After 13 months of planning the day had finally arrived for us to leave home and life as we knew it to embark on a new chapter in our lives. As we were now leaving on Friday instead of Saturday it was us that waved off Mitch and Chloe to work then set about leaving the house ourselves. It turned out it was actually the best way as it would have been even more teary if we had pulled off the drive whilst they were still standing on the doorstep. As it was it was just Belle the cat that we had to say our goodbyes too (for now) and that was hard enough. It was still surreal as we glanced behind us, with no caravan on the drive we remarked how lovely the house looked and how big the drive actually was without a caravan and 4 cars! Deep breaths as we pulled slowly out of the Close and we were on our way. The traffic flowed and we were soon leaving The Midlands behind and heading South. On the way we received emotional texts from no;1 daughter and no;1 son (we only have one of each so they are both no;1’s!) and at one time could hardly see the road ahead for the tears running down our cheeks, and then as we neared our destination we really couldn’t see the road ahead due to the torrential rain that was hammering down!
A 4 hour journey of motorway all the way, a flask emptied of coffee, snacks, sweets, hot cross buns devoured and we were approaching the gates of our new 8 month home. Our new boss, the Site Manager, was waiting for us to open the gates as the Site was not yet open and we made our way down the mile long driveway into Hundred Acre Wood. Driving down the winding road we rounded a bend and as a clearing appeared the vista of Rookesbury Park opened up before us. We had a very warm welcome from our new colleagues, the kettle went on and we were helped to position Ruby in our Assistants area, every one pitching in to ensure we were in the perfect spot. It was beginning to get very windy and had started to rain again, so after unloading the items that had been packed into the caravan for travelling we called it a day and decided not to erect the awning until the gusts had subsided. The kettle was put on again and we started getting to know our new “work family”
We had a week of settling in and socialising before we had to officially start work, which gave us plenty of time to erect the awning and turn it into a comfy lounge and get our kitchen and bathroom pods kitted out. We had time for days out exploring the nearby coastline, surrounding towns and villages and had to keep pinching ourselves that we could just pop to the seaside and walk on the beach within a few minutes if it took our fancy. We had after all lived in The Midlands all our lives and from its very name you couldn’t get further from the sea if you tried! We strolled along the pebble beaches at Hayling Island, enjoyed morning coffees and pub lunches in the Inn on the Beach, walked the long coast footpath at Southsea and Lee on Solent, explored the ramparts of the Garrison to Old Portsmouth and Gun Wharf Quay, and visited our nearest village Wickham with its charming 13th century square surrounded by independent artisan outlets and abundance of antique/ bric a brac/collectable shops. I picked up a traditional old teddy bear and gave him a hug, intending to put him back once he’d had a cuddle, Steve said that he’d be expecting to come home with us now and I couldn’t just put him back on the shelf so we’d have to buy him. So we did and Rookie is now settling in nicely with us.
Our ‘holiday’ week flew by and before we knew it we were pulling on our newly polished boots and donning our crispy clean uniform ready to face our first day in the new job. The days have been spent getting to know the layout of the site, cutting grass where it was dry enough, opening up and cleaning the toilet blocks, washing down light bollards, testing the electric hook up points, sweeping and collecting mounds of leaves, testing water temperatures and erecting the signage around the site. All this physical work and hours of fresh air every day meant we were barely able to keep our eyes open much after eating our tea and begging for our beds by 9 o’clock every night. Here we then discovered that the fixed bed in the caravan is not really condusive to both of us getting a good nights sleep. Being used to a king sized bed at home for the last 30 years it has not been easy sleeping in such close confines and we have both found it very difficult to adjust, at a time when sleep is the one thing we look forward to most! After 2 weeks of elbows and knees digging into each other in the wee small hours, Steve has now “moved out” and every night makes up the double bed on the front lounge seats of the caravan. Not the most romantic of starts to our new life being together but needs must and currently sleep is a big need.
As well as the general maintenance and day to day site jobs to do we each have had a little project of our own to get stuck into. Mine was to create the 2020 seasons information room, used by the members to find out about the local area, places of interest to visit and how to make their time with us a great experience. For those that know me well you already know that I was in my element with this one. I have been a wannabe travel agent for most of my life so was really excited to have the chance to help and advise others of places of interest to visit. I repainted the walls, rearranged and sourced new leaflets, put up posters, updated the walking and cycling routes folder, the local pubs menu folder, rearranged the book shelving and printed off anything I thought might be of interest and useful to members visiting the area. On a day off we visited a Tourist Information Centre in Gosport where they kindly loaded me up with more local info leaflets. I’m just waiting for posters of trees/wildlife/flora/birds to arrive and then going to create a nature quiz for the younger members to spot whilst on site. Its an ongoing project that I’ll be throwing myself into at any opportunity.
Steve’s project was to bring the pitch and putt course back to life. At the end of last season the flags had been taken in and the grass left to grow whilst the site was closed, so it was great fun (and very time consuming) stamping our way all over the area with big sticks trying to find the original holes. We found 8 but had to concede failure to find the 9th so had to resort to creating our own 9th hole in a place where we thought one should be, and yes you’ve guessed it, as soon as we had we found the original 9th! Steve created “fairways” between the holes and left in between areas “rough”. Old poles were newly painted and striped and a teeing off area roped off. There was a grand opening with our fellow site managers and we all enjoyed a fun game before the members arrived. Hopefully by the end of the season with a lot of practise we might just get round in under 25 – wishful thinking.
Opening day was soon upon us, the site looked very smart, everywhere swept, tidied, cleaned, strimmed, mowed and ready to welcome the Members. Countdown to 12 o’clock and the gates were opened. And they came – one after another, and another and another. A never ending stream of white pristinely polished caravans and motorhomes like a big snake winding its way down the drive through the forest and into the arrivals lanes. It was full on for a few hours checking them in in the office and outside directing traffic and keeping everything flowing smoothly. After having the site to ourselves for the last couple of weeks it was a new experience having to share it with others, but a very proud moment that it looked so lovely and that so many people were choosing to spend their leisure time at our site.
A busy week of comings and goings on site in which we had a couple of days off and went back home to fetch Belle to come and live with us. We had decided to leave her at home for a couple of weeks so we could get all the upheaval sorted in the caravan and awning ready for her to settle in. It was a whistle stop visit for a couple of nights, and boy it was good to be in a big bed, then back to Rookesbury ready for the next Friday rush. The Coronavirus had just started to impact and members were ringing to cancel their bookings both for that weekend and future bookings they had. We didn’t really know at that point how the virus was going to affect the camping and caravanning business but were receiving emails almost hourly from the Club implementing new safety and cleaning procedures for all to follow. On the morning of Sunday 22nd March the email came that all Club sites were to be closed with immediate effect. We were more than half full with members still on site so had the unenviable job of knocking on their doors to inform them all they were being asked to pack up and leave. They were all very understanding and had expected something to be imminently announced, many were concerned not for themselves but for us and how we were going to be affected. It was with tears in our eyes we waved the last one off site on Monday morning.
Time to reflect on our 9 days of being open. We loved every minute. We have never worked so hard, never been more physically tired, never had such a steep learning curve, and never walked, talked and smiled as much as we did. We might have only had 9 official opening days but they were the most enjoyable and satisfying days we have had for a very good while. We are staying on site whilst its closed and look forward to the day we are able to welcome visitors back to our beautiful home.
Catch up with us next time as we have the site all to ourselves and find things to keep us occupied.