We were nice and comfortable on our ‘pitch’ at the Peterborough site, this was now beginning to feel like a temporary home, well more of a safe haven really. We had originally planned to stay here for just one night, then move down to another site just outside of Worcester for a further three nights, then onto Salisbury to spend the day with my daughter Stacey. After spending the day with her we would then drive to a pre-booked ‘pub’ CL site just outside Swindon for the weekend, but keeping our options open to perhaps extend there for another couple of nights, before moving to another CL in Swindon, that one being close to where our Doctors surgery was located, it would also mean that whilst there we could see Chris and Sarah before driving North to Chester. We would then remain North but not too far away from Doncaster so that at the beginning of March we could once again leave ‘Big Momma’ at Shazza’s mums house, collect ‘Wuxly’ and drive down to the South East for our five-day ‘Elf & Elfette’ training course with the Caravan Club. A damn good plan, even if I do say so myself !!
Why is it then that when you spend time making good common sense and sound logical plans that ‘Sods Law’ has to intervene and cock it all up !! As we sat in the cozy comfort of ‘Big Momma’, warmed by the electric heating and the hot mug of coffee we were caressing in the palms of our hands, we were glued to the evening News and watching the scenes of carnage that the weather was reeking in the South of the Country. We had already cancelled our scheduled stop at ‘Worcester’ due to it being flooded but this weather was beginning to spread its toll of disaster across other areas of the country, mainly the South and the West. We were due to leave here on Friday morning, although we still hadn’t made any firm arrangements to stay overnight anywhere, and then we would travel to Salisbury on the Saturday morning. Stacey and I had been exchanging texts throughout the evening and we both eventually agreed that as much as we wanted to see each other, safety was the first priority so we decided to wait until the morning before committing either way. We really needed to make that decision as we would need to see whether, should we choose to remain here, they had space for us, as weekends were generally busy at this very popular site.
There was no rain during the night, and apart from some rather mild buffeting from the wind, made to sound worse than it really was by the constant flapping of the bicycle cover on the rear of the van, it was a relatively peaceful night. I don’t know whether it was my sub-conscious mind that woke me up at 01:30am but I found myself awake and restless and their was only one cure for that. As I blew the smoke of my cigarette out of the open window on the habitation door I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I looked across the road to where the service point was and saw an ‘owl’ roosting on top of the small wall that surrounded the enclosed dustbin area. As I drew in on the cigarette the owl looked across, probably attracted by the small red glow from the cigarette, but it looked unperturbed and remained on its roost. Then a fox walked across the road towards the service point, well the dustbins actually, I guessed that this was its territory and it was doing its night shift rounds, the owl remained where it was until it decided that the fox, as it paraded down the line of dustbins, was getting just that bit too close for comfort and it spread its wings and flew off into the darkness. Moments later the fox, having been unable to remove the secured dustbin lids to scavenge itself a meal, trotted off to another part of the campsite, presumably to another one of the many service areas, hoping to perhaps get lucky. This had all been played out in the short time it had taken me to smoke my cigarette. I closed the window and the night blind and crept silently back into bed.
In the morning when we awoke there was no sound of the cycle rack cover flapping, their was no rain ‘pitter pattering’ on the roof, in fact it sounded pretty damn calm. I went to conduct my now familiar morning routine, kettle switched on, heating turned up, cigarette lit, door window slid down and then I looked out upon a welcoming blue sky and some nice sunshine. The wind had eased to a strong breeze and as I drew in on my morning lung starter I shuddered as the bite on the breeze rushed through the open window and smacked me straight in the face ! But with a bit of respite in the weather I could now get on with one of those ‘loose moment’ jobs and take the bikes of the rear cycle carrier and give them both a good wipe down and clean after being drenched when we were at ‘Batribike’ a few days earlier. So, whilst Sharon got on with making her first batch of bread from her latest experiment, making ‘sour dough’! I got on with a few minor domestic chores which should only have taken me five or ten minutes, empty the ‘Grey’ waste which now, with the purchase of the ‘collapsible bucket’ was easier than keep moving ‘Big Momma’ then topping up the fresh water using another one of my ‘good’ purchases, namely the watering can. Now to be perfectly honest, the chores did only take me ten minutes to complete, it was the opportunity to hone further my inter-personal skills, ready for when I take up my official ‘Elf’ duties, that extended that ten minutes to almost an hour !! My next door neighbour, was formerly a Market Gardener selling his produce to the Supermarkets but as he put it “the buy one get one free means that I was the one covering the cost, not the Supermarkets” and so eventually decided enough was enough, sold the business, house, furniture and with the proceeds purchased a static van on a site near Harrogate and a new Motorhome (Autotrail Apache) and now he and his wife are enjoying an earlier than anticipated retirement. We said our farewells as he was preparing his van to leave, first to check their static van was still okay after the high winds and then they were making their way North to the ‘Open All Year’ CC site at Edinburgh.
Now I had just finished putting away my bucket and watering can when another one of our neighbours came out of their nice looking silver coloured van conversion and we exchanged the usual smiles and pleasantries. That then saw us get more formally acquainted and into a general ‘travel related’ conversation. Before I knew it Sharon had finished doing whatever it was she had been doing with her ‘sour dough’ and she asked whether we were going out for a walk. Now I really wanted to sort out the bicycles but I also knew that the weather forecast for the next two days would see us ‘confined to barracks’. Shazza still has trouble with ‘Cabin Fever’, one day she can cope with, but by the second day I can see the icy glaze in her eyes, then the stare and I have to hide all the sharp instruments !! So, I made the right choice in just answering “Yes” !
Fortunately there were plenty of walks directly from the site and many that we had not done before, the one we selected to head out on today ran alongside the Nene Valley Rail track but first a small diversion as we went to feed the birds on one of the lakes in the park.
Once we had recycled some of Shazza’s left over bread, serves her right for going on a baking frenzy !! we left the park and headed off towards the Nene Valley Rail station at ‘Ferry Meadows’. There were no trains running today, which was a pity as I would have been tempted to have jumped on one, so we followed the footpath with the railway line to one side and a fast flowing stream to the other. Although there were lots of signs advising that the footpaths were flooded, actually they weren’t apart from the odd puddle here and there. Occasionally I forget to take my iPad or Canon Camera out with me, but not so today. The iPad takes some pretty good quality ‘short-range’ photos but my ‘Canon’ is good for both short and long-range shots and you just never know when a decent photo opportunity will present itself.
Along our walk we had to cross the railway track and there was a really apt sign, but not for the reason the sign was actually intended……..
We hadn’t been on our walk very long when we saw it, well it was hard to miss with its very bright turquoise coat, I got quite excited as I had never seen one before, well only on nature documentaries, but never in the flesh so to speak ! What I had seen, perched on a branch just a foot ‘or so’ above the river was a ‘Kingfisher’ !!
Whether it wasn’t certain about what it was that we were pointing at it I don’t know but it flew off along the riverbank at an incredible speed. What a way to commence a walk, now I was ready more than ever to heed that sign that I saw at the railway crossing…………….
The foot and cycle path took us alongside a golf course, then adjacent to more lakes and then alongside the River Nene itself, had we have continued walking then this path would have taken us into the City But we elected instead to turn around and head back to the site and ‘Big Momma’. As we again approached the fast flowing stream I just happened to say to Shazza, “I wonder whether I can get a full frontal” to which she responded as quick as a flash, “Don’t even think about it, these photographs have a way of getting onto the Internet” !! “I meant of the Kingfisher you fool” I retorted but she just gave me a wry and mischievous smile.
It was good to have had a breath of fresh air and although it was a mere 2 miles today at least it was some exercise, there would be very little chance of anymore for the next couple of days if the weather forecast was correct. As we sat watching he latest evening News they displayed an infra-red satellite image of the UK, the red was land mass and the blue was water and it was quite shocking to see that what should have been land was under water !! If David Cameron is the Captain of the HMS Great Britain he should be on his VHF Radio Emergency Channel announcing ‘Mayday ! Mayday ! England Is Sinking !!“
We may have been confined to Barracks but it was a productive day, Shazza keeping herself occupied by making her first ever bread loaf from her nurtured ‘sour dough’ and then a spot of cleaning. I got stuck into revising our travel itinerary and although Shazza was all for cancelling her Doctors appointment in Swindon I didn’t want her to do that, she had enough trouble trying to get one in the first place. So back to the drawing board !! We of course didn’t know what the long-term weather forecast had in store but we were heartened to hear that it was going to settle down a bit, however, we knew it would take months for sodden fields (and CL campsite grass pitches) to dry out so steering clear of the South for a while was paramount. Just one other ‘obstacle’ to throw into the equation was that in addition to the weather was the fact that, in a lot of Counties, next week was the school Half-Term holidays !! Would people really want to bring their kids out in the current conditions ? let alone all those wet clothes and wellies everywhere and the inevitable mud that will be traipsed in !! Well, it would appear from the ‘Fully Booked’ sites that we attempted to reserve a pitch on, the answer is a very emphatic Yes !!
And so, the adventure continues………………..