Thursday 3rd April – Doncaster to Barnard Castle (91 Miles)
It was fast approaching ‘Big Mommas’ fourth birthday, well as far as ‘my‘ first registration of her is concerned, and so it was time for the Annual Service & MOT. I had located a FIAT Commercial dealer that did servicing on Motorhomes just four miles away from Shazza’s mums house and had pre-booked it in. After being exceptionally impressed by the outstanding ‘Customer Service’ provided by Autotrail just a week earlier, it appeared that the word had got out because Craig at ‘Stoneacre’ was absolutely superb. He was waiting for me when I delivered the keys, he went through everything that would be done as part of the ‘Major Service’ and then made a note of the additional items that I wanted them to do, such as investigate the cause of the recurring starting problem and replace a split wiper blade. As part of their ‘routine’ service task they fulfill a very comprehensive Vehicle Safety Check and make a note of anything they find, Craig then rang me and asked whether I wanted them to rectify any of the issues they had discovered. In my case it was a worn front tyre and replacement of a missing CVA boot clip (don’t ask as I don’t know how to explain what it is to you !), obviously I needed a new tyre but I told him that it must have a steel valve fitted and not a plastic one. Although the other front tyre was still well within legal requirements he suggested that if the spare wheel was a proper one, as opposed to being just an ‘Emergency’ one, that they put that on and use the semi-worn one as the spare. It made good sense as both tyres on the front would then have the same 8mm tread depth but I asked if this would incur additional labour charges, he assured me that they would not charge for doing it, and when we went through the bill when I collected the vehicle, they hadn’t !! And, they had also supplied the steel valve as I had requested but hadn’t charged me for either the part or the cost of any labour for fitting it. Anyway, I will not bore you with every little detail but suffice to say that ‘Big Momma’ has had a damn good service and sailed through the MOT with no ‘Advisories’ noted on the Test Certificate, so we were once again all ready for another year of ‘touring’.
Whilst ‘Big Momma’ was getting sorted I took the opportunity of taking ‘Wuxly’ to go and visit my parents in Leeds, this was the last chance to see them for five months and we had a good old natter, catching up with news on the rest of my family, my sister, her husband and my three nephews who live in Australia and my brother, his wife and my three nieces who live in Lincoln. The time flew by and I left a little later than I had planned, I had arranged to collect ‘Big Momma’ at 4pm, but first I needed to get back from Leeds to pick Shazza up so she could drive me to the FIAT dealers. ‘Big Momma’ was collected, the bill was paid and a very pleasant surprise it was too as I had expected it to have been a couple of hundred pounds more than it was, always a bonus, so I returned to the house a very happy chappy. After a very nice Fish & Chip supper it was time to get the van re-packed with the ‘heavy’ stuff that I had removed the previous day and also now with all our additional newly issued work clothing and Personal Protection Equipment, but it all went in !!
We slept well and were now almost ready to start another mini-adventure, I say almost because Shazza wanted to pay a quick visit to the local supermarket for some fresh milk and a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, whilst she did that I got the last of the overnight stuff that we had needed whilst in the house put back away in the van. Soon enough we were on our way, this time we were taking the car with us so that once we got onto our site we would have transport for shopping and sightseeing. It was strange not having Shazza sat in the passenger seat next to me !! It was a very murky and misty morning with a bit of a damp chill in the air and it didn’t get any better, in fact as we turned off the A1 onto the A66 at ‘Scotch Corner’ it got much worse, the mist turned into fog and it started to rain, this is why it is so Green up North !! I was hoping to have made it all the way to Barnard Castle without having to re-fuel but I always get edgy once the yellow ‘low fuel’ warning light comes on so I pulled into a fuel station, when I saw that it was charging £1.52 for a litre of diesel I decided to just put in thirty pounds worth, enough to see me to our destination and perhaps even to the one after that !! Shazza had pulled up behind me, she had already re-fuelled ‘Wuxly’ the previous day so she didn’t any more so she was just waiting for me. As I was about to walk over to the pay kiosk my beloved asked why I wasn’t bothering topping up the LPG. My answer was simple and straightforward, even with my glasses on I hadn’t noticed the very conveniently placed LPG pump next to the fuel pump that I had been using !! Anyway, I walked back and proceeded to top up, it took just under thirteen litres so I still had a third of a tank left and a full one, so I could have got away with not topping up at all, but at £0.70 a litre it was worth doing. With staying on sites with EHU we were using very little LPG as most of the cooking was done using the electric, the heating was via the Electric, water and habitation and the Fridge & Freezer was being run off the electric. I think it is safe to say that if we top up again before we get to ‘our’ site then the two full bottles will last us for the four months we will be there.
We arrived at the site and whilst I went to do the booking in, Shazza parked up in the car park to wait for me to re-appear. When I did eventually get back to ‘Big Momma’ I got a bit of a fright, when I had initially entered the site reception Shazza was sat in ‘Wuxly’, but when I opened the door to ‘Big Momma’ Shazza was sat in the passenger seat !! She had left ‘Wuxly’ parked in the car park and decided to come with me in Big Momma to find a suitable pitch and then she would bring the car down to the pitch whilst I did the external setting up.
This site looks fairly new and as we have come to expect from CC sites in the 11 years we have been members, it was pristine, but I would say that wouldn’t I !! Although this site has ‘Serviced Pitches’, EHU, Fresh Water & Grey Drain on the pitch, we had pre-booked a ‘Standard Pitch’. The Hardstanding pitches, Serviced or Standard, are all spacious, the grass well-trimmed and all the service points immaculately maintained and clean. We got ourselves a nice pitch next to one of the ‘service points’ which meant that I didn’t have far to walk to do my morning chores of emptying the ‘Grey’ waste, topping up the ‘Fresh’ water and when necessary emptying the Chemical Cassette. Just across the road, up a flight of steps, was the facilities block so everything was quite handy for us and just to make it the ideal ‘pitch’ a good satellite TV signal and WiFi signal. By mid-afternoon the site had really filled up, it was going to be a busy weekend. Shazza took the opportunity of getting some laundry done, £3 for the Washing Machine and £1.00 for the Tumble Dryer but other than that we decided to just chillax for the rest of the day and as we would be here for five nights there would be plenty of time for the inevitable ‘Shazza Expeditions’.
Frequent followers of my humble ramblings will often hear me talk about staying in contact with people that we have met whilst on the road, Steve & Lyssa from ‘Big Bird’, Nick & Cathy from ‘Aurora’, Tom and Karen who don’t write a blog, Brian & Jan and also Brian & Carole. There are lots of others who we have not yet met in person but we have come to know each other via the Motorhome 365 forum (www.motorhome365.com) or from reading each other’s blogs and we stay in touch via comments on the Motorhome forum, blog pages, texts and Emails, it is a nice community spirit and although you do not live in each other’s pockets it is good when you hear from them and even better when you meet up, sometimes by complete coincidence and other times by pre-arrangement.
I had received a phone call from Brian, I really should start to give people a nickname as this could get confusing as we know at least three Brian’s ! But this was the Brian & Carole we had met ‘on the road’ in Portugal and the same friends who came to see us whilst we were staying on the Peterborough Caravan Club site whilst they were visiting family. Anyway, during our telephone conversation we had mentioned that we would be in Barnard Castle and Brian and Carole, living just 28 miles from there, very kindly invited us to their house for the day and join them for Dinner, which we of course graciously accepted. Brian had even offered to drive across and collect us but we told him that we now had the car so would be able to drive ourselves. After the now customary lay in with the morning cuppa, but day thirteen of no lung starter !! We got up, had a late breakfast, did the routine daily chores and then set off in ‘Wuxly’. Having spent time with Brian & Carol ‘on the road’ in Portugal, seeing them in Peterborough and keeping in touch via text and occasional phone calls we now considered them as our friends, as opposed to just travelling acquaintances, and from the moment we entered their home we were at ease, the conversations flowed and we were once again re-acquainted with ‘Sam’ their dog who just loves being fussed. We all decided to stretch our legs and take Sam for a walk as they live very close to a nice park and the weather was staying kind.
It was quite a pleasant walk and they pointed out the Church where they had got married, only footsteps away from where they lived. When we returned it was time to open a bottle of ‘Vino Calapso’, fortunately Shazza had elected to do the driving and we just carried on chatting whilst Carole cooked the dinner. I like the open plan kitchen/dining areas as it makes for a much more social area. In our old house the kitchen and dining room were separate which meant that whoever was cooking had to keep leaving the conversation to keep an eye on the food. It’s amazing what you can find to talk about, I don’t think we had stopped since we got there. Carole presented us with a three course beautiful meal, now I am not usually a pudding person but I ate all three courses and enjoyed every mouthful, okay I will admit, before Carole posts a comment to tell you otherwise, that I didn’t eat all my vegetables, but she still let me have some pudding ! We had arrived at a quarter past one and were still talking at a quarter past nine ! What a lovely day we had had and we are now looking forward to being able to reciprocate when they come up to visit us on site in Scotland, hope they like Thistle soup and Haggis and Neeps !
There are a number of common themes that run through my blogs from time to time, ‘Shazza’s Expeditions’, Shazza’s Cooking & Baking, Shazza’s love of Vino Calapso, Shazza’s love of shopping in Supermarkets and the Weather !! The topic of the weather, or more accurately, the lack of accuracy that the forecasters have with it, is really becoming to be quite an obsession with me, in fact I have developed an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) around this. I check the weather forecast every day !! But I am doing so not to see what the weather will be like but to see how often it is that they get it wrong !! Over the last fortnight there has not been one day when they have got it right !! I cannot for the life of me understand why, when they cannot accurately forecast the weather twenty-four hours in advance, that they issue five, seven and ten-day forecasts !! When we returned to ‘Big Momma’ from Brian & Carole’s we went to bed with a coffee, Shazza read her book whilst I caught up with Emails and Motorhome Forum posts on my iPad. We had two days left here and I wanted to go and visit the Castle and see a bit of the town and Shazza wanted to do some shopping. So, I thought I would take a look at what the weather was ‘forecast’ to do over the next couple of days, it forecast rain all day on both days !! During the night I was awoken by heavy rain falling on the van roof and thought that for once, unfortunately, they were going to get it right !! However, when I awoke at a quarter past seven the following morning there was no sound of rain. It was too early to make the morning cuppas, it was Sunday after all, but I got up and pulled one of the night blinds down and peered outside and was greeted with a sky full of grey clouds, but it was warm, the internal temperature gauge reflecting a very pleasant 13.2 degrees(c) and that was without any overnight heating on. I shuffled back into bed and dozed off to sleep again. When I woke up an hour later I was greeted by blue sky, white clouds and ……… Sunshine !! Not that I am complaining that they had got it wrong as this time it was in our favour, I do not mind shopping but it is not my favourite pastime, whereas Shazza gets irritated at times by my passion for taking photographs so the perfect scenario for today’s activities. Shazza, the ‘Quartermaster’ needed a few provisions and I wanted to have a wander and get some photographs for our album and the blog, so she would do the shopping and I would take my pictures, simples !!
There are some really lovely walks to be had and some lovely views as hopefully the above photographs will show. There were still things that I wanted to see so I didn’t pay to enter the Castle but it certainly looked worth the entrance fee. The Castle entrance is only a few footsteps away from the town.
I had a lovely walk along the river, and was rewarded with the view of the Heron, then up to the Castle to admire the views and now it was time to check out the town. I am not sure that the following photographs are going to do justice to this rather lovely little town. It had only the one ‘major’ supermarket chain store, ‘Morrison’s’ but that was tucked away at the back of the Main Street. The town had lots of local shops, butchers, bakers, bric a brac, fish and chip shops etc but also all the major banks which were housed within the old original stone buildings.
The large centre piece is known as the ‘Market Cross’ and I continued walking around to the left and came across a nice looking church, however, looking behind the church there was a rather impressive rooftop which needed a little more investigation.
I knew from talking to Brian & Carole that there was the ‘Bowes Museum’ but I had forgotten about it, probably because I am not a museum sort of person. Anyway, I followed the stone wall that led from the church and came across this rather impressive looking building……..
I was tempted to walk up the large drive and to take a look inside but I was aware that I had been on my wanderings for some time, I had visions of Shazza having collected her ‘few’ provisions being sat in the car waiting for me tapping impatiently on the steering wheel or worse, fed up of waiting in the car she may have gone back inside and decided to take a closer look at the Wine Stock !!! Oh dear, that would not have been good so I decided that it would be better to make my way back at a rather brisk pace. At least we know that there is a lot more to do if and when we next pass this way. In fact we could probably arrange a meet up with Brian & Carole, they could bring their van and we could take Sam on some nice long walks and spend some time going in and looking around the Castle and Museum, sounds like another plan to put into the ‘Still To Do List’ !!
I got to the car park but ‘Wuxly’ was empty !! Best I get into the store sharpish before I hear the sound of clinking !! Judging by the following photo’s I think it was a good idea not to have gone inside the museum…………….
Without me actually saying anything, Shazza began to tell me how much she had saved on the groceries budget to date and that she had bought baking ingredients to make me a traditional Bakewell Tart and the falling over juice was on ‘Special’ and ……………….. I was just pleased that we had taken the decision to go into town in ‘Wuxly’ !!
The weather forecasters had got it wrong but on this occasion it certainly was in our favour. I have said this a few times but using a forecast is not reliable. We tend to look out of the window in the morning and make a decision, we generally take a rucksack out with us so if we are a little unsure we can take the rain jackets rolled up and if it does rain then we are prepared. The evening sunshine was beautiful and it lasted until dusk which was now around 8pm !! Unfortunately the wind was just a bit too strong to sit out and enjoy it. Shazza had made a Pork & Mushroom Stroganoff in the Ramoska and that was followed by a large slice of the still warm Bakewell Tart and they were both exceptionally delicious. After we had done the dishes and tidied away, got our showers and settled down with a nice cuppa we were disappointed with the Sunday evening TV offerings, ‘The Musketeers‘ series had finished last week and so we turned off the satellite. Shazza caught up with some of her cookery programmes which she had downloaded onto her iPad whilst I checked my Emails, spent some time on the Motorhome Forum and then brought my latest blog post up to date before retiring to bed.
We awoke to the sound of he rain gently pitter pattering on the roof, this was a day we could just lay in bed and enjoy the morning cuppa’s as we had not planned to go anywhere today. After conducting my morning routines, emptying and filling the on-board tanks I started to sort through the very many photographs that I had taken the previous day. Once I had decided which ones that I wanted to include in the blog post I then had to transfer them to my blog media library. Fortunately the WiFi signal here was good so that did not take too long, the long bit was to put them into the blog post itself so that was today’s primary aim as tomorrow was ‘moving on day’. Shazza had caught up with all the laundry over the last few days, the laundry facilities on the club sites are always very good and relatively cheap, they are a standard price right across the network at £3 per wash and the Tumble Dryers take about £0.70 to get things dry. Today it was ironing day, I still find it difficult to believe but Shazza actually likes ironing !! However, once the ironing was complete she started to suffer with the dreaded ‘Cabin Fever’. I don’t tend to suffer with cabin fever but Shazza can get bored very quickly and having no baking to keep her occupied she needed to get some fresh air. The weather hadn’t been brilliant all day with constant bouts of drizzle, fortunately there was a respite so we took the opportunity to take a once around the campsite. It had been jam-packed over the weekend and we had expected it to empty yesterday, the end of the weekend, but as people left others arrived and it filled up again. The sight of children then made us realise that it was school holiday time again, we were glad we had pre-booked our sites in advance rather than leaving it to chance. After our short ‘once around’ the site and with the wet stuff beginning to fall again we retreated back into the sanctuary of a warm and dry ‘Big Momma’. Shazza was experimenting on me again with the evening meal, she had found a recipe for a Fish Stew so she set about preparing that whilst I started to look at our route for tomorrow’s journey to Cumbria.