Day 1 – Bridgnorth, Shropshire

Day 1 (Saturday 21 October 2017) : The journey begins – Prestbury, Cheshire to Bridgnorth, Shropshire via Travel World in Telford.

Parked the van in Travel World’s yard at Telford (pending a change of leisure batteries Monday morning) and visited family in Bridgnorth. Apologies for not staying awake long enough on the Saturday night to see everyone but the beer at the Bamboo Bar & Pie Shop has a particularly soporific effect when taken in quantity.

Talking of the Bamboo Bar & Pie Shop, the steak and ale pie I had for dinner was outstanding. The local ales are good but the pies are out of this world – reasonable portions, great pastry and packed solid with good sized steak pieces. A hearty meal and at not a bad price either. The Bamboo is on the High Town side of Bridgnorth close to the town bridge over the River Severn and highly recommended if you like steak pie.

I am advised Bridgnorth is in fact two towns, being the High Town “with good views down” and the Low Town “with good views up”. It is said Charles I declared the view from the High Town as “…the finest in all my Kingdom” but, without taking too much away from the place, he was perhaps too easily impressed.

The town was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War but it surrendered to the Parliamentarians after a short siege and was subsequently destroyed by the victors. There’s little left of the castle (although some of the keep remains, albeit leaning over at an alarming angle) but the town has considerable character and there is much else to appreciate.

It is perhaps a sad reflection on me or at least of my tastes that I found one of the the most striking features of the town to be the large number of real ale pubs – I shall return!

Bedford, Bedfordshire next…

 

House Sale and European Tour Delayed – Mexico here we come

Frustration – Completion of house sale is delayed because our purchaser failed to obtain a clearance certificate on electrical work he had done on his house some while back. Hopefully this will be only a temporary delay.

Meanwhile, as part of a stress management initiative, we fly to Mexico on Monday morning for an impromptu break (SCUBA at Cozumel). Every cloud has a silver lining.

This will be our 8th visit to Mexico. No children accompany us this time (all grown up and working now) but I found the following photos of some previous visits for them to remember the place by:-

 

 

 

Wifi Test (near Buxton)

Currently checking out the “The Van” on another wild camp (if an overnight stay at a remote car park near Goyt’s Lane, Buxton, can be termed a wild camp) the main purpose of which, in no particular order, is to test (a) the heating system in readiness for the impending tour and (b) the new communications system (or, more specifically, the Huawei E5577 Mifi device purchased from Motorhome WiFi which I’m hoping will enable me to better access the internet during the tour) and (c) my knowledge and/or understanding of the Pioneer Sat-Nav System which I had installed when I bought the Van (or I’m going to get lost).

The house sale is moving slower than expected (this time it is not all down to lawyers) and it looks as if I will be spending a great deal more time touring Europe in Winter and Spring as opposed to Summer and Autumn. In these circumstances I thought it prudent to give the heating system another test before I go. I’ve just turned the heating on (although it is not that cold outside) and we’ll see how it goes overnight.

The MiFi device appears to be working a treat. Indeed, I’ve connected the lap top to the device and have been able to access the DJmotortouring website without any difficulty. Adam, who together with Sophie, runs Motorhome WiFi told me that the system is easy to set up but I am neanderthal when it comes to technology and I really didn’t think I would be able to cope. Guess what? Adam was right. It was simple. Thanks, Adam. Thanks Motorhome WiFi. Let’s hope it works as well in Bulgaria as Buxton. We’ll see.

I’m determined to finish this blog on a high note and will not therefore talk about the Sat-Nav System. It will suffice to say at this stage that I’m pleased I still have my UK Road Atlas in the Van!

Time for a glass or four of Malbec.

Speak to you anon.

p.s. I reproduce below a couple of photos of the site where I’m parked. It is one of two small car parks either side of the road. This lower car park is slightly larger and more sheltered but it is on a small slope. My mobile ‘phone tells me the coordinates are N53,1625 W1,5755. First thoughts are it is not a bad place to park.

       

Manchester to Greece

In an earlier entry I identified that I have not yet decided which way to go upon arrival in France. Indeed, as of now I have not even decided whether I should take the channel tunnel or a ferry when I leave England. Currently I am inclined to go East from either of Calais or Boulogne and follow a route along the lines identified in the map below (with the intent to winter in Greece) but this is still subject to change as the numbered “points of interest” are really just places that I have researched and am interested in visiting and, as has been said before, these may well alter during the course of the journey. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said “Life is a journey, not a destination” and this very much summarises what this particular tour of Europe is about – the journey. Notwithstanding the above, it will be interesting to see how the journey ultimately compares:-

We’ll review the return options in due course.

Dave J           24 August 2017

 

Gas

Not good. Took “The Van” for a second “test” wild camp and, for the second time in a row (the first was an overnighter in Scotland a few weeks back), I was unable to cook anything or even make myself a brew.

By the way, I reproduce below a photo from the wild camp I enjoyed in Scotland last time. It was off the A93 (and not a midgie in sight) – next time I will make a note of the map coordinates – and it was a beautiful place to wake up to.

After almost an hour reading the manual and pressing cooker buttons (over and over again) I still couldn’t get the cooker to work. A further half hour internet search of SMEV cookers and what to do if they don’t work produced nothing. Silent prayers with and without expletives to the cooker god all failed. Good job I keep a stack of wine and a variety of cheeses in the vehicle!

A visit to the local petrol station this morning and a chat with someone who knew what they were doing confirmed that the LPG (propane) tanks were completely empty. What a complete idiot I am! I rather foolishly believed that the vehicle would come complete with filled gas bottles.

The moral of this particular blog is that, when it comes to cookers, you should trust nobody and check everything (particularly the basics) and, perhaps most important, make sure there is always wine and cheese to hand. I think too that a couple more wild camps are advisable before I start the European Tour (although time is fast running out before I must depart).

Dave J        15 August 2017

“The Van”

“The Van” is a second hand 2015 Exsis-t Hymer 564 with, when I bought it, just over 8,000 miles on the clock. It is a left hand drive Fiat 3.0 Ducato TD 180hp (Euro 6 with Automatic Transmission) on an Al-Ko chassis – which suggests it is relatively light and has some poke.

It is just under 7 metres long and 2.3 metres wide, with a reasonable amount of storage space (including a large two door garage under the double bed) which is just as well given the amount of climbing gear, SCUBA equipment and various home comforts I insist be taken on tour, to say nothing of alcohol.

It is winterised and fairly well kitted out with Truma Combi 6 heater, 2 leisure batteries and solar panel, interior LED lighting, a Gaslow refillable cylinder system with 2 x 11 kg gas bottles and various other odds & sods that will provide a degree of flexibility and independence (such that I don’t have to constantly manoeuvre from one official campsite to another) – the Americans call it “boon-docking”.

I’ve had a Pioneer Sat-Nav system installed but have yet to determine how it works. In practise runs so far it has demonstrated a proclivity for the more circuitous routes home.

Some pictures of “The Van”:-