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South into England

We are probably unusual, amongst road users, in that today is the first time we have driven about using a GPS navigation system in our own vehicle. For many years we sailed with such a system on board our boat but to date our driving needs never seemed to justify getting one. Scotland doesn’t really have enough roads to make it worthwhile and we so rarely made journeys by road elsewhere. There is one major difference between land based and nautical GPS navigation devices: there is no voice giving directions on a nautical ‘chart-plotter’. After all, what would it say? “Turn left after the next wave crest”, perhaps, or “Take the third exit from the whirlpool”? So given this, our first experience of driving under the direction of a GPS has been quite a novel and entertaining one.

We decided to choose the voice of ‘Kate’, despite not knowing this particular lady, but to see how we got on with her. This left ‘Thomas’ hidden somewhere in the software so we have to hope he is not offended. I am pleased to say that despite them sharing the same name, the crisp voice of the GPS’s ‘Kate’ bears no resemblance to the soft tones of my wife, which means I am perfectly at liberty to swear and shout at the machine without any risk of malice or confusion. The swearing is, without doubt, an essential part of the operation of the system and we have both been very impressed with how stoic ‘Kate’ has been in the face of my tirades. One might have expected her to trip up on her words, at the very least, but no, she smoothly glides between advising me to prepare for a junction half a mile ahead to cautioning me about how I am exceeding the speed limit. On the first occasion she comes out with this one she completely upsets my junction-approaching-preparedness as I launch a stream of invective in her direction explaining how despite my excessive speed I have vehicles flying past me on both sides travelling at twice my speed. Surprisingly she really doesn’t seem to care. She keeps quiet about my speed for a while, making me think she has taken on board my well presented comments regarding the behaviour of my fellow drivers, then just as I approach a de-restricted sign where I can legitimately speed up she once again slips in another little warning in the same perfectly clear tones. What am I to think! ‘Kate’, who we now call K2 to avoid any confusion, clearly has the self control of a saint as well as the sense of direction of a homing pigeon. She is almost too good to be true. I will admit, however, that to date the whole GPS road navigation experience has been a pleasant one since it is relaxing to think that someone else is taking care of our navigation needs. It means that we can forget completely about where we are at present or where we need to go, confident that we will always get to where we are supposed to be. But on arrival if you ask us to tell you which route we took to get there you would get only blank looks.

K2 leads us unerringly from our front door to our chosen camping ground near Penrith on the edge of the English Lake District, despite the torrential rain and the limited visibility. At ‘Riverside’ we sneak in between the dripping trees and listen to the rain hammering a tattoo on our roof whilst feeling quite snug and cosy inside Ducky. Each campsite we stay has its quirks, this is to be expected, but the Shower-Shed is not something we have come across before. It stands uninvitingly side by side with the Toilet-Shed, both of which look just like… well sheds. But first impressions aside, step inside and you are in another world entirely. I could be mistaken but it seems that these shed interiors are actually larger then the sheds themselves, both perfectly appointed and clean with everything one would want from a toilet or a shower. What simply cannot be avoided is the sense of stepping inside a shed, which of course you are, when you go in, and the expectation that you will find a lawn mower or a roll of garden twine inside.

In the morning we drive off before any other campers are about, towards Coventry and our next stopover. Closer to a large city we come across campsite security for the first time, something we find a little unsettling, but at least they accept the Scottish currency we offer in payment – which is just as well since this is all we have with us. Our chosen site is almost empty, unless you count the rabbits in the horse’s field, the squirrels (grey), the magpies, the two green woodpeckers searching for ants and the owls hooting at night. Arriving in the afternoon sunshine we are able to deploy our folding camp chairs for the first time and I am pleased to say that they seem to work pretty well, which finally justifies us lugging them around with us. When we camped on Skye it was either too midgy or too windy or too wet to sit out but here a wall of oak trees shelters us from the wind and the sun peeks through the clouds to keep us warm.

Camping nr DartmoorCoventry has something we have sorely missed ever since buying Ducky, a Camping Accessory Shop, the sort of place that has every little nick-nack we could ever possibly dream of needing and tons of stuff we never will. Scotland is not over-blessed with shops like this, places where you can just wander around picking things up and poking about, so stepping inside we feel rather like children in a sweetie shop. We simply have to accessorise, it is impossible for us to leave empty-handed, but we try to act with as much restraint as we can. One little gadget we do come away with gives us the ability to deploy our internal table outside the van, to form a set with the chairs, a combination we just have to try out at our next campsite a day’s drive away on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.dragonfly3 We are almost beginning to feel like proper campers now.

Hitting the motorways early we catch the rain, enough to make the driving rather scary as we strain to keep the road in sight through a world of spray. Once again K2 does her job with no complaints but she does fail to point out that the last quarter mile of road is barely wide enough for our van to pass along. Fortunately by this time the sun is out so we forgive her.

Like the last one, this campsite is again very quiet, unless you count the dragonfly who comes to hang about in the sun with us for a while. And then there are the geese, the ducks, the chickens, the Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, a pair of Dartmoor ponies and the brown bear, although he turns out to be a plastic statue so he doesn’t make a lot of noise.

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