It’s a dog’s life on the Levels.

So we (LWD and I) continue to investigate our new surrounding in terms of finding suitable off lead dog walking, and I have to report that we are a little overawed by the amount of choice. We have trekked several routes along or near the banks of the R. Parrett, we’ve found a route into town by going around it, and a route on the disused rail line to Yeovil, not that we’ve gone quite that far yet, we stopped at the medieval abbey at Muchelney.

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We’ve discovered The Hanging Chapel in Langport, a 15th century chapel built on top of a 13th century archway at the eastern entrance to the old town. It was a fairly common practice in the middle ages to have a chapel at the entrance of a town so that merchants and other travellers could give thanks for a safe arrival or pray for a safe journey on leaving. It is a Grade 1 listed building and a scheduled ancient monument. The chapel is still in use today as a Masonic lodge.

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East view

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West view

Today we climbed the steep banks of the highest hill in this neck of the woods.

Burrow Mump is a 79 ft high tor standing near the confluence of the River Tone and the old course of the River Cary, joining the River Parrett at Burrowbridge, surrounded by the low lying land, maximum 25ft above sea level, of the South Somerset Levels. Thought by some to have been used by King Alfred, he who according to legend let the cakes burn whilst on watch for Danish marauders, as a lookout point across the levels. Today the views from the top are 360° of drained farmland, in Alfred’s time the views would have been of swampy marshes. A medieval church was built on the hill in the 15th century. The current ruined church on top of the hill was built in 1793. The land and ruin were donated to the National Trust in 1946 as a war memorial to the men of Somerset.

 

All that and I haven’t even had to unpack the wellies – yet …

🙂 🙂 🙂

I’m no beginner … (a long rant)

… when it comes to moving house and after making 18 of them personally and having helped my kids on several more, I can with a lot of experience say that this one has been an absolute pig’s ear.

It was an inauspicious beginning, and continued downhill, with the van and two muppets turning up two and a half hours late. I’d already had to leave in R0X1 with the zoo (grandson, dog and cat) to meet estate agent on time leaving K to oversee the loading of furniture and boxes (already packed by us). A quick re-assessment of timing and I was expecting K in Huish Episcopi around 14.30 and van about an hour later. Nah …

Around 13.00 Kate phoned to say the van was already full with only 2/3 of our stuff loaded. Phone calls to firm’s HO ensued – K was accused of adding stuff that wasn’t on the inventory. K insisted she hadn’t and could prove it with her copy of the inventory. Conversations in a non-English language ensued between HO and the muppets culminating in an offer to get another van to move the remainder, magnanimously at no extra cost to us … !!! K arranged to overnight with a friend, and the first van-load arrived here at 18.00 without one complete bed aboard. The Smart One spent the night in R0X1 with the cat and I on a mattress on the floor on the house with LWD.

Despite all boxes being marked with their destination rooms marked on them a lot ended up in random rooms which had nothing to do with box contents. To and injury to insult boxes were all stacked 5 high, regardless of some being marked fragile contents; these guys were obviously not amongst those who consider me vertically or age challenged, and whilst I wholeheartedly disagree with discrimination this once I would have jettisoned my principles!

Having been told a van to move the remainder of our possessions would arrive at 14.00 the following day K spent a pleasant afternoon next door with our now ex- neighbours. The different van and 2 different muppets made a timely appearance at 18.30, loaded up and duly arrived here at 23.00. I refused to hand over any money before they unloaded as the previous day’s chaps hadn’t finished all they were supposed to, if they moved things where they should be, including K’s bed base from the conservatory upstairs to her bedroom I would pay them and then they could bring the rest in. This request necessitated several calls in a foreign language to HO, on speaking to the manager I was left with the impression that although human error had occurred on their part it wasn’t their fault as such and I should shut up, put up and pay up. The legs for K’s bed base were on the van, they would not unload them. I after the previous day’s experience of muppets clearing off without doing their full job would not give way I wanted beds made up before paying.

Stand off; eventually the bed legs only were removed from van; the van was locked closed whilst the bed was made; I paid; they emptied the van and sped away into the after midnight hours without bothering to give me a receipt.

We’re in … and still alive to tell the tale; just!

😊😊😊

Pandemonium on the A7

I realise I have not yet reported in full the visit of Paul and Meriam, however I beg the indulgence of my regular reader to bring you breaking/braking news. I will return to the Dutch folk at a later date.

If the written word gets a bit slurred it’s because I’m gulping an XXXL G&T – it has been a  l o n g day.

It started well enough with the Terrible Trio leaving Jávea and heading for the hills, as we are wont. With a quick diesel fill and Lidl top up on vino blanco, I headed off. South of Valencia I joined the A7 motorway and was bowling along quite nicely. I was way behind P&M as I’d made a coffee and dog convenience stop. Suddenly there was a very loud bang and R0X1 started wandering about the carriageways without my permission. I braked firmly but gently, hit the hazard lights and carefully checking mirrors etc. brought my wagon safely to rest on the hard shoulder. I donned my hi-viz vest and as I deployed my red triangle noted that an awful lot of the rear left tyre was on the carriageway rather than on the wheel. I phoned the RAC. Unfortunately I seem to have overstayed my welcome as far as my breakdown insurance goes – I should have left a couple of months ago – I shall have to foot the recovery bill myself.

Two lovely motorcycle cops came, one retrieved the remains of the tyre from the carriageway – brave lass. The other set about organising a recovery vehicle. The van with the flashing arrow lights – “move over” – parked behind and the driver distributed loads of traffic cones along lane 1 (of 4). Completely unsurprisingly, the cops still had to direct cars into the outer lanes as quite a few drivers thought the instructions didn’t apply to them. They were both very sweet and kind especially when I watched R0X being winched up onto the recovery truck and got a bit upset, reaction I guess, but LWD seemed to enjoy the view from its cab. I was just terrified that R0X would somehow escape her bonds and fall off.

By the time we arrived at the garage in the middle of an industrial estate it was siesta and Señor directed me to a nearby cafe and ordered me to return at 5pm. One menu del dia and a lot of thumb twiddling later, I got back to the garage at the arranged time. 40 minutes later, the temperature had dropped alarmingly, it was trying to rain and I couldn’t get into R0X as she was still up on the reccy truck. I really was starting to panic, I had no idea where I was, let alone the recovery Señor and there was no one around to ask. I was beginning to wonder if I was being set up for a robbery or worse (I really must stop reading so many murder procedurals) and one or two tears could not be held back. My phone had run out of battery earlier whilst I was keeping P&M updated. So I was mightily relieved when another Señor turned up, shortly followed by the Recovery Señor (hereinafter called the Boss). They had been trying to track down 2 tyres (I decided not to trust the one remaining  el-cheapo tyre). No Michelin camper tyres in Valencia. I might be here for the weekend.

Señor Boss asked me via the other Señor (he and I were communicating in French) if I’d like him to take me to a hotel or would I like to stay on the forecourt. I went for the cheaper option. They got a step ladder so I could shelter in R0X bless them.

It was interesting, to say the least, to be sitting in R0X whilst she was backed into the forecourt and then jerkily winched down. LWD, not renowned for her bravery, shivered and whimpered, to be honest as I was already shivering from cold I almost joined in to make it a shiver/whimper duet.

Safely ensconced for the night on the forecourt, I was pouring my XXXL G&T when there was a knock at the door. Señor Boss beckoned me outside to show me two shiny new Vanco Camper tyres and told me he’d put them on tomorrow.

There’s now not a lot of G&T left in my glass and I’m feeling considerably calmer.  LWD has forgotten all about it and is blotto under the table …

🙂 🙂 🙂

The (W)hole story

There’s been another incident. I was reversing up onto the levellers (and to be fair it’s not easy when you’re short, in a big van and can’t lean out of the window to see how far on you are without altering the steering) and overshot a tad. The momentum of the overshoot and subsequent bounce whilst still being in reverse gear, lead to the inevitable… the Hole is in exactly the same place, left hand rear corner, and  the previous fibreglass repair is shattered. Thank heavens for gaffer tape. The wall was not injured during the making of this Hole!

Being totally unable to afford the £2,000 the repairer charged the insurance company last time I had a Hole there and also unable to afford further additional insurance premiums should I claim, I decided to get repair estimates whilst still in Spain. Tyres, servicing and hab. checks here are much cheaper than in the UK so I started hunting around whilst waiting in Torrox for the family to arrive. Nobody in the Málaga area seemed to want my money. One on-line enquiry led to a phone call from a ‘we fight your claim’ firm, another enquiry led to a reply 2 weeks later (after I’d left the area) and another firm never got back to arrange a time for the promised meet for an inspection of the damage.

Disheartened, I decided to head north. A couple of hours later and I was in plasticland, where crops are grown under every imaginable size of plastic cover, and in the midst of all this shiny plasticness I found a lovely site, large pitches, excellent showers, friendly staff, low occupancy (most of the over-winterers had left), bar and cafe only 50 metres from the beach and 500 metres from a small town. I de-stressed for five days in warm sunshine and had an idea …

Balerma

I’ve visited Caravannas Lorca virtually every time I’ve been over to Spain and found them very friendly, knowledgeable, resourceful and reasonably priced. The Hole has been inspected, and it’s entirely as expected, a new part is needed. They will get back to me with a price and a date after they’ve spoken to Adria.

After a night spent at a site near Aguilas that I shall never visit again, I popped into Rosemary and John’s for a coffee and catch up. Coffee, catch up, G&T, hair-cut, lunch, wine, siesta, natter, snack and overnight stop later and with a plan to return for shopping with Rosemary when the Hole is needed at the repairers for mending, I headed slightly north to wait.

I’m now at one of my favourite sites at El Berro awaiting delivery of the Part. Daisy and I will explore some more of the Sierra Espuna national park and with a bit of luck Paul and Meriam may join us here, if not we’ll see them in France as soon as the Hole is sorted …

El Berro and the Sierra Espuna

🙂 🙂 🙂

Weather

I don’t want anyone living in the frozen wastes of Northern Europe to think that those of us in the southernmost areas are getting off scot free. For the past 72hrs and for the next 10 days we have and will continue to get howling gales and torrential downpours. We have had interrupted electrical supply as water has got into fuse boxes but luckily the site isn’t subject to flooding. On seeing the forecast several days ago I had a COP and decided to remain on site rather than move off into the hills and go off grid – except we periodically go off grid here, that’s irony for you!

This area is also the subject of a severe coastal event red weather warning. Now I have absolutely not a scoobies what a severe coastal event is, even so I’m glad to be about a mile inland and the other side of the hill. If and when aforementioned SCE occurs, I will acknowledge it in this blog. In the meantime, answer on a postcard please if you, dear regular reader, have any idea, what an SCE might be.

LWD, not keen on wetness of any kind, as my regular reader knows, and even less keen on ROR (too noisy) has not been impressed by storm Emma’s wind, rain or thunder and lightning so far. Neither have many of this site’s temporary residents who appear to be leaving in droves today. They have obviously not looked at the forecasts for further away – MOS.

You only have to look at Portugal’s reservoirs to appreciate how much this rain is needed – it would take months of rain to bring them up to even half full …

 

On the bright side I have FFP due to arrive …

 

TLAs;

COP – Change Of Plan

SCE – Severe Coastal Event

LWD – Little White Dog

ROR – Rain on Roof

MOS – More of Same

FFP – Friends From Pinar

TLA – Three Letter Acronym

 

🙂 🙂 🙂

Royal reprieve

LWD has had a forced march along the Praia de Mei in Lagos, 3 miles of crescent shaped beach with decent pale sand and very few people. It’s hard to imagine it as crowded as it must be in high season but the number of bars and restaurants, most closed for the winter, indicate it’s a popular spot. LWD ran, rolled and rollicked.

I collected some shells and tried my hand at still life photography – I’ve got a long way to go. The idea was to arrange the individual shells in a shell shape in the sand but it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I need lessons in arrangement.

Today found me at the dentist explaining that the 32 year old gold crown on one of my molars had cracked some time ago and I was advised that the tooth would not last long enough to be worth re-crowning. The tooth has become very painful and sensitive over the past few weeks and having made the appointment I was prepared for an extraction. After expressing his surprise at the existence of such an aged crown the offending tooth was x-rayed. Peter, dentist, said he didn’t want to remove the tooth and that he’d like to attempt a last ditch attempt to save it. The crack which had become a rough edged hole has been filled and the crown has been filed down as the bite on it was wrong. And now we suck it and see. How long will it last? … who knows, but the Crowned Tooth has a reprieve.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Vet and valium.

So Monday evening found me waiting at the vets with LWD who had developed, quite unusually, bilateral ear infections. Unusual only because up to now it’s always been either one or the other ear. Silly moo had been rubbing her ears in the sand again, tho’ I’m never quite sure whether that’s the cause or the effect. Very thorough Portuguese vet who did an extreme deep clean of both ears and hair plucking of the worst affected. LWD snuggled and trembled but didn’t make a sound, the Vet was most impressed she apparently gets snarled at and bitten quite a bit doing that procedure. She prescribed ear cleanser (which I’d run out of – lulled into a false sense of security by 9 infection free months) and an aural antibiotic. LWD was totally stressed out by the time we got back to R0X1, even the biggest cuddles didn’t calm her, so I administered Daizepam which relaxed her enough that we both got some sleep! 3 days later and her ears are slowly improving, we go back for a check up on Friday.

My plans haven’t changed much, I shall just be a day later arriving at Pria-de-Luz than I expected. We’re currently up in the hills about 20 miles inland but still by the Spanish border. The weather is foggy first thing, some days like yesterday the cloud lifts and we get a warm afternoon. Not looking that promising today but we shall get a good walk in later and it’s so peaceful up here who cares about the weather!

Alcoutim was our first stop in this neck of the woods. The drive alongside the river Guardiana was winding and would on a nicer day have been stunning. I didn’t see Alcoutim at its best either, dull and deserted – but hey ho, I had high hopes for our lakeside overnight stop. Except the lake was almost empty, the dam virtually completely exposed and the water left was not much larger than Hurst village pond and, with only two water birds, a lot less populated. Walking around what used to be the reservoir bed I found it quite a depressing place.

Alcoutim and Pereiro reservoir

It was with a heavy heart and little hope that I drove to our current stop at Odeleite. So I was delighted to find one of the best aires I’ve ever used; large marked out pitches all with water and electricity should you want it (gimme, gimme, I have a blog to write and photos to edit and upload). Despite it not being high season, there’s a cafe and bar on site which is open,  and a laundry room. Price? €7.50 per night (only €4.50 if you don’t want hook up). The views are stunning and it’s so quiet I can hear my tinnitus! Add to that a bread delivery van arrived at seven this morning; unsurprisingly I went straight back to bed after purchasing my day’s requirements.

Views from todays walk around Odeleite

🙂 🙂 🙂