Further preparations

Vincent has his new fog lights fitted and working and the top bumper cover and number plate have been replaced. He is looking very smart indeed. His GB plate has also arrived.

Mr Snail’s thoughts are turning to the MOT, due in August but which we shall probably have done earlier –  in good time to address any issues before going to France. He believes that new shock absorbers will be required and is considering getting on and fitting them pre-test.

I have been busy pruning my wardrobe down to a volume that I hope will squish into Vincent’s nook and crannies.

No passports yet.

A little change here, a tiny tweak there…

You may recall that when we were  down south over the winter there was a slight argument with a large boulder, resulting in damage to  that part of Vincent that I never knew how to name. Well, it turns out that it is called a bumper cover.

We  bought some materials at a B&Q somewhere and eventually a repair was effected after we got home, having driven many miles with the thing held together with waterproof tape.

Unfortunately another wee accident recently not only ripped the original repair apart but did further damage. When research showed that the ugly plastic thing on the front actually hid a perfectly nice chrome bumper beneath, Mr Snail did the only sensible thing and discarded the offending material.

That was just one of the many tasks that he has been engaged in. I doubt that I can remember them all and no doubt he should probably write up this stuff himself in order to have an accurate record but here goes, I’ll do my best:

  • bumper cover removed
  • chrome bumper polished
  • trim from above the bumper removed, rejuvenated and awaiting replacing
  • new rear camera fitted, to work with GPS
  • old radio removed and  
  • new radio fitted
  • new runners fitted to galley drawers
  • replaced broken cupholder with new one
  • issue with table leg resolved
  • bathroom doorknob fixed so it no longer falls off every five minutes
  • replaced broken sink drain
  • waterpump adjusted
  • passenger seat behind driver removed and
  • replaced with a cupboard unit sourced from our bathroom
  • reversing light replaced
  • replaced fiddly wee doorknobs wii’ summat to grab hold of
  • repaired ceiling fan
  • replaced dodgy outdoor locker handle
  • released sticking gas valve
  • repaired leaky air suspension
  • single power socket in glazed top cabinet aboved wardrobe replaced by a double. Cupboard now designated for electronics storage and safe recharging station.
  • moved thermostat to accommodate new cupboard unit
  • removed superfluous seatbelt mountings

The latest job is an attempt to resolve the radio interference caused by installing the solar panel. The manufacturers say that the issue is to do with the connecting cables and suggest shielding them with aluminium foil.

Tasks remaining:

  • Fit new front fog lights, when they arrive
  • Replace ducts on Eberspächer when they are delivered
  • Fit magnetic locks to drawers as required
  • Fit new wipers – awaiting vendor’s reply as they sent a mismatched pair.
  • ?

The bathroom cupboard is providing a no-cost proof of concept. If things do not work out we can simply junk it on the way south. If it works well we may replace it with something a little more attractive and possibly with slightly more volume.

The van’s MOT is due in August but that is a little close to Le Depart so we will probably take Vincent over to Kirkwall a little earlier than necessary and will be booking that in fairly soon now.

Two door cupboard has one dividing shelf inside and a drawer above

So far I am liking the change with the seat out and cupboard in. We have not gained a great deal of space as the storage below the seat has gone and we can no longer access our bottle store in the seat arm. There is however some additional storage space and all of it is more accessible than the previous arrangement. The van feels more spacious too, with more room for manoeuvre on entering the habitation door.

Not exactly sure yet on how we will use the storage but current ideas include housing our toiletries in the top drawer now that they are displaced from what is now the charging cupboard. We may need to fit a few bottles of wine in the bottom… but mainly I think we shall have a shelf each for our clothes, freeing up the rear clockers for some kitchen items, spare bedding and a pair of camp chairs.

Vincent’s Facelift

Vincent is losing his satellite dish today. After all, we don’t use it and would not. We are going to put his roof space to better use and he is therefore getting a solar panel fitted instead.

We will be able to test the installation next weekend when we go over to the Orkney Folk Festival.

I really must write up our journey home from D&G before we go away so that I can be a little more up to speed when I have that trip to do as well.

Today I woke with the intention of finding a way to move the images from my laptop onto the PC to help me do the articles more easily and more quickly. I switched on my PC, which promptly failed to boot. So, here I am, back on the lappie and struggling with Lightroom and WordPress with a small screen, stupid flat keyboard etc.

Looking on the bright side, at least I have access to the right images!

If the PC cannot be fixed I can at least make progress on the project, albeit more slowly than I had intended.

Vincent has had lots of little repairs and improvements since we came home. I shall try to get Mr Snail to write ’em up.

Going Home

We said goodbye to Kippford on Wednesday 29th March. Having packed the van there seemed little point in prolonging the agony. We turned Vincent towards the Galloway Forest Park and went to visit  with the Red Deer. Mother Nature ensured that the weather was absolutely as bad as the last time that we visited, though perhaps a touch warmer this time.

Arran, having cast his antlers

Spike still had his antlers but was allowing Arran to rule the roost anyway

On Thursday we drove over to Glentrool, where Nell and Mr Snail enjoyed the full circular walk around the loch in the rain. I had things to do, so did them and then walked out in the opposite direction to meet the walkers on their return. It was a misty landscape by then, a little less than wet.

Loch Trool

We were due to catch a 7:00 am ferry on Saturday morning at Ardrossan so travelled over to the West coast on Friday with the intention of finding a stopover close to the ferry port.

There was much wincing as we travelled over some extremely poor road surfaces on our way but the rain had finally ceased and the sun was shining for the most part. We drove through Barrhill (where we had once tried to buy a house), played a little in Girvan, and then went into Ayr for a spot of Tesco action so that we would be fully supplied on Arran.

I dislike Ayr. It is not just a dump, there are also personal factors that prevent me from feeling comfortable when in Ayr. I was happy to move on.

Jackdaw at Girvan

Armed with a list of potential wilding spots in both South and North Ayrshire, we headed for the most favoured first and found it barred to us. The next best on our list also had height bars and the situation was repeated. We drove as far as West Kilbride, then headed backwards to look at other potential spots. Height bars were everywhere.

Finally we called in at a hotel in West Kilbride. We had previously emailed the Waterside Hotel with an enquiry but, having had no reply, Mr Snail was sceptical regarding our chances. It turned out that we were made very welcome with no difficulties at all, despite the fact that a wedding was in progress. We ate well from the Light Menu (£15.95 for three courses, £13.95 for two), then returned to the car park sandwiched between the sea and the busy main road.

We managed to sleep okay and were up at 05:30 and away to the ferry queue at Ardrossan, a few minutes back down the road.The ferry crossing was smooth and untroublesome. Being a Saturday the boat was teeming with walkers, cyclists and early season holidaymakers. We berthed at 08:00 and Mr Snail was somewhat taken aback to find that we could not park along the front at Brodick.

Vincent in the car park at Brodick

We had much time to kill until checking in at the campsite so it was fortunate that we found space in the car park behind the Co-op and were able to make  a late breakfast and then walk Nell on the coastal path. Our plan was to exercise our National Trust membership cards at Brodick Castle but we had to wait until 09:30 to do that.

On our walk I found this pretty flower but could not understand why it was flowering so early nor why it had solitary flowers on what appeared to be a raspberry or blackberry plant… 

Salmonberry?

We took a tour of the village and found a couple of good shops.

Well, we had to…

We purchased postcards, sweets, a newspaper and a paint by numbers set from the proper old-fashioned stationers-cum-bookshop and chocolates from the chocolate shop but resisted the prodigious sausage rolls at the bakery.

Goat Fell under low cloud

Goat Fell was looking magnificent under drifting low cloud but that cloud soon brought some rain with it. Luckily it did not  last long and the sun was out again by the time that we were ready to explore the garden at Brodick, where we were the first visitors of the year. The site had only opened for the year just eleven minutes before we walked in.

I took many photographs and many of them were appalling. Also, I found more of the mysterious bramble plants.

Googling has come up with a surprising result on the brambles. I think that these may be a North American species, the Salmonberry. The fact that this escapee from cultivation is also called the Arran Raspberry is, I think, the clincher. First noted in Sannox in the 19th Century but not by me until the 21st!(http://www.nonnativespecies.org/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?speciesId=3058)

Camellia at Brodick Castle

Although the site was only just opened, a tour of the garden showed that many of the Rhododendrons had already been and gone for this season.

Scattered petals

Of course many remained to be enjoyed, along with the Magnolias and Camellias. 

The Bavarian Summerhouse

The shot of the day, for me

The Castle building is closed for this season but we were content to roam the woodland garden and admire the Rhodies.

And now, to the important bit… the Tea Room. Scone for me, Paradise Slice for him. Both declared to be average. The coffee was sub-par.

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Further adventures as soon as we have Internet and EHU again.

 

Farewell to Kippford

It has been decided; we leave Kippford tomorrow. Our ferry to Arran is booked for 07:00 hrs on Saturday and we have two nights booked at the Lochranza caravan site. We will linger in the Galloway Forest Park until Friday and then spend Friday night somewhere close to the ferry terminal.

It occurred to me last night that until now I have failed to post  a photograph of our pitch here at Kippford.

Our home for the past winter

I took this one yesterday just before we took the tent down. It shows clearly why the pod failed to act as the driveaway awning that we intended; Vince is just too tall.

It is a spacious pitch. The EHU and water point is lurking behind the pod. Immediately to the left is the path to the facilities. Beyond that is the yard from which occasional banging noises are emitted. It was far less of an annoyance than we might have expected.

The building behind our pitch houses the groundsmen’s rest room, the cleaner’s closet and the two wet rooms. We didn’t have far to trot to the shower on a morning making it all the more frustrating to have to dress twice each morning.

Behind that building is the roadside perimeter of the site. Traffic noise has not been an issue.

The site clings to the side of a steep hill and is beautifully landscaped and thoughtfully laid out. None of my photos from the top of the hill really show the nature of the slope. I always meant to document a walk up the hill but somehow it never happened.

All the staff here are lovely and so is the site owner, who generally stops to speak when seen. I would not hesitate to recommend the site but unfortunately they are ceasing the touring part of the business.

The pics from yesterday’s tootle:

One last time to the top of the hill but the air was hazy and the views not at their best

The Bellamy Butterfly Bar – the site holds a Bellamy Conservation Award

Pink camelia

White camelia? It wasn’t fragrant, so not a Gardenia I think… but what do I know.

Primroses in abundance

the largest, I think, of many white Pieris around the site. This bsh has been full of bees in the past few days and the buzz is audible from a distance

I can see this Silver Birch from my seat in the van and often st and watch it move in the breeze. There are usually a number f wood pigeons sitting n the top of this tree but when I took this a Chaffinch had the top perch. Click for bigness and you might just spot him

A remnant of 2016

We have had some frosts as this Camelia shows

I had hoped very much that the Magnolias would flower before we left. The buds are just showing colour now but I will certainly not see the blooms.

Magnolias are almost there but not quite just yet

The Azaleas and Rhododendrons haven’t made it in any number yet either. I am disappointed to be missing them but we have plans to visit Inverewe on our way home so maybe I shall see a good show when we get there.

 

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A quick weekend jaunt, part 2

We needed to be at Mainsgill, only a minute or two down the A66 for 10:00 am. After a largely sleepless night and the loss of an hour’s opportunity for sleep due to the change to BST we were quite reluctant  to leave our beds but did manage to shower and dress and still be on station before the Family L arrived.

It was our first visit to Mainsgill and we were surprised by the chaos, even having read the criticisms to be found on review sites. It is  truly a strange way to run a restaurant (I shall leave it at that.) It is a very busy little business and clearly thriving but we found it less appealing than other similar establishments that we have visited. 

After our family breakfast we shopped for provisions for  a simple supper to be eaten once we arrived home at Kippford, said goodbye to the Family L and then turned Vincent’s head towards Barnard Castle (which was heaving) and thence onward to the upper dale.

We had an outline plan to go home over the tops via Alston and to call in at Lambley Viaduct on our way to walk the dog. I had concerns that on this brilliantly sunny and unnaturally warm Mothering Sunday the small car park there would be full and Nell would not get her exercise. I suggested that we stop at Bowlees, and give her a run there “just in case.”

The Tees just below Middleton

Well,  it turned out that not only Barney but also Middleton-in-Teesdale and the entirety of Upper Teesdale was heaving with people, cars and motorcycles. Bowlees was choked, with no hope of parking Vincent anywhere at all. The High Force Hotel was very busy with bare-armed folks supping beer in the sun.

We drove on to Cow Green Reservoir, which being so vast could never be crowded – though it was busier than I have ever seen it. Not that I have been there recently…

Vincent at Cow Green

There were tears. Of joy, maybe. Just the sheer pleasure of being in this high place in the clean air and listening to Skylarks and Lapwings. Or maybe a pang of something else. I was last here on the 9th of December, in 1978. How can I be so precise about a date so long ago? Well, I delivered my beautiful boy about 14 hours after a family walk around the reservoir that day. That kind of thing tends to stick. Unlike the family.

I managed to take a lot of very poor photographs at Cow Green. A bit of forward planning might have been useful, along with a wide angle  lens, a tripod and a polarising filter.

We had a wonderful walk, though not a long one as we had quite some driving left to do.

We had one more stop at Carlisle in order to pick up Leffe for supper and a coffee to boost our reserves – arriving back at Kippford just after 5pm, with the sun still shining.

Unfortunately all that sun has brought out my skin sensitivity and I am suffering the usual painful itch. I also woke with a terrible headache from the excess of sun… I seem to have posted our sun hats home!

A false Spring it may have been but we did have the most wonderful weekend in the early season sun, driving through some of the best scenery that England has to offer.

 

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