We’ve been back at our U.K. base in Wineham for over a month now. Poki has made a brief visit to Gumtree 4X4 for a start on some of the work Dennis would like done. There was insufficient time to work on the gearbox though. Gumtree, as is everyone else, is inundated with work.
We needed Poki back for a couple of short trips within the U.K. First with my sons and their families to Centre Parks at Woburn. Then a 5 day visit to New Milton, Stanton Fitzwarren, Swindon and Mold.
Centre Parks was a first for Dennis and I. We didn’t really know what to expect, having been told it was like an upmarket Butlins! They began in the Netherlands and there are now Parks in several European countries, including five in the U.K.
The Woburn Park consists of timber lodges located within a pine forest. Each lodge is positioned for total privacy so you are unaware of any neighbours. The lodges are fully equipped for self catering, if you wish. There are a variety of restaurants/cafes/bars if you prefer not to. All sorts of sporting and adventure activities for all ages are available.
We had planned a barbecue for my son Tim’s birthday. Unfortunately this couldn’t happen. The UK was experiencing heatwave conditions (temperatures exceeded 40 degrees in some places for the first time ever). As I write the heatwave has returned. It is currently 33 degrees here. We begin a hosepipe ban tomorrow. We have had no rain for weeks and it is becoming a serious drought.
As the forest was tinder dry and a fire risk, barbecues were banned. We still had a great evening, cooking inside, but eating out. In fact the whole weekend was fun. Most time being spent in the huge water park. Slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, rapids and scary tunnels you either came down, like a human torpedo or you came down in a 2 or 4 man raft I was even persuaded to do some of these terrifying things (or should I say coerced). I lived to tell the tale though, just.
James, Jasper and Dan enjoyed the treetop adventure trail and zip line, while Anna and Siena loved their experience with owls. Tim and family left us on Sunday evening, as Louis and Dan had school on Monday. On Monday James and family headed straight to Heathrow and a flight back to San Francisco.
A couple of days later we were off to New Milton to visit an old friend of mine, Victoria.
It was Victoria’s husband, Colin who came up with Poki’s name. Very sadly Colin passed away while we were back in New Zealand last year.
In the evening we went to the Cliff House Restaurant in Barton-on-Sea. As the name suggests it is located on the cliffs overlooking the sea. During dinner Dennis asked about the headland which we could see in the distance. Victoria’s daughter, Sam had joined us for dinner and advised Highcliffe was just down the coast, then Bournemouth and in the distance Weymouth.
My ears pricked up at the mention of Highcliffe. I had been communicating with someone in Highcliffe on Facebook Marketplace who was selling a Caranex tent. Our Caranex has taken a hammering on the journey so far and is pretty worn out. We have been looking for a replacement. The Caranex company sadly ceased trading during Covid. We could not find another brand that would attach to the back of a Land Rover.
I had dismissed this particular Caranex as it was third hand. I had also thought Highcliffe was further west and too far away for us to inspect it.
Next morning we set off for Stanton Fitzwarren. Seeing Highcliffe on a signpost I suggested to Dennis I contact the seller to see if we could view the Caranex. Having sent a message we waited a while for a response. Nothing was forthcoming so we set off again. 20 miles later I received a response inviting us to come and have a look. I persuaded Dennis to turn around. Later he told me he had done this very reluctantly.
It was not a wasted journey. Although 3rd hand, Graham had purchased the Caranex for a planned journey which didn’t happen, so he had never used it. We unpacked it for a good look. The condition is excellent. It is longer than our current model, has a side window and a different fitting for the roof. Also an extra panel and poles so it can be converted to a freestanding tent. The roof fitting is much better for Poki with her roof rack. We managed to scrape together between us, the £250 Graham wanted and are very happy with our purchase. Fortunately everywhere we went after this took a card, as we were now penniless.
We resumed our journey to Stanton Fitzwarren and the Stanton House Hotel. I had booked a special offer here; 2 nights with breakfast, dinner on the first night with a bottle of wine included. This was to celebrate Dennis’s birthday. It was a well priced offer.
Driving down the tree lined driveway I noticed signs were also in Japanese. The hotel is an old stone manor house with sympathetic stone extensions. Our room was in the new extension. Very small but with a, comparatively, large bathroom with bath and shower. The room was well enough appointed, just tiny.
Later we were reading some panels with old photographs and the hotel’s history. Not a very interesting history as the manor house had changed hands numerous times. What was interesting though was that for 30 years the hotel had been owned by Honda. Hence signs in Japanese.
Honda used the hotel to accommodate personnel visiting their nearby factory in Swindon. Honda closed their plant in July 2021, ending 36 years of car production in Europe. The hotel was sold and the new purchaser is spending several million on upgrading facilities. The Japanese connection explained the tiny rooms/large bathroom. In Tokyo we stayed in the tiniest room ever. So small our cases were stacked next to the bed.
Next day we visited Swindon for lunch with friends, and avid blog readers, John and Fantu. Fantu is from Ethiopia and as Dennis and I have never visited Ethiopia or eaten in an Ethiopian restaurant, Fantu had promised us an Ethiopian lunch. It was delicious and we even finished up with Ethiopian coffee. Amazingly, John and Fantu are growing Ethiopian coffee plants in their conservatory. Some are even producing beans.
Next day we headed for Mold in North Wales to visit Dennis’s neice, Karen. Ash, who had been cycling in Wales after leaving us, was already there. Karen cooked us a lovely vegan meal and we were joined by her son Callum and wife, Steph. Both hospital doctors for the NHS, they are considering leaving to work in Australia. (A loss the NHS doesn’t need).
Karen has been recovering from a hip replacement operation and not able to do any work in the garden. Her bordering hedge was very overgrown and we did our best to tame it for her. Trimming the sides to reduce the bulk and clear the pavement, but we were unable to reduce the height, as without a ladder we simply couldn’t reach that high. Karen is knitting Dennis a pair of slippers. He should look pretty in those..:) However, they end up being “feltised”. It’s an amazing process that turns a knitted item into a felt one. She is a clever girl Karen, and the slippers are amazing.
Since our return to Sussex we have been in regular contact with Adam discussing, in Dennis’s case, all things mechanical. I have been researching visa and medical requirements. So many countries if we stick to the West African coast. Adam and his brother came up from South Africa via a more inland route that brought them through Cameroon into Nigeria, Niger and Mali into Mauritania. This is more desert like terrain, avoiding the humidity of the coastal countries, which I would prefer. These countries, however, maybe too dangerous now with terrorists and kidnapping.
Poki is back at Gumtree. We looking forward to getting her/him back before we head off for our final planning meeting in France with Adam on 10 September.