I got my first glance of Henley-on-Thames as I crossed the bridge into town and was very impressed.

The Caravan & Motorhome Club Site named Henley Four Oaks was on the Marlow road, easily accessible just a few minutes through town and was quite sparsely occupied when I arrived soon after 1pm, enabling me to take a pitch away from the road. No. 35 was to be Patsy’s resting place for a few days, roughly in the middle of the site and equidistant from both the facilities and the gate to the footpath into town. Rosie recorded 96 miles from pitch to pitch, returning 26mpg. Not a great figure but it was windy in places and I got going when traffic allowed, particularly once we’d got away from the windy south coast.

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Set up was swift, not least because, since doing it on my own I have managed to streamline things a little. In addition I wanted to make a start on Patsy’s Christmas lights and was also awaiting the arrival of fellow caravanners and friends who would be joining me on site for a couple of days.

Within a short while a familiar combo hove into view, heralding the arrival of Deb and Steve who’d just spent a few days in my old home town of Cambridge – a journey I would soon be making in the opposite direction. Many will know Deb & Steve from their In Pursuit of a Dream caravanning  and travel blog and it’s well worth checking out.

Hot drinks dispensed we had a quick catch up before reconvening later on for a walk into town in search of grog and grub.

20191215_182522Torches were welcome as much to avoid the plethora of puddles both through the site and along the footpath into town before the street lights took over. Progress was paused temporarily in a couple of places to avoid getting a soaking from passing traffic.

Henley was looking very pretty indeed thanks to some tasteful lighting and decorations  - much prettier than my cheap phone could capture - as we made our way to the main drag and the unanimous choice of venue which was The Catherine Wheel, a very large Wetherspoons’ pub which boasted accommodation too.

Our faith was rewarded with excellent value food - ‘festive’ burgers dominated – and ridiculously cheap beer, which whilst not particularly bright tasted fine. More importantly it was great to have a chance for a damn good chinwag, not just about all things caravanning but everything else too. Even the ‘B’ word got mentioned along with the recent election.

There followed a quick walk to the bridge to take in some more sights and night air then a slightly wobbly walk back to the site this time caring considerably less about aforementioned puddles. I can’t imagine why…

Monday 16th December

Breakfast consisted of copious amounts of tea, some rather dull cereals and a side order of paracetamol, before meeting up again late morning for another walk into town under leaden skies.

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It remained thankfully dry if overcast as we ambled along the riverside commenting how high the Thames was and noting signs of recent flooding.

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The houses on the small island of Rod Eyot looked vulnerable given the high water but still a lovely place to live if you were bestowed with very deep pockets.

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We went as far as Marsh Lock, accessed from our side of the river via a rather rickety looking angled wooden footbridge. Some of the sluice gates were open at the weir, presumably to help prevent flooding further up and towards London. It was a pretty spot as are so many locks I find.

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Heading back we stopped briefly at the Museum cafĂ© – brief because one look at the menu convinced us to head back into town for something more appealing. And cheaper. It will come as no surprise that we once again graced ‘spoons’ with our presence - after a brief diversion to the church to find the grave of Dusty Springfield. Burgers once again dominated the table. Different fillings though, so that’s all right then! Just one pint this time – sensible if uncharacteristic. Of me anyway.

With both the effects of the night before and a cold weighing heavy on my eyelids I welcomed the chance for a long late afternoon snooze back in cosy old Patsy. Stirring rather groggily, I wolfed down a filling if uninspiring homemade chilli then, later re-joined Deb & Steve in their ‘van. They would be heading off tomorrow, back home after over a month on the road. Once again a good time was had, although I think an earlier night was welcomed by all.

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