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2019 – Ardrishaig to Ardrishaig in 18 days

2019 – Ardrishaig to Ardrishaig in 18 days
Week 1 – Day 1 – Tuesday 30th July 2019
Ardrishaig to Alva via Sauchie – 110 miles – 28.5 mpg – 33 mph

Ardrishaig to Ardrishaig in 18 days was the plan for this trip and we set off on a Tuesday as The Navigator was working at Tarbert on the Monday morning. I decided to go down with her and try for some mackerel off the east pier and did not too badly for only being there a couple of hours – in the pouring rain!

The usual start to any trip is to visit The Navigator’s mother and this was our first port of call after leaving Ardrishaig just after lunchtime. Today’s drive was uneventful apart from a stop to have a cuppa at Buchlyvie. As we sat there enjoying our brew we had the following conversation,

The Navigator – ‘What kind of fruit is that on the big bush over there?’
Me – ‘They’re chestnuts.’
The Navigator – ‘Can’t be, chestnuts grow on trees, not bushes and it’s not time for chestnuts yet!’
Me – ‘Trees start off as bushes.’
The Navigator – ‘It’s some sort of fruit bush.’

At this point The Navigator decided to go and examine the ‘fruit bush.’

On her return…
Me – ‘What sort of ‘fruit bush’ is it then?’
The Navigator – ‘Chestnut!

Examining the “fruit” bush…

My life in a NUTshell…

After the visit we had a Chinese takeaway and parked up for the night in our usual spot at Alva, looking out to the Ochil Hills.

Week 1 – Day 2 – Wednesday 31st July 2019
Alva to Leeds – 269 miles – 27.6 mpg – 50 mph

We headed for Leeds today with the aim of picking up Emma tomorrow so today was just one big long drive of nearly 270 miles in the most horrendous weather conditions. The oft used phrase, ‘rain of biblical proportions’ hardly begins to describe the climatic conditions. The rain was so heavy that the motorway traffic ground to a halt on a few occasions as visibility was reduced to almost zero.

The satnav was suggesting we leave the M6 at junction 36 and head cross country through the Yorkshire Dales but that was ignored as many of the roads in the Dales were flooded so we took the M61 to the M62 and over the Moors towards Leeds. When we first started coming to Leeds to see Emma we found a really good spot to wildcamp behind some warehouses but its not available anymore. I have found a new place to park up for the night from the Park4Night App and you can see from the following pictures how scenic it was beside the River Aire which is used by canal boats at this spot, known as Calverley Bridge.

The only issue was road noise from the Leeds ring road crossing the bridge behind us but we were both so tired from the journey that we slept soundly.

Week 1 – Day 3 – Thursday 1st August 2019
Leeds to Haughton – 110 miles – 28.5 mpg – 33 mph

We were up fairly early but as Emma is not really a morning person we had a leisurely breakfast and a walk along the canal before setting off to pick her up just after ten.

The weather today was much better and we had a good journey back over the M62 and down the M6. We arrived at the Red Lion Farm campsite at Haughton, Staffordshire by mid afternoon and settled down for a relaxing afternoon and a BBQ later. When we arrived we were pitched next to a Sprite Alpine caravan and it seemed to be in a decent condition.

This was the caravan model we bought in the early eighties and had when the girls were born and we ventured as far as Holland, Belgium and France in it and we all loved it. There is a bit of a resemblance with Aunty Emma in this picture, and Eilidh today!

Red Lion Farm is a small campsite on a working dairy farm but it also has a tearoom, farm shop, and loads of farm animals and birds for the benefit of visiting children who can feed and pet them. There is also an owl sanctuary on site as well.

The goats would keep us entertained all week…

Week 1 – Day 4 – Friday 2nd August 2019
0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

This morning Jill, Simon and Eilidh flew in from Belfast to Birmingham, hired a car and were with us in time for lunch. We see Eilidh at least twice a week by a video link but it was great to see her in the flesh again, not forgetting Jill and Simon!

The family…

Grandpas first duty was to carry Eilidh around the farm to show her all the animals and they either got pointed at or received a wave and a ‘hiya’. The sheep were honoured as they all received a wave, a ‘hiya’ and a ‘baa.’

We bought a groundsheet to use on sites where we linger longer than normal and this was its first outing and it was a great success with Eilidh who loved crawling about on it but for some reason she would not crawl onto the grass so she stayed on the mat unless she was carried over to see the goats in the pen behind us.

After another BBQ in the evening Jill, Simon and Eilidh went off to their hotel for the night.

Week 1 – Day 4 – Saturday 3rd August 2019
Haughton – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

Jill, Simon and Eilidh are on a room only basis at their hotel, and as Eilidh wakes between five and six am they were back at the van at eight and we all had breakfast outside as it was a lovely morning.

The reason for the family get together in this random part of England is that Jill and Simon were invited to the wedding of one of Jill’s best friends from her school days in the East Midlands and it was taking place not far from where we were camped.

No children were invited so Granny, Grampa and Aunty Emma were on babysitting duties today but it wasnt practicable to look after Eilidh in the van so we went to the hotel for the day and overnight, leaving Jill and Simon to use the van as a base to attend the wedding.

Eilidh was on great form for us and we had lunch in an adjoining garden centre.

There was a huge warehouse next to the garden centre selling every species of fish known to man (it seemed) and it helped keep Eilidh amused for an hour or so.

We had an afternoon play in the room and a nap before dinner in the next door Beefeater, all without a drama and only a short cry at bedtime as she was having so much fun she didn’t want to go to sleep!

Week 1 – Day 5 – Sunday 4th August 2019
Haughton – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

Jill came and picked us up and as it was a lovely day again, after breakfast we relaxed and took Eilidh walks to see all the animals and let her practise her animal noises.

After lunch we went into the owl sanctuary and the guy there only charged us £6 for one family ticket and to be honest it wasn’t worth much more as we were too late to see any owls flying and although there was a decent variety of (rescue) owls they were behind quite thick wire mesh which prevented a good view of the birds.

Later in the afternoon Alan and Helen from nearby Stoke came to join us for a few days. Alan drove their motorhome and Helen, their car (the scenic route, arriving well after Alan) as they were going to take us out and about in the next two days. Also joining us for the afternoon was Simon’s brother, Nick, who took the opportunity to drive up to see us all.

Later on we had a BBQ and sat out well into the evening catching up on events since we had last seen Alan and Helen in El Campello back in mid March. I had brought some of my favourite Mercadona white wine and The Navigator shared her favourite Spanish red and it put us in the mood to think about our next trip there in January.

As I mentioned earlier, Eilidh loved to crawl about on the mat but the strange thing was she would not crawl off it onto the grass but if someone took her hands she would happily walk on the grass as she is almost at the stage of walking herself as you can see in this picture of the three generations.

Week 2 – Day 6 – Monday 5th August 2019
Haughton – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

Jill, Simon and Eilidh checked out of their hotel and were at the van for breakfast at 7.20am! We had a relaxing morning with them until it was time for them to head off to Birmingham Airport for their flight back to Belfast. Emma went with them to get a train back to Leeds. Eilidh had a last look at some of the animals first though…

The goats were probably her favourite…

After they had gone, the four of us headed off to visit Ironbridge which we had never been to before and enjoyed a day there, first at Blists Hill Victorian Town, which was an impressive, if expensive, recreation of a small Victorian town with shops, industry and crafts being demonstrated by staff all dressed in the appropriate period clothing. Click on this LINK to look at all there is to see and do there.

Lunch was fish and chips in a cone, or poke (as we Scots say) and it was very good. Later in the afternoon we headed a few miles further along the river Severn to Ironbridge to see the famous bridge which was built in 1781. We had a stroll about the pretty, historic riverside town, now a magnet for tourists and had an ice cream to round off our visit.

We had a quick pit stop at an ALDI to top up our wine supplies and polished off some more with another BBQ later.

Week 2 – Day 7 – Tuesday 6th August 2019
Haughton – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

After a lazyish morning Alan drove us into Stafford, a town that for some reason we never visited when we lived in the East Midlands and we were pleasantly surprised how appealing it is. Lots of old buildings, one we saw was dated 1610 and many were expertly restored as we found out when we had a drink in a JD Wetherspoons pub, The Picture House, first opened in 1914 and now converted to a huge pub / restaurant.

Alan and I headed to the bar to order drinks and as he had a bit of a jippy tummy he asks the barmaid for a port and brandy. There then ensued a bizarre conversation as she refused to serve him this mixture as it breached Wetherspoons ‘responsible retailing’ policy, ie, they would not sell two different spirits in the one glass.
‘Okay,’ says Alan, ‘Can I have a glass of brandy and a glass of port please?’
This request was also refused as she now knew he was going to mix them as soon as we sat down. In the end he settled for a glass of brandy.

When I ordered a fresh orange and lemonade I jokingly asked if that too would break Wetherspoons ‘responsible retailing’ policy but it seemed mixing soft drinks was okay. When we had the four drinks we headed outside where our nearest and dearest were sitting. After telling them what had just happened, Helen decided to go and get a glass of port so Alan could get the full benefit of his chosen ‘medicine’ and off she went, only to return with,
wait for it…
…another glass of brandy!!

We all fell about laughing and as there was now only one person who had not been involved in the ordering process, The Navigator was dispatched off inside and her short term memory lasted and she managed to remember to buy a glass of port.

In the evening we walked into Haughton and had a fair to middling meal at the local pub, where the staff still seemed to be finding their feet since reopening only four weeks previously.

Week 2 – Day 8 – Wednesday 7th August 2019
Haughton – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

Alan and Helen headed off home around lunchtime and The Navigator and I spent the rest of the day relaxing in the sunshine. We were originally due to leave today but we were settled and it was only £15 a night so we booked in until Friday.

Week 2 – Day 9 – Thursday 8th August 2019
Haughton – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

Today we relaxed and tidied up the van as the forecast was for rain tomorrow so everything was packed away today. I flew the drone to take the above pictures and chatted to a guy from the caravan opposite us who was born in Inveraray but now lived in Bishopton near Glasgow, as did his daughters family who were in the adjoining caravan.

Week 2 – Day 10 – Friday 9th August 2019
Haughton to Burton on Trent – 38.7 miles – 25.4 mpg – 29 mph

The site was fully booked for the weekend so we had to leave today and after a leisurely breakfast we headed off to another farm site, Hill Byre at Burton on Trent, just south of Derby. The forecast rain never appeared and it was a lovely drive in sunshine through Stafford, then Uttoxeter and onto the site after a pit stop at an Aldi in Hilton.

Week 2 – Day 11 – Saturday 10th August 2019
Burton on Trent – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

It wasn’t the best nights sleep ever as the rain belted down for most of the night and the occasional plane took off from nearby East Midlands Airport. I have stayed on this site before, although it was the first time for The Navigator. It was a five van CL back then and is much bigger now and it has a newly built toilet / shower block which met with The Navigator’s approval. It was reasonable value at £16 a night, but there were no animals to see or feed here!

It was blowing a proper gale today so we didn’t venture out, instead we watched a crowd of people from some nearby caravans and tents all dressed as pirates playing outdoor games! The wind, which buffeted the van all day did not calm down until late at night.

Week 2 – Day 12 – Sunday 11th August 2019
Burton on Trent to Gunthorpe – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

It was still blowing a bit of a gale today but we had no choice but to head off towards Gunthorpe. The route took us through Kegworth and East Leake where we used to live when we spent sixteen years in the East Midlands.

We arrived at Lowdhams in the early afternoon and The Navigator proceeded to lose her marbles! This visit was arranged months ago to get some warranty work done on Bessie and they needed the van for three days so we were staying tonight, then heading off tomorrow in one of their courtesy cars for two days before returning on Wednesday to pick up Bessie and stay another night before heading back to Scotland.

When The Navigator returned with the key for the area we were to park in I was berated for only booking us in for one night instead of four nights and she had sorted my ‘mistake’ with the receptionist. When I calmly pointed out that the van would be in the workshop for two of the nights she had booked us in for the penny dropped and she went back and confessed her ‘blonde’ moment to the receptionist. You (I) have to laugh!

We’ve hardly watched any TV since we’ve left home so tonight we caught up with a few programs we usually watch.

Week 3 – Day 13 – Monday 12th August 2019
Gunthorpe – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

The alarm was set for 7am as Lowdhams want the van at 8am for it to be moved to their repair compound which is a few miles away in Bingham. Once all the paperwork was completed for Bessie’s repairs and the courtesy car, we availed ourselves of the free tea and toast in their Millie’s cafe. After a walk around looking at all the new vans on display and their accessory shop we headed off to Fosse Park in Leicester as The Navigator wanted a look round some of the shops there.

We headed up to Kegworth to a spot on the canal bank and had a picnic watching the canal boats go past. We considered buying a canal boat when we lived here years ago but chose a motorhome to wander further afield than the restrictive canal network.

The afternoon was spent wandering about Loughborough which has changed quite a bit since we left in 2011. If there is another town in the UK with more charity shops than Loughborough it will be as dispiriting as walking about this normally busy town.

Tonight we were in the Travelodge on the M1 at East Midlands airport which was comfortable enough.

Week 3 – Day 14 – Tuesday 13th August 2019
Gunthorpe – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

It’s a Tuesday morning and we are in the East Midlands so what does that mean? It means no long lie in this morning as we were up and off to Melton Mowbray, one of our favourite towns in the East Midlands. It is a busy little town at the best of times but on a Tuesday it bustles with activity as it hosts one of the biggest farmers markets in the country as well as being market day in the town itself.

It is fascinating to watch the livestock auctions and simultaneously there are auctions for sheep, cattle and fur & feather creatures which include all varieties of ducks, geese, chickens, pigeons, both dead and alive, and lots of exotic birds too. The furry animals are mostly rabbits, both dead and alive, and hamsters, guinea pigs etc. Where else could you get two ferrets for £1?

There are lots of food stalls which compete with each other to see how many pieces of bacon or sausages they can get on a roll, all washed down with large teas. We were in a dilemma. By now it was 11am and we had not had breakfast but as we were queuing and trying to decide between sausages or bacon we saw people in front of us ordering the other option, roast pork and stuffing with gravy on a roll. Decisions, decisions and it was the latter option we went for and they were delicious.

As well as the livestock there are stalls selling everything under the sun with lots of collectable and memorabilia stalls too.

The town is only a few hundred yards away and we headed there for a look around and found it very busy, no surprise really as it was a glorious day. The Navigator treated herself and we bought some fruit, two punnets of strawberries for £1.50 and two huge hands of bananas for £1 were the best buys.

When we lived here we would come out for the day and always bought loads of meat from a truck selling butcher meat in bargain bundles and although we were limited by not having the van with us, we did buy a bargain lot of gammon.

Probably my three favourite places to visit in the East Midlands were Ashby de la Zouch, Melton Mowbray and Oakham and it was to Oakham we headed in the afternoon for a walk about.

Oakham is a lovely little town near to Rutland Water and we enjoyed our stroll, ending up at the Castle, which doesn’t look like your normal defensive structure but has been known as a castle since Norman times.

The most unusual feature of it is the tradition that visiting noblemen and royalty would have to bring a ceremonial horse shoe which was mounted on the wall to commemorate their visit, a tradition still carried on by Prince Charles and the Queen.

Tonight we were staying in an Airbnb, the aptly named ‘House of Entertainment’. This was the first time we had used an Airbnb and this one was in Asfordby on the Hill and was excellent and our host could not have been more friendly or welcoming.

Week 3 – Day 15 – Wednesday 14th August 2019
Gunthorpe – 0 miles – 0 mpg – 0 mph

We left the ‘House of Entertainment’ without seeing our host and headed on a leisurely drive towards Gunthorpe to collect Bessie just after lunchtime so we had a morning to kill. First we headed for East Leake, the village we lived in for sixteen years to have a nosey about at our old house and see the changes in the village with two big new housing developments the most noteworthy change.

From East Leake we headed into Nottingham for a drive about and lunch before heading onto Gunthorpe. We had enjoyed our two days in the Fiat Punto but it was good to get Bessie back with the work done to our satisfaction. Motorhome dealers can get a bad press for their after sales service but we have always been impressed with the Lowdhams service from Gerry and his team.

It was a proper monsoon like downpour as we serviced the van and drove it into their Rally Field to hook up and spend the night before heading off in the morning.

Week 3 – Day 16 – Thursday 15th August 2019
Gunthorpe to Eyemouth – 250 miles – 28.2 mpg – 42 mph

Events (the weather) forced me to head up the east coast as there was a very strong gale from the west blowing against the left side of the van and I did not fancy, either going over the moors on the M62 or over the even more desolate moors on the A66 between Scotch Corner and Penrith to the M6 as I thought it would be even more stormy driving up the west of the country on the M6.

We have wildcamped before at Dunbar, Musselburgh and Portobello in Edinburgh but decided to try Eyemouth, not far over the border from Berwick upon Tweed.

Bessie was too long to park at the free spot recommended on the Park4Night App but we found a good place to park up on the south side of the harbour, right on the quay side with a great view over to the town. After dinner we had a walk over to the town and had a chat to a Spanish family who were parked up with their motorhome on the town side of the harbour.

Before returning to the van The Navigator went into the Co-op for some milk and came out smiling. Thinking she had another one of her blonde / grey moments I asked what was up this time. As she was standing at the checkout she thought she recognised the woman serving her and it turns out she used to work on the checkouts at the Co-op in Lochgilphead and had moved to Eyemouth as she was fed up with the midges and rain of the west coast! Small world…

As well as a busy working harbour Eyemouth has a good stretch of sandy beach and a few hardy souls went into the water!

Since we were last in Eyemouth the above memorial has been erected. It commemorates the disaster of the 14th of October 1881 when 189 fishermen lost their lives in a severe storm.

Week 3 – Day 17 – Friday 16th August 2019
Eyemouth to Ardrishaig – 184.6 miles – 26.2 mpg – 33 mph

We had a lovely evening stroll around Eyemouth last night in warm, sunny conditions but overnight the weather changed and it poured down most of the night. Eyemouth is a busy working harbour and throughout the night boats were coming in and unloading their catch which did not bother us until one came in just after 1am and started playing loud music as he unloaded for about 45 minutes!

That, coupled to some big seagulls landing on the roof and running about woke me and I got the blame for waking The Navigator from her slumbers as I opened a window to see what was going on outside and banging on the roof to get rid of the seagulls!

After breakfast we left Eyemouth and the east coast to head cross country to home on the west coast. All went well up the A1, around the Edinburgh bypass and across the M8 and even though there was a gale blowing onto the side of the van it was not as bad as yesterday so we made good progress until we hit the centre of Glasgow where the motorway traffic ground to a standstill. For the next hour we inched forward at a snail’s pace.

We were heading for the Asda at Govan, just off the motorway to top up with fuel as is normal practice heading home as diesel is up to 7p a litre cheaper than up in Lochgilphead but we were never going to get there for ages as the radio informed us that there was an accident ahead and both lanes were blocked.

I managed to get in the left lane going off to the Dumbarton Road with the cunning plan of going through the Clyde Tunnel and back a junction to the Asda but the approach to the Tunnel was queued for about a mile as there seemed to be roadworks in the tunnel so abandoned the plan to get back south of the river so we bought some shopping and filled up on the Dumbarton Road and headed home from there.

Total Trip 30th July to 16th August 2019
Ardrishaig to Ardrishaig – 1,013.3 miles – 27.1 mpg – 38 mph

We are going to the Tay Fitness Killin 10K to help out again…
Stay tuned to see The Navigator master a new skill…

And finally, Eilidh is coming up for the same age as I was when I had this picture taken with my maternal grandparents and the photographs only go to prove how times have changed, although bald heads haven’t!!

The Previous blog post, Escape to Girvan is HERE if you missed it.

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