And 25 minutes later we’re back on British soil! I can’t honestly say I’m happy about it but very much looking forward to seeing our family and friends again.
The first thing you notice once you drive away from Folkestone is the dire state of our roads. We are all guilty of having a little moan about the foreign toll charges whilst abroad but the system elsewhere in Europe obviously works better than our good old British road tax. The roads in Europe are brilliant. You pay according to use. The many, heavy duty, foreign lorries hammering our roads here pay nothing. You realise just how many come over here daily when you spend time around the ferry ports. On the flip side, I’ve paid 6 months UK road tax for absolutely nothing but I can’t cancel it as it would invalidate my insurance. No brainer system. Our roads are absolutely appalling. The potholes on the motorway are lethal. Don’t get me started on the weather!
Anyway, we need to high tail it back to Derbyshire. My Sister’s funeral is on the 2nd so we have just a couple of days to get ourselves sorted. We arrive in the Shire just before dark and park up for the night in Baslow. The Devonshire Arms pub is a welcome sight, we are both trave weary, tired and hungry. Next morning we drive over to Bakewell to pick up some supplies. Mark is in desperate need of a proper pork pie and I am salivating at the thought of my beloved Bakewell Pudding!! There’s a new Aire opened in Bakewell. Finally! It has hook up and is £12 per night. What a great idea. We are booked on the Grouse and Claret at Rowsley from today until after the funeral as it’s more convenient for us to visit the folks and collect appropriate clothing etc. We’ll definitely use the Aire after that though.
The Funeral was a bittersweet day. Many of Paula’s childhood school friends attended as well as our mutual pals from teenage years. I haven’t seen most of these these girls for some 30 years or more. I was very touched that so many of our old friends had made the effort to come. It meant a lot to me and I know it would have to her. She would have been chuffed. Some great photos were passed around. We shared funny memories of Paula and reminisced about the good times. I kept expecting her to walk in, she was always life and soul of the party. It was all incredibly sad. 47 is no age. RIP Paula my dear. I’m sure you are in a better place and pain free at last. I’ll miss our bonkers chats.
We spent the next week trying to see as many folk as possible and obviously having much missed time with our respective Mums and the rest of the fam. Then there were the hairdos, dental appointments and other medical things to attend to. I called in to see the guys at my old office in Buxton for a quick catch up. Always good to see my work family. Bakewell is a lovely part of the world in Spring when the sun actually shines. The fields are full of daffodils and cavorting lambs. Everything looks green and lush. Spring is definitely in the air. The three children have grown so much in six months. They are all funny and adorable. Love them to bits. Mark’s Sister, Jen, had surprised them recently with a school holiday trip to Spain, their first time on an Aeroplane. So cute! My little beautifuls.
We caught the monthly Farmers Market which was really very good. Bought some excellent preserves and smoked meat and fish. Did the obligatory visit to Chatsworth Farm Shop too for more treats. We managed to squeeze in a few of our favourite walks, Lathkill, Bradford Dale and Monsal. Hassop Station Tea Rooms for a couple of cheeky brunches with Wend and Jen while the littles were at school! Couldn’t leave without a pub lunch at The George in Youlgreave. The pie and chips is still the bomb! Sadly didn’t get to see all of my girls but I’ll be back again for another visit soon you crazy cats! Thanks to everyone who put themselves out to get to see us. I know you’re all busy people. I’m grateful I have such amazing friends.
Next County on the list is Devon. Simply cannot wait to see our Son, Matt, and his girlfriend, the lovely Lucy. They’ve been off having an adventure of their own, travelling around Asia, so lots to talk about. We have a steady, effortless journey down to Exmouth and spend the night parked up overlooking the Estuary. Its all very serene as the sun sets. I take a little stroll, lose my footing and come a right old cropper on the slipway. My phone comes off worse than me. £85 for a new screen! Ouch, that was an expensive fall! I am now sporting a technicolour bruise the size of a dinner plate on my bottom. No, shan’t be posting a pic any time soon!
It’s a good overnight stop this to stock up on yummies from the nearby Marks and Spencer food hall and there’s a cracking fresh seafood store on the edge of the Marina. The River Exe Cafe is a quirky floating restaurant out on the water reached by river taxi. Highly recommended but do book ahead. The Deli on The Strand does tasty home made food and great cakes. I also need to pick up a supply of my favourite scented candles. St. Eval, Seasalt of course! Just love Exmouth. The dog adores the beach up at Orcombe Point. There’s a smashing little cinema in town. We simply have to go and see The new Fisherman’s Friends film. We spent all of our holiday time in Port Isaac when Matt was growing up and got to know the real life boys quite well. Mark and Matt often went out mackerel fishing with John on his little yellow boat. It was good to see a few of their faces in the background in scenes shot in the pub. We really enjoyed it. Great feel good factor film. Must get back to Cornwall in the near future. Next morning we tootled over to Ladram Bay. We’re booked in for a week and our good friends (Matts Godparents actually) are coming to join us. We always have a splendid time at Ladram. Matt and Lucy make sure we’re looked after. The staff are all brilliant to be honest, It’s Good Friday so it’s going to be crazy busy. The roads leading in are typically Devonish and narrow. Of course, Sod’s law dictates that we meet a bleedin caravan coming the other way on the squeeziest bit, EEK! I almost wet my pants. We have a long line of cars behind us so no going back for ya. Luckily the driver towing the caravan is like someone out of a stuntman film and manages to reverse his car and caravan into a driveway. I am incredibly impressed. Had I been driving, I would have cried and abandoned ship!! Anyway, we made it in one piece!! It was a grand reunion! For those of you who, like us, normally avoid holiday park type sites, don’t be quick to discount Ladram. It’s family run so retains a certain charm. There is a pool, gym, sauna and steam room and the restaurant serves wonderful, high standard home made food. Ok I am slightly biased as my boy is Head Chef but seriously, it’s a class apart. Fresh lobster straight from the bay. The best Sunday carvery ever and various innovative dishes inspired by Matt and Lucy’s travels. The pitches here all have a sea view. The facilities are excellent and it’s a very pretty little bay. The walk to Sidmouth is around 3 miles with incredible views all the way. Otterton Mill, a short stroll away in the nearby village, is well worth a visit. It has an interesting shop with the old mill and water wheel workings on display and a homely tea room serving home baked bread and cakes. Ladram Bay do discount with the ACSI card if you have it.
On Easter Monday Janine and Graeme arrive. We have a nip out to Budleigh Salterton in Matts car for afternoon coffee and cake. We find a super deli. It’s difficult to watch ones figure around here! We buy a shed load of Devon cheeses including some fantastic smoked blue YUMMY! Then it’s back to Ladram to scrub up. We drink Parma Violet gin in the bar before dinner then head downstairs for a dance after eating. A great night. Next day we have a team walk into Sidmouth. The kids are off work today. We ate fish and chips on the seafront, as you do, then stopped at the Clocktower for a cream tea on the way back. What a fab day! That night we lit the barbecue and fire pit and chilled by the van. It’s so good to spend quality time with these guys. The rest of our week was very social, all about eating, drinking and having a few laughs. No change there then. Perfect. Thanks Devon. You’ve been fun!
Movingly swiftly on then and to our third and final County. Destination Dorset. Our travelling buddies, Marion and Tony are due back from Portugal and we’re going to meet them and Nicola and Stuart in Swanage. We’ve booked onto the CCC site in Corfe for a couple of nights. Himself is buzzing as I’ve promised him a ride on the steam train! We find the site easily. The lane leading to it is opposite the visitor centre. Norden Farm Site in Corfe is also lovely but only has grass pitches so a no no for our big rig. The CCC site is in a beautiful spot amongst the bluebells. It’s well run and friendly with good facilities and a daily bread ordering service. It’s a ten minute scenic walk into Corfe Village. The Greyhound Pub in Corfe does good food so we have a wander over with the dog for a quick cider.
We are up bright and early next day and set off to catch the first steamer out of Corfe.
it’s a pretty ride through the rolling countryside to Swanage. Very enjoyable. It’s great to be reunited with the gang. We have a walk around the bay then, as expected, retreat to the pub!
Swanage is a nice little seaside town. I’m sure we’ll return when we have more time. It was good to meet Marion’s family and some of Tony’s old muckas! We caught the last steam train back into Corfe and Nic and Stu joined us for supper in the Greyhound. Lovely job. On the walk home we were lucky enough to meet the herd of wild deer. What a sighting.
So the end of our travels is nigh. Return to work we must if we want to top up the piggy bank to fund another Winter adventure. The next morning we pointed the van in the direction of the Studland ferry across Poole Harbour to Sandbanks and off we went. The little chain ferry is expensive but cuts out the busy centre of Poole so is well worth it for us.
We stopped off at Mudeford Quay just outside Christchurch for a spot of lunch then set the sat nav for Hampshire and The New Forest. New Milton overlooking the Isle of Wight was our overnight stop. The Forest and Roundhill will be our home once again for the Summer. Not too shabby!! I’ve missed my lovely ponies.
So there you have it dear readers. An amazing 6 months, some incredible sights and a whole lot of fun. Once again we’ve met some wonderful new people and cemented firm friendships with those we met last year. Aside from one or two hiccups with batteries, punctures and dentistry and the obvious tragic death of my sis, it’s been a blast. Thank you so much for joining us on our travels. We’ve enjoyed your company. I shall bid you all farewell for now but I promise to update you on our antics in the Forest once we get settled.
As they say in the cartoons…………..
Wishing you all a wonderful Summer wherever you are. Much love. Michelle, Mark and Dylan ❤️