Last winter saw me sitting rather lonely in my yard eating too much and complaining about everything. Well that’s not going to happen this winter. I am changing my diet and taking a range of vitamins. I am hoping Santa will bring me a special light which simulates sunshine and I have stepped up my yoga discipline to at least 40 minutes daily and a weekly class with a great teacher.
But chief amongst my diagnosed therapy treatment is escaping every weekend. In collaboration with www.wildcamping.co.uk, an old UK road map and a nose for interesting places, I am taking off every Friday night for somewhere new and invite you to join on my travels as I explore and stay in the towns and villages of North West England. It should be a fascinating adventure and I am really looking forward to it. I have drawn a circle on the map of 75 miles radius from my yard in Chester so I will only be at most hour and a half from there.
My plan is not to pay camping site fees and only stay on paid carparks as a last resort. I will tidy and pick litter in each space and try to leave it nicer than I found it. I will obey any regulations displayed and make friends with my neighbours and visitors wherever possible. Can you see my halo gleaming?
My first weekend foray was to Stafford. A town I only know from the Services on the M6 that has become my first stopping-off point for a coffee and a wee on my way to the sunny South every summer. I met Robert, a dog-walker who tapped on my back door fascinated with the lorry paintwork. He is a Stafford-based printer and asked if he could photograph the lorry for his Facebook page. We talked about the idea I had of a leaflet box attached to the lorry side advertising the show, giving info about the lorry artists and the fauna quiz. He can print it, provide a Perspex holder to attach and I think it will be great if he does. My first cold caller at the lorry back door.
And so to Stafford town, a half hour walk from my first wild camping site at the edge of the beautiful Doxey Marsh nature reserve in the lee of the M6, the main rail line and a couple of wind turbines. The weather has turned decidedly autumnal with the wind and rain lashing the lorry, but a lovely blazing fire, a full log box and food in the fridge makes it a romantic setting. For entertainment a new Rebus and a good satellite signal. So far so very good.
Stafford is a decidedly run-down town. It felt very poor with the usual array of charity and empty closed shops. There’s very little sign of the pottery and apparently the mechanized shoe-making industry town of previous centuries or of any accompanying riches. A large town square seemed almost deserted and very sad with a lone burger bar promoting ‘Lunch for £1.30’. I dread to think…
A small museum in a tudor town house was free to enter and although the house itself was impressive, apparently the largest timber-framed townhouse in England, the exhibits mostly looked a little sad. However there was a Lidl on the way out so I could stock up on inexpensive and interesting food. Roundabouts and swings.
It was lovely to stay alongside the Doxey Marsh nature reserve which originally formed the barrier that originally gave Stafford its name – it means 'ford' by a 'staithe' (landing place) and the marsh stopped people crossing. I was treated to regular flocks of incoming geese, hooting, honking and laughing as they glided onto the lake.
The very close proximity of the M6 didn’t interfere too much, and the flyover which carries it over the marsh was an impressive sight from below. If you shut your eyes it could almost sound like the sea.
Next week the cradle of the British Industrial Revolution, Ironbridge. Watch this space.
All the best from a road near you,