Archive for May, 2009

Glamping in Devon

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

We loaded up, packed and headed off into the Sunset. Destination? Devon to stay in a yurt. Some months ago, well before Xmas, November 2008, Bean Counter read an article in a newspaper about a farm that had yurts on it. They were letting them out and I contacted them to make a booking. Partly because I wanted to take a close look at them and see if it was possible to live in one and partly because I wanted a holiday. The journey was 270 miles and BC had never ridden that far before and I had never ridden that far with a pillion and a bike that was loaded up to the gunnels.

The journey to Devon was atrocious. Constant heavy showers and gusts of wind up to 50 MPH. At some stages I felt as though we were going to be blown across all three lanes of the motorway. The showers meant we were constantly stopping at service stations to put on waterproofs and then stopping again to take them off when the sun came out before we become “Boil in a bag items”. To say my nerves were a little bit frayed is an understatement. The last big task of the day was to find the farm we were staying at. Devon is not the most sign posted place in the world and the only sign to the farm is halfway down a track off a B road. The track itself was very slippery due to all the rain and there was a ridge in the middle of it, it is also a fairly steep slope. The choice was, ride in the tyre ruts for about 500 yards and pray I did not slide into the undergrowth or ride on top of the ridge and hope the gravel did not give way underneath me. I elected to ride in the ruts. I almost filled my trousers a couple of times before we landed at the farm and level concrete.

We finally arrived 9 hours after setting off, cold tired and thoroughly exhausted but the welcome of the Sheaves family was amazing and pretty soon we had a log fire roaring and our wet clothes were toasting nicely. The yurt was fantastic and had a large double bed in it, a sofa, some chests to put things in and a bookcase with books and games in along with cast iron log fire. The size was about 18 feet across and the crown was clear which meant you could see the stars when you were in bed. The kitchen consisted of a wooden shelter with a camping gas fire with 2 rings and a toaster, plenty of cups crockery and cooking utensils and the most important thing, a kettle! The toilet was a well thought out composting toilet and the shower block although across the field was excellent. There was also a washing machine and a fridge in the shower block.

We did not get up to much the first night apart from drink tea and dry out. The second day was a day of discovery and we went into the nearest town to pick a few things up calling in at Otter St Mary and Honiton along the way.  The plan was to go to the Eden project on the third day but the dark clouds looked ominous and I did not fancy doing another 200 miles in rain so we went to Exmouth and Sidmouth to look at the beaches and have sandwiches and ice cream. Sidmouth is a really nice Regent town and I could have spent more than a day there. It was so peaceful sitting on the promenade and the ice cream there is excellent.

On the fourth day we said we would go to the Eden Project regardless of the weather as we did not know when we would be so far south again. And so it was that with a clear sky we set off. The Eden project is quite nice but the biomes seem far more impressive from the outside. I guess as the project is only seven years old the exhibits will become far more spectacular as time goes on. I also reckon that certain times of the year are better to go and see the exhibits than others. There is some amazing stuff in the visitor centre and I would recommend that if you get the opportunity you should go and see the place at some time or other. The project is very close to the coastal town of St Austell and we decided that when we left we would find a chip shop and have fish and chips by the beach. This was a big mistake as St Austell does not have a beach or a port or a harbour or if they do they have hidden it really well. After riding around for 30 minutes we gave up on trying to find the mythical beach. We finally found a chip shop some miles away and the cod I was served up, admittedly a large portion was the size of a basking shark. Honestly I have never seen such a big piece of fish with batter on it in my life. I struggled to finish it!

Now as anyone who knows me will tell you, my sense of direction is so bad it is legendary. I knew that if we did not arrive back at the farm before the sun went down we would never find it. This meant being back by 10pm. It was 7-30 before we left the chip shop and after 8 before we got under way again and coupled with a slight mishap on the M5 which meant I had to double back after missing my turn off junction and it was after 10pm when we finally came off the motorway into a myriad of unmarked and signpost less B roads. All of them looked the same. Tall hedges and tarmac without a single distinguishing feature between them. My satnav threw a wobbly and attempted on several occasions to take me down roads that did not exist. We attempted to find a taxi rank in order that we could ask the taxi to drive slowly to the farm and we could follow him. There were no taxi ranks! We tried to find a police station, there were no police stations. We tried to find a bed and breakfast place but there were none. It is about the most remote place I have ever been to in my life. At midnight and 60 miles and 2 hours since we left the motorway and with little fuel in the tank (most petrol stations there close at 7pm) we rode into the car park of the Bowd Inn.

I decided there and then I was not going to ride a single mile further. BC and me slept on a bench in the car park until 4-30 am when it was light enough to see roughly where we were going. We rode to Otter St Mary were we managed to find the only sign that pointed to the West Hills district we so badly wanted to get to. We arrived back at the yurt at 5-am, lit a fire and went to bed. We had to be out of the yurt by 10am and we had not packed so I rang Roger Moor, with instructions to ring me at 8am to get me out of bed. With only 2 hours sleep and almost as damp as when we arrived we headed out to the M5 and our way back home. After over 100 miles we pulled into a motorway service station and I noticed a Premier Inn sign and as I could not continue much further safely we booked a room for the night. After a good night’s sleep (I slept for 14 hours) I began to see the funny side of things. The previous night had me cursing and swearing never to leave the safety of the Higherdew ever again, never to go anywhere that was not sign posted and to throw my satnav into a ditch in another fit of “technic cleansing”, see the entry for July 2008.

The holiday was a fantastic experience, the yurt farm was amazing and the people who run it are brilliant. The details for anyone wanting to go are http://www.luxurydevonyurts.co.uk/  When you get there ask to see Maisie, one of the cutest little black lambs it has ever been my pleasure to meet and hopefully she will not have ended up on a plate with mint sauce. Important to note if you are going on a road bike, the track to the farm will rip off any belly pens you have and road tyres will not hack the mud on the track. Roger Moor who had looked after my cat Genghis while I was away came across and we shared a bottle of jack Daniels with hilarious consequences, see photos.

I also mentioned last year that if I ever went anywhere I would log the costs. The accommodation in the yurt was £240 for 4 nights; the stay in the premier inn was £65 with 2 large breakfasts. I covered over 950 miles with 8 fill ups at an average of 13 pounds a fill. Some places the petrol was expensive and others not so but the average was £13 and the total bill was around £104 and I spent around £200 on food and entertainment. I think this was excellent value for a lifetime of memories oh and yes you could live in one of those yurts, even in the UK with some modifications.

 

BTW we came a respectable fifth

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

It’s time for a short rant….. British politics has never been at a lower ebb or held in lower esteem than right now. Our blood sucking, lying, thieving, rule bending, tax avoiding, elected representatives have been caught with not only their hand in the cookie jar, but actually trying to carry the bloody thing away. How is it that normal working people cannot claim for their food and second homes because they work miles away from where they live at tax payers expenses? It’s all very well for the Politicians to say they were only following the rules (the classic Nuremburg defence), they are the people who made the rules. The whole system absolutely stinks.

To make matter worse, a few MPs have been suspended but not sacked. Us mere mortals who do not have the privilege of a job in Her Majesties government or opposition would now be looking at our P45’s and contemplating life in the dole queue if we had of done what they have. I once said that I think everyone should go and vote even if they do not support the political system in order to show appreciation to the people who gave their lives for our very right to do so. I am not so sure any more that any politician is worth voting for. They have sunk below estate agents and solicitors in the trust stakes. To my friends the Tiler and the Printer you have done absolutely the best thing in leaving these shores, the UK is sinking in a quagmire of sleaze and financial scandal started and finished by the very people elected to run our country.

Rant over….. best wishes to the Driver whose latest squeeze has become an item and they have set up home together, I wish the pair of you the very best of luck, God knows you deserve it mate! I Look forward to having a beer with the pair of you sooner rather than later and no I am not bitter that United won the Premier league again,Honest!! On yet another note a couple of people have queried the spelling of Ghastanbury. Sometime it is spelt with an H as in Ghastly and sometime the H is missing. This is down to the fact that some times the place is ghastly and sometimes the place is gastronomic. There is no correct spelling of Ghastanbury; it is more of a gut feeling than anything else. The second thing I would like to clear up is the date on some of the photographs. Whenever I take the battery out of the camera to recharge it, the date goes back to its original setting of 2003. I always forget to change it to its current setting until some one points it out to me.

A few weeks ago I decided that me and Bean Counter needed to become used to putting the tent up and sleeping in it. So one fateful evening I decided that we would sleep out in the grounds of Chateau Ghastanbury. I put the tent up although the plan was for BC to erect the damn thing; somehow she managed to avoid that one. As usual we had a beer or two and a meal cooked on the Barbie to get into the spirit of things before we bedded down for the night. At BC’s insistence I bought a pair of sleeping bags that could be zipped together as a double and a double sleeping bag liner. When we finally crawled into our hotel for the evening I fell straight asleep. BC woke up at around 5 five and went into the house to get some sleep in a real bed. I woke up at around 7pm due to the noise of two cats fighting in the garden. I could swear it was Genghis bit I will never be certain and I went to catch up on some sleep in the house.  It would appear that I snored and kicked all the time I was in the sleeping bag and in the process managed to turn 180 degrees so I was lying across BC’s belly. She was so uncomfortable she has solemnly sworn she will never share a sleeping bag with me again. Photos of the tent can found here, here and here.

On a much lighter note Sir Terry Wogan has stepped down from hosting the Eurovision song contest this year and his shoes have been filled by no lesser a person than Graham Norton. It’s a strange tradition that many Brits hold a party at Eurovision time. It is one of those events that is so bad it is actually good. We know we have no hope of winning the damn thing due to the block voting of the Eastern European nations and indeed it is the very reason that Sir Terry has stood down. However from the truly awful performance of Gemini one year receiving the humiliating accolade of being the only British entry to receive Nil Pouit the contest has become compulsive viewing for a large section of the British population at home and abroad. It is like a train crash that you have to watch. This year the Revellers held a soiree at their own Pied a Terre and invited me and BC along. They did everyone proud and everyone got into the swing of things with almost all turning up in costume of some sort to reflect the diversity of the event. BC went as a French Brothel Madame in stripy top and beret and I did my best as a sleazy Latvian pimp. Unfortunately my pencil moustache supplied by courtesy of eye liner pencil from Commander Rikers brothers’ wife, the lovely Paula, disappeared within seconds of my first drink and my wiping my top lip dry. It was a fantastic night and I can’t thank the Revellers enough for all the effort they put in and for making everyone feel welcome. I look forward to next year when it will probably be held at my place.

BTW we came a respectable fifth.

 

I hope the forecasters are right

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

I received a phone call from my bank the other evening asking if I had attempted to purchase 2 tickets to Zimbawe on my credit card. I said no and after a lot of questions and dialogue we established that my credit card had been hacked and hijacked. A letter from my credit card company was in a similar vein and then another bank contacted me to ask if I has used internet banking recently. It seems my computer was hijacked and most of my details were being fraudulently used by persons unknown. I have not lost anything as it appears most of the attempted purchases were so out of character that my banks stopped the cards immediately.

I have spent two weeks setting up my new accounts with new passwords and new pin numbers. Although irritating it was not as maddening as having to flatten my computer and perform a complete software rebuild and installing resource hogging new anti virus software. In retrospect I am lucky I have suffered no financial loss but it makes me wonder how many other things have been hijacked. Some of my email accounts have certainly been hijacked and i have stopped using them. I hope this expains the lack of posts in the last two weeks. My computer was down and out!!

Although the clocks have gone forward the weather has not warmed up at all. Some seedlings that I placed in the greenhouse four weeks ago have still not germinated and show no signs of doing so. Of those that have germinated, a measly two cucumber plants, five radish and one lettuce have poked their heads through the compost. I will probably end up going to the garden centre to purchase ready grown seedlings of broad beans and peas etc. I can count my blessings I am not relying on this stuff for survival. I think we have established I am no Alan Titchmarsh.

The weekend gone, the first bank holiday of the season, saw us at Ted Magnums for a spring soiree and social get together. As usual I got there early and all went swimmingly well until Ted produced several 8 pint flagons of home made wine. The resulting blackouts and mass amnesia was truly staggering. I felt sorry for one lad who only called in for a few minutes because he was going to a wedding. After an hour he keeled over and was put to bed. Some time later his wife arrived to ask where he was and when told, started to develop scales and breathe fire. Most people backed off and hid in the garden until she had gone. As it was I was almost the last to leave and BC got me home, with some difficulty apparently, and in bed by 11pm. All in all it was a marvellous event and it reminded me of why I stopped making my own wine some years ago. The stuff is ruthless, extremely cheap and very quick to produce.

On a bright note the weather forecast for this summer is excellent. I hope so after the last two truly dismal summers we have had. Combined with the credit crunch the effect has been truly spirit crushing. I dont ever remember seeing so many people who are depressed. Whilst I dont feel as bad as others I have met I really feel lethargic and everything seems like such an effort. A good few days of sunshine would change everything. It would certainly enable me to get lawn mower out and cut the grass, it might even persuade my seedlings to put a spurt of growth on and poke their heads out into the open. I hope the forecasters are right.

 

Roll on the camping season

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Its that time of the year when the MOT is due. I am fairly certain that with the amount of goodies and new parts Rhonda will fly through the examination. A new battery was purchased just a couple of days ago from the local chariot repair shop. What should have been a fairly simple job was not. I rang Ram Riotts to ask if they had a battery for my model of bike and they said yes. I went down and picked it up and brought the said battery home. I must admit I did have my reservations when I saw the size of the box but I felt certain the qualified mechanics and salesmen at the shop knew what they were talking about. How wrong can you be? The battery was far too big and would not physically fit into the battery bay on the bike. I returned with both the new for comparison and the old battery and although it was replaced they refused to take the old battery away. I decided there and then I would not use that shop any longer.

I then started thinking about waterproof clothing. The jacket I have has a waterproof membrane inside the coat. All well and good you would think but it means that the exterior of the jacket will be completely sodden before the membrane stops the water from getting to me. Plus the amount of time it will take to dry out a heavy jacket will be be completely useless for a camping expedition or any touring. Now you would think that any waterproof clothing would be high visibility and brightly coloured to say the least or so I thought. A trawl through internet returned only dark clothing in black or dark blue. You would think in a time of low visibility ie bad weather at the time you would need to be most visible that protective clothing would be at their most vivid and eye catching colours but apparently not. Peter Storm and Regatta offer weather proof clothes but again all dark, it makes you wonder about hikers and fell walkers wondering about in mist. Surely I cant be the only person to think about this can I?

A sheep skin arrived and BC has been sewing straps onto it to make it fit the seat. It does feel comfortable and I am looking forward to taking the bike out for a long trip to test out the padding abilities of the new seat cover. God alone knows how long that will take to dry out if it rains heavily. Then again I could plastic bin bags over it. How slippy that would be is any ones guess. Roll on the camping season!