26 -28 February 2019
Well, we say “no plan” but some things are dictating our activities – we need to come back to England in April for the van’s annual MOT & habitation check, there are some unavoidable dental and physio appointments, and most important of all our nephew’s wedding in London at the start of May. Then we are footloose for a whole year – how lucky we are!
It was so poignant driving away from Mum’s empty house, such different circumstance to the start of our adventures just 2 years ago. But the sun was shining and we were on the road again – this time with some new friends, courtesy of Mum …
And yes, they did fall off the dash when it got bumpy, and yes they have been relegated to a less visible spot to preserve Danny’s dignity.
This February was the warmest on record, a month of beautiful sunshine and mild temperatures so as we set off south the countryside was showing off drifts of white snowdrops and bright yellow daffodils, and lines of blackthorn trees dusted with white blossoms. A great start.
We stopped overnight for a convivial evening with relatives in Monmouthshire, in a tiny, pretty hamlet with great views over the rolling countryside. It was great to see Sue & Gary and we would have stayed a bit longer but had plans. As usual, these changed rapidly – this time once we got back to an area with mobile coverage! So we changed from heading to Slimbridge and after a quick look at the map opted to visit Tintern Abbey instead. A very nice scenic drive along the Wye valley got us to the first Cistercian abbey in Wales, founded in 1131 and ransacked during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII. Now it is just a romantic ruin, its beautiful stained glass windows looted along with everything else. Easy to see how spectacular it must have been.
Over an indulgent hot chocolate and cake – okay so the diet hasn’t started yet – we checked the map and decided to go a bit out of our way and check out the Forest of Dean. Good choice – it’s very pretty. We saw an RSPB symbol on the map so headed for it – Nagshead nature reserve, right in the heart of the Forest. A hut – open at weekends – and a car-park situated in lovely woodland with marked trails and a couple of hides. We had a lovely time, birdwatching and walking , but although we saw lots of evidence of wild boar we didn’t get to see any.
As our overnight spot Danny had, rather nostalgically, chosen a wild-camping spot neat Bibury, the place of our first ever wild-camp. We arrived just as the sun was setting, the classic red orb across the fields.
The last day of February ushered in a change of weather. A grey morning for our 2-hour drive through pretty Cotswold villages into Wiltshire. We drove past the George and Dragon at Rowde which we last drank in over 20 years ago when Nat & Ian lived at nearby Potterne – how did time get to run away from us like that!
It was raining as we drove past the impressive standing-stones of Stonhenge and the large, bedraggled groups of tourists roped a safe distance from the ancient stones. Hmm. We parked up and, faced with a choice of paying £19.50 to get a bus out to join the bedraggled groups or paying nothing but get a hot coffee in the cafe and go round some reconstructed huts of the Stonehenge period, well…….
The reconstructed huts were brought to life for us by a couple of rather cold volunteers who showed us an array of tools and garments made by experimental archaeologists and chatted for ages about how people 5000 years ago used to live. Excellent.
After a hot coffee we continued south-west to our destination-of-choice for the next couple of weeks, a campsite at Eype,Dorset. We picked a lovely spot on the cliff edge lwith great views down to Eype beach and the cliff path of the South West Coast Path. We settled in, wondering what lay ahead.