Blog Feed

There’s no place like home

After arriving back to our new home in the second week of November we threw ourselves into decorating and renovations, and also shopping for all the items we had either sold, given to charity or taken to the tip a few months previously. There has been a few items with hindsight we wish we had kept but who knew at the time that we would be back in a house within a year. Having disposed of every stick of furniture we owned it has been great fun discovering the many antique and pre-loved shops in our area finding pieces suitable for a 19th century cottage. We are very well placed in Shropshire with Ironbridge, Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Church Stretton and Shrewsbury on our doorstep to make the most of all that’s available.

Sunny Shropshire

The place isn’t very big and there wasn’t too much that needed doing, so once the tasks we could tackle ourselves had been accomplished we started to plan the bigger changes we wanted to make, like replacing the bathroom and adding a downstairs wc and cloakroom. Creating the new cloakroom would end up leaving the kitchen too small so an extension was then going to be needed to remedy that. Oh and while we were at it why not build a front porch and change the external doors for ones more aesthetically suited to the property. Ambitious plans costing alot of money and requiring planning permission unfortunately. Not to mention that we are also situated in a conservation area so negotiating with the local Heritage Planning Dept was going to need some time and patience. The bathroom replacement was a quick win so that was planned in to start when we leave the cottage to return to site at the end of February. Albeit it is then going to be sitting there unused until November it is going to be easier to carry out the work without us being there.

Through November the weather was mostly dry with sunny blue skies so we took days out combined with antique shop browsing to the surrounding towns and villages. Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge are 10 minutes away and we must admit to visiting several times for breakfast in a cafe along the River front. They do the best scrambled egg on toast. We park in the large pay and display by the Visitors Centre and walk up alongside the River Severn to the Bridge then browse the bookshops and gift shops before inevitably ending up in the Antique centre back by the carpark, with a few exciting finds having been purchased from here so far. The iconic bridge was built by Abraham Darby III in 1779 and was the world’s first bridge constructed from iron. Ironbridge Gorge is home to several museums and heritage sites preserving it’s national importance of being the roots of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage site covers 5.5kmsq and it was in Coalbrookdale in 1709 that Abraham Darby I developed the production technique of smelting iron with coke ( not of the cola kind!) which began the Great 18th century iron revolution. During the next century associated works and foundries sprung up in the surrounding areas benefitting from this new industry, and consequently dwellings appeared on Horsehay Common probably built by squatters drawn to the area by work, one of which is ours.


Right on our doorstep we are finding walks and discovering the history of the area along the way. The Coalbrookdale Company needed additional furnaces and Horsehay Pool provided a sufficient water supply and land for lease. The furnace at Horsehay first came into blast on 5 May 1755. A railway from Horsehay to the nearby Severn wharves was built and the first waggon of ‘pigs’ (iron) was shipped down through Coalbrookdale and on to the wharves almost within sight of the Ironbridge that was to be completed 24 years later. The Coalbrookdale Company further developed the area, constructing brickworks and later a pottery in 1838.

Horsehay Pool at the bottom of our lane

Shrewsbury is our nearest big market town, again set on the River Severn it is the county town of Shropshire and only 9 miles from the Welsh border. The town centre still boasts a medieval layout, has 660 listed buildings some timber framed dating back to the 15th century and is the birthplace of Charles Darwin. Its windy back streets and passages house many interesting independent shops, our favourites being an antiquarian bookshop and traditional ironmongers.

Shrewsbury Park alongside the River Severn

Bridgnorth, a town just along the River Severn, has also yielded a few choice pieces for the cottage from its many interesting shops. Built up on the hillside of the fast flowing River there is a Low Town and High Town. Also it is the main station for the Severn Valley Railway, a 16 mile heritage steam line running along the Severn Valley Gorge. A ruined castle stands on the hill and a cliff railway (when in use) can take you between Low and High town giving far reaching views across the Shropshire countryside.

As Christmas approached we put the DIY on hold and decorated the cottage ready for the festive season. The family were glad we had now got an oven big enough to take the turkey and that the task of cooking Christmas Dinner was safely back in Mom’s hands and her kitchen! I really don’t think any of them were relishing the thought of eating a barbecued chicken leg sitting in a draughty awning – they haven’t as yet fully embraced the caravan lifestyle.

Cosy for Christmas
Polar Express events at Horsehay Station Telford Steam Railway

However the week before Christmas things took an unexpected turn with my Dad who was 101 having a fall at his home and breaking his hip. Christmas and New Year was fitted in around hospital visiting hours but despite putting up a brave fight, fraility and old age took its toll and he lost his battle for recovery in mid January. The following weeks were taken up with organising his affairs and arranging the funeral. Two months short of reaching 102 he still looked forward to every new day and what he could learn from it, never looking or acting his ripe old age he was a true inspiration to us all.

Time was now marching on and with only two weeks left at home our thoughts needed to be focusing on getting back to work. It was a tall order as there was still so much we wanted to do in and around the cottage, still so many places to visit and many days to spend just sitting by the fire, reading and dozing. In reality our winter at home and our 4 months (nearly) off work had come to an end and our other life was now beckoning.

Catch up with us next time as we leave our winter home and return to our summer home on site.

Homeward Bound

After the sale of the family home at the beginning of the year, and us initially thinking we would be fulltime van-dwellers for the foreseeable future, the ‘foreseeable’ only turned out to be a few months. It was a perculiar feeling not having somewhere to call ‘home’ and not one we had expected to feel at all. Far from feeling free and unshackled we felt lost and adrift, nomads with no roots. There may be many reading or listening to this who are living their dream of permanent vanlife and horrified that we have committed to bricks and bills again (but thankfully with no mortgage this time) there will be those that are in between lifestyles wondering whether to take the plunge and sell up and equally those who couldn’t contemplate life without a castle to call their own. Not one option is right for everyone and whatever you choose or believe to be the right decision at the time doesn’t have to be a forever decision. Its OK to change your mind and travel a different road, the main thing is to do what’s right for you. For us that’s having the best of both worlds, we love living in the caravan and the lifestyle our jobs as assistant site managers gives us, but after 8 months of that we are equally happy to have a proper roof over our heads for the winter and an oven I can fit the turkey in on Christmas Day!

So subsequently we started looking for a new abode, which wasn’t easy being 250 miles away from our search area. We’d settled on an area of Shropshire as it was equal distance between family and after Steve announcing he’d always wanted a cottage with 4 windows on the front and a door in the middle that’s what we were on the hunt for. It didn’t take long to find just that and on a day off we were whizzing up the motorway from Devon for a viewing. All the way up the M5 we were trying to convince each other there was no way we would be buying it, we were just looking. Yeah right, once we saw it there was no way we would be walking away! It was perfect, big enough for the two of us and small enough to lock up and leave when we were away during the caravan working season. We were looking forward to being home for winter already!

A misty morning in Shropshire

Meanwhile we still had 2 months of warden life to plough on with in Devon. After plenty of much needed rain newly seeded pitches were springing back into life with bright green blades of grass visible through the once bare earth. Trees were dropping their leaves early due to the hot weather and others were starting to turn towards shades of autumn. For so long the caravan door had been permanently flung open to cool down but now increasingly we shut out the cold, wind and rain and kept cosy warm in our small space. Days were still sunny but temperatures dropped once the sun went down.

Seasons starting to change

We were still keen to get out and about realising our sightseeing opportunities around here were numbered as time was drawing nearer by the day to us leaving the area.

Burgh Island and Bigbury on Sea are a short hop along the coast and an iconic South Devon landmark. Featured in many TV and film locations the Island is only accessible at low tide by walking across the sands or by way of a sea tractor at higher tide. It boasts an art deco hotel built in 1929 that welcomed many rich and famous keen on its exclusive location. Agatha Christie was a regular visitor and used the setting for two of her novels which she wrote in the beach house. You can walk around the island and climb the hill above the hotel for stunning views both back to the mainland across the sands and in the other direction out to sea. Don’t forget to make a note of the tide times though otherwise you’ll get wet feet or have to queue for a tractor ride back!

Views from Burgh Island

Away from the coast we visited South Devon Railway. A steam heritage line first built in 1872 where you can ride the 14 miles from Buckfastleigh to Totnes and back through the stunning valley of the River Dart. There is refreshments, a gift and very extensive model shop, a museum, gardens and a picnic area at Buckfastleigh Station.

Cockington Court and village is a lovely place to stroll, visit art and craft studios and have a great lunch at the Drum Inn. It is by Torquay so we try to combine it with a trip across the River for other reasons. Cockington Country Park is an area of woodland, parkland, rural countryside and formal garden landscapes and amongst the 450 acre site there are ornamental lakes, a Manor House, chocolate box thatched cottages, art and craft studios, an 11th century church, picnic areas and a cosy pub serving delicious food. Inside the 16th century manor house there are over 20 craft studios, a contemporary art gallery, a tea room and a rose garden, and housed in the stables behind you can watch craft makers at work blowing glass, a blacksmith creating items at his forge, a chocolatier, leather maker, jeweller and sculptor to name a few. The Cockington Estate was owned by only three families from 1066 through to 1932 when it passed into public ownership and was created into a Park in 1991. There is a visitors centre in the heart of the village together with a tea room and a number of gift shops and a game of cricket can be watched enjoying a picnic on the sloping grass banks in front of the manor house. All very quintessentially English!

Cockington Village and Church

Middle of October was time to take down the awning and assess what had to go where ready for taking home or staying in the caravan for next season. Lists were made so as not to misplace anything and piles of our belongings began to appear on every available inch of floorspace. Who knew we had so much or even needed so much stuff in such a small space. The site numbers dwindled first week into November somedays with no comings or goings at all, so slowly the site began to prepare for closedown. Goodbyes and best wishes were given to the seasonal members who had become good friends during their time with us and then it was our time to go too. We pulled out of the gates at 7am to be sure to miss the bus and anything bigger coming the otherway. Vinny the van pulling Bill the Bailey are 40ft long and 8ft wide so meeting another vehicle on these Devon lanes was not going to be a pleasant experience. Luckily it all went to plan and we were soon on the wider roads heading North. We waved goodbye to Devon, its stunning coastline, glorious beaches and picture postcard villages and focused our sights on the next adventure – home.

Don’t forget to read next time as we begin work on the new house and get out and about in Shropshire.

Summer Sunshine

July and August saw an influx of families and holidaymakers spending their 2 week annual summer holiday at Start Bay site. After having mostly couples stay during the early part of the season the change in site dynamics was very apparent. Add to that the hot summer temperatures and being by the sea in Devon, the site definitely had that holiday feeling. Caravans and campers arrived laden down with paddleboards, kyhaks and all manner of water sports equipment that was carried down to the sea every morning by eager enthusiasts and then wearily trudged back up to site just before sunset. Wet suits and swimming gear were hanging out to dry on every washing line ready for use again the following day, and ice creams were outselling the cream teas. The location of our site was a winner for coastal activities and even just for enjoying being by the sea and not necessarily in it – as is the case for me!

Steve was keen to embrace the water sport culture and so had a days paddleboard tuition on a course in Dartmouth. After a theory lesson on land they hit the water and paddled down the estuary heading for Dartmouth Castle at the mouth of the river, weaving in and out of the creeks, amongst the moored boats and getting enviable views of the millionaires houses clinging to the steep hillsides overlooking the River Dart. Thankfully the weather was still very hot so his (quite a) few dunkings into the water was actually welcomed and he had the last laugh over those that had mastered the art of standing upright and staying on the board better than him! A few days later he got the chance to have another go at North Sands Salcombe, whilst I watched from a dry spot on the beach.

Steve paddleboarding at North Sands Salcombe

At the beginning of August we made a trip back to Rookesbury Park site in Hampshire where we had worked the previous two seasons. We went in Vinny the van and really enjoyed being “the other side of the fence” for a few days staying on a pitch amongst other members and using all the site facilities for a change. You really do appreciate the standard of cleanliness  knowing all the hard work that’s gone into it. Rookesbury had a little makeover during last years closedown and now boasts 10 fully serviced pitches which were proving to be very popular and the whole site was looking splendid, even with brown grass. We were able to catch up with familiar faces and friends we had made during our time there and it was good to see so many still returning for their weekends away and main summer holidays. In fact we enjoyed being back there so much it got us thinking about next years placement and without having to confer and with no debate we both confessed we wanted to return for next season. Selection 2023 process was announced and Rookesbury Park was our choice, we then had to wait another month until the beginning of September to find out our future. 

Weekend at Rookesbury Park

A few days after returning from Rookesbury our world was rocked and our hearts broken. Belle our beautiful cat was found lying at the site entrance by a passing motorist and carried to a patch of grass just inside the gates. There wasn’t a mark to be seen on her and she was always very mindful of cars and traffic never venturing onto the road, so we will never know what really happened to her, she was just in the wrong place for a split second and her 9 lives were obviously all used up. For quite a while afterwards we spiralled into despair, overcome by sadness and loss and it became tough to then love and appreciate the site and the area that had taken Belle from us. We knew then for sure we could not stay another season working here in Devon, the memories were too painful to bear.

Our beautiful Belle

Without Belle to keep us on the site in our time off we planned another few days away in Vinny at Trewethett Farm CAMC on the north Cornish coast between Boscastle and Tintagel. We bagged a stunning pitch on the front row with uninterrupted views of the sea and the famous sunsets and enjoyed a couple of days as holidaymakers. We caught the bus which stops outside the site entrance and got off in pretty Boscastle a couple of miles away. We had visited there previously and so had a nice wander around the village and walked down the inlet past the harbour to where the river meets the sea. A hundred years ago Boscastle was a busy commercial port and the only place where a boat could pull into harbour along the 40 miles of the north coast of Cornwall. Perhaps it is more famous  recently due to the flash floods in 2004 that washed many cars out to sea, flattened around 1000 trees, destroyed homes and businesses and deposited 20 years of silt and sediment on the village in a few hours. The Visitors Centre shows news footage of the scenes as it was unfolding and its incredible to see the force of water as it rages down the valley taking everything with it in its wake. Today the village stands proud and picturesque with little signs of the devastation in endured that day.

Perfect pitch at Trewethett CAMC

I had heard of a picturesque spot just a few miles along the coast called Newton Ferrers, so a day trip was duly planned to see it for ourselves. Well it certainly didn’t disappoint. Set on a creek of the River Yealm estuary it is a stunning location with breathtaking views at every step. Parking is a little limited but being able to visit on weekdays we managed to find a space in a side road and walked down the hill to the harbour. Pastel painted and thatched cottages with flower filled gardens line the waters edge and modern designer glass fronted properties stand higher up the hillside overlooking the perfect bays below. We spent a long while sitting on a bench by the jetty, soaking up the sun and watching all the activity out on the water. Yachts, ribs and tiny row boats all jostle for a spot to bob about in the picture postcard scene. It has a pub and shop but other than that its the views, peace and tranquillity that are the main attraction. A pure gem of a place.

Newton Ferrers

6 weeks of mayhem and madness soon drew to a close. August Bank Holiday saw a mass desertion from the site and we could once again see sight of empty pitches and areas of grass. Albeit still brown grass from the long hot summer and endless comings and goings. By mid September the member clientele had reverted back to pre-school holiday mode and couples were venturing back out on their road trips. Devon lanes in July and August are not for the faint hearted, especially with caravans and larger motorhomes. After doing battle with oncoming vehicles in Vinny the van, and sometimes feeling like we were reversing backwards more times than we were going forwards, we decided the best idea was to get a small car to whizz around the country roads in instead. After much scouring of the Internet and  garages we found a Hyundai dealer in Torquay who had just the job, an i10. Right mileage right colour right price so I drove it back the same day. We love it and so much less stressful to drive around Devon and get parked in the tourist hotspots.

September also brought us confirmation that we would be returning to Hampshire for the 2023 season, back to Rookesbury Park our second home. I say ‘second home’ as our other news is we bought a house again.

Keep a look out for our next blog as we prepare to leave Devon, move back into a house for the winter and take 4 months off Vanlife.

Sunny scenery

June arrived and the weather continued to remain sunny and warm with the odd torrential downpour just to remind us we are in Start Bay Devon and not St Tropez! Mostly the rain has been overnight so it hasn’t interrupted work or play too much.

Jubilee weekend the site was full to capacity for the first time this season with members taking advantage of the extended 4 day Bank holiday. Bunting was hung from every available structure and flapped away welcoming them to partake in bucks fizz and cream teas provided by the Club to mark the celebrations. Several of the surrounding villages were holding events over the four days and thankfully the threatened downpours held off for them to enjoy the celebrations in dry conditions.

Work on site has continued in earnest with the combination of warmth, sunshine and showers  encouraging everything to grow at an alarming rate. The days fly by juggling office paperwork, facility cleaning, site maintenance, grass cutting, departures, arrivals and pitch checking. Whatever the weather the same jobs need doing every day.

We needed to visit a major town to access banks and shops that are non existent in rural Devon so headed out to Plymouth for a spot of retail therapy. The city is just over an hours drive from Start Bay and there are 3 park and rides situated on the outskirts. We used one on the east side called Coypool which is motorhome friendly with no height barriers. The bus whisked us swiftly into the city and the first stop was right outside the large Drake Circus shopping centre. We got off here not knowing where else to and walked through the retail centre out onto the vast pedestrianised shopping streets. The bus does stop at several other locations in a big loop around the main shopping area so you can get off or on wherever it suits. After conducting our business at the banks and browsing the big brand shops that we have been denied of the past few months, we made our way to the Hoe. Plymouth Hoe is steeped in history and probably most famous for being where Sir Francis Drake had a game of bowls whilst waiting for the tide to turn before heading out to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588. On the wide green area overlooking Plymouth Sound stands the well known landmark of Smeatons Tower, an iconic red and white striped lighthouse. The lighthouse was originally built on Eddystone Reef in 1759 but was moved stone by stone in the early 1880’s when it was found that the rock it was standing on was crumbling away. It stands 72 feet high and offers views across the Sound and Drakes Island from the restored lantern room at the top.

Smeatons Tower and Plymouth Hoe

Below the Hoe is the Tinside Lido an open air Art Deco swimming pool. It is a Grade II listed salt water swimming pool originally constructed in 1935. It closed due to neglect in 1992 but after a campaign and fund raising it was extensively refurbished and reopened again in 2005.

A short walk along the seafront takes you to the Barbican harbour and historic waterfront famed for being the departing point of the Pilgrim Fathers who set sail to discover The New World in 1620. The back streets boast the largest concentration of cobbled streets in Britain and contain 100 listed buildings. Plymouth Gin was founded here, originally the building being a merchants house dating from 1500, it was then a gaol before being remodelled and extended into a distillery in 1793.


Another day out was spent at nearby Buckfast Abbey. The Abbey forms part of an active Benedictine Monastry that was first built on the site in 1018. The site now includes extensive award winning gardens, a conference centre, restaurant, shop and exhibition centre. There is a very peaceful calming ambiance as you stroll around the immaculately kept grounds and the cooling interior of the Abbey itself was very welcome.

Buckfast Abbey

Moving on from the Abbey we arrived on Dartmoor, a National Park covering a vast area of central Devon and famous for myths, legends, Sherlock Holmes, a prison and wild roaming ponies. We stopped to admire the far reaching views and enjoy the eerie stillness of the moor and were suddenly surrounded by ponies joining us from all directions clearly interested in what we might be having for our picnic and not at all bothered by humans or their vehicles.

Ponies on Dartmoor

National Trust properties are always on my agenda to visit and so we went to Saltram House, Grade II listed Georgian mansion House near Plymouth. It was transferred to NT in 1951 and has since been used in many period dramas and films including Sense and Sensibility in 1995.

Saltram House

Another we visited nearby is Buckland Abbey. Originally built as a Cistercian Abbey in 1278 it was remodelled and converted into a house around 1576. It was then bought by Sir Francis Drake in 1581 and remained lived in by the Drake family until 1946 when it was bought by a local landowner and presented to the National Trust. There is a very interesting Drake interactive exhibition and a ‘lost’ Rembrandt painting on display.

Buckland Abbey

That was our travels in June and there has been plenty more since, so join us in the next blog as the weather hots up in July and we continue to explore Devon.

Covering the Coast

The weather has been so much better the second month of our arrival in Devon that we have been out and about exploring on nearly every day off. There is so much to see and do around here I’m like a kid in a sweet shop not knowing where I want to go next. I’m a massive map lover and study maps like reading a book, Steve often remarks “how on earth do you know about these places?” as I’m guiding him yet again down some tiny green lane with grass growing in the middle to get to a spot on the map I’ve found. The lanes in Devon are not for the meek and mild, most requiring nerves of steel as you approach blind bends on single track roads with passing places few and far between. That’s why these places are so spectacular but even when you think no-one else would be mad enough to find their way there there’s always other people thinking and doing the same.

Devon lanes

The site is looking stunning in the sunshine too. Grass and greenery has now been mowed, preened and pruned, kerbing painted, signs renewed and facilities had a fresh coat of paint. It’s looking very smart out there. Easter was a busy weekend, the site was full as we were just on hardstanding pitches still and thankfully for all who came the weather was great. The sky was blue and the sea was even bluer as you caught a glimpse looking across the treetops. It makes me smile everytime to think I can now see the sea every day- that’s what living in the Midlands for 55 years does to you!

Sun setting on site

We have had three trips back to home and the house since our arrival in March, which is a mighty long way from down here taking 4 and a quarter hours on average each way. First was for a music concert we already had booked in Birmingham so that was a 24hr dash up the M5 and arriving back at 4am in the morning to start work at 10am. Next was for my Dad’s 101st birthday which was a fabulous family celebration get together. Then lastly to do the final clearance and clean of our house ready for the sale completion date. We had anticipated a very busy and emotional 2 days but not quite as emotional as it turned out to be. Our initial thoughts of how liberating and exciting it would be to be free of responsibility and bills was overshadowed by the stark reality that everything our 33 years together had accumulated was either in a charity shop, sold to someone else or packed into a storage container and our castle was now an empty shell. Instead of walking out heads held high we handed the keys over in floods of tears. It will take some getting used to and we try not to think about it too often but life is a journey as they say and this is the road we now travel.

We console ourselves with amazing days out and the stunning scenery that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by. Trips to Hope Cove an idyllic old fishing village with two beaches, pub, restaurant and a gift shop is reached by the obligatory hard to negotiate Devon lanes but is well worth the stress. The sand is clean and golden, the sea a hundred shades of blue and green and the coastal path in each direction gives you stunning views for miles.

Hope Cove

Thurlestone is another coastal village with spectacular views just along from Hope Cove so walking the coastal path from there is the easiest route to take. There are two beaches in close proximity with no facilities at the beach by the golf club but the larger South Milton beach does have toilets, a cafe and watersports. The bay is dominated by Thurlestone Rock an ancient arch shaped formation that is best viewed at high tide.

Start Point is spectacular with its lighthouse and Mattiscombe Beach around the headland. Another narrow winding lane for a few miles up, down and round the Devon hills culminates in a grassy privately owned capark on the hilltop with a little hut where you currently pay £3.50 to park. From here you can walk down a long tarmac path along the rugged peninsula that juts almost a mile out into the sea to reach the lighthouse whilst taking in amazing views of Start Bay and on clear days you can see Beesands, Torcross, Slapton Sands and all the way over to Blackpool Sands. The coastline around the Point once claimed 52 lives in one stormy day in 1892 as 4 boats perished on the rocks.

Start Point Lighthouse and Start Bay

From the same capark in another direction there is a stoney pathway down to Mattiscombe Beach to the south of the lighthouse. This is also an unbelievable view with a perfectly placed bench to sit awhile and listen to the waves rolling in on the Sands or crashing onto the rocks below. The final decent to the sand is a bit of a scramble but do-able and worth it.

We spent a very relaxing couple of hours- after we’d made it back up the hill from Mattiscombe- sitting in Vinny the van having a picnic and admiring 360° views out of every window. We sat in the van as even though it was beautiful blue sky and sunshine the wind was actually blowing our heads off.

Vinny with a view

Another outing has been to Brixham and then onto National Trust Coleton Fishacre. We have visited Brixham several times over the years but still enjoy a stroll around the harbour and onto the marina and beach. It was ‘pirate week’ so everything was decked out in appropriate flags and swashbuckling paraphernalia, including a party of young school children who had visited the pirate ship in the harbour and then were led very enthusiastically by their teachers all around the harbour singing pirate songs and challenging us ‘landlubbers’ with their swords!


Coleton Fishacre is a National Trust house and gardens near to Brixham. It was built in the 1920’s by the D’Oyly Carte family as their London weekend escape house and hosted many celebrity parties in its heyday. The gardens are beautifully landscaped and as the property is perched high on a cliffside they extend very steeply in places down to a private cove they used for bathing.

Coleton Fishacre NT

The weather was still sunny and warm through most of May so more coastal days out were had. The park and ride was now in operation for Dartmouth so taking advantage of that we parked up and took the bus into the town. Now the tourist season is taking off the parking in Dartmouth itself is very limited especially for a van/camper so its much easier to use park and rides wherever we can. As we were there on foot we decided to walk to Dartmouth Castle. A very pretty woodland walk along the Dart estuary and past plenty of luxury properties perched on the cliff edges with walls of glass making the most of the stunning views.

The Castle was begun in 1388 and is now managed by English Heritage. The gun tower was added almost a century later and the complex incorporates St Petrox church. The castle saw action in the Civil War and was in use right up to the Second World War. There is a lovely cafe and plenty of outdoor seating to take in the view.

Our coastal visits so far have only covered a very few miles of the stunning South Hams coastline but you’ve probably already got the idea – and seen the photos to prove it – that there’s alot to see and do down here. We are enjoying being tourists whilst also having the good fortune to call the area home, if only for 8 months. There’s lots more days out and photos to come so catch the next blog where we visit a city for a change ( but it’s still on the coast! ) find peace at an Abbey and have lunch with the ponies on Dartmoor.

Settling In and Getting Out

Our arrival at our new home for the season coincided with a very wet and windy few days. We manoeuvred Bill the Bailey into our compound and started the mammoth task of unpacking all our worldly goods from both the caravan and van. Everything was stacked in the bathroom pod and site garage until we erected the awning the following day which actually then took 2 days to get sorted. The wind was ferocious, coming from the east blowing straight off the sea and up the valley where the site is situated, stepping out from behind the caravan was like being in a wind tunnel. Thankfully the awning was well secured down so it didn’t take flight across the site.

From our front windows we have a slightly elevated view looking out over our “front garden”. After 4 months of the site being closed there was an awful lot of grass out there that needed cutting. Problem was there was no let up in the rain forecast so that job wasn’t going to get done anytime soon. There was still plenty to occupy our time and thoughts to get the site ready to open on the 11th March. Water turned back on, electric bollards cleaned and switched on, boarding removed from windows and doors, weeding, pruning, machinery serviced, facilities cleaned, fences painted,  shop stocked and an information room to revamp. Oh and then we could cut the grass after we were blessed with a few sunny days in between.

Our front garden

Once we had finished the essential setting up we were keen to get out and about and see our new surroundings. We had holidayed in the area several times but living here gives it a whole new perspective. Trips to do the food shop are not a ‘nip’ and are generally planned in with a sightseeing day to make it a worthwhile journey. 3 of the major supermarkets can be found in both directions out of the site. Kingsbridge to the West and Dartmouth to the North, but for any other retail park shopping its a trek to Torquay, Newton Abbott or Plymouth.

Turning right out of the site takes you to Kingsbridge, the nearest small market town about 6 miles away which sits at the head of the Kingsbridge Estuary surrounded by lush green rolling countryside.The town takes its name from an ancient bridge built to link two royal estates – Alvington and Chillington, and by 1219 it had grown into a market town. By the 18th Century milling had become its major income and throughout the 19th Century Kingsbridge had an active coastal shipping trade, with thriving shipbuilding and tanning industries.

Today it has a steep main street full of independent businesses, antiques, art galleries, gift shops, cafes and a Saturday farmers market. Sailing boats are anchored in the estuary and it has a very upmarket water based vibe.


Turn left out of the site and you can see the sea of Slapton Sands and the freshwater lake of Slapton Ley Nature Reserve. A 10 minute walk from the site takes you to the seafront and pebble beach that stretches for 3 miles before the road turns inland and uphill to follow the coast all the way to Dartmouth. On the way you pass through several small villages on steep roads sometimes single width with sheer drops which isn’t for the faint hearted. But the views are spectacular if you’re the passenger, just best not to suggest the driver takes in the view too often! Blackpool Sands is a vista to behold as the road drops down one hill to the beach and climbs up the next. It is a Blue Flag beach backed by evergreens and scented pines, you could almost be on the Mediterranean instead of in Devon. Its privately owned and so has a parking charge, but does have a cafe, toilets, a beach shop and watersports hire so spending a whole day there is extremely popular.

Slapton Sands
Blackpool Sands and coast road view

Dartmouth is a beautiful town situated at the mouth of the picturesque River Dart. Its location and maritime heritage make it a very popular sailing venue and most of the activities and shops reflect and cater for this fraternity. River and sea cruises can be taken from here to pretty riverside villages further up the Dart and to Greenway the home of Agatha Christie which is now owned by National Trust. It has a castle where the river meets the sea, built in 1388 it is one of the most  picturesquely sited fortresses in England. Bayards Cove Fort was built between 1522 and 1536 to house heavy guns as defence against enemy ships that had eluded Dartmouth and Kingswear castles and the iron chain stretched across the Dart estuary between them. The cobbled Quay and its pretty pastel houses with window boxes filled with flowers has appeared in many historical TV series. There are two open air ferries to take passengers and vehicles across the river to Kingswear from where there is quicker road access to the resorts of Brixham, Paignton and Torquay. Also there is the train station for the 6.7 mile heritage steam train railway line to Paignton. The town hosts  festivals for food and music and Dartmouth Royal Regatta sailing week at the end of August is a must on the calendar for water enthusiasts.


We have had lots more lovely days out along this stunning coast which I will tell you all about over the coming blogs, but for now to finish the story of the Sherman tank and Exercise Tiger connection to Slapton we jump from 1944 to 1969.

Whilst walking on the beach after a severe storm a local guesthouse owner Ken Small began finding large amounts of shrapnel, bullets and tunic buttons washed up. Wondering why these items should be here he began asking local residents who then told him of the stories that had been handed down from their families who had lived in the area during the war. A fisherman told Ken of an object on the seabed 60ft down and about three-quarters of a mile off shore that continually snagged his fishing nets. Divers were persuaded to investigate and found it to be an American Sherman tank. Further investigation then uncovered the Exercise Tiger story and the tragedy became public knowledge. Ken became determined to recover the tank and make it a lasting memorial to those that had perished. After years of negotiations the tank was purchased from the American  Government for 50 USDollars but it took until 1984 before the tank emerged from the sea. The publicity led to American survivors and families making contact and telling their own stories of events that took place that night in April 1944. Consequently the memorial is now recognised by the US Government and on 24th April each year there is a memorial service conducted at the site. Ken went on to write a book about the events and his quest to raise the tank from the seabed called ‘The Forgotten Dead’, and right up until his passing in 2004 could often be found sitting in his car on the carpark next to the tank always willing to talk with visitors and re-tell the story.

 Catch up with us in the next blog as we explore more of South Devon and its stunning coastline, make several journeys back home and officially declare ourselves full time van-dwellers.

Off we go again

Boxes were stacking higher and the house was looking emptier, the decluttering and downsizing was relentless and the local tip and charity shops were begging us not to bring them any more. Slowly we were getting the house cleared and with it so many memories as we came across items from our own and our childrens childhoods which interrupted the packing as we stopped to reminice. Countless boxes are now in storage of items we can’t bear to be parted from with strict instructions to our children that they must be kept for all eternity. One day  surely there might just be something worth taking to an Antiques Roadshow and we’ll be millionaires!

A last minute opportunity arose at New Year for us to grab a couple of days away in the caravan. We booked in at Chester Fairoaks as it a) actually had space and b) is an easy tow from home, with the intention of not moving much once we arrived there. Set up on a pitch it was a nice feeling to be on the other side of the fence and be able to watch the world go by at leisure without having to empty a bin or clean a loo! We hadn’t had any holiday time in the Bailey since taking ownership more than a year earlier due to lock downs. We walked across the road to Cheshire Oaks retail outlet, slept alot, read alot and had a very relaxed time that was about it.

Vinny and Billy enjoying a break

In between house sales and holidays we had also made the decision to get Vinny the Van professionally converted into a camper. Back in summer 2020 we had partially done a day van conversion ourselves which although we were very pleased with and proud of, we now wanted something a little more. After looking at layouts we decided we didn’t want the conventional cooker/sink option as we still needed to use the vehicle as a mode of transporting all our worldly goods around with us (even more so now we haven’t got a house) so the “mountain bike” layout was decided upon. Vinny went away for 3 weeks and came back with a pop top roof, full electrics, rear door tinted windows, side bench seat/pull out bed, fully carpet lined and insulated, altro sparkly flooring, swivel seat, table and a pull out canopy awning. This will now enable us to embrace camper life even more as we can escape on our time off to visit other sites and enjoy the areas we are working in to the max. Big shout out and thanks to The Conversion Shed for carrying out the work so expertly and fitting us in on such a tight schedule. The professionalism, thoughtfulness and communication by Lee was second to none. We haven’t got around to taking any inside photos yet as it’s mostly been stacked to the roof with boxes, so here’s an external one parked up at Start Point overlooking the South Devon coastline.

Vinny with a view

Way back before Covid, before Mitch and Chloe were buying their own house and before we knew we would be selling ours, we had booked a cruise to Northern Europe for mid February. Suddenly amidst all the ongoing upheaval the date was rapidly approaching. Some of the Covid restrictions were being eased thankfully in time for our travel then a week before we were informed of an itinerary change. No more Hamburg, it was Le Havre instead. Then the day before – no more Northern Europe at all, it was now Portugal and Spain. OK, not what we planned but on the plus side it would be warmer. Predicted storms were dictating the schedule and as it turned out we only got a day in Lisbon and one in Vigo then had to sail full steam ahead to get infront of the weather and make it back near to Southampton. The ship took refuge in a Bay off Northern France for 2 days instead, on which we ate, drank and were entertained 24/7, so not really a hardship at all! It was a lovely break and much needed downtime off packing and it will probably be our last overseas travel for a good while unless we figure out how best to take Belle to foreign climes.

Lovely Lisbon

Back home and we had 5 days to go before leaving for Start Bay. Days off packing the house turned into packing the caravan and van instead. Initially trying to think what was needed for 8 months then remembering that this was now going to be our full time life going forward, so then also trying to decide what we might want for the foreseeable ‘forever’. Difficult decisions for some items, time will tell if we pine for certain things or quickly forget all about them. Keeping an eye on the weather forecast for both locations prompted us to delay the journey by a day so that blue skies and sunshine was on order for both departure from Staffordshire and arrival in Devon on Friday 25th February. We set off at 7am and as expected it took 5.5 hours to site. Motorway all the way to the last 15 or so miles then following the site recommended route rather than the satnav version. Having an 8ft wide caravan we had hoped to time our arrival to avoid the possibility of meeting the oncoming bus between Torcross and Kingsbridge, but as is often the case it didn’t work out that way! The lanes around Start Bay site are more suited to a horse and cart in places so us meeting the bus was ‘challenging’ to say the least. After holding our breath for a few hair-raising minutes we were soon pulling in through the site gates and viewing our new home, the grass was lush green, daffodils nodded their yellow heads, the pitches were bathed in sunshine and the sea beyond the treetops was deep blue, a perfect sight to greet us. Bus? What bus? Oh that bus? Yeah no problem, so soon forgotten.

Start Bay CAMC
Slapton Sands
Slapton Ley Nature Reserve

Continuing with a prequel to the history lesson of the area from the previous blog; The area around Slapton was commandeered by the War Cabinet in November 1943 when over 3000 people in the surrounding villages were given 6 weeks notice to evacuate their homes, farms, pubs and shops leaving nothing but ghost towns behind. Most had never previously left their own villages before but were now destined never to return. Over 30,000 acres of farmland was cleared making way for 15,000 American troops to arrive in the spring of 1944 to begin practice landings for the DDay invasions. As per the previous blog it turned into a tragic event that was kept secret for more than 30 years, until in 1969 a local man by the name of Ken Small started to find unusual items washing up on the beach and began the quest to uncover the truth about that fateful night.

Catch up with us in the next blog as we bring the history lesson up to present day, settle back into  ‘wardenlife’ open the site to visitors and get out and about in South Devon.

Changing Seasons, Changing Life.

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.

Non stop sweeping of leaves

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!

Sunny Start Bay CAMC

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.

Slapton Sands

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.

Hitched up and ready to roll

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.

Season in full flow

Firstly apologies for it being a while since the last post, 6 months actually. Time just escapes me when the season is in full flow, working days are long and full on busy, and then our much needed days off are mostly spent away from site sightseeing and enjoying our local area, so again no time to squeeze in admin. But now our 2021 season has ended and we are back to living in a house for a while I can catch up and fill you in on what the summer months had in store for us.

As the previous blog said Rookesbury Park reopened on 12th April in line with the Govt lifting another level of Covid restrictions, from then on the site continued to adhere to guidelines of cleaning, sanitising, disinfecting and mask wearing. Everywhere felt totally safe and manageable as the nature of the job for the staff and the holiday for the members means interaction between everyone is conducted mostly outdoors, whatever the weather.

Work around site continued with a new level of gusto. Grass pitches were now open and along with the hardstandings they were all getting booked to capacity every weekend. There were a few spare pitches during weekdays in June and up to the school summer holiday breakup but it seemed like the UK was going to continue its stay cation boom again this year. Arrivals were an even split of ‘first timers’ and ‘seasoned’ members, both with equally high demands on our time and resources. The site and its number of occupants now the visitor restriction had been lifted aswell was taking alot of managing, not to mention the increased groundwork as we were now in the full flow of our sunshine and showers summer. Grass and hedge cutting was a constant task, there was always the need for at least 3 staff out there for the hours straight after the bin run right up to arrival time. Hence the arrival in mid July of a fourth set of Assistant Managers, and very welcome they were. Ady and Nina were a great asset to the site and their enthusiasm and experience helped carry us onward and upwards through to the close. They will be returning to Rookesbury for the 2022 season so will be continuing to make their unique mark there.

Our time off days out continued with a trip to Winchester. A lovely city with a good mix of shops and the famous Cathedral where we spent a while strolling around and admiring the buildings. Another city visit was to Salisbury and yet another even more famous Cathedral. It was stunning inside, so peaceful, cool and calm and plenty to read up about on the information display boards dotted around. We saw the worlds oldest clock, Britains tallest spire and the best preserved of only 4 surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. Adjacent is Cathedral Close, the largest in Britain where amongst the houses with their pretty walled front gardens is Arundells the home of the former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, Mompesson House a NT property, and 2 museums. We then found a place to sit on rolling manicured lawns under shady trees and take in the view of the magnificent spire. A whole day could be spent just visiting the Cathedral and Close, then there’s all the artisan shops and buildings adjacent in the town itself to browse around. I think I’ve just talked myself into needing another visit to explore some more!

Salisbury Cathedral
The Close Salisbury

Moving onto our coastal days out we paid a visit to Lymington which took us on a very lovely drive through the New Forest and towns of Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst. Lymington is a quaint coastal Georgian town of named and independent shops, with a cobbled area winding down to the quayside where we enjoyed our picnic lunch on a bench in the sunshine. On our drive back through the Forest we saw ponies and Highland cattle by the roadside.

New Forest Ponies and Highland Cattle

Another coastal day out was to Mudeford Quay, a little further over the border into Dorset. We met up with friends who were holidaying in the area and spent a happy few hours there. We took a ferry boat from the Quay over to Mudeford Spit, which is a stunning strip of soft white sand housing equally stunning and very expensive beach huts. When we saw a for sale sign we of course Googled the price just to see, 375k was the price tag so I think we’ll be sticking with our caravan!

Mudeford Beach Huts

More visits to our old favourites of Titchfield Haven, Southsea, Hamble le Rice, Warsash, Port Solent and Porchester Castle were regular spots to sit in Vinny on the not so sunny days, taking in the seascapes whilst drinking our flask of coffee and having a slice of cake.

Port Solent

Then came the opportunity for a rare night away from site when we took a trip over to the Isle of Wight and were able to stay over at CAMC Southlands site. We went in Vinny the van thoroughly enjoying the whole campervan experience. The site is immaculately kept and the sunset views across the countryside were stunning. Thankfully the weather held out until a couple of hours before our return ferry was due, so we managed a quick tour of the East side of the island and its seaside towns before dashing under cover from the rain, ending up in a pub in Cowes for a feast of a meal.

On the Isle of Wight ferry

August, the month of next year’s site selection was suddenly upon us. All conversations seemed to end up talking about possible sites, weighing up their pro’s and cons, not too big, not too small, not near a main road, has to be near the coast. So many boxes needed to be ticked but we also knew there would have to be compromises. Our selection was duly submitted, fingers, toes, legs, arms and anything else that was crossable was crossed and we waited. It was the longest 4 weeks in history. In the meantime being at fabulous Rookesbury kept us focused on the current season and job in hand, no time to dream of next year yet, still nearly 3 months to do here.

It was a glorious hot sunny day, the last day of our weekend off time and we were on the beach. The clock was ticking towards 5pm, surely they must be sending the email out soon, it was nearly headoffice going home time. And suddenly a flurry of pings from our phones, the jungle drums saying the selection decision was out. The sun was shining so brightly I had to dive under the beach towel to read it, listed alphabetically by site name I scrolled quickly down straight to the S’s to see whose name was next to our no:1 choice. It was ours- actually ours- Steve and Sally Hadley were going to Start Bay! As tears of joy and amazement mixed together with sand and suncream it began to dawn on us that we were about to embark on the next chapter of our life.

In more ways than we could of imagined our lives were going to change next year, living and working in Devon for 8 months was only going to be part of the story.

Catch up with us next time as we draw the season at Rookesbury to a close, we pack up to come home to the house, take a sunshine holiday and make another life changing decision.

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.


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.