Bessie at Shardlow

South From Ardrishaig to Alicante – Week 2

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This blog describes our September 2021 journey south from Ardrishaig to Alicante – Week 2. 

If you haven’t read the Week 1 blog you can catch it up 
HERE.

Lowdhams, Gunthorpe

GPS = 52.990318, -0.991006

What3Words = ///bricks.standards.audible

The last blog ended after an eventful day at Gunthorpe with our friends, Garry & Carol.

The following day was also spent at Lowdhams collecting the warranty parts they had for us and buying a few necessities at their leisure shop.

Hopefully I will be able to fix the faults myself but if not I know someone who can do the work.  After collecting the parts we decided to cross the main road and go into Gunthorpe and walk along the Trent, something we have done a few times before when we came here for a day trip from home in East Leake.

The Trent at Gunthorpe

It was quiet on the river today with few boats moving and we kept on walking until after the lock. It was 28 degrees and scorching hot so we decided to have a pot of tea at a riverside restaurant called La Vague and almost instantly regretted this decision. The service was abysmal and the waiter very combative when anyone had the temerity to complain. Our tea took almost half an hour to arrive, made worse by the fact we were sitting outside at the only table without shade.

The pot held enough tea for four cups but they only gave you a sachet with one single saccharine tablet each so we asked for more which seemed to be an imposition to the waiting staff! In hindsight we should have had a Mr Whippy from a nearby van.

Gunthorpe Lock on the Trent
Narrowboat on the Trent

Finally refreshed, we returned to Bessie and had a lazy afternoon sitting out in the sunshine. We had a long chat with the couple parked next to us who were taking possession of their new to them ‘Bessie’ and gave them a few hints and tips.

Bessie at Lowdhams Gunthorpe

Shardlow Marina, Shardlow

GPS = 52.867973,-1.334347

What3Words = ///prominent.toast.decimals

Today we were heading to Shardlow Marina which is a huge complex for narrowboats with an adjoining caravan park. Visiting Shardlow was a regular occurrence when we lived in the area and many a meal was had in the Clock Warehouse pub on the banks of the Trent and Mersey canal.

Before arriving there however I had to drive The Navigator down to the outskirts of Leicester to the Fosse Park retail park as she was desperate to shop in the large M&S there as she is deprived of shops like that in Argyll, the poor wee soul!

From Fosse Park it only took less than half an hour to travel up the M1 to Shardlow Marina and after lunch we set about emptying the garage and tidying it up to give us more free space, not that we intend getting more ‘stuff’ but the object is to have better and quicker access to the ‘stuff’ that’s in there already.

Shardlow Marina

This task was completed just as a five minute shower passed over us but it was soon gone and we headed out for a walk around the Marina complex. The Navigator, bless her, could not get her head around the relationship between the Marina, the adjoining River Trent and the nearby Trent & Mersey canal but eventually she grasped the layout.

Shardlow Marina

Back in 2007 we came here, and other marinas in the area, to look at canal boats with a view to buying one but thought it would not be a lot of good cruising the same stretch of canal every weekend and that is why we bought our first motorhome, Louis the McLouis, to venture wherever the notion took us at home and abroad, and here we are 14 years later on our way to Spain.

We watch YouTube videos of people travelling and living full time aboard narrowboats and it does look idyllic and a much slower pace of life but we’re happy with the decision we made.

Friday started off grey and overcast with a bit of a breeze and up to now on this trip the sun has always broken through and its been very warm/hot in the afternoons, today the forecast was not so good with rain on the way in the afternoon. This prompted us to head out on our bikes for a cycle along the towpath of the Trent and Mersey canal. This was my first cycle on my new bike so was keen to put it through its paces.

Bessie at Shardlow
Bessie at Shardlow
Bessie at Shardlow

The Navigator was a tad nervous as the last time she was on her bike she came a cropper and fell off on an uneven farm track. After getting on the towpath is soon became obvious that it was just as uneven as that farm track with some large gravel chips to negotiate around. I tried to reassure her that at least this time she would have a 50/50 chance of a soft landing but the prospect of ending up in the canal did not appeal to her!

Apart from the canal and the Trent there are many ponds and small lakes here and there were a fair few anglers coarse fishing, which to me is a complete waste of time, but it takes all sorts. We eventually ended up at Sawley Marina and we had a reviving cuppa. This was another marina where we had looked at canal boats back in 2007 and it is a far more attractive setting with the boats all seeming to be in a better condition than the ones at Shardlow.

We found another way to return to Shardlow and had a cycle around the village before returning to Bessie. After lunch we sat outside expecting to be forced inside but the dark clouds passed over without it raining. The site filled up all afternoon with people arriving for the weekend and the first ever Shardlow Inland Port Festival which is on in the village over the weekend.

Shardlow Caravan Park

It was a bit breezy but I still managed to fire up the barbecue but The Navigator decided we should eat inside. We had a walk around the marina later on and fed the ducks and returned to Bessie as the light faded. Quite a few caravans and motorhomes were decorated with outside lights which added to the atmosphere.

This blog is aptly named ManVanNoPlan and unfortunately we had no idea there was a big event on in the village this weekend so it really was ‘no plan’ as were leaving this morning just as the festival was getting under way!

“Shardlow is in a unique position whereby it is considered to be Britain’s most complete surviving example of a canal village and has the best preserved examples of canal architecture. Through the ages the village has seen huge wealth being generated from the trading of goods through the inland waterways port, and massive investment, examples being the cutting of the canal to link the River Trent to the inland waterways and the many Merchant Houses and warehouses which were built from 1770s.

For the Festival a small flotilla of trading boats have been invited to moor up through the village along the Trent & Mersey Canal to sell their unique wares, from beautiful Crystal jewellery, stunning artworks, holistic preparations, Narrowboat hire and knitted goodies.

All the Pubs are getting involved: Starting at The Shakespeare Inn, music, horse and cart, beer barrel rolling; The Clock Warehouse; boat trips and Punch & Judy; The Navigation Children’s Fun Fair, music; The Boathouse Morris Dancing, Craft Stall Fair, Boat Jumble; The New Inn BBQ, Mini Beer Festival, live music.”

Maybe next year!

Onneley Cricket Club CL, Onneley

GPS = 52.985896, -2.367629

What3Words = ///other.unpacked.daisy

Our next stop was a return visit to Onneley, across the other side of the country and a 5 van CL behind the village cricket pavilion. Readers with a good memory will remember we have stayed here before to meet up with Alan and Helen, friends we originally met in Spain and that was the plan this weekend with the added bonus of meeting Tony and Linda who are El Campello veterans as well.

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We serviced the van on arrival and it was obvious from the activity on the Cricket pitch that a game was about to start.

Once we were set up I had a leisurely walk around the boundary and enjoyed the action while The Navigator faffed about in the van getting ready!

Onneley Cricket Club

You can see the roof of Bessie just to the right of the Clubhouse in the above picture and the Wheatsheaf Inn dating from 1769 in the next. This to me is the perfect little CL and well worth the £12 fee.

Wheatsheaf Inn Onneley

At 1.30 we went across the road to the Wheatsheaf to meet Alan and Helen and were soon joined by Tony & Linda and we had a lovely lunch and catch up.

As you may have gathered we listen to a lot of podcasts and one of our favourites is the Frank Skinner Show on Absolute Radio and every week as part of his sign off he says ‘If the Good Lord spares us and the creeks don’t rise,(we’ll be back next week) and I’ll borrow that phrase to say that ‘If the Good Lord spares us and the creeks don’t rise’ and if all goes well in the next few weeks we shall see them all again hopefully towards the end of our stay at El Campello.

The Wheatsheaf Inn Onneley

It was just after 7.30pm when we got back to Bessie and even though we had been in a pub for six hours we weren’t too tipsy as we had a good meal and paced our alcohol consumption! It was noticeably chillier tonight and the forecast wasn’t great for tomorrow.

Strange how you always have a good nights sleep when you’ve had a drink the previous evening and that proved to be the case last night and after a long lie in and a Sunday morning fry up we were ready to face another day.

It was grey and chilly with drizzle in the air but we could see that preparations were being made for another cricket game this afternoon with Onneley hosting Audley. Before that however Alan and Helen popped in to have a cuppa with us on their way to visit their family in Liverpool.
I worked on the Week 1 blog and completed most of it before they arrived. Once they had gone (twice) as Helen left her bag in Bessie and had to return for it, I watched a bit of the cricket but the drizzle forced me back to Bessie where I finished off the blog for release the following morning. This holiday has been relaxing and enjoyable so far and the fact that this was the first day I’ve switched my laptop on since we left home ten days ago proves the fact.

Bessie at Onneley

Just after 4pm I dragged The Navigator kicking and screaming out of Bessie for a slow drizzly walk around the boundary to get some fresh air and see some of the action. After completing the lap she went back to Bessie to cook dinner and I stayed on to watch the game. I’ve always enjoyed cricket, both watching and listening to it on the radio, especially back in the day when I was a boy rep and the commentary of Johnners, Aggers & Co kept me entertained and amused on my long drives between customers. The following picture doesn’t really capture the weather conditions as the rain was ‘persistent’ hence no spectators sitting out!

Onneley Cricket Club Pavilion

After taking the above picture I went and stood behind the railings under the overhanging roof of the pavilion and after a few minutes a man came out of the tea room door and said to me,
“Did you play for Wedgwood?” Obviously a local Potteries cricket team.

“Er, no I’m Scottish and in the motorhome behind the pavilion.”

“Oh, sorry,” he said and turned on his heels.

There was an old lady sitting in the shelter of the doorway watching the game and I heard him say to her as he passed,

“I could have sworn I played with that bloke at Wedgwood!”

I had a chuckle to myself and headed back to Bessie for a delicious curry. Just as I went down the pavilion steps the last Onneley batsman was out capping a fairly miserable performance, as they were all out for 95 runs in reply to Audley’s 225. Having said that they had the worst of weather to contend with as it was now pretty dark and chucking it down.

Sunday night is our busiest YouTube night as most of the people we follow post their latest videos on a Sunday. As we lay in bed watching the videos on TV the rain was hammering down on the roof just a few feet above our heads. This was by far the worst weather we had seen in months but we were warm and cosy so it was no problem.

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This was another thoroughly enjoyable visit to Onneley and I’m determined that the next visit will be planned to watch a game in its entirety in glorious summer sunshine with a few drinks and nibbles to see me through the day then dinner at the Wheatsheaf! We can but dream…

 It was at least dry this morning but it was a grey, overcast start to the week.

Today is quite a significant day as the last couple of times we have been in this area it was the end of a holiday and we headed north and homewards, however, today we were continuing southwards and aiming for Winchester, just over three hours away.

This meant our Spanish adventure was within touching distance and we weren’t heading back to Scotland and we wouldn’t be back home until early December!

Morn Hill Caravan Club Site, Winchester

GPS = 51.062925, -1.257265

What3Words = ///petulant.homing.relished

We would be spending three nights in Winchester and the reason for that is that when I booked the ferry the entry requirements to Spain were proof of double vaccinations and a completed Spanish form with all of our details. It was my thinking that if the Covid situation got worse and we needed to be tested within 48 hours of travel we were in a City where that could be done.

The drive down was a bit stop start and the volume of traffic was really heavy, something I’m not used to in Argyll these days. Back in the day I was on these roads, especially the M42, every week heading down to an office in Kensington High Street, and then later on, Amersham.

We were lucky on the drive today as most of the incidents happened on the opposite carriageway. When we turned off the M42 and on to the A34 Oxford bypass the traffic in the other direction must have stretched back 5+ miles for no other reason than congestion at the roundabout getting on the M42. South of Oxford an old Hymer motorhome towing a trailer seemed to have broken down and this was causing huge tailbacks on the north bound side.

The only incident that almost affected us was when the road widened to four lanes and split. I was in the third lane which would be the inside lane after the split when a silver car ahead in the second lane realised at the very last minute he too should be in the third lane and indicated to try and come in front of me. I was going too fast to do anything other than blast the horn and fortunately this warned him from coming into my lane. Bessie is just over four and a half tons and would have come off best but would have put paid to our holiday if I’d hit him.

We arrived on the Caravan & Motorhome Club site just after twelve and had lunch before relaxing in the afternoon. Well I did anyway, but The Navigator took advantage of the laundry facilities and washed some clothes. After dinner we had a ‘turn’ around the site and were back in time for Only Connect. I wish they would replace the missing vowels round at the end as The Navigator usually catches me up then! Thankfully University Challenge has no easy rounds and I triumphed again!

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Bessie at Morn Hill Campsite

One of the consequences of Brexit is that you are not allowed to bring meat or dairy products into the EU although I’ve not heard of this rule actually being implemented. But this issue, along with being on the ferry for thirty four hours with the fridge switched off means we are having to eat the meat and dairy products in the fridge or we would have to ditch the food before boarding.

This explains why I’m having a cooked breakfast this morning, something that I’m only normally allowed at the weekend!

It rained most of the night and the forecast was to rain most of the day but by lunchtime the rain had stopped but we decided to postpone the trip into Winchester until tomorrow. Winchester is a place The Navigator claims we have visited before but I have no recollection of being here, which is a complete role reversal and we will find out tomorrow who was right!

Nothing much happened for the rest of the day. I worked away updating this blog and the Fyne Editions website and The Navigator read, as ever. One funny thing did happen however, but it was over before I could capture the moment with a picture. Just before lunchtime we heard the pitter patter of a bird walking about on the roof and The Navigator stuck her head through one of the roof lights to try and shoo the pigeon away.

The weather reverted back to norm today and Wednesday was going to be another glorious day so after breakfast we headed into Winchester and it became obvious as soon as we stepped off the bus at the bottom of the High Street that we had not been here before.

Winchester High Street

Winchester has all the trappings of being a prosperous City with well cared for old buildings but, like many towns and cities just now there were a few empty shop units. The Ivy and Rick Stein had restaurants on the High Street and many top brand name shops that you would expect to find in an upmarket area of London.

The High Street was very busy but the most popular shop by far with queues of people waiting to get in was the China Bubble Tea shop. Forgive my ignorance but I had no idea what bubble tea so had to Google it. It is also known as pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk tea, or boba tea or just boba. It is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s and mostly commonly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls (“boba” or “pearls”), but it can be made with other toppings as well. I love my tea but chewy tapioca balls is not for me!

Winchester High Street
Winchester High Street
Winchester Town Hall and Great Hall

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that The Navigator could have fish for every main meal so I treated her to a fish and chips. No, not from Rick Stein’s but from ‘Shoal’ back down the hill near to where the bus dropped us off earlier. We sat on a bench in nearby gardens and enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine. 

Winchester is a city thanks to its magnificent cathedral and that’s where we headed next and we sat near the entrance and took in the majesty of the building.

A cathedral was founded here in 642 on a site immediately to the north of the present one which was consecrated in 1093. It is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with the greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral. 

Many notable events have taken place here including,
Funeral of King William II of England (1100)
Coronation of Henry the Young King and his queen, Marguerite (1172)
Second coronation of Richard I of England (1194)
Marriage of King Henry IV of England and Joanna of Navarre (1403)
Marriage of Queen Mary I of England and King Philip II of Spain (1554)

In more recent times it has an association with Jane Austen, who died in Winchester on 18 July 1817. Her funeral was held in the cathedral, and she was buried in the north aisle. 

Winchester Cathedral

Can you spot The Navigator?

We were back at the campsite by mid-afternoon and sat outside with a cuppa (of proper tea).  

The next blog should be from Spain if all goes well and our paperwork is in order to get on the ferry….

Ardrishaig to Portsmouth

COMING SOON ON THE NEXT BLOG...

Did we make it past all the Covid bureaucracy to get on the ferry?

Are we sitting on the beach at El Campello by the time you read this?

Find out in the next blog…