So….It is becoming particularly evident over recent years (decades..) that the south east of England gets more than its fair share of good weather. Regardless of what is happening across the country it seems as if That London and the south east always trumps the rest of us and by quite some degree..
Time to check this out for ourselves…
Our plans were scuppered right from the start as the whole world decided to go camping with tents/caravans/motorhomes/bivouacs over the first day of August as the forecast was hot, hot, hot… the hottest day of the year awaited. We wanted a proper site somewhere near West Sussex area but everything was fully booked for the whole area. Damn.. In desperation we checked a lot nearer to home (but east anyway) and got booked into Longleat. Roar…!
Friday 31st July
Turns out on arrival that it’s not too bad. Lots of kids and families. We were both surprised that kids are not really too bad… (!), loads of them, entertaining as they fall off bikes, fight, run round screaming or getting lost. It was only an overnight stop but we quite enjoyed it. It should have been a shocking £32 per night but we had the delight of paying £28.50 only as they kindly let us have the 15%VAT that the govt had discounted them due to the Covid19 thing… nice. The only lions we heard from the campsite were the sea lions but we did manage to (literally) peep through a hedge to see reindeer, ostrich and kangaroos. Note to self…revisit later in the year and take our own grandkids..(so they can fall off their bikes, fight, run round screaming and get lost, in order to entertain others.!
Now, remember me telling you about the hot, hot, hot, hottest day of the year..? Well it was…until 3pm…! That was it. You see, it’s true. All the good weather is in the south east NOT just over the border into Wiltshire..!
In the meantime we had obtained two nights bookings at our preferred location near Chichester so set off the following morning along rather busy roads to the south east and a Camping & Motorhome CL site (Applegarth) just outside Chichester. Only 5 units on this large field, well maintained with electric and necessary water etc and just £15 per night (think they kept the 15% VAT though!).
You can tell by the dry grass on the field and in surrounding gardens that they really are short of rain water round these parts.. looking like our plan is working! Well we sat outside until well past sun down in beautiful bright sunshine. Enough said…
Next day ( Sunday), we did what we do best..and went for a long 12 mile walk from the site, along the estuary to the marina then back along a disused canal that was stacked with wildlife, including a rather surprising white and orange koi carp..! And guess what….? Sunshine, all day, hot, gentle breeze… ☀️☀️☀️☀️
Monday we had a chilled out morning, lounging in the sun on the site. This is one of the things we have previously realised was needed. It’s not great to just keep moving locations, visiting places, driving places and not spending enough down time. We have always wanted to be busy and find it difficult to slow down. Well we are finding that it’s not difficult at all. Just sllloooowwww dddooowwwnnn. It’s actually alright. Doesn’t hurt.. !
However in the afternoon it was time to get out and about.. 😳😳
It transpires that the best beach around (and the only one with sand at high tide rather than pebbles) is at West Wittering. Trouble is that due to Covid19 they have had to restrict numbers of people on the beach and they have therefore required everyone to book the (huge) car park in advance. The website for justpark is horrendous and almost impossible to negotiate. This being the peak of summer it was oversubscribed and no bookings available. Sooooo we decided to take a drive out and check the local area but then we drove to the beach around 4pm. And yes, they let us on for £5, closing at 8pm. This suited us well so a stretch along the long lovely beach…a swim in the English Channel (yes…!) and just lounging around on the beach for a couple of hours. But bloody cold to be honest but hey.. holiday… uk..summer..🙃. Michelle went swimming in her pants, but don’t tell her I told you..!
We decided to stay on this campsite site for another couple of nights due to the fact it is clean, flat, open and bloody nice.
Next day, Tuesday we took our first post Covid19 trip on public transport. We got the free Tesco~Chichester bus into…well Chichester from near our site. It is weird wearing a mask, sunglasses and baseball caps looking like gangsters..
If you haven’t been, Chichester does not have a lot going on. It’s quite small by city standards but …it’s really good, pleasant, calm, with lots of history and a most impressive uncluttered cathedral. We really enjoyed it. The building of the cathedral started in 1076 and completed in 1108, however the impressive spire was added around 1400. The most significant figure in the history was Bishop Richard of Wych in 1245-53 due to his holy work and ‘miracles’.!
I am however more interested in trying to visualise the details of the workers who built it. Who was the bloke that laid the first stone in 1076.? Where did he live? What did he earn? What did he wear? And who did he go home to in the evening? These details are never recorded but I find that aspect far more fascinating. I reckon he was called Arthur, he was married with 7 children and lived a 4 mile walk away. He wore leather boots, thick hairy shirt and a leather apron to work.. he got paid 12 chickens, 1 goat and 30 bags of potatoes per annum and played darts in his local hostelry….. maybe…
We also enjoyed the half priced lunch on Boris. This was the only time we have had any government hand outs during Covid19 and benefitted from a toastie each and two beautiful lattės for just £8. 😮 (we don’t take much pleasing do we..!)
A short walk back to the site for yet another bbq in the sun. We could get used to this.
Big highlight…. we stood outside after dark watching the stars and playing ‘who can spot the next satellite’ when we saw an amazing shooting star. Not just the average short thing, caught out of the corner of your eye, but a huge, massive streak, right across the width of the sky and burning out into a ‘firework’ of expiring meteorite. The best I have ever seen by a long way. Did I make a wish? Well, no, I was too excited and forgot. Really.
Arundel. Still West Sussex.
Wednesday was a ‘move on’ day. We were well overdue a wild camping night and got too soft paying £££ for sites so we upped sticks and headed off to nearby Arundel. Still not sure how to pronounce it but I can spell it..! Michelle had found a good looking wild camping site very close to the castle on a quiet road via the Search for Sites app.
Weather has been nice and sunny as expected, though windy..always windy. Wherever we go lately..windy. The weekend coming up was expected to be hot, sunny and NOT windy… we will see. Anyway we found Arundel easy enough but it was completely motorhome unfriendly, as in, there were a few car parks around the beautiful 11th century castle and town but all of them with height restrictions. Damn them.. we have found that there are quite a few places that actively discourage campers and motorhomes as presumable some of our contemporaries have abused local hospitality. So we decided to get radical and speak to staff at the castle about the car parking. They were not even scary…you can just speak to them.. awesome.! They were extremely friendly and helpful. It turns out that their car parks are in the middle of changes, delayed by Covid19 (again) and this was causing restrictions. They got on the radio and called ‘Silas’ the security lad, who instantly arrived with keys and opened the gate height restricter and let us in. Simples. …Note to self… speak to the locals. Always seems to pay off and we haven’t yet been yelled at.! Turns out that Arundel is a real nice place, lovely river and castle. We have our overnight parking set out too. Alongside a field with a view of the castle ramparts just 200 metres away. Free. Sorted.
Our next move was a seaside phase. We had yet to spend time on the beach, in the sea and in the sun. The weather was headed our way with another hot sunny weekend. We decided to bite the bullet and pay top $ for a campsite. We had tried to pre book Scott’s Farm near the beach at East Wittering without success. They have a ‘first come first served’ policy unusually so we thought we would be fine as long as we got there reasonable early on the Thursday. It appears that lots of other people had looked at the forecast too and even though we arrived by 9am (bearing in mind this is a Thursday) we had to queue for an hour and still not have electric hook up. Almost like wild camping then.. 😮. There was however loads of space in a well kept field with lots of tents and families to look at (😝). Extortionate £29 per night and for two nights, this was a big bite out of our budget. Don’t get me wrong…we don’t mind paying, but the less money we spend, the longer we can stay out and play.
There was thankfully no entertainment on site, no bar, restaurant or arcade so kids just had fun, largely. We did have to move a few metres from our (my) first choice spot due mainly to a family from That London who spent the first two hours yelling at each other. (Couldn’t move pitches quite so readily in a tent). In brief we spent the next three days on the beach. Only about 4-5 hours each day but it was hot, the English Channel was amazingly warm and the beach was very nice thank you very much. Very little wind. Nothing to report, but we loved it.
Once we were happy with our tans we knew we had to get back on the road and back to Wild Camping. It is the kind of thing which can easily get away from you as each day is a little more tense when arriving somewhere new. Non more so than our next location
Search for Sites, listed an old broken road as being available, free, directly alongside the Stonehenge stones which was not to be missed. I was very uncertain. This smacked of Tree Hugging Hairies (Travellers) with wood burning chimneys out the top of 50 yr old Commer vans, chucking axes around the place. After some difficulty we found The Drove and the first thing we saw on entering the lane was a Tree Hugging Hairy with at least two bottles of White Lightening consumed, struggling to walk on his broken sandals. He approached my window. I wound it down just two inches. He says “As you can shee I have had one or twoo, I am off to the shhop to get shome more”. He smiled through three remaining teeth and showed me the damage to his sandal and marches off, tripping over his two dogs…. ! Welcome to The Drove, Stonehenge…
The beauty of this lane is that it is right next to the Stones and a great view across the plains.
Well we took a few small steps to pass the THH’s parked either side and found numerous conventional families, in newer camper vans and some sense of normality. We parked up, walked around a bit and decided to stay. Mind you it was 9pm by then so options were limited. We watched the sun go down alongside and damn close to Stonehenge stones. Good start.
We slept reasonably well despite still being a bit nervy and then got up with our alarm at 5am.. Gotta watch the sun come up at Stonehenge. Well we were literally 5 mins walk away so it was easy. Unfortunately the sun had not read the forecast and we were surrounded by cloud. It was still a nice experience and we were back in bed by 6.30. Result..
Surprisingly we were so comfortable with being in The Drove that we decided to stay the next (and last) night there too. Once again it was so amazing how easy it was to switch from being nervous (scared!) at a location, to then become fully relaxed and ‘at home’ within a few hours. So we spent this day on a walk around the fields in the local area including most of the bits covered by the English Heritage Stonehenge site.
Top tip. Don’t pay £21 to see the Stones via the Visitor centre…park on The Drove (Byway 12) and park very near the stones and walk 200 metres on the public footpath to the Stones. You will find yourself standing about 4 metres further away than the £21ers but with the exact same view. 😃😃
Despite it being 30 degrees in the sun outside we indulged in a little treat and watched the Silverstone Grand Prix on the iPad in Ruby and chilled loads. God there are so many Grand Prix’s we have missed through these recent weeks.
Monday, the last day of this trip was simply bumping through the huge potholes to get from The Drove and entering the very fast moving A303 and back through Salisbury and home. Well I say home, we are having the next adventure of house-sitting for three weeks. Living the Dream. We have to say that Ruby has been superb through our trips. We have always planned on working her hard and she has impressed on each occasion. Steep hills, rough roads, overhanging trees and narrow lanes. She just sails through, clanging, rattling and occasionally banging but certainly smiling.
Did you know…Stonehenge is believed to be around 5000 years old and the large Sarsen stones are obtained locally and weigh-in at 25 tons. The smaller (12 ton) ‘blue’ stones were carried, sledged, pushed, pulled, sailed and kicked repeatedly all the way from Preseli in South Wales.. Incredible. But why…?!