Week 1 ( ish ) Ardrishaig to St Valery sur Somme
Week 1 – Day 1 – Thursday 28th September 2017
Ardrishaig to Carlisle (via Sauchie) – 224 miles
And so the adventure begins… After months of planning and preparation the first 223 miles are behind us without incident. This was a familiar journey, as Carlisle has been a regular stopping off point on the journey north/south for the last 10 years in the motorhome. Exiting the M6 at junction 44 and following the signs for Carlisle, immediately on the right is the Kingstown Estate, a mix of retail and wholesale warehouses and lots of quiet streets to park up for the night ready for the next leg in the morning. It’s just your luck whether you get an undisturbed sleep or not as there are many lorries stopping over in this Estate as well. We went to sleep with a lorry in front of us and woke to a car and caravan in its place!
Week 1 – Day 2 – Friday 29th September 2017
Carlisle to Boroughbridge (via Leeds) – 148miles
We set off from Carlisle down the M74 but within a few miles the roadside information boards were showing that the motorway was closed at Junction 32 due to a jack-knifed lorry. Rather than sit for potentially hours I diverted off at Penrith to head over the scenic route to Scotch Corner and head south towards Leeds on the A1M, which, apart from the atrocious weather, was a lovely drive. Emma was picked up around 5pm then we headed for Boroughbridge to spend the weekend there. Boroughbridge is a lovely historic little town which is easily missed as it is bypassed by the A1.
Week 1 – Day 3 – Saturday 30th September 2017
Boroughbridge – 0 miles
Taking advantage of a dry morning we walked into the town for a walk about. Boroughbridge benefits from the A1M bypassing it and the town retains an air of prosperity with many good quality local shops. The town is very popular with lycra covered cyclists on expensive looking bikes and many passed through when we were there. After lunch we made our way back to the van as it was threatening rain. Boroughbridge is well worth a stop over.
Week 1 – Day 4 – Sunday 1st October 2017
Boroughbridge to Leeds – 31 miles
The site we stayed at was The Old Hall Holiday Park, a very well maintained site with good facilities, although one shower was probably not enough for the whole site. After a lazy morning on the site we dropped Emma off back in Leeds and then parked up on the outskirts of the city. Twas a breezy night to say the least!
Week 1 – Day 5 – Monday 2nd October 2017
Leeds to Loughborough – 141 miles
Another lazy morning with a bit of shopping before heading down the M1 towards our next stop on the outskirts of Loughborough, close to where we lived for 16 years. This was not the best day to be driving a box on wheels down a motorway with a gale force wind blowing from right to left. The gusts of wind were so bad we came off for a pit stop in Barnsley, and, after refuelling and lunch, we braved the M1 again. We enjoyed our time in the East Midlands and it was good to be back. Again, another free wildcamping night.
Week 1 – Day 6 – Tuesday 3rd October 2017
Loughborough to Melton Mowbray – 24 miles
We used to live about half an hour from the bustling market town of Melton Mowbray, famous the world over for pork pies. On every Tuesday there is a busy farmers market and auction, one of the busiest in England, as well as a really good street market in the town. Even though we are away for the autumn and winter, the hope is that, as we head south through France and into Spain, the weather will be mild, certainly milder than Argyll, so we stopped off at the farmers market to stock up on some of the superb butcher meat for the hoped for barbecues in the weeks to come. The night was spent at Eye Kettleby Lakes on the outskirts of Melton, a superb newish site with many fishing lakes, well stocked with carp ranging up to 19lb along with Bream, Tench, Roach & Rudd. One lake is the home of “Big Chief” a 30lb Mirror Carp. This type of fishing is not my cup of tea, I’m more of a hunter gatherer!
Week 1 – Day 7 – Wednesday 4th October 2017
Melton Mowbray to Bolougne – 285 miles
After a good nights sleep and with the van serviced to last a few days into France we set off for a leisurely drive down to Dover for the 00.50am ferry on Thursday morning. The first stop was the Fosse Park shopping complex at J21 of the M1, not for shopping but to park up in a quiet corner of the vast car park and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi for a few hours! The next leg was to the services at junction 2 of the M40 at Beaconsfield. I used to work out of Amersham and used this junction once or twice a week for almost five years but these services weren’t opened then and they were a bit of a revelation! They are operated by Extra and the food court is a sight to behold with more choice of eating than you will find in any town in the whole of Mid Argyll – JD Wetherspoon, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Greggs, Nando’s, Patisserie Valerie, M&S Simply Food, El Mexicana, West Cornwall Pasty, Carvery Express, Chozen Noodle, Mint Leaves Indian Food and KFC.
Just after 6.30pm, having given the M25 a chance to settle down after the rush hour, we set off for Dover. With this stretch of road you never know what to expect traffic wise, from massive tailbacks to the road being totally blocked with accidents etc. That said, it was a great drive and arrived in Dover almost 4 hours before our planned sailing. Dover Docks were the quietest I had ever seen and it was probably to relieve their boredom that we were selected for a search, a prospect I was dreading as the van was loaded to see us through 6 months. Now I can’t say a word against the bloke who was going to carry out the search as he was very courteous and polite – but – dearie me. After a few questions re offensive weapons and had we any guns, knifes, pepper sprays etc which I answered in the negative I then thought I would confess to having a kitchen drawer full of knifes of all shapes and sizes but that was ok – it was only flick knifes that were deemed a threat! He asked for the van door to be opened and then said he would not go in so after leaning in and having a look he shook my hand and we were free to go. Now I recon we could have got one person in the wardrobe, three in the toilet/shower compartment and ten in the garage compartment so fourteen illegal immigrants, fed up with the rotten UK weather and desperate to return to warmer climes could well have funded the coming six months, but not to be!
It was blowing a proper gale but it was a fairly smooth crossing on what felt like the Marie Celeste. Google Maps did a fine job in getting us to the Auchan hypermarche car park at about 3am and thanks the the joys of a fixed rear bed I was asleep about 3.01am. It felt as though we were in a tumble dryer as the gales buffeted the van but I slept well.
Week 1 – Day 8 – Thursday 5th October 2017
Bolougne to Fort Mahon Plage – 55 miles
After lashing out all of €5 in Auchan we set off for Fort Mahon Plage, a popular summer seaside resort, but a bit of a ghost town out of season, that said, there were quite a few motorhomes in the Aire which is slap bang on the main street, a couple of hundred yards from a glorious beach. On the way down we drove through the elegant resort of Le Touquet, a popular resort for Parisians and then Stella Plage, again another busy summer resort with a fantastic beach.
Week 1 – Day 9 – Friday 6th October 2017
Fort Mahon Plage to Le Crotoy – 10 miles
Today was just a short drive down the coast to Le Crotoy, a lovely little coastal town with one of the most popular motorhome Aires in the whole of France. I gave up counting at 70 vans parked up for the night at €7 a pop. That is 70+ middle aged couples who will frequent the bars, restaurants and shops and give them a much needed out of season income. Compare that to Scotland and the rest of the UK where there are no such facilities and more and more car parks have height barriers to prevent us parking. A blinkered and short sighted approach to attracting tourists who will benefit the local economy. Rant over!
It was a lovely bright sunny afternoon and we walked for seemingly miles to the far side of the town and watched a few people fly kites in the sea breeze on the huge expanse of sand. After sitting for ages taking in the sea view and the activities taking place on the beach we headed back towards the van, stopping at a bar for a reviving liquid refreshment. This was the first time we had tried Leffe Blonde beer de pression and it was superb, if a tad expensive at €4.30 a glass, but, it was €8.60 that the bar has in the till, all due to the motorhome Aire!
Week 1 – Day 9 – Saturday 7th October 2017
Le Crotoy to St Valery Sur Somme – 10 miles
Saturday morning had an amazing sunrise but then proceeded to be pretty grey and overcast, but dry enough for another walk around Le Crotoy, topped off with a moules et frites lunch, the first of many hopefully. As we were having lunch the rain started, but only lasted a couple of hours.
Another giant leap for mankind with a 10 mile hop around to the other side of the estuary and the very pretty little town of St Valery Sur Somme where we spent the night at the municipal Aire which even had power – a bonus for 10 Euros. This train runs around the bay from Le Crotoy and is very popular.
This is the end of our first week away and it feels like much much longer since we left Ardrishaig a week past Thursday. So far, and for the next few weeks, we are re-visiting places we have either visited in the last 10 years in the motorhome, or up to 30 odd years ago when we towed a caravan all the way to Brittany and Normandy from Falkirk.
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