Monday 17th March – Doncaster – Bridlington – Howden – Doncaster – Autotrail (172 miles)
I am not sure that everyone reading this will be able to fully relate to what I am about to state, although those that already fulltime will probably know exactly what I mean. ‘Big Momma’ has become our ‘home’, our ‘permanent residence’ and like going away on holiday when we lived in a house, coming home to familiar surroundings is always nice. We had been away from ‘Big Momma’ for a period of nine days, basically living out of a suitcase and so we were glad to once again be re-united with our home. Unfortunately, but out of necessity, the next two weeks or so would also be another period of having to live out of a suitcase as ‘Big Momma’ needed to go back to ‘Autotrail’ to have a few ‘bits ‘n’ pieces’ of work done. We had decided that we wanted an additional external security locking mechanism fitted to the habitation door, this would give some extra piece of mind when we left her to go off walking, kayaking, shopping or just general sightseeing. I also wanted them to investigate the source of the water ingress that I had experienced a few weeks ago. Although at the time I had suspected that the leak was via the large front ‘Heki’ roof light and had conducted a repair, after some more thought I now suspect that the actual cause was through the solar panel cable ducting. The plastic cable cover is cracked and although re-sealed by ‘Detroit Solar’ who fitted the additional panel, I am now convinced that this is where the water was coming in. I have asked Mark at Autotrail to replace the cable cover and to investigate to see if there is any other explanation for the water ingress and if so to repair as necessary. Another job is that when we have the habitation heating on, for some reason it is also heating up the water, on both gas or electric !! I suspect that this is just a faulty micro-switch but I will leave Mark to establish and rectify the fault. There are another couple of minor jobs that I could have lived with or sorted out myself, however, seeing as it will be in the ‘factory workshop’ I may as well get them done whilst there. The unfortunate bit is that Mark has booked ‘Big Momma’ in for the whole week as he does not know how long it will take to find and remedy the fault. He is going to try and get the work completed as quickly as possible, however, this means that we will have to return to Shazza’s mums house yet again and await his phone call !! Then the following week ‘Big Momma’ is booked into the local Fiat Commercial dealer for her Annual Service & MOT and as part of that service we want them to investigate the ‘failure to start’ issues we have been experiencing. So we are feeling a little frustrated that since returning from Europe just nine weeks ago we have not had any concerted periods of touring, but I guess these things happen and we should think ourselves fortunate to at least have Shazza’s mum to put a roof over our heads on such occasions, had she not have had the space to accommodate us then it could have got rather expensive using B&B’s. For those of you who may be contemplating this kind of ‘lifestyle‘ this is just one of the many things that you really do need to take into consideration, especially within your ‘budget planning’, just what will ‘you‘ do if your vehicle has to be off the road for a period of time and you cannot continue to live in it ?
Anyway, we had seven days before delivering ‘Big Momma’ to Mark at Autotrail, the Training Course had been enjoyable but intensive followed by a busy social weekend and lots of driving, we were both ready for a bit of ‘chillax’ time so we booked ourselves a few days at the Caravan Club site just outside Bridlington. Although it was still ‘technically’ ‘Winter’, the weather was more ‘Spring’ like but very changeable. However, the seaside in Spring can be better than the ‘Summer’ as their are no crowds and we also needed to get back into our exercise regime and their was a Coastal Path that we could utilise to walk into the town. Although I have visited Scarborough on several occasions, another seaside resort just a little further North, I cannot recall ever having visited Bridlington so this was another new place to visit on ‘Big Mommas UK Big Adventure‘ and yes I couldn’t help singing along as we drove to our destination “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, Oh I do like to be beside the sea, as we walk along the Prom, tiddly Pom, Pom, Pom ………..” , I bet you are already humming the tune or singing it to yourselves !!
It was not a long journey and in our eagerness to get back on the road we were a little to early to arrive on the site ! But no matter, just a mile or so from the site is ‘Flamborough Head‘ with its lighthouse and a popular visitor attraction, so we would park up there and enjoy the views with a nice hot mug of coffee.
I have to just say that when Shazza went to the ‘parking pay machine’ there was a sign that stated ‘No Motorhomes or Campervans, No Overnight Parking‘ !! She paid the sixty-pence parking charge and we sat and enjoyed our coffee, if anyone told us to move then fair enough but as it wasn’t the weekend, or height of summer, when I imagine it would be a very busy tourist attraction, there was lots of room so we were not overly concerned. Anyway, no-one asked us to move so we were able to enjoy our coffee and the views before pulling away and heading for the club site.
We tend not to wander too far on arrivals day, once settled on our respective pitch we check that all essential equipment is working, you can interpret that as ensuring we have a Satelite TV reception and WiFi connection !! On this occasion though we had the additional task of filling the fresh water tank because we had drained down the systems before leaving ‘Big Momma’ stood for an extended period. It was a nice site, as are most of the Club sites, but this one is a fairly new one, the facilities block looks new from the outside, and as we have come to expect, the interior was immaculate. There are a lot of newly planted trees which in time will provide lots of shade, however, I also suspect that they may well have an impact on the Satelite TV reception as the plantations are very close to the pitches !!
The plan for Day 2 had been to take a walk along the Coastal Path into the town but the plan did not involve being wide awake at 06:30am. So when you find yourself in such a situation there is only one thing to do, get up, put the kettle on, have an early lung starter, make the coffees and go back to bed. The weather forecast had shown that it would be quite windy but a dry day. However, we have also learnt not to take too much notice of these forecasts as they are seldom correct. It was probably a good job that we had a few bits ‘n’ pieces to do in the morning, which delayed our planned expedition, as the dry day turned into a wet late morning and early afternoon and we would have been drenched had we have left for our walk.
As we knew the date we would be finishing this our first seasons ‘Elf & Elfette’ duties we decided to look at Ferry routes to Europe. We were quite astounded to find that lots of the dates we were looking at were already fully booked !! We knew that we would be heading for Morocco for the ‘Winter’ but which route we would take down there needed to be decided. After some calculations we worked out both travel times and fuel costs and established that it would be much more economical to take a ferry to Northern Spain, rather than a ferry to France. Now all we needed was to find a ferry on the date we wanted to travel and after a lot of ‘too-ing and fro-ing‘ on the Internet we settled on a ferry from Portsmouth to Santander and booked a crossing. On last years trip we didn’t depart for Spain until the middle of October and we had some wonderful weather on the way down to Portugal, so this year, with being able to leave a few weeks earlier, we are hoping for more of the same. Although we will initially head down to the Algarve again before making our way through Southern Spain to get the ferry to Morocco, we will now have an opportunity to stop at places in Northern Spain & Portugal that we didn’t get to see when we returned on the last trip.
Being in ‘planning mode’ we also looked at a route up to our site in Scotland. We would have around four weeks to get there but with taking the car in addition to ‘Big Momma’ we would need to travel in separate vehicles and this wasn’t conducive to Wildcamping so we decided on length of travel days, length of stopovers and then selected and booked sites along the route. We were in a ‘groove’ now and so we ordered new editions of all relevant ‘Aires & Camperstop’ publications. Our unscheduled, but rather productive day, was completed with Shazza taking the opportunity to catch up with the laundry.
By mid-afternoon the sun made another appearance and so we took a walk to the local village of ‘Sewerby‘ which also has ‘Sewerby Hall & Gardens‘ which is open to the public, although the hall was closed until July we could have walked around the gardens, however, it was a bit late in the afternoon so we may return on another day if we get the opportunity. It was a decent walk though, Shazza’s gizmo reflecting that it was a 3 mile round trip. It could have been longer, for Shazza at least !! We were walking back to the site along a footpath that was only wide enough for one person, so Shazza took the lead. I don’t know what she was thinking about but she was definitely away with the fairies, probably had something to do with her now being a qualified ‘Elfette’ ? Anyway, for some reason, instead of following the footpath around a corner she kept walking straight ahead, up a very nice block paved drive which led to the front door of a very nice ‘AA 5 star’ B&B. I of course kept walking along the footpath, chuckling away to myself, wondering at what stage she would realise she was going the wrong way ! When she finally realised, her face told me that she wasn’t impressed, not with her mistake but with me almost wetting myself laughing, Oooops !!
So we had got some fresh air and a small bit of exercise, a mere warm up compared to our normal expeditions ! The wind certainly picked up in the evening, not mine personally you understand, and the van was being given a good old work out although it didn’t interfere with the TV reception so I still got to watch the European football. It was a noisy night, not Shazza’s snoring I hasten to add but the bicycle cover on the back of the van, if it had gone quiet it would have indicated that we had finally lost the cover rather than the wind speed had dropped !! But there is still something very nice about being cosy and warm under a duvet whilst listening to the whistling of the wind outside (and the flapping of a plastic bicycle cover).
We had a bit of a longer sleep and didn’t awake until 07:00am, the wind had not eased very much but it was dry and the sky didn’t show any threatening signs of rain. We were getting back into a routine again, get up, kettle on, kick start my lungs, make the coffees and take them back to bed. We were in no rush but today we would get back into our exercise regime, the wind was too strong to even consider riding our bicycles into town so we stuck with our original plan of walking via the Coastal Path. To walk the Coastal Path we first needed to get to it which meant re-tracing yesterday’s route to the village of Sewerby, past ‘Sewerby Hall’ and then onto the cliff top path.
Although very windy it was a very pleasant walk and before we knew it we were on the wide Promenade at the historical old town, the beach and sea to our left and the B&B’s, Hotels, Amusement Arcades and Fish & Chip shops to our right. In the height of summer this promenade would have been jam packed with tourists but today it was relatively quiet. The Promenade went all the way up to the harbour, Bridlington still having a trawler fishing fleet, although with the tide out they were sitting low in the mud.
The promenade continues around the harbour and their are lots of retail outlets including a museum (free entry), shops selling fresh fish of all descriptions, the bucket, spade and crab line shops and the customary fish & chip shops, the combined smells of fresh fish and chips being fried was absolutely wonderful and I had already made my mind up there and then that I would be having a tray of chips, smothered in Salt ‘n’ Vinegar, for my lunch. There were also signs that the recent storms had taken their toll, signs in windows stating ‘Closed due to flood damage‘ and shop fitters busy at work in an attempt to get the small businesses back up and trading, ready for the Easter holiday season in just five weeks. From the harbour we turned right and headed for the town centre and it was nice to see proper roads lined with local shops instead of a large sprawling pedestrianised area full of the ‘Big National Chains’. Every other building was either an Amusement Arcade, Fish & Chip Shop, Seaside ‘tat’ or sweet shop, Pub or Cafe/Restaurant. There were a number of Streets, not just the one, it would be easy to spend a good couple of hours just meandering through them before taking your sandwiches, fish & chips, flask of tea/coffee or can of pop down to the seafront and enjoy them whilst beating off the ‘flocks of seagulls’ (good name for a pop band that don’t you think ?). We had not planned on purchasing anything today but on our wanderings we came across one of those ‘Holland & Barrett‘ stores, the ones that sell all sorts of Vitamin and Herbal stuff. With our forthcoming extended stay in Scotland coming up we had read that ‘Vitamin B1‘ was a good remedy against Midges & Mosquitos so we went in and bought some, if it works then great, if it doesn’t then at least we would have topped up our natural Vitamin levels !!
Bridlington remains the typical British Seaside holiday resort, there was still a certain charm about it and it wasn’t difficult to imagine how crowded these street pavements would be in the height of summer. We wandered the streets a little while longer but the wonderful smell of hot chips was still at the forefront of my mind so it was a stroll back down to the harbour to buy some.
We walked back along the promenade, savouring every salty and vinegary chip, which is even further proof that we men ‘can’ multi task !!
It had been a very pleasant walk, blustery in the wind along the cliff top but not so bad once we were sheltered from it, it was nice to get back to ‘Big Momma’ though and Shazza’s gizmo informed us that we had completed a total of 8 miles today so I think I managed to walk off the calories from the chips !! The wind didn’t abate but it wasn’t cold, in fact it was pleasantly warm and if it hadn’t have been for the strong wind it would have been nice enough to sit outside, but those evenings would be with us soon enough.
The days were just flying by and we awoke to what would be our last full day at Bridlington. The weather forecast was for the rain to start around mid-afternoon but apart from the strong wind that was still blowing, the sky was bright. Shazza decided that we should take the opportunity to go on another ‘expedition’, I have to confess that I am already feeling better and some of those ‘excesses’ from the last week are rapidly disappearing so after yesterday’s walk today’s, in comparison, would be a mere stroll at 4 miles.
Unfortunately, Sewerby Hall was closed. It had received a £2.8b Heritage Lottery Grant and was undergoing restorations, however, we were able to walk around the grounds so here are a few photographs………..
After being ‘on the road’ for four days we were now back into our routines, just normal daily lives sort of stuff, but over recent weeks with all the ‘to-ing and fro-ing‘ in and out of ‘Big Momma’ those routines get dis-jointed. I am a creature of habit, I like a certain amount of routine in my life which may sound odd considering the nomadic ‘lifestyle‘ we have chosen to adopt. However, just like living in a conventional environment there are still routines, a certain order to things and when those routines are interrupted it puts you out of kilter. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was but yesterday evening the equilibrium had been restored. We had watched the early evening News so when it came on again at 10pm it was time to turn off the TV, make the night-time cuppa and go to bed to read our books, yes ! Normality has been restored and all is well in our particular little world.
Bridlington – Howden
We were awake by 08:00am but there was a definite chill in the van this morning. We had not felt the need to have any heating on during the nights and on previous mornings, when I got up to put the kettle on, the internal temperature was constantly around the 10 degree(c) mark, just comfortable, but today it was down to just 6 degrees(c) and I could certainly feel that drop in temperature. I opened the nightblind on the large Heki skylight in the front lounge and the morning sunshine came flooding in, this would help the internal temperature climb to a much more acceptable level. Back to bed to drink my coffee, although it was ‘moving on day’ there was no rush we didn’t have to vacate our pitch until noon and our next destination was only an hour or so’s drive away. We couldn’t have stayed here any longer even if we had wanted to as it was already fully booked for this coming weekend. I don’t know why but I am still surprised at just how many Caravans & Motorhomes of all shapes and sizes there are on each site that we have visited during this Winter period? This Bridlington site has been full every day we have been here and although each morning there are a few departures, after lunch the vacated pitches are once again fully occupied.
We were making our way back to Doncaster to collect ‘Wuxly’ but didn’t need to be there for another couple of days. We had been looking for a local CL between our current location and Doncaster and came across not a CL but a small ‘Adults Only’ site located a short distance away from the small market town of Howden. A phone call confirmed that they could accommodate us, they had Hardstanding, EHU, all relevant services and a shower and WC’s so we pre-booked for two nights at £15 per night, bang on budget !
After doing the routine chores, emptying and filling appropriate on-board facilities and getting ‘Big Momma’ into ‘travel mode’ we left Bridlington behind and once again she started first time. It was not a very long drive, a little over an hour, the warm rays of sunshine pouring through the cab windows and the views of the Yorkshire Wolds stretching for miles made for a very pleasant and relaxing drive. My limited experience so far of small sites and/or CL’s, in the UK at least, has not impressed me. The ones we have stayed on so far appear to offer very little in services or aesthetics but charge a disproptionate nightly fee so I was not expecting a great deal from our next stopover. We pulled in to the drive of the ‘Brenda House Touring Park’, the gate was closed. There was no formal reception just a house, the owners house we presumed. There was no large signs advertising that this was a touring park and no directions as to where we should go to announce our arrival but whilst Shazza went to get the wallet from an internal cupboard a man appeared from the house, opened the gate and beckoned us in to a large neatly gravelled forecourt. Shazza got out and spoke to the man and they both started to walk away, not knowing where they were going I remained stationery inside ‘Big Momma’, perhaps there was an office or reception around the corner, I thought to myself, she would pay for our two night stay and return with some information on where to park up. But the man turned around and again beckoned for me to follow, when I caught up with them I could see the ‘touring pitches’, twenty of them, all neatly gravelled Hardstandings surrounded by very neat and tidy well mown grass. There were EHU points and several pitches were already occupied by caravans, this was a very nice, well manicured little campsite. After parking up and connecting the EHU cable, and whilst Shazza set about transforming the inside of ‘Big Momma’ into ‘home’ again, I checked out the facilities, there was a drain for grey water, a fresh water point and a Chemical Disposable Point, all very clean and well maintained. There was a small building which, on one side contained Ladies WC’s and on the other the ‘Gents’, in the middle there was one shower room (Unisex), although I didn’t inspect the ‘Ladies Facilities’ the Shower room and the ‘Gents Facilities’ were modern and immaculate, this on initial appearance looks like a little gem of a site.
The site was so peaceful, it was nice laying in bed listening to the rain pitter-pattering on the roof and it’s gentle rhythm soon sent me into a wonderful uninterrupted sleep. The sign of a good sleep is waking up and feeling refreshed, we had kept the heating on low as a frost had been forecast but when I awoke at 07:30am the sun was shining and there were no tell tale signs that ‘JF’ (Jack Frost) had made an appearance, the heating had done its job as the internal temperature was a very pleasant 10 degrees(c). We had decided to take a walk into the town during the morning as the forecast had predicted rain for the early afternoon, although with bright blue skies and lovely sunshine there was always a chance that they may get it wrong, again ! But there was no rush, so we lay in bed drinking our coffee enjoying the warming rays of the sun pouring down on to us through the large Heki skylight.
once upon a time Shazza would not have given a second thought to spending money and I tended to be the ‘thrifty’ one, but oh how things have changed and she has now become rather ‘miserly’. whilst we are now on a reduced income we are not exactly destitute and we are living well within our daily/weekly/monthly allocated budgets. Let me give you an example, I just happened to suggest that whilst out on our walk we may find a nice little cafe and enjoy a toasted tea cake and a cup of coffee, seemed a pretty reasonable suggestion to me as we had spent very little of our daily ‘personal expenses’ budget over the last few days. But Shazza suggested that if we had breakfast before leaving then we wouldn’t need to stop for a snack in a cafe and we would be back at the van in time for lunch !! It’s getting to the stage that when I do get permission to open my wallet the ‘Queen’ on the back of the one pound coin squints at the sudden exposure to daylight !!
It was a nice bright sunny day but the strong wind had a raw bite to it so we made sure that we were well wrapped up in our coats. Just a short five-minute walk from the site entrance we came to the small out of town rail station. It may be a small station but the timetable on display on the platform showed that there were plenty of trains to lots of destinations, Hull, Goole, York, Doncaster, Bridlington, Scarborough and even London Kings Cross. Some journey’s required changing trains but there were lots of ‘direct’ routes as well, including London. Although we would not be making use of the good rail connections on this visit, it is certainly a location that would be worth consideration for the future.
looking on ‘Google’ maps the town of Howden looks quite large, however, it is primarily Residential properties that make it look so large, the actual shopping area comprises of just one Main Street. What makes Howden nice is the lack of any National High Street branded retailers, with the exception of a small ‘Boots’ store. The only Supermarket chain is a ‘Co-Operative’ but this is located within walking distance, but away from, the Main Street. It is the presence of lots of local in dependant retailers that creates the charm and small alleyways which hide other small retailers, cafés and pubs.
I had hoped to find a thriving Saturday Market in progress to ‘mooch’ around but was disappointed. There really was very little to substantiate spending very much time here, although there were a handful of cafés where I could easily have passed a half hour or so doing a spot of ‘people watching‘ whilst enjoying a nice toasted tea cake and a cup of coffee !! We made our way back to the campsite and although we hadn’t been out for as long as we had anticipated it had been a useful exercise as Shazza’s gizmo reflected that we had covered a distance of just short of five miles, I was beginning to feel thin again but for how long I don’t know as Shazza baked another Lemon Drizzle cake yesterday !!
We had a lazy Saturday afternoon, Shazza made more bread whilst listening to the Chelsea v Arsenal football match on the Radio, she is a Chelsea supporter but I try not to hold it against her ! I was updating my blog when my mobile phone rang, it was Steve (The Adventures of Big Bird) calling me from Spain for a catch up. We have kept in touch since our first meeting at Wisbech and followers of my blog will know that we met up a couple of times, once completely by chance, whilst we were in Portugal. Steve & Lyssa are currently ‘farm sitting’ just outside of Valencia and they return briefly to the UK in June/July before setting off for another European adventure in September. Because we will be in Scotland until September we probably will not get to see them whilst they are back in the UK but I dare say we will meet up somewhere on the road. Earlier in the week we also had a call from Nick (Tales from Aurora), who we also first met at the Wisbech meet. Both he and his wife Cath have just ‘retired’ and started fulltiming. They have got themselves a seasonal summer job down in the Dordogne from April-September and they too are considering over-wintering in Morroco so we may end up meeting them in either Portugal or Spain before crossing together to Morroco. This really is a great life, you can be totally independent in your travels yet have a good social network as well and meet up on your travels, sometimes planned and sometimes quite by chance.
Howden – Doncaster – Autotrail
it was a cold night, we had once again decided to leave the heating off but it was the first time that I had awoken in the middle of the night and felt cold. Tonights forecast is for a rather chilly -3 degrees (c) so we will most definitely have the heating on low, I don’t do cold !! Because of the cold night last night I didn’t sleep that well, I had woken up a few times in the early hours and after wrestling back my share of the duvet from Shazza, who was doing an impression of a jam roly poly cake with her being the filling in the centre, I managed to catch a few winks here and there but then woke at 07:15, it was a quick leap out of bed to turn the heating on then then back under the covers until the temperature reached a much more respectable level. It had to have been cold as I didn’t even bother with a first ‘lung starter’ of the day and I didn’t bother turning the kettle on either !!
I must have dozed off again as the next time that I looked at the clock it was 08:45 but it was also noticeably warmer, when I got up to make the coffees, and partake of my lung starter, the temperature was now a very comfortable 13 degrees(c) and the sun was shining so the Heki night blinds were opened and the additional warmth of the suns rays came flooding in.
We would be night stopping on the service centre car park at the Autotrail factory as they wanted the van in by 08:30 in the morning. The security guard would be expecting us and direct us to a bay that provided a EHU connection (free of charge) but because we needed to leave ‘Big Momma’ with them we needed to first call in at Shazza’s mums house to collect ‘Wuxly so that we had transport to get us back to Shazza’s mums.
How long would we be without ‘Big Momma’ ? We hope not too long, but alas we will just have to wait for the phone call to tell us when we can be re-united once again……………………