Right, I need to start with the sad news that many of you will have already heard - that Trev’s Mum passed away peacefully on Thursday morning at the grand age of 92. She had been admitted to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge the evening before after her heart really started to struggle and it was clear that her time really was coming to and end. Very sad of course but she has lived a full life and the world will be a much duller - if somewhat quieter - place without her!
So, I’m afraid the title is a bit misleading on this one, as we would have ended up staying at five sites, although now that has dropped to three. Anyway, lets bring you up to date with events prior to Wednesdays sad news.
Patsy spent her first night of the trip on site minus her occupants at our local site - the Caravan & Motorhome Club’s Brighton site at Sheepcote Valley. We’d picked her up from Roundstone Caravans at Southwater in West Sussex where she’d been in for a well overdue service and we’d sited her there to air her out and load up ready for our upcoming trip. I’m delighted - and somewhat relieved - to say that she passed her service with flying colours.
Saturday, once all the caravanning essentials had been loaded in - wine, scoff and long leather coats - we moved in. And so did the weather. The forecasted high winds and heavy rain arrived soon after midnight and it became clear on Sunday morning that we’d have to delay our departure - a decision which was to turn out to be very wise indeed.
So, we had a quick visit to the flat to pick up a few more bits and bobs, Trev thwarting my attempts to sneak in another leather coat. I argued that with the high winds remaining it’s weight would be good ballast for the car but he was having none of it. The remaining time was spent putting up the Christmas lights in Patsy and a quick incursion to Kemp Town for a couple of pints before a forgettable Co-Op ready meal for dinner.
The winds were no less vicious on Monday and the rain was still lashing down but a thorough studying of the weather reports suggested that the winds were confined to the coast, so after a VERY wet pack up we headed off, taking Patsy through Brighton to avoid the high winds likely to be found on the usual route through Woodingdean and through to Falmer.
The rest of the journey was ok - rain and sleet for most of the way but the dangerous winds had gone and most people were driving sensibly. We arrived at Commons Wood Caravan & Motorhome Club site on the edge of Welwyn Garden City to find five inches of snow - and the warden reckoned we wouldn't be able to get to the site entrance the day before, such were the state of the roads.
After a chilly set up and a warming cuppa we had a quick drive around the city, noting locations of various pubs - sorry, research venues - for the coming days.
Tuesday brought with it a frost but some bright sunshine and our first proper look at Welwyn Garden City, and we were both impressed. The central shopping area is nothing outstanding but it’s the wide open spaces surrounding that make it so special. Even with the snow on it looked beautiful and I can only imagine what it’s like in spring, and autumn too with all the changing colours. Welwyn was the second garden city in the UK after Letchworth, being founded in 1920 by one Sir Ebenezer Howard with the aim of combining the benefits of the city and countryside while avoiding the disadvantages of both. Laudable ideals and only those who live there can truly say if it works but it looked and felt a very pleasant place to be. However, no more were built in the UK but there are a few examples of garden cities worldwide, quite a few of which are in Canada.
The afternoon saw us heading a little south to Hatfield - not the town but for a mooch around the Galleria shopping centre. How exciting you might think. Well, yeah but it does have a bit of history worth noting - it was built over the A1(M) to save space - another seemingly good idea that didn’t take off - and it was the first such centre where rents were based on the turnover. This was in the early days of computerised tills so was quite revolutionary. Shops takings were fed back via the tills to the management company. Again, I don’t think it caught on.
The rain came during the night and washed most of the remaining snow away, providing quite a different outlook when we eventually opened the blinds Wednesday morning. It was a little milder too as we headed out for our first destination of the day - the Welwyn Roman Baths - located about a 10 minute drive from the site. We didn’t stay long - not because they weren’t of interest but because they were shut! I’d made that most elementary tourist mistake of not checking opening times which in the winter where - understandably - considerably curtailed.
We had more luck at our next port of call though - the Mill Green Museum - which is much closer to the campsite and easily walkable by the more energetic. It’s a water mill that is still used to mill flour supplied to local bakeries and we were lucky enough to see it in action, demonstrated by a great character that had us thinking of old Windy Miller from Camberwick Green. Enthusiastic, entertaining and clearly knowledgeable about his subject he was great to listen to and really made the visit.
We’d pondered heading on out to Hatfield House but the rain had returned so we decided to head back to the warmth of Patsy for a lazy afternoon, before a quick excursion for grog and grub to the Attimore Hall pub.
The news came early Thursday morning that Trev’s Mum, Hilda had passed away so we re-arranged our plans and headed straight up to Cambridge, and that’s where I’ll call a halt to this blog. Trev would like to say a big bag thank you to all the lovely messages of condolence and support received over the last few days. It’s at time like this that social media is truly that and at it’s very best.
We’ve been trying something new to us on this trip - vlogging. For those that haven’t yet seen our videos why not head over to our YouTube channel and have a look. We’ve been delighted at the positive responses we’ve been getting, but do please let us know what you think.
Ok, until next time, thanks as always for reading.
Rich & Trev
Hilda May Webdale (‘HRH’). 14th October 1925 to 14th December 2017