Wednesday 29th January – Milestone Caravan Park to Peterborough (54 Miles)
As is becoming the normal routine now for the night before a ‘moving on’ day, it was a restless night, but for a combination of reasons, the biggest being the ‘excitement’ at the news about becoming an ‘Elf’ and ‘Elfette’ !! But for some reason the noise of the traffic on the nearby A1 was just one continuous drone, then their was the main ‘East Coast’ railway line to the other side of the site, all noises that we were totally oblivious to on our first stopover here just a week ago and indeed our first night here this time around !! So instead of waking early as we had done the previous morning, we didn’t wake up unti 09:00am !! However, as we are still trying to adjust to, there is no rush to get up or be anywhere, although we won’t be saying that in a couple of months time when we start our official ‘Elf’ duties, that may be a shock to the system for a little while !!
Once we were up, after our morning coffee in bed of course, we each just went through our now ‘routine’ ready to move tasks and were soon heading South towards the Caravan Club ‘Ferry Meadows‘ site at Peterborough. Funny thing is that we lived in this area for just over eleven years and never once did I go into Peterborough. I had often by-passed it, either in my car or Motorhomes, on either the A47 or A1 but had never stopped to see the town, so now we will put that right. First things first though, just five miles along the A1 from ‘Milestone Camping Park‘ was ‘Brownhills‘, a very large Motorhome Dealership which was ideally located literally just off the A1. In a previous life, when I was a ‘tugger‘ (someone who tows a caravan) and could only dream of one day owning a Motorhome, on a Sunday morning, I would put my two ‘young’ daughters in the car and drive the short distance to ‘Brownhills’, we would start off by looking at all the big new shiny Motorhomes in the internal showroom going in each and every one of them pretending to pick the one we would buy, if we ever became rich !! Then we would go outside and do the same thing in all the second-hand vans that were for sale on the forecourt before going into the on-site Cafe where I would treat us to a more affordable lunch time snack of Cheese & Ham Toasties. I actually ended up buying my first three Motorhomes from ‘Brownhills of Newark‘, two second-hand and then my first brand new one, I still wasn’t rich though and had to part exchange my 4×4 vehicle and Caravan to enable me to get my first van !! But in those days I could never in my wildest imaginations have thought that one day that I would be living in one ‘fulltime’ !!
Today though was simply to call in to their accessory shop to purchase a new set of ‘Millenco‘ levelling blocks. The old ‘Fiamma‘ ones were ten years old and had begun to crack, they needed replacing !! We couldn’t resist just popping in to the ‘internal’ showroom first though to look at what the new vans had to offer. We looked at the new edition ‘Big Mommas’, not impressed ! Do any of the designers actually own a Motorhome ? Certainly the changes they had made would not have been conducive to ‘practical’ fulltiming in them, but then again I suppose they are only providing them for the ‘few weeks holiday a year’ purchasers !! We looked in the Autotrails, Swifts and Rapidos and we did not see ‘anything’ that even came close to being the layout that we already had. This just confirmed to me that the choice we had made was right, what I didn’t know until we were walking back to ‘Big Momma’ was, and I have to say this quietly in case ‘Big Momma’ overhears me, but Shazza had half an eye on seeing if their was anything better and if so considering part exchanging ‘Big Momma’ !!!! Fortunately, they did not have any ‘Concorde Charismas‘ here, mind you at £164k on the road even that would have been a non-starter, but I could have at least drooled all over the carpet !! Now I am sure that by now you will have established that I can at times have the ‘cheek of the devil’, well, we went into the ‘Accessory Shop’ and let’s just say that we made a few more additional ‘minor’ purchases as well as the ‘Millenco’ levelling blocks. When I got to the checkout I asked if they still did the discount with the ‘Customer Loyalty Card’, they confirmed that they did and asked to see my card. Now I was not being dishonest, I did ‘used’ to have a ‘Loyalty Card’, well I did purchase three vehicles from them in the past after all. However, when clearing out the house when we were getting ready to sell it, I threw such cards away as I didn’t think that I would use any of them again !! I told the cashier that I couldn’t find it in my wallet, “No problem” says the nice cashier “What is your postcode” ? Big Gulp !! so quite confidently I reeled off our postcode, well the postcode we used to have ! But for some strange reason they could not find us on their system records ??? confused, shocked, and innocent look on one’s face towards cashier with my now well-practiced ‘French‘ shrug of the shoulders, “No problem” the cashier said, “I can still apply the ten per cent discount”, Result !!!!! Well come on, I am now a pensioner after all !!
Purchases stowed we once again joined the A1 and headed for Peterborough. It was not a long journey and although it was drizzling with the wet stuff it was a straightforward and uneventful drive. The site was easy enough to find, once again ‘Snoopy’ with her ‘updated‘ mapping system confidently led us to the front gate of the ‘Ferry Meadows’ Caravan Club Site. Shazza got us booked in, not bad we were right on budget at £15 per night ! Before selecting a pitch, away from where the ‘Weekend Ralliers’ would be parked, we needed to empty the ‘Grey’ waste. We knew that we were not full even if the gauge was continuously telling us that we were ! One of our other ‘minor’ purchases from the Brownhills Accessory Shop had been some ‘tank cleaner’ with descaler in it. You may recall that I had a similar problem with the ‘Fresh Water’ tank where ‘calcite‘ had built up on the internal probes resulting in our gauge telling us that our tank was always ’empty’ ! Since flushing through the gauge on the ‘Fresh’ tank it has been working just fine, so hopefully a flush through on the ‘Grey’ waste will have the same positive remedial effect, be assured that I will report the outcome of this to you !!
The result of months of rain was quite evident here, lots of the ‘Hardstanding’ pitches were ‘closed’ off due to them being waterlogged, the grass surrounds not being able to soak away any more water. However, we found ourselves one of the less waterlogged pitches and quite fortuitously right behind the Washrooms, so less than a minutes walk to the showers, that’ll do nicely thank you ! We have elected to stay here for at least five nights, perhaps longer if the weather deteriorates further, simply because the site has everything we need, 16amp EHU, heated and immaculately clean washroom with lashings of hot water, a good TV signal on our Satellite and a good strong WiFi connection on the pitch, no need for the WiFi booster here then !! Additionally, the site is situated on the periphery of ‘Nene Park’, this is a massive 600 Acre public park, it has two ‘massive’ lakes, which in better weather conditions is used for all sorts of water sports, I am thinking ‘Kevin’ the Kayak here !! It also has miles of foot and cycle paths, there are Cafés to get that all important ‘Coffee and Bun’ as a respite from one of the many Shazza Expeditions I am sure she will be taking me on, and the ‘icing on the cake’ (Excuse the pun !) is that there is a bus stop just ten minutes walk away where we can catch a bus, which run every ten minutes, into the City Centre. An ideal campsite, ideal facilities in an ideal location.
Thursday 30th January
Well the weather forecast got it right ! We awoke not so much to tap dancing on the roof, more of a Battalion of boots doing some square bashing on it !! We certainly had no intentions of going anywhere today so it was a case of a morning ‘lung starter’, whilst the kettle boiled, electric heating switched on, coffee made and then back to bed under a nice warm duvet ! Shazza read her ‘Kindle‘ and attempted, rather successfully I may add, at ignoring my inane bits of conversation. Eventually we got up and whiled away the day just pottering really, Shazza made some more bread, she is getting quite good at it !! then read her book, watched a bit of daytime TV, usually all the cookery programmes. There are many good things I am discovering about this ‘lifestyle‘, one of which is that I will never starve as Shazza enjoys cooking and baking and enjoys trying out recipes that she sees on her cookery programmes. I am of course a willing ‘volunteer’ and although I enjoy everything she produces, occasionally I will tell her that something isn’t quite right, can’t put my finger on what it is though ? She will then make it again as she strives for perfection, of course there isn’t really anything wrong with any of it, but if I tell her it is perfect then she will move on to something new. So if I really like something and want it again I tell her it’s not quite right !! Fortunately she does not read my ramblings as she says she is already living it with me anyway so there would be no point in reading what she already knows, that means that my ‘secret’ about her food is safe, unless someone tells her………..
I pottered around, topped up the fresh water using my recently purchased ‘watering can’, got rid of the old Fiamma levelling blocks and generally just had a bit of a tidy of my ‘shed’ locker. Whilst I was pottering I got talking to one of my neighbours, he had a ‘tag axle’ Autotrail Chieftain and had been fulltiming for the last three years, I was a little amazed when he told me that in that time they had not left this country !! Unfortunately the conversation got around to ‘Club Sites’ and then on to maintaining them, I just happened to mention our recent good news about being successful at becoming ‘Assistant Wardens’. Wrong topic of conversation !! it appears that said neighbour had also applied some three years ago but had ‘not’ been successful, so he then proceeded to tell me everything that was wrong with the Interview/Assessment process, the wrong calibre of Wardens/Assistant Wardens and why there is a mass exodus of ‘Wardens’ !! At that point I was certain I had heard Shazza call out that lunch was ready !!
Back inside the warmth of ‘Big Momma’ it was time to catch up with a few ‘Admin’ tasks. At our excellent New Year celebrations in Portugal I had promised to forward some photographs via Email to ‘Antonio and Lucinda‘, lack of WiFi and some technical problems with iCloud meant that I hadn’t got around to doing it, until today, I was really pleased when later that evening I received an Email confirming they had received them and also inviting us back next year, I suppose they want the silver cutlery and crystal glasses back, and they looked so good in the van !!
Then it was time to catch up with our ‘On the Road’ accounts, we were keeping to the same budgets as we had in Spain/Portugal with just one exception, our daily accommodation budget was increased by Five Pounds. Both our ‘budget‘ and the ‘weather‘ are having an impact on where we can stay at the moment, our fuel budget allows us one tank of Diesel per month, which equates to around four hundred miles but this budget has to be shared between ‘Big Momma’ and ‘Wuxly’. As members of both the Caravan Club and the Camping & Caravanning Club we can use their campsites as well as the network of Certified Sites/Certified Locations (CS/CL). The CS/CL’s are ‘generally‘ cheaper than the club’s Campsites but frequently offer limited or no facilities (EHU/Water/Waste Disposal) and many only provide ‘grass‘ pitches, no use for a caravan let alone a five tonne, six wheel vehicle in these current ‘soggy’ conditions ! Those that do provide Hard Standing and Motorhome ‘Services’ also charge appropriately !! We can survive without some ‘facilities’ for several days, as we discovered whilst Wildcamping in Portugal /Spain, but over there we had the weather to provide energy from our Solar Panels and the use of ‘Aires’ for the essential servicing of the on-board facilities. That said, so far, since being back in the UK we are keeping within our budget limits, but only by some considered and careful planning !!
Friday 31st January
The recent ‘inclement‘ weather had kept us ‘confined to Barracks‘ for a couple of days so it was good to see that the weather had forecasted a rare ‘dry’ day, albeit overcast and cold. We got wrapped up warm and walked the ten minutes to the bus stop where we could catch a bus into town. We are getting used to travelling on ‘public transport’, when places are just that little too far to walk to and it is impractical to take he bicycles, but there are changes to some things like here on the Peterborough buses they do not do ‘return’ tickets !! However, the very friendly and helpful bus driver did tell us that it would be cheaper to purchase a ‘day rider‘ ticket rather than pay each way for ‘single’ tickets, so we paid the £3.90 each and enjoyed looking out of the window on our forty minute journey into the city centre. Well, we would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t started raining and then with more and more people boarding along the route the windows steamed up !! The bus station is under cover and below what we discovered was the very large ‘Queensway Centre’, effectively the City’s primary shopping centre, all under cover and with literally hundreds of retail outlets. Not being ones for shopping neither of us was that impressed, although this would have been a ‘retail overdose‘ for ‘shopaholics‘, this could have Ben any shopping centre in any town. We looked for an exit that would take us back into the outside world and when we found it we were again a little disappointed, the weatherman had got it totally wrong, it was still raining, the skies were thick with leaden grey clouds and the wind was fair whistling around our ears. There was a pedestrianised area with the usual array of shops, their bright lights piercing through the greyness that clung to the walls of the buildings and hung in the air. The Cathedral stood towering over the buildings and so we went for a look around. There was a sign at the entrance that welcomed visitors in, with another that stated that entrance was free but donations would be gratefully received to assist in the maintenance of the building. But talk about ‘hard sell’, no sooner had we stepped inside when we were approached by a woman who welcomed us to the Cathedral, she then ‘thrust‘ a donations envelope into Shazza’s hand, re-stating what the sign had already advised us about donations being gratefully received. Not missing an opportunity she also observed the iPad in my hand, I had taken a couple of photo’s whilst outside, and she enquired as to whether ‘we’ would be taking any photographs, I asked if that was permitted, a lot of religious buildings prohibit tha taking of photographs, “No problems” she replied, “But ‘they’ do make a charge of £3 per device” I advised her that ‘we’ would not be taking any photographs. We did however Make a small purchase from their gift shop and put some money into their donation envelope !!
After our brief look around the Cathedral, which I have to say, was nowhere near as ornate as many others I have seen, we decided to go and do our bit of ‘provisions’ re-stocking and Shazza’s continued research mission for her still, as yet, unpublished “compare the Supermercado-UK.com” blog. When we were getting off the bus, upon our arrival at the bus station, I had enquired as to where we caught the bus back, the driver very helpfully told us that we needed Bus No.1 from Bay No.3. However, on exiting the Supermarket, Shazza saw a bus stop with one of those electronic information boards and it showed Bus No.1 would arrive in three minutes, “We may as well catch it from here” she stated, “It will save us walking back to the bus station with two ‘full’ rucksacks of shopping” she had added. Now this did appear to make good sense and it would give me a chance to stop and enjoy a cigarette before boarding the bus. The bus arrived, I produced my pre-paid ‘day rider’ tickets and we sat down. Now I am getting to like this modern technology by the day ! Because, as we could not see out of the window of the bus for the majority of the ‘inbound’ journey, I could not identify any landmarks that would give an indication of where we needed to get off. But iPhone mapping ‘App’ to the rescue. Using the Satellite view I identified where we had boarded so ‘dropped a pin’ to mark the spot. With the ‘mobile data’ switched on I could see our current location, marked by a blue dot, on the bus and this would of course move as the bus followed its route. The problem that I could soon see was that the bus was moving in the opposite direction to where we wanted to be !! I had to wait for the bus to reach its destination, forty-five minutes later, before I could approach the driver. He informed me that we were on the No.1 bus but this one went to ‘Werrington’ and we needed the No.1 that went to ‘Orton’ ????? Anyway he said that we should stay on the bus, another 45 minutes, back into the city because he would then be doing the ‘No.1 route to Orton’, a further 40 minute bus ride !! Now I could have blamed Shazza for not walking to the bus station where we knew we could have caught the ‘right’ No.1 bus at Bay No.3 but hey, it was wet and cold outside and it was dry and warm on the bus, and we were now getting the full value of purchasing ‘day rider’ tickets !!
We got back to the safety and comfort of ‘Big Momma’, albeit in the pitch black !! But we had the forethought to leave the electric heating on so it was nice and cozy inside. Shopping put away, followed by one of Shazza’s home-made ‘Chicken Korma’s’, then lovely hot showers, we settled down for an evening in front of the TV. The BBC News was full of the usual ‘doom and gloom’ but also the current state of the floods in the UK, especially the ‘Somerset Levels’ and the forecast for the coming week was much of the same, rain, high winds, cold and now the higher regions were beginning to get the sleet and snow. Some weeks ago we had made arrangements to spend next weekend Wildcamping with our friends Paul and Debs, however, whilst I cannot divulge the location, it is a beautiful spot but unfortunately also an area that is notorious for getting snow and with it, subsequent road closures, so we made the hard decision to ‘cry off’, although we knew that this would disappoint our friends. We also had other important commitments following that weekend so felt that it was better to be safe than sorry, there would be other opportunities to see Paul and Debs even if that meant them coming to visit us on our first Campsite !!
We had initially booked to stay here until Monday, however, listening to the gloomy weather reports we took the decision to stay where we are until next weekend, after all, it is within our daily budget and more importantly has everything we need come rain or shine.