Saturday, 31 October 2015

Are we going to Scarborough (Scratch That) Bampton fair?

Wednesday 28 October

Moving site day today so lying in bed is not an option.  We peel ourselves off the sheets by 9am and set about breaking camp.  It doesn’t take long and by 10.15am we are done and I’m doing a couple of laps of the dog walk with the hounds.

Out of the site we turn right and follow the A39 for a few miles before turning right onto the A391 to traverse the moor.  The village of Dunster was interesting, rammed with early morning traffic and shoppers crossing the busy and narrow road with gay abandon.

With Dunster but a fading image in our mirrors we settle in for what turned out to be a delightful tow over Exmoor.  Vera behaved herself and held the rig firm through all the twists and turns, only scrabbling for grip on one particularly nasty hairpin.  It was hard to keep rolling at times though, what with having to brake regularly to avoid hitting Kamikaze pheasants.

The roads are traffic free and before too long we are skirting Dulverton.  We pass the club site at Exbridge, remarking at how nice it looks and that we will have to stay there one day, before realising that it’s only 11.30am and we are too early to arrive at site.

Just before a narrow bridge I spot a large riverside car park that looks ideal to stop and have a sandwich until we can make our way to the site at 12 noon.  Herself is uneasy though and will have none of it, apparently it’s the overspill car park for the pub opposite.

I know when I’m beat and we head on over.  The dogs are allowed inside, and as pleasant as the beer garden is, inside was beckoning as the sun retreated behind a cloud.  The toasted sandwiches were rather good and at 12.15pm we make our way into Dulverton.

We’re pulling into the site gates of the Caravan Club’s Exmoor House site at 12.25pm and no sooner than I’d applied the parking brake I’m confronted by the male warden as I climb out of Vera.  He’s in my face straight away and I’m given a dressing down at full volume in front of  an audience of other campers.

I’ve not been spoken to like that since I was caught running a dinner token racket in school at the age of 11, and to be honest it took me back a bit.  I retreated to Vera and took a few moments to compose myself and reflect on what had just happened.

I’ll admit we’d committed the most heinous of crimes in arriving a little early, but in the service industry there are ways of addressing paying customers.

Mr Charisma Bypass stormed off to vent more of his anger on some leaves with a blower while Herself and I consider our options.  Neither of us fancy stopping here if what we have just been subjected to is the norm, so I get on the blower to the site back at Exbridge.  The lady warden confirms they have room so I then bell Caravan Club Towers to get them to cancel my booking for Colditz and ask that they make a fresh one for Lakeside at Exbridge.

With that all sorted Herself goes to the office to inform them that we will not be stopping while I head off to do a circuit of the site to turn around.

It would now appear that I have committed another hanging offence, I’ve moved Vera off the white line in the road without first being instructed to do so by Mr Charisma Bypass.  As I round the last bend I spot a lady rushing up the slope towards me and she flags me down.  I’ve no idea who she is but she looks angry.  She was not in uniform so until she shouted at me that she was THE warden for this site I did not know this.

Mrs Charisma Bypass now starts to  mouth off at me before Herself joins us and tells her to calm down as we are not stopping.  We bid them farewell as we leave, promising to take up the matter with Caravan Club Towers.

We retrace our steps, laughing in disbelief at what had just happened, back to Exebridge and the sanctuary of the site based there.  You often hear stories on the internet about over zealous site wardens, and those that could do with some customer relations training, but in my 22 years of caravanning and 11 years of CC membership I can honestly say this is the first time I ever encountered them.

Little did we know earlier when we remarked about stopping here one day that it would be so soon.

Setting up was a doddle, except for me getting a telling off from the warden for filling my bucket from the wrong tap, and it would appear that Mrs Charisma Bypass has already been on the blower to this site to warn hem about us.

Once done we drove back to Dulverton to have a bit of a mooch.  We bought some new blinkers for the hounds and some grape juice for Herself, before making a bee line for the Bridge Inn for some refreshments (including the obligatory bag of pork scratchings for the dogs)

Vera is in a sorry state and is in desperate need of a wash, there is nothing local so we head off in the general direction of Tiverton where we find a hand car wash run by a group of Poles.

They were doing a sterling job, fair play, even washing and wiping down all the door struts.  What we didn’t expect them to do however was open up the boot lid.  Herself shouted at me ….. BOOT … and I exited Vera poste haste, skidding around the back in an effort to stop Gwawr jumping out to play with the traffic on the forecourt.

The sight that greeted me had me in stitches.  Vera’s boot lid was open, Cerys, Tali and Gwawr all sat there frozen and wondering who this strange bloke is who has opened the boot.  The poor young Pole is frozen with panic thinking will they run for it? Will they bite me?

We drive a sparkly clean Vera back to site and while I take the dogs off round the superb onsite dog walk, Herself gets into Nigella mode and cooks up a feast using some of the cheap lamb that we bought last night.

No beach tonight, and the dogs are missing it.

Nos da

Thursday 29 October

It rained quite a bit overnight and when we stir the wind is giving our new awning a bit of a going over.  To be honest it's a bit like re-watching the Bruno Bugner fight in the 80s as our awning keeps bouncing back off the ropes to deliver a stubborn but effective blow.

By 10.30am our Derek's latest weather warning has come to nothing again and I take the dogs over to the walk so that they can have a good stretch and carry out their necessary functions.

We have plans for today, as today is the main reason that we have come to this part of the world this week.  You see, today is Bampton Fair.  We've been here before and know it's a good day.  Just think Neath Fair, but with far less chavs.

Bampton Fair existed even before King Henry III granted it a Royal Charter in 1258 and it is always held on the last Thursday of October. It is one of the oldest surviving Charter Fairs in the country.

We handed over a fiver for the pleasure of parking up Vera on the waterlogged quagmire that used to be the football pitch, leaded the dogs and headed down into the village.

The place is bouncing.  Heaving with people and dogs, loads of stalls as well as party tents, food tents and street entertainers doing their stuff on every corner.  We walk the length of the village browsing the stalls, but making any sort of progress is difficult.  Herself has Gwawr on her lead and she's attracting a fair bit of attention. It's as if these people have never seen a puppy before.

A farmer stops Herself asks a few questions while still giving Gwawr the once over, opens her gob to take a look at her teeth and then asks how much we want for her.  He's got my attention now and Gwawr must be of good stock, so I'm intrigued as to how much profit there is in her.  On entering into the negotiation process I am treated to a kick in the shins from Herself as she announces that the puppy is not for sale.

Some git is also selling snappits, and it would appear that every snotty nosed little darling in the vicinity has been treated to a pack.  It's like walking through down town Beirut, and Cerys is none too happy.  She's dragging her heels and at one point sits down and refused to move.  We take sanctuary outside the relatively calm Quarryman's Rest and take the opportunity to throw a few pints of Thatcher's Gold down our necks with the rest of the revellers.

We can delay it no more, and run the gauntlet again back through the village.  We make it through to the other side and find a park bench next to the fair ground to sit on and tuck into beef rolls.

We could have spent a few more hours here, and I fancied getting a few more of these giant Welsh cakes, but Cerys really wasn't happy here and fair play to her she rarely grumbles about anything, so we climbed the hill back to the swamp to retrieve Vera and set off for a spin over Exemoore.

We traversed the National Park as far as Simonsbath on the lookout for somewhere tidy to go for a walk.  We didn't find anywhere as much of the land appears to be privately owned.  Onward we traveled to South Molton, it looks nice and promises a pannier market on Thursdays, but by now Herself in in "See the world from the comfort of Vera" mode, so we didn't stop.

Back on site we chill for an hour or so before tea. I used a few bottles of Cobra beer to aid the relaxation process as we sat in the awning watching all the other caravanners drift back after their days out.

We'd promised ourselves a drink out this evening, and there is a path that runs from the bottom of the site over some private land to the nearby Anchor Inn.  The wardens had warned us that even though it's a public right of way, the witch who owns the adjoining land doesn't like visitors using it as a thoroughfare, and she may challenge you.

It's pitch  black as we leave the site.  Herself and I holding torches and the dogs with their blinkers on as we pass between the two gates and head off between the two lakes.  Sure enough, the land owner starts to chase us yelling some incoherent rubbish in out general direction.  We didn't break step, and are on the public highway before the witch catches up.

Some of our neighbors are outside having a smoke as we arrive an they tell us that it would appear that the whole of the Caravan Club site are in the bar, and sure enough as we enter, all the faces that turn to face us are familiar.  the hotel obviously does more trade this time of year from caravanners than it does from hotel guests!

The Thatchers is going down  a treat and I'm getting  a little concerned about navigating the path between the lakes on the way back.  It's nice to have somewhere so close that is dog friendly, with them being allowed into the bar area with you.  We looked around, and a quick tail count says there are 11 dogs in the small bar area, including our 3.  All was well until another couple came in with their 4 month old spaniel puppy who started to yap at everything and peed all over the floor in excitement.

Judgement is never at it's best after a shed load of cider, and for some reason we reckoned that it would be safer to return to site waking along the unlit B3222 and A396.  It wasn't that far, but it's surprising how fast passing traffic can seem when you're on foot in the pitch dark.  suppose it didn't really help that Herself was dressed in black jeans and a her black coat as these would be warmer!

Anyway, we got back to the site in one piece, but suffuce to say, we won't be coming back that way at night any time soon.

Nos da

Friday 30 October

Herself sorts out a breakfast of scrambled eggs before we hit the road today towards Glastonbury. Traffic was heavy and it took us some time to get there.

Herself loves the place and whilst I quite like it for its eclectic mix of people, there are a few too many witches about that give me the ebejeebies.  If your weekly shopping list contains items such as a voodoo doll and frogs feet, then I'm afraid you frighten me.

After parking up we leave the dogs in Vera while we head off down the Gauntlet towards the main drag and are immediately accosted by a chugger.  I am wise to him and barge past his outstretched arms but he has Herself in his net.  She is far too nice a person sometimes and would do better telling some people to do one.

Herself is in her element darting in and out of all the Witches' shops selling all sorts of weird shite and whilst I am ok in some of them, I stop dead in my tracks at the threshold of others.

Mind you, some of those I went into I wished I hadn't.  Not the witches behind the tills, but the prices they were charging for some of the stuff, I mean, £750 for a meditation chair????

On the main square there was a silent vigil for peace taking place.  I know this because they had it written on pieces of card they were holding.  Herself knows me all too well, and I'm dared not to go up to them to ask what they are doing.

All Glasto'd out we make the short journey over to the Clarkes shopping outlet at Street.  Herself shifts up the gears in spending mode quite smoothly and in no time at all a few hundred notes have escaped my wallet.  I'm sweating now, really sweating, and am relieved when she suggests that its time to leave.

We return to site and stop long enough to walk and feed the dogs before shooting over to the Anchor Inn once more for an evening meal.  I went for the light option of a full mixed grill and washed it down with a few pints of Thatchers.

Back at the van I immediately set about the task of sleeping it off, waking at 10pm just in time to go to bed.

Nos Da

Saturday 31 October

Up early this morning after and early night last night.  We have broken camp and are hitched up and handing in our barrier code by 9.15am.  The warden is very friendly, perhaps after 3 nights he's now realised that we are not the villains that the previous wardens had made out.  Obviously too late for us to be invited to their cheese and wine party that they held in reception last night, to which many of the other caravanners had been invited.

We're cruising towards J27 of the M5 where we stop briefly for fuel before joining the steady flow of traffic.  The 152 mile journey was uneventful, exactly how you want it towing a 1.5t tin box, and we're pulling up outside home at 12.15 pm.

We've had a wonderful week again in the West Country, until next time ...

Da bo

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