An Unexpected Journey – Dover Calling

It’s Friday the 8th of February 2019, and Iggy the Hymer motorhome should be in a flurry of activity as he prepares to head from Edinburgh to Dover for a late night ferry to Calais.  Should be…

Instead, naughty Iggy is, randomly, burning kilometres beneath his sturdy wheels on the A28, 42km from Rouen in Northern France.  Satnav heading is “South”. Today’s destination?  Unknown.  Just the way we like it!

For those of you who follow our Facebook page you will know this latest adventure of the Just Another Anima gang began at eight p.m. on Tuesday, in the Morrison’s supermarket on Ferry Road, Edinburgh.

It had been a busy day with many small jobs to be done as we got ready to leave on Friday.

  • An early morning run to the hospital in Livingston for Jay to get a steroid injection for a tendon problem in his finger.
  • Swing into Edinburgh to drop a bag of “don’t need it” belongings at Jay’s sister’s as we lightened the van in preparation for the “Spain 2019” trip.
  • Quick run to the GP and chemist to pick up his Insulin prescription.
  • Shoot across to the other side of the city for the fun job of the day – pick up two year old granddaughter Hope and spend four hours playing games, colouring and walking in the icy park!

And finally to the Supermarket, to pick up some fruit and olives before heading to Cramond beach, to make dinner and walk Marley Dog.

And so there we were, standing in the aisle with a jar of olives teasingly sparkling Mediterranean at us through the glass. I looked at the gleaming olives, so far from the tree and the tideless sea of their birth. And without so much as a thought I turned to Jay.

“Sod it, will we just go now?” I heard myself say.

“What?!  Go? Now?!!” squeaked Jay

“Yeah.” I grinned back, feeling my eyes spark up with mischief. “Let’s not wait till Friday. Let’s just go. Now.”

And Jay, love of my life that he is, widened his eyes, gave a sudden grin and replied, “Okay. Let’s go!”

And that, as they say, was that! Barely ten minutes later we had paid for our olives, filled the tank to the brim with Morrison’s diesel, and were trundling back the way we’d just come. Heading East for the A1 where England, Dover and the famous white cliffs were waiting to wave us on our way. The game was, once more, afoot!

Driving straight through to Dover there and then was pulling us like a pair of five year old’s to a stocking on Christmas Day.  But it had been a long day and we knew we only had a few hours driving in us before we’d need to stop for the night.  Reaching for my phone my spirit span cartwheels of joy as I opened up our trusty old park4night app, not opened for many a week, and scanned the area between Berwick on Sea and Newcastle for a likely place to stop.

A taste of what lay ahead.

Straight away an entry for the mainland side of the Lindisfarne causeway jumped out at me. I’d driven past the signs for the Holy Isle so many times over the years -always thinking I’d love to visit some day.  I’d even turned down a gig at Lindisfarne festival once because I was already booked elsewhere that weekend.

By the time we reached our sleeping spot at 11pm it was far too dark to be able to see anything at all of our surroundings, but the tidal notices told us the road would be crossable from 7am in the morning. Perfect! The times could not have been better if we’d planned this weeks ahead. Our stopping place was just a lay-by on the approach to the causeway, but with the road ahead cut off by the sea we didn’t think we’d be bothered by much traffic during the night!

Too excited to sleep much I was up and out of Iggy by 06:30 in the morning. Leaving Jay snoozing a little longer, Marley and I padded through the pre-dawn light to the edge of the causeway and watched the sun’s giant dimmer switch slowly illuminating the island, two miles away across the water. Time to wake the sleeping sax-man and get this adventure started!

Iggy’s sleepy time spot for “New Adventure Night One”. Not bad!

We wondered if the road would be greasy and slippy from it’s twice daily dip beneath the waves, but were pleasantly surprised by how good it was. In some places sand heaped across the road obscuring the edge, but Jay and Iggy took it all in their stride and before long we found ourselves the first vehicle of the day at the large Pay & Display car park on the fringe of the village.

With no earnings to come for the foreseeable future and the length of our tour entirely dependent on how stingy I was with our funds I was relieved to see that as well as the £4.40 all day parking fee there was a £2.20 option for a three hour stay. Hoping three hours would be enough we bought our ticket and set off up the road through the slowly waking village.

It was a great visit for me. Jay enjoyed it too, it’s a pleasant little place with some interesting history, the castle, lime kilns, ruined Priory, picturesque harbour – and that feeling of enchantment that most of us humans seem to feel automatically for these tidal causeway islands.

For me it was all these things and a little more besides. The birds wheeling above the sea grass, the open spaces, the sheds, quaintly roofed with old boat hulls, all of these things brought that familiar, slight lump to my throat, that comes from places I find reminiscent of Shetland. 

Lindisfarne is not as wild, remote and special as those distant islands of my home, but, late at night, when the tide separates it from England’s mainland…When the traffic roar from the motorway subsides. When the eerie, banshee call of the Snipe rolls across the wetlands in the fog.  Then these places of magic will call to each other. Kissing cousins across the waves.

With our three hours up we returned to the mainland for a quick lunch at our overnight sleeping spot and to decide what to do next. We’d booked our Friday ferry through the Camping and Caravan Club and, not expecting much, I gave them a call to see if we could change our booking for tonight.  Well five in the morning tomorrow to be exact! We still had four hundred miles to go and Jay would need a few hours sleep if he was going to do a night drive.

Much to our delight the Club could not have been more helpful and our booking was swiftly changed for a £15 amendment fee. Which was about the same as the discount we’d got for booking through them in the first place. Result!

A few hours sleep later and off we set for Dover.  We time our drives to hit London at about midnight. The M25 is wonderfully empty at that time of night and the infamous Dartford Crossing is both painless and free between 10pm and 5 am. As expected we arrived in Dover at three a.m. two hours early for our ferry, and were waved straight forward on to the 03:20 departure.

Dartford Crossing at Midnight.

There wasn’t even time to give Marley a quick leg stretch before we were on board and away. The wind had come up strong and we were buffeted as the ferry drew away from England, but these are big boats and the crossing was smooth enough once the land was behind us.

Tired and ready for bed, I drooled snoozily on Jay’s shoulder for the short one and a half hour trip to France.  Just us, a handful of long distance lorry drivers and a young French couple with a sleeping baby.  The bar staff chatting quietly as they showed each other interesting, night shift, kind of stuff on their phones. No customers on these boats. Just pale, tired faces waiting for their beds. No coffee required please.  We are kindred spirits we night people.

Unfortunately, I’d managed to completely forget that sometimes internet and phone connections need played with a bit on arrival in other countries from the UK! And that, because of this, I shouldn’t use co-pilot for coming off the ferry and should pre set our TomTom instead! Aargghhhh!!!!!

Nothing worked of course! An eternally long three minutes worth of frantic gadget fixing while driving sandwiched between exhausted, night of the walking dead, driven HGVs and we were back in control.  Three minutes more and Iggy glided thankfully in between the storm rocking motorhomes of the Calais Aire. Job done! Gas on. Bed down. Sleep.  Sleep….sleep….

And so you have it. The wind blustered outside as we slept off the journey until lunchtime. Iggy rocked to and fro in 50mph gusts. A giant cradle singing lullabies of France and ferries and adventures and roads unknown beckoning us on and on.

The first thing we did on waking was head straight for the Carrefour Hypermarket across the road from the Aire.

Brunch was in order, and French goodies an absolute requirement for the menu!

After stuffing ourselves with cholesterol and cream we set off through a still windy, rain filled evening for Abbeville. Our first “proper” stop of the tour.

Arriving late at our quiet, free, town centre parking, we had a tired, wet walk around the town. It had little to attract the casual visitor, but for us it was enough simply to sit in a French cafe, sipping brandy with our soggy mountain dog, watching the rain splash outside.

Just to be here. On the road in beautiful France. Somewhere new. With weeks of unknown corners to turn ahead of us. This, is my bliss.

And then, finally, we wandered back to Iggy’s waiting warmth for our first night on the continent. To reclaim our sleeping rythym and see, what tomorrow would bring.

Fi. x

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