6th Dec 2020
So… We have now made the big jump and become full-time on the road. We have given up an apartment and are currently living in a field (on a site) near to Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. This is how it went;-
We have been talking about this for many a year and probably around the time we began our discussions about owning a motorhome. We have not planned any detail about going travelling other than booking a one-way channel tunnel to Calais and the belief that the weather in the winter is probably as good in Portugal as anywhere else in Europe. Not entirely hot but a good 10 degrees warmer than the UK and a lot sunnier. We will see.!
Having got hold of Ruby, our trusty Bailey Autograph 74/4 motorhome exactly a year ago we always had a European travel dream in mind. Take the opportunity to spend 2,3,4…. years being free to travel round the UK and Europe and in whichever direction the sun takes us. ‘Shorts and Flipflops’ should be our strapline.
Well, time ticked on and Covid19 arrived and messed up some of our Summer 2020 plans but at the end of Lockdown we found a gap and made the decision. We were going to do it…
‘What about Covid19..?’ we said ‘What about Brexit..?’ we said. ‘It’ll be fine, nothing will stop us’ we said. So we handed in our one month notice for our apartment at the end of October. Two days later Lockdown 2 arrived…! Ooooops. !
Not only had we handed our Notice to Quit but it appears that new tenants were found within one day so ….. we were committed. Were we nervous ? Yes. Were we still going to do it. Yes, we had no choice!
Anyway, head down and crack on. We had been gradually thinning out some of our unnecessary possessions already but now we had a month to get all our stuff out of the apartment.
Our decision was helped by the fact we do have a home that is rented out and if all hell breaks out we could remove the wonderful tenant (sorry mate) and move in. We also have a garage at that address for our use which is just about big enough to take the contents (very carefully crumpled) of our apartment.
The main problem was… where will we go during Lockdown.? We were making ourselves homeless and we were turned away more times than Mary & Joseph back in the day. !
Don’t get me wrong, we had previously made some well laid plans. We had searched the surrounding area for an ‘open all year’ camp site and hit on a good one in Slimbridge, very close to a canal and the Wildfowl and Wetlands bird site in Gloucestershire. We visited in October, stayed a couple of nights, liked it and booked the whole of December. Job Done. Then we think ‘what happens if there is a second Lockdown?’ To be sure we emailed and asked the question. No problem, ‘you will be homeless so we will be able to do this.’ Good.- (Hold that thought !)
So at this stage we weren’t concerned. Part way through our packing we thought we should check with the Slimbridge site. Well,’No, sorry, we cannot take you now due to Lockdown.’ Nooooo !….WTF… How? What? Where?
In addition, we had arranged a vital fit of our own mobile WiFi to the roof of Ruby. We are both working from home and in need of good quality reliable WiFi to go online. This was previously arranged for us to travel to Paignton to get this done alongside an annual check of the motorhome ‘habitation’ (gas/electric/water/damp/fixtures and fittings).
Added to this, ‘could we hire a van?’ , ‘can we arrange to move out?’ ‘Can we actually get Ruby out of storage?’ ‘Are we even allowed to drive on the road’ ……. This was a rather worrying time for both of us. It was all going wrong. Who’s stupid idea was it to hand in our notice at such a time……!
Anyway, with a bit of wrangling we managed to get the campsite to favourably interpret the legal aspects of Lockdown 2 and agree for us to stay (still hold that thought).
With an equally energetic use of the ‘essential workers’ exclusions (legitimately), we managed to dash down to Paignton to get the WiFi and hab check done.
Slowly, day by day we sold, burnt, dumped, recycled and stored all the stuff from our apartment and also had a huge pile of items we had to squeeze into Ruby to get on the road. Rather enjoyable and therapeutic to be honest. Why do we all keep so many items that we never use but retain ‘just in case’. How many drinks glasses do two people use when we only have two friends (we are not saying who you are!)? Why have we got 40 DvD’s of movies that we haven’t looked at for years and they are on TV every couple of weeks anyway? What is the point of having 3 and a half pairs of flip-flops !?
A few short days away from our ‘March Out’ (for those of you without military background this is the bit when the keys are handed over to your home and someone swoops in to check it for specks of dust and greasy ovens) we make contact again with Slimbridge. Guess what….. ‘well with the new Tier system we are unable to let you into our Tier 2 area. You are barred….!’ ‘WTF’ again and ‘OMG’ we are really really homeless and ‘Bloody Hell, Seriously’
I am unable to share with you how we escaped this latest farce but suffice to say that we managed to arrange to pitch up, albeit one day later.
1st December and we have handed over the keys to the apartment and said our goodbyes to some friendly neighbours. We still had to deal with one night without any kind of home. Slimbridge was still awaiting the step down from Lockdown to Tier 2 on 2nd December to open their doors so we took the decision to park up in a business park near us in Portishead for that one night. There are many empty offices and a completely empty car park tucked quietly out of the way. No one goes there or passes by so it would be a nice peaceful free ‘wild’ camp… however by chance, a chap turns up bang on 8am immediately alongside Ruby. I mean less than a metre away and starts rubbing down and painting the building we were parked next to. Would you believe it? Someone has chosen the 2nd December to move into the office block and work has started early o’clock. At least he wasn’t there for long. He had gone by the time the armed police turned up in three marked police cars, dragged some dude out of his car whilst aiming several Glock automatic weapons at him. Getting him onto the floor and shouting ‘Armed Police Get Down’ several times to ensure he was paying attention. Really. Would you believe it. We haven’t even started our adventures and all this was going on already. You couldn’t make it up could you..?
Slimbridge is about half an hour from Portishead so just a short incident free trip up the M5. Me driving Ruby and Michelle driving our mini behind. And relax…..
Oh, maybe not. Big roadworks within the last half mile of the journey. The clowns running the works were not expecting large motorhomes down this country road (that only leads to a camp site with no possible diversions). They were not the most helpful and we were kinda forced to run over all their plastic barriers on one side and into a hedge on the other side for a quarter of a mile. Did think about getting out to move the barriers back but there wasn’t enough room to open my bloody door. ! –
This could be a pretty interesting few years if the rest of The Travels continue in this vain.
The owners of the site were still a bit skittish about the whole Covid rules and somehow they managed to mess up our bill several times before we eventually nailed it on the second day.
This site is a proper holiday type with flat gravel pitches, plenty of open grassed areas with protective hedges and running alongside the canal. Fully operational toilet blocks with hot showers and even a launderette. Perfick. Several other motorhomes/camper vans/caravans came and then went over the following weekend, which left us all alone in our field. Fine. Bit lonely. But no troublesome neighbours.
Now, the more cynical of you may be thinking that we are making up some of this stuff but you will like the next bit. After the weekend we jumped into the Mini and drove round the local towns of Stroud, Stonehouse and some of the main routes and then picked up some shopping. Drove back into our fieldand were met by the biggest shock we could have expected. Directly opposite us (within 6 metres) on two pitches were two caravans, one large blue van, one flatbed crew cab 4×4 truck with ‘Highway Maintenance’ stickers on the back plus ropey old car. (All blocking our route in). Five kids, three dogs, three cats (!), kids motorbikes. I mean, it could not be worse. This field has room for 16-17 pitches and there are three equally empty fields and they put this lot right in front of us. Aaaaaargh. Tell you what. Both of us were completely gobsmacked. Horrendous.! I cannot discuss what accent they had but it was not what you would expect. Thankfully.
Turns out that they are pretty good at the time of writing. Well behaved and friendly. No one told us that adventures would be quite so ‘full on’. !
Did you know…Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust was opened in 1946 by Peter Scott, the son of Antarctic explorer Captain Scott. The first of nine WWT Wetland Centres across the UK.