Archive | May, 2013

What a Walk!

29 May

Carreg Cennen Castle Walk

Wednesday

I had my doubts from the beginning. When we put on our walking boots in the Carreg Cennan Castle car park the sky was dark with clouds and it was already trying to rain. Neil, with his relentless optimism, insisted it was brightening up. I, with my equally relentless pessimism, knew damn sure it wasn’t!

We were due a ‘good walk’, however, so with growing disquiet we descended the steep slope from the castle to the valley below. I knew in my heart of hearts that when the bridge across the stream at the bottom had red plastic tape draped all over it that we really should have turned back. This was not going to put Neil off, though. He calmly ducked under the tape and serenely crossed the four-by-four supporting strut of the unfinished bridge.

Well, there was no way on earth I was going to do that but the thought of returning up the path we had just walked down was almost as bad. Fortunately, or otherwise, there were plenty of boulders lying about and between us we created a stepping stone- type crossing. With Neil telling me how well I was doing (!) we followed the path alongside the stream and up the other side of the valley. I say ‘path’ but I’ve seen rivers with less water running along them.

Now, anybody who knows me or has followed the previous blog will know how much I love trudging through mud and climbing up hills. That is to say I moan about it an awful lot for an activity I seem to spend a lot of my time doing. Eventually, however, the path dried out and levelled off and I started to enjoy myself again. Neil, of course, had been waxing lyrical about how wonderful it all was and what a beautiful day it had become (it wasn’t actually raining) from the beginning. Even his language turned a bit blue when we descended back down into the valley and had to cross the ‘stream’ again. Raging torrent would be a better description. And there was no bridge.

Carreg Cennan River Crossing

The guide sheet we were using said it “could be a little tricky” crossing the stream after heavy rain. Neither of us had actually read this bit. There was nothing for it but to wade through. So, the last stretch of the walk now has to be done with wet socks but by this point I didn’t care. That last stretch was, of course, vertical.  With the last ounce of energy, we climbed over the style into the final field to be faced by a herd of rather large beasties with big horns. “If they charge at you don’t run” I was informed. Run? I could barely put one foot in front of the other! Thankfully a more placid bunch of cattle you couldn’t have hoped to meet. They just stared at us dolefully, chewing the cud and thinking who knows what.

Carreg Cennan Cattle

As you can probably guess I was very grateful to be sitting back in the car again. At least the rain held off. This, of course, makes Neil unbearably smug because he said that it would all along.

Bank Holiday Weekend

27 May

MondayImageImage

As the rain is lashing down around us it seems like a typical bank holiday in the UK. That would be to misrepresent the rest of the weekend, however. It has been pretty glorious up until now and if you happen to have headed east, rather than west like us, the sun looks set to keep on shining. In a field on the edge of Llandovery near the Brecon Beacons we’ve definitely already seen the best of it, though. You have to feel for the brave souls who have stuck it out in the tents. Even when the days were warm and sunny the nights had literally frozen the fabric of the tents.

Understandably, the site has emptied a bit today although we’ve seen a couple of new arrivals. I dread having to set up in weather like this. The field is rapidly turning decidedly boggy so please, please let the rain ease off a bit before we have to try to get off!

We made the most of the good weather, getting out and about. Wanting to smell the sea again we paid a visit to the delightful little port town of Aberaeron, stopped over at Llanerchaeron House on the way back (we’ve joined the National Trust – love their tea shops), drove around Brecon (didn’t feel the need to get out!) and been on an enchanting walk near Llandovery, over farmland and through woods, following part of the course of the River Taff and its tributaries.

I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to spend the rest of our stay here if this rain continues but for now we’re both quite happy to be lazing around in our snug little box as a chicken casserole simmers away in the slow cooker.  

Snug

24 May

FridayImage

The Bank Holiday weekend is approaching so, of course, the weather has deteriorated. We considered ourselves very lucky yesterday, when we hitched the caravan up on our own for the first time, that the rain held off. The forecast wind, however, had already come in.

Perhaps we’re more sensitive to wind forecasts than most but we were considering delaying our departure when we heard it was predicted to hit between 20 and 40 mph. A search of the internet revealed that most people wouldn’t worry about towing at wind speeds under 40 mph and, as it was predicted to be worse the following day, we might as well go for it.

So, having moved most of the contents of the upper lockers and anything heavy over the axel, we cautiously set off for the Brecon Beacons, some 70 miles away. “70 miles? Is that all?” I hear you say. “That’s only a day sail away, I thought you wanted to explore”. True, but we have to be back in Hereford next weekend to have the caravan serviced so it didn’t seem worth going too far. Anyway, what’s the rush?

As it turned out it was just as well that we weren’t in any hurry. Neil had done his homework and worked out the route but it all went a bit haywire when the sat nav didn’t recognise a new roundabout and we headed off on the wrong duel carriageway. This clever device then kept insisting we get back onto the right route by trying to send us along obviously unsuitable back lanes. When she finally suggested an ‘A’ road we took it. We managed it without incident but lesson learned: don’t trust roads that have four numbers after the ‘A’.

This campsite is rather different to the Caravan Club one near Hereford and we’re not on a hard-standing pitch, so it tested our setting up and levelling skills. One wheel is now balanced on a ramp, held in place with a chock. It took a bit of doing, even with the motor mover, and two more lessons were learned: don’t pack the wrench for the mover in the depths of the car boot and let the caravan settle on the grass before trying to get it level.

A bitterly cold north wind is howling, occasionally rocking the caravan and all too often rain does more than merely patter on the roof. But we’re snug as the proverbial bugs. Happy face. 

Hereford Walk

23 May

We managed the walk to Mordiford, through woodland, orchards and farmland. A beverage was consumed in The Moon pub. ImageImage

What It’s All About

21 May

Hereford BluebellsTuesday

With all the rushing about we’ve been doing since we got the caravan we were in danger of forgetting what the whole experience is supposed to be about. We have an urge to explore, to go to places we perhaps wouldn’t see in the ordinary run of life, to take the path less trodden (sorry to be a bit clichéd).

This is difficult for Neil here in Hereford where he grew up and where each bend in the river is a memory of childhood. I’m less familiar with the city and its surrounding countryside and maybe I’m more struck by its both its history and natural beauty. So today we covered a bit of both. This morning we took a guided tour that showed us the old buildings and gardens surrounding the cathedral. These were well-known to Neil, one of those things that local children absorb as part of their everyday backdrop, and I had walked past them many times but now we both saw their elegance with new eyes. The whole county town deserves to be better known and visited than perhaps it is.

The afternoon saw us back at the caravan site and walking through the woods towards Mordiford. Well, the idea was to actually reach the small village, maybe have a drink in the pub. We took the path less travelled, quite literally. It climbed up through the trees, mostly relatively young broad leaved varieties, with carpets of bluebells, newly unfurled ferns, wild garlic and gorse bushes dazzling in yellow flowers. Occasionally there was a glimpse of the Wye valley beneath as the path kept climbing. Just as I was starting to think we should have bought some food rations with us, not to mention oxygen cylinders, it started to drop steeply down again, returning us back the way we had come and ‘home’ to our caravan. Perhaps we’ll get to Mordiford tomorrow.

Adapting

20 May

Neil AdaptingMonday

I suppose our experience of caravanning hasn’t really been typical so far in as much as we’ve been really busy! Nothing is straight forward at the moment. Time to wash up – how do we heat the water again? It’s turning a bit chilly – how do you switch the heating on? We’re getting there, though.

Apart from cleaning and unpacking with journeys back and forth to Neil’s parents’ garage where our belongings are stored, the rest of the time seems to be filled with shopping. Not Neil’s favourite pastime as a rule, he has been incredibly patient where equipping and provisioning the caravan is concerned. As long as we keep to the list.

Now we’re getting ourselves sorted we find we are living very comfortably. There’s no feeling of lack of space or claustrophobia. In fact we seem to have far more living space than we’re used to on a boat, not to mention the luxury of a four ring hob, grill, oven and microwave along with reliable (mostly) internet connection and free view TV channels. Most importantly, my hair straighteners work. All this is either ‘shore power’ or gas powered from huge (to us) gas bottles so it’s not exactly as green as the solar power we used most of the time in Greece. But, hey, my hair straighteners work.

The only disappointment, really, is the fridge. Perhaps my expectations were too high – an upright fridge with shelves and an ice box rather than a black hole in the galley work-surface should have been like a dream come true. In reality it’s much smaller than I presumed and fitting much in there, even a standard 2 pint milk container is a real challenge. I guess we will adapt accordingly.

The beds are also rather ‘firm’. My back has suffered these last couple of nights. My bed has now been topped with memory foam so I’m hopeful that will make a difference. Neil, being butch, thankfully (at that price!) didn’t want one.

As for the rodent calling cards, so far there has been no reoccurrence, no noises in the night (apart from the usual) and no sign of anything being nibbled. Sounds hopeful.

The Big Day

18 May

SaturdayImageImage

On a cold, overcast but, thankfully, dry morning in Derby; the Lamputts took possession of their caravan. Record the event in the history books. Announce it on national television news (perhaps with a warning). The Lamputts are on the move again.

And, believe it or not, so far so good. That’s not to say there weren’t any hitches. In fact we hadn’t gone 100 yards down the road before an alarm started to go off. This is pretty scary the first time you start pulling a 20 foot metal box behind you on the Queen’s highway. Isolating the cause wasn’t helped by the fact that the alarm stopped every time we did. Neil eventually worked out that it was the car panicking, saying the indicator and brake lights weren’t working even though they were fine at the back of the caravan. That will need a bit of research.

Progress after that was actually uneventful. We didn’t do much more than 50 mph and simply had to chill out. As most of the journey was motorway or duel carriageway it wasn’t as if we were holding anybody up.

Again, arrival at the site was straight-forward and Neil soon had the caravan positioned nicely. It was only when we were setting up it started to get more awkward. Getting the electricity to work was the first problem. It just didn’t seem to be reaching the ‘van. This was solved by another Bailey owner who pointed out where our trip switch was and we worked out that the supply couldn’t cope with heating the hot water tank. As this also runs on gas it wasn’t really a problem.

What is very disconcerting is the presence of mice droppings in the drawers. Yes, you read that right. Believe me, as the owner of two cats, I can recognise the presence of mice. Time will tell, I suppose, if they are still around. Not a prospect to be relished.

Now, as the sun sets over the river, we are feeling pretty exhausted. Everything we brought with us is unpacked including all the coat hangers with corresponding clothes. Yes, Neil has managed with his ration of six wire hangers and a drawer. Just as well, really.