Monday, 24 January 2022

Sunday 23 January - Surville, France

Where's Bertie? He's in a car park in the village of Surville, not far south of Rouen (exact location: 49.19869, 1.10171).
Weather: Dry but overcast. Whilst driving: max 8 degrees, min 4 degrees.

Our alarms were set for a time probably not chosen by many households in the UK on a Sunday morning and an hour and a half later Bertie headed out into the dark, fuelled by the excitement of his first long trip since he rushed us home in the middle of March 2020.

I was also being kept alert by excitement, rather than by a sufficiency of sleep. Two significant things have occurred since we last crossed the Channel to France: 1) Brexit has come into effect (more on which later); and 2) Covid has created extra border requirements.

The latter issue had been the thief of sleep, as within 24 hours of travel we needed to take a Covid test, then to load three documents (Covid result certificate; Sworn Health Declaration; and Covid Vaccination Pass) onto the Eurotunnel website for approval pre-travel, with the warning that if we didn't do that, then we would be subject to delays upon arrival at the Eurotunnel terminal. Goodness, what a trial of a succession of technical issues! I got there in the end, but far later into the night than I would have chosen.

Why so late? Well: 1) as the Covid Test* had to be taken within 24 hours of travel, we decided to hedge against delays by taking it late on Saturday night; and 2) we'd post-dated our Health Declarations for the date of travel, and given the nature of the document it seemed ill-advised to upload it too far in advance.

It turned out that it was worth the pain of getting those documents uploaded, as we sailed through Check-in and Border Control (once we finally reached the front of the queue for each!) whereas those in front of us were spending an age at each, handing over various pieces of paper that weren't requested from us.

Whilst each wait seemed interminable at the time, we were clearly just being impatient, as we were on a moving shuttle less than an hour after we pulled off the M20, and two hours before our booked crossing**. The earlier arrival in France was a massive bonus as (of course) it gave us two more hours of daylight to travel south, and the further we could get on a Sunday (very little traffic; no lorries) the better. As it turned out we had more daylight than we needed, arriving in Surville at around 1730.

It had been a long old day for Bertie who, in the UK, only had a brief stop for fuel and a few pauses in various queues at Eurotunnel. Then, after his rest on the train, he sped us south through France with just a couple of micro-pauses for a change of driver.

It had, of course, been a long day for us too, but I still managed to take myself out into the bitter cold on arrival for a power-walk around the village. Then it was back to Bertie to try to concoct something for tea. This is where the significance of Brexit came into play, as we are now not permitted to carry a whole list of foodstuffs into Europe. Our fridge was thus somewhat bare, and shops in France aren't open on a Sunday. What I thought at the point of preparation was probably the worst excuse for a meal I'd ever served to Mick, actually turned out to be perfectly acceptable.

Our continuing mission is to get to the south of Spain as fast as we reasonably can, so let's see where we get to tomorrow.


The church in Surville

Bertie's home for the night

(*What a nonsense the pre-travel Covid test is! We each took a lateral flow test at home, uploaded a photo of the result to the company that we'd bought them from, and received our travel certificates back within 30 seconds. That company had no knowledge as to whether the swabs had been near any nostrils, whether ours or anyone else's.
**In the few days between me first looking at Eurotunnel prices and being able to book, the prices rocketed - unsurprising in retrospect as lots of people had probably spent the previous month desperate to travel to France. We'd wanted to travel on Saturday, but the earliest reasonably priced crossing available was at 1420 on Sunday. We thus employed our usual strategy of arriving early and hoping to be offered an earlier crossing at no extra charge. It's a strategy that's only ever failed once, at the end of August one year when the Chunnel was the busiest I've ever seen it.)

Sunday, 23 January 2022

The end of 2021

Where's Bertie? By way of a sneak peek of what is to come, I'll tell you that Bertie has spent 10 hours of today travelling south and is currently sitting in a car park in the village of Surville, France.

Before I launch into daily blogs about the trip upon which we have today embarked, I thought I'd first nip back to the final 3 months of 2021 and summarise them in five memorable (not all in a good way) occurrences:

1) At the end of October, whilst running at a parkrun, I found a pothole, hidden under flood water, with my left foot. A not insignificant amount of damage was done to the soft tissue that sits over the cuboid bone and as a result not a single step did I run in November. In December I started tentatively throwing some short running intervals into my walks (a week after doing the damage, I could walk again, but only forwards and on flat tarmac; anything else was yelp-inducing). It's still not completely better, but it's now two weeks since I last yelped due to an unfortunate foot placement.

2) If there was a good time to do a run-stopping injury to myself, then the end of October was probably as good as it got, as we spent November all-consumed by refurbishing a rental property. The memorable moment came five days into the work, when I said "I'll just stick my head up into the loft to make sure it's clear.". That's when I found the previous tenant had constructed a cannabis farm up there, taking up half of the area. Its removal proved educational for someone as naive of such matters as I am.


A small snapshot of the inside of the structure. We're not sure if the mess was created during the police raid or by the tenant, but all the pots had been upended and the floor of the structure was inches deep in compost. There were no plants remaining, but my goodness, the few leaves in amongst the compost were pungent!

3) Just as the refurbishment was coming to a close and we thought we might manage a short trip to Wales, along came Storm Arwen, which brought down a huge conifer at another rental property. Of all the directions it could have fallen, it fortuitously fell the most convenient way so as to minimise damage and danger, but on its way it destabilised the adjacent tree that then became liable to fall into the building next door. It was an expensive do getting that sorted (and 'sorted' transpired to be having 7 large conifers and 1 deciduous species that I can't now name removed), following which the garden was left exposed to the parkland behind. Ideally I would have employed a fencing team to sort that out but finances dictated otherwise. Fence panels weren't an option for a couple of reasons, but I think Mick and I did a pretty decent job of constructing a feather-edge fence, even if it did take us two full days to achieve.


4) Trees continued to be a theme in December, when we decided it was time for our apple tree to come down (I like having an apple tree, but this one is far too big for the space it's in and only produces fruit about once every three years). On the first day of the task, during which I was the one up the tree, I questioned whether I'm getting a bit old to be climbing trees. Apparently not, as the following day Mick took his turn. Working on the basis of tackling a minimum of two branches every day (getting them down and processing for disposal; most days we did more than 2), it took us around 10 days of work to get it into the state in which we have currently left it.




During and after. A tree surgeon could likely have achieved this in a morning. Disposing of the waste is nearly complete, but ongoing.

5) Mick started training for the Seville Marathon, and we were all geared up to head to Spain at the beginning of January, to get acclimatised to the heat in good time for the event. Then France decided that we dirty Brits* were a danger to the health of their nation, and banned us from entering. All ferries to Spain were booked solid until the end of March. Would we get the trip that we've been so longing for, or were we going to be thwarted again? (The answer to this question is of course obvious, given the spoiler I gave right at the beginning of this post.)

(*For my future reference: As the Omicron variant of Covid19 swept through the UK, France implemented border restrictions such that Brits could only enter the country from the UK for a limited number of essential purposes. Omicron soon swept through France too, with even higher case numbers than the UK was seeing, yet the restrictions remained in place until 14 January.)

Monday, 11 October 2021

Friday - Monday 8-11 October

Where was Bertie? Fri: the end of a dead-end road outside of Queen's Park in Glasgow. Sat: Ma-in-Law's driveway, Halifax. Sun: Home! Mon (Daytime): Dave Newell Leisure Vehicle Services, Madeley.

Weather: Fri: rain. Sat: Rain (but 15 degrees). Sun: Glorious sunshine. Mon: lightly overcast but dry.

Waking up in the supermarket car park in Perth on Friday morning, Mick asked how I'd slept. Pretty well, was the answer, with just a few minor disturbances. The nearby road was noisy, but not such that it kept me awake or woke me. 

"There was a HGV that pulled in in the middle of the night." said Mick. I had a little think and did vaguely recall its arrival. A few moments later Mick opened one of the blinds and said "I wonder where it parked. I'm not sure I can see it." This was the view from that window:

Looking out of the window in Bertie's door. That's the side of the lorry parked a couple of feet away. 

Once I'd extracted myself from under the duvet I nipped out to see how many lorries were parked up, in contravention of the prominent and plentiful 'No HGV Parking; £70 fine' signs (the only restrictions displayed in the whole, vast car park). It turned out there were only two vehicles in the entire section of the car park where we'd put Bertie: us and the HGV an arm's length away from us.

I'd like to report that once we were up we went and did something cultural, as I suggested we might. Alas, the weather was miserable and neither of us could be moved to walk the 20 minutes into the city in those conditions. The furthest we went was into the shop to buy a few things. Otherwise, we sat around a lot until, just after lunch, it felt like an appropriate time for the next leg of our journey. 

I'd checked out my intended parking location in Glasgow on StreetView and was confident that we wouldn't have trouble finding a Bertie-sized space. That we did, but what you can't easily see on StreetView is whether a road is on a slope. There was one spot that was reasonably level, but I felt that we would have stuck out a bit too prominently parking there overnight, so we slept on a double-aspect slope (tail and left hand down) in a more discreet position further back down the road. 

Saturday

The bonus of parking outside of Queen's Park was that, for the third consecutive week, we were able to roll out of bed and arrive at a parkrun start line. The downside of parking outside a city park on a weekend (even though we were near the end of a dead-end) is that it wasn't as quiet a night as we would have preferred. We've had far worse nights though, and once again the convenience of the location made the disturbances worthwhile. 

Fortunately, we'd recce'd the parkrun course on Friday afternoon, once the weather had dried and brightened (it was raining and dull on Saturday morning), so we got to see the view from the highest point in Glasgow, which lies within the park.

Taken in Fridays reasonably clear weather. The views were severely curtailed on Saturday. 

The parkrun course runs past that high point, and as it's a 3-lapper, it does so 3 times. It's a couple of years since I last did a parkrun with that much ascent (Kräherwald and Seewoog, both in Germany are comparable with over 100m of ascent), and I was a lot slower this week than I was back then. It was still good fun, though - particularly the last 500m during which all the height is lost for the final time. 

There's not much to say about the rest of the day, other than that it involved a lot of driving, and that we arrived at Ma-in-Law's in good time for showers (not sure why I'd completely failed to shower after any of my exertions over the previous 4 days!) before the Thai meal we'd ordered whilst driving down the M74, was delivered. 


As we headed out to Bertie in the dark on Saturday night (because it's easier to sleep in Bertie on Ma-in-Law's drive than it is to take in everything we need for an overnight stay) Mick tripped over this chap. (S)he'd gone by Sunday morning so hopefully wasn't injured by the accidental contact. 

Sunday

With Bertie booked in for an engine service on Monday, we were torn as to whether to go straight there, or  to go via home. Even though it involved more time and distance, we opted for the latter. The weather was such that, having arrived home at 1330, I had a load of washing out on the line by 1430 and it was dry two hours later. During those two hours I did something exceedingly uncommon: I gave Bertie's interior a thorough spring clean. It's not that I never clean him, it's just that I seldom clean everything all in one go. I was impressed at the end of it that: 1) it can take that long to clean a space that small; and 2) how good he looked!

Monday

With Bertie dropped off for his service (some 21 months after his last, but he did spend 12 months of that off the road), we had an unknown length of time, but not less than 3 hours, to kill in Madeley. Fortunately, there's a chain pub just up the road from the garage, and I've always found chain establishments to be quite tolerant of extended periods of loitering. Moreover, it was lunchtime, and I'd not made us a packed lunch because I knew we needed to kill time somewhere and lunch seemed like a good place to start. 

"We're not serving food. We've got a gas leak." was the message we got whilst we were still crossing the pub's car park. This was not ideal!

A bit of tapping on my phone, and a 10 minute walk into town, followed by a good few minutes searching for the cafe that Google Maps told us should have been right in front of us, and we found ourselves in a little independent cafe. It turned out that they were pretty tolerant of their customers loitering for extended periods too (not just us; a group of regular customers were doing likewise albeit probably not for the same reason)...

Healthy eating. Forgot to take a snap of the slabs of cake with which we followed this.

...Even so, after 2 hours, we felt like maybe we were in danger of outstaying our welcome.

After three and a half hours, spread across two establishments, and entertained by four crosswords, the phone call came that Bertie was ready.

As for the leaking fuel tank that we'd asked them to look at, all that was done today was to confirm that it is leaking from somewhere on the top (yep, we already knew that!) and will need to be dropped to see what the problem is (yep, we knew that too). Seems that we'll need to book it in again for that to be done. In the meantime, we'll stick with only filling the tank 3/4 full.     

 

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Wed & Thurs 6-7 October - Loch Kinardochy and Perth

Where was Bertie? Wed: a second night overlooking Loch Kinardochy. Thurs: a supermarket car park in Perth (because we are, after all, living the dream...) 
Weather: Wed: sunny and calm with a rising temperature; Thurs: wet and low cloud but calm and warm.

Wednesday
I think it was in June this year, some four and a bit years after we bought Bertie, that I thought to investigate the timing function on his heating system. I now wonder why we never used it before, and I've had it permanently set on this trip to put the heating on 15 minutes before we're due to get up. Even though it only takes a few seconds to hop out of bed and turn it on, it's so much nicer to have the space already warm before emerging from the duvet.

This morning the chill was well and truly gone by the time my alarm sounded at 0630, but I still struggled to spring out of bed, perhaps because it was still dark out. We didn't lounge around too long, though, and at 0650 we pulled into the car park at the start of the path up Schiehallion (I've described the walk itself on t'other blog, that you'll find by Clicking here).

With the weather so fine, after lunch I headed off up another hill and, per standard practice, I sent Mick a message to let him know I'd reached the top...


...His response was that he was just watching a motorcyclist being loaded into an ambulance.

I was picturing a horrific road traffic accident, and finding Mick in need of sweet tea, but the reality was less dramatic. A group of five bikers (two of whom were aged 68 and 80; the rest were likely in a similar bracket) had pulled into the car park. After the obligatory photos (a lot of people pull into that car park, take a couple of photos, read the sign about the lime kiln, then leave again), they'd remounted their machines and started pulling out of the car park. All should have been well, but as one of them turned his bike around to leave, his back wheel slid on the grit surface and down he went.

Mick naturally offered any assistance he could give, but they'd already called an ambulance and there wasn't anything else they needed, other than for Mick to keep an eye on the injured (broken hip being the presumption) chap's bike whilst two of them rode over to Montrose to drop off their own bikes and return in a car.

By comparison, I had a completely uneventful afternoon.

After a day of excellent weather, the rain that was forecast to come in at 2100 arrived an hour early. It mattered not to us. We settled down to watch a bit of downloaded TV and, in my case, to cast on the socks I'm supposed to be knitting for someone. I pulled out the yarn, weighed it to check I had enough, checked how many stitches I need to cast on, then dug out my case of knitting needles. Inside I found the appropriate packet for the set I needed ...but it was empty. Darn it! I so nearly brought with me the fingerless gloves I started knitting in the spring, that got semi-abandoned when I realised I'd knitted seven eighths of the first one on the wrong size of needles. I will eventually pull that glove back, but in the mean time it's sitting at home on the wrong sized needles, and that's the size I need. At least I've got plenty of yarn with me to continue with the blanket I'm making instead.

Thursday
Mick got up first and reported that the cloud was so low that he couldn't even see the far side of the road. With a light rain falling, and the knowledge that I was going up another hill this morning, this didn't instill a sense of joy in me!

Although I got considerably wet on my hill (whilst also sweating cobs, because the temperature had risen remarkably since yesterday morning), it wasn't a bad little outing, and I was up and down it in only a few seconds over an hour.


Not knowing where we were going next, we procrastinated on making a decision by having a substantial elevenses (or maybe early lunch) and coffee, and when we did finally pull out of the 'community land' car park just before noon, it was to Perth we headed.

Stopping at Aldi on the edge of town, I first nipped into the Tiso outdoor store that sits in the same retail complex. There I nearly bought a pair of boots, and did buy a new merino wool top (one of my existing ones now has four patches on it and is threatening to hole in so many more places that I think that I have to declare it dead. Only had it 11 years too.)

With the weather being as it was (wet and miserable) we weren't going to be doing anything out of doors for the rest of the day, so a supermarket car park seemed as good a place as any for us to sit. Better, really, as even though we've positioned ourselves in a far corner, our wifi booster has been able to connect to the store wifi and, over the course of several hours, I've been able to download a couple of TV programmes I want to watch.

There's a possibility that if the weather perks up a bit in the morning we might go and do something cultural, as I'm now done with hills for this trip.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Tuesday 5 October - Loch Kinardochy

Where's Bertie? He's in a car park overlooking Loch Kinardochy (Perth & Kinross).
Weather: Overcast and breezy with a few short light showers.

Considering the comments I made yesterday about Ardgualich Farm Campsite, it's perhaps surprising that, at approaching 10 this morning, Mick left Bertie with £21 in his hand to extend our stay. Fortunately there wasn't anyone in the office and by the time he got back I'd done a bit more research into tomorrow's plan that suggested that maybe staying another night wasn't the best option.

An example of tat lying around the campsite. This isn't hidden behind a building. The white door is the gents toilets/shower, and the protruding wall adjacent is the toilet emptying point.

We loitered until nearly lunchtime, making use of the electric hook up, putting a bit more water (peaty in this case) in Bertie's tank and availing ourselves of the drains again before we left. We then drove first west then south on the little B roads to this location, where we parked with both Schiehallion and Loch Kinardochy being key features in the view from Bertie's windscreen.

Bertie and Schiehallion

Bertie and Loch Kinardochy

Perth & Kinross council reacted to the parking chaos in between lockdowns last summer by slapping temporary traffic regulation orders, creating clearways, on sections of roads around here (not unreasonably, in my opinion). They have also posted 'No Overnight Parking' signs in the larger laybys*, such that this seems to be the only car park in the area that is unrestricted. It suits us just fine, though, as it positions us nicely for a jaunt up Schiehallion tomorrow, assuming the weather forecasts I saw this morning hold true that there's going to be a short-lived fine spell of sunshine and low winds. I certainly wouldn't want to be up there as I type this; if it's this windy at this altitude, I think I'd struggle to stay upright on the top.

As for today, our sole activity out of doors since arriving here has been a walk up the track behind Bertie, to investigate how feasible it looks to approach the Corbett of Meall Tairneachan from here. We timed ourselves just right, getting back to Bertie just as a shower came in.

(*I'm tempted to do a little digging into the legality of those signs. They're almost certainly not enforceable as they stand.)

Monday, 4 October 2021

Friday 1st to Monday 4th October - Inverness, Newtonmore & Dalwhinnie

Where was Bertie? Fri: Torvean Car Park, Inverness (£5 donation); Sat & Sun: Layby near Dalwhinnie; Mon: Ardgualich Farm Campsite (Loch Tummel) (£21)
Weather: A mixture of overcast, sunshine and showers each day, with varying quantities of each (but mainly overcast or raining). Daytime highs of between 9 and 12 degrees.

A lazy start was had on Friday, before we tootled down to Inverness mid-morning. There we parked Bertie at Morrison’s where they have a Pay & Display car park, but with refunds given based on how much you spend in store.

As we were slightly abusing their car park (i.e. we did also go into the city), we thought we would eat in their café, as well as doing a bit of shopping, thus legitimising our visit. Knowing our ability to loiter in supermarket cafes (our record was 5 hours in Morrison’s in Fort William during one particularly rainy visit), we erred on the side of caution and bought a 3-hour ticket, even though we knew we would only spend enough to get a refund for 2 hours. Except, it turns out that they don’t give partial refunds. If you buy a 3-hour ticket you have to spend £50 or you get nothing back. We could see various flaws in this policy, and mostly annoyingly, it had become clear that we were going to be done within 2 hours of arrival*, so if we’d just bought the 2-hour ticket, we would get a refund, but because we erred on the side of caution, we got nothing. The ending to this story was surprising. After our meal, I took my rant to the customer service desk who, rather than meeting my request of refunding 2 hours, surprised me by giving me the whole £4 back.



Views from behind Inverness Castle

The rest of our day involved praise rather than censure. In response to the realisation that the number of motorhomes touring the Highlands far exceeds the number of campsite spaces available, Highland Council has started a process to allow overnight parking in some of its car parks. The newly created Torvean Car Park is one of the first to have dropped the ‘No parking of vehicles manufactured or adapted for the purpose of sleeping’ clause, allowing us legitimately to stay there. It was a happy coincidence that the car park also happens to be metres away from the location of Torvean parkrun, meaning for the second week in a row that we could roll out of bed and run.

I don’t know why boy racers don’t frequent that car park (maybe they haven’t noticed its existence yet?), but we had the 200 spaces entirely to ourselves on Friday night. On Saturday morning it became besieged, as this wasn’t just any parkrun morning; this was the parkrun the day before the Loch Ness Marathon, giving an influx of parkrun tourists. It was an early influx too, as it seems that quite a number of the English contingent weren’t aware that parkruns start at 0930 in Scotland (it’s 0900 in England).

The course (which we’d vaguely recce’d on Friday afternoon, until it rained just as we were at the far end of the park, causing us to scurry back to Bertie) isn’t going to go down as one of my favourites, but it does have the pleasing feature that you can see almost the whole course at all times. With it being a 2.5 lapper, that meant that by the second lap there was a trail of people spread out across every bit of path in the park. 

As the car park emptied afterwards, we showered and I repeatedly stuck my head into the cavity between Bertie’s two floors (having taken a screwdriver to a divider the previous evening so as to give access). We’ve had a couple or three incidents of water where water shouldn’t be under the floor (the first being in Spain in early 2020, but Bertie didn’t have much use for the next 12 months for any repetitions), and I’ve been trying to work out where it’s coming from. I thought last week that I’d finally sussed it, and that we had a crack in the foremost of the two drains in the shower. Alas, if it is that, then the exact conditions required to cause the leak weren’t present on Saturday.


Two plastic tubs and some kitchen towel, but not a drop of water to be caught

It was just after lunch by the time we arrived in Newtonmore for the TGO Challenge Scottish Reunion (a happy coincidence that it was scheduled when we were in the area) and our first priority was to return the Munro and Corbett guides that I’d borrowed from Sue (at Newtonmore Hostel) on our way north. A cup of tea with Sue & Neil, then a walk up the road for a cup of tea with Ali & Adrian, then a walk back to Bertie, and it was time to head down the road to the Balavil Hotel.

In spite of the unanswered question as to why you would serve haggis, neeps and tatties in a giant Yorkshire Pudding, a good meal was had, together with much chatting and the winning of a book in the raffle. 

With 11pm approaching, it was time for us to absent ourselves and decide where we were going to spend the night. There were various possibilities around Newtonmore, but none of them were overly satisfactory, so in the end we chose to drive the 15 minutes down the road to the location north of Dalwhinnie. It was only on Sunday morning that I realised the flaw in this plan: with the tea-tea-reunion activities occurring without a break on Saturday afternoon, I’d failed to visit the Co-op. We were now 9 miles from the Co-op, had no bread and only one more day’s worth of porridge oats. 

Fortunately, thanks to my aborted Pennine Way trip at the beginning of August, I did have a whole package of noodles, flavoured cous-cous and the like, which (with the addition of a few vegetables) gave us perfectly acceptable lunches (albeit late lunches, given we didn’t take the noodles up the hills with us).

On Sunday after an extended period of poring over electronic maps, a road atlas and hill-bagging.co.uk, I came up with some semblance of a plan for the next few days, starting with the bagging of a hill just down the road from where we were parked. With that being the only thing on our agenda for Sunday, we thought we may as well spend another night in the same layby, as we knew there was nowhere better to stay between there and Monday morning’s hill.


Approaching Sunday's hill, before the weather turned against us

Monday morning dawned reasonably bright, but unfortunately didn’t stay that way, so for the second consecutive day Bertie’s shower room got festooned with dripping outerwear as soon as we got back from our hill. Lunchtime was by then upon us, and we were very much in need of cups of tea, but with Bertie parked on a slope we opted to drive down to Blair Atholl before addressing those needs.

Parking across the road from the campsite in Blair Atholl, it would have made sense to go there, but we’ve never been fans of that site, and I’d become aware of this one on the shore of Loch Tummel. It was a few miles out of our way, but the reviews were excellent and the photos enticing. 

So, after lunch and a quick trip to the Spar shop to resolve the bread and oats shortage, along a windy road we came. My verdict was that it was worth coming here to see if it’s a better stop-over than Blair Atholl, but we won’t be returning. The location is impressive, but the facilities are unfinished and dirty, and the site (on a farm) is far from well presented with all sorts of tat, that really should have been disposed of, scattered around the buildings. Compared to other sites, it’s overpriced for what it is. 


View from Bertie's front bumper

 
(*In the end we went over 2 hours, because it took the café 35 minutes to serve our food, serving first everyone around us, even thought they’d arrived later, and when my burger did finally arrive it was cold. Somehow we managed to resist eating the huge slab of chocolate cake we’d bought for pudding whilst we were waiting, which then delayed us further.)

Friday, 1 October 2021

Mon-Thurs 27-30 September

Where was Bertie? Mon: near the harbour at Nairn; Tues: Culloden Moor Caravan Club Site (£18.30); Wed & Thurs: Parking area alongside the A832, above Munlochy Bay, just E of Munlochy.
Weather: Mon: Very wet until mid-afternoon; Tues & Thurs: sunny intervals; Wednesday: mainly sunny. Much cooler than last week.

Let me just nip back to Sunday to a small incident I forgot to mention: after arriving in Lossiemouth the first thing we did was to have a cup of tea and watch the world go by. Just as we were finishing up, another motorhome arrived and a few moments later a car alarm started sounding. As is the norm when that happens, we had a little look around the car park to see whose indicators were flashing, assuming it was the recently arrived motorhome, but there were none. The alarm continued. After a short while Mick asked "Is it Bertie?". "It does sound awfully close" I said. Yep, it was us. Given that Bertie's alarm hadn't been armed since the previous day, it was a bit of a mystery. We can only assume that, as Mick had the keyfob in his pocket, he must have accidentally sat on the 'arm' button.

Now fastforward to Monday, when there was a weather warning for rain, and rain it did. Whilst not torrential, it was persistent with large drops, and by the time we drove into Elgin at around 9am some roads were flooded.

We got wet walking into town, enjoyed a greasy-spoon breakfast where we observed that maybe around 20% of customers were abiding by the ongoing Scottish legal requirement to wear face coverings in inside public places. We then got wet walking back to Bertie, before driving him over to National Tyre.

It can be difficult finding a tyre pressure gauge/inflator in an ordinary garage that goes up to 5 bar (some say they do, but after you've put your pound in the slot you discover that they lie), and it had been a disgracefully long time since Bertie's tyres had been checked. All the national chains offer free checks (presumably in the hope that they can spot a defect on some tyres whilst they're at it), but apparently nobody told the staff in the Elgin branch. That said, they didn't refuse, and we came away with the knowledge that Bertie's tyres are still airtight and at the right pressures.

With no clue where we were going next we repaired next door to Asda's car park whilst we decided. Thanks to our morning's slightly random tour of Elgin in general, and supermarkets in particular, we can report that the fuel shortages reported in the media haven't hit this area. Not a queue or closed pump to be seen.

Nairn was our chosen next stop (Mick recalled visiting in 1978 to see 'Grease', which was being shown in Nairn, but not in Elgin, and we walked past on the coast on the TGO Challenge in 2014, but otherwise we'd not been there).

The car park at the harbour houses ten motorhome parking bays, five of which are practically on the beach, although only daytime parking is permitted. We took one of them and accepted the ticket machine's 'Invitation to Pay' (i.e. it's not a mandatory charge).

Looking towards the harbour entrance in Nairn. Second photo of the same subject, but also showing how close Bertie was to the beach.

Our trip into the town was slightly curtailed by rain, but in any case there was nothing there that was grabbing us. The harbour and beach front was a more pleasing place to be.

We didn't breach the Traffic Regulation Order by spending the night in the car park. Instead we drove about 100m away to a legal spot, where we passed a quiet night.

Tuesday
Once it was legal for Bertie to be in the car park again, we moved him back to one of the beach-front spaces, and headed off along the coast for a run. Initially we took the coast path, but where it runs alongside the golf course, Mick had us stop every time there was a golfer nearby about to take a shot. There were a lot of golfers. So, we took to the beach, where the sand was perfectly firm enough for running.

A fine expanse of beach and lots of people using it.

The rest of the morning was frittered away until at a couple of minutes after the earliest arrival time (1300) we arrived at Culloden Moor Caravan Club Site.

It was a lovely sunny, blowy afternoon, so I wasted no time getting our running gear rinsed through and hung out to dry, then we set about frittering the afternoon away.

For me, that involved a bit of planning. Incredibly, I managed to come away on this trip without any non-electronic hill-bagging resources. Most sorely missed is my Marilyn road atlas (the old 2009 road atlas that I've repurposed and mark up with the location of hills I want to visit), but I'd also failed to bring Corbett and Munro guides, my hill-bagging notebook and the Marilyn lists. Careless!

So, whilst we had unlimited electricity I turned to e-resources and settled on a few hills north of Inverness, in an area we've never toured.

The evening was frittered away watching a film. I really must buy a new remote control for Bertie's TV. We've been managing without, but have now realised that when watching a DVD we have no way to pause or fast forward, meaning if we start a film, we have to finish it in one sitting (something I'm not very good at).

Wednesday
The best weather forecast of the week, and sure enough there was a lot of blue in that sky.

Via a quick grocery stop in Inverness (where there is apparently also no fuel shortage - and it was cheap too; pity we didn't need any) to the Black Isle we came, for a 10.5 mile run/walk taking in the highest point of this not-really-an-island. What an endeavour that was! (for my full report Click Here )

Taking it in turns to look thoroughly impressed with what we were doing.

We should, perhaps, have driven to one of the parking spots we'd passed on our run/walk for the night, for peace and solitude, but we went for the easier option of leaving Bertie where he was. It didn't make for the quietest of nights, with the road noise.

Thursday
A better weather day than forecast, allowing me to fit in three small Marilyn hills with only about ten minutes of light rain between them and far more sunshine than expected (full report Click Here  ). 

We thought we might spend the night in the car park we used for the second hill, which looked an excellent location, until we spotted the informal 'No Overnight Parking' sign (undoubtedly unenforceable, but we decided to abide by the request). It pushed me into getting the third hill done, hoping that we could stay in that car park instead. Alas, no. The same sign was displayed, and far more prominently this time.

Contemplating our options, we decided on returning to the previous night's spot, overlooking Munlochy Bay, as it was only about a 3-mile detour (why not one of the quieter spots on the minor road we'd noted the previous day, given our comments about road noise just that very morning? Purely to save the extra few miles of detour. Once again, it wasn't the best decision.). 

View of Munlochy Bay from the parking spot. Pity the lie of the land caused Bertie to face the road, rather than the view.

On Wednesday we were initially the only van there, but by bedtime there were five. On Thursday we again initially had the place to ourselves, but ended up with three neighbours. Other similar places we'd passed on our way to our hills earlier in the day also had four or fives vans in each. And this is at the very end of September. I hate to think what it would have been like in summer, and also know that just a few short years ago we almost always had our parking spots to ourselves. (Incidentally, though: no sign of any rubbish, litter or toilet waste (not even tissues)). When I get onto Friday's post I will have some more heartening news (as well as a bit of a moan) about facilities for motorhomes being improved in these parts.