Summer 2013 – Week 4 – The South Coast

Sunday 7th July 2013

After saying our goodbyes and thanks we set off for Farnborough because I had bought a towbar mounted bike rack on ebay. Cash handed over we set off for the M3. Signs told us that there were major delays between J6 ad J12; that’s half the motorway! We dived off when we saw the queue building up and went the pretty way also avoiding Lyndhurst by using the Southampton Water bridge.

Caught up with all my brother’s news and left after tea for the ferry. Half and hour across the Solent and discovered there was no chance of getting up Jeremy’s (Jo’s middle brother) drive so into the field with grass up to our waists!

Monday 8th July 2013

The Isle of Wight is one of the places we thought we might want to live so we took the van for a trip round the island. We saw a lovely chalet style house with a superb view of the Solent reduced from £750k to £350k, within our budget. Why the big price reduction? A chat to a neighbour and we found out that the house had already been moved back from the brink once and was now in danger of taking a dive from a high cliff. Erosion of the cliffs is a big problem along the coast.

Another house took our fancy. Paved front garden, space to build a carport for the van and a slipway in the back garden!

Tuesday 9th July 2013

Early start to deal with a leak in the pipework underneath the shower in the van. It has happened before. The drain pipes are only push fit and the one under the shower tray has come apart before. I should really glue it but didn’t have any glue in the tool box but did have a reel of tape used for repairing radiator hoses in cars and suchlike, so with Jeremy’s hydraulic jack and some wooden planks we set to. Van wheels are b****y heavy (especially for a nine stone weakling like me) and have to be removed to get at the inner wheel arch which is removed after undoing eighteen screws. Pipe taped up and the whole lot reassembled in under an hour. Spent the rest of the morning helping Jeremy control his lovely cottage garden and pulling up a few weeds.

After lunch Jeremy suggested a sail and after checking “wind guru” we boarded his racing folk

boat “Ajax” and sort of drifted up and down the bay, the winds having dropped.

Jeremy is a good cook and fed us very well during our brief stay.

Wednesday 10th July 2013

Early ferry back to Lymington, eye test and new glasses ordered for me, a bit of shopping in Waitrose and back to my brother John’s for more tea, Jo’s financial chap then, finally a short drive to Fordingbridge to Jo’s school friend Mab for supper and an overnight stay in their lovely country cottage, a walk in the country with their dogs, watching their black sheep and the rabbits in the fields.

We’ve only had one night’s camping since we left Shiona’s on 29th June and only paid out five Euros in camping fees since we started.

Thursday 11th July 2013

A long breakfast and we bade farewell at about 11am heading for the RSPB reserve at Arne near Wareham.

From the Arne RSPB reserve

From the Arne RSPB reserve looking over Poole Harbour

We made for a properly organised Camping and Caravanning club site but it was full so set off to find a wild camping site and were rewarded with a field owned by the military and sometimes closed for manoeuvres but although the red flag was flying the gate was open and we took that as an invitation. A couple of other vans joined us later.

The views across the countryside and the sea were spectacular.

Friday 12th July 2013

We could quite happily have stayed here longer but we wanted to continue along the south coast to see if it was the sort of place we would like to live. Traffic would be a problem as we are not used to queueing in traffic as for the most part we don’t have much, we don’t usually pay to park except in cities. You can usually pull your van up somewhere in sight of the sea without any problem and, except in populated areas, you can often drive onto and camp on the beach in both France and Spain so we were delighted having gone through Weymouth to find a free car park and no height barrier on Portland. Driving along very narrow lanes with just passing places does not bring out the best in me. As the van is a left hooker I can get very close into the edge to allow other cars to pass so I get a bit peeved having parked as close as possible the oncoming driver stays where they are and won’t pass making me move forward when the other driver then finds he is not close enough to the edge and has to back up. Some people are just too precious about their cars. My language reverts to Anglo Saxon and poor old Jo gets it! It’s always her fault for bringing me down these stupid lanes!

I had seen the bike track on the old railway line from the quarries to the mainland and assumed it was flat!

Portland and Chesil Beach taken from Weston, Portland. It's quite a climb up to here!

Portland and Chesil Beach taken from Weston, Portland. It’s quite a climb up to here!

Far from it; if you only had a bike for transport you would need to be fit. It was quite a slog to the top. Once there is was fairly flat so we got the bikes out to have a look round and do a few caches. We preferred Easton to Weston. We had a look down the road to Portland Bill but a closer look at my bike GPS showed the contour lines a bit close for Jo so we went back and got the van. Not so free parking but a pleasant spot for lunch and then a walk around the area and a look at the sea stack, Pulpit Rock It would be an island if the water surrounded it at high tide but global warming still has a lot to do to make it an island.

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Pulpit Rock

The white limestone has been quarried for many years for buildings around the UK. Sir Christopher Wren moved six million tons to London to rebuild or repair many of the buildings destroyed during the great fire of London in 1666. Thousands of tons were used throughout Western Europe to make headstones for fallen British and Commonwealth troops during two world wars.

Surprised by the number of Poles on the coast.

Back along the Chesil Beach and the coast road for an overnight stop overlooking Seaton.

Saturday 13th July 2013

We have a problem with the gas bottles on the van. The last two times we have filled up at the gas depot in Figueres near my home the guy has said the valve is jamming and it took about ten minutes to pump in just five litres of gas so we wanted to call at the installers in Exmouth to see if there was a problem and how it could be resolved. No spares kept in the workshop so no joy until he has spoken to the suppliers.

Leaving Exmouth we were faced with an enormous queue heading in the opposite direction towards the coast. This is the first decent weather the UK has had for months if not years and everyone has got the hood down and heading for the sea. To be precise, we have not had any rain since we arrived on English soil and indeed the temperatures have been in the high twenties most days. I think that is about 80 Fahrenheit. (Divide by five, multiply by nine and add on 32; not forgotten everything!)

We had lunch on a village green at the wonderfully named Galmpton Warborough. There was a race for the spots under the trees and size definitely beats nippy hatchbacks who it must be admitted did not surrender gracefully but drove off to find another parking place. Meanwhile we enjoyed a view of the sea and an unnamed island just offshore.

One last narrow lane and we popped into Stoke Gabriel. We did take a look at the road down to the water but it was sheer, you just did not want to meet anything coming back so another road out where we met an RAC van blocking the road as he helped out a member with a flat battery. We waited patiently and then he said to Jo that we could attempt to go out this way but there was a very sharp bend and we might struggle to get past but he would go on ahead and make sure the road was clear. I must have blinked but Jo said that we had passed it without any drama.

We checked out a campsite. Had we chosen to stop in one last night it was going to cost £32 plus £4 for wifi. Today was about twenty quid so we declined and thought about a wild camp but we had seen a sign for another campsite and we did need some water and a laundrette. No wifi but only £11.50 including electric hook up. Our first taste of an English campsite and quite impressed, plenty of space, clean and tidy but sound travels through canvas! It’s gone eleven and the lot next door are chattering away in their awning. C’est la vie. I needed to write this up and Jo is reading but I’m tired after another day of narrow lanes. It’s hard physically and on my worn out brain!

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