Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Geo caching on Dartmoor with no bloody deckchairs

We like our late October breaks, it sets us up for the long dark winter.  That said we also like our pitches to be fully serviced at this time of year, and originally we had a pitch booked with the Caravan Club at Putts Corner, but that was weighing in at over £22 per night which was troubling me somewhat.  Never mind, Google is yewer friend, and some browsing threw up Ross Park in Devon, with more facilities for a bargain £15.50 per night.

Wednesday 22 October

Strange day to start a holiday I know, but Herself was in college yesterday so a traditional Saturday to Saturday break was out of the question.  I was a little worried on Tuesday as Hurricane Gonzalo was delivering us a glancing blow.  I tweeted @DerekTheWeather to find out what was occurring and he reassured me that the winds were to die down over night.

Sure enough, I wake at 7am and take a look out of the window and there's not a breath of air.  Hitched up, we are joining the M4 at 10am and Miranda's cruise control is set to 60mph and we settle down for the trip. Except for a burning Pajerro at the side of the road in Newport, the journey was uneventful - which is just as you want it to be when towing a 1.5 tonne tin box.

We stop for a break as usual at Taunton Dean services, and while I take the dogs for a stretch, Herself pops in to pick us up a McD's for lunch.  She comes out laden with a Big Mac for me, a Chicken Legend for herself, and a Hamburger each for the dogs!!

As we pass Exeter it seems a little strange to take the A38 rather that our usual A30.  A few miles on and I'm starting to fidget in my seat with the thought of the fast approaching Telegraph Hill that we have to climb.  It's always nice to have a run at that, but there is a 50mph limit on it's approach with average speed enforcement cameras.  The limit does not increase until we are 100m into the climb, so I am resigned to a lethargic crawl up to the top of the bugger.

Pulling onto site, first impressions are good.  Payment is refused until after we are settled in and we are escorted to our pitch.  We've just got the awning up and my hands are recovering from the battering they have just taken pegging out, when a conversation between Herself and I went something like this. (Bear in mind that when we are going away, Herself sorts the food and clothes and it is my responsibility to ensure we have all the kit we need.)

"Babe .... are we bothering with awning furniture this week?"
"Of course we are .... mun.  What a stupid question."
"Ok, what do you want to set up?"
"Well, our Commander chairs and a table for starters!" "Tut, tut"
"Babe ..... where are they?"
"In the van mun."
"Where in the van?"
"On the be .........."
"You forgot them didn't you."

There then followed a tirade of expletives aimed in my general direction.  Of course, now there is nothing that's right.

"Hun, could you pass me the Aquaroll please?"

That gets hurled out of the door in my general direction! Now Herself and I have been married for north of 20 years, and we are quite in tune with each others thoughts.  I am quite quick on the uptake, and immediately come to the conclusion that I am in the shit, and any ideas I had of cashing in my conjugal rights coupons this week can be put on the afterburner for the immediate to mid term.

Set up, albeit sans any awning furniture, we lead the dogs and trudge over to reception to pay.  Why they couldn't take payment when we arrived is beyond me!  We the make our way down to the dog walk for the hounds to have a stretch, and what a dog walk!

Our evening meal was a few pasta bakes, washed down with copious amounts of lager before turning in quite early.

Thursday 23 October

I'm up at 8am and out with the dogs, leaving Herself in bed.  I let the dogs have a run and a roll about in the mud for a while before leading them to head back up the hill.  I have a surprise for them though.  This site has its own shower block for dogs, and my two smelly ones are about to get the good news from a shower head.

Tali was none too impressed, and howled the place down.  With sparkly clean dogs and a packed lunch we head off out for the day.

There is a massive garden centre / Diy / pet shop next to the site, so we stop in for a nose.  The tone for our visit is set as we enter and Herself it taken with a Christmas ornament.  I take one look at the £80 price tag, swear a bit, and Herself strops off.  Funnily enough, she didn't look at much else, and we exited empty handed ...... a result in my book.

Next stop is Babbacombe.  We parked up at the beach with the intention of walking over to catch the cliff railway back up to the town.  We walked along the prom, negotiated a few elevated walkways that were clinging to the cliffs, before we rounded a corner to be confronted with an ascent that would have a mountain goat sucking in large quantities of air through its teeth.  I look down at Herself's footwear, and we both know that we are going no further today.

Back at Miranda we share our ham sandwiches with the dogs before making tracks.  The beach here is accessed by a 30% hill with a hairpin bend.  Last time I came here way back in 1985 I was driving a Hillman Avenger with rear wheel drive.  Suffice to say that Miranda coped a little better than the Avenger driven by a 17 year old with a lead right foot all those years ago.

Exmouth was the next lucky place to benefit from our presence.  We cruise along the sea front and are aghast as we see people swimming in the sea.  Nutters.

Tali is getting a little excited at the thought of running on the beach, and as we parked up I lifted the tailgate and he made a break for it, in a straight line for the beach.  In his excitement he failed to notice that the beach was a full 2m lower than the unprotected edge of the promenade.  Bystanders gasp as he takes the tumble and I get disapproving looks from all directions.  Not because my dog was out of control and could have hurt himself, but because I am struggling to contain myself.

Regular readers will remember that I got into trouble at the end of August because Herself's flask was losing heat.  Well, that has been rectified for this trip.  Herself has a brand new flask, and as I poured her a coffee from it I am pleased to note a steady plume of steam.  Did I get any gratitude though?  Not on your life.  That's all I had was moans about a funny taste to the coffee and allegations that I'd not put enough spoons in!

Back on site we eat at the van before scrubbing up to head out for a drink.  We take the dogs with us and take a table in the conservatory spending a few hours in the company of a cheeky Robin and bribing Tali to be good with a bag of pork scratchings.

Back at the van we stay up late polishing off the remnants of our booze stash.

Friday 24 October

I wake at 7.30am after a great night's kip and soon realise that I am in bed alone, with Herself having taken up residence on the benches at the front of the van.  Oh dear, I suspect my deep sleep was accompanied by some very loud snoring, so as quietly as I can I get dressed and take the dogs over the field. At least they still love me, and just to show their appreciation, they in turn assist me in clearing my chest and sinuses!

Trudging back up the hill I'm none too enthusiastic. Breakfast has been a rather poor show so far, in fact yesterday it didn't happen at all.  Last night Herself declared that we were to have oats this morning, and after my performance over the last few I didn't feel like I was in any position to protest.

Herself had lit a flame under the kettle, and as I'm climbing the steps she announces that she fancies bacon butties for breakfast.  She melts my heart sometimes!

I'm clearing away after breakfast and washing out the flasks in readiness to refill them when it happened.  Herself was watching too, and saw everything, so there was no way I could lie my way out of it.  I was swilling her flask and emptying it into the sink, when out slipped a rather soggy set of instructions! Oh dear.  little wonder Herself's coffee tasted so off yesterday!

With a packed lunch stuffed into day sacks we pile into Miranda and head for Bovey Tracey and The World of Marbles.  Herself wants to look for some trinkets for TF and FG so I obligingly follow behind.  Some of they marbles in this place are selling for hundreds of pounds.  When I say selling, I mean up for sale! What kind of fool would part with that sort of money.

Having again avoided spending any money we hit the roads and started climbing up into the mist that shrouded Dartmoor.  We park up, put on our coats, put on the dog's coats and start an ascent from the west side up to Haytor Rocks.  I wish I could say that the view was worth the climb,but I can't.  It was a bit murky and windswept up there, and even the wild ponies were giving us the "WTF are you doing up here in this?" look.

We point Miranda towards Widdicombe in the Moor and the place is deserted, even Uncle Tom Cobbley has buggered off today.  We stop briefly for Herself to pick up some pasties and then continue towards the River Dart Country Park, where we picnic watching nutters playing in the river.

Onwards we go to a vineyard that Herself has picked out on the map.  With some difficulty we navigate Totness and follow the South Hams lanes for some distance before we find ourselves at the Shapham Vineyard.  I'm really looking forward to some tasting, but as we exit Miranda I say to Herself, "I'm just popping to the toilet."

After I've finished availing myself of their facilities I head to the shop to catch up with Herself.  She says "Wallet please."I hand it over, she pays for a bottle of wine and we walk out!

She did the tasting and the choosing on her todd, My bottom lip quivered for quite some time, I can tell you. Back in a rather frosty Miranda we start climbing back out of the valley.  Herself knows she's in the wrong and starts to offer all kinds of excuses.  I'm having none of it and am enjoying making her suffer until she plays the ace card.  I say nothing, as right now saying anything further at all would result in the confiscation of all my conjugal rights coupons.

We make our way back to site to chill for a few hours and the weather has cleared up nicely.  The view up to Dartmoor from our van shows that the weather is somewhat better up there now that when we were doing Edmund Hillary impressions earlier on.

Herself had been watching a vet programme on TV on Wednesday and had seen them use a lifting sling on dogs to help them get in and out  of cars, we've been looking for one since with no success.  Today during the periods when Herself was not talking to me my cogs were turning, and I has an idea.  So armed with a Farm Foods bag for life, webbing straps from a holdall, super glue and some duct tape.  My leatherman was slashing about like Edward Scissor Hands, and the blood was spraying from cut fingers galore, but in no time at all we are the proud owners of a Farm Foods branded dog lifting sling.  Herself cruelly jibes that I should wait to see if it'll take Cerys' weight before writing to the patent office.

Time flew, and I'm sure the next few hours involved a power nap, but we have to get scrubbed up.  Herself enjoyed our drinks in the on site pub last night that she reserved a table for tonight.  We amble over, take a seat amongst the tropical plants and vines and settle down for three courses and drinks.

Every table has at least 2 dogs tethered to it and understandably they are all getting a bit fractious, so before Tali makes us the centre of attention we finish our drinks and waddle out of the place.  Herself takes the dogs down to the field and I set about emptying the cassette and topping up the flush.  All was going well.  Rubber gloves on I went about my jobs in the pitch black, working by torchlight.

Why do I never learn?  I disconnect the hose from the Aquaroll and with water gushing out I hurriedly make my way to the flush tank.  The tank is filled in  no time and I now go to reconnect to the Aquaroll with the torch in my mouth illuminating the scene.  I go to press the fitting onto the ball valve and straight away the water is spraying everywhere.

What I should have done now is abandoned the effort and turned off the tap to make the connection, but no, I persevere with the LED lights at the centre of the spray hitting my chops with the force of a water cannon, the entire site was treated to a water fountain that would not have been out of place in an opening ceremony for the Olympic Games!

Herself rounds the corner with the dogs and is treated to the sight of me stood there, ringing wet, still with torch in my mouth!

She didn't even bother telling me off, shaking her head as she walked away was enough.  Not exactly covering myself in glory this week, am I?

Saturday 25 October

Leaving Herself  in bed, I'm down the field with the dogs by 8.30am.  With breakfast out of the way we are on the road to Totnes by 10.45 and find a place to park with remarkable ease.

The place is bouncing, and it's quite some time since I've seen a town centre with so much life.  There are food stalls everywhere, a band, busker or street entertainer on every corner and throngs of people out for the occasion that is Saturday.  As we start to walk up the busy and very steep main street we get caught up in a wedding party making their way to the church.

The bells are ringing, the blokes all have blue suits and tanned slip on shoes, and the girls are struggling not to topple over on sky scraper heels while at the same time struggling to maintain their dignity by pulling down their very short skirts.  The 'Eastern European Prostitute' look seems to be very popular today.

Half way up the hill and Herself dives off to the right down an alley way where she has spied a coffee shop with an outside terrace.  She makes a show of pretending she was thinking of my belly, but I know full well it had more to do with me paying far too much attention to the aforementioned young ladies.

Never the less, I am rewarded with a pot of tea and a large slice of carrot cake, which goes down rather well, even if I did get the look for wringing out 4 cups from the tea pot by topping it up with hot water!

Suitable refreshed, and with all the EEP's in the church, we set of up the hill again.  At the top, in the civic square is a market with loads of good stalls.  We splash out on a loaf of sour bread but resist some Goan fish curry.

Back in the car we head for Hunts Farm Cider near Paignton.  It's a little out of the way, and when we arrive not really what we expected.  Just a driveway, and a window through which you are served.  We taste a few before settling on the dry, and watch as he decants it direct from the vatt into a poly container.

We follow the road to Stoke Gabriel, a pretty little place set on the banks of the tidal reaches of the River Dart.  Only this place does not seem too welcoming.  There are signs everywhere forbidding you to do this and telling you that you must do that.  We didn't stop.

We followed out tracks back to Paignton and bagged a parking spot on the sea front.  Every man and his dog seems to be out and the streets are rammed.  Before even attempting to walk Tali through that lot he needs a good run, so we climb down the steps onto the beach.

He in turn shows his gratitude by curling down a two bagger for Herself to pick up in front of everyone, before running off the play with a 3 legged whippet.

With that out of the way we walk up and down the main street passing arcade after arcade and shops all selling the same tat.  Herself is not impressed, and I must agree with her that it is Chav Central.  We dive into a beer garden for cover and I go inside to get a few pints of cider.  It goes cold as time goes on so we make our way back to Miranda and head for the hills and our site after a long day out.

I get into JFO mode and we feast on huge rump steaks for tea.

Herself clears up while I go outside to do some outside jobs.  On the way back it strikes me how cosy our set up looks, and it won't take much persuading for me to settle in for the night with a bottle of Gin for company.

Sunday 26 October

The clocks went back last night, only they forgot to tell both the dogs and my screaming bladder.  I am down the field with them by 7.30am and am sat in the van waiting for Herself to stir from her beauty sleep.  Last night Herself had muted that she would like to go to a market this morning, and as they say "Google is yewer friend" ........ only this should be followed by a sometimes!

Google tells me that there are 2 markets taking place in Newton Abbot today, so with high hopes we set off in that direction.  The first one, at the cattle market turns out to be nothing more than a car boot sale.  Herself and I do not do car boot sales so we do not stop, and make tracks towards the 2nd market taking place at the racecourse.  Only we arrive, and there's no market, not even a car boot sale!

I flip open the case on my s5 and start Googling again.  A page flashes up at me promising a massive market and boot sale at the park and ride in Exeter.  Their page makes a big thing about there being at least 40 market stalls every week in addition to the hundreds of car booters.

Things look promising as we exit the roundabout, with a packed car park and throngs of people following the "Market this way" signs.  We follow them and a soon as we pass through the heavily guarded entrance gate, Herself and I turn to each other, and in unison say "It's a bloody car boot!"

We stick with it though and walk around with gritted teeth, being entertained briefly by a chav couple having a full on argument in the middle of the boot sale, children in tow, with everyone watching and  listening.  Some people!!

Incidentally, Cerys has taken to her sling like a duck to water, and the glued joints are holding out, so I'll be calling in the patent office in Newport on the way home (Is it still there?)

Time to head for the coast and we take the road down through Starcross towards Dawlish Warren.  We pay a King's ransom to park and walk past the amusements and go karts towards the sea front. The walk was only a few hundred meters, but was not incident free.  The footpath passes under a bridge.  The bridge carries the main railway line deeper into the west Country.  We're half way through the underpass when a 125 passes over us at full tilt.  What a noise.  I had my hearing aid in, so the noise was amplified to a point where I thought my ear would start bleeding.  The whole structure is shaking and Cerys just flops onto her belly in the middle of the road and shakes uncontrollably.  Tali get spooked and makes a break for it, pulling Herself's arm out at the shoulder socket causing Herself to shreak out in pain.  All the while the normal people are continuing as if nothing has happened, but are giving the strange Welsh people a very wide berth.

Herself does a bit of gift shopping before we take a table on the terrace of The Boat House with views over towards Teignmouth and Torbay.

We very nearly didn't as a bloke coming out warned us not to have anything to eat from here as it was rubbish.  I ignored him for no other reason than he has on a pair of black leather slip on shoes with a pair of shiny blue tracksuit bottoms!

Full as gyppo's handbags we waddle back to the car and take the coast road through Teignmouth and Torquay before heading back inland to the site.

Herself rustled up a superb bangers and potch with onion gravy for our evening meal, and we went no further than the dog walk for the rest of the evening.

Monday 27 October

I had a bloody great night's sleep and wake at 8.30am with a pool of dribble on the pillow.  Herself was out with the dogs, so I lit a flame under the kettle in readiness for her return and slid back under the duvet while it boiled.

We've plans to go back up onto Dartmoor today, only from a different direction, so after breakfast, and with light rain we set off to circumnavigate the moor in an anti clockwise direction as far as Lydford, where our maps tell us there is a gorge, waterfall and devil's cauldron to see.

We got as far as the car park where we are horrified to note that the National Trust was a whopping £7.60 each off us for the privilege of walking the path to the waterfall.  I stopped briefly to avail myself of their toilets before we continued our journey as far as Tavistock where we spend an hour or so having a mooch around.

With the mist still lingering we returned back to the car and took the B3367 that takes you up onto the moor and past Princetown.  It's a real peasouper, so much so that the prison was hidden in the fog.  We pass Two Bridges and start to look for somewhere sheltered to stop for lunch, and find a carved out pull in at the side of the road.  Both Rugby Ref and myself are almost certain it is the same one that we took shelter in way back in 1984 with Nana Coupons hunched over a camping gaz stove cooking hot dogs and burgers for 8 of us!

Fortified we set off looking for somewhere interesting to go for a walk.  We pass through Widecombe, which is noticeably busier that than it was last week, and climb out the other side until we park up as the mist clears.

The climb up Rippon Tor has my heart pumping and my calves throbbing, but the view from up there is fantastic, and well worth the effort.

While I'm sat on a rock pretending to take in the view while the levels of lactic acid in my calves subsides, Herself asks why people feel the need to leave sandwich boxes all the way up here.  I take a look, and then spend the next 10 mins trying to explain what Geo caching is.  We find two, one more open and the other wedged in a crevice.

We leave a message in one and text the number left in the other one to let the lady know we have found it.  Turns out it's been there 4 years.  I think we may have a new hobby, but I'll have to convince Herself to part with the wonga for a GPS system first.

We look west and see that there is heavy rain coming our way, only we are about a mile away from the car.  Looks like Herself's decision to put coats on the dogs will pay dividends.

With the light rapidly fading we decide it's time to leave the moor behind and drop down off it via Bovey Tracey and head back to the site and the comfort of the van. As we lose altitude the weather improves somewhat, but the rapidly fading light means it's too late in the day to do anything else.

Tuesday 28 October

I'm up early with the dogs, down the field and taking a wander of the site.  It strikes me again that this is one of the nest we have ever stayed on, and that total is well over 60.  From a dog owners perspective this place is just perfect.

Back at the van, and Herself has stirred and has started packing stuff away.  The plan is to drop the awning this morning in readiness for our departure.  The packing away bit didn't take too long of course, as we have no awning furniture with us.  With that done, it was a quick breakfast of oats and we are in Miranda and heading off out for the day.

First stop is the fishing port of Brixham.  The sun is doing its best to come out and the place is rammed, we wander the streets and Herself does a little bit of gift shopping.  Everyone seems to be eating a bag of chips, either on a bench or while walking around.  I spy a sign daubed with the details of a special offer ans sell it to Herself, on the proviso that I also get a sausage each for the dogs.

I emerge from the little chippie laden with fishcake and chips for us and bloody sausages that cost more than our fishcakes for the dogs.  We find an empty bench by the harbour and sit down to watch the world go by whilst devouring our unnecessary lunch.

Well, that's not quite true.  The food was rank, and Herself made a point of telling me it was so while pulling gibs and pretending to feel sick.  It went in the bin, but the dogs enjoyed theirs.

From here we are heading over to Dartmouth.  We round the corner to board the Lower Ferry, but it's full, so we wait on the slip road for the next one to come over.  A bonus is that we are first on and have a front row seat for the short crossing.  Whether or not this is a good thing is debatable though as I get very twitchy as the thing starts to sway and bob up and down.

Dartmouth is also packed and we have to do 3 circuits to find a parking spot.  We could have found one on the first circuit if I was prepared to pay, but we paid in Brixham and this is now a point of principle.  Herself ever so eloquently informs me that at the rate Miranda guzzles fuel we have spent more cruising looking for a free spot than if we'd coughed a parking fee!

The place is buzzing with life, and the boat trips are leaving regularly, but I note that no one is spending money and there are few on each boat. Thinking back this has been much the same everywhere we have been this week, loads of people about but not many reaching into their pockets.

As we are walking back to the car we have to pass a pavement cafe.  Sat on one of the outer tables are a couple with two small terrier type dogs.  they clock Tali and Cerys and start barking like mad, as we approach they are practically frothing at the mouth and the owners find this funny for some reason.  I hate nasty little dogs, so as we are passing I accidentally gave Cerys a slightly longer leash, and true to form she takes the opportunity to put the yapping creatures in their place.  I pull her back in as the owners are picking up and comforting the now whimpering beasts.  We didn't break step.

With the light rapidly fading we head back to site to complete the process of breaking camp.  By 5pm we are hitched up and pulling out of the site gates in darkness.  Newton Abbot was interesting in rush hour with the van on the back, but apart from that the journey was hassle free.  I set the cruise control to just north of 60 and sat back just pointing Miranda in the right direction.

Back home and it's a first for us, putting the van back into its cwtch in the dark.  I've just swung it through 90 degrees and can see flashing blue lights everywhere.  I feel like Britain's most wanted!

The copper gets out (he's got his panda car parked in the middle of the road now blocking both lanes, his blue lights are flashing and all the neighbours are out to see what the commotion is) and asks is everything OK.

He'd not seen me, all he could see was a caravan moving by itself.  I explain that everything is OK, we've just returned from holiday and I'm putting the van away.  he's never seen a motor mover before, and I have to show him how it works.  He stays to watch, all the time his blue lights illuminating the scene while the traffic builds up in both directions!

It's been a great week away, very busy, but that's how I like my holidays.

Till next time.