The Season starts

Our few settling in days on site since our arrival have flown by, we longed to have days out to the coast which we had missed so much but apart from the fleeting view of the Solent as we travelled to our essential shopping store we resisted the urge. The winds for the first 2 weeks of the month were amongst the worst we have experienced in a caravan, night after night we were convinced the awning was going to take off and fly across the site taking everything with it in its wake, the hailstones were so large that with the force of them hammering the roof it was a wonder the skylights didn’t crack and the roof get peppered in dents. The gusty winds continued day and night but thankfully the rain held off and so we were able to set about ticking off the maintenance jobs needed around site. Fence painting, gutter clearing, service point repairs, fire point signs and bells repainted, jetwashing mossy areas under the trees and all the behind the scenes paperwork ,online training and yearly assessments were done in the days leading up to our contracted open day. The site was ready, we were ready but the UK sadly was still not ready. We were being furloughed again from the official day of opening until the week before the next phase of unlocking, the 12th April, the date the whole touring fraternity was waiting for.

Bluebells in Hundred Acre Wood

Since we arrived back the trees were now beginning to bud with new leaves and blossom, the yellow gorse out in all its glory brightening up the landscape, ivy has been removed from tree trunks and the lower tree branches in the coppices to open up the view across the site. Daffodils, primroses, bluebells and hawthorne blossoms are appearing on a daily basis and the grass is beginning to grow, unfortunately also in the places where we don’t want it to. Wildlife is still laying its claim to the site with the acres of empty pitches giving them a few more bonus weeks of tranquillity before they have to disappear off into the depths of the woods to make way for the members and their white boxes. Muntjac, rabbits and pheasants are all common sites as we share the same big back garden, buzzards circle overhead and the occasional sighting of red kites has us all scanning the sky for more. The woodpecker is back as our morning alarm call, hammering for all he’s worth on the tree right outside the caravan, the bird feeders are visited by chaffinch, blue tits, great tits, nuthatch, goldfinch, long tailed tits, bullfinch, siskin, coal tits and greenfinch to name a few. The big picture window on the front of Bill the Bailey gives us a prime view of them.

Bill the Bailey is proving to be a very nice space to live in. The floor space and openness created by being 8ft wide and having the G format seating layout is very beneficial to full time living. No more dancing around each other just to get from one end of the caravan to the other we can actually pass each other side by side, and no more me having to clamber over Steve to get out of bed for the 3am bathroom visit! Positive luxury compared to last year! We still seem to have the same sudden urge to both try to get through the door at the same time though only to discover that that isn’t any wider than the previous one! Belle has settled in like she’s never been away following us on our walks around the site, climbing trees, chasing leaves in the wind and there’s been a few unfortunate mice and vole casualties that didn’t get the message she was back so ended up spending their last living seconds in her clutches.

Wet and windy days of furlough enabled me to spend some time thinking about a facelift for our social media accounts and so a new logo was designed to mark reaching 500 Instagram subscribers. Also we have added vinyl advertising stickers to Vinny and Bill – thanks to @theweepinkvan- to promote the sites and hopefully reach out to anyone interested in our lifestyle and the places we visit.

After the initial site tidy up the few weeks of furlough passed quickly and before we knew it we were all systems go for the 12th April. The site was booked to capacity for opening day as we were still on hardstanding pitches only. One- o -clock arrived and they were queueing down the hill, a white snake as far as the eye could see. In through the gate came a steady stream of white boxes all shapes and sizes, all eager to find their perfect pitch and start making their memories once again. It was a whirlwind of smiles, waves and catching up with familiar faces from last season. There were an enormous amount of newbies who like last years holidaymakers had migrated over to the caravanning lifestyle due to the “new normal” holidaying restrictions. It was now a very different view looking out of Bills window across our big back garden.

We have managed a few lovely days out when the weather has allowed, aiming for a mix of city and coastal experiences. Emsworth is a picturesque old fishing village at the north end of Chichester Harbour, with narrow streets, walled gardens, Georgian houses and a mill pond. The small town has interesting antique shops and independent art and food shops which are a delight to browse. In the Middle Ages it was a busy port importing wine and later became known for its oyster beds. Oyster production is no more but you can still follow the Oyster Trail which is a historic walk starting from the Museum. Its most famous resident was PG Wodehouse who incorporated several local characters and names into his books.

Emsworth

Another sunny day took us to Titchfield Haven and a walk along the coastal path which rises above Meon Shore Beach giving extensive views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and all the sea traffic navigating the waterway. A walk along the beach passes properties which are a step up from beach huts but not quite permanent residential bungalows the path then climbs up onto the cliff top passing through blossom filled narrow paths then dropping down onto the shingle beach at intervals. We turned back after an hour or so as coffee and cake was waiting for us back in Vinny parked up on the beachfront.

Cliff top walk along the coastal path at Meon Shore

On a City day out we went to Chichester for a spot of retail therapy and culture. We parked easily (the advantage of having weekdays off) and had a very short walk into the main shopping area. The town has a mixture of High Street names and independent retail and having had our fix we then headed for the 12th century Cathedral unfortunately still not open for visitors other than for prayer, but it was very tranquil walking around the grounds and through the cloisters, a calm oasis amidst the bustle of the City.

That’s been our March and April, if you would like to see what we do and where we go next please subscribe to the blog on WordPress and you will automatically be notified when the blog is posted. Alternatively watch out for when the next update is out via Instagram and Twitter @2gocaravanning.

Leaving Home and Arriving Home…

Way back on 4th November 2020 when we arrived back to the house at the end of our first CAMC season, the weeks ahead seemed to be endless especially as the following day the whole Country was plunged into lockdown#2 so life was not exactly going to be the whirlwind adventure we had planned. Fast forward to February 2021 and we were now counting down in days before we returned to Rookesbury Park for our second season as Assistant Site Wardens.

After an uneventful January, February was gearing up to be super busy from the off. After the initial flurry of getting jobs done when we arrived home we had come to a stop after Christmas so suddenly realising our time in the house was now getting shorter there were a few jobs that we wanted to get done before we left. The conservatory walls were given a fresh coat of paint, as was the downstairs loo and the garden given the last tidy up. Then started the task of trying to remember where we had put all the gear we had brought back with us all those weeks ago, and once we had found an item then putting it in a pile in various corners of the house according to where it was going to be packed for travelling. Which of the saucepans in the kitchen cupboard did we bring back? did we leave the patio umbrella there or was it buried under a mountain of other stuff in the garage? where on earth did the caravan tv remote get put? Bearing in mind we also swopped the caravan for a new one during the winter so items that would normally have been stored in the caravan ready to take back had also had to be unpacked and distributed around the house and garage in the meantime. Then it was also time for Bill the Bailey to have his wheels put back on, Steve had taken them off and put fixed winter wheels on as soon as we knew it wasn’t going to be used for a while, mostly as an extra security measure so it couldn’t disappear off the drive in the middle of the night without our prior permission!

Snow fell for the third time in a fortnight and we were keeping an eye on the forecasts for the week we were due to travel, no wind, no rain and no more snow please was our request to the heavens above. The days leading up to travel day were bitterly cold but mostly sunny and we managed to get out for the last of our local walks, having been used to scenic countryside views for the last 4 months we were looking forward to a change of scenery and enjoying sea views again.

Snowy Staffordshire countryside

No family farewells could be planned this time around, no party, no tears and no big send off. Goodbyes were said using WhatsApp video calls and then the time came for us leave. It was a grey day but dry and bright as Vinny and Bill were hooked up ready for their maiden journey together. It was easier to get everything in this time around as we now had much more space in both vehicles than a year ago where we had to squeeze it all in a single axle Sterling and a Kuga, but not forgetting that we had also left a cupboard full of gear at the site as we knew we were returning, not going to be so lucky at the end of this season though as we know we will have to move on for next year. The outfit looked very impressive as we pulled off the drive, 8 feet wide and 43 feet long it was a formidable presence on the road, we just hoped we didn’t meet anything just as wide coming down the lanes on our way out of the village as we were straddling the white line on occasions. We reached the A5 without meeting another vehicle and breathed a sigh as we now knew the roads ahead were all more than wide enough to accommodate our cherished vehicles, Steve is an experienced tower and was soon tuned into the wider width of Bill and how Vinny was coping with the towing, to the point where we had to keep an eye on the speedometer as Vinny was so at ease cruising on the motorway. Belle was again coming with us of course and happy sitting on my lap for the majority of the journey, occasionally sneaking over to Steve’s side to look at the passing traffic out of the side window and attracting a few smiles and waves from the other motorists. The miles were effortlessly whizzing by, the flask of coffee, chicken sandwiches and snacks all consumed and before we knew it there was the signpost. We let out a whoop whoop of joy as we crossed the County line announcing we were in Hampshire but the sky became dark and cloudy as we drove on and the rain became more persistent the nearer we got. By the time we arrived at site it was hammering down hard but the smiles on our faces were not any less as we turned into the gate and rolled down the driveway through the forest towards our home from home for the next 8 months. It felt so glad to be back.

Ready to Roll

A warm welcome was waiting from our Head Site Managers and we eagerly swopped news and stories of our respective time away from each other, they had continued working through lockdown #2 and into the beginning of January so they were now only being able to enjoy their downtime. As the wind and rain continued we manoeuvred Bill the Bailey into our wardens compound which was no mean feat as we were going in crossways this time, so thankful we had paid the extra money to have 4 movers fitted to the twin axle wheels just for such occasions as this. We were in position and level, apart from unloading the caravan so we could access the bed and front seats and finding the kettle we decided to call it a day, the awning could wait for a small window of better weather due the following afternoon. We settled in for our first night living in Bill and were so excited at finding out how comfy the bed was (as this was basically the reason we had bought it) that it wasn’t long before we’d turned in for the night and were falling asleep in our oh so comfy big bed. At that moment life could not have got any better.

Back in our home from home

A busy couple of days followed, the awning was erected and kitted out as our lounge and dining area again, the kitchen and bathroom pods refilled with our essentials and our uniforms unpacked and hung up hoping the creases would drop out. The rain mostly held off but the wind was very strong and we were battered by some horrendous gusts for a few nights, lying awake with fingers crossed that the awning had been secured down well enough to still be there in the morning. Everything had now found its place to be tidied away so we could sit back, relax and enjoy a few days “holiday” before our start work day. Even though by “holiday” I just mean a change of view as we could still not go anywhere other than essential shopping and exercise. Boris was still assessing the effects of the jab on his Corona case numbers and compiling a roadway out of lockdown so at this point we were still unsure if we would actually start on our contracted date or be furloughed to await a date announced sometime in the future. In the meantime the weather took a change for the better and we enjoyed our time during the warm sunny spring days out and about in our big back garden seeing what work had to be done to get it ship shape to open, and hoping we hadn’t become too unfit during our 4 months off to do it!

Catch up with us next time as we hopefully learn when we can open the site and welcome back the members to start making their memories with us once again.

The Year that Wasn’t…

2020, the last year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, however you want to say it, it really wasn’t the one that we were all expecting. Plans were made by the masses for new adventures during the year, sites booked, journeys planned, and for so many their dreams were finally going to become a reality. Along with most of the population we aswell had all that to look forward to. We had high hopes for 2020 it was going to be our year, time to turn the tables on a “standard” way of life, take a different route and embark on an adventure of our own making.

A quick resume of our year goes something like the following; – I won’t go into too much detail for each month as you can catch up in the relevant blogs if feeling so inclined –

January {see Homemaking and Brexit blog} – we left our old jobs and life as we knew it on 31st January. February {see Countdown blog} – we packed up our belongings and arrived at our site that was to be home for the next 8 months. March {see Settling in blog} – we started our new jobs as Assistant Site Wardens, opened the site to members on 12th and closed the site on the 23rd. April {see Lockdown Life blog} – we spent endless sunny days taking local walks, cycling around the site and watching the grass grow. May {see Lost in Lockdown blog} – more sunshine and blue sky, crafting, painting and watching nature return to site. June & July {see Light at the end of the Lockdown Tunnel blog} – the hot weather ended, we opened the site again and excitedly welcomed back the caravanning fraternity. August & September (see Silly Season blog} – days went by in a blur of smiles, waves and happy campers and we bought Vinny the van. October {see Our Season draws to a Close blog} – the end of our season was in sight, arrivals began to slow down and we started packing up our caravan home. November & December {see Returning to Home from Home blog} – we returned to a house, got used to living in 4 walls again and got stuck there in another lockdown.

So that in a nut shell was the year that really wasn’t supposed to be like that. But even so, everything we have done, experienced, achieved and learned in that year has meant we have had some of the most satisfying and enjoyable days of our lives. We have been together – all day – every day – yes absolutely every day – so that in itself has taught us both alot! Mostly patience and toleration I think, which is very much needed in order to keep harmony in such a small space. It is quite surprising how many times you both seem to want to get through a very small caravan door at the same time, and then have a debate on who has the most right to go first! But in the main we have had a ball being together, we laugh all the time – both at and with each other! We are proud of each other for all the new skills we have learnt and handling the new situations we find ourselves in, and have supported and relied on each other through times when the going got tough. So whilst 2020 wasn’t what we expected it to be all in all it was a year we won’t forget for so many more reasons than just Corona Virus.

The novelty of being back within 4 walls was quickly wearing off, being confined to base in the middle of the Country we were really missing seeing the sea. Our planned travel and holiday destinations had been scrapped and replanned several times so now there was no point in planning a Plan D and with lockdown restrictions imposed for a third time we took to exploring the local area. Snow arrived and made everywhere look pretty for a few days so when weather permitted we took walks around our local lanes, trudging through snow, mud and puddles imagining it was the sand and sea on the Spanish coast as per Plan A would have been. The canal and fields around us did look mighty pretty though in the weak winter sunshine.

Local walks around the village

Vinny the van has had a facelift since we have been home, with his wheels being black powder coated, and a rear door spoiler and front bumper splitter being fitted he now looks very smart and ready to face the world out on the open road. A few more areas inside have been covered and carpeted and we look forward to warmer drier days ahead when we can go further afield and get some camping time out of him. Bill the Bailey is having little tweaks and additions ready to become our next home from home. New bedding, throws, cushions and rugs have been added, plate racks and wine glass holders fitted in the cupboards and a clothes rail fitted in the shower area. Although there are more cupboards in the Bailey than the Eccles the wardrobe space isn’t as large so having to take a wide range of clothes to cover every possible weather variant for 8 months it called for an extra rail to be fitted. As the caravan shower area isn’t needed whilst we are sited in our warden compound it seemed the ideal place to be used as an extra wardrobe. That aswell as it being the wine cellar now makes it a much more useful space! Unfortunately he has been covered in snow several times since his arrival on the drive which is making us jittery, we didn’t buy a new cover for him as we had thought we would be out and about travelling during our time off, but it will be on our ‘to get list’ for next Winter as we would prefer him to be tucked up nice and warm and dry when not in use.

New look for Vinny
Bill out in the cold

Desperate for a change of view whilst out taking our daily exercise we went to Shugborough Hall our nearest National Trust property a couple of miles away. It was a beautiful sunny day so we made a flask of coffee wrapped up warm and headed out. Shugborough was the home of the Anson family who became the Earls of Lichfield, the most recent noteable one being celebrity photographer Patrick Lichfield who was the photographer for the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 and the Queens Golden Jubilee in 2002. He continued to live in apartments in the Mansion until his death in 2005, although he had given the estate over to the National Trust in 1960 to cover death duties arising from his grandfathers death. There was plenty of space out and about on the estate without coming into contact with any other walkers, and thousands of acres of big blue sky and fresh air, although a great deal of the gardens and pathways were under several feet of water so impassable in many places. In the walled garden there was an installation of boards showing images from the Garden Photographer of the Year competition which was both very interesting and inspirational to look around. The coffee (and cake) was very welcome when we got back to Vinny after several hours of rambling, and we sat for a while sunning ourselves on his step albeit wrapped up in woolly hats and scarves. Herds of deer also were visible enjoying the warm winter sunshine in the grounds aswell as on Cannock Chase as we drove back through.

Shugborough Hall
Large areas of the estate were flooded

January has proved to be fairly uneventful, mostly days when there was nothing we had to do and also days when there was nothing we actually wanted to do! It has been nice to just sit and watch TV, films and box sets which is something of a luxury as there’s never the opportunity to do that whilst on site, and as the time back here at home is now dwindling fast, weeks now turning into days, we are savouring the little luxuries that would have been taken for granted 12 months ago. Things like a bath, a king size bed, lounging on full size settees, having a bathroom and kitchen you don’t have to go outside to get to, and having every item of clothing and pair of shoes I own available to wear should I fancy to!

It will soon be time to start writing lists and creating piles of items ready to pack up Bill the Bailey and Vinny the Van again and head back down to Rookesbury Park for the 2021 season. I wonder what this year will have in store for us all? who can begin to imagine, but what’s for certain is that we’ll have an exciting adventure every day.

Catch up with us next time as we spend our last couple of weeks living in the house, start packing for our 8 months away and make the return journey to our other home and life.

Returning to Home from Home

Our journey back home from leaving Rookesbury was a strange affair. So many emotions were hitting us, initial sadness at leaving the site and the people behind, happiness at the thought of sleeping in a king sized bed again, apprehension in case we felt hemmed in 4 solid walls, excitement at not working for 4 months, then frustration as we remembered we wouldn’t be picking up our new caravan and heading off on our own holiday adventures anytime soon.

The traffic was moving and the tow an easy one. It was the first time towing with Vinny the Van and he did it with ease. Belle had been zipped into her house, a large carrying case with her bed in it, and placed in the rear of Vinny, hoping she would settle down to sleep as she is not normally a good traveller. We hadn’t gone far when I could hear her scratching about and then suddenly to my amazement a little paw appeared between the front seats then the rest of her as she squirmed her way through the seat gap and onto my lap. And there she stayed for the next 4 hours happy and content either looking out of the window or curled up purring herself to sleep. It seems she’s decided where she will be travelling in future.

Are we there yet?

Gradually we lost the signal for our favourite Hampshire radio station and the road signs for “The Midlands” grew more frequent. We marvelled at new constructions that had appeared and old landmarks that had disappeared during our months away, but one thing that hadn’t changed was the amount of traffic on the M6, how thankful Steve was that he wasn’t sitting in those traffic queues every day now. Pulling onto the drive was surreal, had we really been away for 8 months? It didn’t feel like it. The house looked warm and welcoming, it was clean and tidy, the roof was still on and all the walls were still standing! the kids had done a marvellous job of keeping house for us.

We left everything packed where it was in Vinny and Ruby until the next day whilst we just enjoyed sitting on proper settees and walking up stairs, then began the mammoth task of finding a place for everything to live for the next 4 months. It took 3 days to unpack it all and we are still living with piles of stuff on our bedroom floor and various locations around the house as there’s just no where for it all to go. Belle settled straight back in to her old routines, spending the days sleeping on our bed and sitting by the pond in the garden in the hope of a fish supper. The Rookesbury rodent population must be breathing a sigh of relief as they get a few months off from being hunted. Ruby the caravan was cleaned, hoovered and polished in anticipation of us being able to change it for the new Bailey Pegasus Grande we ordered way back in May during the first lockdown. We were supposed to be picking it up on the 9th November but second lockdown put paid to that. Oh how I wish now that we had arranged for the dealers to deliver it to us during the summer as they had offered, hindsight is a marvellous thing. We had booked 3 weeks away in the new caravan starting the following week which now all had to be cancelled as a: we hadn’t got the new caravan and b: Staffordshire was Tier 3 and so we couldn’t travel out to any sites that were still open. We pinned our hopes on December 3rd and rebooked for then keeping everything crossed we would then be Tier 2.

Arriving home on the day before the second lockdown came into force meant we were suddenly confined to our immediate inland vicinity and it took some getting used to after having had the freedom of coastal excursions on our doorstep for so many months, but the weather was decent and we managed to get external maintenance jobs done on the house. The garden was tidied, gutters cleaned out, patios and drive jet washed and Steve demolished the leaky old shed and erected a lovely new one. Holiday? this was no holiday it felt just like being back at work! Rather different to our planned down time of breakfasts out at Weatherspoons followed by leisurely shop browsing and sightseeing in various locations around the UK. Last January, before we started our new roles, we had booked to spend a month in an apartment on the Spanish coast for January 2021 determined to take advantage of the time off our new life was going to allow us. As the year went by we were increasingly resigned to the fact we weren’t going to be able to go abroad and so it was cancelled. So instead we booked to tour Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Cumbria during January and February, happy that at least we would be seeing lovely sights in our own Country albeit probably in rain and zero temperatures rather than sun and 20 degrees.

December 2nd arrived and we were back in Tier 3 so we were still stuck in the house. There was good news from the caravan dealers that they would deliver the Bailey to us as they could travel for work purposes. Bill the Bailey arrived and was manoeuvred onto the drive, taking up even more room as it is 8ft wide and 26 foot long. At least for now we could admire it and even sit and sleep in it on the drive if we wanted to. December 16th’s review still had us in Tier 3 and in December 30th’s we moved up to Tier 4. January and Februarys travels were cancelled and we are now working on a Plan D.

Bill Bailey arrives on the drive
A snowy walk along the canal
Our view “on site” on the drive

In the meantime we are lucky that we live in a lovely village with scenic views on our doorstep so are able to get out for walks along the canal and lanes, then return to sit in Bill on the drive to drink our coffee pretending we are on a site somewhere! So until we know what Plan D can be along with the rest of the Country we await with baited breath for the next review and update of our Tiers.

Catch up with us next time as we try to to put together a Plan D and review our first season as Assistant Site Managers.

Our Season Draws to a Close

The end of October was rapidly approaching, after weeks of blue sky and sunshine the weather for the last 2 weeks had turned very wet and windy. This was stripping the trees of their leaves at an alarming rate and in turn giving us the massive task of blowing huge piles of them off the pitches and roadways every day. The awning was getting battered by the wind gusts and the sound of rain on the roof was drowning out the tv! so into the caravan we moved. We have only been using the caravan to sleep in for the whole time we have been on site as the awning had been set up as our living dining and lounge area, so having decamped to the caravan it now gave us the opportunity to sort out all the stuff it appeared we had accumulated over the season. Who knew you could cram so much into such small spaces!

We started to sort out and lists were made of what was staying on site to be stored for next year, what was going back home that was needed in our time off, what was going back home but being brought back next season, and what was going back home and staying there. With piles appearing in corners according to what list it was on the floor space was rapidly filling up. We thought we were living minimally but the piles seemed to suggest otherwise.

Packing up

Work had progressed well on Vinny the van just in time for us to grab the last days of decent weather for trips to the coast. We had been told about Titchfield an area of coastline and a National Nature Reserve on the shores of the Solent near Fareham, so to there we headed. It has two shingle beaches – Hill Head Beach and Meon Shore either side of the small harbour with a sailing club. Brightly coloured beach huts line the promenade of one beach and the cafe/tea room has views across the water to the Isle of Wight. Parking is either on a small carpark by the sailing club, along the seafront or on the roadside as it climbs at the far end above the beach huts. We like to park along the seafront wall and sit in Vinny with the side door open onto the beach watching the waves which at high tide crash over onto the walkway. It is very therapeutic watching and listening to the waves rolling in and out on the pebbles whilst having our coffee and cake. I always take a book but very rarely end up reading it as I just get drawn into watching the waves instead. The walk along Meon Shore Beach is backed by high cliffs which is a good area for fossil hunting, also this beach is a prime spot for wind and kite surfers.

Parked along the seawall at Titchfield Haven
Beach huts at Hill Head Beach
Hill Head Harbour and tea rooms
Meon Shore Beach
Coffee and cake in Vinny watching the waves

Another lovely day out was to Portchester Castle. We had passed the signpost off a roundabout every time we went shopping or headed Portsmouth way but for some reason had never quite made the detour. This time it was a specific outing to the Castle and boy did we wish we’d done it sooner. It was a glorious but chilly day in the wind so we wrapped up, made a flask of coffee and headed off hoping as it was midweek that not too many other folk had had the same idea. The road off the busy A27 roundabout soon gave way to historic houses surrounding a quaint village green and the Castle looming ahead. Originally built in the 3rd Century the Castle is the best preserved and most impressive of the Saxon shore forts. It has welcomed Henry Vlll and Anne Boleyn, was transformed into a Palace by Richard ll and was later used as a prison. From the carparks there are walks around the walls and along the coastal path where there are benches to sit and take in the stunning views across the Solent to Spinnaker Tower and the Naval Dockyards, which on our visit had the two aircraft carriers in dock. We sat for quite a while in the sunshine with the binoculars watching their manoeuvres. Inside the walls is housed St Marys Church, a Norman church featuring highly decorative stonework, arches and a medieval font, and a bonus of now being a cafe serving drinks, cakes and more substantial meals, of which we partook all in the name of local area research of course. The homemade Victoria sponge was particularly good, we took a slice back to Vinny and had it with our coffee sitting on the settee/bed in the back admiring the view of the Castle. If you wish to climb the Norman keep of the Castle, or explore further inside and visit the exhibitions there is an English Heritage entrance fee.

Portchester Castle
“I see no ships, only hardships!”

Our official last day should have been the 31st October which was originally the last open day of the site (before the season was extended) we then had a leave site date of 4th November giving us the days between to close the site down. When it was announced the site was staying open we were informed that it only needed one couple to stay on and manage it for the additional 2 months so that meant our leave date was still the 4th November, just getting home in time for the second lockdown to begin. As it turned out, that last weekend was our weekend off duty so we only had to work on the Tuesday before going home on the Wednesday. The day we arrived on site all those many months ago as brand new newbies we were told “before you know it your first season will be over and you’ll be heading home” well they were certainly right on that score. It seemed unreal that we would be returning to the big world beyond the safety of the site gates, and to be honest we weren’t at all sure it was something we were looking forward to. Rookesbury Park had been not just our home but also our life for 8 months and possibly if family and friends could have visited us regularly as per pre-covid life used to allow, we might not have actually left at all!

So the day of our contract end dawned, we had spent our last night in a caravan for a while. Who knew when we would sleep under the stars again now that the second lockdown had been announced. The awning had come down the day before taking advantage of a rare dry spell, the final last minute items were packed back in the caravan and Belle was safely zipped in her travelling house. We took one more walk around the site which was looking magnificent under the clear blue sky and sunshine and then it was time to hitch up. We unlocked the front gates to our compound but they didn’t want to budge, they were stuck fast -was this an omen?- didn’t the site want us to leave? After much tugging they finally gave way and we were able to pull the caravan out and hitch up. The time had come to say goodbye to our work family, strange to think that 8 months ago we didn’t even know these lovely people and now we couldn’t imagine a day without them! With tears in our eyes we climbed aboard Vinny and waved off the season that was 2020. As we pulled away up the driveway we had so nervously arrived down all those months ago as we started our new adventure on our journey into the unknown, we knew for sure we would most definitely be back in March to do it all over again.

Ready to roll

Catch up with us next time as we settle back into life within four walls, hopefully pick up the new caravan we ordered during the first lockdown, and try to plan our own holiday time.

Silly Season

Firstly apologies for it being so long since the last blog update. The last one ended just as the site had reopened on 4th July, so basically that’s the reason I haven’t had the time to write one since! From that day on as we raised the arrival barrier to welcome members back once again it has been non stop. There wasn’t a night where we weren’t full to capacity all through July and August and right up until the last week of September. The weather held out into early October so weekends were still chocablock as we then took capacity down to hardstanding pitches only. From July it would normally have been a steady build up to the school holiday break up at the end of the month with weekdays having a constant tickover and weekends full, but it was noticeable that from day one the site was full of children and families as although the lockdown had eased for travel and some businesses, the majority of schools remained closed and many parents were still furloughed. Having had 9 days of warden life back in March then 96 days furlough, meant that July and August was quite a hard slog and felt like a continual groundhog day. Days went by in a blur, a whirlwind of bin emptying, checking in, block cleaning and keeping members happy on their holidays. It was unbelievable just how many people were wanting to get out in their caravans motorhomes and tents, and also how many families were embracing the lifestyle for the first time. I guess everyone has had to rethink their holiday plans for 2020, those that would have normally spent their time abroad have now had a staycation instead and the freedom and ease of caravanning seems to have appealed to many.

So our summer season was spent in a whirlwind, when at last the August Bank Holiday was over a gentle decline in the numbers on site would normally have begun, families having had their fill of nights in a wobbly box, burnt bbq’s and the sound of rain on the roof. But no, the site was still full weekdays and weekends, everyone was intent on making up for their lost leisure time during the lockdown months and so our season was still going at full steam ahead. It was certainly a full on introduction to life as a Campsite Warden, but as we didn’t know any different it was just another day in paradise to us. The site was taking a hammering from the amount of people using it, grass was looking threadbare in places and there just wasn’t enough time to grass cut, hedge trim and carry out repairs as we would have liked. But members were still very complimentary about the happy atmosphere, friendliness of staff and how they felt safe being on site with all the sanitising and Covid measures we had in place, mask wearing, hand sanitising and social distancing now being normal as part of everyday life. What will normal life look like when they return next season – who knows?

Belle on guard cat duty

The hot sunny weather of lockdown was now hit and miss during the holiday summer months but we did still manage our days out when the rota allowed. We ( I mean Steve) has always hankered after a van instead of a car, both to tow the caravan and just because he enjoys driving vans. In our previous jobs it was me who drove our own car everyday for work and social outings so for practicality a van was not on my agenda. But now, since I hadn’t actually driven any vehicle other than the site tractor since February, it was decided to change the Kuga for a van. More practical now that we had so much stuff to carry about with us and also we wanted a vehicle that could double up as an overnight stay in case we ever got the chance to stay on another site on our time off. So the hunt was on, ideally a VW camper conversion was our goal but we soon realised this wasn’t going to be within our budget so alternatives had to be thought of. After much searching we finally found a possible within a few miles so headed over there to view it on Steve’s birthday at the end of July. It was a Transit Custom, still a panel van but we had big ideas for a conversion to suit our needs and were quite excited at the prospect of doing the work ourselves. The purchase was made and we picked it up two weeks later, our journey into nomadic living had just taken another leap forward, we now owned a van and a caravan.

Vinny outside before
Vinny inside before

Vinny (the van) was now about to be transformed into a day van with a pull out bed, a Club requirement for staying on a site is that the vehicle has to have a proper fixed sleeping area so a blow up Lilo in the back would not suffice. We felt we didn’t need to have a permanent kitchen area, sink or wardrobe as it would only be used for the odd 1 maybe 2 night stay away and we could erect a driveaway awning or tent to house the cooking facilities if needed for then. What we mainly wanted it for was to drive to the beach and sit looking at the view drinking coffee and eating cake. Spare time was spent researching the “look” we wanted and many purchases began arriving daily from ebay and Amazon. The first thing we did was remove the bulkhead and have windows fitted either side. The sides, floor and roof were sound deadened and insulated, new side and roof panels lined with carpet, lights installed and carpet floor tiles fitted. Now the basics had been done it was time for the part I’d been looking forward to – all the furnishings inside. We had a trip to Ikea in Southampton and found a pull out sofa bed that was the exact size to fit between the wheelarches, cushions, throws, curtains and rugs were added and our little home from home was transformed. There are still some areas around the rear doors and pillars that need carpet lining but unfortunately by this time it was the middle of October and the weather had changed to wet and windy. We still managed a few day trips out in Vinny and are eagerly planning many more.

Vinny outside after
Vinny inside after

We had a day trip to Brighton which is about 50 miles away from the site. It was a lovely blue sky and sunshine day and quite warm still, after taking an age to find somewhere to park we then had a walk along the seafront and pier and enjoyed a free icecream. There was a sign out infront of an icecream shop saying “have a free icecream if your name is Sally” so I did! We didn’t get to see much more in Brighton due to parking time restrictions so on the way back stopped off at Arundel and its Castle. Arundel is a picturesque market town with a magnificent medieval castle and Cathedral. It is stylish and full of history with many independent boutiques, antique shops, art galleries and pretty waterside pubs and cafes. A very nice place to wander around its charming back streets, walk along the River Arun and enjoy views of England’s second largest castle.

A great day out in Brighton
Arundel Castle

Back on site Autumn was now visibly on its way, trees were turning all shades of red, orange and yellow, some with their red fruits hanging low ready for birds to feast on, conkers and acorns dropping on those who were unfortunate to pitch under overhanging branches. Leaves were falling ankle deep in places, the leaf blower going into overdrive to keep the roadways and pitches as clear as possible. Threadbare grass pitches were scarrified, raked and reseeded, then we eagerly waited to see the bright green new grass growth, relieved when it started to appear that the birds hadn’t pecked all the new seed away. With the member numbers now dwindling Rookesbury’s animal life was beginning to emerge once again, pheasants strutted their stuff, squarking and showing off their colourful feathers, squirrels were busy collecting acorns stashing them away in their secret stores ready for a winter supper. The woodpecker had also returned to the tree overhanging our compound and could be heard hammering away acting as our morning wakeup alarm call.

Autumn arrives on site

The wildlife should have been lining up to reclaim the site back as their own from 31st October as this was the official season end date, that is up until 10 days before that when we were informed the season had been extended and the new close date was now 3rd January. The phone started ringing off the hook again and bookings began mounting for Christmas and New Year. Members were elated they now had the opportunity to continue making memories and see out the year, one we’ll never forget, in their happy places.

Catch up with us next time as our season comes to a close, we pack up our belongings and prepare to head home.

Light at the end of the lockdown tunnel

So that was summer then, April and May. Endless days of waking up to a view of blue sky and sunshine streaming in through the skylight, no need to don woolley socks and a fleece before venturing out into the awning, hours of reading sitting in a deckchair in the sunny corner of Assistant No;2 compound. June arrived and the nice weather went, almost to the day. We shouldn’t complain its what is to be expected (good old British weather) and we have had an unusually good run of very decent weather, almost to the point where some were wishing for a break from the sunshine and heat- I say almost, but not quite.

We have still managed a few days out between grey skies and showers, and the easing of Lockdown meant we could begin to explore our new surroundings further afield other than the once a fortnight trip driving directly to the food shops and back. We used to catch a glimpse of the sea at Port Solent during these excursions but with a feeling that we ought not to stop and turn it into a sightseeing trip aswell, so a visit to see the sea proper was first on the agenda. I love looking at maps so the green light of Lockdown easing saw me consulting the local area maps to see where we could go. As shops, cafes, attractions were still out of bounds it had to be a scenery day out and I settled on the Chichester Harbour area. Our first stop was Bosham (pronounced Bozzum so im told) a picturesque coastal village situated on one of the small inlets 2 miles west of Chichester. It is a thriving centre for sailing and a favourite haunt for both artists and photographers, and I could immediately see why. On driving into the village it was obvious it was a “well to do” kind of place, thatched cottages with roses around every door, artisan shops, art galleries and tea shops unfortunately closed but available for window shopping as we peered through hoping to see what awaited us should we make another visit later in the year. The short main street lead down to the sea and after stopping at the ice cream shop – yesssss it was open! – we carried on wandering down to admire the view. And how beautiful it was, peaceful, serene and still as a mill pond. The tide was just turning on its way out and puddles of sea water were evident on the road where the water comes right up to the walls of the buildings situated on the front at high tide. There are signs up advising to check the tide times if you leave your vehicle parked there -so be warned! We strolled along the shoreline and around the corner to the small Quay area where sailboats bobbed about and a quaint village green area in front of the church was adorned by people, picnics and blankets, it was just like a chocolate box scene. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts King Harold (of 1066 fame) praying at this Church. The whole persona of the place oozed charm and style, Bosham is a place we will definatley return to at the very earliest opportunity, and not just for the ice cream which was very delicious by the way.

Bosham shore road
Bosham Quay

After reluctantly leaving Bosham we carried on our journey around to the next inlet. We were hoping to go to the beaches at Wittering but signs were out saying visitors needed to book a carpark space prior to arrival and the amount of traffic on the roads leading there convinced us to give it a miss. Instead we stopped off at Dell Quay an attractive little coastal hamlet which in the 10th century was a principle landing port for goods being transported on by road to Chichester. Sail boats were pulled up on the shore as the tide was now receding, we strolled along the shoreline pathway for a while and looked longingly at the pub situated on the slipway wishing it was open for us to partake in a long cool drink of something – cider most likely. Not to be this time around though, another thing to look forward to on our next visit.

Dell Quay

The next phase of lockdown easing was now looming, 4th July was “Campsite Independence Day” and so we were unfurloughed on the 22nd June in order to prepare for the grand re-opening. I kid you not it was a bit of a shock to have to watch the clock again and get back into a structured daily routine. Weeding, strimming, hedging, grass cutting all had to be done with earnest as it hadn’t been able to be touched during furlough, plus all the additional Covid measures that had to be put in place. Signage, social distancing markers, areas to be cordoned off and just keeping up to date with the latest Government and Club guidelines was taking up most of our working day.

Saturday 4th July seemed to have the whole caravanning/camping fraternity in a frenzy of excitement, beside themselves with sheer joy I could see on social media it was surpassing the anticipation of even Christmas Day. We were as ready as we could be and were full to capacity for the first night. We had preallocated everyone a pitch number and phoned them to take payment beforehand so on arrival all we had to do was meet and greet with a big smile and herd them all through onto site. The day went smoothly and the system worked very well, members were over the moon to be back out using their leisure vehicles again and the atmosphere on site was like one big party, unfortunately the weather was wet and windy but it still didn’t appear to dull their enthusiasm. Members embraced the Covid restrictions in place and praised the efforts of all in enabling them to once again escape in their home from homes. We collapsed into our beds that night happy and content we had played our parts in helping them to once again pursue their dreams. Every day since has been ridiculously busy, the whole UK seems to have embraced the caravanning concept with many new comers to the scene keen to get out there and start making their own memories. Business is booming!

Catch up with us next time as we hit the “silly season” full on and continue our lifestyle change journey.

Lost in Lockdown

We have just completed another month in lockdown (69 days to be precise and counting) and it has been, well, uneventful really. Sunshine has been endless, day after day of clear blue skies, occasional fluffy white clouds and light breezes, it certainly has convinced us that the South has better weather than we are used to hailing from half way up the Country in the North Midlands. Living our life 90% outside that makes being on the South coast a definite bonus. Considering there has been three Bank Holidays since the lockdown started its been hot hot hot here, a most unusual occurrence in British weather history. Steve is chasing the shade between the awning and the kitchen/bathroom pods, and I’m bobbing between one chair in the sun and one chair in the shade when it gets too hot even for me. Can’t even begin to imagine how different lockdown life would have been for us so far if the weather had been typically British, and we had been confined to the caravan and awning listening to wind and rain on the roof. Not half as pleasant is all I can say.

Empty pitches ready and waiting for members return

As we look around us surrounded by all the empty pitches, reading on social media how fellow caravaners, motorhomes and campers are missing out on being able to use their outfits, we are aware of how lucky we are compared to those who haven’t been able to enjoy the freedom of being away in their treasured home from home yet this year. The site should have been full to bursting this week with us run off our feet ensuring every blade of grass was in its rightful place and with a cheery smile and wave being dished out to all. Instead we have a very quiet back garden, we can hear every bird’s song, every fox’s bark and owl’s hoot – of which there are many. It is so quiet we even heard a nightjar calling which was a first for me. There is a lot of wildlife on the site that wouldn’t normally be so brave at showing themselves if there were people around. A family of deer are enjoying living in the copse right in the centre of the site, rabbits and hares are basking in the late evening sunshine nibbling the daises and buttercups on the play field, moles have claimed the tent area showing their presence by the many mounds of earth hills that appear overnight, pheasants stalk about the ferry pitch area and strut their stuff along the service roads. There are three species of woodpecker hammering in the trees overhead, Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted and Green. Blue tits, Great Tits, Finches of all descriptions, Thrush, Wren, Jay, Robin to name but a few that visit the bird feeders and of course Rooks that give the site its name sit on the fences keeping watch over their namesake. The glorious sight of Red Kite and Buzzards soaring overhead waiting to swoop down to catch their prey always makes you stop to look up and watch, mind you with Belle now living on their patch the rodent population is seriously scarce so they might be going hungry.

I have always had a fondness of wild flowers, seeking them out and learning their names from an early age whilst exploring during caravanning weekends in Devils Bridge Wales. When your parents caravan only had electric in the later years, never had any tv signal, mobile phones weren’t invented and books were the only source of information, many evenings were spent looking up the days flower finds, copying and colouring in the drawing and cataloguing where it was found. Oh what a simple pleasure that kept me occupied for hours, now I just take a photo on my mobile and within seconds its filed away on a ‘cloud’.

We are still crafting to while away the time, I’ve had a go at quilling, inspired by Kirstie’s Carry on Crafting program, Steve has moved on from drawing sailing boats to trying his hand at perspective street scenes and outlines of the female form – we shall say no more on that subject, just that I haven’t had to be a life model yet thankfully! He is now learning French and Spanish so our conversations may get a bit limited in the near future if I don’t keep up with him. He does grasp it quickly to be fair so that will stand us in good stead for our adventures in Europe once we are allowed again.

Quilling projects

Following the easing of lockdown to enable us to travel further afield we made the 340 mile round trip journey to home and back in a day. We needed items from home that we originally thought wouldn’t be needed for a while as we planned to be going back home plenty of times to collect them. Summer clothes weren’t initially even on the ‘leaving home list’ as it was February when we left with no glimmer of warmer days on the horizon, so when lockdown arrived along with the sunshine we were totally unprepared clothes wise. A trip to Tesco, being the only shop open to sell clothes alongside food, and being lent items by the other site managers got us through for a few weeks but we longed for our own favourite summer attire. Steve was also desperate for his bike and I wanted my mini sewing machine to have a go at various little projects. It was a flying visit to home to see Mitch and Chloe and the house. It still has a roof on so we are very proud of them for managing that! Neighbours were a bonus to see on the drive (you know who you are!) and a great socially distanced catch up was had. A socially distanced visit was then made to both Dads, then onto Jess, Simon and grandson Harry. Very strange and sad not to be able to hug our family but a necessity to keep everyone safe. We had a good journey back to site with a car packed to the roof of more ‘essential stuff’ and arrived back weary but very glad we had been able to get to see our loved ones even if it was for just a few minutes each and from the end of the driveways.

Days blur from one day to the next and we lose all track of time, day and date. How hard are things going to be to conform once again to a structured day of work life? Very I think. We are having a taste of retired life but we know luckily with the bonus of still being paid – although currently furlough pay- but a full wage is still a necessity for a good few years yet. Some days we quite like being semi retired but other days we really need to get back to a new normality and get on with what we came here to do.

Catch up with us next time as we go into our third month of furlough and semi-lockdown. Hopefully we will have some news about site openings and life resuming in a new normal way.

Lockdown Life

As you know from the last blog the majority of the CAMC sites network were closed on 22nd March, we waved the last member off site on the 23rd but as we were paid up to the 31st we were still duty bound to work our allotted hours until the last day of the month. So even though it was a nailbiting few days and many hours were spent running through various scenarios as we didn’t know quite what was going to happen to us come the 1st April, we carried on with the groundworks, cleaning, painting, office work and generally keeping the site looking its best. It was a strange sight after all the hustle and bustle of the last 9 days to see the pitches empty with no-one to wave and chat to as we went about our daily duties.

Empty pitches

Confirmation came that we were going to be furloughed and we had the option of remaining on site here or going back home for the duration. It was an easy decision to make which was to stay put here, this was now our home and we love it. We felt it wouldn’t have been fair on Mitch and Chloe for us to descend back on them and interrupt their daily routines just as they are beginning their life living together, and we are perfectly happy in our own little space with less housework, less cooking and less washing to do! So at the end of the day on 31st March we hung up our boots and uniform not knowing when they would be worn again. However long lockdown was going to be in place for the Club had already given us a date of the 30th June that the sites network would be closed until, so currently 1st July is our target to reopen. We watch and wait every day for a further update on this.

1st April, April Fools Day, and it wasn’t a joke – we really were sitting here in our caravan looking out at a deserted site and not allowed to touch a blade of grass, sweep a pitch or even answer the office phone. The gates were closed and locked top and bottom of the entrance drive and we were in effect cut off from the outside world, our ‘household’ consisting of the 6 of us, being Steve and I, the 2 other site assistants and the 2 site managers, who had all elected to stay here aswell. It was the first day of a new normal that didn’t feel very normal at all to any of us, this certainly wasn’t how we expected our first year of our new life adventure to be panning out, but we are in the same situation as most people in the UK and worldwide and in fact feel we are a lot better off than a good many. We have a safe haven where we can isolate but still be immersed in the surrounding countryside and appreciate nature and all the therapy it has to offer.

We have been able to explore the immediate surrounding area of the site on foot, which is something that we probably wouldn’t have had the time to do during the normal open season, any time off and we usually head to the coast. Rookesbury Park is situated in the middle of Hundred Acre Wood which is part of the larger Forest of Bere. A gate leads out of the site into the wood which is currently carpeted in bluebells, I have spent many hours strolling through the trees and exploring the pathways in the quest for the perfect bluebell photo. Through the wood a path leads to Wickham village via an approx. 40 minute walk down onto the Meon Valley Trail, a disused railway line. The original 22.5 mile railway was opened in 1903 and then closed to passengers in 1955 and freight in 1968. Its most significant place in the history books came in June 1944 at Duxford Station (just a couple of miles North of us) when Winston Churchill met with his war cabinet, Dwight Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle in a secluded station siding to finalise plans for the D- Day landings. Tens of thousands of troops were camped in the area and the Leaders went on a morale boosting tour before returning to the Station to reboard the train. The 11 mile section of the railway from West Meon to Wickham was transformed in 2015 into a multi user route for walking, cycling and horses and connects with the South Downs Way. It passes under several bridges, through tunnels of over hanging trees and opens up into sunny open stretches to views of surrounding fields and villages. Butterflies flutter along beside you as you walk, busy bees buzz, all manner of birds attempt to out-sing each other and patches of bluebells, celandines, primroses and wild garlic are glorious in the grass at the sides of the trail. We have walked a few miles both North and South on the trail so far, and am building up to the whole stretch!

Meon Valley Trail

Immediately to the right of our entrance gate off the road is a Forestry Commission area of the Forest of Bere known as West Walk. It has picnic areas, a woodland adventure play area, den building area, off road cycling trails and miles of walking paths through open spaces, heathland, farmland and woodland. It also connects directly with the Meon Valley Trail so we have several accessible options to access the area. We have explored 2 routes of this Forest so far and look forward to finding many more in the coming weeks/months.

Plenty of trails to explore in Forest of Bere

The weather has actually been amazingly good since we stopped working so the non walking days have mostly been spent sitting in the lovely sunshine. Can’t believe how quickly they fly by when really we are doing very little other than reading, watching tv and snoozing. The first week Steve was a bit unsure what to do with himself, he spent the time milling about and frustrated that he couldn’t cut grass, which had become his favourite job on site – nothing to do with the power of being in charge of the ride on tractor of course! I have hardly ever had time just to please myself without having to sacrifice something I really ought to be doing, so this was quite a revelation for me and I am enjoying every minute! Thankfully I had brought some of my crafting kit back with me from the 2 days we went home just before the lockdown came into force so I am in my element having now got the time to devote to this. Had I known lockdown was coming I would have loaded up with alot more bits and bobs from home as now I’m frustrated that i’ve got all the kit I need for more projects but its 200 miles away and I just can’t get to it! Thank goodness for Amazon and Ebay, they are delivering practically on a daily basis to the site as we all turn our hands to new crafts, ideas and projects to keep us occupied. Steve has now settled down into daily furloughed life and is spending his time running, reading and learning to draw. Ships are the current subject matter and I must say he is doing very well, I have commissioned one that can be framed so the pressure is on to get it just right! I have been making cards from handmade paper which is what I used to do for my @gallery12 previous life, the subject matter of those has changed to caravans with the hope I might sell them in the site shop at some point. Also I have had a go at felting which is something that has been on my ‘stuff to try’ list for a while, and am quite happy with the progress on that craft so far. I have made flowers with needle felting and a little bag, and a seascape and landscape that I will embroider on at some point when further supplies arrive from Ebay! I also had a bash at crochet but have to report at this current moment its not something I have mastered, I can do the stitches ok but just cant get my fingers coordinated to hold the wool correctly, and it actually must be quite painful for a practised crochet-er to watch me! Still there’s plenty more time to get to grips with that one – hopefully practise makes perfect or at least an average attempt.

Papercraft cards
Felting makes so far

Belle has settled into caravan life easily and enjoys coming and going as she pleases in and out of the awning. Even when we batten the groundsheets down thinking we have her contained she manages to find a way out of the smallest spots to escape and go on her explorations. She happily follows Steve around the site and even up the driveway to the top gate and back just like a dog would travelling for miles on her little legs. Sadly the rodent population of Rookesbury will be very depleted whilst Belle is on site, she is an ace mouser and loves to bring her catch back to show us. Most are still alive and are carried in her mouth back to the awning unharmed so we are able to confine Belle and release the poor little creatures back into the undergrowth, hopefully they do survive and their little hearts don’t give in due to the fright! This is a daily occurrence usually just as we are sitting down at teatime, so everything turns into chaos as we chase Belle, chase the mouse/vole and return it to freedom to live another day, and stay out of Belles way in the future.

Belle keeping an eye on her territory

After a month of blue skies and warm sunny weather it has now turned showery, windy and much cooler so we are spending our time in the awning rather than outside, and occasionally in very windy wet weather retreating inside the caravan. Thankfully we have a great space in the awning and its set up to be a very comfy and roomy lounge and eating area. It has led us to think that you don’t actually need a lot of space to live comfortably and wonder why the majority of the population (us previously included) crave bigger properties, more rooms, vast areas of floor space, bedrooms that are never used except to store an excess of shoes and clothes, and one for “just in case anyone comes to stay” -which they never do. It has certainly changed our outlook on life as we can now see that living simpler with less clutter, less possessions and the stresses that come with it is the way forward, and at this moment can’t actually see ourselves wanting to live in a conventional house again. Oh dear, as I write this we can’t actually hear ourselves think for the sound of hail on the roof and thunder in the distance! Not to worry, the blue sky will be back again in a minute and serenity will return, we’ll be able to hear the birds singing, see the leafy trees gently swaying and the sun will bathe our little piece of heaven again right here.

Catch up with us next time as we go into our second month of lockdown and furlough.

Bluebells in Hundred Acre Wood

Settling In

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”

Perfect pitch

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.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside Hayling Island
Gun Wharf Quay Old Portsmouth

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.

Information Room on site

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.

Hole in one?

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 Warm Welcome

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.