One way to make things difficult for yourself is to use a UK postcode to find a park-up in a rural location, then try to drive there in a 24-tonne truck.
For those unfamiliar with the United Kingdom’s postcode system, it identifies address areas based on population density. In the countryside, a postcode can cover an enormous expanse of land. For example, IV (Inverness) and SY (Shrewsbury) incorporate a lot of Scottish or Welsh mountains, while PA (Paisley) extends to several offshore islands.
My favourite postcode, BIQQ 1ZZ, refers to the entire British Antarctic Territory. Since this encompasses 1.7 million square kilometres, I’m glad we weren’t trying to locate our stopover there!
We invested our faith in the satnav, which dutifully led us directly to the centre of the postcode. This was a point in the middle of nowhere, at least three miles from our destination. We got there via a track which said ‘Unsuitable for HGVs’ – something Mark views as a bit of a challenge. It was an interesting drive.
The area is not called the Peak District for nothing. At Ughill, the country lane was just wide, straight, and flat enough for us to pull over and reconsider our terrible life choices. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I was so traumatised by the degree of ‘interest’ the drive involved that, for the first time, I used an app on my phone.
Google Maps located Cutthroat Bridge car park. It was on the main road, the A57, half a mile beyond where the satnav lured us off. After taking us on such an impressive and meandering journey to the centre of the postcode, the satnav deposited us on the A57 once again, two miles further back from where we started.
Although Cutthroat Bridge was so hard won, we decided not to stick around. The car park presented an angle of slope perfect for making sure our drawers wouldn’t stay closed. Our mate had converted the truck. When we asked what would stop our drawers from flying open in transit, he created a stick with a spring screwed on top to wedge them in, and dismissed us with a cheery, “You’ll need to get some child locks or something to keep them shut.”
Even though we were in the Hope Valley, we felt disheartened. Not because there was nowhere to affix latches on the drawers – that was a problem for another day. The stick worked passably well, so the drawers were fine so long as we didn’t require access to the contents, which only ruled out cooking, drinking and eating.
Rather, it was that overnight parking places are like toilets. We’d passed a plethora of laybys and rest areas when we didn’t need one, but now, in our moment of necessity, the one we’d found was out of order. We probably wouldn’t find another until we’d wet and soiled ourselves. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Yet, having finally lost my app virginity to Google Maps, I was on a roll. I had read about some useful apps on motorhome forums, so I downloaded Search4Sites and discovered the Ladybower Inn, a pub just down the road. It charged £20 per night to stay overnight in its car park, but waived this if you had dinner.
Using feminine logic; a system of reasoning whose rationale states that a half-price dress bought for £50 represents a saving of £50, rather than a £50 expenditure. Effectively, The Ladybower was offering a £20 discount on a meal that didn’t require me to cook or wash up. It was a no brainer!
In addition, the pub was a gorgeous dun-coloured stone building, tucked into the hillside and festooned with purple wisteria. Even better, a sign outside claimed ‘Muddy Boots and Paws Welcome’, the parking was level, our drawers stayed shut, and a fur-friendly footpath led straight from the pub up on to the moors.
My gold standard for steak pie is served in a pub called The Bull’s Head in West Clandon, Surrey. Although The Ladybower’s offering did not better The Bull’s Head’s two-decade reign at Top of the Steak Pie Pops, it presented a worthy challenge. Not only was the pie delicious, the beer was excellent and the lovely staff were very forthcoming with fuss and treats for The Fab Four.
The following morning, our lungs filled with the sharp green smell of bracken-after-the rain as we took the dogs up the steep rocky footpath behind the pub. I looked down upon the stupendous view of the Derwent Valley and Ladybower reservoir with fresh eyes. A week into our new Lorry Life, my brain was functioning somewhat differently.
“Mark, can you see that small track on the left? If we reversed down that, we could park there. Right on the lakeside…”
My wild camping antenna was now fully activated!
But we had work to do in Halifax. We had an appointment with Kellett’s to get our windows fixed. The handles didn’t clear the frames and required some attention. En route, we needed to stop for supplies. Doing your weekly shop in a truck requires a supermarket with a large car park; we set course for Sainsbury’s in Grantham.
Since the symbol for Volvo represents iron, and Grantham is the birthplace of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, I suggested,
“We could re-name The Beast ‘The Iron Lady’ after Maggie – the other Iron Lady of Grantham!”
Our own Iron Lady was causing a few concerns. The deflector bars on the cab roof were catching on the habitation box. It made an ominous banging sound and had scraped through to the metal in places. Although the water tank had baffles, now it was half empty, the tank moved as the water sloshed around. A nut securing it to the frame had gouged a hole through its insulation.
In Halifax, we pulled up in Screwfix car park. While Mark purchased some parts to fix more minor issues, such as the drawer retainers and a broken screen wash bottle, The Beast gathered a small crowd from around Jane and Graham’s snack van.
The Chip Butty (chip sandwich) is possibly the greatest north-of-England delicacy. The recipe is simple; a row of chips, seasoned with salt and vinegar, squished between two buttered pieces of Mother’s Pride (white sliced bread), or a white roll, if you’re posh.
Jane and Graham supplied us with two of their ‘famous chip butties’ – with the genius incorporation of pulled beef and gravy. Without doubt, it was the most awesome chip butty I’ve ever had!
After one chap in our crowd of admirers told us all about when he was a hippy and travelled in an old bus, Jane said,
“I lived in a transit van with my boyfriend for two years. Back in the day, I toured on a yacht. I visited Spain, Italy and Romania. Romania was properly dodgy in those days!”
We told her, “We love Romania! It’s one of our favourite countries now.”
We found Kellet Windows down some narrow cobbled back streets. It was a pleasure to meet the owner, Victoria, at last. We’d spoken many times on the phone, and found a cheerful chat with Vic always gave us a lift that lasted all day.
In the spirit of Kellet’s ‘service beyond the call of duty’, Mark and Kellett’s foreman Michael got up on The Beast’s roof with an angle grinder. They removed a chunk from the deflector bars to stop them banging. Vic made me a cuppa and told me her mum loves lighthouses. I said,
“Mark and I were married in a lighthouse!”
The conversation moved on to where we might stay that night,
“We’ve no idea!” I replied.
“Hebden Bridge is lovely,” she said, so we went there.
As we drove through Hebden Bridge, I tapped away on my newly downloaded Park4Night app, looking for a stopover. Mark spotted a couple of rainbow-haired hippies at the bus stop and pulled over to ask if they knew of somewhere we could wild camp.
“There’s a place up the road which opens out onto a woodland.”
It sounded ideal, but here was another lesson. The public at large radically underestimates the size of our vehicle.
The stopover was at the end of a narrow street, with the unfortunate inconvenience of a low bridge between us and Nirvana within the forest.
“You’ll never get through there!” I said to Mark, and by then, neither could we turn around.
Once again, I directed traffic as Mark reversed out on to the main road. Unsure what to do, we headed back towards the centre, where we’d passed a garage with two magnificent bull-nosed trucks on display.
Our deflector bars were still banging, so Mark swerved onto the forecourt and announced,
“I’m going to see if they’ve got an angle grinder.”
On the grounds of ‘Elf and Safety’, the mechanics declined to clamber four metres up on to The Beast’s roof, wielding a power tool. However, they granted Mark the freedom of their angle grinder.
The blade wasn’t big enough to go through the bars, so Mark had to finish the cuts with a hacksaw. I remained on terra firma, but as usual, The Beast attracted a lot of interest. After chatting about her with one mechanic, he showed me the two bull nosed trucks. He told me,
“The red one does stunts – it’s a wheelie truck!”
I decided not to tell Mark, lest he also viewed that as a challenge…
With our ever-shortening roof deflectors, we set off in search of a couple of laybys I’d found on the shores of a nearby reservoir. After winding through many more narrow and precipitous country lanes, the road we needed was closed for resurfacing. It always happens to us. It was another Lake Bohinj – a million-mile diversion to approach from the other side.
By now, I was getting rather nimble with my apps. Park4Night claimed there was a layby nearby, so we headed for that. I prayed it would be suitable. It was 6 p.m. and we’d been on the road since 9 a.m. – we were all exhausted.
Our park up was absolutely beautiful; on the very top of the moors, right next to The Bridestones, a striking Jurassic limestone rock formation. The space was level-ish, but improved by Mark getting The Beast up on some bricks.
We met Patrick, who admired the truck for some time, then came over to explain,
“I toured Africa in a Soviet version of your truck!”
To give our pooches a leg stretch, we walked up to the rocks with Patrick and Blue, his border collie.
Patrick was quite the nomad himself. He told us,
He had been out of the UK for months at a time, working on various projects. A true traveller, he immediately offered us the use of his bath (the one home comfort I miss because of our nomadic lifestyle!) and to drive us into town if we needed supplies. As the conversation progressed, he asked us a challenging question.
“What does home mean to you?”
It was genuinely difficult to answer.
Mark couldn’t really say.
For me, who moved house over twenty-five times before I became a perpetual vagabond, home is The Beast – or wherever the pups and Mark are. I explained,
“I don’t feel a strong affiliation to any place. I no longer belong in Blackburn, my original home town. I have little connecting me to it other than my dad and a few friends, and my outlook and attitude to life differs vastly from most Blackburnians.”
Then, I returned the favour and asked Patrick what home meant to him.
“Home for me is here at Bridestones, although I have a motorhome and a holiday place in Ireland.”
He told us his favourite answer to his question was a guy who placed his hands across his chest, close to his heart, and said, “Home is in here.”
By the time we met our neighbour, Dave, another full-time motorhomer, and a couple of ladies with cocker spaniels who came to look inside The Beast, it was nearly 9 p.m.
I cooked a stir fry as we watched the sunset. The sky softened over the barren moors, although twinkling lights from scattered hill farms added a cosiness to the stark landscape. The chattering of crickets and the plaintive cries of curlew provided the soundscape as a barn owl flitted silently across the field next to us. It was bliss!
Curiously, as I watched the scene, Patrick’s question, ‘What does home mean to you?’ answered itself in a way. I felt a strong sense of belonging to this wild moorland landscape, which was so reminiscent of the Lancashire countryside where I spent my childhood.
‘Aleatory’ had popped up on email as my Word of the Day. It means:
- In law; depending on chance, luck or an uncertain outcome e.g. an aleatory contract.
- Relating to accidental causes, luck or chance. e.g. an aleatory element.
- In music; employing an element of chance in tones, rhythm or dynamics.
I was already getting used to tour increasingly aleatory existence.
Initially, I had found it scary to be driving around aimlessly in a large vehicle with nowhere to go. Now, as I looked over a view that you couldn’t buy for a million pounds, I appreciated the possibilities our lorry life opened up.
I absolutely loved the freedom.
Join us next time as we meet a few more interesting locals!