After just about getting through the winter back at home in the UK, we were very excited to be loading up Bessie again ready for another season working on a campsite. During the course of the harsh winter Bessie suffered a bit of damage, the water pump needed replacing, the bathroom tap had cracked from being so brittle and Jools had a mad idea of making some new curtains (having not used a sewing machine since school!). But we got it all sorted before departure, and Bessie is looking loved once again and we can’t wait to live back in her.
We left Worthing on a Monday morning, in convoy, to head for our new site in Stourport. (If you haven’t read the previous sections and found out where we’ll be this season, click here for that bit).
Both car and Bessie were very loaded with all the bits we need for a season living and working on site. We could both feel the tension easing as we headed along the motorway and were desperate to get there.. but a steady 55ish mph was better based on our heavy loads and the price of fuel ! On arrival we simply unloaded all the extra stuff from Bessie and left it on pitch under tarpaulin – went off for a walk with the dogs, and then had a coffee with our new Managers, David and Isobell. A lazy evening much needed. Isobell has been in touch with some local attractions and got us some free passes to check out the venues so that we are better informed when advising our customers – what a nice touch. So we will have a week or two of getting settled in, finding our way around and visiting some of the attractions. We need to feel settled and re-charge our batteries in readiness for what’s to come !
We are located in the Riverside & Rally field, the touring & camping section of the park which isn’t yet open. So… we have a 14 acre field to ourselves for now. Stunning !
On our first full day we managed to get the tent up easily (no wind here – yet !), but then we realised the pitch just wasn’t wide enough for Bessie and the tent. No problem, David & Simon simply started digging, and within no time at all and with some help from “the boys” (Chris and Frank) the pitch had been widened by 3 foot for the perfect size for Bessie and our utility tent. We have a little booking/tourist info office immediately next to our pitch and the tent is sandwiched nicely between that and Bessie. We have yet to put flooring in the tent before we can get it all sorted, but in the meantime it means we can unload the car and have some cooking appliances up and running.
No sooner said than done… pitch widened and tent up.
We took the dogs out for a longer walk, following the river downstream to the town of Stourport. Only a 10-15 minute walk from the bottom of our field, across our neighbouring field (where our boat moorings are) past a Yacht club and a park, arriving in the town immediately next to the Amusements. A little walk past the amusements bring you to Stourport’s canal basins and a pub right on the River (The Angel), which may just become our local !
We’ve arrived to fairly pleasant although cold weather. Walking along the river we enjoy seeing all the trees in bud, pussy willows on the river bank, crocuses out and daffodils in bud. We love the fact that we will see all this change throughout the seasons.
Stourport-on-Severn is the only town in Britain built solely as a consequence of the coming of the canals. Before the growth of the town there existed a small hamlet called Lower Mitton. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal linked the River Severn with the Trent and Mersey and as a result, after Birmingham, Stourport became the busiest inland port in the Midlands. The canal opened to Stourport in 1771 and by 1812 five canal basins had been built. The regeneration of the Basins is virtually complete, restoring them to their original Georgian splendour.
On our second day we took a drive out to visit the next town upstream of the River, Bewdley, an attractive town sat on the River Severn which has retained much of its Georgian charm – definitely worth a longer visit than this quick drive through. We drove through the Wyre Forest up to Bridgnorth (home of the Severn Valley Railway) and returned to Stourport via Kidderminster – our nearest large town. We’ve managed to locate doctors, dentists, vets, supermarkets and so on – although we are struggling to find our way around Kidderminster’s ring road of roundabouts !
Returning to site on such a sunny afternoon – it would be rude not to walk along to the Angel and enjoy a pint watching life on the River ! So we did – the landlord was very welcoming and told Simon that although he didn’t have much choice of bitter at this stage, during the summer he has 3-4 guest bitters which change frequently. Today the river is flowing a little slower, having not had any rain for a couple of days – we can see the level has dropped.
Stella and Sadie are absolutely shattered. There is so much going on that they aren’t sleeping and they are loving running around our huge garden unleashed !
Another day, another drive out. We found Hartlebury Common (which we’d seen when we first drove into Stourport) – 200 acres of lowland heath, it will be a great walk at all times of the year – plenty of sandy ground, bracken, gorse and broom.
We stocked up on bird-feed whilst we were in Kidderminster and are thrilled with the number of birds that have chosen to come and feed on it. So far we have seen blue tits, great tits, coal tits, longtail tits, robins, house and hedge sparrows, chaffinches, gold finches and siskins - fabulous.
Of course, with the River at the bottom of ‘our garden’ and the fishing season about to close, Simon has been doing some pre-baiting in readiness for a spot of ‘research’ fishing! His first stint of fishing wasn’t successful, but he was fishing blind – but he now has lots of knowledge from some of the local residents and is keen to give it another go.
On Friday we had our first ‘freebie’ day out – to English Heritage’s Witley Court and Gardens. They were holding a familiarisation day for local businesses, giving a guided tour of the ruin including a tour of the main stable yard and kitchen ruins – parts of the Court rarely open to visitors. It was a really interesting day – the tour guide, who had worked there for 13 years and seen much of the restoration, bought the house to life when he talked about its former years. Once the home of the Earl of Dudley this palatial mansion was the place to be for the best parties, and despite it being just ruins now English Heritage are doing a fantastic job in keeping its history alive. For more information on Witley Court click here )
The recently restored Perseus and Andromeda fountain in Witley’s gardens
When we got back to site David pointed Simon in the direction of the materials we needed to get the floor down in the tent – and even managed to locate us some carpet ! So… our utility tent is now finally sorted and we are fully operative in there.
Next job was to get a little shed in place and fence our pitch in. We can’t believe how accommodating David and Isobell have been about our requests to get our pitch right, and how easy it has been to just get it done without any fuss – they totally understand our need to get settled in, and to ensure our pitch is safe for the dogs and has a clearly defined boundary which we’ll definitely need in the height of the season. After all, we are the only wardens in this section of the park and will be the first port of call for up to 250 pitches !
Isabell popped down to see us and gave us some old uniforms, so that we don’t ruin our own clothes doing all the preparatory cleaning work (until our new uniforms arrive in April). So we are wearing clothes with Roy and Monica’s names on (previous wardens) and may well get called that for the rest of the season.
On Saturday we had our first visitors !! Our friends Claire and Roy live in Redditch, only 30 minutes or so from here – so they came over with the kids, Poppy and Aleco and their two dogs, Chelsea and Lilly. We enjoyed a walk along the river to The Angel and look forward to seeing more of them now we are so close. They have a static caravan in Wales, probably only an hour or so from here, so we are hoping to arrange a visit there with them, and we can plot up in Bessie.
Sunday we had our first ‘work’ day. Although we aren’t due to start for a while yet, Isobell said it was fine for us to do a few bits around the park if we wanted, and gave us a list of jobs that we will embark on when we’re up to full speed. Whilst Simon and David finished off the fence, Jools cleaned down the little office and stocked it with all the tourist information leaflets and so on. We basically submit a timesheet for any hours worked – because the number of hours per week will vary throughout the season.
Monday, a week after arriving, we decided that it was time to go out in the car without the dogs and get them to settle in Bessie on their own – after all they’ll have to get used to it. We were gone about 3 hours and they were fine. In fact, it was probably good to force them to rest – they haven’t stopped since we arrived.
We’re now all finalised on pitch, we have use of a washing machine and tumble dryer located in the workshop, and have a section of Isobell’s freezer, her house being immediately behind our pitch. We wake up every morning and enjoy just the sound of the birds and the peace and tranquillity. We do realise it’s the calm before the storm – we will probably never see this section of the park like this again – certainly from Easter onwards. The service areas (toilets, washing up station etc) for this bit of the park are not open yet, as the field isn’t – so we cycle across the park to the other toilet block for a shower. We aren’t plumbed in on this pitch, and won’t be, so we take our washing up into the service block to save from so much time filling/emptying water in Bessie. It’s taken us back to proper camping, which we are both really loving. In fact, this park reminds us of some of the places we’ve stayed in on our travels through France, with its mix of statics and tourers – and it’s so peaceful everywhere.
We’ve been fortunate with clear sunny days, which also brings cold frosty nights and mornings – no rain or strong winds to contend with yet.
We’ve done a bit more ‘work’ this week. Tuesday we got out and did some grass cutting. Simon had his first lesson in the tractor – a REAL tractor, not a baby John Deer or Kubota but a real proper farmer’s tractor with cutting equipment on the back. Jools used the smaller ride-on Stiga mower – having used one like it at Teversal. It’s a huge job cutting the grass on our field and will need to be done at least once a week in the height of the season – so we need all the right kit for it. Strimming is going to be another massive job !
We also spent time cleaning out the workshop, so that we could familiarise ourselves with stock and what else is in there. As we said, the toilet block isn’t open yet (it’s not heated!) but we are starting to get it all cleaned and spic ‘n’ span ready for opening.
The mowing equipment !
Jools testing out the big boy (in Roy’s sweatshirt !)
So… in summary, we are very happy bunnies at the moment. We feel very welcome, we love the feel of the place and the staff are all really really nice. We have a few more days of leisure before we start work properly – and another update will follow once we get into our working routine.
Follow this link for photos of Lickhill.
A post season update will follow soon......