Sunday, 23 October 2016

Shivering Under Trees in Cheddar

We are having an Indian Summer.  The weather in the UK this September and October has been considerably better that what we experienced in June and July, although I fully expect that to change over the next week or so as we hitch up our wobble box and set off on our Autumn Holiday.

Much deliberation had taken place about the chosen destination, partly due to the fact that Mr Shag had said that him and his significant other would be joining us for the week.

Mr Shag has an additional day off on Friday so they are heading over the bridge a day early.  I will be joining them alone on Saturday as Herself is working over the weekend and joining us late on Sunday evening.

Sat in my office looking out over to the Paper Mill on Thursday afternoon and the sun is burning the grass.  A quick check on the BBC work of fiction tells me that we are due some showers over the weekend, but next week is looking good at the moment.

They'd better be right else our @DerekTheWeather is in for some stick on Twitter over the coming days!

Saturday 15th October

I wake at 8.30am and the sun is streaming through the blinds. It's a beautiful morning, but a text on my phone from Mr Shag tells me that all is not well in temporary Shag Towers in Cheddar.  It would appear that they have no dog leads with them - not good when you have 4 dogs!

In my mind I am playing through the blame argument in my head as I inflate Vera's tyres up to towing pressures, fill her up with fuel and join the early morning geriatrics in Morrisons to get a bit of shopping in.

By 11am I am hitched up and off.  Gwawr is none too pleased that Herself is left behind and doesn't settle for quite some time.  I on the other hand make the most of being in charge of the tunes in the car and we accelerate up the J48 slip road with Madness blasting out of Vera's speakers.

The tow through south Wales is effortless and to the sound of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, and passports at the ready, we are crossing the bridge in  Bright Sunshine.

I know my way to Cheddar but set the route up on TomTom as a mile countdown.  In a senior moment I followed the directions and exited  at J21 with it telling me there were only 10 miles to the site.  All was well until it asked me to turn down a single track road!  No way Pedro!

A quick U turn had me back on the M5 and heading towards J22 and a far more sensible, if not longer route to Cheddar.

I pull onto site and drive past rows of pitches with caravanners sat out in their chairs enjoying the afternoon sunshine, as I round the corner I see that Mr & Mrs Shag have not only failed miserably in their attempts to reserve an adjacent pitch for me, but we are also pitched under the shadow of a bloody great big tree line.

Mr & Mrs Shag are also sat out, but unlike the remainder of the site they are not in shorts and short sleeves. Oh no, they are both layered up and shivering like they've just got out of bed on a Sir Edmund Hillary jaunt!

I don't miss the opportunity to rip into Mrs Shag, as she would have done to me if I'd chosen these inferior pitches. I bag a pitch 2 down from them..

Pegging out was interesting though with bedrock lurking just 3" below the gravel surface.  I have forearms like Popeye by the time I'm done and I only hit my hands three times (which I consider a success).

Typical though, after towing here in bright sunshine the heavens opened just as I'd banged in the last rock peg.

It rained heavily on an off for the rest of the afternoon and we have a catch up, listening to Mr Shag moan about their new awning, and how much it cost, and what was not included that you had to buy extra, until hunger pangs get the better of me and I retreat back to the van to prepare my meal for one.

Lamb shank with cous cous and falafel.

Lovely it was, and after taking the dogs for a walk along the banks of the Cheddar Yeo I take my chair and bucket of Coors over to Mr & Mrs Shag's brand new awning (he's still moaning about it!) and settle in for an evening of talking rubbish and getting corned beef legs off his halogen heater.

Well, Mr Shag got the above mentioned legs as he hogged the bloody thing all evening!

Myself and Mr Shag adjourn to our van at 11pm and Mrs Shag does the sensible thing and goes to bed.  By 1am Mr Shag is on his chin straps and heads off to bed while I have a late night face time with Herself before turning in with the dogs sharing the double bed with me.

Sunday 16 October

It hammered down over night, with the sound of it being made somewhat worse by the fact that I'm pitched under some trees (poor choice of pitch).

I am rarely disturbed by noise over night, but struggled to get any sort of kip, giving in at 6am to light a flame under the kettle before scraping some growth off my chops and having a shower.

I sit around until 9am and with no sign of life in Shag Towers I take the opportunity of a break in the rain to load the dogs into Vera and head off up to the Gorge so they can have a stretch.

My smart phone goes off and a notification from Facebook tells me the weather is to improve, I look skywards to some faint hints of blue among the grey.

With the dogs having had a short run about we pile back into Vera in search of some deserted beach action.

As we bypass Burnham-on-Sea towards Brean the sun is shining and the road is full of caravans that have just been kicked off Unity after the weekend.  I follow the signs to Berrow Beach Car Park, but teh gate is locked with everyone parking randomly at the side of the road.  It would also appear that any hopes I had of deserted beach action were somewhat over optimistic, with every man, woman and their two dogs running amok on the North Somerset sands / mud flat.

It's a little breezy once through the dunes, but we spend some considerable time on the beach with the dogs running their legs off chasing a tennis ball.

With the dogs worn out I make my way back to site in bright sunshine, again making the most of Herself's absence singing along to various rock anthems.

Shag Towers is vacant when I return, with Mr Shag checking in at the nearby reservoir soon after. I take the opportunity to indulge in some personal contemplation time before hunger pangs wake me and I set about preparing my feast for one - well it said two on the wrapping but I gave it a bloody good go.

No drinkies tonight though as I have to return to South Wales later on to collect a precious cargo.

I watch the Scarlets' game on You Tube (on my own as Mr Shag embarked on an effort to sleep the clock around) before setting off at 9.30pm.  Roids is pulling into the services at Cardiff west at 11.15pm with Herself joining me to return to Cheddar.

Monday 17 October

After some heavy rain overnight we wake to blue skies.  As I return from walking the dogs it strikes me how much better the site looks in the sunshine. Though even this early our pitch is somewhat shaded.

As I approach the van the wiff of cooked bacon hits my nostrils, and I'm not disappointed ...... climbing the steps into the van I am presented with two bacon rolls and a mug of steaming tea.  With breakfast out of the way we set up our chairs to make the most of the 30 mins sunshine per day that our pitch catches.

Next up the dogs are loaded up into the cars and we head for the north Somerset coast once more to run the legs of all the dogs.

We park on the beach at Uphill and make our way towards Weston.  We're about a mile from the cars before Mr Shag pipes up saying that he'd seen a sign that we were supposed to pay to park on the sands!

With the dogs knackered we make our way further into Weston, parking up in the multi storey before exploring the shopping mall.  This one is good though and has glass climbing lifts and everything!

Some retail therapy ensures that Herself spends far too much money in a very short space of time for my liking.  Not finished yet though, Herself needs a Pets at Home for doggy bits before Mr Shag needs a camping shop.

We pull up at Highbridge Caravans and there's no evidence of the recent fire.  Herself starts wandering around the new caravans on display.  I join her until she starts fancying some with a price ticket of £29K.

Meanwhile Mrs Shag is having a whale of a time in the accessory shop.  I suspect Mr Shag was enjoying it somewhat less as Mrs Shag came out with a set on monsoon poles, caravan leg spreading feet and a box of screw in pegs.

On the way back to site we stop off at a cider farm in Axebridge.  I think the yokel saw us coming though as he charged us £7.50 per 2 litre poly container.  Conning git!

Still, this should ensure that I sleep soundly tonight.  Back at the van Herself gets into Nigella mode and prepares a superb Surf 'n' Turf for our evening meal.

Mr & Mrs Shag come over to ours as it gets dark and we set about working our way through our booze stash.  Much shanting ensured that the evening flew by, and I was dribbling by the time I climbed into bed at around 1am.

Tuesday 18 October

Didn't stir in my pit until gone 9am.  The dogs are by now sitting with crossed legs and eyes watering.  I feel like I've been in an RTA with a bus and don't feel up to the walk, so they are loaded into Vera's boot and taken to a local open space for a run.

Back on site we have the free range eggs we bought yesterday scrambled over toast for breakfast before scrubbing up and heading off out.

No cars today though, we are going on foot.  We take the path towards Cheddar, but don't get far before Mr Shag dives into a barber shop to have some magic done on his swede.

We wait in the beer garden of a nearby pub, coke only this early, until he joins us some considerable time later.

We amble up through the village browsing the gift and outdoor shops as we went.  Once at the top we do a 180 degree turn and make our way back to site, stopping off for beers at The Galleries Inn, The Riverside Inn and The Bath Arms.

Slurring ever so slightly we return to site and Herself goes about preparing pie and mash for our tea.

I did pop around to Shag Towers to see if Mr Shag was allowed out to play, but it turns out that he's continuing his holiday sleepathon, having taken himself off to bed for the night.

I return to our van and settle down for a nice evening with Herself.  No sooner had we cleared away the dishes and dimmed all the lights in the van that we were caught like rabbits in the headlights.  Have you ever seen the movie Christmas Vacation?  Well, when the adjacent football club turned on the flood lights, Herself and I felt like the Griswald's neighbours in that film.

Wednesday 19 October

Bacon butties for breakfast were taken outside watching the site come to life with us trying desperately to make the most of the half hour of sunshine that our pitch gets every day, before sorting ourselves out.

Destination today is Wells.  We park up in Waitrose, lead the dogs and head off in the direction of the town centre.  We immediately become aware that some are crossing the road to avoid us, or more likely the six dogs we have on a lead between us.

At the top of the high street we reach the square, and we've struck gold, there's a Farmer's Market on today.  Mrs Shag buys a few dog beds while our only investment is aa gift for TF and a swede.  Not really much to write home about, but back home we've been disappointed by the swedes this year, with them being far too fibrous to mash. This one is the genuine thing though, not having been in cold storage for a year waiting for Tesco to put on the shelves.  This one looks fresh from the field, and by the looks of the Farmer woman's hands it would appear that she'd been up the field this morning digging it up ..... without a spade!

The place is looking familiar, and so it should as much of the film Hot Fuzz was filmed here. Around every corner we are looking for a black swan!

Mr Shag wouldn't pay the £28 for daps in the local sports shop as they were a whole £3 more that at home!

We stop off at The Globe Inn for a swift one before piling back into the cars and making the short hop over to Street and the Clarkes shopping outlet.  I scored a new gillet in Tog24 and a new pair of shoes for work.   We meet up with the Shags outside Vans, where Mr Shag has a look of distress all over his chops.  When I clock the number of carrier bags that him and Mrs Shag are carrying between them I know why.

With Mr Shag twitching and starting to have palpitations we head for home.

Herself had put a joint of beef in the slow cooker before we went out, and the smell that greeted us as we opened the caravan door was divine.  Just 30 mins later we have a roast dinner in front of us to set us up for the evening ahead.

With food out of the way and dishes cleared we pick up our chairs and a few gallons of scrumpy and head off over to Shag Towers for the evening.

Mr Shag is already getting warmed up when we arrive so I've a bit of catching up to do.  In no time at all my first 2 litres of scrumpy is dispensed with, and I can tell you I was getting a bit of a buzz on.

I've gone out to water the hedge and when I return, after nearly knocking myself unconscious on their caravan door, I notice that Mrs Shag has brought out their TV.  After a little while In remark at how we will have to come over to watch TV more often as the programmes on theirs are far more interesting than ours (taking in the full splendour of a muscular woman in PVC sitting on a poor unfortunate's face!).

The night flew by and there was much laughter (helped in no small way by gallons of booze).  1 am and Mrs Shag wants to retire, so we adjourn to our caravan for a late nightcap of G&T.  The fresh air did Mr Shag no good what so ever, and by the time he's walked the two pitches to ours the 11 pints of scrumpy he's thrown down his neck this evening are taking hold!  He didn't stay!

Thursday 20 October

After last night's shenanigans this morning was not a bright start.  In fact, apart from taking the dogs out for a walk nothing happened!

At 1pm Ronnie rocks up with FG, as they are stopping for the  night.  Mr & Mrs Shag are not moving today so we pile into Vera and make for the coast.

First off we park up at Berrow and take a walk on the beach, running the legs off the dogs as we go.  It's not nearly as warm as it was when I was here on Sunday!

With knackered dogs we retreated to Burnham on Sea where Herself, Ronnie and FG wasted some time in the arcade.

I don't really do arcades, so while they pumped pennies into the slots I sat outside in the cafe and consumed the largest cone of whipped ice cream imaginable!

From there we head back inland and park up in Cheddar.  Now I'll admit that it was just gone 4.30pm but all the shops had closed for the day.  Didn't fancy cooking tonight so we stop off for a meal in The Riverside Inn in Cheddar.  The three of them opted for various pasta dishes and I went for the healthy option of a mixed grill.

Back on site we settle in for the evening, Ronnie, FG and Herself watch some TV and I fall asleep in my recliner in the awning.  Ir wasn't a late night.

Friday 21 October

After my early night I was fresh as a daisy this morning, I take the dogs for their early walk to somewhere quiet where I will have peace to reflect.  You see, today marks the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster and at 9.13am I am sitting in silence in the middle of a field looking up at the surrounding hills feeling rather emotional.

On my return the others are still sleeping so I set up my chair facing the early morning sun (before it goes into hiding behind the trees that will shade our pitch for the rest of the day!) and watch the site come to life.  I am often asked "Why caravanning?"

Well this is another one of those moments that answers that question.

Ronnie and FG take themselves off to Wookey Hole for some cave action after breakfast and we sit around the van doing nothing.  We get a phone call to say they're almost done so head off out to meet up with them at Glastonbury.

We've been here before, but Mrs & Mrs Shag nor Ronnie and FG haven't.  Glasto did not disappoint, and we spent the next hour or so browsing witches shops and people watching.  It's hard not to people watch in Glastonbury, and we are treated to goths, witches, wizards, hippies and people with horns!

We pick up fish suppers for our evening meals which are devoured before we wave off Ronnie and FG who are returning home.

Another quiet night tonight and I'm asleep by 9pm!

Saturday 22 October

Another beautiful morning as I take the dogs off early doors.  It strikes me how lucky we've been with the weather this week, with just one daytime shower while we were in Wells.

Mr & Mrs Shag are heading for home today, and by the time we are waving them off at 11am our pitch is once again in the shadows as the rest of the site is bathed in sunshine.

We take down our awning dry, although whether or not it will remain usable after the winter remains to be seen, as being cold for the duration of our stay does not seem to be the only problem with our pitch.  Our awning is also covered with tree sap, and by the time we've packed it away my hands feel like they've been dipped in a tub of treacle!

Once packed away we fancied going out.  Herself wanted to go back to Highbridge (just to look you understand).

We spend a pleasant hour looking at awnings and the rows and rows of caravans.  I held out but have been married to Herself for long enough now to know how this works and where this is heading.

Once Herself realises that I am signing no credit agreements today she gives in and we make tracks back to Cheddar to do some last minute gift shopping for the olds.

You can tell that half term has arrived, the place is rammed, so Herself decided that one shop would do before we retreated to The Riverside Inn to eat our evening meal under the canopy being warmed by the infra red heaters.

Back on site we are delayed for a full quarter of an hour while our new neighbours unhitch and pitch their caravan (I didn't lose patience, honest!).  We didn't stop though, just clipping the dogs on their leads and heading for the lane adjacent to the site and over the fields.

Just as we are leaving a hot air balloon comes into sight and loses height as it passes over, giving all a free show.

With the dogs walked we settle down for the early evening, with an old friend for company.

Late on I take the dogs out and it is marked how much colder it is this weekend than it was just a week ago.  No complaints though as this has been the driest break we've ever had in October.

Sunday 23 October

I'm up and out with the dogs at 8.30am and it's a cold wind that is howling down the gorge and with overcast skies it's feeling nippy, so much so that I'm in long sleeves for the first time this week.

Breaking camp day today, but with the awning dropped yesterday we have very little to do.  We are breakfasted and on the road by 10.15am.

Vera's cruise is set to 60 mph and she eats up the miles with  not a twitch coming from the caravan all the way home.  After an uneventful tow we get home in a little over two hours with Vera's on board computer telling me that she's returned a very respectable 36mpg on the tow home.

Frosts are coming now and we don't know when we will get the van out next, so she's drained down and in winter mode in her little hidey hole.

Till next time .......