Thursday 30 January
With the weather somewhat milder than it was for our trip this time last year, and Herself gone off to work, I wait for the rush hour traffic to subside before blocking the road getting the van out and hitched up. 10.30am and it's "Wagons Roll".
Traffic was heavy, but kept moving all the way from J48 on the M4, through South Wales, over the bridge and up the M5 to J14. Pulling up to the gate at Tudor Caravan Park I get out to open up and the van is in a sorry state.
Check in was friendly and in no time at all the van is off the back of Toyah and I begin my race against time to set up on my todd.
It took me two hours, and the state of our new "winter awning" leaves a lot to be desired. I've no time to faff about with it though, so Facebookville is informed that "We is Arrived" on a pitch looking towards the elevated canal.
Herself is quick to point out that she isn't there yet!! Hurtling back over the bridge I can feel my blood sugars dropping. Probably on account of me not having had anything to eat or drink today. Magor Services comes to the rescue and I dash in to procure some wholesome goodness from the golden arches.
Before I've even got back to Toyah, Herself is on the blower ....... "What are you having from McDonalds?" Busted I was.
I'm home by 4pm and have had a shave and shower by the time Herself rocks up from work at 5pm and we pile into Toyah for my third trip along the M4 today.
Herself has not eaten, and knowing full well that I have is making a big thing of it. We drop down off the M4 at Pencoed, have a quick sit down meal at the "Table to Table" and continue our dart along South Wales in lane 3 back to site.
We get mugged in Tesco for a few things that barely cover the bottom of a small trolley before eventually making it to the caravan by 8pm.
Friday 31 January
A relatively early night sees us up and waiting for our guests this morning, and unusually for Roids and TF they themselves are up out of bed and spraying gravel on the site roads by 9am.
They don't want breakfast on account of gorging themselves on Jammie Dodgers on the way up, so I have to make do with a slice of toast. We decide Cirensester will benefit from our presence today and I inform them that we'll take the scenic route over there. There was one snag though in that I couldn't remember which route was the scenic one.
I go for Draycott, Dursley and Brimscombe; realising before too long that this is not the scenic route I had in mind! We hit a tail back as we skirt past the CC site entrance in Cirencester with blue lights flashing ahead. Nothing untoward though, just the local agricultural college doing a fund raising tractor pull.
Young girls are darting up the line of live traffic thrusting their buckets in the face of frustrated drivers. Not a yellow vest on one of them. I'd love to see the risk assessment for that!!
With Toyah abandoned in the Old Station Car Park we make tracks for the centre, pausing to gawp at the price of property around here.
The shops and market hold our attention for a short while before we make a bee line for the Crown Inn, where we indulge in a superb lunch of their house burgers.
From here we head to Gloucester Quays. I head off to feed a fist full of change into the machine and am taken aback at the carelessness of some people. There sitting in full view of all is a Zafira with a set on keys dangling from the door!
I know it's an 18 year old Vauxhall, but still!!
The trauma of shopping is broken briefly outside the oasis of Costa, where to ease my fraying nerves Herself treats me to an iced latte and a caramel slice.
Beastie gets a tea set from Cath Kidsen, TF treats herself to a pair of designer wellies and I have a tight attack and back out of buying a new pair of Asics daps!
Back on site we adjourn to the Tudor Arms for a good slurp after a tea of chicken wraps. We take a table in the dog friendly section and watch as some boaters help themselves to pockets full of cutlery and condiments as they leave!
Saturday 1 February
I get up to light up flame under the kettle and turn around to jump back into bed while it boils. The three dogs had other ideas and were deaf to my requests that they move from their spots to let me back in!
Today sees the start of the Six Nations. The Wales game is at 2.15pm, but we've a thirst to work up before then. With breakfast dishes cleared we don our walking boots (TF puts on her new wellies) clip the dogs on and head off for a walk into the wind.
We can hear a bit of a commotion coming from up on the canal, and when crossing the bridge we see dozens of boats manned by freezing and scrawny looking teenagers.
We had hoped to see an actual race but they seemed to take an eternity to faff about while their coaches all raced up and down the tow path on mountain bikes churning it up into an impassable swamp!
The walk into the wind on a soggy path was hard going, and we were glad to see Toyah parked up where we'd abandoned her earlier, with the intention of it being just a one way walk.
A brief detour to Sharpness sees us taking in the sights of the ever so muddy River Severn and the uninspiring Sharpness Docks, before returning back to site and the pub once more.
A great afternoon was had. We settled down to watch the game and have a good slurp. Wales won, and they won well, and the beer flowed freely. By the time we're taking a table in the restaurant at 7.30pm we are slurring well, and attacked our food like a pack of savages!
Sunday 2 February
Remarkably after our early night we all sleep in, and it's gone 9am by the time we stir. The morning is filled with doing not much at all, except having breakfast and numerous cuppas. I'm on my way back from the bins and it strikes me as to how an unusual choice of tow car this is on the pitch behind us.
Roids and TF need to pop back to Cirencester and we agree to meet them in Gloucester city centre later on.
With cars abandoned at Kings Walk we traipse through the various shopping malls with little success, eventually making it as far as Gloucester Quays again.
A rather nice lunch is has in "Bills" before Herself informs me she wants to get a pair of designer wellies for Beastie in the outlet before returning back to the car.
The dogs need a good run, so we make tracks for Robinswood Hill where we spend 20mins throwing a ball for them to chase. All was going well until Gwawr ran flat out into a picnic bench, knocking herself out in the process. Herself was beside herself, and I just stood there stunned, as I know as soon as the cogs start turning it is bound to be my fault somehow!
We wave off Roids and TF as they set off for home.
Back on site we park up at the van and head straight over to the Tudor Arms. Eddie had been promising France a real hiding this afternoon, the word "brutal" being unwisely used. Such was Eddie's confidence in his troops I was fully expecting to walk into a bar full of braying red roses.
Instead I was greeted by a deathly silence as those in white jerseys finished their pints in a stunned silence before departing. My quips of "I thought it was going to be brutal" seemed only to darken their mood.
Soon we're left in the snug with just one other couple, who it turns out were from Maesteg.
I am seldom embarrassed to be Welsh, but my word these two were a piece of work. I'm no shrinking violet, but every other word was eff this and eff that! We'd only just met them!
Then the news channels started to filter through news of the suspected terror attack in Streatham. There then followed a tirade of foul mouthed racial abuse directed at the TV, with the barman watching on aghast.
Thankfully she decided that he was too drunk and carted him off to their motor home.
We're sat having our pub evening meal when in burst 3 rozzers, urgently darting from room to room. When they couldn't see who they were looking for they started giving a description to the landlord. I paused when they mimic a bald head and then hand signing approx 5'8" but thankfully they didn't indicate a width of nearly the same proportion!!!
Monday 3 February
For some inexplicable reason both Herself and I were wide awake at 4.30am this morning, so I got up made a cuppa, which we had sat up in bed talking before snuggling back down cwtched up. Both went back into a deep sleep and didn't stir until 9.30am.
I didn't know it at the time, but today was to turn out into a day of senior moments / brain farts. First incident was just after breakfast. Herself was drying her hair after having a shower. We'd forgotten to turn off the heating and hot water before she fired up the hairdryer, and pretty soon we are sat in silence.
Don't ask me why, but I didn't think to check the site bollard first, instead hunting for the van's own trip switch. Do you think I could find it? Could I hell as like!
I even resorted to ringing 3aaa Caravans back home to speak to their service department. While waiting on the call back my cogs started turning and I lifted the bench once more, then lifted a little black flap. There it was, but nothing tripped. By now Herself has been sat in an ever cooling van with dripping wet hair. I was popular. Slipping on a pair of shoes I pop out and reset the site bollard to a chorus of derogatory comments from Herself.
On our trips up and down the A38 Herself had spotted Attwoolls Camping. She's been hankering after a new pair of recliners for some time now, but while all the good deals are on line, it's always good to actually sit in the chair before purchase.
She sees one she likes, she sits in it and tests the comfort, and she likes. Out comes the smart phone to do a price check before she says "Come on, we're off" They're £20 cheaper on line.,"
Only when we are in the car and some 8 miles away does she realise that the one's she has seen on line are a different and cheaper chair. She can't find a better deal on line. Doh! - Brainfart #2
We're now heading towards Cheltenham, on the lookout for somewhere to walk the dogs before hitting the city centre. We didn't find one, but on the final approach I spot somewhere called "The Park" on Toyah's satnav screen. We weave through the streets and on arrival it appears that "The Park" isn't really a park at all. "The Park" is a bloody University Campus with very clear "No Dogs Allowed" signs at the gate.
Google tells me that Crickley Hill Country Park is just 3 miles away, so just close enough to walk the dogs and return to the city centre. Round the last bend we drive and are greeted with the sight of a line of cones, and just for good measure, a transit van parked across the locked gated entrance with a yellow vest guarding the van. A sign gleefully tells us that the place is closed today and tomorrow for tree safety work, and the honking horns from behind tell us we can't hang around to develop a plan B.
On the road Herself punches another destination into Satnav, and I start following the barked directions. Glancing down I see it's 16 miles away.
"Wasn't there a closer one?"
"Do you want to try?"
"Well no, I'm driving."
"There you go then."
"OK, never wanted to go to Cheltenham anyway!"
10 miles later and I'm feeling brave enough to speak up once more.
"Where are we going?"
"Can't remember. Something Park Something or other!"
It was now Toyah's turn to have a brain fart. Our last 3 or so miles to our destination were spent bouncing over potholes and bumps on a "quiet lane", complete with grass down the middle.
We join a perfectly sensible B road for the last 1/4 mile and swing through the gates of Costwold Water Park. Abandoning Toyah we clip on the dogs and set off an an anticlockwise circuit of the lake we just happen to have parked next to.
It was a delightful walk, if a bit muddy under foot, and the lake level was really high with many shoreline features submerged in the crystal clear water.
This place looks like it could be great in season, complete with all sorts of water based activities and its very own beach.
We've a thirst on, and with the cafe closed we've no alternative than to seek out a pub (shame). Google comes to the rescue and we point Toyah's nose in the direction of the nearby Thames Head Inn. On our final approach it is glaringly obvious that all is not well. In fact it couldn't be further from well. Numerous flashing blue lights herald our approach to the junction where 3 cars have collided at speed. The brigade are cutting out what we hope are survivors behind temporary screens.
The Thames Head will have to wait for another time as we divert through the lanes trying to avoid the massive tail backs. A brown sign directs us down a dead end single track lane and we swing into the car park of the Tunnel House Inn.
You know sometimes you stumble across the most perfect country pub? This place was superb. Bare wooden floors, a roaring open fire and dog friendly. My only disappointments being that we had missed their lunchtime service and a pair of canoodling gits were sprawled over the sofas directly in front of the roaring fire!
Herself wants to eat out again, and who am I to argue? We vow to stop off somewhere on the way back. Little did we know that we;d be almost back at the van before we'd find somewhere to eat.
Pulling into the car park at The Bell Inn in Frampton Upon Severn it looked promising. We were greeted by a friendly landlord, who was most apologetic that they were so quiet, who sat us at a table where we enjoyed a simply superb early evening meal before retreating to the van for the night.
Tuesday 4 February
After a dry night we wake at 9am. I peek out of the blinds and am treated to the sight of our rubbish strewn all over ours and the next two pitches. Our fault, we forgot to bring the bin in last night safely away from wild life scavengers.
10am sees us hitched up and pulling out of the gates for what we hoped would be an uneventful tow home. On joining the M5 at J14 my arse starts to feel the side of the van getting slammed by the high winds. Time to slow down!
We hit a wall of tail lights at the M5 M4 interchange. A delay due to a lorry crossing the central reservation and shedding its load of construction plant.
I'm approaching the section where two lanes merge to one before merging with the traffic coming from M5 north, when in my mirrors I catch a 40t HGV belonging to Big Fresh coming from behind intent on cheating the merge in turn rule.
The arsehole continued to edge forward aggressively and I'm forced to take evasive action by moving further left, in turn forcing other traffic onto the hard shoulder.
What an arsehole!
Traffic remained heavy for the rest of the journey and it was a further 2 hours until we were pulling up outside "Home is Where You Drag it" Towers.