Sunday, 13 November 2016

Blog Has Moved!

Please note that this blog has moved to Wordpress due to problems with the Blogger App. The new blog address is https://drivingmisterdickie.wordpress.com/



Saturday, 12 November 2016

Dickie Does Dorset


The first time we went to Lulworth Cove a naked man with a gigantic penis emerged from the sea. It was December and the freezing rain and wind did nothing to cause the usual shrinkage that chaps experience in cold weather. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a photo as by the time I had regained consciousness he’d draped a towel around the offending article.


This time, yesterday, we met a film crew. Not quite as eye-popping but rather fabulous as they are making a movie of the book ‘On Chesil Beach’.  All that emerged from the sea was a rather attractive cameraman in a figure hugging wetsuit, fresh from filming on a rather attractive sailboat.

By coincidence, last night we found ourselves parked up by Chesil Beach when we discovered a place near Portland that is popular with Windsurfers. Loving the visitor’s centre there. Really interesting and attractive stock which is a massive change from most such establishments.


We’re in Dorset house hunting. Having spent the last 20 years in Boscastle we feel it’s now time to move on for a new adventure. The area we’re focusing on is around Hengitsbury Head/Southbourne but we may expand our search. We need somewhere that has beaches, walks, shops, theatres and good restaurants – np biggie. If anyone wants to recommend anywhere please do.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Orkney Field Trip

After Graham arrived at John O'Groats from 1150 mile walk he sat down and had a lovely rest...NOT!
So as not to get too complacent we got into Dickie and headed over to Orkney via the Gills Bay ferry to St Margaret's Hope.
The crossing was about £80 for two people and a 6M motorhome. Hugo the dog was free. 
It's a great place for anyone with an interest in archaeology. Our first stop was on the southern tip of the Eastern mainland at The Tomb of the Eagles. There we found both Neolithic and Bronze Age burial sites. 
We found a lovely place to stop for the night on the side of the road not far from there and had lovely views across to the mainland.
The next day was spent touring the Italian Chapel, the Ring of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and Skara Brae.
We booked into see Maeshowe burial chamber on Monday as you can only see it with a tour guide and we headed off for a drive around the western island to see where we'd end up. We found the Brochure of Gurness and stayed the night there by the beach.
We loved Stenness so much we went back the next day and saw the Barnhouse just 200 m away from it which we'd missed the day before.
Maeshowe was interesting but no photos were allowed. It has some fabulous Viking rune graffiti on its interior walls. It looks a bit like Silbury Hill from the outside.
We caught the evening ferry back and unfortunately a truck reversed into our driver side wing mirror as it was getting onto the ferry. The ferry company was very good and accepted responsibility and will pay for the damage...we hope.
If you are interested in archaeology do go to Orkney - it's very easy to get around and there are lovely places to free camp or other campsites close to towns and beaches.

Friday, 10 June 2016

A Gift at the End of the Road

I drove into John o'Groats feeling very proud of myself for having driven such a long way from Cornwall. The road was pretty straight and pretty quiet which made life easier.
Walking around feeling very pleased with myself, I noticed a group of people arriving in a couple of painted up 4 X 4s. I asked them what they were doing and they had just driven all the way from Bangalore in India. They have been trying to raise awareness of organ donation and their trip is being filmed.
Their trip took them from southern India, across China, Kyrgystan, Russia, parts of Scandinavia, then through Europe to John o'Groats. It certainly makes my trip from Cornwall seem rather a paltry affair. 
I spoke to one of the girls who said they had had no trouble on the trip apart from the odd official looking at their papers rather closely. The people they have met along the way have made it a very special trip, she said.
You can check out their Facebook page 'Gift of Life Adventure' if you want to know more. 
I put Radio 4 on when I arrived at our campsite and there was a programme on about a boy called Martin whose parents had donated his heart after he died. These parents had then met the recipient of his heart. A very touching story and quite timely considering the group I had just met.

Graham will be here tomorrow to end his walk from Land's End.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Carrying on to the Cairns of Camster

One more day before Graham arrives at John O'Groats. I've mastered the art of driving up incredibly thin Scottish roads with passing places to allow oncoming traffic to go past. At first I was terrified as, of course, a giant truck appeared behind me going much to fast for the conditions and gave me 8 miles of high blood pressure until I arrived at my destination.
The place we chose to wild camp for the night was the parking area at the Cairns of Camster, two 5,000 year old burial chambers. It's about 30 miles from John O'Groats and extremely interesting. Bodies were found sitting upright in the entrance way and cremated bodies within the central chamber.  
The cairns have been very well preserved and the sheep were loving it. We even found a couple of lamb's tails that had been disconnected from their bodies. 
You have to crawl in to get into the internal chambers so it's not for the large of buttock. I only managed to get into one with a wider entrance. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Getting Closer to John O'Groats

It was great to finally meet up with Graham at Inverness. We met at Torvean campsite which was directly on the Caledonian Canal so he didn't have to take a detour.

I am finally enjoying the driving. The curliness of the roads has calmed down a bit and I'm feeling more confident.

We've mainly been staying at campsites which is unusual for us but it gives Graham a specific target for the day and I feel more comfortable with other people around. Having said that I am currently parked at the car park for Badbea, an historic clearance village, near Berridale in Caithness. We'll wild camp here tonight. People were moved to this cliff side village in the late 18th/early 19th centuries to make way for sheep in the glens. Although it is stunningly beautiful it must have been a terribly hard life on these windswept cliffs.

The beaches are stunning along this coastline and it's getting a bit more hilly as we get closer to John O'Groats. It is a nesting area for Arctic Terns and I even found a dead puffin on the beach in Brora. Golf clubs are everywhere up here and they are extremely busy. Everyone is making the most of the fabulous weather we're having. 

It's only 45 miles to John O'Groats now so Graham hopes to finish in about a week. He's done so well and looks extremely fit. He only has the odd callous on his feet and a pair of aching shoulders. Since I've arrived he can carry less in his pack and, at the moment, he is able to stay overnight in Dickie every day instead of camping out. I think he's secretly missing his early nights in the middle of nowhere but he's also loving the luxury of a warm shower and a duvet.


We've decided that once he's finished the walk I will drive around a few distilleries so he can do a few tasters.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Arriving in The Highlands

I'm sitting in a lovely campsite near Onich overlooking a loch and the sun is shining. I've even been sunbathing this afternoon - panic not there was no swimsuit involved, just a summery frock.
Last night I stayed at The Falkirk Wheel. What an incredible piece of engineering. It took me a couple of hours to work out that the canal boats were actually lifted onto the Union Canal from the Forth & Clyde - yes I am a bit thick when it comes to engineering. It was £10 to stay overnight in the car park and there were four or five other vans there.
The drive was much more relaxing today despite being rather curly at times. I seemed to be following Graham's route to John O'Groats which was rather lovely. The road wound its way up through Glen Coe and the scenery was magnificent. Unfortunately as I was driving I couldn't take any photos. 
Below are some photos of my campsite tonight.


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Scotland ... I've arrived

I pitched up to The Three Merry Lads in Sheffield yesterday afternoon and had a rather gorgeous view over  Redmires Dam. 
After a rather lovely evening of chicken fajitas and red wine at my friends' Deb and Paul's house I slept well in readiness for my venture today. 
While there were far fewer trucks on the A1M today the roadworks were virtually continuous all the way up to my turnoff towards Jedburgh. My 4 hour trip turned into a 6 hour one so I'm now having a well-deserved cider in the Horse & Hound pub near Hawick in Scotland. Dinner is at 615PM - a little earlier than my usual but as I haven't had lunch and am about to pass out from hunger I am keen to get stuck in. 
Hopefully the food will be better here than the last two places I stayed. Although it is great to stay at Britstops as it's usually free the food in the last couple of pubs has been average at best. The beverages, however, have been great.
After seeing in a magazine that a willow pig is the latest in essential items to own, imagine my e3xcitement when I came across one such pig in a garden centre. I'm not sure if the hedgehog shares its essential- tag but I refrained from the purchase of either.
Tomorrow I will head up to Falkirk's Wheel and catch up with Mr Fluffy in a few days.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Heading North

While Graham has views like this: 
I have Emmerdale in the background and a view of this: 
Day 4 and I have braved the M5 M6 to get to The Wheatsheaf pub just off J11 on the M6. I spent a lovely day in Wells yesterday with Graham's mother then had a hideous drive up past Birmingham today.
I had a little lie down to recover from the stress and I'm hoping the driving will be calmer from now on. By the way....I hate trucks.
I was overtaken by about 12 in a row in a 50 mile an hour zone with skinny lanes.....and I was going about 50 so I hope they get booked. I also witnessed a Chinese chap texting in the outside lane of the M5 - he barely looked up from his phone. I certainly get a good view from up in my high cab seat. 
Will be heading in the direction of Sheffield from tomorrow. Hopefully will catch up with friends there that I haven't seen for ages.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

First Day Complete

Well I have made it to Chelstons in Taunton on day one of the support team challenge. I'm all plugged in and watered up in readiness for my first night in Dickie.
May I say that I've just eaten what can laughingly be described as pasta with sauce. If you are ever tempted to eat Budgens home brand refridgerated pasta, do your self a favour and buy something else. It was the most flavour-free meal I have ever had the non-excitement of eating. Hugo is currently chewing on his tail which, I'm sure, would be more tasty than my pasta.
At least I have some of Helen's yummy scones to fill my gastric void.
I'm up early tomorrow to get the van in for its service at 8AM - hideous - then on to Wells to meet up with Graham's mother for an interview about his family history. 
Looking forward to getting up to Scotland to experience this gorge scenery.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Finally Off to Scotland

It seems like I have been preparing for this support mission for ages but today I am finally off. After a quick visit to the vets this morning to check out Hugo's protruding buttocks I will be finalising the packing and heading for Chelstons near Wellington for Dickie's service and MOT.
Luckily I can stay overnight at Chelstons rather than get up at dawn's crack tomorrow to be there for 8AM. It's about a 2 1/2 hour drive so not too stressful.
Despite being a tad terrified about driving to Scotland all by myself in such a large van, I'm kind of looking forward to it as well. My own little adventure.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Solo Support Team

My partner Graham is currently walking from Land's End to John O'Groats and is making great progress. He left Cornwall March 21st and is now in Edinburgh.

I am now about to undertake the terrifying task of driving Dickie from Cornwall up to Scotland by myself (with the help of our small dog Hugo).
Kerriann holding Hugo the dog
me and Hugo


The furthest I've been before is from Boscastle to St Austell and back and then to Wells and back; both on support missions for Graham's walk. I managed OK after my initial trepidation but I have not driven quite this far in the van before. 

This section of our blog will cover my trip from Cornwall to Scotland in our (to me) gigantic Hymer and hopefully the 'not very exciting' adventures I will have along the way.
Silver Hymer parked by a loch
Dickie in Scotland last year
So if you see me on the road give us a wave.
Click on the link to catch up on Graham's blog

Saturday, 23 January 2016

No Women Found In the Search for Fanny

'Why not call her Fanny?' I watched Tracey's face in the iPad Skype screen for her reaction.

My cousin likes the name we chose for our motorhome, 'Dickie', and as I have a childish and, some may say puerile, sense of humour, I thought Fanny would be an amusing moniker for their new van. Tracey chortled merrily, called over her shoulder to her husband Peter, 'how about a Fanny to go with Dickie?' and Fanny was born. Now we just had to find her before they arrived from Australia.

Henceforth, for the last week my partner Mr Fluffy and I have been scouring the motorhome dealerships of the south west for a new van to be ready for them when they arrive for their European odyssey. We've made a bit of a road trip out of it and have eaten in some very charming Britsops along the way; the Crown Inn at Catcott being a fine example.

The thing that stood out for me as we visited these dealerships is that there was not one woman salesperson at any of the seven sites we went to. We asked one salesman in Somerset about it and he said 'we had a couple of 'girls' here but they only lasted three or four months'. Perhaps they weren't keen on being called 'girls'.

Has anyone else noticed this? Is it just me? I hear there may be one or two up north so perhaps it is just the south west. I shall attend the Exeter motorhome show next week and see if any crop up.

Anyway it's just an observation. We did manage to find Fanny. It's quite daunting choosing a van for someone else as it's such a personal choice but, after much Skypeing and emailing of photos and videos, we made a choice: a Burstner Travel Van. She'll be waiting to take them on their adventures when they arrive after their long flight from Australia in a few weeks time.

Fridge Flues Can be Alarming

To say we were thrilled to have survived the night without being poisoned by carbon monoxide (CO) would be an understatement. We were wild camping in the Cabo de Palos area of Spain and had noticed a strange sooty smell in the van but could not determine the cause. We'd kept the windows open overnight as I was worried about the strange aroma. While walking back to the van after a short mooch around town we  heard a high pitched alarm emanating from 'Dickie', our 2008 Hymer 508. Worried that someone had tried to break in while we were on our stroll we dashed back to discover the sound was coming from our CO alarm which, thankfully, we had fitted when we first bought the vehicle a couple of years ago. As the windows and doors were all locked tight the CO had been able to accumulate. The meter was reading 61 which, according to the information on the meter itself, is a fairly dangerous level.

'Dickie' had undergone a habitation check about 6 weeks before so we were stumped as to what could be the cause. Being a weekend we could not do much about it but we emailed our British dealer who gave us the details of a Spanish motorhome mechanic in Almeria for us to contact. Unfortunately they were unable to fit us in for a couple of weeks and we weren't keen to risk it so it was lucky that the following day we met a chap with a similar problem who knew of a local dealer who could help us out straight away. Luckily the weather was good enough for us to keep the windows and skylight open to keep air flowing in the van.
Freeing the flue at Caravanas Lorca

Caravanas Lorca was a couple of hours away but, with a typically laid-back Spanish attitude, the mechanic grabbed a ladder and small chimney sweep-style brush and got to work. 'This is a common problem', the mechanic said, and proceeded to clear a huge pile of soot from the refrigerator flue. A few sweeps and around 40 Euros later we were on our way with a perfectly cleansed flue and perplexed expressions on our faces. How on earth can a habitation check miss such an important detail as a blocked fridge outlet? We decided to investigate.

When we contacted our dealer about this situation they responded:  'Our habitation service complies with industry standard which all reputable Motor Caravan dealers follow'. They were right. According to 'The Approved Workshop' (a joint enterprise between the National Caravan Council, The Caravan Club and The Camping and Caravanning Club which is the benchmark for motorhome and touring caravan servicing) website: Gas appliances will be safety checked but not serviced as part of the basic service; you can ask for this to be carried out (at an extra cost). Please note some appliance manufacturers will not continue any warranty into the second or third year unless the appliance has been serviced annually - check with your appliance manufacturer. Whilst the flues should be routinely checked for correct attachments, and be free from damage and corrosion, the pipe itself is not checked and cleaned unless requested. The vehicle is checked for leakage of gases at the time of service but, as shown by our experience, is no guarantee that in a few weeks' or months' time a leak will not occur and cause CO poisoning.

The sample Annual Motorhome Service Habitation checklist which can be downloaded from the Approved Workshop website (www.approvedworkshops.co.uk) states 'Fridge not serviced unless requested.' Had we been made aware of this at the time of service we would have had it done. According to the Camping and Caravanning Club website, motorhome and caravan owners '...should advise your workshop if you require the appliance to be serviced rather than just checked for function'. I think this needs to be made clear by the dealers when booking in for a habitation check as the consequences of CO poisoning can be very serious indeed.

The gas itself is odourless and colourless so cannot be detected unless you have an alarm. It binds with the haemoglobin in your red blood cells so reduces the amount of oxygen that can be carried in your bloodstream and can cause serious brain injury as the body is starved of oxygen. If you do not have an alarm the symptoms to look out for are: headache, nausea, and general malaise. They then worsen to include confusion, dizziness, shortness of breath and even chest pain. Death is the final symptom. As you can see the early symptoms can be confused with common illnesses like flu, food poisoning or even a hangover. CO Alarms are designed to alarm before there is an immediate life threat so you will be alerted to the danger and be able to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. They cost anywhere between £15 and £25 so are not a great expense. We are very happy to have had one and we test it regularly to make sure the batteries are working.


In our situation, the industry standard was followed and our motorhome dealer acted within the regulations when performing 'Dickie's' habitation check. We weren't informed that an extra check on the refrigerator flue was required and we presumed all necessary safety checks were being undertaken. Perhaps it's time for the industry standard to be improved and for all motorhomers to be made aware verbally of the extra checks that could be undertaken to ensure gas appliances are in the safest shape possible. This does cost a little extra (we've been quoted around £25) but is nothing when your health and, indeed, your life can be in danger from 'the silent killer'.