Sunday 13th April – Troutbeck Head to Strathclyde Country Park (120 Miles)
It was another grey, misty and drizzly start to the day so I was pleased that I had the forethought to do the emptying and refilling of the on board essentials the previous evening. It was moving on day and although our journey would take just a little over two hours it would be Motorway all the way. Our destination was Strathclyde Country Park CC Site, across the border and into Scotland, quite literally just off Junction 5 of the M74 and only 11 miles South of Glasgow. We were in no rush, these days we were never in a rush to do anything, our lives can be taken at our own pace and that really is a nice feeling. From the Troutbeck Head campsite we were only 6 miles away from where we would join the M6 motorway, we had noticed on our way in that quite conveniently, just before we needed to turn off the A66 to join the Motorway there was a Service station on a roundabout so we took the opportunity to refuel both ‘Big Momma’ and ‘Wuxly’.
Shazza sometimes likes to drive in front of ‘Big Momma’ as she can go a little bit faster in the car, when she loses sight of me in her rear view mirror she slows down until I catch her up, but on this occasion she had elected to stay behind and it was a good job that she had. We had only just joined the Motorway and I had set the Cruise Control to a nice economical 59mph when I noticed Shazza and ‘Wuxly’ pulling out from behind and overtaking me. When she had drawn level she motioned for me to pull over onto the hard shoulder ! I wondered what was wrong, had she got a problem with the car ? Everything seemed okay with ‘Big Momma’ ? I pulled over and put on my hazard warning lights, she got out of the car and looked concerned, “What’s the matter” I asked, “You have lost your repair to the dome” she said, “It’s gone flying down the Motorway and your dome is beginning to disintegrate, bits of plastic are flying off it” !! That was not good, not just because I was now creating a hazard to other road users, but the strength of the wind was literally peeling off more and more of the plastic dome and this could seriously damage the now exposed electronics !! It was too windy and dangerous to try to effect a makeshift repair on the hard shoulder of the Motorway so we had no alternative but to drive as slow as we could, without becoming another hazard to the other Motorway traffic, then get off at the next available exit and try to find somewhere to pull in so that I could assess the damage. I was annoyed with whoever caused this damage in the first place, this could now cost me big time, initially it was going to just be the cost of a new dome cover but if the actual satellite electronics are knackered then we are talking Thousands of Pounds !! I was also a bit frustrated as I thought I had done a good job on the ‘temporary’ repair, but I hadn’t thought that it would be that temporary !! Fortunately we didn’t have to travel too far to the next available exit and we pulled off and found ourselves a lay-by. It was extremely windy but fortunately it was dry, I armed myself with more Duck Tape and a pair of scissors and climbed onto the roof. I had mentally prepared myself to find total ‘carnage’ but I was surprised to find that the majority of the dome was still in tact, although there were now several more large cracks which had Shazza not spotted the flying plastic missiles, would have just ripped part and caused mayhem. I didn’t bother with plastic bags this time, just yards of Duck Tape fastened across the top in one direction and then wrapped around in another, it wasn’t the neatest looking job but it would prevent any water or other debris from getting inside the now very large exposed cavity and hopefully prevent any more plastic bits being ripped off. Whether the actual satellite system itself was still working we wouldn’t know until we reached our campsite and turned it on.
Normally I am very relaxed driving ‘Big Momma’ but I was waiting for Shazza & Wuxly to come screaming past and flagging me down again, to inform me that not only had my second repair not worked but my ‘Sat Dome’ was last seen heading towards Carlisle !! My anxiety soon wore off as we passed the sign informing us that we had now entered Scotland and although we were still some distance away from the really ‘hilly bits’ the scenery did start to improve. Although we had an impromptu delay with our earlier stoppage we arrived at our Campsite just half an hour later than anticipated and the diversion from our route had only added another 6 miles.
Once we had completed the arrivals admin and payment we then went to choose our pitch. There were already a fair few units parked up but we still had a good choice of pitches, we selected one right behind the very modern Washroom facilities building, which gave easy access to the service point for the on-board facilities. Whilst Shazza went to recover ‘Wuxly’ from the car park I did the usual stuff, ‘Big Momma’ onto levelling blocks, EHU connected and then the moment of truth, was the satellite system working ? I powered it up and heard the dome going through the motions, the noise of the motor was as it should be, the sound of the rotating base plate was smooth and the TV picture appeared on the screen, a massive sigh of relief. I stood on the bed and raised the Heki skylight which gave me a good view of the dome, or more importantly the ‘Duck Tape’ that was still firmly attached !! Shazza returned with ‘Wuxly’ and once again the family were all back together again. We did our usual on-site inspection of the facilities, I don’t know why because the CC facilities are always immaculate, then we went back to ‘Big Momma’ and had lunch. Our timing couldn’t have been better as the heavens opened, my first thought was the ‘Sat Dome’, did I make a good enough water tight seal ? There was no way that we could go and explore our local environment so whilst I connected to the Internet and got my last four pre-drafted posts ready for publication, Shazza decided to catch up with some laundry.
This site is relatively new, as the name of it suggests it is well positioned within walking distance of the ‘Strathclyde Country Park’ and it’s two-mile long lake. You can do a four-mile circular walk or cycle around the lake or choose one of the numerous ‘other’ footpaths that go off in all directions. There is also a ‘Theme Park’ and a Bowling Alley within the Park so this is perfect for families and with it being the school holidays there were plenty of families on site. It is quite feasible to walk into four local towns from the site, ‘Bothwell’, ‘Ormiston’, ‘Motherwell’ and ‘Hamilton’, additionally there are nearby bus services to ‘Glasgow’ and further afield. There are plenty of Supermarkets within a two-mile radius, so this is really quite a good site if you wanted to stay for a few weeks. However, we did find one very major ‘negative’ aspect to the site, whilst it is conveniently located right off the Motorway (M74) at Junction 5 and right next to the A725 dual carriageway it is rather too convenient !! During the day the traffic noise is not a problem but at night these two major roads are constantly busy, right into the early hours and I found it difficult to sleep.
Monday 14th April – A Wee Strollette Around The Loch (5 miles)
Needless to say I awoke less than refreshed but after my first morning cuppa and then a hot shower I wasn’t feeling too bad, especially as the sky was very blue and the sun was very warm, today was going to be a very nice day which could only mean one thing, another ‘Shazza Expedition’ !! However, even a carefree life ‘on the road’ still has its ‘Admin’ duties. Although Shazza had received a tax rebate for the Financial Year 2012-13 she hadn’t received anything for 2013-14. The HMRC website states. ‘ any rebate will be issued automatically at the end of the financial year‘, we already know that this is not always the case, so Shazza rang them and sure enough she is due a tax rebate for the last financial year ! If she hadn’t prompted them they would not have issued a rebate !! Strange how they can take ‘underpaid‘ tax off you quick enough but they don’t like giving ‘overpaid‘ tax back !! They told her that it would take two weeks to get the calculations statement sent to her and then ‘any‘ cheque would follow shortly afterwards, fortunately, Shazza’s mum was managing our incoming mail and she was set up to pay any such cheques into our bank account. Next on the agenda was for her to sort out her teachers pension, she had noticed that there was a full years contributions missing and although she had chased it up several weeks ago she had to wait for them to update her ‘on-line statement’. She had been checking on a weekly basis but there had been no update, however this time she went on-line and finally confirmed that her pension contributions are now all in order. Now it was my turn, a call to ‘Outdoor Bits‘ to see if they had a replacement Sat Dome, and if so, how quickly they could dispatch it ? However, they didn’t have one in stock and couldn’t get one until the Middle of May !! Next, a call to ‘RoadPro‘, Dave who answered the phone couldn’t have been more helpful, he asked all the appropriate questions to make sure that he had what I needed, including the location of the screw holes, important as one model had screw holes in the side and the one I needed had screw holes on the top of the rim. He confirmed that he had one in stock and that he could get it delivered to me at the CC site, via ‘FedEx’, on next day delivery at no additional cost and he would even give me 5% discount as I was a member of the Caravan Club, now that’s what I call service !! So we had completed all our essential ‘Admin’ duties it was now time to go exploring.
On our way out of the campsite we popped into the Wardens office to let them know that we were expecting a parcel delivery the next day, they confirmed that they would be happy to receive it on our behalf. We got chatting, as you do, and they gave us a map of the Country Park and all the various walks leading off from it, also a leaflet containing route directions to all the major Supermarkets in the immediate vicinity. We hope that when ‘we’ get onto our own site that we can become as knowledgable of our area as these wardens were about theirs so that we can impart useful information to our camping guests. We elected to do the 4 mile circular walk around the lake, although in reality from the campsite and back it was 5 miles !! The Scottish call their Lakes, ‘Lochs’, so I guess we had better get used to using the right terminology from now on and get accustomed to conversing in this new foreign language !! The Strathclyde ‘Loch’ was one of the venues used in the last ‘Commonwealth Games’ held in Scotland to accommodate some of the water activities, primarily the ‘rowing’ and I believe it will be used as part of the ‘triathlon’ during this years ‘Commonwealth Games’.
This country park really is a fantastic place, it is a beautiful ‘green space’ which, on its Northern Perimeter it has the small towns of ‘Bothwell‘ and ‘Ormiston‘ and on its Southern Perimeter, ‘Hamilton‘ and ‘Motherwell’ all of which are within easy walking distance, so there are plenty of activities for both visitors to the area and local residents alike. This morning there were lots of people out in the park and of all age groups, walkers, joggers, cyclists, people with young babies and toddlers in ‘buggies’, people walking dogs, even rowers on the Loch. At first I wondered why some of them were not at work, after all it was Monday, but Shazza had to remind me that this was the Easter Holiday period, how soon one forgets about these designated holiday periods when every day for us is a holiday, well for the next few weeks at least !! What we had noticed, not just here but in lots of places that we have visited since being back in the UK, is that very few people speak or make eye contact as you approach them, in fact many actually avert their gaze. Shazza decided that she would play a game with some of these people, her game was called ‘You will speak to me‘, so every time someone came towards us she would say a very cheery ‘Good Morning‘, the shock on some of their faces was a picture, but they all responded, fortunately with an equally cheery response rather than a gruff ‘Sod Off, how dare you speak to me, I don’t know you’. The other thing that had started to mildly irritate my beloved was when we were walking on a footpath, just wide enough for two people, when we met couples coming in the opposite direction I would drop behind Shazza so we were in single file but lots of people who were walking side by side, as we had been, didn’t reciprocate. Initially Shazza would just get out of the way rather than risk being barged into but she was now taking a firmer stance, she refused to budge and as they got closer she just looked at them straight in the eye, a look that said ‘I’m not moving so one of you had better‘, have I ever mentioned Shazza’s stubborn streak before ? but it worked !!
We returned to ‘Big Momma’, Shazza feeling better that after yesterday’s ‘day of rest’ from physical exercise, we had today done something and at five miles on the flat and well surfaced paths it was a mere stroll these days. However, I have to admit that having now got back into a regime of daily exercise over the past few weeks it was noticeable that we had both lost some excess weight again. Why is it that you can put weight on within a couple of days but taking it off takes weeks !! We were both ready for a ‘light lunch’ but then without any consultation with each other, perhaps it was just good old marital ESP, we just both decided to get on with some domestic duties. ‘Big Momma’ was in need of a bit of a wash and brush up so I set about giving the exterior a good wash down whilst Shazza set about doing the interior. It was such a beautifully warm sunny day, it would have been easy to have just got out the reclining sun chairs, opened a bottle of falling over juice and snoozed away the afternoon but no, this was our home and like a house it needed to be kept clean. I also added the washing down of walking boots to my job list, they had got into a bit of a state after our last wet and boggy fell walking adventure ! Normally, during such domestic operations, I get an opportunity to bond with my nearest neighbours, not today though, everybody else had gone out for the day to enjoy the sunshine, so no surprise then that I had actually managed to finish washing the van in record time. Shazza, who had deconstructed ‘Big Mommas’ interior had now put her back together and so inside and out she was as bright and shiny as a new pin.
Tuesday 15th April – Another Shazza Expedition (7.6 miles) and ‘Big Momma’ Gets A New Dome
The time we spend the first thing in the mornings, with our early morning cuppa’s, is the time that we spend discussing our daily activity. If ‘RoadPro‘ are good to their word, at some point today I should receive the replacement Sat Dome so that will need installing but what to do in the meantime. We had awoken to another bright warm sunny morning and we didn’t want to waste any of it. We knew that before we departed here, in a couple of days time, we needed to do a grocery shop as our next four-day stopover was a little bit in the sticks and although it had local shops it was a fair distance away from major civilisation, so we wanted to make sure that we were fully stocked. We knew that there were several supermarkets a short drive away from the site and one of these was a large twenty-four hour ASDA, we tend to like ASDA but this particular one was quite fortunately located adjacent to a Multi-Screen cinema that just happened to be showing the recently released biblical epic ‘Noah’, with Russell Crow, which we both fancied watching. Additionally, just around the corner from the cinema was a Chinese Restaurant and we had promised ourselves a treat when we got here. As it was Shazza’s birthday on Thursday this would be perfect, go and watch the film, followed by our Chinese meal then finish off with a grocery shop !! For me that scored two out three but Shazza was looking forward to all three, strange woman !! Although we would be using the car, because of the ‘bulk’ shopping, it was possible to walk there through the Country Park so that would be our ‘Shazza Expedition’ for today, a ‘reconnaissance’ mission. With today’s activities sorted, and those on our last day, we also discussed about what to do on Wednesday. We were aware that there was a mini-bus that ran from the site entrance into Glasgow City centre and so that was perhaps an option, but as neither of us were ‘window shoppers’ walking around a city centre didn’t have much appeal, so Shazza said that once we had returned from our ‘reconnaissance mission‘ she would check out the Internet to see if their was anything else that would make a visit worthwhile. So after breakfast we donned the walking boots once again and headed off on our ‘Expedition’.
Having walked 3.2 miles to get here !! It would have been rude not to have gone inside to have a look around, so we did ! but I have to tell you that Shazza was very restrained and we only spent a few pounds on Milk and fresh fruit !! We then checked out the viewing timings for the cinema and then walked around the corner and located the Chinese Restaurant, mission completed, well almost !! Across the road from the ASDA supermarket and cinema was one of those retail parks, the ones that have the major ‘high street branded name stores’ on them, Currys/PC World, Maplins, Halfords, Dreams, Pizza Hut, MacDonald’s, KFC and……… Homebase !! I had used all my ‘Duck Tape’ on the ‘two‘ temporary repairs on the Sat Dome and needed a new roll to keep in my mobile shed and Homebase stocked it, they also just happened to stock some cans of ‘Silicone Spray’ that I was really sure that I needed ! and some Turtle Wax vehicle shampoo that I most definitely needed ! It really is true what women have been telling us men for centuries, retail therapy really does make you feel good doesn’t it !! After spending a little bit more than we (I) should we made our way back to the Campsite.
On our way back into the Campsite I called in to the reception to see if my parcel had arrived, it had and it was in a much bigger box than I had anticipated !! Fortunately it didn’t weigh very much so I carried it around to the van, a job for after lunch !! And I do genuinely and sincerely have to compliment ‘RoadPro‘ on a really excellent service, they confirmed exactly what it was that I required and then got it to me, as they had stated they would, within twenty-four hours, it was actually delivered at 10:20am.
Once I had replaced the damaged dome cover with the new one and seeing that I was already up on the roof I also took the opportunity of washing the Solar Panels, Air Con Unit and all the skylights. All I needed to do now was to dispose of the old dome, the rather large cardboard box and all its internal packaging, this was not something that could be placed into the site dustbins !! I carried it across to the site reception and they told me that I could place it in a large refuse skip in one of the compounds. Now that bit of activity would normally just be irrelevant waffle (Okay, I know what you are thinking, so what’s new in any of my blog posts ?), however, in conversation with the Warden we got to talking about our first assignment as Assistant Wardens and she informed me that I would probably have met her husband, who was not only a Warden but also one of the Clubs ‘LANTRA’ trainers who had recently done the Training at the CC Induction Training course at Lingfield Racecourse. She invited me to go around to the workshop and say hello, which I did, and sure enough I recognised ‘Tony’ instantly. We chatted briefly and he said that at some point before we departed he would pop round and say hello to Shazza.
So, after what ended up being a 7.6 mile walk, as well as installing the new Sat Dome cover and cleaning other bits on the can roof, it was now time to enjoy what remained of the still very warm and sunny afternoon, so I got out the reclining sun chairs, opened a bottle of rather nice fizzy falling over juice and enjoyed a spot of ‘people watching’. Shazza had done her Internet research and came and sat outside with me, she said that there were plenty of Museums, Art Galleries and Green Spaces to visit but she didn’t think that that would really be our ‘Cup of Tea’, she was right. However, she knew that anything to do with boats, especially Narrowboats, may just interest me so she has booked us on a boat to go up on the ‘Falkirk Wheel’ !! Have I ever mentioned that I am married to the best woman in the whole wide world !!!!