After a very slow and somewhat arduous trip up to Swansea, Wales the week before, we were particularly relieved to make it up to Scotland in relatively good time without any major mishaps.
In between fixing rusty holes in the van, changing our oil (and spilling a whole tank full onto my parents’ drive) and generally trying to sort ourselves out a bit better before leaving the UK, we found a little time for the beach...
Making the most of the flat calm sea, we took out some of my parents hodge-podge collection of aged kayaks and canoes, gathered over several decades since they first met at Poole Harbour Canoe Club.
Finally next to the sea, there is none of the usual pre-paddle fuss and we had the luxury of deciding to go out only minutes before getting on the water. Plentiful seals and more elusive otters thrive on their little stretch of coastline and we often found ourselves surrounded by mothers teaching this Spring’s fat blobs how to swim and catch fish.
My cousins, the Kerrs, have recently bought the Post Office in Port Ellen, so after several years of neglecting them, I finally had a chance to catch and get to know the grown up version of the little girls in pink we used to spend holidays with. They aren’t so pink anymore, which does make them harder to spot amongst rocks, but we managed not to lose anyone despite the clambering. With Emma, another long-neglected cousin who is staying with my family for the summer, we explored Singing Sands and later climbed around several headlands East from Kintra in the South.
Avoiding the occasional dead sheep and abundant goat poo, hopped over the peaty waterfall, studied stratered rocks and wondered how the alien landscape had been formed. Mum taught everyone how to identify a few types of sea shell and we all squelched home as the rain set in for the afternoon.
Less nervous about the journey down towards Dover and trying to ignore the looming prospect of driving on the other side of the road once we reached France, we enjoyed swinging back through crevices of the Highlands.
Stopping for a night in Glasgow (to see our friends Andy and Meg) gave us a light first day’s driving before a more arduous stretch down to the Peak District the following morning. An inadvisable detour to Morecombe, almost certainly a navigator error on my part, meant we only just made it just before sunset, but I relished the leisurely second-gear stretches through one-track lanes, admiring the lumpy hills on either side. We slept that night with the twinkling lights of a distant Manchester peaking through a gap in our curtains and woke up irritably to the sound of a woman calling her dog, just about ready to hit the road again.
Carpet van enjoys the Peak District.
After “horror” stories of the delays at Dover last weekend, with some people forced to spend a second night in their cars before beginning their Summer holidays, we set off that day with minor trepidation. Hours of motorway later, we sailed through the border checks and soon found ourselves heading far enough away from Calais to find a quite spot to sleep.
That was more than two weeks ago now, but I haven’t found time to write. We’ve been volunteering with L’Auberge and Help Refugees again and have decided to stay for some time. We are nervously waiting for the results of a court case which is likely to shut down the home-grown restaurants in the jungle, hoping whatever outcome is peaceful and already dealing with an increased need for food as some of them begin to close. I’ll let you know how it’s going as often as I have time to write.
Thanks Featherstones for having us and sorry about the chaos...