We'd agreed to go away with Claire and Jody. In the middle of October. With two kids. I promised myself England must be due another Indian Summer and so all would be well. Thou shall not freeze.
I picked up Tash from work with the caravan hitched on the back of the Benz and set battle with Friday night M25 to find our way down to the East Sussex/Kent border. We arrived a little before Claire and Jody which gave us ample chance to make camp. By now it was dark and so we hurriedly erected the Gazebo, assembled the tent, and left the caravan where I parked it. Why would we need a tent if we have a caravan I hear you ask? Well we have a caravan for two and our son has the ability to act like a kangaroo on acid at anytime from 5am.
The arrival of Claire and Jody signalled the arrival of the firepit ... and heat! With Esme asleep in the caravan and Alfie snuggled up in the 'den' (tent) we had a lovely evening, largely fuelled by stew and ale. It was tremendous. As Friday became Saturday we headed for our beds, and I was pleased to find Alfie was nice and comfy under the numerous blankets, duvets and hot water bottle that filled up our Den.
Morning came - earlier for some of us than others - but it wasn't long before we were all tucking into breakfast inside the caravan .... sadly we were doing so as the rain echoed off our single skin roof.
It didn't last long though, which meant we were soon getting the bikes ready for a quick pedal to blow away the cobwebs.
We were on the outskirts of a little village called Bodiam, which has a castle - and therefore made for an ideal destination for us to head towards. The castle is just the other side of this bridge. Apparently in WW2 they removed the walls of the bridge to enable them to destroy any attempting German invasion.
We played the typical English 'card' and sat down to tea and scones whilst stubbornly sitting out through the downpour around us.
Essie particularly liked the cream part of a cream tea.
And then carried on our pedal in a homewardly fashion.
Once we reached the campsite we had a little play at the on-site park
And then we went on the hunt for wood. By now it was 5pm and with the sun disappearing the temperature was dropping sharply! Jody's firepit is made from parts of his old Transit and its awesome - just looking at these photos I swear I can feel the heat cuddling around me.
More stew was had. More ale was drunk. Good times were had!
One thing was for sure though, and that's that it was colder than the previous night!
The next morning Alfie was up early again. As I slid the zipper back on the tent the freezing air came rushing into our 'den'. I tried to keep him under layers and inside the canvas whilst I went outside to see if anyone else was up. Some would call it a lovely fresh morning but I don't need sights like this when I wake up from having camped out overnight!
Just as Alfie's early morning over-enthusiasm was starting to result in lack of feeling to his finger tips Tash and Esme work up and so we went and gate crashed their party. A few minutes of running the stove soon had the caravan warmed up nicely.
Bacon was soon on the Barbie;
And within moments another monster breakfast was being devoured. Essie was overjoyed at the sight of MOAR FOOD!
A plan was soon hatched to get our beef joint in the BBQ and leave it to roast lovingly for an hour or so whilst we went on a hunger inducing ride through the wilds. What actually happened was we then embarked on the most eventful cycle I have ever endured. I commented the previous day I thought my bike needed a service as it didn't seem to drop into gear well. No more than 10 or 15 minutes into our ride Jody acquired a puncture whilst I was presented with this.
And not for the last time on this ride we were assembled around up-ended bikes. I repaired Jodys puncture whilst he scampered back to the campsite to grab his chain tool. He then removed the offending link from my chain and all was good once more.
We soon reached Bodiam;
and then its was Claires turn for a flat!
We had one puncture repair kit with us and Jody has already had two from it in the past 24 hours. We now learnt his remaining few had 'lost their stick'. After failed attempts to find a fellow cyclist who might have a spare patch Jody opted to leave one of his 'past their best' patches swimming in a pool of glue in the hope it might hold just long enough for us to cycle back. And so we loaded the kids back into the trailer and grabbed the bikes to head back. Upon which point we all realised Tash also had a puncture. After much deliberation we agreed Jody and I would cycle back and the girls would walk.
Jody and I reached camp to the sight of these two in the trailer. Such cutes!
We can only have cycled three or four miles but the roast had had much longer than the hour we wanted to offer it. Although a touch well-done it still looked and smelt amazing. Proving just how short a distance we'd travelled, the girls even made it back before we had the veg on!
Dinner was amazing! Beef, sweet potatoes, aubergines and peppers. A real team effort and the perfect way to end a fabulous weekend.
Sadly it was later than we'd intended which pretty much meant we tidied up and hit the road for home.
A homeward journey that was as eventful as our bike ride! But I kinda need to cover that in my next post.
Pictures from the weekend are all here.