Monday, 23 June 2014

On our way up to the midlands

Then, on the Friday we headed off to Cheddar to see Iain’s son Connor.  The campsite at Cheddar Bridge was full (yes, it was the weekend) but we managed to find a new campsite in Shipham called Lillypool Farm.  This was a real bonus.  It was a new campsite and we’d often gone past the farm shop, wondering if they would mind us staying in their car park overnight and hey, they now have a campsite.  It’s very new and little more than a tent field at the moment but they were happy for us to stay on the car park and not go up into the field which wasn’t very level.  Now this is actually the nearest we can actually PARK to where Connor lives, let alone stay overnight, so it’s a real find for us and we will go back there again.  At the moment it’s a bit cheap and cheerful but next time we will ask if we can us the EHU that we spied set up on a building the other side of the car park.
Lillypool campsite car park - Only got to walk just over that hill!!

Sunset at Lillypool Campsite
So on Saturday morning we were able to walk up to Daneswood Care Home in Shipham, where Connor lives.  This is a wonderful care home where about 18 young adults live and are looked after by a great team of people.  In the early days, Iain used to visit Connor, making the 240 mile round trip every other week by car,  but as Connor got older and the driving got a bit too much in one day, that stretched out to about every 4 to 6 weeks.  Visiting Connor was one of our most common motorhoming trips and we used to make a weekend of it. Connor will be 24 in August and has mental disabilities caused by a very severe form of epilepsy and autism, he moved to Daneswood about 5 years ago when he officially became an adult. With our old van we used to stay in the Daneswood car park but this place is in the mendips and the drive itself is like a trip up the Alps.  

Here's some old photos I took when we used to stay there.  No way would we get the behemoth up there.

The building at Daneswood used to be a hotel and has magnificent views across to the sea at Weston-Super-Mare about 8 miles away. The first time we visited to assess the place before Connor went there we didn’t know what we were letting ourselves in for and we drove Vanessa (our much smaller van) up to the top of the drive – never again.  We did used to stay about half-way up the drive but we stopped that when we had a satellite dome put on because of the overhanging trees which had previously almost pulled off one of our roof bars.  There’s no way we would get Jan the Van anywhere near the top so we have always struggled to find somewhere near enough to park let alone stay the night.

Our visit with Connor was the first since we last saw him in December before we left for Spain, nearly 6 months. Having tragically lost his mum, both grandmothers and then his sister Emma (his only sibling) in just over the last two years he had not had any visitors since we last went back in December.  Perhaps it’s a small blessing that we don’t know if he knows his visitors anyway, so hopefully won’t have missed anyone.  The weather was good and we were able to sit outside on the patio. Connor was awake for some of our visit and we were told that he hadn’t had any major seizures for a few days, so that was good news.  He seemed happy, well looked after and had put on a little weight.

I don’t want to go on about the sadness of the last paragraph but this has had a great bearing on what we are doing now.  I wasn’t lucky enough to have any children, Iain had two, but we will never have the expense of putting them through university, helping them to set up their first home, nor will we have the blessing of having any grandchildren.   This means that we don’t have the emotional wrench that a lot of snowbirds have to get back to see the family and grandchildren and when Iain said that he didn’t want to work any longer that we just did the sums and decided to do it anyway.  

Life’s too bloody short to sweat the small stuff!!!!!!! 

Even though we can do what we want, we do still envy those grannies and granddads just a bit though.

So after seeing Connor we were on our way to Cheltenham.  Namely to Briarfields, which is a campsite we love.  There’s a small shop, Asda, Harvester restaurant and an Indian restaurant in walking distance (we don’t do KFC but there is one nearby).  The campsite owners are very friendly and the campsite is kept to very high standards.  It’s the only one we've seen with a hand sanitiser provided alongside the chemical waste disposal.

So here we are, what we needed to come here for – the dreaded MOT.  That’s the only reason that we HAVE to come back to the UK.  We can’t get the van MOT’d abroad, not even in Gibraltar. So once a year we have to make the trip back over the channel to have it sorted.  But at least this gives us a reason to come back and of course we then use the time to also to visit friends and family. 

Just up the road is Motorhome Medics who deal mainly in American RV’s.  Funnily enough we found the campsite before we found Motorhome Medics and they were recommended to us by a couple we met in Saumur in France last year.  But they have proven to be a god-send. As long as you don’t mind them taking the p**s now and again, but hey, it’s only banter and you can give as good as you get, which can be quite enjoyable.

While the van was in for MOT we jumped on the bus to Cheltenham.  Yes as last we could take the dog on the bus – well we could hardly leave the Tasmanian devil in the van while it had the MOT.

Cheltenham town centre was very pretty, a typical spa town.  We actually needed some shopping (yes more).  Iain needed a new pair of sandals and we went from shop to shop –he’s only been looking for 6 months, but he knows what he wants when he sees it – he’s just a bit fussy.  Well of course we had the dog with us so it’s take it in turns to go into a shop.  

So off he goes and while he’s in the shop and I’m waiting outside, an old lady with a walking frame came out of the shop and fell over in the shop doorway.  It was pretty horrible really, and I’m absolutely hopeless at these situations.  Well actually I’d do my best if I was on my own, but if there’s someone around who seems to know more than me then I’ll let them get on with it.  Well it was obvious that she was quite badly hurt and a lovely man stopped to help her.  She said that she didn’t need an ambulance but I saw the blood and said I think one should be called.  I don’t want to go into detail, but she was lying in the shop doorway and wasn’t going anywhere until the paramedics got there.  They must have wondered why I was hanging about , but I was waiting for Iain to come out and of course he was stuck inside. It must have been a half an hour before the paramedics got her into the shop and out of the gaze of the public.  I must admit that at one point I asked the man’s lady friend to stand near to me so that people could not “gawp” at her.   I was really cross at the nosey people walking past and the lady who stepped over her to get out of the shop.  Of course my husband was too much of a gentleman to do such a thing and just waited patiently inside until she had been moved.  But at least he had bought some sandals.

Now my big beef!!!!! We thought we’d have lunch  in Cheltenham and then get the bus back to pick up the van.  We went to one pub that looked nice and had a beer garden, but unfortunately they didn’t do food.  So we went off to another pub called the Sceptre (owned by Stonegate Pub Company), now I’m naming them because I want to shame them.  The pub looked lovely, a bit like Weatherspoons, it was a nice day and they had their tri-fold doors open so that the whole front of the pub was opened up to the good weather.  There were about 3 tables on the pavement of the shopping precinct and as we had the dog with us we took the outside table nearest the edge.  Iain went inside to order the food and the girl brought the condiments.  By now it was getting on for 2pm so we were quite hungry.  When the waitress brought the food, as she approached the table she said that she hadn’t realised that we had a dog with us – incidentally because she was sitting very quietly under the table, but that they had a no dogs policy and she would not be able to serve us.  She was polite and offered us a refund, buy hey the food was on the table in front of us. 

Now I know that no everyone is a dog lover, but we always make sure that our dog doesn’t bother other people and there were only three tables, no one else was eating and this was actually on the public pavement.  But no, she took the food away. The manager then came up with the refund and again politely offered his apologies but said it was a company policy. I did say that this was a public pavement that they did not even own and suggest that it would be a good idea to put some signs up to say that dogs and their owners were not welcome. So I had to stand outside their banners, only 2 feet away from the table while Iain finished his drink and joined me
Now to me that is PC gone crazy – well at least the dog was allowed on the buses in Gloucestershire so a thumbs up for the bus company.

So we’ve now got the necessary paperwork to allow us to go off for another year, so tomorrow we leave Cheltenham for Stratford-on-Avon to the motorhome show – partly because it’s 3 nights cheap camping.  Then we’re off to visit some friends, then back up to the house, to check it out and to stay in our local pub for a couple of weeks.  Then it’s off for the big adventure part 2.

Be back soon…………………………………………………………………….

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