“There’s nowhere to turn round once you’re on the drive until you get to the field and that’s waterlogged. There’s no hard standing and the drive is only the width of Mike’s car.”
My Dad’s appraisal of our chances when he went to scope out our proposed CL (Certified Location) site at Abbey Village, Lancashire.
Even the owner had asked “How big’s your caravan? We can’t take them too big.”
“7m.” we replied. “What’s that in English?” asked the delightful Mrs D, by way of clarification.
We decided to chance it on the assumption that we could always see if we can dig the van out of the mud in fewer than 7 hours, which is our current record. We just LOVE caravanning in Lancashire! (See Black Monday for details of that little escapade!)
However, I am pleased to report that Kismet fitted perfectly on to a bit of hard standing outside Mrs D’s shed. We pitched with no problem, despite the obstacle course of a street lamp with its own feature crater, ready to entrap the unwary wheel when reversing.
Ridgebacks at Rivington – A Doggy Drama
We went to Rivington with my Dad, who has an almost pathological dislike of dogs. I don’t blame him for it; he was bitten by a Scottie when he was a child. I remember when we first told him that we had got a puppy. (For about a week, we did have only one puppy…!) His reaction; “Oh, how AWFUL!”
Visiting a cynophobic parent does, however, require a little organisation now that we have four constant canine companions. Fortunately, they are ADORED by Ant Kath, who lives down the road and kindly spoils them rotten while we visit Dad.
We were running late and even later by the time Dad had put on his walking boots. We arrived at Rivington, Lord Leverhulme’s rather incongruous but beautiful terraced gardens on a bleak Lancashire moor, at 4pm. The café was closing at 4.30pm, so we thought we’d get our brew before we had our walk.
I don’t know what it is about my Dad, but ALL dogs always make a beeline straight to him. As we were enjoying our coffee, a ginger head the size of a football appeared under his armpit. It was a while before Dad noticed. Both he and the head were concentrating hard on his fastidious folding of 14 empty sugar sachets into flat tubes to post carefully into the 15th. This folding ritual always follows sweetening his coffee, but preludes stirring. Mark and I mischievously looked on in rapt antici………pation!
“Eeeeh, bloody ‘ell…” was exclaimed in broad Lancashire as we both started sniggering like naughty school children. The huge head belonged to a rather substantial Rhodesian Ridgeback, not always my favourite breed of dog, bred as they are for no-holds-barred guarding, although this one was a sweetie. He seemed to be lost.
We captured the dog, much to my father’s disgust, then wondered what to do. He was clearly agitated, so Mark gave him some food to calm him down. That worked for approximately three seconds, during which time he swallowed what our four would eat in 24 hours! Dad disappeared to hide in the gift shop in silent protest.
By now, we had gathered quite a crowd. All were enthusiastically suggesting various courses of action but were emphatically NOT prepared to take responsibility. “If you call t’dog pound, you better do it before 5. Even t’police can’t get ’em after 5.”
Unsure quite what to do with a Ridgeback the size of a small pony, we were quite relieved when a lady suddenly appeared. Like a human chariot, she was dragged at speed out of the undergrowth by two Rhodesian Ridgebacks and a couple of Border Terriers.
As she was hauled past us, she clicked Toby, as he was called, onto a lead in a single fluid movement, without stopping. She called ‘Thank you’ over her shoulder as Toby contributed considerably more dogpower to tow her even more rapidly into the distance. We shouted after her that we didn’t think Toby needed any dinner as he’d just eaten a whole sack of Royal Canin.
We collected my traumatised father from the gift shop and returned to Ant Kath with our tales of derring do. We relayed details of our extensive walk – from the van to the café and back again. With Dad in his hiking boots. We had even walked up the cake counter a couple of times before settling on a scone.
It is no wonder we were so exhausted.
May Bank Holiday – A Dental Departure
Darwen Tower was misty at 06:30 as we set off to brave the M6 on Bank Holiday Monday. I had to be back in Bournemouth by Tuesday due to poor planning on the dental appointment front.
I think Mark suddenly caught a glimpse of his hair in one of the van mirrors. I am blind to it now, but it must have been bad to have prompted the response “I really need to sort my hair out!”
He had retracted the corner steadies ready to hitch and as he reached the bathroom at the back of the caravan I was compelled to shout urgently “The front of the caravan is lifting…MARK THE FRONT OF THE CARAVAN…OH MY GOD! MARK!!!!!!” as the back of the caravan hit the deck and the towing gear at the front see-sawed skywards.
I hope that our hostess wasn’t awakened by this early morning kerfuffle. According to Mark, there was no damage. He convinced me that the scratches on the rear trim originated in France, when we had to find a spade and dig out a bank to get the back of the caravan around a particularly tight bend.
And, after recently being evicted (see Meet The Jobsworths) we have now evicted ourselves from a campsite! We were supposed to stay at a CL in Parley but the owner was so grumpy on arrival that we left. Immediately!
We were locked out when we arrived and were instantly told off for arriving earlier than we said. We apologised but explained that we had been forced to estimate the journey time for a 300 mile drive with a caravan in unpredictable Bank Holiday traffic.
Then, she told us that the dogs were not allowed to pee. She was charging us an extra £4 per night for the dogs because there was a ‘dog area’ – a part of the field the size of a postage stamp where the dogs had to pee and poo.
It prompted in our mind three questions;
- Can canines distinguish between one part of a field and another?
- Can ‘The Friendly Club’s staff not even bring themselves to say ‘Hello’ before moaning at their guests?
- Why advertise yourself as dog-friendly when you are quite patently not?!
After 7 hours on the road, we were not in the mood. We asked for our money back before we even entered the site and left.
We returned to Verwood, where they think we’re model campers. We were back in the bluebells and had a dog walk right next to us. And this site, which has facilities, is actually CHEAPER than her field next to the main road and under the flight path of Bournemouth Airport. And even when we had been in residence for a couple of hours, no-one had moaned at us. Hurrah!
Today, the old £5 note went out of circulation. That is irrelevant but I just thought that I would mention it. I have a loosely currency-related subject to tackle.
Mark “I like to be tidy so I shredded all the travellers cheques – and because I am REALLY tidy; the list with all the travellers cheque numbers on…” was just wondering if the bank will accept this!
It is the refund, recovered from the bin, from the site from which we evicted ourselves. “I thought she just gave us back our own cheque.” Said Mr L in mitigation. I rate our chances with the bank as better than trying to get a replacement cheque out of Mrs McWelcome!
We moved from Verwood to Salisbury and were delighted to be greeted by the lovely Steve, who helped us out on our first ever caravan trip here last year. (See our Maiden Voyage for details.
Unfortunately, Mark bent his pole. I seem to remember suggesting leaving the erection until tomorrow, when he would be less likely to suffer from big bursts of wind, but he insisted on putting up the awning today in 25mph, which we Windies know as a Force 6!
As I returned from walking the pooches, he greeted me with ‘There is good news and bad news…” The good news was that the caravan was not damaged. The bad news – “The awning is torn and a couple of the junction poles now need welding.”
Mysteriously, our dealer seemed to think that the awning can be repaired under warranty! However, this was the only good news we received as our caravan went in for its service.
Join us next time and feel our pain during Operation Overload – A Caravan Catastrophe – and being shouted at while actually in the act of picking up after our dog. Rosie had the audacity to poo on the way back from our walk. That, it seems, is just not acceptable behaviour in The Friendly Club.
We can’t wait to get back to Europe. We toured in Europe last year for four months – and were not moaned at once!