As part of our preparation for our four month trip abroad, we’re trying to get away as often as we can to get used to motorhome life. Those preparations included digging out our bicycles which have been hanging in the garage for *counts fingers* er… probably ten years eek! Despite this they didn’t seem in too bad nick, dirty rather than rusty, with flat tyres and looking rather sorry for themselves. Ken has done a deal with the younger brother of one of his learner drivers – a keen cyclist – who has agreed to give them a good clean and lube, change the tyres, tubes and brake blocks and adjust anything which needs adjusting for a small financial consideration and a few free lessons when he turns 17! We didn’t want to go out and spend a fortune on new bikes as they’re going to be hanging off the back of the van in all weathers and sadly security is a bit of an issue. If these old bikes get stolen it’ll be a pain but not a tragedy.
Dropping off the bikes gave us the opportunity to try out the bike rack we had fitted to Vince as part of our deal. I’m pleased to say it was quick and painless to mount them securely on the rack; I wish I could say it was equally painless reversing Vince down the narrow street at the drop-off address! Reversing was the only option as there was no way we were going to be able to turn round at the bottom.
With the bikes safely delivered we set off for a one-nighter to St. Asaph in North Wales. Many caravan parks close up for the winter, re-opening on 1st March or thereabouts. Rhuallt Country Park is a year-round site so we booked the day before and received the barrier code & shower block entry code by email as there is no warden on site. The sun shone on our journey up there, an easy couple of hours north on the A41. We’ve travelled that road many times in the car if the M6 has a problem and cursed the slow-moving trucks and caravans. This time it was our turn to hold up the traffic – we did our best to drive at 50-55mph but hey, there are hills and bends you know!
We are getting quicker at setting up on arrival. Electricity, water and waste water drainage were soon in place, tea was brewed and ham & tomato rolls wolfed while Vince’s blown-air heating warmed us up. Ken’s quick feet-up read of the paper was rudely interrupted when Gill insisted we head into St. Asaph to explore. The site was about a mile and a half from the town so we kitted up with jumpers and waterproofs to combat the gales and set off. The footpath took us parallel to a dual carriageway for most of the way so we had to combat the constant traffic noise to make ourselves heard but fortunately we soon swung over a footbridge on to quieter roads in to the town itself. There was evidence here of the recent flooding with still-submerged fields and fallen trees, making us grateful that we live fairly high up in Shropshire where we escaped the worst of the weather thrown at the rest of the country.
What can I say about St. Asaph? Well on the positive side we saw the Cathedral beside the beautiful monument dedicated to the translators who produced the first Welsh-language bible in 1588. There were snowdrops, daffodils and crocuseseses in early bloom, we saw the River Elwy and learned about some local characters: Henry Morton Stanley was brought up in the St. Asaph Workhouse for the Poor and is perhaps best known for uttering the words “Dr Livingston I presume” when he finally found the famous missing explorer in Africa in 1871. Dic Aberdaron’s grave is in the south-west corner of St. Asaph Parish Church. Aberdaron is alleged to have spoken fifteen languages and spent his life on the road, wandering barefoot from place to place carrying only his books and his cat. He was described as ‘one quarter idiot, three quarters genius’ which is a strange coincidence, Ken being three-quarters idiot and one quarter er…lard.
The less positive aspects of our visit included a lack of open hostelries; the only open pub had a sign in every single window saying THIS PUB DOES NOT SERVE FOOD in big shouty capitals – very welcoming, not! We found the back streets of the town very run down and everywhere there was an all-pervading smell of chips. Maybe we caught them on a bad day but we won’t be rushing back.
The caravan site has a lovely bar and restaurant but unfortunately they were closed for a post-festive season break. We knew this before we set off however, so we’d stocked up with a couple of prime steaks for Ken to fry up medium-rare. If only we could think of something to accompany them…oh yeah, how about chips?
Every time we’ve been away with Vince so far, we seem to bed down to the sounds of roaring wind and lashing rain. This trip was no exception! It’s so cosy in the warm van, nightcap in hand and listening to all that weather going on outside.
Sunday morning saw us taking advantage of the excellent shower facilities rather than using Vince’s cupboard, then we disconnected from the services to head off before 11.30 – the site’s draconian terms and conditions left us in no uncertain terms that we’d be charged for another night if we were any later. We decided to head north to have a look at the coast and managed to find a large parking slot at Kinmel Bay Nature Reserve west of Rhyl. We kitted up and went for a wander along the sea front in the howling wind. After fifteen minutes of being sand-blasted and deafened we gave it up as a bad job and retired back to the van to start the run home. One of the nicest things about taking your home with you is that if you’re feeling a little ‘tired’ after one too many red wines with your steak, you can just pull over for tea and toast and a little rest before carrying on with your journey. And as a middle-aged fella Ken can’t speak highly enough of taking your own loo with you…