Yes, our tour of just some of the British Isles is nearly over. We are at our last stop of the trip - at the Cherry Hinton Caravan Club site in Cambridge. Many will now that this is the town of our birth and we are very proud of that. Trev was born and brought up in Cherry Hinton, while I spent my first 27 years in Impington - to the north of the city. I bought a mobile home in Waterbeach and lived there for four years before we bought our first place together at Bar Hill. We had four good years there before heading south to Sunny Saltdean - the jewel in Brighton’s crown.
Right, catch up time. The weather features quite a bit (again) as does beer - how unusual!
Thursday last, and the car took the strain and if nothing at least we know it’s waterproof. First up was the National War Arboretum at Alrewas. Many of you will have seen the central memorial on the telly but there is so much more than that. one hundred and fifty acres in total, tree lined avenues with various memorials to battles and regiments in between.
Wooded areas and arbours allow space for quiet , but not necessarily dry,reflection - we soon found ourselves in the cafe when the heavens opened again after giving us a brief respite.
Realising that our visit was going to be brief if we didn’t want to drown we headed over to the central memorial as soon as the rain eased. This really is a stunning piece of work. The name of every serviceman who made the ultimate sacrifice from the second world war onwards is inscribed here. Of course, there are many, but sadly, there is room for many more too. There is a gap in one of the central walls so that on the 11th hour, of the 11th Day, of the 11th month a shaft of sunlight shines through - weather permitting of course.
We drove next through Burton-on-Trent. Not particularly notable apart from the massive brewery which seems to cover half the town. Pausing for lunch at a transport cafe - no expense spare here we continued on to the charming little town of Stone, thankfully leaving the rain behind somewhere on the way. We walked along by the canal, watching a couple of boats go through the lock until, with the sun now beating down we decided that we’d worked up enough of a thirst to warrant a visit to one of the local hostelries. The beer went down extremely well and rather to quickly though somehow we managed to restrict ourselves to just the one.
We headed further north, to the home of the friends who had joined us at the site on Sunday, then adjourned to the local pub for food, chat and a half arsed attempt at the music quiz. We got about half right I think, thanks to some stirring of the grey matter and google. There is a certain perverse satisfaction when you get a question wrong because you are too young to remember, but that rapidly evaporates when you can’t answer the next one because your getting older and don’t listen to all that modern nonsense! Oh well.
Friday, and an uncharacteristically dry day. The morning was spent on site doing, well, very little really. In the afternoon we went out first to Bridgenorth for a bit of shopping, then to Ironbridge to look at the famous erm, Iron bridge, apparently the first in the world. Another pretty little place that looked so much better simply because the sun was out.
Another friend arrived in his van in the evening - bringing the rain with him - and we done the honours with our little bbq.
Saturday, and our last day at Much Wenlock, which meant among other things, taking the awning down, so predictably it was windy as I paid my morning visit to the toilet block. Somebody had clearly forgot to bring their servant with them as, on opening the cubicle door I was confronted with a very large brown object peering out of the pan. Several attempts to flush it on it’s way proved futile, but a shove with the bog brush yielded more success eventually. Oh, the joys of camping.
The awning came down easily enough later on and after getting freshened up we all adjourned to one of Much Wenlock’s hostelries for some liquid refreshment. The beer was good - at least after the cloudy pints were changed - which proved more difficult than it should have been but provided for much hilarity. The story is too long winded to tell here but no doubt Trev will tell you about it when you see him - more than once no doubt. The inevitable curry at the end of the evening went down really well too.
Sunday, and time to move on. A gutful of beer, a stubbornly indigestible curry and the resulting fragmented nights sleep were hardly ideal preparation for a one hundred and thirty odd mile journey, but at least there weren't any surprises awaiting me in the toilet block as I went over for Ghandi’s revenge.
We left, pretty close to our planned departure time with Graham & Robert in convoy behind us. All was going well until we hit the A14 and pulled into a layby to swap driving. It was then we discovered that one of the tyres on Graham & Roberts van had failed. No further damage was evident and when Green Flag eventually appeared and changed the tyre we were on our way again.
We were soon back in our old town and safely sited, tannin levels replenished and the last erection of the trip safely performed - that’s the awning for those who haven’t been paying attention. In the evening we went for a stroll around Cherry Hinton emerging unsurprisingly at a pub. Those watching the football on the tv proved a far more appealing distraction than the football itself….
Monday, and a brief flit around some famous landmarks - to us anyway. My old mobile home - sold by me in 2001 for eleven grand was now on the market for sixty. Ouch. My old family home and where I spent my first twenty seven years looked sad and neglected. The American Cemetery at Madingley was looking immaculately kept as usual. That evening a friend joined us for dinner in Chez Patsy - well the awning anyway. Much reminiscing ensued.
Tuesday, and Cambridge city centre was the target. Attentive readers will know that we were here a couple of years back with other friends. We done the usual tour of the colleges and the cafe at Marks & Spencer. We puffed and panted our way to the top of Great St Mary’s church tower for great views of what is still a stunningly beautiful city. We paused again for coffee overlooking the river cam and admired some of the punters below. The brollies, which had remained unused all day we pressed in to service as, late afternoon we scurried back across town to catch up with another friend that we hadn’t seen for many years. Yet more reminiscing and hilarity ensued and, after rather too many ales, and missing the last bus, we piled unsteadily in to a taxi and headed back to the site.
Wednesday - today. Lots of rain first thing, then sun, then rain again. It didn’t matter though as none of us were up and about very early. Later, as the sun appeared again and that delightful Cambridge humidity set in, we picked up HRH - that’s Trev’s Mum for those new to all this nonsense - fed and watered her at one of the village pubs and deposited her back at her bungalow a couple of hours later.
As I finish up now it is early evening and the temperature is just perfect - and that was always one of the few things we miss about Cambridge weather. It could be hot and extremely humid during the day, but you could sit outside late in to the evening. Pollen levels notwithstanding.
So, not much longer to go. Out and about in the car tomorrow showing the boys around the rest of East Anglia. They leave on Sunday to return to Brighton while we will remain for another week. Every evening next week is booked for dinner, bbq’s and pub visits. At this rate I’m going to need to go on the liver transplant list……..