One Man's Madness / Part 14
We did a couple of trips like that, but the distances, even with the use of Jenny’s as Base Camp One, added to the general exhaustion and our progress slowed. We began looking online for a small caravan. We were only interested in ones local enough to where we lived that we could go out and inspect before committing. A few discouraging false starts later we came across a 20 foot Avondale "Sandmartin". The whole family, including number one daughter Isla (then 14) checked it out and approved. It was on ebay so, happily, a couple of days intense watching and last minute bidding secured it for us. Three hundred quid. Everything working. Complete with awning. A bargain.
We parked it up temporarily on a site just out of town and began preparations for an extended expedition to and stay on the “estate”.
Finally, one brisk sunny autumn day, Georgie, Hazel, and I set off. I’d never driven with a caravan before, but the old Galaxy drove as if there was nothing attached at all. I very soon all but forgot it was there, with only the occasional glance at the rear view to remind me that we were being followed by a great white lumbering beast.
Nearing location, I pulled in to the layby and went ahead to unlock and drag the big gate open. I knew the gate was wide enough, but it was a sharp bumpy turn off a narrow country road along which the locals would come haring at the legal limit of 60 mph. To add to the mix, there were blind curves each way. After some nervous discussion, Georgie agreed to go up to the curve beyond the gate to signal the all clear and then to calm any approaching traffic once I was committed to the turn. Hazel was strapped into the back seat but had clearly picked up on the mild underlying prepatory tension.
So, I started up, awaited Georgie’s all clear, then pulled out into the road and headed towards the gate. I figured the worst outcome would be to get stuck half way so, as I turned and lined up to the narrow portal, I gunned the car a bit and we lept over the bumpy entrance and rocked and buffeted our way down the short drive and into the open space we’d cleared last visit.
We lurched to a halt and I switched off the engine. After a few seconds of silent contemplation, I turned to my strapped in 5 year old and said, “Well Hazely, what did you make of that?” To my nouveau parental shame and guilt-ridden stifled hilarity she said, “That was fuckin amazing.”
After a day’s further battle with the brambles, we managed to clear enough space under the elders on the east side of the lower meadow to bring the vehicles in, unhitch the caravan, turn the Galaxy around, and bring it back up to the driveway. We wound the caravan legs down, connected the gas, and had our first on-location cup of tea.
We settled into a routine of Georgie and I battling brambles and nettles while Hazel explored and made dens. There would be intermittent breaks to snack, put up swings, augment dens, create secret pathways, and pick sloes and black berries. By evening there would always be enough cut bramble and dry elder to start a bonfire and we would sit round and gaze into the flames, just like in the old days! Hazel was very drawn to the magic of open fires and, if the embers were still glowing the following morning, took to scavenging fallen branches and watching the fire come alive again.
- One Man's Madness / Part 15
The continuing story of one man’s 60 year love affair with 2.5 acres of Essex countryside.
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