Return to the Motherland – The Covid Pandemic

And so with little enthusiasm, almost a month earlier than planned, we decided to bite the bullet and make our way back to England. Clearly our tour couldn’t continue. Covid 19 Pandemic was about to change the world. There were rumours circulating of this campsite closing and a possibility of our insurances being invalidated if we didn’t do as our Government advised ie. go home. Whilst we still had gorgeous weather and well stocked supermarkets here in Cadiz, the beaches were now closed off and a very strict lockdown had been imposed on the whole of Spain. Police were patrolling the streets, you could only venture out for essentials, one at a time. We were instructed not to socialise in groups whilst on site. The fun had gone, this was now all looking very serious. We plotted the quickest route up to the French Border and the site reception kindly printed off all the necessary Attestation Travel Forms as required by the Spanish and French Governments. The prospect of getting up to the border and it being closed by the time we reached it was a scary one, I won’t lie. We were hearing all kinds of horror stories on the grapevine. Between the four of us we took a vote. There was only one way to find out so off we went the next day. Our other friends, Naim and Arlette, couldn’t get back to Jersey as all ferry services to the island had already been stopped. They chose to stick it out and see what happened. We managed to get totally stocked up at a large Supermarket on the way out of Santa Maria thankfully, loo rolls and all! The roads were eerily deserted, only lorries, caravans and motorhomes were travelling. all seemed to be forging on towards France. We did around 250 miles that day and then decided to stop as we needed fuel. An Aire between Merida and Caceres was open with a few vans already in situ. As we pulled up to the pumps, we saw our mates, Nic and Stuart in front of us. They had been staying at Sanlucar and had made the same decision as us, to hit the road. We greeted them, had a quick catch up then all 6 of us tucked in for the night. Good job we had a decent rest as the next day proved very trying indeed. We got on the road nice and early with all stops mapped out. Unfortunately, every Aire and Camper stop we drove to had been closed off by the Police. All campsites had been forced to shut overnight without notice. Spain was closed!! This basically meant we had to carry on driving, apart from a 20 minute loo and lunch break at a service station en route. We were all very tired and becoming more than a bit stressed. This just didn’t make for safe driving conditions at all. Nic and Stu had detoured and gone a slightly different route as they needed gas and supplies. When the last place on our long list was blockaded, we made the tough but sensible decision to just get on with it, soldier on and cross over into France. At least then we would be on more familiar ground. After a mammoth ten hour driving stint we reached the border at Irun. Phew! We were of course pulled straight over by the Police who checked we had a crossing booked back to UK and inspected all our papers. Thank goodness we had made sure everything was in order. They were very thorough but nice enough and waved us through. What a relief. The French network of Camping-Car Parks was remaining open during the lockdown, I had emailed ahead to double check. We had to send them yet another attestation before we could stay on their sites though. Luckily we had our Pass d’Etapes cards to get through the barriers. We headed towards the nearest one at Seignosse, near Biarritz, on the west coast. We got there just as darkness was falling. What a day! We all needed a very stiff drink!

The next morning, the sun was out, the birds were singing and we could here the roar of the beautiful Atlantic behind the trees. Under normal circumstances we would have jumped on our bikes and headed straight for the beach. First job now though was to ring the Eurotunnel and try and bring our crossing date forward. We did this without issue and with no extra charges. They were incredibly helpful. We now had 9 days to get both dogs sorted at a Vets and get up to Calais. I suggested that we drove a short distance up the coast to Soustons Plage, our usual, favourite, stay over in this area. We would just have to come back if if was closed. We know the village there well, it has everything we need and its great for the dogs. It is on a pretty, pine clad tidal lake with the beautiful beach a few meters behind. We were delighted to find it open and occupied by several vans of all nationalities. We had a bit of a struggle on entry as there’s a 10 meter limit. We are only 9M but the machine wasn’t playing fair. We eventually got in, plugged into the electricity and set up camp. We needed to rest up for a few days, we could now chill a bit. It felt good. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Things felt almost normal. The others staying on site were incredibly friendly. I baked brownies for everyone and in return they brought us wine. Thank goodness for France! Two days later we were still there. We felt very tempted to hide at Soustons until the nonsense was over. It was just so tranquil.

The Police patrolled several times a day but didn’t bother us. Then they came and cordoned off the beach. No more beachie doggie walks for Dylan 🙁They warned us we were no longer allowed to walk or cycle over the bridge to the bakery on the other side of the lake, we had to drive. Covid had caught up with us once again. Naim and Arlette turned up unexpectedly that afternoon. The site in Spain had indeed closed and, with nowhere else to go, they had decided to take their chances in UK and go and stay with family. They brought us absolutely loads of supplies bless them. Such generous folk. It was their wedding anniversary so Janine and I cooked a meal for everyone that evening We had a bit of a shindig before continuing our journey up France the next day. It was our intention to go over to Ladram and stay with Matt and Lucy once we reached the UK until our Campsite Warden Contracts started in the New Forest on the 1st of May. Both of those plans were scuppered that morning as Ladram Bay decided to close then we received the inevitable email confirming we would be laid off until further notice. We had half expected it to be honest. It did put us on a downer though. Needed to keep my positive pants on!! I found us a Vet at La Flèche on the Loire which was quite close to another Camping-Car Park overnight stop. We said our au revoirs and set off again. Luckily after one of my garbled French phone calls, we managed to get a Vets appointment late that afternoon. We drove straight to the Vets on very quiet roads and were able to park on the road outside. For future reference this was a great find. We were only charged €18 per dog. It’s the Chaligne-Beduneau Practice not the other one nearer the Aire. The Vet there was really lovely, we both got sorted, Passports stamped up and so we carried on to the Aire. As we turned the corner, we were blue lighted and pulled over by the Police yet again. They inspected our papers and then phoned the chief of police to ask his permission for us to stay in La Flèche for the night. Bloody hell! I had to speak to their ‘Capitain’ (my French is only ok at the best of times and I was so nervous!!). We had to explain why we were there, where we had travelled from and that we were very tired and needed to rest for the night. They eventually let us in but it wasn’t the nicest experience. There was only one thing for it the next day, travelling was obviously going to get more and more difficult, let’s get to Calais and see if we can jump on the first available train. France was clearly heading into full lockdown and this was all becoming a major headache. The poor lads doing the driving were absolutely knackered. So, we had yet another mammoth drive ahead, made easier by the lack of traffic. We arrived at Coquelles and parked up at the Pet Reception to get the pooches checked and authorised. This was a big gamble. If they didn’t let us on a train the worming treatment only lasts for 5 days before we would have to do the whole Vet thing again. It was very tense! We had a bit of a hiccup when Jan’s UK Vet had failed to fill in part of her dog’s pet passport. She was in floods of tears as it looked like her little dog would have to remain in France. FFS!!! A brief phone call to her Vet and all was sorted. That was a close one. They put us on the next train. Hurrah! We were going home. I think we were all close to crying at that point. We had about two hours of daylight left once we landed on British soil. So this was lockdown UK style, the roads were rammed with traffic!! Business as usual. Good old Britain. Our Employers had kindly offered all four of us a pitch in the New Forest even though there were no jobs on the cards. Great because Ladram had closed its gates as had our usual site back home in Derbyshire. We obviously couldn’t visit family so not a lot of choice. Nowhere else to go. We arrived in the Forest in pitch darkness. We were all exhausted. We had driven over 500 miles that day. It was absolutely bloody Baltic!! Still, we were home, well kind of, and more importantly, safe. We were asked to pitch well away from the others on site and had to quarantine for 2 weeks in view of where we had come from. Death rates in Spain were incredibly high. Fair enough I guess but we did feel a bit like Lepers. The site was in the middle of nowhere, ten miles or so from the nearest shop. Good job we’d stocked up!! The local people were behaving in a very hostile manner towards us and others on all our sites in the area, not really understanding that we were staff and, as most Wardens rent their homes out when they are working here for the Summer, had no place else to go. It isn’t nice feeling unwelcome. What happened to ‘being kind’? The Portuguese, French and Spanish all pulled together in times of crisis, whatever nationality you were. Not here though. They adopted the ‘I’m alright Jack’ stance. We experienced a couple of very upsetting instances and even had to involve the Police at one point. What the hell is wrong with folk? Get on with your sodding self isolating! We are miles away from anyone just minding our own business trying to get on with staying alive. Anyway, things seem to have settled down now. Calm has been restored and here we are in a very beautiful, very secluded spot in the forest, enjoying the Spring sunshine. We have a herd of wild deer, ponies and a little fox as daily visitors to our garden. The local pub has teamed up with a neighbouring farm shop and together they are doing hamper deliveries. We have good food and supplies on tap. We are doing daily PE circuits, lots of walking and Kerrie West’s weekly Zumba class on Facebook, outside the van, (Thursday at 5.30 – an absolute hoot!!). Smithy’s Facebook pub quiz on Wednesday and Saturday is keeping us entertained. I’m finally getting on with writing my book. I’m still doing my bits of painting although I’m quickly running out of materials. Suffice it to say that all is good in our hood. It was Easter weekend last week and of course, our Wedding Anniversary, 27 years, on Easter Sunday. We received a lovely postal delivery from our family which just brought so much joy I can’t tell you. Tears but nice ones this time. Missing our friends and Family so very much but we know it’s the same for everyone at present.

So, I’m sure you’re all sick to your back teeth of hearing this but Im saying if anyway. Stay home, keep you and your loved ones safe. Life is precious. We’ll never get this time again so try and do something constructive with it. Bake, paint, read, whatever floats your boat. It makes you realise how much time you actually spend in a normal day chasing your own tail. We will appreciate our freedom (and our Hairdressers) so much more when we come out of this!! I’ll leave you with that thought chaps. Before I go, can I ask a huge favour. My Son and his Girlfriend are trying to get a new project off the ground. As many of you will know, he’s a Chef. It’s called Crumb and Coast. Please could you follow them on Instagram and also share the link on Facebook. It’s really good if you’re interested in healthy food and simple recipes :-

https://www.instagram.com/crumbandcoast/?igshid=1stomp8qoxsmd

Thanks so much, I’m very grateful. Well my lovelies, I guess I shall see you on the other side! Hang on in there. I am now off to cut my own hair and touch up my roots. (Did I really just say that?) Wish me luck! Love to you all xxx ❤️

4 comments

  1. Glad you’re back safe, after well, can only be called an unusual return journey, take no notice of the negative folk, we both love you. xx

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  2. Lucky to of clicked on the link on the campsite uk facebook, really enjoying reading your blog, you have a beautiful writing style. We are beginning our warden life in January 2021 and we were planning our life out just as you had. Best laid plans eh! Thank you for taking the time to do this blog.

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