Friday, 17 August 2012

Damage Barton, Devon, episode three....

Hi de hi campers,

Thought I'd better put you all out of your misery and finish the tale. Not only that, I'm away again on Tuesday. Me and my daughter are going off with my two grandsons for a couple of days, so goodness knows what might happen. Tracy said we can get there for twelve and pop the awning up, then we'll have the rest of the afternoon. HA. I asked her if she'd read my blog.

So where was I? Oh yes, sat on the edge of the bed feeling thoroughly miserable and wanting to go home. I had a fitful nights sleep, little wonder really, and was wondering how I was going to face my knight in shining armour.

What a lovely surprise when we woke up next morning. The wind had dropped and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Lovely. Someone must have taken pity on us. The view from outside the van was spectacular.

Time to get horizontal in the sun, but first I needed to face someone. I could see the little golf type gardening  buggy, parked outside the shower block, so off I went. He was with his wife and they both had the biggest grins on their faces as I approached. I apologised once more and thanked him profusely for coming to our aid, then he showed me his arm. OMG.  It was covered, from wrist to shoulder, in bright red welts and scratches. I was mortified. They were both very sweet about everything and it actually broke the ice, we were all best of buddies for the rest of the holiday. They'll certainly not forget us in a hurry.

So, by the van, with kindle in hand, I settled for a stress free day in the sun. Well I was reading a certain book that everybody is going mad about. Yes, you've got it. Fifty shades of RUDE!!!.  Well I was so disgusted with it, ( ahem)  I just had to carry on reading. It was my duty, my Mary Whitehouse bit. Well you know what they say about mad dogs and English men, don't you?  Well, I lost track of time and consequently...........

What a plonka, didn't even think to kick my shoes off.  Bright red legs, snow white feey. Oooooo, they were sore later that night, as were my shoulders, my chest, my NOSE. Ouch.

The rest of our stay in Devon was ( sorry to disappoint you all ) beautiful.  There were some lovely walks, so I bought a couple of walking poles and off we went. I'd already been off on my own once, to test the water, so to speak. That's why I decided on the poles, easier to cross becks and things, which nobody told us about.  It was about two miles to Morthoe, the next village along the coast and it was a lovely scenic route.

This is the main path leading down to the campsite farm. We turned left here and hopped over our first stile.

A bit further on and we could still see the Bristol Channel. When you count how many field are between us and the cliff edge it makes you realise how far away we were. It didn't feel like that on our first night though.

These next pictures are of Woolacombe, the next town along the coast from Morthoe. We caught the bus to go here. It's about four miles, that would have meant two miles to Morthoe, across the fields, then two more to Woolacombe. Nah.......

The thing that amazed me most were the buses. I worried about driving my camper down these little roads and up the huge, cliff like hills. Some of the buses were doubledeckers. We caught one back to the site. I thought we were all going to have to get off at one stage, it was going so slow. Honest, I was surprised it made it up one hill, we could hear the engine struggling. Bet they go through a few gear boxes down there.

This is the view looking up from the sea front, proper chocolate box houses aren't they? Look at the hills, no wonder Sue struggled for most of them. Can you imaging having to put that scaffolding up. My nephew's a scaffolder, I'll have to ask him.

And here we have 'Woolacombe Sands', which is reputedly the longest and best beach on the North Devon coast. It's quite a popular tourist attraction, ideal for surfing. There were loads of  surfing  dudes, as my sis kept referring to them?!? dreads and all.  Lovely for the kids too, safe and very clean. You don't lose the ruggedness of the coastline though, I just turned a few more degrees and this was the view.

We were even treated to some lovely Devon sunsets too,  I love sunsets. These were both taken from outside the van, different night of course, but no holiday snaps are complete without a few sunsets, what say you? How many sunset snaps do you have? :)

Absolutely breathtaking, the photographer was a bit rubbish though, didn't do them justice. ( I wonder who took them? )

So, several Devon cream teas and a couple or so of PROPER Cornish pasties later, it was time to pack up the awning and go home. Boo hoo. We both thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the holiday, in fact, I would have been quite happy to stay a while longer. Now we had sun I wanted more, I was being greedy. Alas.......

So that's about it guys'. Have all the disasters put me off camping? No way. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. What have I learned? That these things happen when you're camping. All part of campings rich tapestry.  (  oh please......)

Thanks for coming by and sticking it out until the end. Hope you enjoyed my capers and do come again to see what I get up to next. Who knows. 


Jools.   xxxx

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Damage Barton, Devon, episode two.......

So, where was I?

Oh yes, being rocked to sleep by gale force winds, on top of a cliff, in a metal box. I think that just about sums it up.

I was the first to wake next morning and full of expectant hope, I jumped out of bed and opened the front curtains to see the view. Still no panaramic view. Buggar this for a game of soldiers. Come on Sue, we're catching the bus to Ilfracombe.

We stood out on the road, in the fog, hoping the bus would be able to see us in enough time to stop. We heard it before we saw it and gingerly edged forward to wave it down. The people who lived in that area must be used to the extreme weather, they didn't seem to bat an eyelid. We got on the bus and told the driver where we wished to go.

"Is the weather a bit better in Ilfracombe?" I asked, with more than a hint of hope in my voice.

"The weather's the same as here, but at least you won't be sat in the clouds." I'm sure I saw the bus driver's lips twitch, trying to stifle a grin.

Well, the bus went down and down and down and down. My ears were popping and much to our delight, there was scenery.

Ilfracombe is a tiny fishing village with a quay and marina. It was quite quaint actually, but VERY HILLY. The houses were all built into the hillside and it was really lovely, even though it was bleak and windy.

We had a good walk around the quay and marina and then ventured into the main town. We were looking for a craft shop, no, not for me. Sue had brought odd needles with her and if she couldn't knit......... Anyway, we asked for directions and headed up this 1:4 hill to get to it. Poor old Sue has a bad back and found it a bit of a struggle, but her tenacity kicked in, she needed her needles. We got to the shop at about five past one, it closed at one and didn't open again until two-thirty. Neither of us said a word, our mood was so low we were past moaning.

Back down the hill to the quayside it was and to console ourselves we had a traditional Cornish pasty, comfort food. Lovely.  Two thirty, off we went again, up the hill. Yeh, the shop's open. I got there before Sue, so I went into the shop and asked for no5 needles.

"Sorry," said the young lady, "we don't sell knitting needles."  I didn't swear, honest.

"Do you know where we can get some please?"

She gave us directions and off we went, down the bloody hill again. We seemed to be walking around for ages  looking for this shop, when I spotted a craft exhibition. I went in to ask directions and the man in there asked how fit we were, he could send us the short hard way, or the long easy way. I looked round at Sue and asked for the long, easy way.

We found it eventually and Sue got her needles and some wool. She's worse than me with my craft stuff, well nearly. The rest of the day wasn't too bad, it rained a few times early on, but later in the afternoon this bright orange thing appeared in the sky and we actually took our coats off.

The sea was a bit choppy though and some folk had actually ventured down onto the beach. Mad fools. By about four, we were getting ready to go back to the van. We were going to have a barby that night, if the clouds had lifted, so off we went, looking for the bus station. We knew where it was, it was at the bottom of that hill we had become so well acquainted with. :)

When we got back to the camp site it was lovely and clear, still windy and cloudy, but we could see. I got quite excited, I was going to get to try out my new bucket barby, a bright orange one. I got cracking with the barby and Sue got the potatoes and salad done. It was 5-30pm.

By 7-30 we were still waiting for the sausages to cook, I think the wind was cooling the sausages before the heat could cook them. We got our food eventually and had a nice restful evening. Sue was happy, she could do her knitting. We were feeling quite upbeat by now, the weather was supposed to be changing tomorrow and perhaps our holiday could start.

I made the rule that the van was a no smoking area, I know I know, why are we smoking? LOOK, it'd been a stressful 3 days. God, was that all it had been, 3 days? Anyway, we could have a wind free smoke in the awning, we just pushed the van door too, so the smoke didn't go in. We were all ready for bed and hoping for a better nights sleep, seeing as the wind had dropped a bit. Only 20miles an hour now. We went out into the awning and wound up the camping lantern, yes, wind up and had a last ciggie of the night.

Sue went to get back into the van and looked round at me with a look of sheer panic on her face.

" The door won't open."

I got up and tried it too, she was right, it had locked?!?!   Shit shit shit. Now what? She saw one of the ladies from the neighbouring van coming back from the loo, so she went out to grab her. My mind was working overtime. I tried the cab doors, LOCKED. The lady asked where the keys were.

"On the hook inside the door."

"Do you have spares?"

"Yes, in my handbag."

"Where's your handbag?"

" In the van." Like I'd bring my bag out into the awning evertime I came out!

By this time her hubby had arrived and the three of them were stood rubbing their heads. The lady informed us that there wasn't a resident warden on the site, but I wasn't convinced. I remembered that there was a caravan near the shower block that was fenced off. The campsite was pitch black at night, so I grabbed my wind up lantern and headed for the shower block. Sure enough, there was the fenced off caravan. I touched the gate to open it and a dog started barking a BIG dog. Well, if there was anybody in there, that would wake them, so I waited, for what seemed like an eternity.

A very sleepy, half clad man came to the door and gave me a thunderous look. Shit. It was 11-30. I explained what had happened and he said he'd come to the van.

" You're on C7 aren't you?"  How did he know that? Wonder if he'd been watching me putting the awning up?

 I made my way back to the van and a few minutes later he turned up with a couple of wire coat hangers. He tried, in vain, to pop the latch up in the cab door.

"Is there a window open?"


"A skylight?"

"No." I felt like screaming the fact at him, that it had been blowing a gale for 3 days, but decided against it.

"Where are the keys?"

"On the hook inside the door."

"Do you have spares?"

"Yes, in my handbag."

"Where's your handbag?"

" In the van."  I had a feeling of  deja vu at that point.

He decided to try and get in through the skylight and proceeded to climb the ladder onto the roof. The only problem was, the awning flap was over the skylight and it was fastened firmly down with two guy ropes. Remember the awning? So the other man released the guy ropes and it sort of groaned and lurched forward. I just prayed it wouldn't fall over.

He fiddled and wiggled and eventually the skylight popped up. We watched as the wire came through the skylight towards the keys. Hope he's good at fishing. He managed to hook them on the end and with one deft move, grabbed them with his free hand, before they could fall on the floor. He threw them down to me and I unlocked the door. The relief was palpable. I wanted to give him something for his trouble but hadn't a clue how much, so I grabbed a £20 note from my purse and headed to the back of the van just as he was coming down the ladder. I pressed it into his hand and thanked him profusely. I didn't know what else to do, I felt like hugging him, but decided that would be inappropriate, besides, he didn't look very happy!!!!!

Our neighbours disappeared, as did our knight in shining armour and we both went inside and sat on our beds and just looked at each other. 

" I want to go home............."

Thanks for coming by, hope you're enjoying my calamitous  camper capers and do come back for episode three.... Will it be the last one or is there still so much more to tell?

bye for now.........

Jools.  xxx

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Damage Barton, Devon, episode one......


So, where do I start? At the beginning I suppose.

Up bright and early Monday morning, showered, dressed and walking to pick up the van by 6am.  I'd forgotten there were two 6 0'clock's in one day. Tried to start the van quietly,but ha, it's deisel, at least I pulled away as quietly as I could. Go round to pick up my sis and we're off by seven, only 300 miles to go...... and herein started my baptism of fire. 

The journey was great, got a bit tired towards the end, but the 'Damage Barton' sign was a welcome sight after eight hours on the road. So, down to business. Checked in, paid the rest of the fees, filled up the water tank and parked the van. I needed a cuppa, so I plugged in the electric and put the kettle on. You have to get your priorities right.

With my lovely, welcoming cup of coffee in hand, I decided to take a picture of the beautiful panoramic view of the Bristol Channel from the front seat of the camper. I'd been looking forward to this for months, waking up to this spectacular view every morning.

Oh..... did I fail to mention that the campsite was so high, we were SAT in a cloud and it was freezing. Not only that, the wind was blowing at 30 miles an hour, rocking, no, BUFFETING the van violently from side to side and front to back and top to bottom and bottom to top. I think you get the gyst. I just prayed I had a good hand brake, but I decided to slip it into first gear aswell. Insurance.

The next job was to put up the awning, but no way was I going to even attempt to put it up in this. I decided to wait until Tuesday.

So what about tea, ahhhh...... I remember something about a fish n chip van visiting the site. Yeh, it's tonight. So fed and watered, showered and in bed and laying awake listening to the wind lashing the van. Lovely. It'll be better tomorrow.


This is me coming back from the shower block next morning, it's in the background. Oh that's right, you can't see it can you, because we're still sitting in a CLOUD.

The weather forecast for the next five days was always posted in reception and according to it, the weather was going to stay rather inclement for a few more days yet. Isn't that a nice word, inclement, too nice to be describing the FOUL weather we were experiencing. We daren't even go for a walk, we couldn't see the footpaths. It would be just our luck to fall off the cliff.

Already the van was becoming very cramped, the plan was to have the awning up by now. Bugger it, I was going to put it up, even if the wind was still 25 miles an hour, I could do it.

We dragged the awning bag down from the overhead bed space and set about working it out. Neither of us had put one up before, I didn't even know what kind it was, I bought it with the van. Foolhardy I hear you shout, well, you might be right, but I am a very tenacious girl. Whatsmore, I had a rubber mallet.

We got it all laid out on the ground outside and I started looking round for the tent pegs. NO TENT PEGS?!?!? Why would there be no tent pegs?  Off to the site shop I went, no idea how many I needed, so I started off with twenty hard standing eight inch nails, with hooks on. Well that's what they looked like and me with a rubber mallet!!!!!!

The frame was assembled, awning laid out on top, as per utube video, and slowly we unfolded it. Yeh, it was starting to resemble an awning.  Ok, next step, extend the legs and throw the flap over the van, then anchor the two guy ropes (before it blows away) It's a drive-away awning by the way. Sue could't help, she was holding onto the awning, to prevent it becoming a kite.

I went into the van to grab a few tea towels to use as weights, so I could throw the guy ropes over the roof. Are you still with me? Good.  Well, they were all SOAKING WET.  I didn't have time to investigate, Sue was struggling outside, the wide eyed, rabbit in headlights look was a bit of a giveaway.

I wrapped the rope around the tea towels and launched them both over the van. Yeh, first try. I ran round the other side and whacked two eight inch nails in and anchored the flap.  Sue looked a bit easier now, her arms weren't being ripped off with each gust of wind, well not as badly. I gave her a 'DON'T LET GO' look.

Right, next job, secure the legs and fasten the guy ropes down.  I threw the remaining contents of the bag on the floor, curtains, curtain poles, inner bedroom tent, NO FLAMING GUY ROPES. The sheer panic returned to Sue's face, she had to stand and hold it while I disappeared to the shop, again. Off  I went and bought two packs of guy rope and a pack of metal tensioners, oh, and ten more nails. I'd noticed there were an awful lot of elastic hooks around the bottom of the awning. See, I did knew something, I wasn't completely clueless.

Tensioners  secured and guy ropes knotted to each corner of the awning, I banged in four more nails with my RUBBER mallet and hooked them into place. Finally, it was more secure and Sue could let go. We zipped the side and front flaps on and Sue disappeared inside to make a much needed cup of coffee, while I set about banging in the rest of the hooks.

By this time I was absolutely soaking wet, not from sweat, but from the cloud vapour. My long curly hair was a frizzy mess, I looked like crystal tips. Please don't say 'WHO?'  The only way I was going to manage to get the pegs in with that stupid mallet was to get really mad. So I thought of the bloke who sold me a camper, complete with awning, with no tent pegs and guy ropes. Oh, and a leaking kitchen tap. It worked, I cursed each peg in, while mumbling unrepeatable incantations. Could this get any worse?

 Oh, believe me, it did. Read on........

After having to buy another ten pegs, that's forty in all, the awning was secure. It was going NOWHERE, I hoped. I was so proud of myself, it only took me four hours.  I hope nobody was videoing me though, I'd hate to be on utube. Needless to say, the next time will be easier, AND I'll use a PROPER mallet.

And here it is, the little beauty......Impressed? It was so lovely to have extra space.  The cloud lifted that evening and we actually got to enjoy the view. We could see the Bristol Channel. It was still pretty cloudy though and as windy as hell, but at least we could see past the next van. To make matters worse, people were starting to return to their vans and telling us they had been only a few miles from the site and there were no clouds. Grrrr........ We decide that if it was cloudy next morning we would take the bus to Ilfracombe, to get below the cloud.

Anyway, I had a nice hot shower to warm me up and after tea we settled down to watch some telly. It was no surprise to find we had no signal, so DVD's it was. Don't think we slept much at all that night, the wind was not only rocking the van, it was getting under all the flaps in the awning and making a right racket. The flap on the roof was the worst, the wind kept picking it up and SLAPPING it back down. It was a miracle it stayed up, but stay up it did.

As for the tap, it was leaking like a drain. Sue suggested putting a cloth round it and to let the ends hang in the sink so the water would drain away. It worked, YEH. Clever old thing aint she? 

Surely it can't be like this for the whole nine days. Surely.........

Do come back for episode two, you won't believe what happened next, or perhaps you would.

Jools.   xxx