Clara goes to Lincolnshire

BungoThe first Clara post for quite a while, which would imply that things have been going swimmingly well with our erratic & temperamental  VW campervan. Not so, unfotunately. A more accurate blog post would have started with a ‘Clara goes to Swadlincote’ chapter. Closely followed by a ‘Clara goes to Alfreton’ section. Oh and lets not forget the ‘Clara goes to Leicester’ episode, and last but by no means least, ‘Clara goes to Ripley 😯 Life is never dull with Clara!!!

The Swadlincote incident was a simple case of a water-pipe coming loose in the engine. I was happily tootling down the A38 blissfully unaware of all the water pumping onto and out of Clara’s rear engine. Travelers around me could see quite clearly what was happening. Fellow motorists often wave at me in Clara. In fact lots of people wave, smile and point at Clara. She has that effect on people. I think it was after being passed by the forth frantically waving motorist that I realised something was clearly not right. Thankfully no lasting damage had occurred and the repair was simple enough for yours truly to cobble together.

The Alfreton, Leicester and Ripley breakdowns were all too familiar to what we’ve encountered before with Clara. All three incidents had exactly the same symptoms. On a fairly warm day, after a fairly longish drive, when the engine had got fairly hot, I stopped and parked for a fairly short time and Clara spluttered and died when I returned. After a good hours worth of cooling down, she leaped into life as if nothing was wrong. We’ve been down this painful route many times before with Clara and I’m still desperately trying to find a solution. I know what’s happening. It’s called fuel vapour lock. Just have no idea why it’s happening and why it seems to be getting worse? When it spluttered to a standstill in Ripley I actually decided to give our breakdown people a try. I knew Clara would start again once cool enough, but thought a wise old mechanic could give me some sage pearls of wisdom. An hour and a half I waited, before a beardy young lad strolled over…

“What happened?” he asked

I relayed the whole story and eagerly waited to soak in the mechanical jargon that was bound to follow.

“I bet you filled up with diesel instead of unleaded.”

“I haven’t.”

“I bet you have.”

“I haven’t.”

“Happens all the time.”

I have not put diesel into the van.”

A cooled down Clara then predictably started just fine. The young charlatan mechanic scratched his beard, before informing me that I ‘had a blockage mate.’  On the drive back home I briefly contemplated getting a job as a breakdown mechanic!!!

And so to Lincolnshire; Woodhall Spa. Woodhall Country Park to be specific. We’d had the Easter break booked for months, so despite Clara’s recent calamities, not to mention the severe weather warnings, there was really no backing out of this. Maybe the predicted cold weather would help Clara’s sensitive little engine to keep going? As always, only Clara really knew how eventful our travels would be. So with baited breath and a campervan packed with luggage and a manic Springer Spaniel, we set off. Surprisingly Clara behaved beautifully. Unsurprisingly, the bloody dog didn’t 🙄

Our weekend away was a lovely break. It had it’s moments. It’s not every day a clock falls on your head whilst waiting for fish & chips 😯 The weather wasn’t brilliant, but it wasn’t as bad as we’d expected either. Storm Katie decided to wait until our final night/morning to unleash her rain & howling wind, but I’ll return to this later. Woodhall Spa was beautiful. Clara behaved (kind of!). The company was great. Our only real issue was the campsite. There’s nothing alarmingly bad about Woodhall Country Park. The location is lovely. Amenities are good. It just wasn’t really our kind of campsite. It was one of those campsites where ‘fun’ is positively frowned upon. We were handed an A4 list of rules the moment we arrived. As soon as our coiled up Springer Spaniel was released onto the campsite, curtains began to twitch. We were surrounded by massive caravans or motorhomes, with their swanky kitchens, ironed curtains, TVs, awnings as big as Clara, fruit bowls and flowers in their beautifully clean windows. We had a thirty two year old campervan covered in massive sunflowers, with a manic dog bouncing all over the place. It definitely felt as though we’d lowered the tone of the twee neighborhood slightly.

Usually when we camp in Clara, people come and talk to us, smile at Clara, say how lovely she is. Occasionally some of these people will be asked to help push Clara if she’s broken down, but none of that happened at Woodhall Spa. Not a sole spoke to us or even cast a smiley glance our way. Our campsite was sadly a little devoid of smiles. All ‘fun’ had it’s designated place. Kids were allocated a field on the edge of the site. The dog field was even further away. I’d been told that our dog could have a good run around in ‘the field’, so off we went. Now anyone who owns a loopy Springer Spaniel will instantly know that one field, will not contain a Springer Spaniel. One field will definitely not contain our crazed hound. Next to the designated ‘dog field’ I stumbled upon a wooded area, which looked a lot more Springer Spaniel friendly. In we went. Within seconds the dog had disappeared as he manically set about exploring every inch of the wood, as fast as he could. I often see other dogs happily trotting along beside their owners. My dog is not one of those dogs 😯

By the time I’d reached the edge of the wood, my dog was still AWOL. Where the hell was he? I then spotted the water, heard quacking, closely followed by lots of splashing and began to panic a little. If Bungo sees a bird, he will chase it. He will continue to chase said bird, for as long as he can see it, no matter how far or how long that takes. Through the thinning trees I could now see the large ‘fishing lake’ beyond the woods. A duck was flapping madly as it skimmed across the lake. Some distance behind the duck was a Springer Spaniel, doing a remarkably good impression of a paddle-steamer. There would only be one winner in this race, but I knew Bungo would not give up. Given the rather strict campsite rules, God only knows what the punishment would be for a dog in the fishing lake!!!

Secretly wishing/praying that Bungo would get bored and come back, I hadn’t actually left the woods. Instead I’d stayed, still hidden, peering through the trees. At least that way the campsite guards, sorry wardens, wouldn’t know it was my dog. I’d later hear how many rare birds flock from miles around to visit the beautifully tranquil lake at Woodhall Country Park. Right now the lake was far from tranquil and I’m sure all rare birds had buggered off as soon as Bungo hit the water. The canine paddle-steamer was now heading towards a couple of fishermen, sheltering under their brollies. This was bad; very bad.

Mercifully Bungo did finally get bored, tired, or lost and eventually dragged his sodden body out of the lake and back to where I’d remained on the edge of the woods. We slunk back to Clara and waited for the campsite fun police to arrive. They never did and apart from one duck and two fishermen, nobody was any the wiser. The rest of our weekend was thankfully a little less fraught. The only slight Clara hiccup we had was on our final morning. Storm Katie had descended on Lincolnshire during the night and our campsite had the scars to prove it. Some of those lovely posh caravans had lost their essential TV satellite dishes. Others were now missing their awnings. At camp Clara, all seemed good, apart from a small rip in our awning. The weather was truly shocking as we packed up to leave, which meant things were rather thrown into Clara, rather than packed!!! Freezing cold and soaking wet, I threw the last item into Clara, collapsed her roof and went to pull down the four roof-clips. One,two, three all popped down, then the final one snapped in my hand 😯 Not the best timing, but thanks to a few bungees we did manage to get home without our roof blowing off 🙂

And for anyone interested in campsites in Lincolnshire

Next adventure for Clara is Buxton, Derbyshire. Snow is forecast 😯