Monday 11th August – Sunday 17th August
The rain that fell upon us, brought from the tail end of ‘Hurricane Bertha‘, was relentless. The numerous rivers that usually flowed silently from the mountains, which normally could only be seen with the aid of a good pair of binoculars, were now clearly visible with the naked eye and there were dozens of them. I could see them spewing their heavy burdens at a relentless pace downwards to the rivers that flowed into the Lochs. The River Croe is one such river that conveys the mountains watery cargo to Loch Duich at Shiel Bridge and this particular river just happens to run behind our campsite, many of the pitches which had already become waterlogged, from ‘Bertha’s’ unwanted deluge, were now in danger of becoming ‘moorings‘ rather than ‘pitches‘ if the height of the river continued to rise. We were already on the ‘Scottish Environment Protection Agency’ (SEPA) ‘Amber’ flood warning and this could potentially turn to ‘Red’ if the High Tide at 8:00pm refused to allow the river to discharge its contents into the Loch !! For the second time in as many weeks I felt the need to seek out the folder entitled ‘Flood Evacuation Plan‘ ! I was a little alarmed to discover that nowhere in its contents did it state the most important first priority action…….”Women, Children and Assistant Wardens first” !! Well, Our Warden did say that part of our Site Training Programme was to review Site Policy Documents so ‘The Plan’ has now been appropriately amended !
Let me turn the clock back to lunch time the day before, we had just finished our mornings duties and were about to commence our half day off, we were not surprised that it had just started to rain, this had become the ‘norm’ recently on our days off but the rain curtailed our afternoon planned activities of starting to prepare ‘Big Momma’ for the big journey Southwards in a few weeks time. So it was that we just ‘chillaxed’ inside the van, watching TV, with the only exertion being that of turning the volume up on the remote control as the raindrops on ‘Big Momma’s’ roof changed from a light tap dance from a troop of lightweight size six super models to a brigade of heavyweight soldiers conducting ‘drill’ practice !! By bedtime the rain had not eased and the weather report forecasted that it would last for several days to come. However, it was comforting to be tucked up under a nice warm duvet with a hot mug of coffee listening to the sound of the rain on the roof knowing that we could have a lay in as we were not back on duty until 10:45am. The noise on the roof had not bothered us during the night and Shazza and I both had a very good sleep. I cannot put into words how good it feels to wake up refreshed, sat up in bed under a nice warm duvet drinking a hot mug of coffee listening to the rain still beating on the roof.
It was only when we reported for duty that we began to fully appreciate the effect that ‘Hurricane Bertha’ was to have on us ! Our Wardens had already done a survey of the site and noted how much standing water had begun to accumulate on some of our hard standing pitches. Fortunately the site was not fully occupied so any current residents who wanted to move from a watery pitch to a vacant less watery one were able to do so. However, that said they would need to be quick as we had not received notification of any cancellations and the days arrivals were due to start entering through the gates. Additionally, with such bad weather, we were sure to get a lot of ‘Drop-Ins’, Caravans, Motorhomes and Tenters, although the latter would be lucky to find a dry area on a tent field that had rapidly spawned its own small lakes.
We were a little surprised that there were only two occupants who elected to depart earlier than planned, perhaps the remainder were a hardier bunch or perhaps they just didn’t comprehend the potential crisis. Shazza checked the weather forecast and announced with a mischievous smile that it was 32 degrees(c) in Faro, Portugal !!
Our ‘new’ pre-booked arrivals arrived, our anticipated ‘Drop-ins’ arrived and everyone seemed of a cheery disposition, perhaps relieved at arriving in one piece, many appeared genuinely happy to discover that we had TV reception at all the bollards, provided that they had a cable (which of course if they hadn’t, we would be only to willing to sell them one) and also that we had WiFi coverage across the site. Well they couldn’t see the magnificent scenery because of the weather so why not watch some TV or surf the net, but of course if the raging torrent got any worse they could be doing a surfing of a different type !!
The ‘torrential’ rain didn’t let up at all during the day, we were still getting ‘tenters’ turn up right into the early evening and even after showing them the soggy tent field they elected to stay. They were all quite cheery and when shown the facilities they had access to, Hot Showers, Laundry Facilities, Heated Drying Room, Television Lounge with Pool Table and also, on the tent field, a wooden covered ‘Gazebo‘ type affair where they could prepare and cook a meal, they were more than happy. Just before finally finishing for the day we conducted a check on the river height, it was still flowing extremely fast and riding high on the bank but still some way from breaching, I prayed silently that it would remain that way. The rain continued to hammer down on ‘Big Momma’s’ roof all night, we didn’t sleep well as I think subconsciously we were both waiting for the inevitable to happen !!
We were woken up by the alarm, not the panic alarm but the clock alarm ! It was still bucketing it down but it looked no worse outside than it had the previous night. Our Wardens were on their time off so whilst I donned the ‘Orange Suit’ and ‘wellies’, Shazza checked the ‘SEPA’ website, we were still on ‘Amber’ alert. I went out on the ‘Bin Run’, passing a few cheery souls as I did so, they all wore smiles, probably still inebriated from the copious amounts of ‘falling over juice‘ they may have consumed the night before and who could blame them ! At strategic points I stopped ‘Freddie’ (the tractor) and climbed the bank on the site side of the river and peered over, it was still a raging torrent and riding high but no higher than the previous night. I guess without the aid of a strong wind behind it pushing landward the High Tide at 8:00pm had not fought too strongly against the torrents of water discharging from the river. I finished the ‘Bin Run’ and proceeded to the Laundry Building to commence cleaning, as anticipated all the machines were in full use and a couple of the female tenters were using the sinks to do some hand washing, the ‘Drying Room’ was full of assorted garments and footwear and the TV lounge area was noisy with the sound of assorted chatter from all our ‘tenters’ who had gathered in the warmth to eat their breakfasts. It was a very happy band of people who smiled at me as I entered the room in my bright orange coat, a good job it wasn’t a yellow one or they may have mistaken me for ‘Paddington Bear’, but nobody offered me a marmalade sandwich ! They enquired as to whether I required them to leave whilst I cleaned but I told them to carry on enjoying their breakfasts and that I would do the cleaning later. I guess that’s the thing with those who do this camping stuff, especially tenters, you just go with the flow’ (no pun actually intended), you expect that in such conditions everyone would be downbeat and of a gloomy disposition, but not so, it really was a nice happy environment, although I am not sure that they would have been so cheery if they had awoken, unzipped the tent and found themselves adrift in the middle of the Loch, unless of course they were ‘sea scouts‘ !! At 2:00pm we got an automated message from ‘SEPA’ downgrading the ‘flood alert’, but with the rain still falling I elected to keep my ‘wellies’ on !!
We were pleased when Wednesday afternoon arrived, our Wardens back from their down time, we were now ready to commence our day and a half off. We knew that we had to transfer items that we had put into our storage shed in our compound back into ‘Big Momma’, we also needed to unattach, fold and pack away our wind break from the compound fence and to re-pack our ‘Windblocker’ as well as cleaning both the ‘Smokey Joe’ BBQ and ‘CADAC’ gas BBQ. However, we must have become so efficient at packing, unpacking and re-packing that we had actually achieved the task within two hours, we were now ready to go, well almost, there was still the electric bikes to put back onto the rear cycle carrier as well as disconnecting the grey waste pipes, un-hooking from the EHU and getting off the levelling blocks. We have a lot to do before catching our ferry so we certainly won’t be hanging around when the time comes, both ‘Big Momma’ and ‘Wuxly’ are fuelled up and we have plenty of LPG so we will be ready to get on the road to ‘Edinburgh’, our one and only night stop, before heading back to Doncaster and commencing the twelve day count down to departing for Northern Spain.
After a productive half day off it was nice to wake up and just be able to have a leisurely lay in with a hot mug of coffee. However, having been ‘Confined to Barracks’ on several previous half days and full days off due to the wet stuff, today started grey and overcast but very importantly it was dry !! Although we only had four full days off remaining, we had still not discounted the possibility of getting an opportunity to get ‘Kevin’ the Kayak out and have a ‘wee paddle’. Many weeks ago one of our guests, a Kayaker, had told us about a Loch that was a good easy paddle between ‘Arnisdale‘ and ‘Corran‘ so we decided to take a look at it. The following Photographs are just a small taster of some of the views that our eyes feasted upon having reached our destination………………………
After a brief walk along the shoreline we agreed that it looked idyllic, however, with the long and winding single track road to get here it would make a long trek just to go Kayaking, we had passed a place en route which had good access to launch from. As the road we had been on came to a sudden end, any further progress only permissible on foot or by boat we re-traced our route back to the ‘Glen Elg Inn’ for a spot of lunch. Over lunch we decided that rather than just drive back the way we had come we would take the small ten minute ferry crossing from Glen Elg to the Isle of Skye and then cross the Skye Bridge back to ‘Kyle‘, as we have now done many times, and finish our day doing the weekly shop at the Co-op.
There were only two other vehicles with us on the crossing but as we drove off the small ferry another car, probably just sight-seeing, took the lead up the hill away from the Loch. Now this road was for two-way traffic but it was single track with passing places. The cars in front sped away, we were third and their was a ‘big’ 4×4 behind us, it was like a motor rally as the four of us sped along the roads and Shazza was not going to be left behind, never mind exhilarating rides on a pleasure park ride, this really was white knuckle stuff, Shazza drove like a woman possessed and I had to remind her that we were not wearing ‘crash helmets’ and ‘Wuxly’ didn’t have anti-roll bars fitted, she just laughed whilst I left my finger print impressions gouged forevermore into the dashboard !!
I am not certain how we managed it but we arrived at Kyle unscathed ! We did the weekly shop and then as is our normal routine, because at least here we can get a mobile phone signal, we made our respective phone calls to family. My mum is due to fly out to the USA for a wedding just after we leave Morvich, one of my sister’s three boys. We have received an invitation but will be unable to attend. However, my mum asked whether we had returned the response to the invitation, we stated that we hadn’t but that we of course would. Now bless her, she said that if we had difficulty in posting it from here then we could post it to her and she would forward it on for us !!!!!! She did laugh when I explained that if I could post it to her from here then I could post it from here to the USA !! We were discussing the short length of time that we had left here when she announced “I don’t have long to go“, quick as a flash I replied “Oh come on Mum, your still a youngster, you have plenty of years still to live“, she did laugh when she said “No you silly Bugger, I meant before I go to the Wedding in America“.
Remember in earlier posts I referred to that ‘box of chocolates‘, well this job is like those chocolates, you just never know what each day will bring. The rain had been torrential since Saturday afternoon, our half day off and it continued all through the night and we awoke on Sunday morning to much of the same, not much groundwork could get done today then.When we reported for duty we saw that the pitch board was looking rather sparse, not unusual on this site at this time of year but with the weather I guess there was always going to be the odd one or two early departures. There are always things to be getting on with no matter what the weather but safe enough to say that we were not going to be rushed off our feet. We had looked at what we could be getting on with and planned our afternoon activities, each of us would take a turn in the office whilst the other went out to do something or be in the compound workshop doing bits and pieces. But like that box of chocolates you jut never know what will happen next !! The rain, still falling quite heavily, had joined forces with a rather strong wind, we are nestled in a valley between a range of mountains known as the ‘Five Sisters’ and I guess you can imagine what happens when strong wind a rain drives through a valley at a great rate of knots !!
One of our ‘guests’, a female’ had entered the office, soaking wet and a little distressed, “Can you come and help please, our Awning has just blown up and over our caravan roof” !! I went with lady to her pitch, en-route she explained that her husband had gone off site with their son and she and her daughters were left in the caravan. Once at the pitch I surveyed the scene and could immediately see that it was the whole awning, poles and pitching pegs as well !! With the poles still attached it was going to be far too heavy to try to lift off and part of the awning had got caught up on the roof-mounted TV Ariel. I returned to the office and told Shazza that I would need her assistance so whilst she closed the office I grabbed a set of step ladders and we returned to the pitch. Our biggest fear was another gust of wind blowing whilst we attempted to dismantle the tangle of poles, but good fortune smiled upon us and the strong gusts stayed away whilst slowly but surely we removed the majority of the poles and were then able to pull the awning from the roof, slide what was left of it out of the awning rail, roll it up and stuff it under the van out of harms way. Fortunately, although the awning was now unusable, this was the only casualty, the lady and her daughters were not injured and the caravan looked virtually unscathed albeit for one or two dents on a side panel. Although we could always do without ‘events’ such as these, this one did serve a useful purpose, our Wardens will soon be writing our end of season ‘Appraisals’. One of the ‘objectives’ is to have had some experience of dealing with and resolving ‘on site’ incidents and issues. It would be fair to say that the majority of people employed on campsites, Private as well as Club sites, will all ‘routinely’ deal with a variety of on site incidents and issues, of varying degrees, such is the nature of this type of customer based environment. For us, all are recorded in a ‘Wardens Site Diary’, however, in addition, some incidents or issues do require more formal reporting procedures such as the completion and submission of a ‘Incident Report’. Shazza had not completed or submitted such a report, up until now that is, so she did the appropriate ‘Admin’ and now we should both get the necessary ‘tick in the box’ for that particular objective being achieved. Well that was the bit of excitement over with for the day and the afternoon had passed quite quickly, all of our ‘pre-booked’ guests had arrived, along with the now anticipated two or three ‘drop-ins’ and another working week was over.
To finish this weeks ramblings I will leave you with a selection of views, taken from the door of ‘Big Momma’, of the rivers cascading down ‘our’ mountains……….