Peterborough – Birmingham (87 Miles)
We had made the decision to remain at the Peterborough site for a further three days to sit out yet another period of bad weather in the South, although the next lot was also heading inland and up to us !! The weather forecasters had got it right again, and by Friday evening the gale force wind had arrived. It had been more than a little blustery during the night and it continued right through the early hours until mid-morning. The van was being well and truly Buffeted and although I tried to re-assure Shazza that we were perfectly safe, by telling her that the Caravan parked next door was more likely to go before us, for some reason this didn’t appear to provide the re-assurance I had intended it to !! Neither did it help matters when every time she was just about to nod off the next big gust would hit us and she was awoken from her half slumber. To provide her with some additional re-assurance that we had not been catapulted to another pitch, I got up a couple of times and conducted a visual check out of the side door window, it was to have a cigarette really but don’t tell Shazza, she thinks I was conducting the check solely for her peace if mind !! It was certainly well past 03:00am when we finally must have fallen asleep out of sheer tiredness, when we awoke the following morning the wind was still with us and we were both still totally knackered. But did we put the duvet back over our heads and have a long lay in ? Well actually yes, I did !! What did Shazza do ? She got up and baked a fruit cake !!!!!
When I eventually decided to crawl out of my lovely warm bed and get washed and dressed I then turned on my phone, we turn them off at night so we don’t get disturbed, so any family members reading this be warned, do not have any emergencies during the night !! I noted that I had missed a call from ‘Brian and Carole‘, now just for any late arrivals to reading my blog ramblings, we had first met Brian and Carole, along with Tom and Karen, at Monsaraz in Portugal, during the early part of our foreign travels and had spent several days travelling South with them towards the Algarve. Although we went our separate ways once we had reached the South Coast of Portugal, we had remained in contact by text and had also met up again on a couple of occasions quite by chance on other ‘Aires’ along our respective routes. Anyway, they had returned to the UK one week before us and as well as being ardent readers of my blog, we still kept in touch via Email. There was no message, just a missed call so I rang them back to find that they were in the area, visiting family and friends, so we arranged for them to come over during the early part of the afternoon for a cuppa and a good old ‘chin wag’ to catch up with ‘things’. It was really good to see them both again and we whiled away almost three hours just catching up with everything. That is just ‘one’ of the very many good things about this lifestyle, you meet so many nice people on your travels and, as we discovered, many of them you ‘bump’ into time and time again, often quite by coincidence and other times by pre-arranged meets. Below is the photo taken when we had a few drinks and nibbles in our van when we were in Portugal, Brian is on the Left and Carole sat in the dark in one of the ‘Captain’ seats.
Just as an aside, when I was in the ‘dreaming’ stage before this adventure became a reality, I followed numerous blogs, many were truly inspirational for different reasons. However, just recently I updated my ‘What does it cost’ page and I have had quite a lot of feedback on it. For those of you who want a comprehensive breakdown of fulltiming costs I would recommend that you check out a really superb blog at http://www.ourtour.co.uk where Jay & Jules (and Charlie) have just provided their costs for their two-year European trip.
Sunday was forecast to be a dry and sunny day and the weather forecast was good to its word. Now I could get the bicycles off the back and give them a good clean and lubrication. The sun had some warmth but you could still feel the bite that was a reminder that we were still in the grip of winter, even so, it was good to be outside and I was pleased that I could now give our bicycles a good ‘once over’. We seem to have had our fair share of ‘Sods Law’ but it hadn’t finished with us just yet, the first thing I wanted to do was check the new controller that ‘Batribike’ had fitted for me, I attached the battery and went through all the ‘power levels’ on the controller and confirmed that my bike was now back into first class working order, it was ! However, when I tried Shazza’s, which had been working fine I discovered that her controller had developed the same fault !! The power lights came on but the buttons to shift up and down the power levels were not. Damn ! We hadn’t thought to just check hers whilst at ‘Batribike’, well why would we it had been working perfectly ? Oh well, at least we know where they are located now and so we will have to arrange for another visit to get Sharon’s controller box replaced !!
I had given both our bikes a good clean, and even if I do say so myself they were gleaming, last job before putting them back on the cycle carrier was to use the 12v inflator to pump up the tyres as they were a little bit ‘soft’. Before tidying up the bits and pieces, I stopped for a coffee and my ‘beloved’ also let me have the last piece of fruit cake that she had baked the previous day. I should have guessed that this wasn’t an act of charity on her behalf but she had caught me off guard, she waited until I had a mouthful of cake before announcing, “Are we going for a bike ride now” ? Well, I hope the neighbours in the caravan next door enjoyed the fruit cake that I had spluttered in their direction !! We have just had days, no, weeks of rain, the cycle paths are riddled with mud and puddles and I have just cleaned the bikes !! I did suggest that perhaps we could put the bikes on the back, as planned, and then perhaps we could go for a nice walk ! ……………………………………we cycled out of the site and joined the foot and cycle path that we had ‘walked’ the other day !! I tried desperately hard to avoid the mud and puddles but Shazza seemed to be aiming directly at them, although she insisted that there was no way of avoiding them. I tend to let Shazza cycle in front, at least that way I can see what she is up to, but having no working controller she had elected to turn her battery power off. Not a good idea, it was a dry sunny Sunday afternoon and people were out in force and so the footpath was exceptionally busy with walkers, family groups, disability scooters, young children being pushed along in ‘buggies’, youngsters on small bicycles, well you get the picture. Shazza having no power meant that she also had no ‘horn’ to pre-warn these varied groups of her imminent arrival or intention to overtake them !! How she didn’t manage to run anyone down I just don’t know, Shazza when she gets up a head of steam tends not to slow down. Eventually we had to stop, dismount and cross the railway track and I took the opportunity of just mentioning that it might be a good idea to turn on her battery so that she could at least use her ‘horn’, she realised this was a sensible suggestion and complied. Now you may think that the ‘general public’ would now be out of danger from being run over, and I suppose in a way they were. But now there was another danger !! If anyone has heard the sound of a ‘horn’ on an electric bike you will of course know that it is not the sound that a normal ‘bicycle bell’ makes, this is more like a high-pitched squeal that a piglet makes when you pick it up !! Shazza would be pedalling hell for leather and just before swerving around the ‘obstacles’ in her path she would press the horn button, I could physically see these people jump out of their rain jackets !! I was concerned that perhaps a certain age group of people may end up having a coronary and be left twitching gibbering wrecks on the floor and perhaps even drowning in one of the many puddles. As I passed at a much slower pace I found myself saying both ‘Thank You’ and ‘Sorry’ in the same breath and I wanted to tell them just how lucky they were that she was only under ‘pedal’ power and not full ‘battery’ power, but I thought better of it !
We had spent another six days at the ‘Ferry Meadows’ CC Site and it is no wonder that this site is so popular, not only is it in a truly superb location but the site and the facilities are spotless, but of course I would say that wouldn’t I ? There was a definite change in the ambience though, it was now the start of the school half-term holiday and the site had filled up with families. We are not anti-children but there is a distinct difference in the noise levels between Adult Only sites, children seem to have to shout at each other when they communicate, even when they are standing or walking next to each other, they hurtle around the site roads on their bicycles and roller boards and of course the ever popular game of hide and seek. This is not a complaint just a fact, I took my children away camping on many occasions and a campsite has spaces for children to run and around and play, in a ‘generally’ safe environment so I too have been there, done it and got the ear plugs !! But, when you have been away from such sites for a prolonged period you kind of get used to the peace and quiet, unless you find yourself pitched next to the partying neighbours from hell that is !! Anyway, the time had come to move on and we had secured ourself a ‘pitch’ for a couple of nights at the ‘Chapel Lane’ CC Site just outside of Birmingham. It was only after booking it that it dawned on me that this had been the first site we had stayed on as newbie ‘Fulltimers’, we had driven off the drive from our former home and stayed for just the one night before joining our friends, Paul and Debs, on another first, a weekend Wild camping experience.
There are a number of reasons why we are missing not being in ‘Big Momma’ on the other’ side of the channel, of course the weather is the main one, the more economical aspects of finding ‘night stops’ is another, but the traffic free roads is certainly another. Our road trip today was only 87 miles and we should have completed it easily within two hours, and under normal circumstances we probably would have. We know that the British roads are congested, everyone wanting to be somewhere, some more urgently than others, which inevitably results in road traffic accidents (RTA’s) Well we were caught up in the aftermath of one such RTA, this one saw us stuck on the M6 Motorway for two hours, two hours to travel 19 miles !! We both found ourselves saying “We didn’t have any of this in Portugal”.
We arrived at the CC Chapel Lane site and we were checked in very efficiently and quickly, but I would say that wouldn’t I ? It was busy, very busy in fact, and we discovered that not only was it because of the school holiday week but it just happened to be the same week as the big ‘Caravan & Camping Show‘ at the Birmingham NEC. Of course, if your main reason for being here in Birmingham was to visit the show then you could of course have booked a ‘pitch’ at the NEC itself, a pitch that offered only a 6amp EHU and ‘portaloo’ toilets for £30 per night !! Here of course you had 16amp EHU, spacious hard standing pitch, full Motorhome service facilities, centrally heated shower blocks and lashings of hot water for £14.10 per night, a hard decision, NOT !!, We had pre-booked a pitch and there was a lovely big one available, it was away from any trees so no problems with picking up a signal for the Satellite TV or suffering with drips of tree branches onto the roof ! We were steps away from a Service Point and a short walk from the heated shower block, this would do us very nicely.
This site, like most CC sites, has WiFi but unlike the Peterborough site, the signal strength varied depending on where you are ‘pitched’. Although we could pick up a signal from one of the several ‘transmitters’ located around the site, it was weak and kept dropping out, however, ‘Don’t Panic’, call in the Cavalry !! Namely the Motorhome WiFi ‘iBoost‘ that I had purchased. It took just a couple of minutes to get it out of its box and set it up, it found several device signals, as it should do, and I was able to select the one with the strongest signal and hey presto we were up and running through the wireless router in the van, absolutely brilliant, at last I had got the opportunity to check the system out for real. The other bonus was that, on this site at least, the receiver unit did not have to be stuck on to a window, it worked just as well sat on a shelf which meant that during the evening we could close the blinds and still use the Internet !!
Monday arrived and it was dry, there was lots of blue sky with flurries of white ‘cotton wool’ fluffy clouds and it was noticeably warmer than the last few days. First things first, whilst Shazza put her next batch of ‘Sour Dough’ bread in the oven and started to prepare our evening meal, Shazza’s version of Hungarian Goulash, I did the domestics, namely emptying the grey waste and filling the fresh water tank. These jobs had been made much easier with just two simple and fairly economical purchases, a collapsible bucket and a watering can. The Service Point was literally steps away from our selected ‘pitch’ so it didn’t take too long. However, whilst doing these routine tasks I noticed that the weather had begun to leave its mark and ‘Big Momma’ was looking fairly grubby, I needed to put that right but it would have to wait as we had decided to take a walk to a ‘Farm Shop’ we had seen yesterday on our approach to the site.
All I will say is that you cannot expect Shazza to be confronted with all this ‘produce’ and not make a ‘few’ purchases now would you ?
With my rucksack a ‘little’ heavier than it was when we left and my wallet a ‘lot’ lighter !! we made our way back to the site. It was always good to be out in the fresh air, it wasn’t just about keeping up with a bit of exercise, although with all Shazza’s baking and cooking that was quite important too, but it was just a feel good factor. I had taken my camera with me because you just never know what you may see. I have mentioned many times that I am not into history or architecture but sometimes there are things that do Attract my interest, like this strange-looking church steeple, or is it a tower………………………..?
After a spot of lunch, a nice slice of the freshly baked and purchased Pork Pie and a selection of English cheeses from the farm shop and a nice crusty wedge of Shazza’s freshly baked ‘Sour Dough’ bread loaf it was back to domestics. Shazza got on with some laundry and ironing and I set about getting ‘Big Momma’ looking clean again. Once my domestics had been completed it was back inside and a nice hot cuppa whilst I did ‘our’ accounts. I find it hard to believe that we have only been back in the UK for four weeks, it feels like months !! What wasn’t a surprise is that it really is more economical to ‘full time’ in Europe than it is in the UK. Now I also know that there will be monthly fluctuations, for one reason or another, but whereas our ‘average weekly cost‘ over a 12 week period on our ‘Retirement Trip’ worked out at £187.48, our first four weeks (28 days) back here in the UK has worked out an ‘average weekly cost‘ of £253.47 !! It has to be said though that the major reason for the increase is Campsite/CL costs and that so far there is no difference in general ‘housekeeping/grocery’ costs.
Another ‘move on’ day tomorrow, back to Swindon where we will be staying on a CL, so back to using our ‘on board’ facilities as we will not have the luxury of a centrally heated shower block !!