This will be the last blog of the holiday. We set off for home tomorrow and the story of that long road through Scotland is not one I will be relating on this occasion.
Much of the last few days have been on the road as we make our way back up the country, sadly saying goodbye to Cornwall’s lovely seaside towns and cream scones.
In deciding on stopovers for the way home we chose a campsite near Bath, as we needed one by this time, and Windermere in the Lake District (in case the bath wasn’t big enough).
Our journey to Bath was carefully planned by me the evening before travel. Hearing that Bath does not welcome vehicles to the city centre I decided that we would use a park and ride somewhere we would be able to escape easily from during the rush hour. After considering all of the available information the park and ride on the South side of the city offered the best chance of getting in to the city centre for a reasonable amount of time and allowing us to access the road to the campsite without encountering the city jam at rush hour.
With so much planning what could possibly go wrong.
Yep – my lovely Daisy was a head too tall for the car park.
Of course the two and a half hours of driving in the heat without air conditioning did not have any impact on my reaction to this. I calmly drove down towards Bath to ‘park wherever the $%^&* we can.’
We found a suitable location just a half mile into the city limits just at the side of the road and close to a bus stop. Perfect – we headed into town for the afternoon.
Now Bath is a lovely city, and we only really dipped our toes in (ahem). With more time we could have explored the riverside and the museum. Oh and the shops.
But we had to be selective with so little time (sorry – shops will have to wait). Being a Roman history nut, I wanted to see the Roman Baths.
The Roman Baths are truly terrific, but only if you are really interested. I was not completely knocked unconscious by the ridiculous £17 per person entry fee but would understand why others might be. So – yes – £34 for the two of us to visit a leisure centre – 2000 years after it closed down.
It is something quite amazing to see, though. The functioning of the hot water spring is still complete and the bath is fed in the way it was in Roman times. And the museum they have built around it takes you carefully through the exhibits in a way that helps your understanding. It’s well done.
Now they must have had well over a thousand visitors on the day we were there. That’s £17 K for. Based on only 200 good days per year that’s over 3 million. Not bad being invaded by the Romans was it?
But they are good at exploiting legacies in England. Not just ancient ones, very recent ones too.
We saw how a family can make a business because their grandfather decided to build a sign at the farthest point in mainland Britain; we saw how a village can be buzzing with tourist activity just because a successful TV series was filmed there, how a pub can make a killing from being written into a famous book.
Exploiting legacies is disturbingly common in England. I’m not sure we Scots are as good at it. They say we are mean?
Now lunch in Bath was street food from a vendor near the bus station. The wait was a bit long and the staff could have doubled their takings for the day if they knew how to cater for numbers. People were put off by the queue. I persevered and we had chilli and chicken wraps with spiced fries. Very nice they were too.
At the end of the day we returned to Daisy to discover that we were parked nose towards the town in a dual carriageway with no turning point.
So we spent the next hour in Bath’s unwelcoming rush hour traffic. Lovely. Planning is everything.
Our campsite was near Devizes, a canal side location with ‘a charming towpath ideal for walking and cycling along’. What was worrying was the number of canal barges that looked like they housed the West Midlands’ most wanted serial killers. The number of rusted bikes stacked on the top of the barges sent shivers down by spine! The trophies of a psychopathic community of canal prowling murders….?
Now I’m sorry if that is offensive to the good people of the canal who live near Devizes – but I can only say what I saw – and felt – the chill down my spine when a toothless hag looked me up and down, licked her lips and said ‘hello there, you’re a plump one dear – stranger to these parts are you?’ (adopt voice of green-faced witch from Wizard of Oz for effect).We walked a few hundred yards down the canal, saw the blood (or rust) stained bikes stacked high, turned back and ran into our camper van to quiver through the thunder and lightning that (coincidentally) lit up the night sky while we tried to sleep.
In the morning we moved quickly out of the campsite and headed North by half nine.
This was going to be a long and uneventful day.
The hours between Bath and Windermere are considerable. And it’s mostly motorway so ‘Camperaderie’ is very challenging. The other carriageway is just too far to see. Instead we fired up the tunes and tried to determine the best music for hippy camper van types to drive by.
So we went through the Carpenter’s Collection. Not bad – sixties and seventies hippy stuff. Middle of the road (chortle) and we could sway from side to side in perfect unison while merrily making our way. But it’s a bit tame for my wife and I. We were of the punk era, we moved into New Romantic and Europop during the eighties. We grew with U2, the Clash and the Smiths backtracking out formative years.
On our USB stick we found Coldplay. Not a big fan but they are quite traditional as a rock band, fairly meaty guitar stuff and plenty whining vocals from ’that guy that married the famous actress.’
Nah! It gets on my nerves.
Next up …
‘Ground control to major Tom …. Ground control to major Tom ….’
It turns out David Bowie is the perfect hippy mix for hours of travel in a van called Daisy.
From just north of Bath to the turn off for Kendal Bowie took us all the way. He was getting a bit shit by the time we arrived – ‘Blue Jean? Under Pressure?’ – but the early stuff saw us through.
Kendal is a nice little town and we strolled among the shops and found some junk shops that my wife loves to raid for … well junk I guess. She got some too.Our campsite was just outside Kendal and not really anywhere close to Windermere. Despite this it was called Windermere Campsite – to fool people into thinking it is somewhere close to Lake Windermere.
In fact we had that old classic English mile to contend with in the morning. ‘Yes, it’s four miles to Windermere – so you can probably walk it.’
It’s seven miles to Windermere by the shortest possible walking route. I know because we did walk it this morning.
That said – it was a lovely walk using Dales Way – a public right of way through the Cumbrian countryside.Now my wife is a bit nervous of large animals. Big dogs she loves – anything bigger than that she can’t cope with. Dales Way passes through numerous farms and space is often shared with sheep and cows.
She was very brave though, in spite of her significant cycling injuries hampering her movements. At one point I turned to see her with a stick in her hand. Not big enough to use as a walking aid, I asked her what she was doing with it.
‘In case the cows attack.’
Is there a recognised defence against maniacal cows that involves the use of a three foot stick? Not that I am aware of. I assumed she might consider throwing it as a distraction, perhaps hoping that cows and dogs have some common ancestry that would cause it to chase the stick instead of mauling her to death before eating her carcass.
It turns out she intended to ‘poke at it’ if it made an attempt on her life. I begged her to throw it away in case a cow did chance in her direction and she stabbed the poor thing for doing nothing more than spotting a nice bit of grass near her feet. She kept it though – until the stile took us out of harm’s way.Silly …..
After our long trek we enjoyed lunch at the Cafe Italia in Windermere. I had a chicken and bacon crepe – very nice – and my bovine battering belle had a brie and bacon toastie thing (it was named something posher than that, but that’s what it was).We then dropped in for a cream tea at a place called Monties and tried an ice cream at ‘The World’s Best Ice Cream’ vendor further down the road. It was all small portions – don’t judge!
In fact the single scoop of ‘world’s best’ ice cream was particularly small. £2? World’s best scam if you ask me. It was nice enough – had better this holiday.Our last adventure was to take a boat trip round the North end of Lake Windermere. For a tenner each this seemed (and was) good value. We sat outside enjoying the sunshine and the bracing air as we gawped jealously at all the big houses people somehow have the money to buy around the water’s edge.
I just don’t get it. How can so many people afford these big houses? They must cost over a million each. Are there so many multi-millionaires in this country?
Of course there must be.
I wondered which house belonged to the people who charge you to stand beside the Land’s End sign.
Our final meal of the holiday was mediocre by any standards. The campsite has a pub and we decided to try it out. Mine was a medium rare steak and chips, the cow-assassin had a burger. I could see her relishing the moment her teeth sunk into the meat of her quarry.Truthfully –she didn’t finish it. It wasn’t good.
So that is our holiday in Daisy for the year. We may take her out again before winter – perhaps the North 500. Who knows? She has been fantastic – some minor hiccups along the way but definitely a thing of beauty.
I hope you have enjoyed the trip. If you didn’t – I would have written it anyway and will probably do it all again next year.
Note: No cows were hurt in the making of this blog.