Posts Tagged 'motor home'





We chose the name Madge as a joke, because we bought the motor home from Simpson. Now a reliable source has advised that Bart’s mother is Marge. It’s only one consonant out, but we’re left with the quandary of keeping an irrelevant name or going through the whole tedious process of fixing a new name in our minds. What to do?


meeting madge

At last we break our silence. Our trusty Hobby 690 GES has left home to take up with new partners and, after we had a brief but unfulfilling flirtation with Triggy, Madge has joined the family. She’s a Swift Mondial GT, a sleek and comely dark-grey-blue panel van conversion.

We made a deliberate decision to downsize. Hobby was great for comfort but she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) reach some of the places we wanted to venture. Now, Madge at 6 metres long is a perfect fit. Anywhere an ordinary van can go, we can go, and we have much more scope for exploration in places where narrow and short is a distinct advantage.

Having said that, we do have a puzzle. All documentation and records show Madge as being 6 metres long. Even the very helpful customer service department at Swift confirmed that the van is a standard Peugeot Boxer as it arrived from the factory and is (if anything) a fraction less than the declared 6 metres. Yet my tape measure definitely measures her to 6.2 metres, suggesting she’s grown in the two years since Swift produced her. She shows no signs of post-factory modifications, so we have a mystery.

Does this mean we’ve bought the first truly organic camper van in the world? Has Madge grown by 0.2 metres since 2010? And what are the implications for the future? Has Madge experienced some terrestrial big bang and is expanding at a universally alarming rate? If such growth rates are sustained, she’ll be as long as our Hobby within 10 years. Will her internal organs such as lockers, seats and storage space also grow commensurate with her length, or will we find gaps developing in her layout? Too many questions again; too few answers.

A new era begins, the start of the Madge Epoch. The trouble is she cost us so much we can’t now afford to go away in her.

unexpected dovedale

pollys cottage_1

polly's cottage, milldale

Much of the mystery of travel in the UK has gone these days. Everything worth seeing is assiduously recorded and publicised on the internet, in guide books, magazines, leaflets or travelogues. When we journey to a new area, we’re not exactly emulating Marco Polo or even H. V. Morton. Most things have been discovered and we journey to view them so they can be ticked off against our list of 1001 places to see before we die.

Perhaps for that reason, we take most pleasure in unexpected delights. They are usually fairly minor events, but all the more intensely exciting because they surprise us. We didn’t know they were there.

For example, earlier in the year we paid a visit to Derbyshire. On a day of snow flurries and heavy hail, we walked through Dovedale. We mentally ticked off anticipated sights – Lion Rock, the caves, Tissington Spires, Lovers’ Leap and the famous stepping stones to name a few – and agreed that the three miles of river gorge, deep craggy valley and meandered water meadows deserved every published eulogy.

Yet for us, our greatest joys were when we came across three unheralded sights, one at each end of the short walk, and one on the approaches. The first was Polly’s. Her little shop is tucked away on the corner of a tiny lane in Milldale. From over the stable door, open only at the top, she serves mouth watering sandwiches for the hungry. Queues form outside; we’re not allowed into the cottage no matter the weather – I doubt she has room anyway. Her fare is probably unsuitable for the pretensions of the likes of Giles Coren, but after a five mile walk with another nine ahead, what she fashions out of bread and sundry fillings seems like a snack fit for a wilting emperor. Never walk Dovedale without taking refreshment at Polly’s.

Where Dovedale ends is the village of Thorpe. Here we climbed a steep hill heading for the Tissington Trail to lead us north. As we topped the brow of the hill, music was flowing down the slope towards us. And here we found our second unannounced delight. Dovedale Garage forecourt is home to the Mighty Compton Organ, and two vast mechanical organs mounted on the backs of lorries were pumping out their deep breathy and brassy melodies. We could almost taste the candyfloss and sniff the nostalgic aroma of fried onions mingling with old mown grass, redolent of the fairgrounds of our day. The Galloping Major cantered through and reluctantly we wrested ourselves away to follow. Time was now pressing.

Rain spattered us; at times we had to lean into the wind. Then, half-way home, the sun burned a small gap in the clouds and bathed nearby hills in golden evening light, finding the tower of a distant hilltop church, I think at Ballidon. We sat on an opportune bench and looked across the shallow valley as for about 120 seconds the landscape was afire with gleaming greens and golden russets framed by darkling clouds. Behind us, a solitary farmer worked late repairing a dry-stone wall while his old wiry dog twitched sleepily in the field, no doubt dreaming of bowls of rabbit stew and maybe Polly’s off-cuts of beef and ham. No guide book could prepare us for this vignette of crepuscular pastoral tranquillity.

These little encounters are not something to include in a travel book or a Sunday supplement’s guide to country walking. But for us they give more pleasure than all the seven wonders of Derbyshire combined, simply because they were totally unexpected.

We stayed at Rivendale caravan park. The entire round walk was 14 miles, most of it off-road thanks to the Tissington Trail, the track bed of an abandoned railway line. If you’re interested, the camp site is listed under Ashbourne on the “good camp sites” page.

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