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!

Brixham

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.

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 @lifewithaview.co.uk 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.

(Br)Exit, Training and a Hiccup.

Well to most people of the UK 31st January 2020 will always be remembered as the day we left the EU, but to Steve and I it will always be in our memories as the day we left the life as we knew it behind and embarked on our greatest adventure.

Friday 31st January was a very emotional day for both of us, we had both been at our places of work for 14/15 years so not only knew the job inside out and backwards but also the people we worked with. It was a fact that during an average working week we spent more waking time with our work family than we did with each other, so to suddenly be without them was going to be a tremendous tug on our heart strings. Even though we knew this day was coming for many months, as the day itself dawned it was with mixed emotions we set off for work for the last time.

“Goodbye” was something we didn’t particularly want to say so “see you soon” was said to everyone we could get around to speaking to. Good wishes, kind words and envious comments were in abundance, and we were amazed that not one person actually thought we were mad! ( well, that they told us to our faces anyway!) We each had lovely cards, gifts, and many promises to come and visit us, and had a jolly good get together with our work friends which ended with many hugs, tears and not a dry eye in the house. As the following day dawned (with bad heads and red eyes) the realisation that we weren’t going back on Monday hadn’t really had chance to sink in and we still didn’t quite believe that the start of a new chapter had really begun.

We didn’t have long to sit about dwelling on what we had left behind as we were off to Lingfield Racecourse on Sunday 2nd February ready to start our CAMC induction training for a week. We packed our bags and headed off towards the unknown, eager to learn all about what being Wardens entailed. What we did discover on arrival was that we have already had a promotion (along with existing site staff) – in name only though! Our official job titles are now Assistant Site Managers instead of Wardens.

The week whizzed by, hotel, food, colleagues and training were all brilliant. We learnt valuable skills in first aid training, fire safety, customer service, health & safety, manual handling and the IT systems, with talks on HR, Pensions and an inspiring introduction from the Director General Nick Lomas.

There were 27 couples on the training that had been offered sites as first years this season, to be forever known as Class of 2020. It was so amazing to listen to peoples stories of their personal journeys and how and why they came to be there. Some have been living in their caravans and motorhomes for a while, some have left high flying careers in pursuit of a slower pace of life, and some are still working waiting to leave their current jobs at the last minute. There were all walks of life and backgrounds but all with one thing in common -to live a simpler, calmer way of life, with the time to travel, freedom to explore and to be able to pursue their dream together.

The week ended with a Graduation meal and DJ entertainment. We put on our glad rags and dancing shoes and partied the night away feeling like we were back in the 1980’s. A great night was had by all and lifelong friendships were forged which will provide support, encouragement and plenty of laughs on the journey ahead.

Being back home was a bit of a shock after having 3 meals a day put in front of me for a week, not to mention standing on the weighing scales, that was the biggest shock of all. Perhaps they were trying to feed us up knowing we will be working hard and not even having time to eat once we get out onto site!

Not much downtime before we were due off again, to Moreton in Marsh CAMC this time for machine training. We were supposed to be taking the caravan for this one for 4 days but with the strong winds on the tail end of Storm Ciara on our departure day, and Storm Dennis due to arrive on the day we would be travelling back we very reluctantly made the decision to leave Ruby at home and just go in the car for the day instead. Ruby is kept on the drive, nice and cosy clean and dry under a cover when not in use, so it was with much excitement that we pulled off the cover in order to get her ready for the expected journey to Moreton site. We packed the essentials, being crisps, cake, wine and gin, then set about sterilising the water containers and pipework ready for the season. We ( Steve) doesn’t normally have to wash and polish the ‘van as it has a good clean before we put the cover on each time so a quick look out of the front bedroom window to check the roof is still ok is all that is usually needed. However on doing that this time we spotted some strange marks on the top rear corner pieces that hadn’t been there before. On a closer inspection off ladders Steve discovered that there were hairline cracks along the top edges. Hmmm not good. Coincidentally at that moment a neighbour came out and started chatting, and it turns out they had had the same problem and informed us it was a known fault and should have had a recall from Swift to get it put right. After many phone calls it was discovered the dealer we purchased the van from had gone out of business last month and Swift would not deal directy with us. We had to find another dealer to carry out a service and they would carry out the recall work at the same time, there was also a recall to the window seals needed. As time was running out to get this done before leaving home on the 29th Feb we phoned around far and wide but could not get the service and work booked in anywhere for at least 2 months. It appears that the original dealer had not registered servicing the ‘van before we had it so another service had to be done in order for the warranty work to be carried out. It became clear it wasn’t going to happen anytime in the next 2 weeks before we had to leave so we have had to book it all in for November, as once Ruby is sited in the compound at Rookesbury Park she wont be coming out again until we come back home then. In the meantime the cover has gone back on and she will be kept nice and dry whilst Storm Dennis does his worst over the weekend, and until November we will just have to live with waterproof tape covering over the cracks.

Cover is off, but unfortunately now back on!

Catch up with us next time as we do our machine training, pack up our possessions and spend our final few days living in a house…..