Friday, 30 March 2018

Defeated by mud

My West Country holiday has been cut short, and I'm home. Two days ago (on the 28th March) I left North Devon on schedule, and after less than two hours arrived at my second booked site, at Curlew Farm near Lyme Regis. This is another favourite site, and has never before given me the slightest problem. But as I towed the caravan in through the entrance gate, the ground looked uncharacteristically muddy and churned up. Someone else, another caravanner, was in the caravan field before me. He waved frantically at me to stop, a warning to come in no further. He was stuck fast in soft ground. I soon discovered that I was too.

He'd already asked the farmer, Colin, to assist. Colin was coming to rescue them ('them' being he and his wife and their daughter) by towing car and caravan off the site with his tractor, and putting them on a space in front of the farmhouse. They could still have their booked holiday, though without quite the same scenic view. But there was no space for me as well. And nothing else close by. He'd already phoned around the other local sites, but they were all full because the Easter weekend was coming up. It looked as if I had two choices: to find another site in another area entirely; or just go home.

First things first, though. Colin arrived, and towed the other caravan away.

While he did that, I unhitched my own caravan and tried to drive Fiona clear. But to my consternation, all I got was spinning wheels and no significant movement. What was this? I had all-wheel drive - and tyres with winter treads! I tried again, using a manually-chosen higher gear. But still no joy. Getting out, I saw that all I had done was dig Fiona deeper into the boggy ground.

I suppose that when all four wheels lose their grip, there can be no traction and no progress. It was nevertheless hard to accept that mud had stopped Fiona when the recent snow had not. Here are shots of my car coping effortlessly with Sussex snow one month earlier.

Here's a close-up of the tracks left by her Michelin CrossClimate tyres in the compacted snow.

Well, there must be a big difference between mud and snow! 

I suppose a tyre can get a grip on snow, and can shake it out of the tread as the wheel revolves. But clearly not so with sticky, squelchy mud! I was amazed, though, that not one wheel had gained sufficient grip to create forward movement. The ground must be absolutely saturated.

Colin returned. Together, we pulled the front of the caravan sideways, away from the rear of the car - this did my feeble muscles no good at all - and then he hitched up and hauled the caravan away, this time leaving it in the lane, facing the way I had come, so that I could easily get back to the main A35 road. 

I had another go at extricating Fiona from her muddy rut, but it was again no good. Having automatic transmission, she couldn't be towed, but I asked Colin to very gently pull me backwards as I powered her in Reverse gear. This was enough. Once off the site, and in the lane, I was in a position to hitch up again and get off home.

Colin was rather apologetic. He felt he should definitely have warned people not to come. I was however extremely thankful for his help in getting car and caravan out of a bad situation intact, and not inclined to blame him. 

Jackie, his wife, actually handled the caravan bookings. I said I'd like to speak to her about the week I had booked. The site was obviously too soft and wet to use, and I'd have to cancel, but I would prefer to discuss it personally. 

Jackie arrived, and I explained that - for the first time in nine years of coming here - I'd have to cancel a booking at no notice whatever. Though of course not without good reason. Even if the weather improved and the ground dried a bit, the area near the gate would remain a morass; and I'd want to be coming and going twice a day, possibly coming home in the evening after a meal in Lyme Regis. The prospect of slithering around in the dark wasn't pleasant. She entirely understood. I offered her something in recompense - it was an Easter weekend booking, after all - but she wouldn't take even a night's fee. This was very sympathetic and nice of her, although when all was said and done, I'd been deprived of a week I'd been looking forward to. 

We will see each other again in September, hopefully in much drier weather. 

I love Curlew Farm. In most weathers it's idyllic. For instance, in these shots from 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Sometimes it has been surprisingly warm and dry here in March. This is how it was at nearby Sidmouth in March 2012 - it had seemed like a summer's day. I'd worn skimpy tops and was barefoot on the beach.

I hadn't expected it to be quite so sunny and mild in 2018, so soon after a snowy start to the year, but I hadn't reckoned on being thwarted by mud. Car and caravan were spattered with it. It was sad to see. I was sad too, having that week snatched away. Actually, I felt rather upset. I'd planned to do all sorts of things, and now couldn't.

Oh well. I now had a tiring five hour drive ahead, before getting home. I didn't want to try my luck at another site somewhere else. I'd wanted to be here. And as I couldn't be where I wanted to be, home (and its many creature comforts) strongly beckoned! 

I made it back by 6.00pm, and had fully unloaded by 8.30pm. By then I was in need of a hot meal and a good rest. 

Next day I invited my local girl friends to lunch on Good Friday. I would do a soup starter, and a bake for the main course - both of my own invention (I never follow recipes). Jackie, Jo and Valerie could all come. Jo would do a dessert. 

It was lovely to see my vivacious friends again - and a great compensation for a holiday cut short. The bake was somewhat over-cooked - it's hard to judge these things - but otherwise it all turned out well, as these photos show. It was all tasty.

Tomorrow Fiona and caravan get a proper wash. Ordinary rain hasn't got rid of all that mud. 

1 comment:

  1. What a shame. You need rain like we had In Spain today, Fiona would look like new!


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