Saturday, 28 July 2012

Sunshine in South Hams

Thursday 19 July

Taking into account the weather we have had over the last few months I was ecstatic to peak through the blinds and note it was not raining. We were hitched up and ready for the off by 9.30am for the 186 mile tow to Broad Park CC site in South Devon.

I hate the tow out of South Wales along the M4 with a vengeance. It's up and down, so my foot is rarely off the clutch until we cross the Severn Bridge. Mandy is behaving herself keeping the rig in line, and keeping us cool in the SUNSHINE, after I treated her to an air con re gas off PC last night.

There is very little traffic on the road and we sail straight through to our comfort break at Taunton services. The only hold up being stuck behind this tube for 7 miles while he tried to overtake!

Pulling into the services we see a wall of yellow hi viz jackets, VOSA are on the staff outing and are giving all the HGVs good going over. I get out of the car and am as stiff as Forest Gump before he broke free of the callipers! The dogs have been banged up in the boot for just over 2 hours so are a bit lively when let out for a pee. Tali catches me unaware and pulls me off my feet! I am now lying on the floor of the lorry park desperately trying to hang on to the dog, aware of blood trickling down my leg and about 50 or so VOSA employees pissing themselves laughing!

Before we reach Exeter I check the trip computer to see what sort of MPG I am getting with the van behind Mandy on the motorway and almost orgasm looking at the readout of 38 mpg.

We reach the end of the M5 and both feel strange taking the A38 into South Devon instead of the A30 to North Cornwall. We turn left at the end of the slip road off The A38 and herself shrieks "We're not going down there are we?"

I had neglected to tell her that the final 5 miles of the journey was down narrow country lanes. The traffic seemed very busy, but at 1.30 pm we pull into the site and herself rips her white fingers from where she's embedded them in the dash, so we can book in.

This is my kind of site! Before we are allowed to conduct any business the warden has a tub of sweets out and we are forced to take one. We are told to pick a pitch and then give them a shout so that they can push the van onto the pitch with the Kubota (they've had quite a bit of rain down here, and don’t want Mandy's wheels digging trenches in the grassed area.)

Checked in we take our time to set up, before heading off to pick up the olds (Grandpa Mumbles and Nana Creaky) from the nearby B&B they are staying at for a few nights. We have tea at the van before heading off out for a spin.

First off we go and take a butchers at Bigbury on Sea and Burgh Island. It looks lovely in the evening sunshine! Not much there though so we decide to continue the spin out and take a look at Salcombe. Dutifully following TomTom through the winding lanes we hit trouble, a tidal road FFS! A lengthy diversion is needed. After taking in what appears to be a very affluent and exclusive Salcombe, Nana Creaky says she's tired so we head back, drop them off at the B&B before settling down ourselves for the night.

Friday 20 July

There's something not quite right. We wake to bright skies and a text from son #1, Ronald Mc Donald, saying they are on their way. We pick up the olds from the B&B and sit around the site chilling awaiting the arrival of Ronald, his girlfriend DD (Demolition Derby) and son #2 in the shape of Roids.

The trio arrive just before noon and we get them settled in before heading off out on a bit of a jaunt. Dartmouth is our destination for this afternoon. The place looks very pretty bathed in sunshine as we arrive. The old's dog is proving to be a bit of a nutter in the car, if the needle drops below 20mph he starts to go mental.

Parked up we set about the daunting task of getting Nana Creaky into her wheel chair, and leads on the 3 dogs before strolling into the village along the promenade. People appear to be crossing the road to avoid us! Tali is making strange noises as he objects to having a halti on in public, but it's working so it's staying on.

We find ourselves a bench, well 2 benches, to sit on and herself goes off in the search of the obligatory ice creams. She and Roids return laden with rapidly melting cones and I almost choke on mine when she lets me in on the fact that it cost £3.50. Robbing gits, at least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.

Apart from the cost of the ice cream, a nice time is had watching the boats and ferries before we decide to wander back to the cars. Herself, who is pushing the wheelchair is getting severely pissed off with inconsiderate people and I can see someone losing the skin off their shins before too long!  Roids decides to have some fun in the car park playing chicken in Nana Creaky's wheelchair.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Which Awning Dilemma

We are away on Thursday for an extended break down in the West Country.  Usually it's only herself and I, but next week we will have Nana Creaky and Grandpa Grumbles staying at a nearby B&B as well as the two boys and a girlfriend in tow for some of the time.

The dilemma now is which of our three awning to take with us.

We have a small lightweight porch awning by Riverways Leisure.

We also have a larger porch awning made by Pyramid.

And we also have the full; size awning that we used on our previous caravan made by Dorema.

Our previous caravan, a Mendip Magnum 556 had six berths, but our new van only has 4.  A few weeks ago a sleeping annexe was purchased to accommodate extra guests when we have them.

The decision now has to be made which awning to take away with us.  My favourite every time is the lightweight porch awning.  It goes up in 10 mins flat and is very light to cart around.  However, it does not have zip out sides and will not therefore accommodate a sleeping annexe, so falls at the first hurdle.

It's now a two horse race between the Pyramid and the Dorema.  They both weigh about the same and will both accommodate the sleeping annexe, but the Dorema would offer so much more living space.

As we are away for over 10 nights herself decreed that the Dorema full awning was coming with us.  One snag though.  It has never been on our new van, which although being the same shipping length has a longer awning measurement.

Will it fit?  Only one way to find out, so this morning we pushed the van out of it's hidey hole and headed in the direction of Pembrey Country Park to attempt pitching the full awning on the new van.

Son #1 lets me know that herself has given him instructions to take a picture and report directly back to her, as she does not trust me to tell the truth regarding it's fit.

The canvas was unpacked, the panels zipped in and then the awning dragged through the awning channel.  One side was duly pegged down at the back before going round the front to do likewise.

Bollocks! 9 inches too short! And that's on a perfectly level pitch. I tug at it, but to no avail, the canvas does not have 9 inches of play in it and the pegging ladders will not reach the ground on both sides at the same time.

So, that's it! Decision made for us.  The Pyramid is coming to Devon and the Dorema is going on e bay.

Anyone interested in a 2005 Dorema Sirocco Awning size 13 (950 -975)?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Llangennech RFC Juniors (without the juniors)

Friday 6 July

Buoyed on by the good news from Mrs Shag that it was not raining in South West Wales, we packed up a few hours early in the tipping it down rain to make our way to Pembrey Country Park for the weekend with Llangennech RFC junior section.

Through heavy rain, Mandy ploughed ahead diligently as we watched for clearing skies.  We got as far as Beula and it was still raining, Llandovery saw no change and nor did Llandelio.  I got soaked in Carmarthen when we stopped off to get a new gas bottle at 3As Caravans and the wipers were still going flat out as we bypassed Kidwelly onto the Pembrey flats.

The man on the barrier cheerfully directs us towards pitches 1 & 2 in the camping area, and as we turn the corner we note there are only  3 units here so far.

Herself leaves me to set up while she goes and gets some shopping done.  We need alcohol, and lots of it!

I get soaked through setting up but console myself that it's done and look forward to a slice of Bara Brith.

Surprise, surprise!  Mr Shag has a lot on in work today and will not be arriving till later on. Mr Tatasports has towed his van down for him before returning home for his own.

I just sit down in the van and Mrs Shag arrives and pops her head in announcing that they have bought a new awning and I have volunteered to put it up.  I make my tea last as long as possible, but I can see that Mrs Shag is getting a bit impatient and the awning will go up with or without my help.

It's absolutely tipping down and we are confronted with a load of bundled poles, some material and no instructions!

All I can say is, we would have done OK on the Krypton Factor!

The rain is relentless, and apart from Mr Tatasports and Cochyn's mam and dad, no one else turns up tonight.

Mr Shag rolls up in his big red van at around 7pm and we have a few quick beers before he retires for supper and bed.

We go to bed at 11pm to the sound of rain hammering on the van roof.

Saturday 7 July

We wake, and for some reason cannot hear rain on the roof.  A peak outside reveals it's not raining - yey!  Reports are that we've had a month's rain in 24 hours.  The new water feature in the middle of our awning is testimony to this.

As the morning wears on there are still no more arrivals.  We have two huge pitches and so far we are only 4 caravans and 3 tents.  If you take out ourselves, Mr & Mrs Shag as well as Mr & Mrs Tatasports, who are no longer really part of the junior section, it's a pretty poor show and I feel sorry for Mr Chairman who's efforts in organising the weekend are wasted.

The weather continues to be dry, but a little windy.  Mr Shag fancies putting up his new annexe, but we again have no instructions.  A trip over to the fence at the Caravan Club site adjacent to steal some wifi sorts the problem and the annexe goes up.

Mr Shag then decides to sort out the back of his works van, and our part of Pembrey looks like a gyppo camp.

The sun comes out in the afternoon, and it's Bow O'Clock. A very pleasant afternoon is spent drinking and cooking food on the BBQs (in the sun mind!). I must admit that I had a bit of a buzz on very early doors.

This is what caravanning should be like all the time.  The evening draws in, but we are all still sat outside as it gets dark.  Mr Shag and my boy #2 go off in the hunt of some wood to burn.  They return, but with all the rain yesterday the logs are really damp and it's a real struggle to get a decent fire going and we give up after about 2 hours and turn in.

Sunday 8 July

We wake to the sunshine streaming into the van.  Yes, that's right.  Sunshine!

It's hot, but nice to pack away in the dry.  Packing up is done slowly, taking time to sit and chat in the sun.

Rain, sheep, hills, midnight intruders and more rain

Saturday 30 June

Yey! Work finished for a week and time to set off for some time away at Fforest Fields, just outside Builth Wells.

Herself and I have company for the start of our break in the shape of my mam, AKA Nanna Coupons to her grand children.

The site had asked that we not arrive until early afternoon so that we could have a greater choice of pitches on arrival.

The tow up through Mid Wales is one that I always look forward to.  The scenery is stunning, it is all on A and B roads, and is nearly always traffic free.  The journey took us a little over 90 mins, but over 15 of those were spent negotiating the bottleneck that is Llandeilo.

We pulled up onto site and note that there is acres of space!  The forecast by @DerekTheWeather seems to have put many people off.  We head into reception and there’s no one on duty.

A sign tells new arrivals to fill in the arrival sheet, work out your fees off a chart, scribble your details on an envelope and putting your cash inside before depositing the said envelope in the ‘Honesty Box’.  The system relies on trust both ways and seems to work.  They use the same system for the on site shop, which is really only a few fridges with some bacon, juice, milk and stuff in, you take what you want and put your money in the box!  I can really see that working back home in Morrissons!

We settle on a pitch in the open field, where the ground is a little moist under foot, but the views from the caravan windows are superb.  Herself decides she wants salad cream with her tea, and we have none with us.  Not usually a problem, except the nearest shop is in Builth Wells, some 5 miles back down the road!

10 miles later, and herself has some salad cream to go with her tea, which tonight will be a light meal of rump steak, grilled tomatoes, jacket potatoes, mushrooms and a side salad!  Tea was cooked on the Weber, and even though I say so myself, the steak was grilled to perfection!

As we are clearing the dishes @DerekTheWeatherman’s predictions come to fore, and the heavens opened.  A delightful evening is spent in the van with a few bottles of wine and a box or Perroni for company.

Sunday 1 July

We rise at 9.30am after sleeping like logs, and a peak outside reveals that it’s not raining.  A breakfast of bacon and eggs is cooked outside in the rare glimpse of the sun, with a mug of steaming tea for company.  Bliss.

Whilst it’s not raining, a look towards the heavens says it’s never going to be far away today.  Today’s destination of choice is The ElanValley.  Late morning we head off in that direction with some nasty skies overhead.

On the way I get a Facebook notification from friends of ours who live in the Midlands, Mr & Mrs Starbucks.  The reservoirs of The Elan Valley were constructed so that the good people of Birmingham could have running water in their homes.  Apparently Mrs Starbucks is a little nervous that I’ll be stopping off for a few No 1s during our excursion around the resevoirs!

If you’ve read some of my earlier blogs you will have noted that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about Welsh communities being wiped out and valleys flooded to provide water to England.

As we approach the first dam there are signs for a visitor’s centre, which I am told is supposed to very good and quite informative.  I give it a wide berth, because I know that if I see pictures of Welsh Villages before they were drowned I’ll be straight back out of there to deposit a few No 2s into the water before heading to the nearest corner shop to purchase a box of Swan Vesta and signing up for Meibion Glyndwr!

The sun decides to come out, and the scenery is breath taking.  The dams are set off superbly against the lush green of the surrounding hills.  All the reservoirs are full and water is cascading down the overflows.  A photo opportunity is around every hairpin bend and the place is swarming with sheep, sheep and more sheep.

I get into trouble with herself for stopping to chat with one, and telling him we are having one of his cousins to dinner tonight.  Sorry, did I say to?  What I mean was for!  With mint sauce!

There was much talk of a drought and hosepipe ban a little earlier in the year, but the resevoirs up here are full to overflowing. Having explained the workings of facebook and twitter to Nana Coupons last night she tries to show how much of it she understood by quipping "Send a tweet to Mrs Starbucks to let her know it's ok for her to water the garden!"
The winding road takes us to the top of reservoir country and over the mountain back into Rhyader.  The road back down is narrow, steep and twisting.  In the rear view mirror I catch a glimpse of a big orange blob, and it’s getting closer.

The orange blob passes us in the form of a group of 30 or so chubby men in orange hoodies, all riding MonkeyBikes.  They are going like the clappers and overtaking cars on bends with reckless abandon.  I resist the urge to move into the centre of the road.  Well, that’s quite not true.  I get the look from herself that says ‘Don’t be so bloody childish!’ before I slow down and pull over to let the orange blob roar past.

A few miles later I see another bunch of lunatics coming towards us.  You know the type, the ones on push bikes that consider riding up a mountain to be fun!  Well, these lunatics are also riding four abreast on the narrow road.  There is clearly not enough room for a car and four bikes to pass each other, but the one on the outside must have had an adrenalin rush, because he fancied a game of chicken with me!

He lost, but his stupidity wound me up, so I screamed obscenities at him as we passed each other and I then bravely put my foot to the floor to make my escape.  I am again in trouble with herself, and get the look, this time for forgetting that Nana Coupons is sat just behind me and is about to ask me what some words mean!

The sun is now shining and we decide to head back to site, picking up some fresh vedge for supper on the way.  We have a late lunch sat outside at around 4pm before @DerekTheWeather comes back to haunt us with a brief shower.  Refuge is taken in the awning for a power nap.  Next thing I know, it’s 6.30pm and I wake up, chin on my chest and a pool of dribble down my tee shirt.  Nana Coupons is fast asleep in the other chair and herself is resting her eyes in the caravan.

Dinner tonight was a leg of Lamb roasted on the Weber, served with Jersey potatoes, sweet carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and minted gravy.  Superb it was!

Another evening in the van with Perroni and wine for company before calling it a day at 11.30.

Monday 2 July

The forecast for today is awful.  We wake at 9am and a peak outside reveals it’s not raining.  Stepping out into the awning I note that the zip is open.  I immediately blame herself, but then remember that I was last in yesterday and I did zip it closed.  I have yet to admit this to herself mind!  I put it down to the wind in the night and think no more of it.

By the time we sit down to breakfast it’s pissing down.  Proper Welsh hills rain too.

A leaflet that herself has picked up promises a market in Builth Wells today.  I’d rather sit it out a bit hoping for the weather to clear, but herself quite rightly points out that the market may close early.  We head off into Builth only to find the market closed early – last week – and had not bothered setting up this week because of the rain.

I have that sinking feeling about our day out today (see February’s blogs for more info).

Undeterred we head off in the direction of Hay on Wye.  Never been there before, and my only knowledge of the place is that it’s a stock answer on Gwlad for whenever anyone posts a picture for others to guess the location, and there are a few bookshops there.

The drive is not a pleasant one in the heavy rain, but it eases up a little as we approach the town.  We take advantage of Nana Coupons’s blue badge and bag some free street parking in the centre.  We take a look round, leaving the dogs in the car, but it’s all bookshops and art galleries, not really our scene at all.

My back is in bits so herself kindly offers to walk back up to fetch the car.  20 mins later she drives down the hill, and from a distance I can tell she’s flustered!  Oh dear, this could be trouble.  The car alarm went off and she could not turn it off, everyone was staring at her as she cruised the streets through the maze of no entries, one ways and diversions (all the time with hazards flashing and alarm screaming)

It’s starting to brighten up a bit so we head over to Llandrindod Wells for a mooch.  It didn't really brighten up though because by the time we get there is tipping it down again.  We spot a Tesco on the way in so stop of for some sandwiches for lunch and provisions for tonight.  I sit in the car with the dogs while herself and Nana Coupons go in.

I am dozing on and off and have a bit of a moment as an old lady dressed in full Victorian gear stroll past the front of the car.  I do a double take and then she comes back!

It dawns on me that they have an annual festival up here and she’s collecting in the foyer of Tesco!

There is no let up in the rain so we make for the ornamental lakes set above the town to picnic in the car.

No point being out in this, so it’s back to the van to chill out.  The rain clouds lift as we get close to site and herself walks the dogs round the on site lake, before we batten down the hatches for the night.

Yey, wet dogs in the caravan for the evening!

Tea is pork chops served with sauté potatoes and cauliflower cheese washed down with half a box of Perroni.

At around 9pm the clouds disperse and the skies are bright blue.  A bit bloody late now!

Tuesday 3 July

We’re awake early today, and I’m up and cooking breakfast outside by 9am.  The forecast for today is rubbish (again), and although dry for now loads of wet stuff is promised.  I open the van door and note that the awning zip is open again.  I’m starting to get a bit freaked about this now, even though there are not many people on site and nothing is missing.  My money now is on a vagrant coming in to take shelter overnight.

We have a lazy morning before heading off out at noon.  First stop is Knighton for a trek around Harry Tuffins.  We only want spuds for tonight and some sandwiches for lunch, but £54 later we exit with a trolley full of bit and bobs.  Nana Coupons is in her element, as they sell everything in there!

We decide to head north, and initially it’s a spectacular spin on single-track roads over the mountains, with only sheep for company, before picking up the A483 towards Newtown.

We are miles from anywhere and we come across a toll bridge. I though Dick Turpin had died years ago!

We pull into a lay-by, and while herself goes about making some ham rolls I take the dogs off for a stretch down an embankment.  I return to the car and Nana Coupons and herself are somewhat amused.  The public bogs in the lay-by seem to be attracting lots of middle-aged men.  Some even pull up and do an about turn without stopping as they see us observing goings on!

I wonder what all that was about?

Undeterred we push on and find a parking spot right in the centre on the street.  Newtown is a lovely little town and we spend a pleasant hour strolling through the arcades window-shopping.  The heavens opened (first time today) at around 4pm so we decided to head back south.  It soon cleared up though, so we’ve not had a bad day considering the forecast that was given last night.

We settle down in the van for the night with some winter comfort food in the shape of Bangers ‘n’ mash with onion gravy.  It’s bloody July mind, I keep repeatedly cursing to myself.

We batten down the hatches (AGAIN), I have a few Perronis, herself has a few bottles of wine and Nana Coupons loses herself in a box of Maltesers.

Wednesday 4 July

We are up early this morning with a 6.45am alarm call.  Herself has to be back home for a 9am hospital appointment and Nana Coupons has a birthday bash to attend tomorrow (Mrs Starbucks' dad, who also lives next door to Nana Coupons) so will not be coming back later (that and the fact that she is in desperate need to take some medication she has been laying off while away with us, her breathing is beginning to sound like she’s being ‘Water Boarded’ by the SAS)

Anyway, I step out into the awning and guess what?  Our zip is open!  I look around and nothing is missing.  Tonight I will kip in the car with a baseball bat!

We arrive at the hospital in the nick of time after a horrendous journey.  Herself scurries off to have her treatment, I drop off Nana Coupons before doing some messages.  After picking up herself we drop in on her parents, Nana Creaky and Grandpa Mumbles, to see how they are doing before heading back to the hills.

Herself, as usual after her treatment, is not too well at all.  The rest of the day is spent doing very little.  The sun comes out at about 7pm and the colours of the woodland on the hill opposite us are quite superb.

Dinner tonight is a chicken madras.  With the sun out the view from the dinner table is breathtaking.

I am a little worried about herself this evening as she's not been on a Confined Space Awareness course, and after eating that lot tonight I'll be rattling the rooflights a lttle later!

We retire to our bed quite early.  At around 11.30pm, Tali barks and herself sits up, she hears the zip on the awning opening.  Ever the hero, I pretend I’ve not heard anything and herself gives me a couple of digs to make sure I’m awake.  Sure enough as she opens the blind and we note the zip is open (being the man of the caravan I am peeking over herself’s shoulder trying to sound brave whilst shitting myself.)

With that herself spots our burgler!  He comes back, crawls on his belly through the opening and starts to help himself to dog food from the bag!

A wave of relief sweeps over me realising it’s only a Border collie from a nearby farm out for a midnight feast!

Thursday 5 July

We are woken at 8.30am by one of our dogs wanting to be let out for a pee.  Fair play though, they have been banged up with us in the van for nearly 12 hours!

It’s hot, and joy of joys, the sun is out.  I consult @DerekTheWeather and it’s set to stay with us for the day.

We don’t plan on going far at all today and Mr Shag is working in Llandrindod Wells and has promised (read threatened) to call in for a coffee.  Herslef gets some laundry done, I hoover out and air out the inside of Mandy (she stank after carting round 2 wet dogs all week – (I have been advised by herself that the joke that was here at her and Nana Coupons' expense should be deleted forthwith if I even wanted to sleep restfully again!).

In between all this it was time to catch some serious rays.

I must be getting on, as I have to admit to 2 senior moments today.

First off, I took some washing over to the laundrette (modern man I am see) for herself.  On going to fetch it I noted the machine had not completed it’s cycle (read not started) because some numpty has forgotten to set the programme and turn it on!  My return to the caravan empty handed was greeted with much hilarity, oh how we laughed!

My second moment today was when I was trying to sort out the drains in the van.  For a few days now the sink and wash basin have been slow to drain, sometimes even backing up into the shower tray.  Taking the bull by the horns I decide to sort it out.  I’ve decided it’s a blockage of some sort (see, I’m clever me!) and set about trying to clear it with hot water and plungers. I force the water down the shower plug and the sink fills, force it down the sink and the washbasin fills.  I deduce that someone has poured fat down the plug which has set and caused the blockage.

I’m now on my back crawling under the van looking for obvious signs when my leg knocks the removable pipe that we use to connect the van drains to the wastemaster.  In my wisdom, and downright laziness, I had not put the pipe into the wastemaster and let it dangle.  On knocking said pipe free my leg gets the good news with a few gallons of greasy putrid water!  I clearly see now that the van had sunk into the soft ground and the end of the pipe was digging into the ground and had sealed itself.

I have to take myself off for a quiet word with myself after that!

As I sit typing this at 9.30pm, the weather is still fine, it’s still light out and all is well with the world.  Dinner was eaten with the backdrop of the forested hill opposite lit up by the evening sunshine , and consisited of a king prawn something or other washed down with pink fizzy stuff.

I’m looking forward to seeing the look on the Border Collie’s face later when he realises there is no more awning and no more dog food!

Friday 6 July

It’s moving on day, and guess what kids?  That’s right, we rise to the sound of rain drumming on the van roof.  This is proper tidy rain, and outside looks decidedly wet!

We have breakfast and speak to Mrs Shag who tells us it’s still dry in Llanelli.  The plan originally was to spend the day on site here before moving on, but we decided that there was little point in hiding from the rain here when is was dryer further south west.

Having dropped the awning yesterday we were packed and hitched up in no time at all.  Mandy was wheel spinning frantically on the wet, soggy grass trying pulling the van off the pitch before heading for the sun in South West Wales.