We had just started to get used to being on the road when we had to stop and return to Bricks and Mortar. This short break had been ‘scheduled’ so we knew that it was coming but I don’t think that either of us were prepared for how much we would miss not being in ‘Big Momma’.
We are obviously so grateful to Sonia (Shazza’s Mum) for letting us camp in her bungalow, use her WiFi and her electricity to keep our technology charged, especially as she also had the decorator in at the same time, but it made it nice and cosy ! We were not idle in the four days that we were there, there was a small matter of boarding Sonia’s loft before we stored our personal items up there, well it was the least we could do. Then there was visiting relatives and we took the opportunity of popping across to Leeds to visit my parents. My mother was concerned that we would not get proper food so decided to take us out for Fish and Chips. I think that she still believes that we have become ‘gypsy’ travellers, selling lucky heather and clothes pegs to earn enough to supplement the ‘road kill’ we collect on our journey’s !
I was a little concerned as my ‘Fulltiming’ Insurance documentation had not arrived from ‘Comfort’, which was unusual as they normally dispatched it the same day. I was even more concerned when I rang them and they could not find me anywhere on their computer records !! My bank account reflected that they had taken the money though ! After being put on hold for a short time the young girl then asked me for my previous address and postcode, which I had already told her, and then asked me to spell my surname ? Hah ! Problem resolved, helps if they spell your name right when they are searching records. However, where have they sent my documents ? They stated that the documents had been sent to the new ‘contact address’ but told me they would send out another set by first class mail. Well, to cut a long story short, I received the documents the following day, that would be the documents they sent ‘First Class’ the previous day !! Now call me cynical but I think they may have forgotten to send out the original documentation but why didn’t they just say that ? The documents, when they did arrive, were not correct, they still had us both recorded in our old employment instead of ‘Retired’ and they had the vehicle being parked up at the old address !! I am now awaiting a set of ‘correctly’ amended documents to arrive. Fortunately, I have the ‘Certificate of Insurance’ so that is not a problem.
We are still waiting for our refunds from the Council Tax and the ‘over payment’ made on the mortgage, not inconsiderable amounts. I was informed that it could take up to ten days before the monies are credited back to our bank account ! In this day and age of technology and on-line banking that is ridiculous and I told both of them that they take money within hours when it is owed to them but they gain ten days interest on what is our money !! Of course they were apologetic but it was their admin processes that caused the delay and of course they would see if they could hasten the payments, of course they will I thought to myself !!
Friday 4th October – Auto Trail – Doncaster – Wisbech (151 Miles)
At last the time came to collect ‘Big Momma’ from Auto Trail but there were some transport logistics to resolve. We also needed to do some shopping to re-stock our ‘on-board provisions’, we couldn’t do this earlier as Sonia would not have had the spare capacity in her fridge/freezer. We also had a pre-arranged rendezvous with some fellow Motorhome colleagues in Cambridgeshire and this would be close on a three-hour drive. So, Sharon would take me to Auto Trail in ‘our’ car, about an hours drive away, and literally drop me at the door. She would then return, via a supermarket to do the shopping, return to Sonia’s, park the car and get our stuff ready to be re- loaded into ‘Big Momma’ when I returned. I would sort out the bill for the work done. Although Mark at Auto Trail had already provided us with a quote for the original repair work and told us that the replacement splash guard would be done as a gesture of ‘goodwill’, there was a little matter of the two additional pieces of work that we had sprung on him on the day we had taken ‘Big Momma’ in ! We had also decided that it would be advantageous to carry a ‘spare’ water pump. If the pump already fitted were to become unserviceable then this could become problematical, and extremely inconvenient, whilst ‘on the road’ in foreign climes. Of course we could probably obtain a replacement in Spain or Portugal, or at worst we could contact Auto Trail and get them to post one out to us. But this would mean having to have an address in which to send it to, pay for the part and the associated postage and of course the inevitable delay. No, we decided it would be more prudent to carry a spare with us, then all we would need would be someone capable of fitting it. So whilst we had budgeted for the initial repair we had not budgeted for the cost of the additional work or for the purchase of a spare water pump. Now for all those who have been following our blog this is where all the extra cash from the sale of our tat ‘cherished items’ during those long fifteen weeks of early morning ‘car boot sales’ comes into it’s own. In fact, since we ‘hit the road’ last Thursday we have been living off ‘these’ funds and not yet had to dip into our ‘Travel Fund’ and so these additional costs are not actually impacting on our budget !!
Mark handed me the new water pump along with the keys and we went inside ‘Big Momma’ to look at the finished work. The repair to the damaged work top was perfect, the new smoked glass splash guard looked good, the under sink cupboard had been re-aligned and the brackets holding the door were well and truly secured and the extra catches had been added to the under seat cupboard in the lounge, perfect job, and he even gave us a handful of spare catches ! Now considering that since purchasing the van three and a half years ago and having taken it back to the Motorhome dealers on ‘several occasions’ to have the same fault resolved, unsuccessfully, it just shows that perhaps they either don’t have the time, or the service department ‘technicians’ don’t have the skills required to actually do proper aftercare. To say that I was very happy now that ‘Big Momma’ was as good as new again would certainly be an understatement. I just wanted to give Mark a great big hunk but that would not have been the ‘manly’ thing to do so I thanked him profusely and shook his hand. I then asked him the important question “How much do I owe you” ? He smiled and said “Exactly what we quoted and the cost of the water pump, the rest is goodwill”. Now that is service !! Not something that you get as often as you would like these days but a big thank you to Mark and Auto Trail for exceptional service.
I needed to refuel, I was hoping to get back to Doncaster and re- fuel on the way to Wisbech but the fuel warning light came on moments into the return trip from Auto Trail so I didn’t want to take the chance. Wow ! £1.50 a litre !! Not only is it much colder up North but with the price of fuel who would want to live up here ? Back at Sonia’s to discover that they had only just returned themselves, how much shopping ! We were already acting as a supplementary ASDA’s warehousing storage facility. Van loaded, farewells and we were ‘Back On The Road Again’………..
It was good to be back behind the wheel of ‘Big Momma’, it already felt like home and this time, other than our one night on board the ferry to Spain, we would not be parted again. Our destination today was a ‘Secret Garden’, a small site on the outskirts of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. The journey was uneventful but leisurely and when we arrived the welcome we received from ‘Neil’ the owner was so freindly it was as if we knew each other. He showed us to our very generous pitch with EHU, Fresh Water and Grey Waste Drain and our own large cast iron Barbecue which we could also use as a log burner to sit around at nights if we so wished. The cost of £15 per night also included ‘free’ WiFi and and a utility building that contained a small games and seating area, laundry facilities (£1.50 per wash) and a tumble dryer, which we didn’t use and privacy cubicles whic contained a WC, Hand Basin and a Power Shower and I have to comment that these facilities were always immaculate. The site also had a micro-brewery and as well as selling their own beer they conducted tours as well. This was not your conventional large commercial campsite, in fact it only had about eleven pitches and each one had the full service facilities.
This camping weekend had been suggested by some other forum members who were either hot on our heels as soon to be ‘fulltimers’ or at the planning stages. Both Big Momma and Dave would have some new companions:
‘Big Momma’ and ‘Big Bird’ (Steve and Lyssa). Big Bird will be hitting the coast of Spain just 3 weeks after us and making their way down to the Algarve for Christmas. Follow ‘The Adventures of Big Bird’ on Steve and Lyssa’s blog.
The Fluffy Duster’ (Mike and Sue) who are already planning their adventure and will be part of our growing band of ‘Newbie’ Fulltimers in the near future. ‘Aurora’ to the Right (Nick and Cathy) who will be ‘fulltiming’ early next year so watch for their blog which I am sure will not be long.
Dave was also pleased to make some new friends at this weekends meet, ‘Sainsbury’ in the Middle (from ‘Aurora’) and ‘Lara’ (from ‘Fluffy Duster’).
As you may have gathered already, (because I know the readers of my blog are really quite astute), there were four couples at this weekend’s meet and as we were all arriving at different times we had made prior agreement to cater for ourselves on the first night. However, once everyone had arrived and been fed and watered we were all invited around to ‘Big Bird’. Steve had a tremendous log fire on the go and it really was quite cosy, the heat of the fire did require us to partake of one or two refreshments, however this was a mandatory requirement, under the Motorhomers Health & Safety Directive, to prevent dehydration !! After a lot of conversation (and perhaps a few more drinks ?) we retired to our vans for the night.
After an utterly tremendous sleep we awoke at a very respectable hour, went through the usual routine, you know the one by now, kettle on, kick start lungs etc. etc. Then across to the washroom to use the very nice ‘ablutions’ facilities. We decided to walk into the local town of Wisbech via a circular route, long way out and short way back always works best for me ! The initial part of the walk was on quite a busy road with no footpath only a grass verge that we had to continually leap onto or risk getting mowed down by the oncoming traffic. It was a cloudy overcast sort of day but very warm and again I was quite surprised at how warm it was for the beginning of October, somebody had answered my prayers for the weather to stay pleasant until we get to Spain. I do hear that as we land across the water on the 14th October that the UK is due to get the ‘mother of all winters’ !! (well the rumour has to start somewhere).
I am not sure whether I liked Wisbech as a town or not, it had a nice enough Saturday morning market, a nice range of shops and even a Yacht Harbour which Dave and I spent a bit of time checking out. At one stage I had to put Dave on my shoulder’s whilst he checked to see if his old boat was amongst those moored up below us. I thought that he may have got over the unfortunate incident where he was ‘evicted’ in the dead of night by those High Court Sheriffs !! I am sure I saw a tear in his eye, although he insisted that it was just a fly.
There was a harbour side ‘regeneration project’ under way and although a long way from being completed they had already built a nice pedestrianised walkway. Along part of this was a Herb Garden which people were encouraged to help themselves to one or two ‘sprigs’ to use in their home cooking. What a great idea, so Sharon picked some Sage, Thyme and Mint as we were planning on having Lamb for one of our dinners in the near future.
Why is it though that when a local Community try to make improvements and create a nice environment that there are always some selfish individual’s who totally disregard the time, effort and money to create it. In the photograph above (Right) you can see Shazza looking at this wonderful Herb Bank choosing what to pick. Below is a picture of what was directly opposite this ‘Herb Bank’
We walked a little further down the ‘promenade’ and came upon the ‘Harbour Cafe’ where we stopped to partake of a welcome coffee, as well as utilising their ‘free’ WiFi to do back-ups on our iPads !! Well we have to get used to making the most of such opportunities being that we are now ‘poor travelling folk’ who have to eat road kill and take gracious gifts of ‘free herbs’ wherever we can. Sharon still isn’t getting the knack of platting this ‘lucky heather’ and I have lost count on how many times I have tried to teach her how to whittle bits of wood into clothes pegs, so far the coffers are not swelling very much so she needs to get a ‘wiggle’ on otherwise we may starve before we reach Plymouth !! (have to say that otherwise Mother may not buy us any more Fish and Chips the next time we visit). Not much more to see in Wisbech so we headed back towards the campsite, this time using the shorter route ! As we walked along the lane we saw Lyssa foraging in the hedgerow for the last of the Blackberries, there were still some nice plump ones to be had. Back at the van and a check of Shazza’s ‘gizmo’ on her iPhone showed that we had walked a little over 6 miles. At this rate we will be fit before we start the cycling and kayaking regime in Europe !! Just time for a quick lunch before we all got together again at a ‘Sausage and Beer’ meet put on by the site owner. The site was actually just one part of a wider ‘small business’ enterprise, the micro-brewery being another and then there were the ‘pigs’, No ! Not the Caravanners !! but the ‘Gloucester Old Spot’ pigs that he bred on site and then when butchered he sold the produce. We sampled the Pork and Black Pepper and the Pork and Apple sausages, Mmmmmmm very very nice and although I am not a beer drinker I did sample some of their locally produced ‘Adventurer’. It was okay but I think I will stick to the ‘Vino Calapso’ and the ‘Jack Daniels’.
Saturday evening and it was a group cycle into town for a meal at a local hostelry, we shouldn’t have been too hungry after the sausages but we didn’t sample that many, honest ! Of course the Autumn nights are now drawing in and we had to cycle back to the site in the dark, well we did have the lights on our bikes and their were eight of us so it was quite fun really. We were not back late but it had been a long day so we all retired to our respective vans.
We had all booked to stay for two nights as some of the group had to be back at ‘work’ on Monday, oh yes ! I remember well the ‘Sunday Evening Syndromes’ but those nightmares are fading fast along with that other word ‘weekend’……….. We had pre-booked our last few days, before catching the ferry to Spain, at the Caravan Club site at Looe but were not due there until Tuesday. The initial plan had been to use the Sunday and Monday to meander down there and just find places to park up along the way. However, this site was so idyllic that we opted to stay another night and just ‘chillax’. We had not met any of our other Motorhoming colleagues before this weekend but they were now friends and we spent Sunday morning visiting each other’s ‘dream machines’, picking up tips and exchanging information, views, opinions and advice on all sorts of things. No sooner had our weekend started and it was over far too quickly. ‘Big Bird’ (Steve & Lyssa) were the first to depart, they would be fast on our heels as their ferry to Spain was just three weeks after we leave these shores for the winter sun. On more formally run sites there is a strict code about the departure time on the last day, but ‘Neil’ was very relaxed and as the site was not full he was happy for ‘Aurora’ (Nick & Cath) and ‘Fluffy Duster’ (Mike & Sue) to stay as long as they wanted, he even provided an impromptu tour of his micro-brewery ! The ‘Fluffy Duster’ were next to depart followed sometime later by ‘Aurora’. We were now on our own and it felt a little strange.
It was supposed to be a ‘chillax’ day, well that’s how it turned for me, with unseasonably warm weather and glorious sunshine, I took the opportunity of relaxing in the sun chair. Shazza on the other hand decided to do some washing…….clothes and van floors !! Then she got on her bike and went to see if Lyssa had left her some plump blackberries to go with the apples from her garden that she had brought with her and had very kindly given to us. Whilst she was out foraging I used the opportunity to ring my Dad and give him an update of where we were and what we were doing. I then text my daughter who would be flying off on her travels again on Monday. Shazza the forager returned with a container of nice plump blackberries, thanks Lyssa for leaving us some ! You would think that Shazza would have now been ready to put her feet up and enjoy the last of the evening sunshine but no, she proceeded to make an ‘Apple & Blackcurrant’ pie, with home-made pastry, none of this ready made stuff.
The site was now empty and as I lay back in my chair just soaking up the last warm rays of sunshine I could hear the familiar rat-a-tat-tat sound of a woodpecker, it was close but I could not pick it out amongst the trees. I don’t know if it was the smell of hot fruit pie wafting from the open door of the van, or just the fresh air and relaxation, but whatever it was I was ready to eat. We had decided on a BBQ, and amazingly enough this was the first we had had since starting the adventure. Although we had the ‘pitch’ barbecue we elected to use our own smaller gas barbie, the burger and sausages were soon cooked and with Shazza’s home made spiced potato wedges and red onion and tomato salad they didn’t spend too much time on the plate. This was followed by Shazza’s freshly baked hot fruit pie and custard. What a way to finish what has been a superb weekend, we have to leave this beautiful site in the morning and continue with ‘Big Momma’s Great Adventure’…………