Monday 9th June – Sunday 15th June
Although ‘Freddie’ and I didn’t start off on too good a footing we are now getting along much better. I no longer threaten to have it put into a home for aged vintage museum pieces or send it to the ‘crusher’ and in return it generally starts up first thing in the morning after a short cough and splutter !! For those of you who are wondering who ‘Freddie’ is, he is our old Ford Tractor and we are pretty much reliant on him, and the trailer he pulls, on a daily basis for a wide variety of tasks, without him our working day would be…………… well let’s just say, extremely difficult.
We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning, the sun already high in the bright blue sky, hard to believe then that in a few short hours we would be facing ‘heavy rain showers’, but maybe not, I had after all been reading another one of those works of ‘fiction’, namely the BBC Weather forecast. Today was a good day as we only had to work until 1pm and then we would commence our period of one and a half days off. We had missed out on doing any explorations last week due to adverse weather so hopefully this spell of good, un-forecasted sunshine, would last long enough for us to get out and about again. After completing our mornings toils, yes the ‘bin run’ and cleaning of the ‘facilities blocks’, we handed over to Terry & Ennyd, the sun was still shining, the sky was still a gorgeous shade of blue and after getting out of our work clothing, which Shazza put straight into the washing machine, we had a spot of lunch and discussed what we should do with ourselves to make the most of this joyous weather. We had done very little walking since being here, all our exploring had been by car, and there were so many walks quite literally starting from right outside our front gates. Before we depart from here in September we do want to have completed the walk to the ‘Falls of Glomach‘, just a mere 11 mile return trip, but that would be an all day walk as it would take 6-8 hours to complete. On our previous ‘Shazza Expeditions’ we would routinely walk an average of 6 miles, however, we were somewhat out of practice now and so we decided on something a little less arduous to get ourselves back into the swing of things. Although we are very literally surrounded by Mountains, and I mean seriously high mountains, there are several ‘lower level’ walks and today we would go on one of those, a mere stroll, a circular walk which was just four and a half miles in length and on primarily level ground.
The weather had begun to change, the blue sky disappearing for long periods under blankets of cloud but it was still very warm and more importantly, dry, which was good as we had risked coming out without coats, were we tempting fate ? We saw some more local inhabitants but wasn’t sure who was watching who…………..
Then then there were those who had more important things to do than to stop to gaze at tourists…………….
It was nice to just be out walking in this wonderful countryside, it was proving to be just a mere stroll though and why not, all of ‘Shazza’s Expeditions don’t have to be arduous affairs. It was also nice to be wearing the correct attire, unlike some of our earlier ‘expeditions’ in Portugal which were conducted in shorts and flip-flops !!
And so, after just a two-hour stroll, barely breaking into a sweat, four and a half miles was completed with no tightness being felt in the old legs !! Mind you, the ‘Falls of Glomach’ terrain would be a different proposition completely, this waterfall has a drop of over 137 feet and the walk finishes at the top of the Waterfall !! So, after a morning at work and an afternoon stroll there was just one thing left to do and that was to sit and enjoy a nice cold beer.
It had rained pretty heavily throughout the night and our piece of ‘fiction’ led us to believe that for our full day off it would be heavy rain ‘all day’, we awoke to nice warm sunshine and blue sky !! However, whilst enjoying our morning duvet coffee we mused over what we should do, we wimped out on the ‘long and steep’ walk to the ‘Falls of Glomach‘, not as a result of the forecast from our work of ‘fiction’, but because it had rained throughout the night, this would make the walk pretty muddy and perhaps slippy underfoot, it would keep for another day. We had one more area on Skye that we needed to visit, the North West and in particular ‘Dunvegan Castle & Gardens‘ which is ‘The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and Ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years‘. Sorry, but even a self-confessed history heathen like me still reads some of the tourist blurb in the information leaflets !! Shazza would once again be the ‘chauffeur’ for the day, there are two reasons why my beloved does most of the driving of ‘Wuxly’, firstly, I do all the driving when we are touring in ‘Big Momma’ and agreed that she would drive the car. However, whilst I have offered on a number of occasions to do some of the driving Shazza is a bad passenger in that she gets car sick and driving means she has to concentrate and this takes her mind off the nausea. She doesn’t generally get travel sickness in ‘Big Momma’ though, maybe it’s because I am such a good driver although I think the reality is that it is more to do with it being a larger, more open internal area and we don’t travel any great distances when we are actually touring. But I digress, as Shazza would be doing the driving I prepared the picnic and included two rather nice home-made ‘Eccles cakes’, the second batch that Shazza had made on this trip and made the flask of coffee.
It was the usual scenic drive but we had driven part of the route several times now so the camera stayed in the rucksack, you have already seen the views of the Lochs and Mountains yourselves so you will already be aware of this part of our trip. We turned off the A87 not long after going through ‘Broadford’ and now we were on ‘new’ territory. For Motorhomers who have not yet visited Skye then be assured that the ‘main’ routes are all suitable for even the ‘larger’ outfits and we saw lots of vans of all sizes on the road. The route all the way to Dunvegan Castle is suitable for Motorhomes, lots of places to stop on the side of the road for lunch or to just stretch your legs and do a spot of nature watching ! Even at the castle there is a separate parking area for Coaches and Motorhomes.
We did the tour of the internal parts of the Castle, well the bits that we were allowed into, this after all is still occupied in the summer months by family members of the ‘Clan MacLeod’ and the rooms they utilise are ‘off limits’ to the general public, however, it was still an interesting walk around even for a ‘history heathen’ but again we were not permitted to take photographs of the inside !! Next was the walk around the quite expansive Gardens, still in glorious sunshine I hasten to add.
Well we had certainly saved the best bit until the end, the gardens were great to walk around, walled garden, round garden, woodland walk and water garden, bloody marvellous !! We had intended to drive to a nice Coastal viewing point to eat our lunch but we were both famished so sat in the car in the Castle car park and devoured our picnic !! Time was really ticking by but we saw on our map that their was a ‘Pipers Heritage Centre’ further West and thought that this might be a nice way to finish our ‘driving tours’ on the Isle of Skye, our next visit, at some point over the coming weeks, will be to do a marine wildlife tour on a boat.
We saw the sign for the ‘Pipers Heritage Centre’ directing us down a very narrow, twisting track, not suitable for Motorhomes, trust me on that one !! After quite a long and arduous drive for Shazza, not for me as I had my eyes shut !! we eventually came to the end of the road and I do mean the end of the road, any further forward movement would have involved an impromptu ‘dipping of the headlights’, in the sea !! We had passed a few residential properties, a gallery and even a Restaurant but nothing to indicate a ‘Pipers Heritage Centre’ ? It wasn’t as if we had missed a turning as there were no turnings !! Perhaps it had closed down and they had forgotten to remove the signage, so a pointless drive and now my beloved had to drive all the way back again, she was not happy !! As it was now getting to early evening and we were both becoming travel weary we decided to call it a day and head for home with just one more stop in the Kyle of Lochalsh to get some Fish & Chips for our tea. I couldn’t finish our driving tour of Skye though without some final photographs of the wonderful landscape………….
Now the next bit is me being a little bit self-indulgent, let me explain, I recently had a Skype Text conversation with my daughter, who, at this moment in time is without a set of motorised wheels !! Her boyfriend, Dean, is an Australian (but we won’t hold that against him !) and he is coming to live in the UK for a couple of years in a few weeks time. My daughter says that they will be looking for a ‘set of wheels’ and I have suggested that it would make good sense to get a dual-purpose vehicle, something like say ………….. a ‘Camper Van’, small enough to use as ‘daily’ transport but also as a form of ‘holiday’ vehicle. So, knowing that both she and Dean read my blog, here is an example of the kind of thing I was thinking of………… I hope the both of them are taking note and if they are, Dean, to make you feel a little less homesick you could always strap a surfboard to the roof and wear a ‘crocodile Dundee’ hat !!
Now I don’t know whether it was just a coincidence or whether there was a sort of ‘Spiritual Presence’ on the Isle of Skye that had accompanied us during all our visits but which now knew that this was to be our final ‘swan song’. On all our trips to the Isle we had encountered glorious weather that showed us Skye at its best but just five miles from the bridge that would see us leave this beautiful place the ‘heavens’ opened and we left with the mountains shrouded in grey mist……………..perhaps this beautiful Island was a little sad to see us depart ?
We returned to work and boy what an end to our sixth week ! Okay, so we had the normal stuff to be getting on with but we had to deal with a major power failure in the Shower/Toilet block, not only did that mean no lighting and no hot water, which most of our guests appeared content to suffer with, but the Digital TV boxes that provide the signal to the site bollards are also located in this building and so no power no TV. I guess that ordinarily, whilst this may have caused a few of our ‘guests’ some frustration, they would have ‘lived’ with it. However, this was the day when the ‘World Cup’ started !! You will not be surprised to hear that our ‘Alarm Bell’, that should only be used after 8pm for ‘Emergencies’, got a bit of use, I suppose no TV for some is considered an ‘Emergency’ !! But to be fair, the site was full to capacity and the majority of our ‘guests’ were not too bothered. The Electrician, who had turned up initially, conducted his tests and diagnosed the fault, however he was not carrying the necessary ‘spare part’ to remedy the problem and as he was not local, and let’s face it, nothing is really local to this site which us what makes it so appealing, so he had to return the following day. There is a silver lining in every cloud, when incidents like this happen there are set ‘corporate’ procedures that have to be complied with and paperwork that needs to be completed so if this incident had not occurred then we would not have had the experience of putting those procedures into practice. What was really good though was that throughout the morning, as we waited for the Electrician to return, we saw many of our ‘guests’ around the site and not one of them actually complained or moaned, in fact, to my surprise they all had a humorous quip and exchanged banter, although I am not sure how charitable they would have been had the power outage happened at the weekend on England’s opening game against Italy !!
Our ‘mentors’ have been continuing with our education and introduced us to the delights of cleaning the ‘floats’ in the sewage tanks, lovely !! but I suppose I should be grateful that the job was conducted after breakfast and not just before lunch !! They also introduced us to the art of ‘Procurement’ using the computer system (Ordering and purchasing of site equipment, admin, cleaning materials etc). This may not sound very exciting but this is one of those tasks that ‘other’ Assistant Wardens may never get introduced to on other sites, Terry and Ennyd continue to share their knowledge and experience with us and by the time we leave here we will know most of what a Site Warden (as opposed to an Assistant Site Warden) needs to know to manage a site. Because we are only on a short contract this year we will not have experienced the routines and procedures that are conducted to prepare a site prior to opening for business at the beginning of the season, or the closing down procedures at the end of the season, but that will probably be remedied next season if we get a new full seasons contract !!
The site has been continually full to capacity which has come as a bit of a surprise to many, especially those that choose not to ‘book ahead’ and rely on just turning up during the evening with expectations of finding a ‘pitch’ for the night. We have had to turn many away and sometimes their disappointment or disbelief makes them ask some ‘curious’ questions. One ‘foreign’ tourer, in a Motorhome, on being informed that we had no vacancies, posed the question “And what do you propose we should do…….?” I contained myself from suggesting that perhaps he should consider in the future picking up the phone and booking a pitch, instead I suggested a local place where I had observed ‘other’ Motorhomers parking up discreetly overnight. I did feel a little bit sorry for one chap in a caravan who arrived with his wife during the early evening, she had suggested that they phone ahead before leaving home to book a pitch, he had said that there was no need as there would be plenty of ‘pitches’ available. The look on his wife’s face said it all, he was going to have quite a lot of verbal ear-ache all the way to wherever they were now headed…………….. I must admit that before arriving here and just looking at its location on the map, I thought that this site would have just been a ‘transit’ site for those wanting an overnight halt on their way further North or on their way to a site on the Isle of Skye or as a rest stop for those returning South, but actually a lot of our guests stay here for extended periods, many for the maximum 21 consecutive nights. Being here now for six weeks I can understand why people use this as a base and travel out on day trips. There is absolutely no road noise here, the only sounds are from the birds and the associated campsite noises, sounds of stifled chatter, clinking of glasses, laughter and although we may be fifteen miles away from the nearest town there are lots of walks and bicycle rides from the site itself, there are two restaurants close by and for the less adventurous who prefer organised events then next-door is the National Trust Ranger Station who conduct guided walks and even sea kayaking expeditions. For those with cars there are endless fantastic scenic drives to select. Due to the lack of ‘fast food’ outlets, amusement arcades, sandy beaches or on-site children’s playground we rarely see young children on site, in six weeks I have only seen two families with teenage children !! I guess we should think ourselves lucky as we have been spoilt with this our first site, although we will get to see new areas on future sites we work on, I doubt that there will be many that will be able to compare with this one.
We do not always awake to blue skies and sunshine but the scenery is magical even when it is a little grey and overcast…….
Sunday arrived and we are now into our 7th week, it seems as though we have been here much longer but not in a bad way just I think that we have settled in to the routines. Not quite sure whether using the word ‘routine’ is the best way to describe a working day or week as things often arise that make this job anything but ‘routine’, one thing is for sure though, it is an interesting and often varied lifestyle. For me, other than the daily or weekly ‘routines’, the ever-changing ‘guests’ is what make this job worthwhile and because I love to meet people and chat or have a bit of banter this is absolutely brilliant.
So, it is Sunday, we have finished our mornings duties and handed over to Terry & Ennyd whilst we enjoy an afternoon off, this was our ‘long week’ and it seems an age ago since we were enjoying our day trip to Skye and Dunvegan Castle but come tomorrow we start our ‘good week’. The site has been full to capacity but looking at the ‘advance bookings’ it starts to slacken off a bit by midweek so that will give us an opportunity to get around many of the pitches and get the grass cut, the hedges trimmed and the borders strimmed, no such thing as a quiet day in the life of a site warden………………..