Well, a lot has been happening since my last post – and as is always the case, if you do not stick to a routine, before you know it you are in a shambles. And that is pretty much the way it is at the moment, Since the last post in Holland we have moved down through Belgium, got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams in Antwerp, caught the ferry from Ostend to Ramsgate, picked up Linda from Heath Row, over-nighted in Brighton and have then scurried Westward, spending some delightful time with long-lost ‘rellies’ and then Westward again. We are now in Cornwall and tomorrow head off to the Eden project and then on to Land’s end.
Somehow spare time to sit down and put finger to keys has been in short supply and time has just flown by. Many a picture has been taken en route, so maybe a few highlights will serve to give you some idea of what has been going on.
The traffic jam outside Antwerp was a sorry example of poor planning/communications. We drove up to the back of stationary cars, wondering why the hold-up. There was no apparent diversion in place: we were surrounded by truckies and if anyone would know what was going on, it would be them. But there we were, stuck in bewildered stagnation – for seven hours!
And when we did finally drive through the cause of all the problems – a 4-lane tunnel shut down to a single lane, with a 4-lane and then 2-lane highway converging on it – there was not a sign of any work being done, Just cones closing off 3 lanes. We were not too amused – nor were the 8 kids who had to endure stoically.
The trip across the Channel was very pleasant with a calm sea under a warm and sunny sky.
Nipping out of Ramsgate we shot through to Canterbury with Rach at the wheel, re-programming her brain to LH driving but now sitting in the ‘wrong’ side of the Van. Just to test her adaptation progress she almost immediately had to negotiate a very fat camel through the eye of the proverbial needle in Canterbury! The narrow town gate into Canterbury was a real challenge, with just a whisker’s clearance either side of the mirrors.
From Canterbury (not possible to get a good look at the cathedral due to lack of time and parking spots for the vans) we headed further west and south. This was the day to pick up Linda from the airport and this involved some very tricky moves. Due to London’s anti-pollution regulations, we were not able to get to Heath Row with our aging vehicles. The answer was for me to be dropped off at Maidstone railway station, take the train to London,
get a Tube from one London station to another, and then catch the connecting train to Heath Row. After which I would meet up with Linda and catch the Coach down to Brighton! Where the two vans would be waiting for us, having driven on while I did my train thing. Amazingly it all went without a hitch and connections clicked into place most conveniently. A couple of text messages in Brighton and we were all re-united! Amazing. Poor Linda had been travelling for well over 24hours and was decidedly groggy at the end of it all. We were allowed to park on the Esplanade in Brighton, for Free, so that was most helpful.
The next day we were off again, and went on to visit a cousin of mine.
As it turned out, he had alerted several other cousins and rellies of our coming and so we had a very pleasant re-union. We had asked them to try and find us somewhere to park the vans over-night, and there had been some encouraging talk of using the field of a friend. As it turned out, one of the rellies happened to be living in part of a Country manor and said there was heaps of room in the grounds for our vans.
What an understatement – and what a magical place that was!
The Manor had been converted internally into about 10 individual homes and our friends had the carriage house and stables –beautifully remodeled on the inside.
We all had the time of our lives there and we were all very sorry to leave.
The next day Cousin took the opportunity to show us around Winchester Cathedral. Very different from the ornate cathedrals of Europe but a huge and magnificent building none-the-less.
Afterwards we went on, ever-westward and ending up in another cathedral city, Salisbury. It was a long drive, the streets impossibly narrow,
and our planned stop-over failed to materialize, and so we had to cast about for somewhere to park our vans for the night. It sounds quite vagabond-ish but we always park in legal over-night parking spots so it works out ok. Joist sometimes it takes a while to find a spot. Of course we like to stay in a place where there are all the camp facilities but they are not always available where we stop, and besides, some are not good value for money, and we choose to avoid them.
Onwards still from Salisbury via Stonehenge
to a lovely Cornish fishing port, Looe.
I remembered staying in Looe on more than one cycle tour, back in the days of my youth. Physically the town has changed little in the intervening 60 years or so,
but inevitably, the march of Tourism has stamped its mark on the place, and it has lost some of its old-world charm. It is still a very pretty place, and we got to be the guest of a lady who owns a property high on the hills above Looe. We had a million-dollar view and all the facilities we needed.
The next day we had a long leisurely walk around Looe and had Cornwall’s famous Pasties for lunch. The last time I had a Cornish Pasty was on one of the afore-mentioned bike tours. On that occasion, the contents must have been ‘off; because I remember bringing the lot back up in the middle of the night! I’m pleased to report that trhis time the pasty was delicious – and stayed where it belonged! After our walk we climbed back in the vans and we continued our westward flight, this time as far as St Austell. Again we found ourselves in an overnight parking area.
We have galloped through most of the western counties and today we have gone about as fur as we can go – we are at Land’s End. The countryside has been quite beautiful
and the patch-work fields in various shades of green and yellow, divided up by hedge-rows, have a unique charm: so different from the huge paddocks and rolling pasture land of NZ. The only draw-back has been the incredible narrowness of the roads.
Once off the main highways we found ourselves driving down lanes banked on both sides by truck0high hedges and trees, and with scarcely room for one vehicle. Passing is quite impossible in those cases and we quite often found ourselves at a standstill, wedged into the hedge on the side of the road as a car passed by, or waiting while someone backed a long way down the road to find a spot where we could pass. I had forgotten just how narrow these lanes are – and they a re a real stress factor for the drivers. All credit and heartfelt thanks goes to them.
Before we started off for Land’s End, Linda & I stole a few hours and took ourselves off to visit the Eden Project: an amazing project – transforming the ugly scar that remained after years of excavating for China Clay. Now it houses some enormous, futuristic ‘bubble’ structures that are environmentally controlled.
In one are tropical plants, and Mediterranean plants in another.
The scar has been terraced and planted to produce a truly delightful environment.
Land’s end is a picture: here we are high on a high hill overlooking a sandy beach,
the Atlantic gently rolling in under a blue sky, the green fields rolling away into the distance. We have found a great camp park, and all is well!