As we drove away from Borth, continuing along the road in the direction that we had arrived the day before, it became clear that there were better wild parking opportunities up ahead that we had missed out on. They do however involve proximity to golfers and we are both naturally reserved about golf balls, so perhaps we were better at the side of the road after all.
Mr Snail had factored into our plans a stop in Dolgellau, where we could pick up some supplies. He had been there before and knew that there was a car park we could fit into and it was on the edge of town, saving us driving through the centre.
Unfortunately his memory was not sufficient to enable solo navigation and he turned the GPS on, which of course sent us right through the middle of the town on a twisty turny one-way route of very narrow streets. Extremely narrow ones, we squeaked our mirrors through without disaster but it was very necessary to keep an eye on the height of any pedestrians in our vicinity.
We were quite early and there was plenty of space when we arrived. It was a beautifully sunny and crisp day, the schools were still on holiday and families were rolling up in cars with bike racks on all the time that we were there. The car park was filling rapidly.
I liked Dolgellau.
A bakery supplied us with bread rolls and four amazingly large cakes, a trip to the butcher furnished bacon, burgers, sausages and free-range eggs, and the wholefood shop had local cheeses (we bought four.) We wandered around in search of a supermarket type shop for some basics but found none, though we followed a sign for the Co-op, we never found it.
By the time that we were ready to leave the car park was full enough to challenge our manoeuvres. It was a case of sitting and waiting until the right car moved to allow us space. Next time we'll pass through the car park and head for the lorry park beyond.
The Dolgellau album:
We were going to wild overnight in a forest car park at Rhyd. We turned off the A487 at the Oakeley Arms and onto the B4410. I noticed the sign that said that buses are prohibited after 1 mile, Mr Snail did not. I wondered if we were going against the spirit of the thing... what constitutes a "bus" ?
We progressed. It was a narrow road with two-way traffic that was surprisingly (to us) busy. We met a narrower section. There were cars coming down, cars behind, and a very unforgiving-looking stone wall on both sides of the road. (It was somewhere about here, if I remember correctly). It was extremely tight but fortunately the driver of the car squeezing by us clearly had experience and knew exactly how to tackle it. She and I communicated by sign language and everyone came off unscathed. Phew. Another disaster averted.
I swear that I held my breath all the way down that road and did not exhale until it was clear that we were not going to be playing a game of sardines (or chicken!) with any oncoming traffic.
Back on the A road, we found a lay-by and considered parking there overnight. It was less than ideal but there was a footpath on the other side of the road where we might walk the dog. We did however consult the map and found that just a short way down the road was a large lay-by set back from the road with a large verge between and adjacent to a National Trust woodland with several footpaths through it. Ideal!
The weather was good, the dog was eager... we made the most of it and chose the longest route, with the option of an additional leg to a viewpoint. It was quite a climb and as we neared the top we heard a train whistle - we were approaching the line and as I aimed my camera, a steam train went by. The photo came out all blurry as I did not even have time to focus.
We sat at the viewpoint, drinking the view in and thirstily demolishing our bottle of water.
As we apprached the final leg of the walk we heard the train whistling, coming back from the other direction, or so we thought. We decided to walk up to the line and to wait for the train and try to grab some photos.
We had a very long wait.
We crossed the line and waited and waited. Nell was becoming fractious.
Every now and again we would think that we heard the engine again but nothing transpired and we decided that it was a trick of the geography of the line and we had actually heard the sound of the whistle carrying back and up the valley from Porthmadog.
We decided to walk on up the hill, past the little lake and to see if we might get a view of where we originally intended to park. It was when we were surveying the lake that we hear it again. A definite whistle. The train was coming back! And so we legged it back down the hill, certain that we would miss the train rushing by. We didn't. We arrived back at the crossing, out of breath, but without sign of the train. We waited and waited and waited... it was surely coming, the whistle got louder and then fainter. Eventually, of course, it did come puffing by.
I was rewarded for our infinite patience (aka idiocy) by a couple of good shots.
And then we went "home"...
...to a well-earned beer and a less than restful night. We were frequently disturbed by cars driving past at high speed in the night and sounding their horns at us. This fact alone prevents us from recommending this spot to other motorhome campers - the natives in Wales are less than friendly!
Saturday simply teemed with rain. We set off for Wales after consulting the Caravan Club handbook, Internet being hard to come by in the Forest of Dean. We wandered around outside until we had a phone signal and were able to book a pitch at the Brecon Beacons site.
The rain did not let up and so we settled onto our pitch as quickly as possible. The site seemed huge to us and is quite the largest site we have sampled to date. Very clean and orderly, with good beech hedges separating the ranks. The very well stocked shop was closed due to staff illness, impeding Mr Snail's search for a waste water trolley thing but the friendly wardens managed to supply me with the detergent that I lacked for my laundry and I was able then to have my first brush with coin-in-the-slot washing. I dashed back and forth between RV and laundry in the rain, feeling thoroughly miserable about the whole process. Mr Snail and Nell, who had gone to try the dog walk, were slightly more enthusiastic but not much.
The only photo opp that presented itself was our new mascot, Ceridwen. Note the rain beyond the window.
I doubt that we would return to the Brecon Beacons site. There is nothing wrong with it but it offered little to charm and entice.
We were heading to Salem, to The Angel Inn, our first Britstop. A very friendly stop it was too. Very nice people and a characterful pub.
The Angel takes up to five vans and normally offers EHU but they had an exciting evening with the local Fire Brigade in attendance on the previous night and were unable to offer us a power supply. We did not mind as we planned to partake of their Sunday Lunch and had no need of the electricity.
There was a bear in the pub.
I did not allow this fact to prevent me from addressing myself to the home-grown lamb. Nor the beer.
After a whopping meal, we walked it off. There were no suitable footpaths and we were restricted to the narrow lanes so it was not ideal for Nell.
There were daffs everywhere. Not difficult to tell that we were in Welsh Wales.
We returned to the van and had a good night's sleep.
Easter Monday was a mistake. We should have cancelled the day and stayed in bed. That said, there were some pleasant moments and the day actually turned out well at the end.
We were heading for another Britstop and eagerly anticipating it as it was an ice-cream farm. Mr Snail is partial to an ice-cream farm. To fill in the day we were going first to Camarthen in search of a waste carrier and then to the coast. On Sunday Mr Snail had phoned a Caravan and Motorhome dealer in town and ascertained that they would be open on Monday. We aimed to be there for what was listed as their opening time of 10 am.
There was a bit of a hiccup when we missed our turning at one point and had to drive seven miles in order to come back at ourselves and return to our route. When we arrived at the dealers, there was nowhere to park or manoeuvre Hank to get him out again. There was a kerfuffle requiring other vehicles to back out and then we parked across the road on a small industrial site and outside ATS. I amused myself by taking photos of a ruinous ivy-covered building.
The Caravan dealer was not yet open. We hung around for a while but nobody came, other than some other potential customers. We hung. We waited. We kicked our heels. After an hour we went shopping at a nearby store, where we picked up some new bedding and other bits and pieces for the van. When we returned the dealer was still not open. Eventually, when they did open around midday, they did not have in stock what we needed.
Told you we should have stopped in bed.
At least the sun was shining. With the idea of ice cream in our heads we set off once more towards our evening sop.
The roads were narrow and awkward and the traffic was heavy, it being Easter Monday (what were we thinking of!) but eventually we reached Pendine - where we found that the car park we had identified as suitable for us was not only largely under water after the recent heavy rain but also carried signs that forbade us entry.
We were tired, we were fretful and we needed to stop for a while, so we ignored the signs and chose the parking space that would impact others the least. We parked in the puddle, with our rear end in the shrubbery and then we took Nell onto the sands... with some trepidation.
It was almost like being at home, apart from the people. There were people! On the beach! Nell was amazed and puzzled but delighted to find that there were balls simply everywhere. She pulled and she tugged and she was perfectly certain that all balls were there for the taking. It was hard work.
When we left in the afternoon, the traffic was heavier even than before. The roads however were no wider nor less twisty. We got into a kerfuffle in Laugharne on a corner of a very narrow road with oncoming cars drivers disinclined to accommodate us. I was in charge of checking our proximity to the stupid woman on our right and was peering bumperwards when there was a horrible scraping sound, very loud, very ominous. The next thing I heard was a stream of profanity from Mr Snail. Eventually we were able to extricate ourselves.
I was sure that we had scraped that car. I was wondering how much damage we had done to our very new, very expensive paintwork.
Luckily we had missed the vehicle. In concentrating so hard to avoid the oncoming vehicles, Mr Snail had made contact with the house on his left. You know the kind of property that fronts straight onto the road, with no forecourt or garden... He had forgotten to allow the extra inches for the awning mounted on Hank's left hand side and tore a strip from the awning material, which was flying like a flag as we drove away down the road.
We had to stop as soon as possible, send Mr Snail up onto the roof and cut free the offending piece.
Now, you might have thought that our day could only get better thereafter.
It did not.
We found the ice-cream farm quite easily but as we approached it on a narrow B-road we realised that the access was impossible, with a sharp right in need of a several point turn to get in. There was a traffic queue behind us and oncoming vehicles too. Mr Snail decided to drive on and turn round to come back at it from a better angle.
We drove and we drove and we drove, finding nowhere to turn around. We drove through Narberth, another nightmare of twisty narrow streets and one-way traffic flow. The road that we planned to take had a motorhome parked on it, leaving insufficient room to pass and so we had to take another option instead and ended up not knowing where we were going.
Further driving around ensued... until I spotted a sign for a caravan site and we turned in on spec. Luckily it had just opened for the season. Mr Snail went to see if they had room for us and was told no, they had nowhere for a vehicle of that size. I tearfully told our tale of woe and how tired and desperate were were and the lovely lady owner took pity on us and found us a place to park for the night - it even had a hookup.
My gratitude to the lovely folks at Wood Office will be eternal.
The site by the way was very good indeed. Very neat and squeaky clean. largely given over to statics and seasonal pitches but with room for tourers. There was nothing fancy about the site - no potted geraniums or fancifications, just neatly kept grass and gravel. The toilet block although new harked back to earlier days perhaps - there was a sharp breeze coming under the shower cubicle door, I know that much, but cleanliness could not be faulted and the water was both hot and plentiful.
We were glad of our bed that night. Not that we slept well. No, we spent hours wondering if we should take Hank back to the dealer and swap back to our friendly Brunhilde. The upshot? Mr Snail said he thought we should do just so. I breathed an enormous sigh of relief.
Leaving Pocklington quite early as we had a long way to go, we set off for Cheltenham. Mr Snail had decided to eschew the fast roads and to go via the Foss Way. It proved not to be the relatively straight and easy road of his memory and the going was slow.
There was little time to stop and rest and no time for cameras. It was, plainly put, a bit of a slog.
Briarfields, the camp site where we had booked in to is right on the edge of Cheltenham. The GPS sent us through the town. In evening rush hour. It was not a great experience. We were rather later in our arrival than we had anticipated.
As we hit the roundabout just by our destination, we spotted an RV at the junction to our right. Mr Snail was very excited - "Oh, look, an RV!" he exclaimed. "I think it is ours," I replied. And it was.
Briarfields turned out to be a very pleasant site and surprisingly busy for the time of year. We had some concern about being so close to such busy roads but we both slept well after sampling the delights of the Thai restaurant that is but a short stroll down the road, heading away from town.
Wednesday 23rd March
Our appointment was for 10:00 am so we were up and at 'em smartish. When we arrived at Freedom Motorhomes, Hank was there, ready and waiting for viewing.
We agreed the sale. We had been forewarned that it might take up to a week to turn the RV around and make it ours but they had pushed the boat out and Hank was all ready and waiting. We had been correct in surmising the vehicle we had seen last night was this one, it was being brought back from being made ready.
However, there was the small matter of making the up front payment. Naive as we are, we had not considered the need for proof of payment before departing with our new vehicle. We needed to go away and find some cash or a way of transferring funds quickly with confirmation.
Luckily, Briarfields, though busy, was able to let us have an extra night on the pitch that we had vacated that very morning. We returned and set about moving some money out of our bank account. This proved very easy to do, despite the size of the sum required and we soon found ourselves with time on our hands.
We went shopping.
We were expecting to meet up with an online friend and her partner at some point on the coming days. Having only two coffee mugs in the van it seemed only polite to source some more china. We also stocked up the fridge with supplies to see us through some time in the Forest of Dean, where we planned to go for the next couple of nights or so.
Then we set about packing our goods and chattels ready to empty Brunhilde and fill up Hank.
Thursday 24th March
We were given an instructional session on Hank's systems and then Mr L had a practice drive under supervision. When he returned, we began the process of moving our belongings over.
If I had thought Brunhilde to be sizeable, Hank is considerably larger in every dimension. It seemed odd then that there appeared to be no more cupboard space inside than Brunhilde had. I was having trouble finding a home for everything. I began to realise just how cleverly designed the Tabbert was. As we worked on and as my back began to ache,I also began to realise just how much stuff we had with us! Well, in my defence, we had come away for three weeks.
Once the job was done we simply drove off.
It had come to our attention that we were facing a Bank Holiday weekend. It was Easter. We were in a strange part of the world on roads unknown to us and in a very cumbersome left-hand drive vehicle that the driver was unfamiliar with. We decided to head for the Forest and perhaps sit the holiday out.
If we had known the state of the roads between Cheltenham and the Forest of Dean, we might not have gone. The journey was "interesting".
We found a car park without height bars or locking gate and pulled in there. With great delight, Mr Snail put down the automatic levellers and we settled in.
Nell was ecstatic, after so much constraint in the past few days she finally had a place in which to run and run and run.
Friday 25th March
Good Friday dawned with the arrival of cars. Cars and more cars. People and dogs and children. That was one busy car park! We tried very hard not to be embarrassed about Hank. He was taking up a deal of space.
We enjoyed some good walking in bright sunshine, marvelling at the stained glass panels hanging in the trees. Now, they would never survive in Orkney!
We walked around a lake, where we finally found a signal for both the phone and the wi-fi and were able to conduct some necessary business. There were many frogs...
and not a few twitchers.
I did not get a shot of the Great Grey Shrike that they were after seeing but a group of birders invited us to view the Shrike through their telescope. An honour.
Hank had his first visitors! An online friend, Michele, who lives in Gloucester, had kindly made me a mascot for the van, a beautiful wee jointed Dragon hand crafted from antique velvet - a real beauty, whom I have named Ceridwen. Michele and I had been chatting on and off for some years online and we decided to take this proximity as a prompt for a f2f meeting and dragon-delivery. As a former nomad herself, she was interested to see our new home on wheels.
We stayed where we were overnight. Then we became brave and emerged into the world and headed for Wales.