Sunday 14th June (Day 94 of 236)
We work on a two-week cycle roster, one week is quite long with only a half day off in an eight-day period, but then the second week is good with two extended periods of time off falling within a couple of days of each other, we were on our good week and after having a nice day and a half period off, with the weather being good, enabling us to get out and about a bit, we were now about to get to our two-day off period, an afternoon, a full day and a morning. We normally just have a lazy first afternoon off then plan an ‘outing’ for our full day off, our last morning being used to do the major provisions re-stocking before returning to work. However, this meant that whatever we did, or wherever we went, we always returned to the site at the end of the day, so we decided to do something different this time and so we booked a couple of nights on another Caravan Club Site, ‘Gibson Park‘ at Melrose, only about an hour’s drive away but somewhere that we had never visited before. The trip would also serve a number of other very useful purposes, other than getting us off our own site and having a different view from our windows for a couple of days, it would give ‘Big Momma’ another decent run out, the last being when we drove to Edinburgh a couple of months previously when she needed her Annual Service & MOT. We also needed to top up with LPG as we had been using more gas than normal as we had to use it to power the fridge due to the electrical element packing up !! Not a major problem as the fridge, on its own, doesn’t use that much gas, but combined with using gas for cooking we had now used our first 11kg cylinder and had just started the second, not bad really as one cylinder had lasted two months. There was a service station just five miles down the ‘A1’ from the site so we would call in there on our way back from Melrose and top up. Fortunately, there is a ‘Thetford’ approved dealership at a Motorhome Service Centre near Durham and that is fortunately also very close to another Caravan Club Site, so at some point we will take one of our extended periods of time off at Durham and get the fridge repaired and serviced, we had not had it serviced since we bought the van just over five years ago so I think it is due, although, until this electrical element issue, we have not experienced any problems with it so not bad really. So, although moving from one club site to another may appear to be ‘a bit like a busman’s holiday‘, at least for two days we would be parked on a ‘pitch‘ where we would just be another ‘guest‘ !!
Before we could do our ‘Great Escape’ though there was a small matter of a mornings work to conduct. After having five great days of sunshine and warm temperatures the weather had turned again and turned with a vengeance, it was quite ‘Autumnal’, interpret that as being bloody cold, not only that but it was raining and my turn to do the morning bin run !! Normally I do not mind this task, riding around on the tractor to five ‘service points’ and emptying the numerous bins, usually it is an opportunity to chat with the guests as they dispose of their rubbish, empty their containers of ‘grey’ water or re-fill their ‘Aquarolls’ with fresh water, but on wet days I just want to get around as quickly as possible and get back into the dry as on completion of the bin run it is time for a hot cuppa. I think someone was having a laugh, it rained all the way around, every bin was full, every glass crate was full and then just as I finished and put the tractor and trailer into the workshop garage it stopped bloody raining !! With the site being fully booked yet again there were as many new arrivals as their were departures, this meant that we were kept busy and our morning fair flew by and before we knew it we were ready for our ‘Great Escape‘.
Shazza had pre-prepared some ham rolls to eat en-route, we were not going to waste any time in having lunch first and so after a quick change out of our ‘Elf & Elfette’ uniforms we were on our way. The weather had turned in our favour, the grey foreboding skies that greeted us when we awoke had now morphed into blue and the sun was warm. Our journey was quite straightforward, cross-country on primarily ‘B’ class undulating and winding roads and it felt good to be in the ‘Captains’ seat of ‘Big Momma’ once more. After just one short hour we were at the entrance of the Clubs site at Melrose and after booking in, and having a brief chat with our warden hosts, we were soon parked up on our spacious ‘Service Pitch’.
The site is literally within a few minutes walk of the small and very picturesque town of Melrose and we had arrived during the town’s week-long ‘Book Festival’, although it wasn’t all about books, their was a charity football match being played on the green outside the site entrance as well as music and a variety of stalls, the whole place was alive with the throng of people and atmosphere. However, today, for us at least, it was to be an afternoon of relaxation and inactivity, we sat outside in our sun chairs in the warmth of the afternoon sunshine with a chilled glass of ‘grape juice’, of the Rose variety and within minutes we were back in holiday mode, the sense of freedom was quite overwhelming. The day couldn’t have ended more perfectly, I hadn’t realised beforehand, but Shazza informed me that England were playing Slovenia in a European Qualifier, and more importantly it was being shown ‘live’ on ITV and then later that evening I could continue watching the ‘TV Drama’ of ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell‘. With yet another English win, making it six on the trot, our first evening ended very well.
I don’t know how to explain the feeling I felt being able to wake up knowing that there was no rush to do anything, we had both slept well and even without the alarm clock we awoke at 7:30am, of course we had already agreed to go and explore the town, but we could do that as and when we wanted, so for now it was a luxury to just lay in bed, with a nice hot cuppa, and let the first part of the morning pass us by. When we were both ready, mid-morning, we set off for the two-minute walk into a town we knew absolutely nothing about.
So, in a very short space of time we discovered that this small but very picturesque Borders town had lots of activities, from several walking routes, three cycle routes and a week-long festival, pity that we hadn’t brought either our walking boots or electric bikes, never mind, now we had an excuse to re-visit. We were just strolling around the small streets when we saw a sign pointing towards a ‘Riverside Walk’, well it would have been rude not to wouldn’t it ?
We were totally taken with this area but decided that we really needed to come back again, fully equipped, to make the most of everything on offer. It was during our walk back that Shazza came out with what I can only suggest is a totally ‘female‘ statement, she turned to me and said “Sometimes Wanting Something is a Good Thing” !! I guess I should explain what had prompted that outburst of emotion from my beloved. When she had first suggested that we take ‘Big Momma’ off site for a couple of days I was a little reluctant, to me, it would entail too much aggravation, re-packing the van, unattaching the ‘grey’ waste pipes that ran underneath the van to the waste drain, disconnecting the EHU cable but more importantly, reversing ‘Big Momma’ out of our wardens compound, in what is quite a tight space and then getting it back in again and re-connecting everything again, all for the sake of two days !! But I am not too proud to admit that it really wasn’t as complicated as I had imagined it would be, and okay, yes, it had turned out to be a good decision !!
After admiring the views, and just enjoying the time and the freedom to wander at our leisure, we decided it was time to head back the short distance to the town and enjoy a coffee at one of the many Cafe’s before returning to the site and ‘Big Momma’ for an afternoon of further relaxation. On our way back in we saw ‘Linda’ the resident Warden and we spent some time just chatting, as you do. However, she told us about an event that would be starting right outside the site at around 6:00pm. But first, to put it into some sort of perspective I need to provide some sort of………… wait for it ! History !! Yes, me, a self-confessed history heathen !!
In the 13th and 14th Centuries, here in the Border towns, it was quite lawless, and it was common place for neighbouring families to encroach and steal land and livestock. So local Lords would select a key person to ‘ride out‘ and patrol the Borders of their towns and land to protect it from both the English as well as other ‘Clans‘. Although such lawlessness does not exist in these modern times the tradition of ‘riding out’ has become part of many of the local towns Annual Festivals and we, through luck rather than judgement, just happened to be in Melrose during their week-long festivities and what’s more, the traditional ‘ride out’ would take place this particular evening.
There must have been a good hundred riders and horses, of all shapes, sizes and age, which applies to both horses and riders !! Wow, what a great procession to watch. The riders would be out for over two and a half hours before returning to a piped band. We were well happy with this short visit, we hadn’t expected to discover either the beauty of this place, the festival or be able to stand and watch a Century old tradition taking place. Now that had been enough to make this short trip worth every single minute, but as if to provide us with a ‘grand finale’ the pipe band came onto site and gave us, we’ll not us personally, us as in the campsite guests, a private performance !!
We could not have planned this any better, and all in a day and a half !! I had already started with ‘itchy feet‘ at around the eighth week of this our second season as ‘Elf & Elfette’, I was really missing not being on the road travelling and Shazza felt the same way. So, coming across unexpected things like this, feeling so relaxed and having tasted ‘freedom’ again, we were both feeling more than a little despondent about having to return back to our ‘Compound’ and we weren’t even half way through our season yet !!