Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Unexpected Interlude

The last post saw me waiting in Bristol for the work required following the issues in Morocco to be completed with the van on the ramps at PC Motors.
Chris's competence at undertaking the tasks and assessing any requirement for further work (nothing untoward was picked up) was reassuring and he expressed some amazement that we had covered such a long distance on shocks that were at best suited to a small car and had had important bushes removed to facilitate mounting. The upper and lower suspension ball joints were replaced on both sides, two drop links renewed, ARB bushes changed and new gaiters fitted to the offside driveshaft. A new connection was made to the alternator and both belts changed as part of a service which included an oil and filter change - work I would normally do myself but it made sense to avoid a session crawling round in cold weather and added little to the overall bill.

Thus I was swiftly back on the road but with the trip to Oz only 7 weeks away and a motorhome show at the NEC imminent I resisted the temptation to head straight back south to warmer climes again. 
The show had an impressive array of vehicles with one or two catching my eye - notably the Autotrail V line 600 and vans converted by Wild Ax near Halifax and MURVI in Devon.
After spending some time visiting various stands and checking layouts a number of conflicts arose as I would prefer at least 4 belted travel seats, the choice of two single or one double bed, a maximum length of 6m and cylinder gas rather than a refillable fixed tank as these are not acceptable or refillable in certain countries. 
Few vans tick all these boxes and as this old girl seems OK for a while longer I will defer a decision until forced upon me - newer models are ever more complex with regards to maintenance and fault diagnosis and even the inclusion of such luxuries as hot water systems, showers, loos and heating add to the list of potential issues out on the road : not much to go wrong with a pack of tealights and a kettle!

So with a cold late winter period in the UK to fill I have returned over recent weks to a number of favourite haunts with walks in Ystradfellte and some energetic mountain biking over the Brecon Beacons which included passing through my old smallholding at Cwmnanthir which was looking run down and unloved - indeed had I been visiting with a view to purchase I would have let it pass, quite a contrast to my first visit in similar wintry conditions 25 years ago in February 1990 when the dilapidated house offered so much potential and indeed over the ensuing 15 years provided so many challenges but so many rewards.
A walk in to the Elan Valley bothy included a look a the Claerwen Dam where Top Gear had recently re-enacted an old Land Rover advert - an event cleverly re interpreted in a 55th birthday card from Ian and Jan that appears in the photos later on.
Other Mid Wales bothies were visited to assess their post winter condition as our biannual Welsh area meeting loomed in early March so I enjoyed walks in to Grwynne Fawr and Nant Rhys and a ride up the Towey track to Moel Prysgau where generally all was well.

A brief trip north took four of us to the Staffordshire Moorlands and a remote and bizarre pub south of Macclesfield that promised camping and comfort.
Only one of these materialised as we arrived in a blizzard at a snow covered field with a very much locals only pub and cold conditions. Whilst I enjoyed shared warmth and comfort in the van the others had eventually to rise to the challenge, brave the elements and take to sodden canvas flapping in gusty winds as the heavens opened.
Mercifully our walks were actually largely dry and took in the Roaches on the first day, the Cheshire Matterhorn on the second and Wolfsdale on the third with the latter day rounded off by an excellent meal in the Ship Inn at Wincle.
Thursday saw the others pack sodden tents and clothing in to black bags during torrential rain as I headed over to Sheffield for a couple of days walking and cycling in the Peak District with the usual warm and humorous company of Penny and her many friends.
This trip also gave me a chance to look at a couple of van converters in the Leeds area and some dealers in the Midlands as well as a quick look round Leeds City Centre and the Corn Exchange.


To celebrate my birthday the family lunched well in Ludlow and enjoyed a walk along the river with the town's impressive castle shining across the water and Mum again amazing me with her cheerfulness and continuing enjoyment of the new life in Shropshire.

A quick run down to Pembrokeshire saw our plans for a return to Oz in mid April take shape - I need to store the van for our 9 weeks away so am looking at options and we have built a week or so of flexibility in to our plans as by the very nature of our trip delays are very likely!

After a night near Teifi Pools enjoying the spectacular view and some windy conditions I headed round to Nant Syddion where our bothy meet took place - the quaint cottage looked in good order after a sweep out and it was a good opportunity to meet Simon the new MBA Chairman and old friends from the Welsh scene. By and large our cohort of bothies is in good order and whilst there is a delay pending HLF funding for the new project in Snowdonia this will give us a chance to remedy the minor issues that were identified during the meeting.
This week has seen a walk on Offa's Dyke in perfect Spring weather - the 1200 year old structure is surprisingly intact and passes through stunning scenery - and with good weather forecast for next week I hope to get on the bike again near Nant y Arian probably staying at the lake side wild camping spot last visited as part of a memorable autumn visit to Snowdonia. Before that is a quick visit to Shropshire for Mother's Day so until I report back in a week or two some photos sit at this link here.

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