It was the middle of June 2014, and the first phase of our overseas travels started, as all magical journeys must, in a sweet little B&B pub. After weeks of downsizing our belongings, and packing and re-packing our essential only items, we finally managed to close Harvey’s doors (our campervan), wave the parents goodbye (are they finally leaving?) and set off from Devon to a place far, far away… i.e. Somerset (the next county over).
We had taken all day to sort out our last few things, as well as clean up after ourselves, and we now only had a few hours left in us. So we decided to start as we meant to go on. Our beautiful journey would not be done in a rush. For the first time in years we had no real deadlines to adhere to, so we could do things in our own time and at our own pace.
The inn (The Lord Poulett Arms in Hinton St George) we selected from our Good Pub Guide was a foodie delight, and full of quirky charm. The main quirk for us being that our bathroom wasn’t in the bedroom. It was like camping already! Instead it was a short step away, down the corridor, and opposite the tea / coffee / cake station for the residents (tempting at all times of day and night). There were only about 5 or 6 bedrooms in this 17th century old inn, and because we had booked so late we drew the short straw and got the one without the en- suite. However the bathroom we were allocated did have a roll-top bath!
Overall the place was charming and gave us a taste of things to come in our travels. The room offered only an old wireless radio, no TV and the internet connection was dodgy. It’s great to be unplugged I thought joyfully, as I lurked suspiciously in the corridor next to the wifi hub, waving my Ipad around as if I were doing an ancient ritual dance to appease The Wifi.
We had also decided not to plan ahead so much. Being in a campervan should mean that we could have the freedom of the road and therefore stop whenever we pleased, and not worry so much about booking ahead. This part didn’t always work out so well… The next morning we found that the internet worked better downstairs, and we were able to check on ferry connections from Dover to Calais. We realized however that our timing was not conducive for a ferry that day, so we decided that we would camp near to Dover for the evening, and take a ferry the day after instead.
With the expectation that there would be plenty of spaces in any campsite we chose (it wasn’t yet high season, and we were members of the Caravanning & Camping Club after all!), we hit the road and headed out. A few hours into our journey we thought that we should perhaps ring our chosen site, just to confirm that they would have a space. After several unanswered phone calls later, we were told that the campsite was full for the week-end. And so was the next one we chose. Hmm. Wild camping isn’t allowed in the UK, so we knew that we needed to find a site for the night … or a hotel. Luckily, one in Canterbury, Kent had an available pitch so our problem was resolved. But it made us realize that it isn’t always easy to be, well, free and easy. It appeared that some sort of planning would be necessary to ensure that we could have a safe and legal place to stay each evening.
After filling up with tinned goods at a local Tesco Metro (our shopping choices were sadly limited), we triumphantly rolled into the campsite during the latter part of the afternoon. Harvey was quickly set up for the evening. I turned my seat around to create my ‘living room’ chair. Harvey was then plugged into the electricity, and his roof popped up to give us standing space. We next did the traditional ‘campsite walk’, which all campers do on arrival at a new site. This involves traversing the site to check on the facilities, and to find out where the fire extinguishers are in case of an emergency.
We were happy to see that there was a well-maintained and clean modern toilet and shower block. Tents, caravans and campervans all had their own leafy green spots, and there was a sense of peace and orderliness about the place, which was very pleasing. As twilight rolled in, the site also began to fill up with nibbling bunnies. Beatrix Potter would have loved it!