Saturday, 9 May 2015

Ditching the Straws and A Day at the Races

Although a very nice area, we'd not been too impressed by Ilfracombe.  The wind had not let up since we arrived, and yesterday the farm up wind had decided to spread muck on the fields.  Horse flies a plenty and the stench was not a pleasant combination.

Having dropped the awning and decided not to put it back up removed one obstacle in our minds, so over tea last night it was decided that we'd turn the holiday into a tour, and move on.

Wednesday 6 May

With no awning trying it's very best to pull the caravan up into Somerset we had a restful night, so much so that we did not stir until 9.30am.  I throw on some jeans and my fleece and make a bee line to the site office.  In less than 5 mins our booking is cancelled, I'm stuffing the refund into my pocket and running back to the van to get on the internet and book our next site a bit up country.

By 10.30am we are ready to hitch up with Herself having taken the dogs over to the dog walk to sort themselves out before the journey.

Again Miranda behaved impeccably as she hauled the 1.5t tin box through the gale force winds and at sometimes torrential rain.  In a little over 2 hours we are pulling up at the Caravan Club site on Wincanton Race Course.  We choose a pitch from where we can see the course and are set up in no time at all.

Herself sorts out some lunch, while I throw a bucket over the van.  She's in a sorry state after the tow.  With lunch out of the way we have some rather urgent business to attend to.  Herself is nearly out of Prosecco, and that just won't do.  She's been on the stuff every night since we left home last week, and although it's giving her some heartburn, rather than have a night off, we also had to purchase some Gaviscon chasers!!

Miranda also needs a clean and I'd spotted a hand car wash in Wincanton.  £10 the Poles wanted to wash her mind.  The brown one stayed in my wallet - they looked rather confused when I told them that the Aboods back home only charge a fiver!

We stop briefly at a garage selling cheap cars on the way back to site, where I take the dogs for a long walk around the grounds belonging to the Jockey Club.

A joint effort produces a simple yet wonderful tea of bangers with potch, smothered with onion gravy.

We both settle for the night after showers, Herself swigging Prosecco and Gaviscon, and me guzzling a case of Bulmers.

The wind has dropped.

Nos Da

Thursday 7 May

After a restful night we wake to clearish skies and sunshine.  The wind of the last week is also absent.  I take the dogs for a long walk around the racecourse grounds before we head off out for the day.

First destination is the town of Shaftesbury.  We park up and lead the dogs to have a bit of a mooch.  It's a very picturesque place, and appears to be thriving, with a small street market and everyone out to vote.

The real reason for stopping by here is to take a look at Gold Hill,  It is famous for its picturesque appearance; the view looking down from the top of the street has been described as "one of the most romantic sights in England. Gold Hill has also been used as a setting for film and television, but the street is probably most famous for being the main setting for the 1973 "Boy on Bike" television advertisement for Hovis bread, which has been voted Britain's favourite advertisement of all time.  Most will know it as Hovis Hill.

We stop for a coffee outside the cafe at the top of the hill, and I'm impressed that despite their location, they are not out to rip people off.

Suitably refreshed, I take a deep breath before making my way down the hill.  It's steep, very steep.

What goes down must go up, and the climb back up the cobbles is one that even the nimblest mountain goat would think twice about.  I was just glad that I didn't have a heavy old bread bike to push!  Whatever the going rate was for a bread boy, he bloody earned his money here.

With no shop selling Hovis on the hill we settle for a loaf of Sour Dough from some conning git on the market stall at the top of the hill.

Next stop is to be the Clarkes Shopping outlet at Street, with the plan to pick up an extortionately priced sandwich from Costa or some other god forsaken hole while there.  We hit the A303 and it's ground to a halt due to an accident ahead.  We crawl inch by inch for a mile or so before happening across a sign for the Walnut Tree in West Camel.  Wow, what a find.  The food was superb, so whoever had a prang on the A303 at lunchtime today, thanks a lot, much appreciated.

By the time we'd filled our faces the traffic had cleared.  We park up and browse the outlets.  Well browse isn't really the most appropriate description, as Herself proceeded to try and melt her debit card while the mule here got loaded up.

By the time we get back to site things are starting to get busy with just over an hour until the first race of the day.  I rummage through the wardrobe before complaining to Herself that I've nothing green to wear, and my cap isn't even a Barbour!

We tidy ourselves up a bit, before stepping out of the van as race going virgins and gingerly making our way over to the spectators enclosure just 20m from out front door.  We could have watched from the comfort of our caravan, but wanted to make a bit of a night of it.

We haven't a scooby what's going on.  Some bint laughs at me as I ask for a programme - apparently they are called race cards - and we stop to take a look at the nags being paraded around the paddock thing.

Lots of people have paid lots of money to be here tonight.  We have not as entry to the meeting is free for those staying at the Caravan Club site.

Time moves quickly, and with just a few minutes until the first race we have time to get mugged for the price of a few pints before facing the dilemma of working out how to place a bet.

The evening flew by and I'm a bit taken back by the excitement of it all, helped mostly by the fact that 80% of the crowd are pissed.  It is truly a fantastic sight when close up to the rails.  We didn't pick any winners, but then we were only betting for fun, at £2 win for each race.

After a really full on day we retreated the 20m back to the sanctity of our caravan to chill as the hoards queued to exit the car park, supping my first pint of the evening that didn't set me back a fiver!

Incidentally, the steroids are starting to work and I am now able to slurp from a glass without spilling it, so was able to have a bloody good guzzle tonight.

Nos Da

Friday 8 May

I wake at 7am and my Samsung tells me it's a gloomy morning, not just the weather, but it would appear that the country has renewed our Dave's lease on number 10.  The weather outside is also a bit dour.

After a long shower I take the dogs off for a long walk as staff are busy cleaning up the Jockey Club grounds.  Breakfast this morning is a treat, the full english, before we pile into  Miranda and set off for a trip across country.

I hadn't let Herself in on where we were heading, but her eyes began to light up as we swung into the Donkey Sanctuary sites just outside Sidmouth.  Well, my line of thinking was that seeing as she had backed so many donkeys last night, she may as well pat a few more of them this afternoon.

We waste a rather pleasurable few hours there, and best of all there is no entry fee - boxes are distributed all over the place inviting donations - but there is no fee other that guilt.  We do however contribute to their coffers by getting mugged for the price of an Americano and a pot of tea, as well as the soft toy that Herself fell in love with in the gift shop.

All donkeyed out we make the short trip down the hill into Sidmouth.  We immediately get the impression that it is a place where people come to die, so don't bother stopping.

We then head towards the lovely sea side town of Lyme Regis.  Herself does not know it yet, but she's going to have to put up with a fair bit of reminiscing from me for the next few hours.

I feed the parking meter on The Cobb a few pound coins and we set off on an explore.  I stop at the Harbour Master's office and climb the steps.  Herself wants to know what I'm playing at and I explain that the man in charge is an old mate.  His office is locked, so a free cuppa is out of the question.

We walk along The Parade and my stories start,  See that Burger Bar there? I threatened to wreck that place once because they wouldn't serve me cos I was playing up when pissed.

See that pub there?  that's where Rugby Ref got so drunk on Pernod we had to drag him out of the beer garden and dumped him on the beach with the intention of fetching him at home time, only the police came looking for us to move him because the tide was coming in and we'd dumped him below the tide line.

See that pub there? They refused to serve Job cos he was Welsh - he held his ground and we got our beer.

See that pub there? They used to have a challenge that you had to drink 4 pints of Tally Ho beer with a barley wine split, after which you were to run around the car park, in order to get a free pint of Tally Ho beer with a barley wine split.

The Guzzler's mam (lovely lady RIP) used to run a guest house at the top of this hill and we carried Rugby Ref up it on a park bench.

Herself was now getting fed up with my tales, and I'm dispatched to Pasty Presto to pick up some frozen Cornish to take home with us.

Both Abercynon and the Fireman are indisposed - well, it's Friday afternoon and my arrival in Lyme was unannounced - so meeting for a pint is impossible, but the Fireman tells me where his better half - "The Lovely Debs" is working.

I have no idea what she thought of me,  I walked into her shop, a fat Welsh nutter, and say "You must be the Lovely Debs."  She's never met me, and as far as I know never seen me on The Fireman's Facebook page.  I am embarrassed by the fact that Herself has my wallet on her and is the other side of the street holding the dogs, so I am unable to purchase any of her wares - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I left the slightly bemused, but very lovely Debs behind as we made our way back along The Parade in the increasingly heavy drizzle.  I text The Fireman to vent my displeasure at the weather, after all it's always sunny when he posts pics on Facebook, before we dive into the sanctuary of The Cobb Arms for a meal.

We settle in by the Wood burning fire and order a home made fish pie each.  While we are waiting I look around and start "We never used.......". I am stopped in my tracks.  "STFU NOW" Herself mumbles, and I get the hint.  The food was superb.

Time to point Miranda's nose back up country towards Wincanton and the comfort of the caravan.  We settle in for the night and I go about the task of finishing off my stock of Bulmers, no point in towing all of that weight back home is there?

Nos Da

Saturday 9 May

Sadly our mini tour of the west country has come to an end, it's breaking camp day, but with no awning to mess around with it takes no time at all.  By 9.30am we are hitched up and ready to roll.

It's a bit blustery and I'm not looking forward to either the Avonmouth or Severn bridges.  First though we have an hour on the winding A & B roads until we join the M5 at Bridgewater.  A delightful tow it was.

I'd made teh schoolboy error of not topping up Miranda before hitting the road, so with little choice I was mugged for £1.31 a litre of their finest ordinary diesel at Sedge moor services.  The Avonmouth Bridge was interesting, as was the second Severn crossing, bot of which had me clenching my butt cheeks as we got slammed by the side winds.

I also have to grit my teeth as I hand over another £6.50 to the robbing cow in the toll booth for the privilege of entering my home land.  Still as we reenter Gods own country the clouds part and we cruise home for the last hour with clear blue skies overhead.

We've had a cracking week.  Despite of the weather.  And once again serendipity played it's part.  It's that word again, and it's playing a more significant role in our travels.  If it were not for the weather forcing our hand to change our plans we would never have moved on to Wincanton and broken our horse racing virginity.

That's the beauty of this type of holiday.  The flexibility to change plans at a moment's notice.

Until next time, Da Bo!


  1. That would be a lot of fun! I've only thought about taking my caravan camping before. There really are a lot of things you can do with a caravan and places you can visit. I would love to make a trip like that with my family this summer.

  2. That would be a lot of fun! I've only thought about taking my caravan camping before. There really are a lot of things you can do with a caravan and places you can visit. I would love to make a trip like that with my family this summer.