We've changed our tow car since our last trip out. Miranda has been packed off to a retirement home and has had her place taken by Vera, a 2010 Volvo V70 R-Design. Vera is quick, and not as thirsty as Miranda, but I'm keen to give her a go at towing. I don't expect her to be as competent as Miranda but still have high hopes.
Both Vera and the van needed a bucket of water throwing over them and I treated them both to a Ronnie special - snow foam and everything - and threw some folding in his direction for the pleasure.
Both vehicles now sparkly clean for our jaunt to the West Country (Again!!!)
Friday 23 October
For a change, I have to work today and Herself is off, so whilst I face the wrath of the council's scrutiny committee in the chamber, Herself is charged with loading up the van ready for the off.
With my duties dispensed with before lunch I'm attempting to break the land speed record between junctions 42 and 48.
Herself had taken herself off to the bacon van for some rolls for us to throw down our necks before leaving, and by 2pm we are on the road and hitched up ready for the off.
Initial thoughts are good. Vera's got loads of power and accelerates up the slip road to the legal limit without breaking into a sweat. White van man does his best by swerving towards the dotted line as he hurtles past us but the rig stays steady. We hit traffic in Port Talbot and my heart climbs up towards my Adam's Apple as a warning light comes up on the dash.
Not fancying stopping on the hard shoulder I continue, and to be honest Vera is running like clockwork. I promise myself that I'll pull off on the next junction if she so much as hiccups, but she doesn't, and I make the same promise. Herself is unaware of all this and before I know it we're pulling off at the services on the M5 to let the dogs have a stretch. Herself goes for a pee and I Google the light. It's an emissions warning light and the general consensus is that if the car is still running carry on and get it checked out.
At 5.15pm we are pulling into the Caravan Club's site at Minehead with Vera having behaved impeccably all the way. We are unable to check in as they've shut down the computers, we have to surrender our membership card, pitch up on pitch 9 and go back to pay in the morning.
The pitch was a little awkward to access, but once on it it was huge. Since our last trip out I'd been back to Go Outdoors for a refund on the awning, so we had another new one to erect. This of course takes longer with working it out and attaching ladders to all the pegging points, nevertheless we are set up in no time ready to enjoy the rest of the week.
We take a spin down to the sea front where we walk the dogs on the beach in the inky darkness, looking over the channel towards Barry. Cardiff is to our right and the glow to the left in the distance is above Swansea.
Just down the road from the site is a row of shops, including many takeaways and among other things, an independent Pet shop. Herself waits for our Chinese and I take the opportunity to take a look in the pet shop window, sucking in great quantities of air through my teeth looking at the prices they charge for stuff!!
Back at the van we settle down with our supper and watch The Scarlets triumph over Munster despite the best efforts of a cheating Irish referee.
It's not a late one tonight as we're both on our chin straps.
Saturday 24 October
It rained overnight. It rained a lot.
Herself was up and taking the dogs out as I stirred in my pit. Three dogs would be too much for her so I'm rushing to get dressed to catch her up. Despite running (well, walking as fast as I could) after her and doing two full circuits on the woodland walk I failed to find her. back up to the van I trudge, a wet and sweating mess, where she is back and has the kettle on.
I get on the blower to Mayday at 9am to call them out to feel Vera's bumps before I trudge back down the hill to settle up at reception. After nearly 3 hours the grease monkey shows up, I explain what;s wrong, he plugs her into his computer, clears the fault codes, revs the guts out of her and says "There you go!"
He was with us all of 5 minutes, and it turns out it was a message to do with the EGR valve.
A late breakfast of bacon and egg rolls is rustled up by mois, whilst Herself enjoys some personal contemplation.
After a quick scrub up with some Dettol and a wire brush we head off out. Herself has decided that Gwawr needs some toys. Now I know there is no way that I could enter and leave the pet shop down the road without feeling the need to punch the owner in the chops so I instruct Herself to do some Googling. It would appear that Tiverton is the place to go and It's B & M Bargains.
The spin over Exmoor is nice and all the autumnal colours are a sight to behold. With B & M Bargains done and dusted we need to find somewhere to walk the dogs. Just outside town we park up at the canal basin and take off along the tow path on the Grand western Canal.
It's very scenic and we're enjoying the quietness. The dogs are having a whale of a time running free but we're keen for them to stay dry. We walk for about a mile before turning back and we're almost back at the basin when Gwawr falls into the canal about 30m ahead of us. Herself shreaks and I reassure her that she'll be ok and will be back out now.
Only she doesn't as the bank is a good 18" above the water level. I'll tell you this now, The Hoff has got nothing on me. I run to catch up (second time today mind that I've broken into something more than a gentle amble) and try and find a spot that is free from dog shit to lie down.
Gwawr is now thrashing the water to a foam, Herself is shreaking louder and louder and I'm down on my belly, crawling commando stylee towards the edge. I eventually get hold of her collar and yank her out of the freezing water, having failed in my previous three attempts and getting soaked up to my armpits.
I get to my feet and I'm in a sorry state, soaked with bright red mud. I wasn't expecting a medal or even a superman tee shirt, but some gratitude may have been nice. I carefully crawl backwards from the edge, taking extra care not to plant my palm in some dog mess and haul myself vertical. By the time I look up Herself and the dogs have already gone leaving me all by my self for the other normal people to laugh at.
The spin back over the moor is very pleasant and we stop off at Morrisons for provisions before returning to site for an evening meal of comfort food.
In the dark we head for the beach again to walk the dogs before returning to the van where Herself watches Saturday night TV and I tap some keys.
Sunday 25 October
The clocks went back last night, except someone forgot to let the dogs in on the secret. We're doing a lap of the dog walk with them by 6.30am and have the place to ourselves. The sun is just coming up and it looks like it's going to be a nice day.
Back at the van we breakfast on scrambled egg before I attempt to clean myself up in an effort not to look like I should be selling copies of the Big Issue! I'm afraid to say that I played the "Gamble with the water level" game and was found more wanting than the England rugby team at their own world cup. Just got lathered up and the shower head starts to spit at me. Now some people pay good money to have that done to them, which is all well and good in a brothel, but not much good when trying to shower.
Dunster Castle is close by so we make tracks by midday. First though I want to call into the outdoor shop in Dunster, we couldn't park so abandoned the effort and made straight for the castle managed by The National Trust and a band of robbing barstewards ..... sorry, able volunteers.
We pulled into the car park and I start to feel faint when they want £2.50 off me to park up, but I duly fed some coins into the meter and we make our way up the hill to the castle. Here the gits want another £7.50 each off us to go in. It went against all my instincts, but I coughed the dosh. Not 30 seconds later I'm starting to boil as the goon in a green fleece cheerfully informs us that dogs are not allowed into the castle but we are welcome to walk the paths of the estate!
Herself senses the danger and drags me away before I make a scene. There are no flies on her and she follows the sign to the tea rooms where I am sat at a table and presented with a pot of tea and a slice of rather nice ginger cake in an effort the placate me.
With my blood pressure restored to normal we set off again following the path through the woodland trail.
All of a sudden we are back in the village and on public land, we round the corner and re-enter the estate through an unmanned gate! The steam again starts to rise, as we could have done what we have for free by parking in the village on the road and using this entrance. £17.50 down the drain mind!
We pass the Dream Garden, but it's rammed full of dreamers so didn't bother stopping and continued up to the stable block and gift shop. I bag a jar of lemon curd and a jar of whortleberry jam for coupons before we take the dogs down to the river. It's very pleasant and the views over the grassland back to the castle on the hill are spectacular.
With dogs worn out We make a second attempt at visiting the outdoor shop and managed to park up in the shade, mind you after spending all of 30 seconds inside the place we were wishing we hadn't bothered. The owner takes umbridge when I ask him if he's got the decimal point in the wrong place on some of the "on sale" tickets and we exit post haste.
I pop into the bogs and when I came out Herself is rather amused. I ask why, but she wont say. I press her all the way back to the car before she is willing to start speaking.
She starts to describe how this stunning blonde lady, wearing a mini skirt, high heeled boots (she had my attention) perfect makeup has just arrived in the tattiest old transit van you've ever seen. My eyes are scanning 360 degrees trying to see who she's on about and am quietly cursing that Herself had not brought this matter to my attention a little earlier.
We make our way back to site via Tesco for provisions and take the opportunity to chill for a few hours, watch the second semi final and have tea, before heading off back down to the sea front to walk the dogs one last time today. Apart from a few fishermen we have the place to ourselves and the dogs enjoy the freedom to run free.
Back at the van we waste no time in changing into our PJs and pour ourselves some light refreshments to while away the long dark evening.
Monday 26 October
We've been lucky with the weather so far this week, and we wake to flashes of blue and white through the sky light as the wind blows the light cloud cover clear.
I get up and take the dogs to do a few laps of the on site dog walk. They love it up there, lots of twists and turns and loads of places to stick their noses.
After that it was time to do all the outside jobs. Fill the aquaroll, empty the wastemaster, empty the bin, empty the bog as well as getting a replacement gas cylinder. While I'd been building up a sweat traipsing up and down the hill, Herself had been giving the inside of the van a quick clean, but more importantly, cooking up some bacon and getting a brew on. Breakfast was taken sat outside with the dogs watching the site come to life.
With breakfast done and dusted we all pile into Vera and make the short trip over to Torre Cider Farm. We've been here before and know exactly what we want, but still play the tasting game, well it would be rude not to. I hand over some folding and come away with a few gallons of paint stripper.
Herself is quite taken with the piglets and is at pains to point out how cute they are, and that they are actually for sale. I point to their mam saying "look what they turn in to" and win the debate rather easily.
Vera's nose is then pointed back towards Minehead where we park up next to the railway and take a walk up The Parade. Herself doesn't really do shopping and soon suggests refreshments. The terrace in front of The Hairy Dog looks inviting and more importantly, completely empty. I am dispatched to the bar to get some drinks and something light to eat as a snack.
Our snack arrived and it would appear that Herself's and my idea of something light differ somewhat.
One thing that really grips my innards is inconsiderate smokers. Our food arrives and we are the only ones on the outside terrace, on which there are at least 12 empty tables. This trollop comes out with a coffee and plonks herself down on the table right next to us. She then spends the next 15 minutes lighting up three times and polluting the air all around. I have no idea what she was smoking but it smelled like some exotic mix of horse manure and bus tickets!!
Herself does some shopping for Ronnie and Roids before we jump into Vera and point her towards Porlock Wier. It's a charming place, not much there except a few pubs and shops, but it's really busy.
We park up, lead the dogs and set off to explore. It didn't take long, and Herself lost herself in a glass shop for a while, picking up some gifts that she doesn't know who for yet.
Shopped out, refreshments are called for and we grab a table outside The Ship Inn, order a couple of pints and just sit watching all the comings and goings whilst bribing the dogs to be good with the contents of a packet of pork scratchings.
Herself is full of cold, not full on Manflu like I had earlier in the week, but she's claiming to feel a bit poorly and is flagging a bit, so we make tracks back to site to chill for a few hours.
Time flies and before too long it's dark and we're heading back down to the sea front again. we walk the dogs along the beach, which again we have to ourselves, just two torch lights and three blinking red lights in the darkness. Not so much room tonight though as the tide had not retreated that far. It's quite peaceful though, that is if you ignore the sound of the NEDS racing up and down the sea front with their souped up Saxos.
We pick up a pizza from Rominos' close to the site, and I must say that the gaff fully deserves the 5 star rating it has on Google.
Been a nice day again today
Tuesday 27 October
Our last full day on this site today and @DerekTheWeather is not speaking my language, in fact he's issued a weather warning - how inconsiderate, does he not know I'm on my holibobs?
The view from the wobble box window is none too encouraging, but by late morning we are getting cabin fever and head off out for the day.
We turn left out of the site and follow the A39 along the Heritage Coast through Porlock and Lynton where we turned up into the gorge to our destination at Waters Meet, taking in the spectacular coastal views as we traveled, with the weather doing it's very best to clear up.
Parked up, we lead the dogs and make for the path down into the deep valley, after having fed yet another fist full of coins into yet another parking meter.
The path is steep, very steep, as it snakes it's way down the the valley floor. I'm looking at the state of some people as they haul themselves back up the hill and am starting to worry a bit about my ability to get back up it without having to call out mountain rescue.
We hit the bottom and follow the river down the valley towards Lynton for about a mile. The scenery is quite breathtaking, though not quite as much as I fear the climb back out of here is going to be.
We find a crossing point and make our way back up the valley. It's just a gentle climb but it's enough to get the blood pumping. We get to the top of a tump and like a mirage in the desert, the tea rooms that are run by the National Trust appear out of the mist.
We bag a table on the terrace undercover and are happy to note the absence of any smokers - probably all saving their lungs for the walk back to the car. I go in and order some sandwiches, crisps, cake, tea and coffee whilst Herself fends off all the attention that Gwawr is attracting.
Lunch was very pleasant, very pleasant indeed, and the Trust must be commended for keeping this place going. There is no charge for entry into the valley, so it's therefore disappointing to see freeloaders taking advantage. We picnic quite often, but would not think of taking up tables to eat a packed lunch while paying customers stand to wait for a free table. shame the same could not be said for the couple that planked themselves down next to us!!
Not able to delay our departure anymore, we motivate ourselves enough to move and join the group of people stood at Base Camp 4 on the lower slopes of Mt Everest, bracing themselves for what is to come. There are mountain goats stood to one side sucking air through their teeth and muttering "Bugger that" as we take the bit between our teeth and go for it.
By the time we get to the first hairpin my calves are burning, we pretend to stop and take in the view before setting back off, by the second bend I'm blowing out of my rear end and my calves feel like they're going to explode. By now I'm looking round for asthma sufferers to mug for their pumps! I stop to empty the dog's water bottle that I'm carrying in the day sack and Herself stops me ditching yesterday's shopping that we forgot to take out before setting off.
We get to the top, just, and take 5 minutes to regain some composure before walking up the road in view of the general public towards the car.
We retrace our steps back along the A39 until Herself spots a sign for a scenic route back. I spot a glitch straight away. It's a toll road. I am however persuaded that if they are charging for it, it must be good and am warned not to say anything to the man in the toll booth about him not dressing up for the part!
What a load of tosh, it follows the same route as the A39, except that it's about 40m lower in altitude as it clings to the edge of Exmoor! We rejoin the A39 after driving through some trees and continue on past Minehead to the beach at Dunster.
Herself had a debate about whether we should pay to park - she won - and after feeding another fist full of coins into the meter we set off along the beach.
We've had a great day out, and our Derek's weather warning came to nothing, just a few heavy showers this morning. Back on site we have new neighbours, a big fifth wheeler - blocks out our view lovely it does.
We need shopping so take a spin down to Morrisons where it appears we have timed it just right. Nanna Coupons would be so proud - over £52 of ribeye, topside and lamb for under £8. All cling filmed and in the freezer.
Moving day tomorrow to another site in the middle of the National Park