The Season starts

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

Bluebells in Hundred Acre Wood

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

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

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

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

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

Emsworth

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

Cliff top walk along the coastal path at Meon Shore

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

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

Leaving Home and Arriving Home…

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

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

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

Snowy Staffordshire countryside

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

Ready to Roll

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

Back in our home from home

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

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

Lost in Lockdown

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

Empty pitches ready and waiting for members return

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

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

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

Quilling projects

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

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

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