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.

Back in the cars we have the adrenalin rush of a ferry crossing over the river dart and make our way to Churston for the boys to have a karting fix. Just after paying the skies cloud over and it's looking ominous. DD decides that she'll give the karts a miss, so the emergency services of South Devon can now stand down!

Quite frankly the karts were crap, and if wasn't for the fact that it started to piss down and Ronnie and Roids were getting soaked and the track turned a trifle slippery it would have been a total waste of time.

We make our way back to the van, and by the time we get to Totnes the sun is back out and it's like standing under a grill. BBQ time it is then, so we empty Morrison’s' meat section and head back to site to fire up the Weber.

The olds are dispatched back to the B&B at around 9pm and we have a few beers and chill before turning in after a quite tiring day.

Saturday 21 July

I am woken by the sun streaming through the blinds and the sound of laughter from the awning. Herself, Ronnie and DD are having their early morning cuppa and the dogs have been walked. Roids is still in his pit.

Ronnie lets on that Grandpa Grumbles would like a ride on a steam train, so it's decided that the South Devon Railway will benefit from our custom today. After collecting the olds from the B&B we roll up mob handed to the living museum at Buckfastleigh. Herself, Grandpa Grumbles and I go to the ticket office to work out the cheapest way for us all to travel, turns out there isn't one, so tickets were purchased for 4 adults, 1 OAP, 1 Disabled, 1 Carer, 2 dogs and 1 savage!

We kill some time having as mooch around the museum display before a bell rings to tell us the train is on its way and all the anoraks arrive with their supa doopa cameras. Grandpa Mumbles is a bit of an anorak where trains are concerned and is like a kid in a sweetshop, he stands on the edge of the platform and gets a cracking shot of the train pulling in. I am standing back patiently awaiting it's arrival, camera poised for that perfect shot. It's hard with my camera because of the time delay from pressing the button to shutter action. Anyway, I'm sat there thinking hold it, hold it, hold it .... now! When Grandpa Mumbles wanders into the frame! FFS!

An opportunity lost we set about getting aboard. The anoraks are all fighting to get the best seats, and it's tempting to upper cut someone just for the fun of it. We cram ourselves into a carriage and let the train take the strain.

Alighting at Totnes we follow the signs to the town centre, where we hope to find a pub with an accessible beer garden that will allow us to take in the dogs and have a drink and a bite to eat. The Lord Nelson comes to the rescue, and they are very accommodating. A bowl of water is brought out for the dogs immediately.

Grandpa Mumbles' foot is giving him some gip and he's glad to be able to rest it. Nana Creaky declares that she's hot and wants to be in the shade. Without flinching or getting up he lets off the brake on her chair and just pushes her away, leaving her rolling across the beer garden towards a shaded area. He then takes another gulp of his shandy! Class! We are all in stitches.

It’s a fair old trek back up to the station for the return journey and we are all ready for some refreshments when we get there.  With an hour to kill there are loads of photo opportunities.

Back on site it’s chill out time.  The Weber is fired up and the lager poured down necks.

Sunday 22 July

The van is like an oven with the sun high in the sky.  We breakfast on bacon rolls before picking the olds up en route to Plymouth.  We park up and stroll around The Barbican area.

It’s rammed there and is a constant parade of motor bikes.  After a stop for drinks, I volunteer to look after the dogs while they all go into the gift shops.  I am sat there next to this line of parked up machines with leather clad bikers and biker babes trying to look cool.  The dogs catch the eye of a few of the babes and I’m trying not to stare too hard at their leather clad arses when I feel my legs getting warm.  I look down and Tali is relieving himself all over my right leg!

The babes point and laugh at me, and that’s any street cred I had left straight out of the window.  The others take a little longer than expected and I’m sat there stinking like a dog kennel with the stale pee starting to dry up!  How I laughed.

The olds are heading home today and Grandpa Mumbles is getting a bit edgy about the return drive.  We go back to the van and herself makes them a packed lunch before waving them off.

It’s now late afternoon and the sun is still high.  We decide to head off out for a spin.  We drive through Paignton on the way to Torquay.  Paignton is chav central, and not at all like I remember it from my last visit in 1987.

Torquay is lovely, we wander around the harbour admiring all the gin palaces before stopping at a harbour side bar for a drink while watching the world go by.  A glance at the prices on the menu tells me we are not eating here tonight and ship out looking for somewhere a bit more reasonable.

A ferry ride later we find ourselves in Dartmouth again and happen across The George & Dragon.  It has a beer garden and does meals with prices not to make the eyes water.  The beer garden is down a considerable flight of steps from the pub and there’s not many there.  Just 2 workmen and bloke on his own as well as the staff.

Our order is taken, quite reasonable too at £52 for 5 to eat with drinks and we sit to wait for food.  The 2 work blokes get up and leave and then someone comes in to join the bloke on his own.  He’s a bit of a scruffy old git and his new friend is a young Asian woman dolled up to the nines.  They shake hands before she gives him a peck on the cheek and they sit talking for 5 mins before getting up to leave.  He’s obviously paying for Ting Tong’s time by the hour!

Anyway we sit and wait for our food, and we wait, and we wait.  It’s now 45 mins since TingTong left and we’ve not seen a soul that time, not even a member of staff.  I start looking round for hidden cameras and am convinced that we are now on the set of The Real Hussle!

The food did eventually arrive, and was very good.  On returning to the van we sat up talking and drinking until quite late on.

Monday 23 July

We wake early and it’s hot again.  After breakfast the morning is spent around the van doing some chores and soaking up the sun before heading off out just after midday.

I have to confess at this time to a bit of a senior moment.  Herself had bought new shower gel for the van, and I had not notices that one of the ingredients was cooling tea tree oil.  It didn’t take long to realise though after application to my gonads!  Still smarting a bit, I decided to freshen up my shorts a bit with a spray of deodorant before putting them back on, so I turned the lining inside out, grabbed the can and proceeded to spray the lining with ……… shaving gel, after having grabbed the wrong can!  I wiped them out as best I could thinking “It’ll be OK” but how wrong can you be?

After 5 mins my gonads are on fire!

Following dipping the tiddlers in a sink of cold water we head off in the direction of Dartmoor.  The House of Marbles is first stop, where they have the World’s biggest marble run fixed to the inside gable wall.

From there we make our way through some stunning scenery into the national park and the village of Widecombe in the Moore.  We wander around the chocolate box village before spending some time in the beer garden.

No trip onto Dartmoor can be complete without a spin to Princetown and a look at its famous prison. More interesting for me this time around because I have recently been reading a lot of books about the Krays and London gangland culture.  Many of the characters were locked up here for many years.

Back to site for a BBQ supper of ribs and drinkies before turning in at around 11pm shattered.

Tuesday 24 July

Hot again this morning with the sun up very early.  Herself and I had a quiet day around the van today, flitting between the sunshine and the shade.  It’s bloody hot!

Ronnie has taken himself, Roids and DD off out for the day and went to Cornwall, just over the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall.  Looe and Polperro were the lucky villages.

We decide we can’t stay like this all day so decide to take a look at the Cider Press in Dartington.  We’ve lost all track of time, and when we pull up at 5pm its closing.  5pm?  Really?  Where did the day go?

We’ve plans to go out for a meal this evening so it’s back to the site to wait for DD, Ronnie and Roids.  We are told that the California Cross Inn, about a mile from the site is very good so decide to go there for a meal.  Unfortunately for us half of South Hams had the same idea and free tables are non existent!

Undeterred, we pile back into Mandy and head off in search of another pub.  We happened across The Exeter Inn at Modbury.  A pub dating from the 14th century that has a rather nice beer garden and does meals.  Result.

The young girl behind the bar warns me there is a 30 min wait for food on taking my order.  No problem me thinks, 30 mins is bugger all.  What soon became apparent was that it would be 30 mins before they even thought about glancing at the chit of paper with my order on it!  I’m thinking to myself “Oh no, not again!” as the hour came and went.  It’s starting to get dark now, but our food did arrive eventually.

I wish I could say it was worth waiting for!  My steak was more like a medallion, Ronnie’s madras was more like a stew, Roids and DD’s burgers were not as ordered and herself was not really hiungry so her meal’s deficiencies don’t count.

The young waitress  cheerfully asks “Anything else I can get you?” to which I reply “A torch to see what I’m eating would be nice!”

Back on site I throw a few Rattler Ciders down my neck before we all turn in by 11pm.  It’s been a lovely day again today, warm and sunny.

Wednesday 25 July

This cannot be right?  We wake again to the sun streaming though the blinds and stepping outside the awning is like standing under a grill.  Bliss.

Herself is concerned that the dogs are getting hot in the boot of Mandy and that we need some shades for them urgently.  Who’d have thought it in the UK, in the summertime?

Anyway, Google is your friend, and tells me that the nearest Pets at Home is in Plymouth.  So it’s back onto the A38 and heading south west.  The journey was not incident free though, as the road layout in the fair city has been somewhat transformed since the version of TomTom I have was released.  Herself gives me the look and decrees that it’s about time I purchased an update for the maps.

I foolishly thought the visit to PAH was just to buy some shades.  I’m stood in the queue with the shades when herself saunters up with new collars for the dogs and a fist full of treats!

Shades fitted, we find a parking space on the sea front by The Hoe and spend some time wandering and people watching.  It had slipped my notice that there were many bronzed  young ladies in rather revealing bikinis around the place, until they were pointed out to me by herself!

Tesco express in Ivybridge is visited on the way back before we continued our personal tour of beer gardens in South Hams.  We stopped off at the California Cross and had a pint of the very nice Addlestones Cloudy Cider in their suntrap of a beer garden.

Back on site we chill with various bottles of Rattler Cider and our Kindles before making the huge effort of cooking some chinese pork chops for tea.

9pm and it’s still very warm, thankfully our pitch gets some shade after 3pm, so the van has a chance to cool down.  Mrs Shag would not approve at all.

The dogs get walked late tonight, now that it’s cooled down a little.

Thursday 26 July

After a very sticky night, we wake again to blue skies.  I’ve not had a full breakfast so far this holiday, so that was put right before any sort of plans for the day were made.
Over breakfast, herself tells me about how the lady next door had been waxing lyrical about this spot they had found by a river, where there were no people and their dogs were free to run around and swim about.  She is set on going there, the only trouble being that when she told her about it she had circled an area on the OS map covering approx. 6 sq miles saying “It’s just there!”

Off we set, armed with nothing more than TomTom and an AA road atlas.  Needless to say we failed miserably in our mission and decided to cut our losses and heading further into the Dartmoor National Park and the Venford Reservoir.  Parked up and armed with a packed lunch we set about walking around the reservoir.  It was very enjoyable with the dogs diving in and out of the crystal clear water.  Herself was less than impressed as they shook all over her and her cream trousers!  This is not how she pictured her day unfolding.

About ¾ round we happened across a picnic table perched right on the water’s edge and sat feeding our faces and our lone duck visitor.

Fortified, we finished the circuit and I offer myself some congratulations as it’s probably the furthest I have walked in 2 years!
From there we ventured further into the National Park and stumbled across a run down hotel called the Forest Inn.  It's in the middle of nowhere, but it has a beer garden!  This place appears to be run by a load of Alfred Hitchcock’s mates and going into the bar to order 2 pints of Thatcher’s cider is an unnerving experience.

Back to site by late afternoon to settle down with a book and a case of Strongbow before feeding our faces with rib eye steak, sauté potatoes, mushrooms, salad and garlic bread.
It’s only 8.30pm as I write this, but the combination of today’s walk, a mountain of food and half a case of Strongbow is taking it’s toll and I am on my chinstraps.  Can’t see it being a late one tonight.

Friday 27th July

After sleeping like a log I am woken by my phone ringing at 9am.  It’s Nanna Coupons calling to sing Happy Birthday to me.

Cards opened and pressies unwrapped we decide to skip breakfast.  Well that’s not quite accurate on my part as I’d consumed a packet of biscuits with my early morning cuppa!

With sandwiches and drinks from the local spar we set off for a day out with not much of a plan.  We made our way to Torcross through what seemed like never ending, narrow and winding lanes and discovered a vast expanse of beach that allows dogs.   We parked up near the beach at Slapton Ley and looked for somewhere well away from others so that the dogs could have some freedom.

The beach is not sand though and comprises of shingle that is quite uncomfortable under foot.  We settle down right on the sea shore, and just as we do so Tali gives us his own welcome as he curls down a 2 bagger!  We start to relax, the sun is hot, the sky is blue and the sea looks inviting.

Now you’d think that being about ¼ mile away from anyone else would be far enough.  Not so.  Tali spots another dog and sets off at a pace the Lynford Christie would be proud of, with our shouts seemingly only serving to cheer him on.  So I set off to get him, over the shingle beach remember!  Each step is accompanied with either an oohh, and aahh or an ouch!  On the return journey each oohh, aahh or ouch was also accompanied by a yelp as I tried to wedge my foot up his arse!

Not to be trusted he is now on his extending lead while Cerys plays in the surf, until a big wave catches her unawares and engulfs her.  She is not a happy dog, and spends the next hour shivering and cwtching up to me.

Two hours on the beach and herself had had enough.  We make our way back to the car and follow the coast road further on, passing Blackpool Sands before arriving in Dartmouth once more.  We join the queue for the lower ferry and I notice a Hearse , fully loaded, pull up behind me.  Dartmouth’s answer to Arthur Cambrey leaps out and runs round the corner to arrange a spot of queue jumping.  Quite what the rush is I don’t know?  There’s not really any life saving to do is there?
Anyway, they jump the queue and disappear round the corner.  We are called forward and take our place right behind the sole mourner’s car.  It now feels as though we are in the funeral  cortege.  This must be a regular occurrence as the ferry men and the local foot passengers take it all in their stride, but it’s obviously a novelty as I glance up to the quay side and not flocks of tourists taking pictures of the funeral  on board the ferry for the albums.

We disembark on the other side as the locals doff their caps and follow the hearse for some time through the lanes.  To be fair though, the driver’s not exactly holding up the traffic!

We arrive in Brixham, park up, and have a wander.  I buy a knife sharpener in a fishing shop and herself mooches in and out of a few gift shops. The place is rammed and everyone is people watching.  I’m stood outside a shop holding onto the dogs when I spot a gut who’s been fitted out at Sports Direct for his holiday.  Dripping with Elizabeth Duke’s finest, he sports a leather trilby hat, Londsdale sleeveless tee shirt, Londsdale ¾ trousers and Lonsdale Velcro fastening daps.  The image is made even more amusing by the fact that at only 5’ 2” the ¾ trousers are flapping at ankle length on him!
Time for refreshments, but all the beer gardens are full.  We find a pub that’s dog friendly though and have some time out of the sun with a pint of Stowford Press cider for company.
After a long day out we pick up provisions and head back to site.  It’s been hot and sunny all day today again.
Nice of them to throw a big party in London tonight for my birthday!

Saturday 28 July

A peak through the sky light reveals it’s still not raining, though @DerekTheWeather has tweeted me saying the hot spell will not last.
We take down the awning first thing in readiness for our move tomorrow, and after breakfast and some chores around the van I fall asleep in the sun for a few hours.  It’s 3.30pm by the time we get to go anywhere today and head over the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall and the village of Looe.

We spend a very pleasant few hours roaming the narrow streets, popping in and out of gift shops while Tali tries to pick a fight with every dog within his 20m exclusion zone!  I find myself a replacement pair of Crocs to wear on site and we pick up a pressie for one of the boys before calling in Pasty Presto.
Armed with a bag full of pasties we hunt down a bench on the quay side and sit for a while in the sun making pigs of ourselves.

It’s clouded over a few times today, but we’ve not seen any rain.  This has to be a record for us, we’re at day 10 now and we’ve not got wet yet.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed this site and exploring the area, and what’s more the dogs are now trained to walk tidy on a lead.
Early night tonight as it’s move day tomorrow to a site on the north Cornwall

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