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Published: February 4th 2018
It is that time of the year when you find yourself looking back thinking to yourself rather loudly " Where has the last year gone?" "Don't know" comes the response back. This time last year we were thinking about an up and coming Greek odyssey. We were worrying that we could not find any ferry booking sites open . In the end we probably paid over the odds to get a cabin on Minoan Lines ferry from Ancona to Igoumenitsa. Looking back would we do it again? Not that way. 5 days driving down to Italy was not that bad. The ship was Ok, the bed reasonable, the food awful and the price. Well don't get me going about that. Next time another days drive would take us to Bari and a shorter sea journey by quite a few hours. Probably cheaper and we could sleep on board. Yuu live and learn. We got it wrong but next time.
But before that we went to Cornwall. A trip to celebrate another birthday . Yawn Yawn don't go there. They come round far too quickly and are best forgotten. A trip down memory lane to places I had not visited for
over 20 years. No they hadn't changed much , St Michaels Mount still looked like Mont St Michel. The Godolphin Arms still sold food but it had gone all bistro and modern. You still cannot park a motorhome for love nor money. Height barriers and small car parking spaces. No wonder we go abroad and spend our cash there.
We did the Suzy shuffle. We eyed up the neighbours. Were they out? Were they parked in such a way as to block us in? . Like a scene from Strictly Come Dancing we looked like Ed Balls crossed with Rev Richard Cole as we moved Maddie off the drive. Quickly followed by Gunter the grunter. It wasn't so much of a pretty waltz - more like a load of carthorses gallumping off the drive. The garage door opened, the single ramp taken out and put in position. You know the rest - the pergola got in the way and Suzy fell over, The pergola was cut down in size and Suzy was unceremoniously dragged off the ramps by a local mechanic with ratchets and his car used as an anchor. We were the topic of conversation in the garage
over tea for weeks. At least we got to Greece after doing the reverse waltzy twizzle putting everything back where they came from. The end was nigh for Suzy but at the time we did not know that.
Greece was wonderful - think superlatives and you might be partway there. Sun, sea, blue skies, good food , We loved it. We couldn't ask for anything better and perhaps that spoiled us for the next trip. No trip was ever going to be that good again.
We sold Suzy and purchased Gabby. Well you know about Gabby already.
Christmas arrived and was soon over. A bit of a non event. January brought in with it the New Year. The weather ranged from downright cold and windy to hail, snow and heavy rain. Even a few Springlike days. So what were we planning? The tunnel booked using Tesco vouchers and the extra paid in cash. We go at lunchtime so an early start for us in 77 days time. We will not be stopping on the way. After much discussion it is France this time. Not too far, just 1000 miles there and 1000 back but it will give
us chance to try Gabby out properly. Passports up to date , EHIC still in date. September Spain and Portugal. A late holiday so we need to chase the sun. A crit air sticker ordered and delivered just in case we accidently find ourselves in one of the anti pollution zones.
We started get itchy feet and wanted to try Gabby out again. Where to go? There is not much open at this time of year. The camping and caravan club sites generally close down to let the wardens get their holidays in. Those open are not in the right places. The bulk of them opened in February. We consulted maps. We googled cities and in the end come up with Hereford. Why Hereford and its surrounding areas? It was two and a half hours drive away. Just far enough to get away to feel that we had done something. There was enough in the city to pass a day pleasantly and we could drive on to Monmouthshire and take in a castle and an abbey. What more could you want from a few days away?
Did it start well? Not really. The weather was against us. Rain fell solidly whilst we put all our belongings back in Gabby. It fell on us as we filled her water tanks and whilst we drove down the M1 and M42. Eventually just cheering up a little whilst we stopped for dinner. The Fox somewhere in the heart of Herefordshire. A lovely pub where we enjoyed a quiet drink, a chicken dinner and belly pork with parsnips. The day went downhill as we sailed through a speeding camera. Around a corner - thoughts miles away - into a 40 mph speed limit . SPEED CAMERA - slow down . Did I notice it too late? Who knows what speed we were doing? We will just have to pray and hope for the best. 14 days of waiting for the NIP to arrive. Nothing we can do about it . We were doing 30 when we got to him but ......................... you live and learn.
The site we stayed on was idyllic or would have been if the rain hadn't been pouring down. The owner of Cuckoo Corner greeted us . Watch the grass he said - it is waterlogged . There was hard standing and we parked up, paid our £17 and he showed us the hookup and the showers., We didn't venture out anywhere that day. Just sat and read and found the lights don't work on one side of Gabby. Probably a small job but one that needs doing. Then the heating packed up. It had worked a treat in Shrewsbury . Today the red light came on. A quick phone call to the dealers followed with explanations of what was going on. Try the fuses under the seat. They were OK. All working fine and dandy. Look at the boiler . It seems OK . He rang back sounds like something wrong you will have to bring it in. Not the perfect end to an imperfect day. However the thought for the day did ring true and despite the things that went wrong it seemed rather apt,
"Pleasure is a freedom song but is not freedom. It is the blossoming of desire." Well we did feel a bit of freedom being on the road again and we had the desire to keep moving . Hopefully the town will be interesting , we can get a good breakfast and take in the cathedral and the world famous Mappa Mundi . What else can go wrong? Nothing I hope. We need cheering up.
It did though continue to go downhill, in fact in leaps and bounds. The rain poured down. It felt like the Arctic in Gabby. Despite warm duvets our little feet were frozen and we made the decision to come home for a bath and a warm. Nothing went well and we just gave up. The best we managed was a walk around the Lido near our home. Another cold day , we wrapped up in thick coats, donned scarves and put on gloves. Even Sion wore his new coat and his scarf and wished he was in the sun in India with his best curry eating friend Woolly Mammoth. The Lido looked freezing with a just a few lonely anglers from the Clay Cross Angling Society fishing on its banks . The moorhens, coots, swans and ducks were braving the icy cold water. Glenn pronounced that in the hot summers when he was a youth before health and safety became the rage the village kids would swim in the Lido. A small van used to park up and sell ice creams and drinks. It must have been a simpler life . Today it was quiet. The water too murky and clogged with weeds to be safe for a quick dip.
We walked up Central Drive through the impressive gate pillars and twin gate houses of Wingerworth Hall. The hall went the same way as many just after the great War. It had been the ancestral home of the Hunloke family. The only clues to the Hunlokes now are a number of roads named after them and a public house. It was demolished in 1927. As we walked up the long driveway to the house we climbed slowly towards the ponds that lined either side of the driveway. The house stood on an elevated position and was completed in 1724. I think it looked like the nearby ruined Sutton Scarsdale Hall . The house was in the rare style of understated Baroque style with the principle doorway reached by a broad straight external staircase. Like many of the houses of the rich it must have been impressive with its balustrades and set in formal gardens designed by the famous gardener Repton. The gardens were lost and an entire housing estate was built in the orchards and formal and informal landscape of the estate. This is the story of yet another family who made their fortunes on the minerals lying beneath the ground. They lost it just as quickly and the house was let to tenants. Always a bad sign as it led to the sale in 1920 when no-one wanted to buy it. In the end it was sold to a local demolition contractor who bit by bit demolished the house and sold the stone. The interiors were stripped out and oddly one of the rooms ended up in the St Louis Art Museum in Missouri.
Although this was not a trip out in Gabby it proved an interesting walk into the past. A walk that took us through an old estate, past a lido and through gardens full of snowdrops showing the first signs of Spring. Oh yes and the catkins were blowing in the breeze .
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