Thursday, 2 August 2012

Damage Barton, Devon, episode one......


So, where do I start? At the beginning I suppose.

Up bright and early Monday morning, showered, dressed and walking to pick up the van by 6am.  I'd forgotten there were two 6 0'clock's in one day. Tried to start the van quietly,but ha, it's deisel, at least I pulled away as quietly as I could. Go round to pick up my sis and we're off by seven, only 300 miles to go...... and herein started my baptism of fire. 

The journey was great, got a bit tired towards the end, but the 'Damage Barton' sign was a welcome sight after eight hours on the road. So, down to business. Checked in, paid the rest of the fees, filled up the water tank and parked the van. I needed a cuppa, so I plugged in the electric and put the kettle on. You have to get your priorities right.

With my lovely, welcoming cup of coffee in hand, I decided to take a picture of the beautiful panoramic view of the Bristol Channel from the front seat of the camper. I'd been looking forward to this for months, waking up to this spectacular view every morning.

Oh..... did I fail to mention that the campsite was so high, we were SAT in a cloud and it was freezing. Not only that, the wind was blowing at 30 miles an hour, rocking, no, BUFFETING the van violently from side to side and front to back and top to bottom and bottom to top. I think you get the gyst. I just prayed I had a good hand brake, but I decided to slip it into first gear aswell. Insurance.

The next job was to put up the awning, but no way was I going to even attempt to put it up in this. I decided to wait until Tuesday.

So what about tea, ahhhh...... I remember something about a fish n chip van visiting the site. Yeh, it's tonight. So fed and watered, showered and in bed and laying awake listening to the wind lashing the van. Lovely. It'll be better tomorrow.


This is me coming back from the shower block next morning, it's in the background. Oh that's right, you can't see it can you, because we're still sitting in a CLOUD.

The weather forecast for the next five days was always posted in reception and according to it, the weather was going to stay rather inclement for a few more days yet. Isn't that a nice word, inclement, too nice to be describing the FOUL weather we were experiencing. We daren't even go for a walk, we couldn't see the footpaths. It would be just our luck to fall off the cliff.

Already the van was becoming very cramped, the plan was to have the awning up by now. Bugger it, I was going to put it up, even if the wind was still 25 miles an hour, I could do it.

We dragged the awning bag down from the overhead bed space and set about working it out. Neither of us had put one up before, I didn't even know what kind it was, I bought it with the van. Foolhardy I hear you shout, well, you might be right, but I am a very tenacious girl. Whatsmore, I had a rubber mallet.

We got it all laid out on the ground outside and I started looking round for the tent pegs. NO TENT PEGS?!?!? Why would there be no tent pegs?  Off to the site shop I went, no idea how many I needed, so I started off with twenty hard standing eight inch nails, with hooks on. Well that's what they looked like and me with a rubber mallet!!!!!!

The frame was assembled, awning laid out on top, as per utube video, and slowly we unfolded it. Yeh, it was starting to resemble an awning.  Ok, next step, extend the legs and throw the flap over the van, then anchor the two guy ropes (before it blows away) It's a drive-away awning by the way. Sue could't help, she was holding onto the awning, to prevent it becoming a kite.

I went into the van to grab a few tea towels to use as weights, so I could throw the guy ropes over the roof. Are you still with me? Good.  Well, they were all SOAKING WET.  I didn't have time to investigate, Sue was struggling outside, the wide eyed, rabbit in headlights look was a bit of a giveaway.

I wrapped the rope around the tea towels and launched them both over the van. Yeh, first try. I ran round the other side and whacked two eight inch nails in and anchored the flap.  Sue looked a bit easier now, her arms weren't being ripped off with each gust of wind, well not as badly. I gave her a 'DON'T LET GO' look.

Right, next job, secure the legs and fasten the guy ropes down.  I threw the remaining contents of the bag on the floor, curtains, curtain poles, inner bedroom tent, NO FLAMING GUY ROPES. The sheer panic returned to Sue's face, she had to stand and hold it while I disappeared to the shop, again. Off  I went and bought two packs of guy rope and a pack of metal tensioners, oh, and ten more nails. I'd noticed there were an awful lot of elastic hooks around the bottom of the awning. See, I did knew something, I wasn't completely clueless.

Tensioners  secured and guy ropes knotted to each corner of the awning, I banged in four more nails with my RUBBER mallet and hooked them into place. Finally, it was more secure and Sue could let go. We zipped the side and front flaps on and Sue disappeared inside to make a much needed cup of coffee, while I set about banging in the rest of the hooks.

By this time I was absolutely soaking wet, not from sweat, but from the cloud vapour. My long curly hair was a frizzy mess, I looked like crystal tips. Please don't say 'WHO?'  The only way I was going to manage to get the pegs in with that stupid mallet was to get really mad. So I thought of the bloke who sold me a camper, complete with awning, with no tent pegs and guy ropes. Oh, and a leaking kitchen tap. It worked, I cursed each peg in, while mumbling unrepeatable incantations. Could this get any worse?

 Oh, believe me, it did. Read on........

After having to buy another ten pegs, that's forty in all, the awning was secure. It was going NOWHERE, I hoped. I was so proud of myself, it only took me four hours.  I hope nobody was videoing me though, I'd hate to be on utube. Needless to say, the next time will be easier, AND I'll use a PROPER mallet.

And here it is, the little beauty......Impressed? It was so lovely to have extra space.  The cloud lifted that evening and we actually got to enjoy the view. We could see the Bristol Channel. It was still pretty cloudy though and as windy as hell, but at least we could see past the next van. To make matters worse, people were starting to return to their vans and telling us they had been only a few miles from the site and there were no clouds. Grrrr........ We decide that if it was cloudy next morning we would take the bus to Ilfracombe, to get below the cloud.

Anyway, I had a nice hot shower to warm me up and after tea we settled down to watch some telly. It was no surprise to find we had no signal, so DVD's it was. Don't think we slept much at all that night, the wind was not only rocking the van, it was getting under all the flaps in the awning and making a right racket. The flap on the roof was the worst, the wind kept picking it up and SLAPPING it back down. It was a miracle it stayed up, but stay up it did.

As for the tap, it was leaking like a drain. Sue suggested putting a cloth round it and to let the ends hang in the sink so the water would drain away. It worked, YEH. Clever old thing aint she? 

Surely it can't be like this for the whole nine days. Surely.........

Do come back for episode two, you won't believe what happened next, or perhaps you would.

Jools.   xxx


  1. oh what a fabulous read .. and i cant believe it.. we have the same dancing flower on our dashboard.. and our awning looks very similar .. and putting it up for the first time was very similar too lol
    As campers for many years .. i think i will probably believe what happens in episode 2 lol... i have stood on hedgehogs in the middle of the night .. had ducks and Bats in my tent.. but i love it1
    Lisa x

    1. Hi Lisa, well it obviously didn't put you off and I'm not going to let it put me off either. Episode two doesn't involve wildlife. See ya tomorrow. Jools. xxx