Thursday 26th May
Really looking forward to this one – complete with bikes – all perched on the new Thule bike roof rack for their longest journey to date. It’s actually the second outing for the roof-rack but the first was only maybe a mile! Off we set, remembering to monitor what effect the bikes would have on fuel economy. Our destination was Tudor Park Caravan Park, in Slimbridge – home of the famous Wildfowl and Wetlands trust set up by Sir Peter Scott. The caravan park is right on the banks of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal in the prettily-named Shepherd’s Patch. The road to the site leads only to the Slimbridge visitor centre and is thus very quiet.
We arrived after closing time but there was a little docket with our name on it on the notice board, together with a plan of the site. We were on Pitch 1 in The Orchard – a child-free area of the park. We completely misread the map and ended up doing a circuit of the site. Easy mistake! It was a nice pitch, under a willow tree and we soon had everything set up and comfy. We cooked the dinner and then settled down to watch a bit of television before turning in.
Friday 27th May
It was a quiet night – punctuated only by our frequent coughs! We slept late, but Friday had dawned bright and fair and it was then that disaster struck. Well OK – that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But we had omitted to bring our medication with us. So after a lovely breakfast of bircher muesli (prepared by me the previous evening) we set off in search of the nearest pharmacy. We checked with the camp-site warden and he advised that there was a Boots one quite nearby, in Cam. We found it really easily and they were very helpful – especially as we were rather vague about dosages and things. They even rang our surgery to check. Great service. We had a short wait and used it to get a coffee from the cafe nearby and then popped back to pick up our supplies. Disaster averted!
Next was a trip to lovely Stroud and a visit to Waitrose for supplies. We went there via a scenic route and stopped for a look at the view at Coaley Peak Viewpoint, which at 233 m has a magnificent vista over the countryside to the mighty Severn. We also passed by a lock on the disused Thames and Severn canal, which was obviously being restored. Great to see.
We eventually arrived at our goal. As it was hot, we could not not leave Archie unattended in the car and so I went off to do the shop whilst Paul made a few work calls and kept the dog cool. It was getting late by then and so we returned to caravan to unpack and have lunch. This, again, was a circuitous route via Uley and beautiful Rodborough Common, where cattle graze on unfenced land.
After lunch, we set off on our bikes and rode along the canal towards Sharpness. The tow-path started off very smartly surfaced but soon deteriorated into grass and ruts made by other bikes in wet weather. They were a bit tricksy if you got your wheel caught in them. Archie was in his element. He loves running with the bikes. I believe he would do it all day if he were allowed to. But as he’s getting on a bit – and also for roads – we have a backpack into which he can be popped for a rest. He’s not keen but it’s certainly safer on the road and also gives him a break from running.
The last time we went to Sharpness was quite a few years ago on my Dad’s narrow-boat. We were then accompanied by our good friends Sue and Paul and two young dogs, brothers Archie and Freddie. It was a particularly poignant outing, today, as we have recently lost darling Freddy and miss him so much. Fred lived with Sue and Paul and they feel the loss very sharply. He was like a second dog to us, too, as “the boys” (as we call them) saw each other frequently. RIP Fred. We love you.
It was a lovely ride and my heart ached when we saw boats making their way to and from the terminus. I miss boating so much. Just can’t get enough of it. As we had a snooze in mind and needed a shower, we didn’t cycle all the way to Sharpness. We returned to the van and had a quick siesta followed by a shower and then we were off out for dinner. We were bound for the dog-friendly Ragged Cot in Minchinhampton. A lovely pub, with a nice ambience and great food. I had moules followed by steak with blue cheese sauce and divine thrice-cooked chips. Paul had ham hock terrine and Old Spot gammon and eggs with same gorgeous chips for main. Delicious and very filling. We enjoyed the drive home. I love country lanes at this time of the year, all decked out in sharp greens and frilly white petticoats from the cow-parsley. They make me feel so happy. We had a coffee and retired feeling contented.
Sat 28th May
Another poignant day today, as it would have been Mum’s 84th birthday. But it was also the day we were to meet with my Cousin Angela and her husband Austin. As it was a lunch engagement, we took our time over breakfast and set off to find a scenic route the to lunch venue. I had selected the pub on the internet from a dog-friendly pub site. It looked attractive and had reasonable reviews. It was also easy for my cousin to find (they were coming from Herefordshire). As we approached it, we both suddenly realised exactly where it was. We must have driven past it hundreds of times on the A417. It was called the Golden Heart Inn and located in Nettleton Bottom, near Birdlip. The pictures make it looked very attractive. What they don’t show is how close it is to a very busy road which, today (and very often) was more like the M25 near Heathrow. Not perhaps the best choice! But I knew we’d make the best of it.
We arrived first, very shortly followed by Angela and Austin. The food was reasonable – not great, just average. But we had lots of catching up to do so it wasn’t that big an issue. We retired to the garden for coffee, by which time the traffic had died down a little, so i was quite pleasant. It was lovely to see them, but all too soon time to part – they back to Herefordshire, where they were staying for a couple of days, and us to our caravan – eventually.
We decided on a visit to Tetbury – if it’s good enough for HRH, then it’s good enough for us. It’s a very pretty town and we had a wander round the largely independent shops and charity shops. We paid a visit to the Highgrove shop but nothing tempted us. I did see a lovely lime green suede handbag which tempted me sorely. I resisted and now regret having done so. Once we had finished mooching, we made our way back to the van. On the way home we saw a cottage that would be perfect for our friend Linda Mary and also a property for us. In our dreams!
Sun 29th May
After a tradition breakfast of toast and duck eggs, we set off on our bikes for Sharpness. It was a beautiful day for a ride and we had taken plenty of water and some fruit to sustain us. All the bridges are swing bridges and are manned from 0800 to 1800 in the summer. Purton has a double whammy – two bridges roughly 200 yards apart. It also has a very interesting feature, known as Purton Hulks or Barge Graveyard. By the time you get to Purton, the Severn is very close. It is also quite erosive so a large number of boats (81) were deliberately beached on the berm that separates the river from the canal, holes were then drilled in them so that they would fill with silt and forma barrier to stop the erosion. It’s a fascinating bit to explore.
We made our way on down to the terminus, passing the remains of the swing section (over the canal) of the once-magnificent Severn Railway bridge. The bridge is no longer in existence as a result of a nasty accident in the ’60s. More info here. We arrived at the end of the canal, by which time – although it was still sunny – a stiff breeze was blowing. We ate our bananas and cherries (both favourites of Archie’s) and then attempted to recreate a picture that we had taken back in 1994 – with a little success, I guess?
The return journey left us gasping for a cuppa and when we got back to the van, we quenched our thirst and had a little snooze. We’d had such a lovely ride and met a few other cyclists who all cooed over Archie in his papoose. We really like it here.
We went on a little excursion to the “Severn villages” in the early evening, starting in delightful Frampton on Severn with its famous Green – reputed to be the longest in England – it has three ponds! I wish we’d stopped to take a photo as it’s very pretty. There used to be a Cadbury’s factory there – opened in 1916 and closed in 1983. Boats used to go between here and Bournville, transporting chocolate crumb for processing.
Our next stop was Saul, where there is a large marina. We then drove down to a pub called The Old Passage Inn at Arlingham. It is right on the bank of the Severn and looks across to Newnham on the opposite bank. They do Bore & Breakfast/Dinner events, so that you can watch the Severn Bore and then have a sumptuous breakfast (or dinner). Sounds like a great idea. One for a future visit maybe? Our final port of call was Framilode, where we were rather taken by its cute Victorian church.
The sun was getting lower in the sky as we made our way back to the van. A tiring but lovely day.
Monday 30th May
As the time for quitting the site was 11 am, we had taken the precaution of paying an extra £6, which enabled us to stay until 3 or 4 pm. We planned to give the van a jolly good clean ready for our forthcoming summer break. We always leave it clean and tidy but this was a super-clean. We dusted, hoovered, disinfected, bleached and stripped the bed. Paul also cleaned the sun shade ready for all that that summer sun we are expecting. What usually happens is that – the minute we leave home -GB is plunged into a heatwave of epic proportions which ends on the day we return. Watch this space!
We finally left around 1pm and made it home by 4, whereupon Paul quickly mowed the lawn and washed the pigeon mess off the van while I unpacked the car and van. A really lovely, relaxing break. We will be returning for another visit. By the way. The bikes took the fuel consumption below 30 mpg so we won’t be taking themon our summer break as previously planned. Sad but we can always hire if we fancy it. It’ll probably be cheaper than taking them with us. And we’ll be taking the papoose, just in case. So – just less than a month and we’ll be on our next adventure.