The Shire Drive

Sunday 2nd Monday 3rd January 2022.

We were due to leave the site in Swaffham at 11 am, we were in no rush to head home but didn’t have anywhere else booked. On the spur of the moment I had suggested we head to The Denby Pottery Centre that we previously visited in April 2021 on the way back from Yorkshire. Whilst there we had purchased a part dining service but whilst using it we realised we needed some small side plates.

Our journey was not a direct route home and it took us from Norfolkshire through Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and today Staffordshire, discounting part of several borough districts.

By the time we had had lunch in Homer and made our purchase it had begun to rain heavily and gone quite dark so we headed to a pub stopover a few miles away rather than struggle home.

The New Inn Pub was at Little Eaton a few miles outside Derby, there is a large park and in normal times an extensive and not too expensive menu, however unfortunately for us they stop serving food early on a Sunday afternoon, so instead we used up some of the extensive food reserves we had in Homer. Out of politeness we had a drink in the pub, the least we could do as there was no charge to stay. The surrounding area was good for walking Layla with lots of interesting buildings.

Journey back from there today was swift and simple, we travel the A38 so often it’s like an old friend.

Cromer and Blakeney.

Saturday 1st January 2022

This morning we all piled into Homer and set off for Cromer, it is unseasonably mild, very pleasant. We parked on a huge car park on the cliff above Cromer, the only one without a height barrier.

The only way is down😊especially when Layla wants to get to the beach.
Doggy bliss.

Michelle was excited to come to Cromer as she was looking forward to having some of its famous fresh crab, unfortunately as it wasNew Years Day there wasn’t anywhere open selling crab, never mind it saved me having to “ shell out”😂The pier was only partially open as the night before it had been the centre for the New Year’s Eve celebrations . Thankfully the tide was out and we could walk along the beach, there were quite a few brave souls swimming in the sea.

New Year’s Day 2022.
The bubble man.
Winter sun over Cromer.

We all met up back at Homer for lunch eating the rest of last nights buffet and then headed north along the coast road, tight squeeze occasionally for Homer to Blakeney. Here we managed to park at the village hall, free and no height restrictions.Blakeney is an area of outstanding natural beauty ideal for walking and spotting birds and seals. It was a short walk to the harbour where there is further parking which has to be paid for. Originally a busy harbour it has long since silted up and only smaller boats can make the passage.

We started waking across the marshland towards Blakeney point which is a long spit of sand famous for its colony of seals, however it was very muddy underfoot and after walking for a while it became obvious it would take a long time to reach it, I read afterwards it was 4 miles from the car park. You can take a boat ride out along the estuary to view the seals.

The village itself is very attractive and many of its buildings are used for holiday lets. The walk around the village brought the end to our day of site seeing and as it was an hours drive back we headed home.

Swaffham – Norfolkshire

Friday 31st December 2021

We arrived here yesterday at Breckland Meadows Touring Park on the outskirts of Swaffham after a 4 hour drive from home, we have as is now tradition met up with motor homing buddies Alison and Peter to bring in the new year.

Today we walked into Swaffham a pleasant market town with a good range of historical buildings, it is also well served with three large well known supermarkets.

One impressive feature feature is St. peter and St. Paul church with its unusual spire.

The town has some good pubs and cafes offering reasonably priced meals, there are as always a range of charity shops and of course as it is a holiday time many shops had opted not to open.

The weather is unseasonably mild with temperatures around 12 degrees and although there was some rain early this morning the rest of the day has been very pleasant, late this afternoon Peter and Alison went for a ride out and we took Layla for a long walk.

Dressed for action.

Nantwich

Friday 10th-Sunday 12th December 2021

We have spent the weekend at Willows Camping Park Nantwich, we were last here in July 2020 just after lock down restrictions were lifted. We met up as usual with motorhoming buddies Peter and Alison with a special reason as it was Peter’s 65th birthday on Saturday.

The weather was very wet on our arrival and the fields and roads around the site were very wet, thankfully on this well maintained site everything was fine with our pitches being on hard standing with water and electrics on each pitch. Friday night was a drinks and catch up on news evening.

Our plan for Saturday was to take a taxi into Nantwich where I had booked a table for lunch at The Vine Inn. Sadly after phoning every taxi company in the region I couldn’t get a taxi soPlan B had to come into force, we packed away things in Homer and headed for Nantwich. Every car park was rammed and fitting Homer on would have been difficult so we went back out of town and parked next to the lake. We walked back into Nantwich, it was raining heavily and so wasn’t all that pleasant, the town was being serenaded by Christmas music and there was an outdoor market selling gifts/ craft presents.

A wet shopping experience.

At 1 pm we were in the pub which was warm and welcoming and very dog friendly, water and biscuits provided. The meal once ordered was slow in arriving as they were somewhat busy, however the beer was very good, unfortunately there was a tv showing the Liverpool v Wolves match where Wolves lost 1-0 to a controversial penalty.

Birthday boy and Alison.
Enjoying a beer and a mulled wine.

We followed lunch with another walk around the shops purchasing a few items.

During the evening we joined Peter and Alison where we enjoyed a bottle of fizzy 🥂 and other drinks plus a lovely cake cooked and provided by Alison, who bakes exceedingly good cakes😊

Inhale
Blow.

Sunday was drier and far more pleasant and as we often do whilst in this area we visited Dagfields Antique Centre where we bought a few glasses and a piece of Poole pottery.

France October 2021- Blog 6

Sunday 7th November 2021.

It’s our last evening here, one night short of a full five weeks, we knew before we arrived that after a twenty month absence there would be specific tasks that would need attending to. By the time we had been here 6 hours that list, now written had become rather long as the whole scenario we found unfolded before us before bedtime that first night. I’m pleased to say that we have completed the list of tasks, we ache in every muscle and joint but have a sense of pride in what we have achieved , we have even completed extra tasks that were improvements and not just returning to status quo. However our pleasure in finding a small hole in the roof fabric and repairing it was short lived as on one of the few occasions we have had a heavy rain shower the roof leaked again. So waiting until the weather was suitable I again climbed onto the roof where very quickly the fault became evident, three tiles had slipped down from the ridge, they were quickly pushed back into place and I mixed up a bucket of mortar and sealed them in place.

Give a man a hammer😊

I’m pleased to say that eventually our card to enable us to get rid of our household rubbish eventually arrived.

It’s amusing how much pleasure it’s arrival brought us, we were able to fill the boot with our rubbish and try out the card.

The instructions.
The scanner.
We opened the container bye bye rubbish.

You also have to use the card to visit the local tip, a wave of the card at the scanner gets you a personal welcome and the barrier rises and an attendant guides you to the correct receptacles.

Two days ago we took Layla to our local vets where she has been registered for some time where we requested a French Passport for her. There was no difficulty, and 30 minutes later we walked out clutching the valuable document, the visit in total cost 125 euros, but the actual passport was only 30 euros. This will mean we will no longer have to pay our English vet £135 every time we visit Europe.

Dual nationality Layla.

Although the weather has become a little more Autumnal we have still managed to spend a lot of time outdoors, the field has had its second cut, we’ve managed to eat outside virtually every day and have seen some wonderful sunsets.

The well mowed field.
A beautiful sunset with an evening mist creeping in.

The last night is always sad, but our next visit in April next year is already booked😊

France – October 2021 – Blog 5.

Monday 25th October 2021

Today we have had a gentle rain fall for most of the day, it hasn’t been cold and as it is the first day time rain we have had for 3 weeks, we shouldn’t complain., we still managed to eat our evening meal outside.

Work has continued both on the interior of the house and outdoors, Michelle has redecorated a bedroom and both bathrooms and touched up paint work here and there and I’ve installed 3 wall mounted electric convector heaters, one in the kitchen and one in each bathroom, these are to replace free standing ones we used.

Outside we have cut down two trees and are working on a third which is close to the house and needs cutting down section by section. Peter came with his battery powered extendable hedge trimmer and cut the vertical face of the conifer hedge for me.

Peter in action.

During this trip we have got into the habit of Peter and Alison coming to us on a Wednesday evening for a meal and we go to their bungalow on a Saturday night where Alison has prepared and cooked delightful pizzas, we then watch Strictly.

Saturday we drove to St Emelion, there aren’t many years that we don’t make a pilgrimage to this beautiful historic town, we enjoyed a leisurely ramble around and up and down its cobbled streets treating ourselves at one point to a soft drink.

Alison and Michelle enjoying hot chocolate with loads of cream.

There’s a lot of renovation of the old buildings going on often with a change of use, there are a few shops that never seem to change but lots of different ones open each season.

A courtyard with shops.

Some scenes never change and it becomes almost a ritual to have a photo taken at the same spot.

Queen of all she surveys with the Royal tower in the background.
I found a fish but no chips.
There’s always plenty of wine in St Emelion.🍷
Looking through the arches to the main square.
Should you wish to stay the night here are some prices, per night.

On the way back home we stopped to take a few photos of the vines in their gorgeous autumn colours, the grapes have been harvested.

The vines in their Autumn glory.

On Sunday we headed to Sainte Foy for a vide grenier and from there to Bergerac where we had a short wonder along the river and a part of the old town. Then it was onto Beaupoyet for a four course meal with wine at a cost of 18.50 euros each.

France – October 2021- Blog 4

Friday 15th October 2021

It’s been a busy week, non stop work, commencing Monday morning with a repair job on the roof. A tile had slipped and created a small hole approx 2cm in diameter in the under waterproof fabric which obviously when it rained heavily had been letting in a small amount of water above our main bedroom. Thankfully there wasn’t any serious or long term damage but it needed sorting. So out came the trusty well used scaffolding tower which takes me up to eaves height and then a short step forward and I’m on the roof, it took no time at all to remove an area of tiles, glue on a patch over the hole and relay the tiles, hopefully all now is fine, we will know when it rains.

Conforms to all health and safety rules.

We have been busy working on the grounds, hacking, chopping, strimming and mowing, I spent approx 10 hours getting the 3 acres of field into shape., whilst Michelle has been recovering her garden areas.

So far we have transported two large trailer loads of branches to an area in our woods where we let the branches slowly rot down and we have a further 3 loads waiting to go, with more to come when we trim the conifer and laurel hedges. Today I have been chain sawing all the large branches we have lopped into small logs for the fire.

It hasn’t all been work, there have been odd moments where we have snatched a beer in the sunshine.

Thirsty work gardening.

We have sat out quite late some evenings and seen some fine sunsets, the weather we have been having here has been superb with hot sunny days and clear starry nights, Thursday morning there was a thick frost.

Red sky at night.
Sunset with the moon out.

Tonight we have been to our regular haunt the restaurant at Beaupoyet where it was Chinese night, a starter of chicken and sweet corn soup, a second course of spring rolls and wontons with chilli sauce and a main course of chicken teriyaki with vegetables and fried rice. There were deserts to follow should you wish but Michelle and I refrained.It was a very pleasant meal and it was good to see Steve the proprietor and his partner and catch up on news. We are now relaxing in front of the log fire with a small drink, bliss.

France October 2021 – Blog 3

Sunday 10th October 2021

Sundays are vide grenier days, a quick look on the internet identified one not too far away in Port Sainte Foy, so off we set on a very misty autumn morning. On arrival there was no sign of any vide grenier, a quick look on Google ascertained that it wasn’t where we were but in a village called Ponchapt a few kilometres away which was in the Commune of Porte Sainte Foy.

A misty River Dordogne.
Port Sainte Foy

The drive there along narrow lanes was beautiful as we meandered through the vineyards, we climbed quite steeply emerging from the mist into wonderful sunshine.

The car park 🙂

The stalls wound their way around the village lining both sides of the narrow street, we bought two bed side lamps for a total of 5 euros and a wooden butter mold for 5 euros, not to mold butter, just as an ornament.

Basket weaver in action.
Roasting chestnuts.
Street entertainment.

Shortly after returning home our motorhome buddies ( who are also local French property owners) arrived for a chat and a drink in the sunshine. They left for lunch and we arranged to meet them at 3 p.m. at the local charity super store, what a bizarre way to spend a Sunday afternoon you may think, well it is but it’s a very bizarre place. It has furniture that could grace a chateau, huge pieces for less than 50 euros, items that bemuse us and we have no idea of what they are, loads of dross and occasionally a little gem. From there we went back to their bungalow, sat in the sunshine and enjoyed a well aged beer.

Rubbish disposal update.

Peter read the previous blog and he managed to track down the website for obtaining a card to open the black waste bins, so using his info I’ve applied for a card, the return email read we hope to be able to supply you with one within months.

Also on the webpage were details of how it works, in future the element of costs for rubbish collection will be removed from the council tax. There is a standard charge of 80 euros per year per household, you then have to opt for charges for use, the lowest rate is 65 euros which allows you to open the container 24 times, putting in a maximum of 2 x 30 l sacks, you will be billed for any further uses at a cost of 2.70 euros a time. The purpose is to reduce non recyclable waste but as we’ve already seen it will give rise to fly tipping, people are already leaving items/ sacks to the side of the containers. It will be interesting to see what develops.

France visit Oct 2021 – Blog 2.

Sat 9th October 2021.

Whilst Michelle occupied herself on cleaning the house interior I made a start on the exterior jungle, overnight on Tuesday I charged the tractor battery and first thing Wednesday morning I used the petrol strimmer to cut my way through the brambles to the tractor garage. Once inside with the battery now attached the tractor started first turn😁😁 Initially I mowed the front garden and the over grown limestone chippings drive, once down to a reasonable level out came the flymo and then the electric lawnmower by the end of the day we could walk around at the front of the house. I used the tractor to clear areas so that Michelle could hang out the washing and below the house an area for Layla to run around in as prior to that she had to keep springing up out of the long grass to see where she was. The next day we tackled the area around the well which has our bbq and pizza oven plus shady seating area, it was completely covered by wisteria, whilst I cut it down Michelle piled it onto the steadily growing bonfire pile, again by the end of the afternoon we had returned it to normal and I even had time to mow approx an acre of field.

The before view.
It’s looking better.
Layla’s play area.

Last night I read that the dustbin men ( sorry refuse collectors) had gone on strike in Marseilles because they had been asked to increase their working week from 21 hours to 32 hours, historically low because it was a strenuous job, they even got an extra 3 weeks holiday each year on top of the normal 5 weeks to recover from the efforts of their work.

This leads me onto our own refuse collection story, on Thursday and then Friday we put out our wheelie bins for collection and by Friday night we’re bemused they hadn’t been emptied, we began to surmise the collection days must have changed. Oh no, not that simple, our neighbour informed us that there wasn’t a refuse bin collection any more. Dotted around the area are containers that you have to take the rubbish to yourself 🤔

We had on our trip to the supermarket seen a cluster of the bins and assumed they were encouraging people to recycle more.

One such cluster of containers.

There’s one for glass, one for cardboard, one for recyclable materials and one for general rubbish, seems simple doesn’t it, but no you can’t actually use the general rubbish container without having a plastic i.d. card.

General waste.

You have to scan your card, push the button which releases the lid and you can put in your rubbish but it only takes allows you to put in two 30 l sacks. If you have a lot of rubbish can you do it twice, visit another container in a different spot? Who knows, does it record who is putting the rubbish in, do you get fined if you do it wrong? I’ve no idea, it does mention being fined but I can’t work out what for. Our kindly neighbour is ordering a card for us I’ve no idea how long it will take, will it arrive before we leave for the UK is another question, we could have a mountain of rubbish by then😂 I will keep you informed.

Back to France after 20 months.

Tuesday 5th October 2021.

This account is spread over two days and began yesterday afternoon. We were half way to Portsmouth when we had a text to say due to rough weather the ferry would be arriving 45 minutes late, then about 30 miles from the port by now very dark and raining heavily I realised the front offside head light wasn’t working and visibility was very poor. The road is two/ three lanes wide and there are huge road works going on it was impossible to find anywhere to pull over, I managed to tuck in behind other cars and follow their rear lights and eventually we limped into the car park at the port. I then spent 20 minutes as a contortionist trying to fit a replacement headlight bulb in an awkward space using my iphone as a torch. Eventually success and we joined the queue to the ticket/passport booth, I then realised I’d left my phone under the bonnet and had to stop again.🤭

We handed over the documents at the passport control fine for us but when he examined the Health Certificate for Layla that I’d paid the vet £135 for three days before, he began to tut. “This is no good” he said, “it isn’t filled in correctly or signed in all the correct places.” He then sent us back around the passport booth into the car park with instructions to go and speak to someone in the terminal. The somewhat brusque woman examined the 9 page document and again the tuts started and I was told it hadn’t been filled in correctly. I explained I was the customer not the vet, how was I supposed to know if it was correct? The response was we couldn’t travel as it wasn’t correct, however when I pointed out all the relevant information was included in the document even if not in the correct place she without any grace said ok, off you go. We were now at the back of the queue again,where at the same passport booth the original officer told us he could have given us the same permission😵‍💫😵‍💫😵‍💫as a result of this we were the last vehicle on the ferry which sailed an hour late. The large drink in the bar was very necessary before what turned out to be a very rough crossing.

When we arrived at Caen it was a simple procedure, our passports were stamped, our Covid Passport was examined on our iphones, there was no request to see the Self Attestation form we were told we had to complete and no one looked to see if we had any illicit food items ( mind you it was raining heavily and no one came out of the passport booths).

The 360 mile journey to our French house went reasonably well, it’s tiring but after 31 years I’m used to it, I did wonder that as it has been 20 months since we last came here I might have forgotten the route but I didn’t.

Then we arrived, the house was still standing, the photos show the outside and the interior was dusty and needs a good clean but the fact we are now toasting our toes in front of the wood burner replete after an evening meal with the prospect of a few bevvies later shows things will be OK. We are here 5 weeks so have plenty of time to put things right.

Our trailer is under there somewhere!