Our Travel blog
Through the wonders of Facebook we discovered that Karen, an ex-colleague of Ray's and her husband Barry would be at the same site on Saturday, so convivial pints were downed while we swapped tales of the road. They're planning to circumnavigate the UK in Bessie, their motor-home and we wish them every success.
We left Fleet along the Jurassic Road, which was less bumpy in Mavis than the bus was yesterday and, under Alison's expert guidance took the hills in her stride. The views were stunning and ever changing as we moved from the rugged coastline and steep slopes of Dorset to the rolling patchwork of Devon's hills with their regular strips of rich russet soil among the greens and golds.
The journey enchanted us, so much so that Ali described the ever-changing views as filling her soul to overflowing...and retaining the poetic theme she even managed to alliterate a rant at a driver who cut us up. Like travelling with a sweary Wordsworth.
We paused to meet up with Rachel and Abi at Weston and enjoyed a Sunday carvery at The Otter Inn, before venturing on, refreshed in mind and body for the narrow lanes, mature hedges and abundant bird life of Stoke Gabriel, near Totnes. After the usual unpacking routine we took a stroll into the settlement of Stoke Gabriel which we took to immediately, with its multi level houses tumbling down steep hillsides to the pretty harbour on the River Dart and tide fed mill pond. The town and the woods on the opposite bank looked resplendent in the late evening spring sun.
Today we set off to Westbay and Bridport on the rather splendid X53 Jurassic Coast bus service. The journey is bumpy and at times tortuously slow uphill but the views are spectacular, especially around Abbotsbury. We sat upstairs on the last remaining pair of seats among what appeared to be a rather jovial Saga trip. Alison was delighted to be the youngest person aboard. We're sure that if the bus had to brake sharply a pile of false teeth would fly to the front and they'd have a great time sorting them out.
Anyhow eventually we left the faint smell of lavender and the type of aftershave that has a picture of a ship on the bottle and alighted in the busyness of Westbay. We took a stroll under the cliffs, eroding at an alarming rate with some worryingly fresh falls and then back over the cliff top coastal path, sandwiched between eroding oblivion on one side and the mind numbing oblivion of the golf course on the other. We shared a chuckle as someone attired head to foot in designer golf apparel took several practice swings then immediately sliced the ball about 12 yards into the undergrowth. To his credit he maintained an air of nonchalance throughout.
An honourable mention in despatches today goes to The Custom House restaurant at Westbay who produced great fish and chips with terrific customer service. They've only been open 3 weeks and we wish them a fabulous season.
We walked into Bridport, via a record shop with a gig on for Record Store Day. We declined the fizzy wine they offered (that bumpy bus ride back beckoned and we weren't sure it would be a good idea to fill up on bubbles) and Ray even managed to leave without purchasing anything. From appearances Bridport seemed a fine town but our bus was due so we didn't linger.
On the return we were spared the Saga louts and apart from the hairy full throttle decent into Abbotsbury the journey was uneventful. However we did learn that an ex colleague of Ray's is staying on the same site with her and her husbands new motorhome Bessie so it looks like a drink is in order later.
We woke with the lark at the crack of 9am in torrential rain with the lingering thought that only yesterday we had remarked on how lush Dorset was. What hadn't occurred to us then was that the reason for the lushness was the rain that had fallen all night and looked set to feature for most of the day.
Undeterred, or just plain stupid, we set off to find Fleet Church, which we duly did, sitting squat and retiring, almost shyly nestled amongst trees in a dark vale. Outside it looked gloomy in the rain but inside it was bright, airy and most welcoming.
As we were already wet we decided to follow the footpath over the fields and back to the site, after all how much worse could things get? Well, we soon found out as we headed across a gentle stream and up a steep incline, sufficiently slippery to make each footstep slide back, a bit like walking up the down escalator. Still undeterred we crested the hill for a relatively easy stretch before joining a path sandwiched between a paddock and hedge that slowly shrank to the width of a person, and after a slidey decent turned into the local stream - which with a deftness that can only be described as accidental, we successfully forded and emerged onto the Fleet Road.
As we were already as wet as its possible to get without actually swimming we followed the path opposite as the rain got heavier and the ground stickier, and, as we rounded the last hill we both agreed it was terrific fun. And we meant it too; a great morning and back to a warm shower and a cuppa.
We spent the afternoon and evening in the company of Ray's sister & brother in law. After a guided tour of the region featuring Lulworth and Corfe castles and some spectacular views we had a long overdue catch up over a delicious meal. It also happened to be a thought provoking time for Ray and his sister as, having chosen different paths early on in life they had then seldom crossed. People make choices for reasons, and the seperate paths they took were the result of many influences but last night they discovered much in common neither of them realised they had. It was cathartic, emotional and a reconcilliation of two people who didn't realise how close they were.
Going to bed the feeling was of a life spent steadily dealing from a pack of cards neatly sorted into a particular order, then on waking to find the pack had been shuffled. Now turning the cards is unsettling, but somehow more rewarding as we seek to deal them in a new order.
We were spared our regular bird life wake up call today. After the usual ablutions and changing the gas canister with only minor swearing we asked at the site shop about the charge on our leisure battery. It doesn't seem to want to charge from the hook up, although it does when the engine is running. Anyhow, all sorts of unintelligible technical language was exchanged with the man in the shop which resulted in Ali giving South Coast Auto a call.
Well, let it be proclaimed now that Sean at South Coast Auto is a prince amongst men, although we suspect he had more heavily inked forearms than most royalty. Not only did he arrive within 10 minutes he was charming, diagnosed the fault almost immediately and didn't want paying. We did of course make sure he didn't leave empty handed.
And so, buoyed up by the tattooed milk of human kindness we walked towards Portland, a journey which somehow contrived to start and finish at sea level yet be considerably more uphill than down. We caught the bus across the causeway and around Portland - circuiting the forlorn settlement of Southwell, which from appearances as bus passengers appeared to be nothing more than a big estate, and then into Easton where we alighted for coffee before visiting the wonderful St. Georges Church. St. Georges is a mostly disused church, with two central pulpits and each of the boxed in pews unusually facing towards them rather than the altar. Joy of joys, we had our own guided tour from an ex-quarry worker, who even let Alison ring the church bell. We learnt the history of some notable memorials included the fascinating tale of the victims of illegal press gangs and many other titbits. A most welcome surprise.
We then picked up a path to join the South Coast Footpath high on the cliffs, back towards Weymouth, with mostly stunning views along the way, stopping to enjoy our picnic lunch. We were graced with mostly stunning views, although the recently fallen and severely leaning cliffs perilously close to us encouraged us to hurry to firmer ground.
We're sure Portland has many charms but even with the views it seems to bear its industrial quarrying heritage as a permanent scar; even the disussed quarry which had made valient attempts to enliven itself with sculptures made out of the local stone was sullen and clearly used more by locals to exercise their dogs, or at least to dispose of their waste. The prison, as bleak and foreboding as you'd expect, seems to loom over the west of Portland too. Maybe on a brighter day and with more energy we'd have found more to charm us.
Descending into Chiswell for a reviving cuppa on the beachfront we climbed to Fortunewell, which seemed somewhat neglected and peeling so we caught the bus back into Weymouth, making it back to Mavis just in time to shelter from the rain.
We were woken by delicate pitter-patter of tiny footsteps and a gentle cooing from whatever representative of the local birdlife was delegated to wake us today. Following a less than delicate thump on the roof and some decidedly indelicate language it coo'ed off and we were left to our slumbers.
Today was about stunning scenery in glorious sunshine at Lulworth Cove and Durdle Dore. A special mention for the savoury cream tea we had overlooking Lulworth Cove. Cheese scones, cream cheese and a spicy tomato chutney.
For once we were both lost for words, letting the views sink in as we wandered, lost in the balmy day; so we'll let the pictures do the talking for us.
Click on the pictures to see the whole scene
After being serenaded by a lone robin last night we were rudely awoken this morning by the banshee like squawking of its avian brethren the seagull. No matter we were soon up and about enjoying a relaxed breakfast in the warm sun.
We were reflecting over the croissants that we are both experiencing a sense of guilt at enjoying our new leisurely lifestyle. It's as if after working our whole adult lives something inside thinks we should still be beavering away in pursuit of...well I suppose that's the point really, in pursuit of what? Money maybe - but as the saying goes "some people are so poor all they have is money" and we already feel enriched by the gentle pace and ever changing sights of our new life. Or maybe its a deep rooted protestant work ethic that drives us to feel we should be contributing in some way. Of course we've both spent our lives until now doing just that and paying our taxes like the compliant citizens we are. And we are living off our savings and taking no state handouts. If all that sounds like self-justification then I suppose it is. Still, the sun is shining, Hank Wangford's on the stereo and Alison has just found a bottle of Jack Daniel's Apple Punch we forgot about so sod it - let's live!
And live we have - walking the 3 miles in sunshine into Weymouth for a pootle around. And let the record show on the basis of our one visit we think Weymouth is a super place, with a busy harbour, lively highstreet, restful gardens with stunning views and all set on an expansive sandy bay upon which children played, dogs frollicked and we ate fish and chips from a box. All in all we've covered a good 10 or so miles and loved every minute of it. Maybe the sunshine helped but it really was everything you could want from a seaside town and more besides. We even got talking to a fine chap, Tony Morris, who as well as running the Rude Not To clothing and record shop had just put on a Northern Soul night that we'd sadly just missed.
And back to Mavis for Wine Spritzers in the fading embers of a warm spring sun.
We woke late - such is the life of the traveller, and went through the ritual stowing of equipment and all the odds and ends one does to make Mavis ready for the road. It's that or risk a stray spatula striking you on the back of the head when you brake.
We headed out of Littlehampton in squalling rain, although it cleared enough for us to get a clear view of the imposing Arundel Castle, and spire of Chichester Cathedral, after which Ray was rewarded with a migraine. When driving long distances we're finding simple distractions to keep our interest, and today's included the wince inducing locksmiths van 'Surelock Homes', a rather splendid radio controlled mowing machine keeping the verges of Hampshire neatly trimmed and a beguiling sign for Monkey World Tank Museum, which we rather hoped was dedicated to primates fighting with tanks but we later discovered was two separate attractions in need of some punctuation.
We passed from rain to watery sunshine and into the new forest in its pallet of browns, purples and lilac before the run in to Dorset and thence to the outskirts of Weymouth where we've pitched at the rather splendid East Fleet site, with stunning views over The Fleet Lagoon, which as you will know if you visit the area, is England's largest lagoon. A much sought after title we're sure. Anyway it is most enchanting and we took in a 6 mile early evening ramble via Fleet Old Church, a comely little church two pews deep, and back to enjoy a glass of wine in the setting sun, serenaded by a robin.
After the site at Littlehampton, with the railway and busy road and the sound of children playing, the site at East Fleet near Weymouth has a quality of silence that we have seldom experienced before. It is almost tangible. It is a silence where you can detect the sounds only of nature; the hum of a bumble bee, the song of a robin and the lap of the almost still water as it gently kisses the shore. In the depth of this silence I feel, not as I expected, an interloper, but rather it connects to a peace within myself that transcends the here and now, that speaks to the most primal part of me that remembers maybe a time where nature reigned unchallenged and human beings were more intimately linked with the seasons, the tides and the rhythms of creation.
Spent the morning doing domestic chores and sprucing up Mavis in anticipation of our first crack at entertaining as James and Juliet are visiting for Sunday Lunch. Listening to Mavis Staples and then Richard Thompson's Acoustic Classics, a fine example of the songwriters art.
We're still sorting out inside and have made a few 'improvements' to the kitchen, so we now have hooks to hang utensils on while we are parked up and generally making the interior more user friendly and homely. The flip side is we have more to pack away when we move on.
We met J & J at the station and ambled back to Mavis where we've enjoyed a lunch, a few games of cards and a catch up, with plenty of laughter, some of it at the expense of Manchester United as Spurs beat them 3-0.
Tomorrow we head onwards to Weymouth and a few nights enjoying the fabulous Dorset coast.
Today we headed into Brighton to meet up with James and Juliet where we enjoyed a superb meal at Terre A Terre restaurant and a stroll along the seafront. Fantastic food in delightful company. Even the walk back from the station along the poop pathways of Littlehampton didn't spoil a special day.
Talking of poop, by way of a gentle diversion, we discovered we've both been separately impressed when confronted by the dreaded 'out of paper' toilet stall scenario on the site, we realised that the empty tube split into two parts, drops calmly to the floor and a fresh roll springs into place. This is possibly the greatest invention since space flight or squeezable Marmite.
Littlehampton has plenty of attractions, the first we encountered being the local tradition of liberally sprinkling dog faeces all over their pavements to welcome visitors. It turned our walk into town into a lively game of turd hopscotch, which was fun.
The town looked a little run down but the good folk of Littlehampton are clearly not to be defeated and there is some sympathetic redevelopment around the harbour area and a charming coffee shop attached to a civic building overlooking the final stretch of river and into the sea beyond.
When we left they were in the midst of launching the lifeboat - Blue Peter 1. Far from the adrenaline fuelled near chaos we expected it all seemed to be a cheerfully benign affair until the boat eventually launched and sped off in a plume of spray into the open sea.
After the excitement we wandered along the harbour wall, regretted that we'd just missed the last showing of Kung Fu Panda 3 at the reasonably priced (all tickets £4) Windmill Cinema and then wandered back along poo alley to the site in time to watch The Simpsons over a cup of tea. Every time we return Mavis feel more like home.
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