Thursday 13 June 2013.
When we are travelling on a deadline I always wake early. Today I woke at six thirty. So I’m up and at it, getting the tea on, the flasks filled with hot water and a saucepan of porridge coming up to heat on the stove. We breakfast and then tackle the washing up. The wind has stiffened overnight and there are occasional rain showers.
Having a ferry crossing to make in indifferent weather adds spice to the mix.
Niki ponders the sea state as we think about the ferry crossing we booked last night.
Our campsite is close to Calais and is also home to quite a flock of birds. The bird mess is an inconvenience which gets onto our shoe soles when we walk about outside the van on the grass. Despite needing to clean the soles of our shoes we are away by nine.
Almost immediately we take a wrong turn on the roundabout outside the camp-site gate! Then to compound matters we drive through narrow streets of Guines. Things get easier as we escape into the countryside and head for Calais.
We have a laugh as we pass a sign post to Ham. Ham is undergoing roadworks. The road surface is half torn up. Last night we encountered a huge truck that insisted on careening through. We stayed on the good road surface as the driver gesticulated at us for being on the wrong side of the road. We laughed as he fumed. Today we had no roadworks to deal with. At the first roundabout we pick up the motorway which Niki has correctly identified as “the way” to access the port and ferry terminal. We drove straight to the P&O kiosk, paid the balance for our crossing and joined our allotted line.
We were lucky to be offered the chance to leave earlier than we had initialled booked, time saved and at no extra cost! The ninety minute crossing was straightforward despite winds that the Captain described as “fresh”. Onboard parties of excited French school children are off for their first experiences of England. I recalled the English children we had seen at Thiepval two days ago. The opportunity to travel and experience life as it is lived across the Channel is now very widely shared it seems.
We docked on time and lorries, coaches, cars, cars and caravans, motorcycles and camping cars poured off of the ferry. Somewhere overhead foot passengers were also disembarking. The speed of turnaround mimics that of airlines. I suppose this is part of how they compete on cost and service. As we pass through the customs shed a huddle of police and customs officers are wrapped against the inclement weather. They wave us through.
Out of the docks I notice the pot holes in the roadway just before we reach a section of road where a crew is at work carrying out repairs. These must be some of the hardest worked roads in the country. Potholes can be repaired. The additional challenge today is the wind. The van rocks as she gets buffeted from the side. On hills with a head-on wind we are slowed despite having an efficient vehicle profile (when compared with overcab campers).
We pressed on in the knowledge that as we cleared the coast and moved inland we should be less wind affected. The speed of traffic in UK I found a challenge. It all moves faster here than on Cyprus. I saw drivers weaving across lanes in front of me. There were no accidents but the risks people are taking whilst driving are frightening.
The Dartford tunnel was the only delay we experienced. A £2 toll allowed us to cross beneath the Thames and traffic funnels down and into the tunnel. A brief encounter with a section of the M25 and then we head up the M11 towards Cambridge before turning off towards Newmarket for Mildenhall.
We arrive mid-afternoon and are welcomed by, excited to see us, Baxter and Eric. We pet the dogs, have a cup of tea and an hour dozing, all good restoratives.
Paulie arrives and we take the boys for a walk in the woods. It starts to rain and we gain some shelter by walking under the trees. As we walk around the woods, we catch up on Paulie and Herve’s news. It has been five years since P&H moved to Mildenhall and I’ve noticed during our occasional visits that the forest trees have grown significantly high.
When we arrive back at the house Herve has returned from work. Herve has bought some pork mince, sweet potatoes and is making what we dub “Farmer’s Pie”. A take on shepherds or cottage pie, this is yummy! We get to work sorting through our post. There is quite a lot to deal with after six months.
Supper becomes a special meal with family and a bottle of Rod Easthope NZ Sauvignon, a delicious crisp white wine from the case I bought from Naked Wines some months ago.
Before it got too dark, I pulled Brigitte onto the grass alongside P&H fence. This will be our overnight pitch. Recording the events of the day, an early start, a ferry crossing, driving in gusty cross winds, no wonder my bed beckons!