Dungeons and Dragons

Sat here on a day off and the sun is shining and has been for about a whole week now. Nothing unusual you might say. But it’s a bank holiday and we are in Wales so getting all these combinations to come together is a rare thing.

More days off since the last blog post so beside working this is what we have been up to. We went back to the Ironworks centre because we are members it now costs us nothing each time we go. I say costs us nothing but we have lunch which we get a members discount and we are always tempted to buy something but have to remind ourselves we live in a tin can and not a big house. Maybe one day.

The main thing we wanted to see this time was the new Dragon which stands proud at the entrance and is made up of a lot of different bits of metal including a lot of old car parts. Very impressive.

The next day we also had off so went to Whittington a small village with a castle, duck pond, a couple of pubs which we managed to stay out of. While we were walking around the castle or what’s left of it there was a photographer and a model doing a photo shoot.

So we were walking around a castle with a real princess. A very nice princess I will add and as I walked past I said to her, I am a frog and if you kiss me I will turn into a handsome prince. Then I woke up.

Whittington castle with princess

After walking around the castle we headed off to Henlle Hall which is a small holiday village with some wooden lodges for rent, also cottage rooms. All in lovely grounds with a herd of deer in a paddock and a duck pond. They have a restaurant and bar area which we did visit but only for a slice of cake and a coffee. It’s the sort of place I would love to work on the grounds.

One of the lodges

Another day off and another place to visit and tick off the list was a small town called Ellesmere which is not far from Whittington . There is a sculpture trail there and a really nice place for lunch. The Boathouse restaurant sits on the edge of the lake and after our walk around the park and town we headed for it.

Walking along we heard a clap of thunder and looked behind us to see some really nasty looking black clouds. Our walk all of a sudden got quicker and we got to the boathouse and got a seat under the shelter overlooking the lake and ordered our lunch. Then it started to rain but we were under the shelter. But then the rain got heavier and the sky got darker and everyone was running for the inside seats. We sat there looked at each other and thought let’s get inside. A good decision because as soon as we got inside the heavens opened and heavy rain and hail lashed down.

Ellesmere lake

We had to get some shopping while out also and right beside the Tesco at Ellesmere is a canal and some old buildings from the days gone by. So while Nikki was shopping I wandered off down the canal looking for photo opportunities. Then I met her back at the car.

Old building and canal boat

Last week was our long weekend off and time to take the camper out for a run. We opted for a small five pitch site in a small village called pontesford. The site was great and we were blessed with this lovely weather we are having so a BBQ was a must and of course a visit to the local village pub. You have to support the area your staying in.

A very narrow lane takes you to the site off the main road and as I indicated to turn into the lane I could imagine the cars behind looking at this 30ft camper and thinking where the hell is he going. He will never get down there. How wrong they could be. Yes it was narrow but slow and steady and the campsite was reached.

The lane to the campsite

The owners of the campsite greeted us and showed us our pitch. We think it was the best one on site with sunshine from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. The BBQ was fired up, the beer and wine were poured and a great evening was had. Followed the next morning by a nice cooked breakfast outside.

Happy campers

A walk down into the village to stretch the legs and get an ice cream before returning to the camper to shower before walking back down the lane and to the pub. Took us all of ten minutes. The Nags head has a small garden which, as it was so nice outside, we chose to sit in. Trying the local beer and wine and then ordering food. And I must say it was one of the best pub meals we have ever had. I even had to try a pudding . The walk back to the campsite took a bit longer than it did to get there.

Poppies on the roadside

The next day was going to be a chill out day but I knew of some mountain bike trails in some woods about three miles away so it would have been rude to miss an opportunity to go and try them out. And yes they were very good. I went early so we had plenty of time to chill out in the sun beside the camper with the birds singing, the farm cockerel crowing, bee’s buzzing and the smell of cow poop being spread over the fields. Life in the country.

Yes we will fit

Busy free time

We work hard and play hard or to be more precise we work hard and try to play hard but as the years roll by and we get older we seem to have more nothing days.

Nothing days are where we are just so knackered after doing three 12 hour days and a half day before having any time off. When we finish at lunch time, we tend to have lunch and then lazy about to recharge our batteries.

But we must not give in to age and there is so much we want to see and do while we are here. When I say here I mean while we are on this planet not just while we are here in this area.

So a day off and a plan. Go to Llangollen. Only about a twenty minute drive away, park in the centre and walk along the canal to the motor museum. We were there early so we got in the main carpark and paid our fee and headed off to the canal path.

Over the bridge over the river past the old railway station and up to the canal. The old railway station is where the steam trains go from and we are actually booked on one in June.

The canal path is about a fifteen minute walk to the motor museum which is a private collection of old cars, old motorbikes and memorabilia. Not your Haynes style museum at all. It’s only five pounds to enter the big old barn which houses all the old stuff. We really enjoyed it and spoke to the owner who bought the barn with money from his dad when he passed away. It’s a great collection and if you’re ever in the area it’s well worth a visit. Just don’t expect shiny warehouse type buildings and polished cars and bikes.

Llangollen motor museum
Llangollen motor museum.

After spending some time in the museum we started to walk back along the canal path and I heard the whistle of a steam train, the track is right next to the canal path. I peered through the trees to hopefully get a glimpse but no it was nowhere to be seen. Then the whistle went again and I said to Nikki, it must be on its way so I desperately tried to find a spot through the trees to get a photo.

Then another blow on the whistle and I saw it coming around the bend and towards us. I scrambled down the bank through the trees to get a good spot with Nikki shouting don’t get too near the railway lines. I know I wanted a good photo but I also didn’t want it to be the last photo I took. As the train passed I got a great photo of it that I was very happy with. Hope you like it.

Full steam ahead

What a day we were having, the motor Museum, the steam train. All I needed now was to see the horse drawn barge come along the canal. No sooner had the words got out my mouth, around the bend in the canal came a big ol cloppy horse pulling a canal boat. It’s a tourist thing but again something I had wanted to see.

Horse drawn barge

So on a day where I got three things to tick of my to do list while we are in the area, the only thing to do was on the way back to the carpark we passed a very nice sandwich, pie and cake shop. It would have been rude to just walk by, so we ventured inside and bought ourselves some lunch.

The next day was also our day off, so a drive out to Pistyll Rhaeadar the highest waterfall in Wales apparently. At 240 ft or 80 metres it’s the tallest single drop waterfall in Britain. After you turn off the main road and start heading towards it you are on single track roads and the scenery is fantastic. Again we were up early to get there before the crowds.

There is a small carpark and cafe right next to it. You walk through a gate and down to the bottom of the waterfall and look upwards towards the sky to the top. That was fantastic but I wanted to see it from the top down, which meant a hike up the mountain which was a bit too much for Nikki so she stayed down below while I hiked up to the top for a different view. Wow that’s all I could say on reaching the top and looking over the edge and down the valley.

View from the bottom
View from the top

One slip and you’re over the edge until you hit the bottom 80 metres below. But what a view. Stunning, I then hiked back down to meet Nikki who was sat in the safety of the cafe having a coffee. Very sensible.

To finish our days off we headed to a pub only about twenty minutes walk from base. We sat in the beer garden with a view of the aqueduct in the distance and had a beer or two and one of the pubs famous burgers. Nikki’s burger consisted of a 8 oz burger with bacon on top and mine was a 8 oz burger with a Cajun chicken breast on top and topped off with bacon and salsa and onion rings. Both meals came with chips and salad and coleslaw. Good job we were walking back to burn a few calories off.

View from the Bridge inn pub garden.

We have just returned from a weekend away in the camper. We went to the Wirral and a site overlooking the estuary. We walked into west Kirby along the old railway line which was about three miles. Had lunch in a cafe called the sail loft over looking the estuary and the marine lake.

The marine lake is a man made lake for water sports which has a path all the around the edge which at low tide you can walk around. When you see people walking around it from the other side it looks like they are walking on water. I persuaded Nikki to walk back to the site which meant we had walked six miles. Ok for me but a little too far for her but she did it and slept well that night.

Walking on water at Marine lake west Kirby

We had a chill out day the next day and only a short walk to the beach and a lunchtime stop in the local cafe for tea and cake. Then a BBQ in the early evening with a beer or two and some wine for Nikki and yes we both slept well again.

On reflection

So that’s us up to date and back at work. It’s bank holiday weekend so busy busy and next weekend we have another bank holiday and the coronation so we will be busy yet again. More to plan for our next days off.

Life in the sun

A bit of snow they said

Not long after posting my last blog when we were having a loverly mild spell at the end of February the weather forecast was saying we were going to get some snow across the U.K.

Our local weather said we would get a bit of snow and ice. I was getting a bit excited about having some snow around. It does make nice photos. As the days passed the weather forecast changed as if the forecasters had no idea what we were going to get. They have been known to get it wrong before. Think back to Michael fish.

I went to bed on the evening before expecting to wake up to a huge snow drift outside my door, but what did we get the next morning, a few snow flakes in the ground. So the forecasters got that wrong.

Some parts of the country had snow, others had none. Anyway just as they were saying no snow in our area it started snowing. And by the morning we woke up to see a huge blanket of snow covering everything including the trees. It was as white as white out there.

Snow arrived

Now as nice as it looked this was going to cause us a problem being on a campsite because we had people arriving and people leaving. Or so they thought. The road leaving the site is flat until you get to the top then it’s a slope down if leaving and a slope up if you’re arriving. And to add to that the site has some slopes.

A couple of small camper vans made it out of the site but the rest booked another night and we had to cancel all our bookings for two days as it would not be safe on site and most people were thinking the same and could not even get their caravan or motorhome out from where it was parked anyway.

Warm inside

The next two days were spent shovelling a lot of snow so people could get to the toilet block etc. After two days the forecast was for the temperature to hit double figures and rain and as quick as the snow arrived it was gone and life on the campsite was back to normal or as normal as it can be with us working here.

We had a trip out to Chester shopping outlet on one of our days off. I hated every minute of it and Nikki would have enjoyed it if I wasn’t there moaning about all the shops etc. I don’t like shopping and the only reason I went was because I wanted to get some winter boots for my mountain biking. I never got them.

We had friends come and visit us. They had a nice time exploring the area and of course we had to go and have a beer with them and a bite to eat down the pub.

And now we’re into April already. Can’t believe we have been here for three months already. The snow drops have been and gone and now the daffodils are all over the place and next will be the bluebells.

Chirk castle which is right on our doorstep has some loverly grounds to walk around and we often walk up there as it changes every month. Now we’re into spring all the trees are leafing up and all the buds are coming out. The birds are singing and building their nests. And the evenings are getting lighter.

Spring is here.

New in the Chirk estate is a garden area they have made which is a peaceful area, no dogs allowed and hopefully only very well behaved children. It’s an area where you get in touch with nature. There are benches around and areas just to sit and ponder, listen to the birds and watch life go by with your thoughts. I love the area and will be visiting it more.

Read the words

Nikki says this wording on this totem pole sums me up. I think she is right. we spent a very nice quite half an hour in the garden with nobody else coming in.

We had the afternoon off yesterday so planned some weekends away to give the camper a run out and to get us off site. More on that as and when we have those weekends. I also booked us onto the train ride from Llangollen to Carrog in June. I booked this because in the weekends the steam train runs this route so I am really looking forward to this. Plan is to get off at Carrog walk up to the pub for lunch and catch a later train back.

That’s us up to date. Still lots of work to do and of course lots of things for us to see and do while we are in this wonderful area. I will keep blogging and hope you are enjoying our journey with us. Cheers.

We’re not going anywhere.


Not far from where we work is a huge big Sculpture park called the British ironwork centre. It’s on the A5 just south of Oswestry. January and February were free to get in so we decided to go and have a look.

You can also buy membership for a year at a very reasonable fee of £7.50 each which entitles you to go as many times as you like in a year plus 10% discount in the cafe and 10% discount in the shop. We bought the membership because we know we will go back again because so many things change there through out the year.

The grounds are huge so be prepared for a nice walk, and they have really thought about how they place the sculptures. Some even being in the water etc. lots of information boards telling you about them. They are very keen on getting the message across about endangered animals under threat of extinction.

Elephant made from old car parts

The elephant above was made from old car clutches, brake parts, chains etc and was so impressive. The Maori head below from more car parts.

Māori head

You really need to go there to appreciate the scale of the grounds and we had a lovely lunch at the cafe sitting outside in the sun. We will be going back. And of course the shop which I think if we had a house we would have spent a fortune in.

On one of our walks from the site up to Chirk castle, through the woods we were sitting on a bench taking in the peace and tranquility. A lady walker stopped to say hello and told us a lot of history of the area and told us about a lovely pub which a friend of hers owns.

A pub with views over looking a river and mountains with good food and real ales. I sat up straight and was all ears. We had the next day off so our plan was to visit this pub as the weather was going to be good.

The pub was about half hours drive away in a place called Carrog , the pubs’s called The Grouse inn. I drove there turning off the main road and winding down a single track road, over an old bridge over the river Dee and into the pub carpark. This is where I handed over the car keys to Nikki for her to drive back after our lunch.

The setting is fantastic. We decided to sit outside even though it’s February but we were in the sun and could not miss the view by sitting inside.

Lunch with a view

The food was very good, The beer was very good, The view was very good, the weather was very good and of course the company was very good. I could have sat there all afternoon to be honest.

The view

Back to work the next day but planning our next day off. We decided we were going to go to Shrewsbury. About a 45 minute drive away. Shrewsbury sits on the river Severn and is the birthplace of Charles Darwin. Lots of old Tudor buildings that have been sat there for so many years and as you look at them you wonder how they have survived. The old beams all leaning and twisted but so much character.

The main shopping area we did not like with all the high street shops in. That’s just the same as any town with main stream shops. But the old parts we found were great and the old market hall with all its independent shops was very nice.

Nikki was chatting to a stall holder and she told her we had missed all the best bits of the old town with a lot of independent shops and at the end of the street was the river which we could have walked all along and back around to where we had parked. So a revisit is on the cards.

Not far from where we parked and crossed the river into the town was a sculpture. It looks like a slinky (remember them) or a cows spine as some of the locals say. It was put there to celebrate Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. The local council paid for it at a price of one million pounds. This upset a lot of locals obviously.

Old bridge and modern sculpture

A walk up to the castle grounds on a sunny afternoon was also rewarded with some nice sights of the grounds and the snowdrops. The castle is close to us so it will be nice going up there on a regular basis to see it all grow and all the plants and trees coming into bloom and changing through the season .

Chirk castle grounds

So that’s us up to date. Lots of other things planned for our remaining eight months of work. Work really does get in the way of our life but we need the money to be able to do the things we like to do.

Loverly old building in Shrewsbury

The skys on fire

It’s all going well with campsite life. The weather has been kind to us for January and February. And with a a few days of sunrises like the first photo it’s a joy to wake up. Well it’s always a joy to wake up, it’s just nicer on a morning like that.

Sunrise at Chirk

Our heating is now fixed luckily or unluckily for our bank balance. But at least we are nice and warm in the camper now. Good job really because after paying for the repair we have no money to go out with.

At the end of January we had four days off so decided to go somewhere in the camper to give it a run and to get of site. We decided on Southport, just north of Liverpool. Our managers had worked on site there and knew the area so gave us some recommendations of places to go in the area.

The route we were taking meant we crossed a toll bridge which cost six pounds each way but when Niki tryed booking it on line the payment screen was not working. So she rang up and they explained the system had a glitch and our camper was coming up as a commercial vehicle which the chassis is. So he charged us two pounds each way. Bargain.

Southport is a huge town, some say it’s a posh Liverpool. It’s not the sort of place we would go to in the hight of summer that’s for sure and some of the streets we saw you would not want to go down at night. It’s by the sea and has a huge big amusement park which luckily was closed but still made nice photos.

Southports big wheel
Horses waiting for summer

Southport also has the second longest pier in the U.K. second to Southend but is the longest iron pier. When you see it jutting out to sea you look at and think it’s not that long but then I relized that the same amount is in land. At one stage it would have all been out to sea but the land has been reclaimed. I really wanted to walk out to the end but it was closed for repairs.

Part of Southport pier

We had been told of a fish and chip shop that we had to go to. A family run business for years and the food was the best. So as we like food we wandered off into the town to seek it out. We never booked just took a chance we could get in. Our search took us down some dodgy looking streets but we found it. You would never know where it is unless you were told. It was closed but due to open in an hour. We went and had a drink and then came back to it and to a small group of three peaple waiting to go in. As we walked up to the shop the doors opened and in we went, sat down and all of a sudden peaple were coming in the front door and the back door. Our order was taken and the fish and chips, mushy peas and bread and butter was served. And yes it was very nice.

After our feast we wandered around the corner into Lord street which is the old part with all the chopping arcades with canopy’s over them etc. All very Victorian looking. One shopping arcade was a fantastic building with lots of glass and ironwork but all the shops were empty which was such a shame. A sign of the times I think.

Beautiful shopping arcade

Other parts of the town were not to our liking with rubbish everywhere and just not looked after. There are some beautiful old buildings though. We walked back through the park with the boating lakes and in the summer it would have little tea rooms open beside the lake. The grounds were kept nice apart from the odd bit of graffiti here and there.

There were lots of swans, ducks, geese and of course the seagulls all around the lake all looking for the food handouts. I expect in the summer with all the crowds of peaple they double in size with the amount of handouts they get.

No good hiding I can see you

Our four days off was soon gone and we headed back to base. Would we go back to Southport, yes we would but not in the summer.

On another day off I managed to get to the bike park at Llandegla. About half hours drive away. It has some great trails, a skills area, a pump track, a cafe and bike shop so it’s my kind of place and I will be going there a lot over the next few months. I went there yesterday in fact and did twenty miles of ups and downs on the black, red and blue trails. Nikki went for a more sedate walk around Chirk castle.

Fun times on the bike

Today we are off to an Ironworks centre which is a sculpture park not far from here. So that will be in the next blog post.

Three weeks in

We left Minehead on the 2nd of January heading for our new base for the season in Chirk. Right on the welsh / English border between Oswestry and Wrexham. About 210 miles away. About a four and half hour drive in the camper.

Nikki was in the car and just before the services on the M5 she overtook me and slowed up in front of me. This means she was going in the services and was hoping I was going to follow. We pulled into the service area and had a comfort break. Nikki was concerned about a light in the dashboard that said low tyre pressure. I assured her not to worry and we continued on our way.

We had agreed to stop at another service area not far from where we were going because I like to top up the fuel so it’s all ready to go out next time. We both arrived within 5 minutes of each other. A quick sandwich and a fuel top up and onwards for the last ten miles.

We arrived on site and got ourselves set up in the compound. Then a quick cup of tea with Simon and Becky the managers and an early night as we had to go to work the next day. The only sound from outside was the owls hooting which we love anyway.

The next morning there was a great sunrise with the sun coming up behind the bare trees.

Morning sunrise

Off to work and get the feel for the site. There is a pheasant on site which takes a shine to peaple. As they walk by he follows them and will follow them for a fair way. It is funny but when pheasants do this they can be a bit scary as they tent to attack sometimes. So far no humans have been hurt by Freddy the pheasant and I think the more peaple on site and dogs the less he will be around.

A day off so we went for a little walk up the lanes and around the Chirk castle grounds. The castle is a national trust property which we plan to visit on another day off.

Chirk castle

This area has so much going for it and I have a huge list of things we want to do and see but we’re here for ten months so hopefully the list will be completed by the end of the season.

We had friends come and stay on site so it was only natural to show them the local pub and how nice the beer and food was. They agreed it was all very nice even though we had to walk home in the rain.

Another day off and a trip out to Llangollen which is about seven miles away. Llangollen has a steam railway line, a canal with horse drawn barges, a river running through the town and lots of small shops and cafes and of course a pub or two.

It’s rained a lot since we have been here so the river at Llangollen was in full flow. We found a small cafe overlooking the river to have lunch which was nice.

River Dee in full flow

The picture shows the river in full flow, the cafe on the left is where we had lunch and on the right is the steam railway station. No trains running at the moment. Not because they are on strike but because it’s a seasonal attraction.

Another day out was to visit the bike park at Llandegla just to get my bearings where it is check out the cafe there and I needed some new elbow and knee pads. Nikki came with me because there was a cafe involved. It’s only half an hour away and this will be my playground on some of my days off.

When we left the bike park I decided to come back a different way over the horseshoe pass. This a famous road which goes up the mountain and is shaped like a horseshoe. The views are fantastic and up the top is a cafe called the ponderosa which is used by a lot of bikers, that’s motor-bikers. It’s used by walkers, road bikers and everyone really. We will be returning to walk from there because the views are so nice.

I went out the other day for a quick blast on my mountain bike, just around the back roads and along the canal path. It was very cold and icy but so peaceful on the canal. All the narrow boats moored up had their wood burners going. Such a nice way to live and the pace of life just slows down.

Shropshire Union canal
Mawr viaduct

Houston we have a problem. In the coldest snap for a long time our heating is playing up. We called a mobile engineer out and he came to the conclusion that the controller or the PCB was knackered. Now the trouble is getting hold of these bits but he has managed to get the bits at a hiked up price because of the shortage of bits in the country. But needs must so we just had to bite the bullet and say yes get the bits please and come and fix it. In the mean time we had to go out and buy a small portable electric heater to keep us warm. The heating is being fixed in two days time thankfully.

That’s us up to date, it’s payday next week thankfully as our heating repair is not going to be cheap. The cold snap is over after tomorrow and we are heading in the right direction for spring.

The final countdown

The final countdown has started. No not the song from the 80’s by the band Europe. The final countdown for our winter break being over and going back to work in five days time.

Before we got to Minehead we had a bit of a plan while we were here. A trip to Worthing to visit my dad, a visit to a couple of our favourite pubs, a big hike from Minehead to Porlock , that was me not Nikki and lots of biking up the woods. That was also me alone.

Well like all good plans all the above mentioned have not been completed. The trip to see my dad was done and it was great to see him and his wife. We had a loverly couple of days with them. A long drive both ways and very tiring. The weather was not the best while we were there but we got out for a coffee and I went to see the sea by the pier.

Worthing pier

I did manage to get out on my bike a couple of times and even found some snow up on the hills 1000ft above sea level. Coming back down one of the trails I had to stop quickly because there right where I wanted to be going was an Exmoor pony just stood in the way staring at me. I like horses but I prefer a fence between me and them. So there we are both staring at each other, he was proberly thinking the same as me and wishing there was a fence between him and the mad biker.

I started to get my camera out because it was a great photo opportunity and he started to walk towards me. What do I do, take a quick photo and turn around and pedal away as quick as possible bearing in mind it was all uphill back the way I had come from and I new although he wasn’t going to win the grand national he could run quicker than I could pedal.

So I stood my ground and put my camera away, he also stopped. I edged forward, he stood still so I edged forward a bit more and he turned and run off into the heather and gorse. I had won the day and carried on down the hill.

What you looking at

We saw a nice old Hymer motorhome come on to site and then about an hour later I was going to the shower block and bumped into the owners. A couple I have known for at least 35 years but not seen for the last four years. We arranged to go for a meal and a few bears with them the next evening. A good excuse to get another to do item ticked of the list. We went to a local pub and had a great evening. The pub even had a musician on that night who was very good.

The hike to Porlock has been postponed for this year due to bad weather and aching limbs. Although the weather is looking good the day before we leave here I don’t want to go out on a ten mile hike and be aching so much the next day I can’t drive up to north wales.

But we did go to Porlock a couple of days ago before the rain came in. Porlock is such a great place in the winter without the crowds. There were a couple of peaple swimming in the sea in the harbour area. The three cottages were looking so nice in the bit of sunlight that was creeping up over the hill. I love the old wood at the harbour and the sound of the waves lapping on the pebbles.

Loverly cottages

In Porlock is a cloths shop that Nikki loves and she has to go in there every time we go to Porlock. Luckily we don’t go very often. To get to the beach we have to drive through the town and this particular morning as we drove through the shop was closed. Ah that’s a shame I said, that’s the trouble with Xmas everyone wants a holiday.

So after being at the beach we had to drive back through the town and guess what. The shop was open so a quick diversion to a car park and Nikki got to go in the shop. Another thing she can tick of her to do list.

Yesterday the weather was forecast to rain all day. I can’t just sit in the camper all day so we decided to go to Dunster castle, at least it’s a well built castle with a roof. It’s a national trust property. We have just joined the national trust so our entry fee and parking were free. We plan on visiting more of their properties so it’s good value.

The castle grounds could wait for another day when the sun was out. The castle is a Motte and Bailey and later became a fortified Manor House and a country house. Built in red sandstone. The interior is fantastic and so much history in those walls.

Dunster castle

So that’s us up to date and Xmas is over for another year. Five days to go before we are back at work. I wish you all a happy new year and I will be back on here in the new year with a new list of things to do in our work season on our days off. I wonder how many I will tick off. I can guarantee that the ones involving a beer and food will get done. Happy new year.

It’s over turn the light off.


Our time at South Molton was a contrast of Blue skys and grey skys, of warm weather to bloody freezing weather. The first weekend was so nice, almost like a summers day with blue skys.

We went out for a walk at Croyde to Baggy point which is a headland jutting out to sea. On one side is Croyde bay and the other side is Putsbourgh beach which is part of a three mile beach, the other end being Woolacombe.

For many years this area has been home, surfing, mountain biking, hiking. It’s a popular destination for surfers and on its day is a world class wave. You get a lot of wanna be surfers with their Audi’s, BMW’s etc all loaded up with boards. They talk a good surf and I am sure when they get back to the office on Monday they are telling all their workmates how big the waves were and how good they were. In reality they are known as all the gear no idea brigade.

The amount of buildings that have changed over the years is amazing. Again not locals but city folk buying up the properties and rebuilding them. One in particular on the point between Croyde and Saunton is up for sale at Ten million pounds I don’t think a local will be buying that.

We parked up in the national trust carpark and headed out for Baggy point. It’s not a long walk but really nice with views across the bay. And with blue skys it could have been a summers day. The only down side was that a huge section of the gorse bushes were black because of a fire at the end of August caused by a disposable bbq. So inconsiderate and I doubt it was a local.

A view from the coast path

We sat on a bench at Baggy point and just took in the view and silence and the unspoilt spot which I hope never changes. Good memories.

The second weekend on the site in South Molton could not have been so different. We knew some cold weather was coming in and if there is any snow about South Molton will get it and it’s always colder there. I kept saying to Nikki it’s going to snow. No it’s not was her reply. Well I won that one.

On the Friday night while we were all tucked up in bed in the warm it snowed so Saturday morning we awoke to a covering of snow and below freezing temps. The heating was doing overtime. I got up and had to go out to take some photos while Nikki stayed wrapped up in bed. She always is so sensible.

Part of the site before the snow
A Devon lane after the snow

So now I was checking the forecast daily because we were supposed to be leaving on the Monday. The conditions got worse because although we never had any more snow it was starting to thaw then would freeze again making all the roads on the site like a skating rink. It was bad enough trying to walk around but the thought of getting our 30ft five ton camper down the roads and round the bends was going to be a challenge.

We booked an extra night to play it safe and as we were only going to Minehead from there we could leave late morning. I checked out a second route to get out and with Nikki stood in the lane to make sure nothing was coming down the lane I drove across the lane turned around and headed of down hill. No stopping me now I was committed. Not only going down hill but on a narrow lane and no turning space until the end.

Made it and got to the main road and headed off to Minehead. The main road A361 was clear and looked loverly with all the trees covered in frozen snow at the side and all the fields covered in a blanket of snow. As I reached the M5 the snow was disappearing and the rest of the journey was fine.

So now we are at Minehead. The site is really quite which we like. We will be here until the new year before heading up to North wales to start work. That’s if we don’t get more snow. Fingers crossed. Plans while we are here is to bike up the woods, hike some coast path, that’s my plans while Nikki will join me in other activities like checking out the pubs and small walks.

Our first full day here yesterday so we headed out for a short walk to the beach in a very cold north easterly wind. To warm up a bit we headed for a pub right down by the harbour. A nice hot chocolate and a coffee with a piece of chocolate brownie and cheese cake on the side went down well.

Nikki was glad to get back to the camper after the walk back being cold. But on the way back we diverted a different way. Last year we saw a real old school barbers in Minehead. All the staff had black trousers, white shirts and black bow ties on. It just looked like a proper old barbers. Now I don’t need a haircut because every week I shave my head but I did need my beard trimmed so I decided to go in and have a chat.

Take a seat sir. A couple of minutes later the owner a guy in his seventies came out and said what can I do for you. He could see I didn’t need a hair cut and we joked about it. He started telling me about that he used to have a huge beard and a Harley Davison and then started to show me photos. I said I often get asked what motorbike I have and although I don’t have one I would love one. I told him about my Hot Rod that I used to own and he wanted to see the photos. It was so good in there, just proper old school. And my beard was trimmed really well. Nikki was impressed.

So that was a good day. Today it’s -3 out there but I am going out on my bike. Nikki is catching up on washing, phone calls etc. so the last two weeks have gone from Shorts and T-shirt in the sun to shorts and Tshirt in the snow. Like I said Nikki is the sensible one.

Blue skys and calm ponds

The Great Escape

The countdown was on until our leaving day. The site had hardly anyone coming to stay, the rain was persistent so I could not get any final grass cutting done.

The days were short in daylight, but still full of laughs. Everything was done on site that could be done for close down. We had a couple of days to pack the camper and car up and catch up on washing etc and then the morning of the 12th November we were off.

Were we glad to be driving out the gate, yes and no. The site was nice, the area was nice it’s just the season was not really a good one compared to others. I will leave it at that.

We were not travelling far, only about an hour away to another site on the edge of Newport in South Wales. Again a site we have used many times but it got us on our winter journey. The weather by now had cheered up and the sun was out and it was really mild for this time of year. The trees looked fantastic in their autumn colours against the blue sky.

Autumn colours

We only spent two nights at Tredegar then headed out on to the M4 and over the Severn bridge into England to Cirencester. Yet another site we have been to before and worked on.

Cirencester is a loverly old town and the walk through the Bathurst estate to get to the town is so nice on a sunny day. We were going to be here for two weeks. A week of that Nikki was going to see her sister and her boys and the grandchildren leaving me at home to look after myself. Nikki dropped me off in town as she left so I could get my Covid booster jab and while I was there they offered me my flu jab so I had one in each arm and then walked back through the park to the camper.

The fridge was stocked up with beer and food, easy to cook food that is. I knew where all the best food pubs were just in case and the takeaways. The weather was a bit of a mixture but I had a chilled out time on my own and Nikki had a hectic time visiting.

Bathurst lake

One of my walks was around the Abby grounds, some thing I had never done before even though we had spent months in Cirencester. It’s only a small walk but you can do a full loop around the lake and through the park. I spotted a Heron and lots of other ducks, swans and smaller birds. From one side of the lake you can see the church in the town and a swan was in the perfect place for me to include him in a picture apart from he was busy cleaning himself. So I got ready to take a photo and waited for him to look up and strike a pose and then click, the moment was caught on camera.

The posing swan

Further around the park was a couple of wooded statues of monks who would have been around years ago in the Abbey. Well not the wooden ones but actual peaple. In fact all around the grounds where a tree had fallen they had carved it into a seat or something to show off the area. One tree trunk had birds, otter, snake, hares, fish all carved into it. So much nicer than just leaving a old tree to rot away.

Wooden sculptures

No sooner had Nikki gone she was back. The fridge was empty but she managed to cook up a meal for us both. The next day there was a big market on in the centre of Cirencester with over a hundred stalls. Of course we had to go and have a look. We were planing in going back into town in the evening to listen to the music, watch the silent fireworks etc but the weather was turning into rain so we stayed in and played our own music.

Time to pack up and head off down the M4 again and the M5 towards Barnstaple. South molton to be precise and yet again another site we know well. From here it’s a half hour drive to see Nikki’s mum. The camper and the car are booked in for there mot and servicing, we are booked in the dentist and doctors for our annual check up.

We have to get up early to get the camper to the garage so they can start on it early and we avoid all the traffic. The mot was ok just a couple of advisories which can wait until next year. The rear brake discs need doing this year so that was all planned to be done and the annual service. I drove out from the garage with my credit card screaming to losing £1100. At least that’s the camper done.

The next day the car was booked in to another garage for its mot and service. Again we have to get up early and get it there. I had a moment and said I would take it in and Nikki could stay at home.

So on a frosty morning at 6.45am I left the campsite and headed into Barnstaple while Nikki was tucked up in bed in the warm. At 7.20am I was outside the garage changed into my hiking boots and ready for a long day. It was still dark as I dropped the keys to Barry the owner and headed out for a walk.

The garage is near the river Taw so a great way to start the day by walking along the Tarka trail. The sun was coming up as I strolled into town which for me was the best time to be in a town with all the shops closed. Hunting down a place for breakfast I came across a small sandwich shop and they did a nice bacon sarni.

The trouble is with dropping the car off early I then had a lot of time to kill. Luckily the weather was good and I like walking. I had to go up the dentist at midday and that was a two mile walk each way plus all the other walking. It was so peaceful besides the river and a photo opportunity was right in front of me. The photo below is one of my favourite photos I have ever taken. Right place right time as they say.

Right place right time

The town was starting to come to life by now so I stayed on the outside by the river and eventually started to walk the smaller roads up to the dentist. Got there early but they had a cancellation so I could get in early. Perfect timing as just after leaving there I got a call from the garage to say the car was ready.

Got to the car, hiking boots off, coat off, bill payed and away I drove with my legs aching a bit. I had walked just under eight miles in total. I slept well last night. Only the doctors to go now for our checkups and that’s next week. Then me, Nikki, the camper, the car are all done for another year.

We are here for another ten days and then we head for Minehead for three weeks and then the winter trip will be over as we start back at work the first week in January. Must be mad but the camper, car and dentist bill have got to be payed.

River Taw looking towards Barnstaple

One Missing

Back in May I was searching the internet to see what concerts were on at Swansea arena. To my surprise a tribute band called The Australian Pink Floyd were playing there in October.

Pink Floyd are one of my favourite bands who I have seen many moons ago at Wembley stadium and they were fantastic. I have also seen a tribute band called Think floyd who were great, I have actually seen them twice. The Australian pink floyd I had always wanted to see so here was my opportunity with Swansea being only twenty minutes drive away and our evening off. Tickets were bought.

We finished work early that day and headed into Swansea at about 3pm. We were going to have a walk around and have tea in a pub and then go on to the concert which started at 7.30pm. A plan was made.

I also wanted to get some photos of the Copr bay bridge. The bridge is part of a big building project to join part of Swansea with the Swansea bay. It looks like honycombe and I though would make nice photos.

We park up just a couple of minutes away from the arena and go and check out where we need to go etc when we come back for the show. We then find out the show starts at 8pm. It’s going to be a late night I think. Nikki said she might fall asleep. I then remind her that the tickets cost £50 each and she will watch it all and even sing a long. 😁

Copr bridge
Copr bridge at dusk

The Copr bridge is right outside the arena and I was lucky enough to get some photos with no one around. I love the way the sunlight comes through the cutouts. I would have loved to get some pics when it was dark but at the end of the concert this bridge would have been flooded with peaple going home.

We went for a walk around the edge of town and I was dragged around a couple of shops but not too many thankfully. We decided on having tea in a pub down on the marina. The Pumphouse was chosen, I love the use of old buildings used as pubs. Whether spoons are very good for this. So after a walk around the marina and a look at the sea in the bay of Swansea we went for food.

Swansea marina

Plenty of space in the pub even though it was a Friday but we were early. Seated and ordered all on line with a App. Nikki does that bit, I think if I tried it it would be a lucky dip what we would get. The main decision and the hardest was what soft drink to have. Do pubs do soft drinks. I was driving and I have a very strict no alcohol if driving policy. I value my licence. Nikki said she didn’t want a drink because she didn’t want to be that annoying person always getting up for the loo while the show was on. So there we were sat in a pub with our meals and a soft drink each. There is a first for everything.

Still early we decide to go to the arena and find our seats and just chill. And now the fun began. We go in through the scanners, I buy a T shirt, we go and get some bottled water as it’s going to be a long night. The band play for about two and half hours.

We walk into the arena and our seats are on the circle in the middle. We get to our seats and I am so excited and I turn to Nikki and she is shaking and starting to cry. Wow I never thought you would be that excited are you ok. NO I can’t stay here. Let me explain Nikki has a fear of heights, bridges, ledges etc anywhere that is high and she could fall.

I have had to hold her tight and walk her across a bridge before now. So with her legs going to jelly and with her feeling sick we go out to the bar area and talk about our choices. One of the staff said she could possibly swap seats with one of the disabled on the edge with a barrier in front but it was a sell out so the chance was slim.

Nikki decided she was going to go home. I said take the car but she said no, how would I get home. There was more chance of her catching a bus early than me getting one later. I wanted her to get a taxi so she would go from door to door. I was not worried about the cost I just wanted her to get home safely in the dark and on a Friday night because she still had a walk from where the bus drops her off to home.

So off she went and yes she caught the bus after promising me she would message me when she got home. I went back to my seat and watched the arena slowly fill up. The arena holds 3500 peaple and it was a sell out but there was One Missing, out of all the 3500 sold tickets there was one seat empty and that seat was next to me.

The show was fantastic and I really enjoyed it, the music the light show etc. The Audience was a lot of older peaple like myself who have been Floyd fans for years. Not many youngsters in the Audience. They don’t appreciate good music.

Australian Pink Floyd
Australian Pink Floyd

I left the arena at 22.45 and headed for the car. I don’t like driving at night because all the lights make my eyes go funny and after looking at all the laser lights from the concert it was going to be worse and I was tired. So a slow drive home and with aching eyes and buzzing ears I fell into bed and slept like a log and no alcohol was involved.

As it was our weekend off the next day we decided on a beach day. So in between the showers we headed for Caswell bay. A loverly bay on a loverly day on the Gower. We had a stroll along the beach, a look into the rock pools and Nikki even had a paddle but she did have her wellies on.

Caswell bay
Caswell bay

Back to work on the Monday after a great weekend. The site being really quiet. And now the gates are closed, the site is empty, we have shut down the site. We have reached the chequered flag. A couple of days now to get the camper loaded up, all the washing etc to do and then head out in the highway. First stop Tredegar only just over an hour away. There for the weekend and then off to Cirencester.