DEVON & CORNWALL
09.06.2009 - 20.06.2009
Finally, one Tuesday morning, the intrepid adventurers set forth in the van [which has eventually been named Mr Stubby] from Ebford. The curtains were hung, the cupboards were stocked and everything possible was battened down.
We spent a pleasant couple of hours in Newton Abbot, shopping and watching some Morris dancing in the town square
before continuing on to our selected campsite, Lemonford, in the nearby village of Bickington. It was a lovely spot, in a leafy valley, on the edge of Dartmoor, with good ablution blocks, and a peaceful air with a resident camp-kitty.
What could possibly go wrong? First, the electric hook-up cable that came with the van had the wrong fitting, but the kind owner lent us his. Then the owner decided to cut the grass all of the next day, which was irritating as David had decided to give Sandi's troublesome shoulder and neck a good massage every hour, to try to break the spasm ['twas beneficial, but didn't end up as hourly ministrations!]. The following day it poured, and started leaking copiously through the 2 back windows; all we could do was put down plastic shopping bags and soak the water up with our towels until they were all wet. We realised that we were paying £3/day for electricity, yet we were using our own gas to cook on! How silly is that? So we decided an electric hotplate was on the shopping list, as a matter of priority. The weather then improved and we could relax for the next couple of days.
After buying some silicone, we moved through Dartmoor to our next site near Tavistock, called Langstone Manor. Fortunately, we had really sunny weather so the leaky windows could be fixed, and the awning taken down and re-sealed. David, ever the intrepid handyman, did a stunning job on repairs. Sandi always seems to be packing and repacking.
Several bits and bobs that seem to need doing to the van crop up at regular intervals, allowing David to don his Heath Robinson hat and come up with creative, budget-conscious solutions. These inevitably provide Sandi with mirth-fuel. For example - a GREY shelf that needed reinforcing is now proudly held up by a LAVENDER lady's belt! Said belt was found in a thrift shop, with David insisting it was grey, and would be a good match. At least it only set us back 49 pence, and since it provides daily amusement - cheap at the price!
Don't mess with the cook!
The van trundles along the highways at a top speed of 60-65mph [even up to 70 on a good day!], but being diesel, is very noisy. Conversation above the decibels gets shorter and shorter! The radio works well, as long as the volume is turned up high enough above the noise. We enjoy tuning into the various BBC programmes - some are really funny, while others provide good general listening. Climbing hills can be a problem, proportionate to the gradient of the hill ahead; the steeper the hill, the slower we go [often down to 25mph]. As many of the country roads are narrow, the queues of cars pile up in the rearview mirror. It used to make David agitate, but as time goes on we have learned to laugh about it: C'est la vie! [or "tough"!]. As the van is 8' 6" wide, driving along these beautiful, dappled, leafy lanes is not as relaxing as one might expect. Trying to squeeze between an embankment or hedgerow on the left, and a large van, bus, or tractor careering around a blind corner on the right, is no fun for either of us. Sandi leans away from the hedgerow and shuts her eyes in case we collect a branch or hit the curb, and David leans away from the oncoming traffic, trying not to close his eyes, while still gripping the steering wheel! Somehow we've made it through everytime, but our necks are completely out. When we drive over bumps [of which there are many], invariably one of the large, super heavy, speakers at the back will bounce off its mounting and land on the bed, or one of the cupboards will pop open. If we brake sharply, all the food crates and gas barbeque slide ominously out of their storage tunnel towards us in the front. Try as we might, to batten down all known hatches, we never know what will come flying at us! Just like us, it's a work in progress.
We are realising that being in a campervan can also restrict one's mobility. Many car-parks have a 6' height restriction specifically to keep the likes of us out. As we are longer than most parking bays, we have to be careful where we park so as not to obstruct the traffic, or attract a double parking fee for using 2 bays. Also, if one is settled in a camp-site, one thinks twice before engaging in the "packing up and battening down" routine, so that one can go sightseeing or shopping. We envy those who also have a little Smartcar or scooter with which to runabout. We do intend to acquire a pair of bicycles later.
Our next camp-site, called Mena, is on a hill near Bodmin, in the very centre of Cornwall. During the 4 days camped there, we visited St Austell, and the pretty port of Fowey [pronounced Foy, as in joy, for those illiterati among you!].
We also shopped in Truro, and happened upon the Cathedral during a lunch-time organ recital, which at full blast gave David goosebumps, as an organ played at full blast is wont to do. Further down the peninsula we wandered around the Trellissic Gardens, just before closing time.
Foxgloves [Digitalis] seem to be in bloom everywhere
A fine specimen of an ancient tree in Trellissic gardens
We became comfortable with just "being", while letting go of the pressure to always be "doing" something. There is such a lot to see and do in Cornwall, of which we merely got a taste for now. The pace of life is slowing down, and it has become rather appealing to us. We sleep very comfortably in the 8' wide bed, and are often asleep by the time it gets dark at 10pm. In the mornings, by the time we have read our books, emailed, skyped and breakfasted it is often 11 or 12 noon. Now that we have bought an electric hotplate, we often cook outside under the van awning, or just under the sky. Ablution blocks vary considerably from rudimentary and mouldy, to very nice. Twice we have had to pay an extra 20 or 50p for a shower, but usually they are included in the site fee, which varies from £14-20/night, but can climb to £30/night in high season. Electrical hook up is an extra £3-4/night.
Here is a beautiful peony, of which Sandi is particularly fond, growing in cousin Judy's garden
Observing the behaviour of other campers can be a pastime in itself. Often we catch someone peering out of a caravan window at us, but they quickly pretend they weren't when we see them! We've seen only a few visitors from the EU; most campers seem to be British, either young couples in small tents or retired folk in large caravans or campervans. No-one has yet been seen in as unique a converted campervan as ours! David's favourite spectacle so far is that of an elderly woman with a cig hanging from the corner of her mouth, wearing bright orange bedsocks, ambling across the grass! [Wish we had a photo!]
We visited Lanhydrock near Bodmin, which was a really enjoyable and worthwhile excursion.
It is an enormous, 400 year old manor house, with over 50 rooms beautifully decorated with original period furniture, books and copious Victorian ornaments [including fresh fruit in the dining hall!] The contrast between the "above" and "below" stairs was striking, as was the enormous kitchen with its huge open range and leading into a warren of associated rooms: scullery, bakehouse, dry larder, fish larder, meat larder, dairy scullery, and finally the dairy, where elaborate puddings were chilled by spring water piped along grooves in the marble slabs. The Long Gallery is the great room of the house and is 35m long. The remarkable plaster ceiling, which displays 24 panels of Biblical stories, was created in 1642. The gardens were beautiful with views over the 400-acre estate.
We came across a tree that we thought was covered in thousands of white butterflies, only to find on closer inspection that it was a Cornus kousa tree.
On our return trip to Ebford, we stopped at Looe [pronunced Loo, as in poo] - merely because the name fascinated us. This is another enchanting little seaside village on the Cornish coast.
We bought a few different Cornish bottled beers and flat cider to take home, and some Cornish pasties to eat on the quay-side. Needing to wash the pasties down, we opened the cider, which tasted like a cross between fermented rubbing alcohol and poisonous herbal muti! Probably the first time we've not been able to finish a tipple!! Nearby we found Trago Mills, an enormous warren of old-fashioned-type departments in one store, complete with elderly shop assistants! It reminded us of how shops were in our childhoods, and we stocked up with odds and ends, as the prices were really good!