The beginning of September arrived and once the shock and excitement had sunk in of knowing where our new home was for next season we continued to dedicate ourselves to the remaining 8 weeks left at Rookesbury Park. The sun was still shining and days still warm, but there was a misty dampness creeping in each early morning and daylight was slowly getting shorter as the month progressed. Autumn was on its way. Pitches were still full to capacity, booked up mostly by motorhoming couples during the week venturing back out now the school holidays were over and families still enjoying the late summer sunshine at weekends.
Rumours began to arise concerning a fuel shortage, members were arriving with tales of queues at petrol stations and several were phoning to cancel their stay as they were unsure if they would be able to get enough fuel to make the journey. Living and working on site we are mostly shielded from goings on in the big wide world outside of our own small existence, but we were kept up to date by members regaling their stories of how many hours they had queued for fuel so they could get away for their longed for breaks. Some already on site just extended their stay with us and sat it out until the panic died down and all was well again, which it was within a couple of weeks.
The leaves on the trees were starting to turn to autumn shades and fall from the branches at a never ending rate, and so began the mammoth daily task of gathering them into piles, loading grab bags and carting them off to the grass dump area. By the next day the same areas were carpeted with just as many leaves as we’d just swept up. Being immersed in the changing seasons is one of the main things I love about the job and lifestyle we chose. Being out there every day makes you so much more aware of nature, the cycle of the seasons and the great outdoors. Buds appear on bare branches, then blossom turns to leaves and suddenly canopies of green shades cover the landscape, then just as quickly they have changed to oranges and browns and are falling to the ground leaving bare branches again.
Even though the seasons were on the change the sunshine was still holding on and it was still warm enough to spend a day on the beach on the 22nd of the month.
At the beginning of October we had the opportunity to visit our next seasons site Start Bay. We went in Vinny the van and spent a fun and fact finding couple of days with our new Site Managers. The site was looking glorious and we began visualising ourselves doing the bin run, trimming the hedges and carrying out the many daily tasks as we strolled around trying to commit to memory what pitch numbers were where. We are already familiar with the area and coastline where the site is situated from many years of family holidays around Dartmouth so were soon feeling comfortable re-acquainting ourselves with the villages and tourist spots. We were introduced to some of our new neighbours over a few pints of the locally brewed cider in the nearby microbrewery – and you can’t get more local than it actually being right next door to the site, so I have a feeling we may be getting more than familiar with this establishment during future months!
Purely for research purposes – of course – we ate out at the Start Bay Inn for our evening meals and had coffee and cake at the Billy Can both a short 15 minute stroll down to the seafront at Slapton Sands. Both were very friendly and welcoming places and will be regularly used by us I predict! The Billy Can Cafe’s interior plays homage to the historic tragedy that took place on the Sands in 1944. On the night of 27th April during World War Two 946 American servicemen died during Exercise Tiger, which was a rehearsal for the D-Day landing. The area around Slapton Sands was selected as it was almost a perfect replica of the French coast at Utah Beach where the Normandy Landings took place. Exercise Tiger was designed to be as realistic as possible with landing craft loaded with soldiers and tanks and equipment deployed along the coast. However unbeknown to the military nine German E -boats had slipped in under the cover of darkness and wiped out several of the American landing ships in the bay. Despite the tragedy the exercise continued and later that year on the 4th June the residents of Dartmouth were ordered to stay indoors as tanks rolled through the town and troops converged on the harbour. The following day 485 ships set sail and at dawn on the 6th June the invasion of France began. The whole event at Slapton was such a fiasco and embarrassment that it was kept secret for 30 years. If you visit Slapton Sands now you will find an American Sherman tank on the beachfront carpark that was raised from the seabed in 1984 and now stands restored as the unofficial Tombstone for the soldiers who lost their lives during Exercise Tiger. I will end the history lesson there for this blog as there is so much more to this story and the part the area played in WW2 and continue with more in future blogs when we will be actually living and working there.
Back at Rookesbury we were on the last push to the close of season which mainly consisted of weeding, sweeping and maintenance ready for next season. In between we were beginning to pack up our belongings and do alot of head scratching at the thought of trying to fit everything we had accumulated in the last 2 seasons into a caravan and Transit van to get it all back to our house home. Piles began to appear in various corners of the awning and cardboard boxes filled to brimming. Last November we were spared from taking most of our gear home as we knew we were returning to the same site in the March so were able to leave it in storage there, but this year it all had to come back with us. Every nook and cranny was getting stuffed to the max.
We still had days off and made sure we visited our favourite haunts for the last time- for a while anyway. Port Solent, Southsea, Titchfield (and the Toby Carvery!) were all said goodbye to with a tear in our eye. We have so loved Hampshire, these places and more, and even though the road systems still continued to baffle us the area really felt like it was home.
The days flew by, last bin run, last toilet block clean, last duty rota and finally the last opening day of the 2022 season. The last night and morning saw a half full site of members squeezing in the last few hours of their memory making caravan times before mothballing their happy places until the next year. It amazes me now to think that we in our time as holidaying caravanners did that same thing – packed it all away, put the cover on and looked at the caravan sitting on the drive from November to March. Why? Why did we do that? And I really cant think of a credible answer or reason for it. Hopefully with the last 2 years of enforced staycations and peoples freedoms having been restricted it might just prompt a different mindset that your happy place is available for use all year round not just for summer time.
A week of closing down the site and cramming all our worldly goods into Billy the Bailey and Vinny the Van and we were ready to hit the road. Pulling out of Rookesbury was very emotional, it was where we were inducted into the culture of vanlife living that was now going to be our full time life – oh yeah more on that in a minute – where we learned new skills both practical and lifestyle, where we were given an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, where we enjoyed living closely with nature and where we made friends for life. It was a tough one but everyone was telling us we were ready for it. It was now time to head back out into the big world and start that adventure all over again.
So we arrived back home to our bricks and mortar. It took a while to get used to stairs and opening doors with handles and everywhere felt very big and open. Having so much room to move about was quite a novelty. We were home for 3 weeks then escaped to the sunshine of Fuertaventura for 2 weeks of all inclusive hotel life. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t wall to wall sunshine and towards the end of the fortnight we were itching to get back to our own surroundings, albeit we were very grateful and fortunate to have had some downtime before we had to hit the ground running as soon as we returned. During a visit down to us in the summer our son and his girlfriend had broken the news that they were buying their own house and so would be moving out of our family home. They had been living in and looking after it from when we made the move to our new caravanning life in February 2020, but now felt the time had come for their own property. This then prompted another lifechanging decision on our part – keep the house? – sell the house? We did alot of sums and soul searching and finally decided that we don’t actually need, and mostly don’t actually want a house any longer. The upkeep both in bills and maintenance was more than we wanted to commit to going forwards, we will have neither the time or inclination to keep returning to Staffordshire on our days off just to cut the back lawn and spend a night in a proper bed, we would rather be in Vinny by the sea. So the house went on the market on the 21st December and we accepted an offer for the full asking price on the 23rd December. New life sorted! Things are now progressing as they do in Solicitors time and we are drowning in a sea of boxes and ebay sales. Everything has to be sold as we are not going to have another house for the time being, choosing instead a life on the road for the who knows how long future. We have a storage container locally so everything that we aren’t quite ready to part with or that we know we’ll never part with, has been loaded into that to be stored for whenever the time comes to open it up again and decide what happens next. We are amazed at what we have found and didn’t know we still had, and are in constant awe at why we have kept most of it.
So that’s where we are currently in our constantly evolving life adventure, the next chapter has begun and will be continued as we leave the house on 24th February to head for Start Bay and our new season as Assistant Site Managers there in Devon.
Catch up with us next time as we leave a house behind, settle in on our new site and begin full time vanlife.