Sunday, 9 October 2011

Week 14

After 22 nights and 1,910 miles, I am finally's how the week went:

Sunday I drove to Padstow in Cornwall on the advice of my friend Kay.  What a gorgeous little haven it is. And, with the recent October heatwave, the town was absolutely buzzing.  The shops - OMG - they were stunning.  Rick Stein has a restaurant in Padstow which I didn't venture into but I did have  one of his Cornish pasties - a haddock one - it was delicious.  I had changed a few plans over the weekend - due to Dougal's near over-heating, I decided to give Truro a miss and go straight to Padstow and stay 2 nights and have a day off driving on Monday. 

Well, my campsite at Padstow certainly came up trumps.  What a beautiful site.  It was only a mile walk into the town and the views were stunning.  My toilet block contained suites!  So I actually had a bathroom to myself and I didn't have to dance around the muddy puddles in order to put my clothes on!  Bonus! Something else changed when I arrived here...I can't quite put my finger on it...but I relaxed, Skye relaxed and everything seemed ok again.  After a few hiccups I was wondering why I should continue this trip and was considering going home early but Sunday was a great day - weather was phenomenal, I Skyped my family, I got some good food from the local Tesco and my faith in this trip was restored.

Monday was the perfect day.  I didn't need to pack up Dougal as normal, I just took my time and enjoyed the sunshine.  Skye seemed pretty chilled too.  In the afternoon I took Skye for a walk from the campsite into Padstow.  The route took us over farm I have to refer back to last week's post when I talked about walking through a field of cows.  My fear of cows is down to a few horror stories where people have died by being trampled by a herd of cows that were scared by a dog.  One of these stories was told by my mum who was chased by cows when she was a little girl.  So I have a deep respect for cattle and would normally avoid at all costs.  My route to Padstow took me through 2 fields of cows.  On the way in, they were way off in the distance.  Not so lucky on the way back.  I noticed the first field of cows were all walking towards one end of the field (I thought it might have been feeding time or something like that).  So I waited patiently and let them past then (with Skye on lead) I walked briskly to the hedge where I climbed over a small wall to get into the next field.  I then turned to check on the cows and they were walking towards me.  Oh God!  The next field was also full of cows and sheep and they were widely dispersed all over the field and right across my pathway!  I was stuck in the hedge!  I couldn't move for fear of drawing attention to myself and Skye and making the curious cows come over to me.  But wait!  There was a noise behind me and now a dozen cows from the first field were actually within arms reach.  A brave one stuck her nose in the hedge and stuck out it's tongue.  Luckily Skye and I were at the other side of the wall and they couldn't get to us.  I waited for what felt like an eternity...I was trying to figure out what to do in order to get back to the van before darkness.  I was trying to judge the distance to the gate and how fast I thought I could run if the herd decided to chase. Poor Skye was so patient! She keep looking at me for reassurance and I was trying my hardest to be the brave "alpha".  Finally I decided to go for it and walked along the path (within inches of one cow) at a very brisk pace...we made it! Phew!  I have no idea if my fear is justified - I honestly didn't think that cows and dogs went well together!

The rest of my stay in Padstow was relatively chilled out.  I got the most out of my WiFi this time because on Monday I decided to catch up on X Factor and watched 6 hours of it on ITV player.  Sad, I know.  I left on Tuesday morning and made my way to North Devon and to a site called Umberleigh.  The site was chosen due to it's proximity to my Wednesday appointment.  It was a perfectly good site but no dog walks for Skye close by.  I had to be up early on Wednesday to make my way to Combe Martin in order to meet Shaun Ellis at the Wolf Centre.  I had booked a one hour session with Shaun to hear about his experience of working (and living) with wolves.  What a wonderful man - so full of knowledge and experience - I could have listened to him all day.  I got to meet one of the wolf hybrids - an amazing animal.  The session totally re-ignited my passion for canine psychology.  The wolf centre run different courses ranging from 1 day to 5 days which I will look into doing next year.

Next it was off to another campsite deep in the Cheddar Gorge at a place called Mendip Heights - what a surprising little campsite!  The drive up was stunning - totally unexpected. 

The warden at the campsite gave me such a warm welcome and advised me to take a walk into the village and go to one of the (dog friendly) pubs for food which I did. I chose the Queen Victoria and I ordered garlic chicken in a creamy white wine & mushroom sauce - it was ok but I could not detect any garlic at all! At least the walk there and back gave Skye a little bit of exercise though it was starting to get dark on the way back and Skye was on edge of course. She is such a nervous dog at the best of times and all this moving around, new locations, new smells is making her worse. 

Cheddar campsite was excellent - I would definitely come back but this is the campsite where everything changed.  In a matter of days the temperature dropped by about 20 degrees!  Honestly, my winter coat came out and I could have worn gloves (if I could find them!).  It was wet and windy all night.  It was exactly this point when I decided to cut my trip short by 2 days.  The fact that so many of my clothes were soaked through and I had no means to dry them was the deciding factor.

On Thursday I had an appointment with a lecturer at Bristol University.  It turned out the Vet School was only about 20 mins away from the Cheddar campsite so I had an easy journey for once.  It is quite interesting that anyone I talk to about going back to University, mentions the fact that I haven't studied for over 15 years so I would not get onto an Animal Psychology/Behaviour course without first doing an Open University course in science.  It does help make my mind up though.  My appointment was mid afternoon so by the time I got out, I only had a few hours of driving in order to get to my next campsite.  This time, I had nothing booked but was heading North and wanted to get as close to the M6 as possible.  I made it to Clent Hills on the outskirts of Birmingham - just as rush hour kicked in. The temperature here plummeted at night time and I typed up my blog in the van with freezing fingers - it is definitely time to go home.  I could see my own breath!

On Friday, I was determined to drive as far as possible before dark.  I had originally considered staying the weekend in the Lake District but the freezing temperatures and my strong desire for my "home" forced me to bypass the Lakes and cross the border into Scotland - Home!  I was on the road for about 6 hours and made it to Moffat by 5pm. This campsite definitely ticked a lot of my boxes.  It was perfect and surprisingly busy.  The campsite was within walking distance to the town centre so I ventured to the Buccleuch Arms (a dog friendly pub) for food and wine.

On Saturday, I was up and away early and finally made it home (after a stop at my mum's for a cuppie) by late afternoon!  Ahh...home, sweet, home.

I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it is to be home.  A comfy bed, a clean shower and TV!  There are so many things that I took forgranted - like being able to make a cup of tea by just turning a switch, being able to get changed without dodging the puddles in the shower room or without sitting on the floor in Dougal hoping no-one can see me, being able to hear music/radio without having to consider what other electrical appliances I have on that might blow a fuse, being able to dry my hair, having water on tap, being able to lie out and watch tv...the list goes on.  Camping is wonderful but home is better and I won't ever forget that.

I have made some decisions during the road trip which I will tell you about in next week's blog.

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