Spring has sprung!
The daffodil bulbs we brought back from Arran have flowered beautifully on our Leeds doorstep.
And……all being well…….the van just has to pass its MOT…. we should set off for Raasay and the land of Auntie Sue by this afternoon!!!
Spring has sprung!
The daffodil bulbs we brought back from Arran have flowered beautifully on our Leeds doorstep.
And……all being well…….the van just has to pass its MOT…. we should set off for Raasay and the land of Auntie Sue by this afternoon!!!
All the wet weather recently has meant that for the first time ever, we struggled to get the van off a very wet and muddy campsite while we were staying at Halifax. Well not exactly Halifax…..actually we were based at Hipperholme which is a couple of miles out of town.
The site itself is a small Certificated site, affiliated with the Camping and Caravanning Club, RSH Southedge Works. When we arrived at the site we were helped to negotiate the slightly muddy entrance to the camping field by Robin , the site owner and without too much difficulty Gary was able to drive on to our allocated hard standing. Strong winds were predicted for our stay and we hoped that they would dry the ground out so that our exit would be easier than our arrival. This was indeed true and by Saturday, the day we were due to leave, the water had drained away leaving the ground much firmer. But, we were having such a good time there that we decided to stay another night………
Of course, torrential rain fell from midnight on the Saturday and continued through Sunday morning. So by the time we were ready to leave the ground was thoroughly sodden and the van soon became well and truly stuck in the mud as we attempted to move the van the small distance……a matter of twenty feet or so to the safety of the tarmac at the site gate. However, help was on hand and Robin and his daughter came to our rescue. After much shoving and pushing we got the van half way towards the gate and then Robin was then able to attach a tow rope to his Volvo estate and that provided sufficient extra torque so that with another hard push the van was free and we were homeward bound.
So what was the attraction that induced us to linger at this site.
This is a rather quirky place hidden in the middle of an old industrial estate. The amenities are fairly basic. Hard standings for about 5 units, electric hook up, drinking water and a chemical toilet disposal point . No shower block, so you need to be able to be fairly well self contained. However, the toilets for the pub next door are left open for the free use of campers overnight.
Yes….the pub next door…..which is actually a micro brewery as well…..I think you can begin to see some of the extra attractions of this rather lovely oasis. The pub, The Cock Of The North, is rather unusual too. It is housed in a series of old portacabins but is warm and friendly inside with a wide selection of beers. The bar is based around a huge fish tank with lots of beautiful fish swimming around.
The pub seems very popular with the locals too and was filled with folk of all ages who were there to chat and enjoy a quiet beer.
Immediately outside the site is a bus stop with buses every 20 minutes or so into Halifax.
The centre of Hipperholme with pubs, restaurants and shops is only a 5 minutes walk away. One of the other neighbours on the industrial estate is a beauty salon offering a range of services from manicures and facials to massage!
At only £14 a night the site offers a great place to stay for anyone wanting to visit Halifax or Shibden Hall. I am sure we will be back….hopefully in warmer, drier weather!
One of the many fabulous things about having the Van is that it is like having one’s own mobile hotel. We frequently use it for short trips away to go to gigs which otherwise might mean returning home to Headingley very late at night. This wasn’t much of a problem in years gone past when a music night out was always a late one, often finished off by a curry in the early hours of the morning at Nafees or perhaps the original Corner Cafe. However, such shenanigans are now beyond the limit for two aging geriatrics who are wiped out by staying up much beyond ten o’clock. Being aged and retired does have its advantages though, as it means that attending a music event some distance from home can be stretched to a 3 or 4 night trip away. This was the case with our most recent musical escapade.
We have been Mik Artistik fans for over a decade and have seen him perform in many venues in Leeds, the last one being the “Christmas Party ” at The Brudenell in late December. So, when we saw that the Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax was offering “An Evening With Mik Artistik” it was a no brainer and a campsite in Hipperholme was duly booked.
We had never been to The Square Chapel Arts Centre before, which abuts the stunning Piece Hall in Halifax. It was early evening when we arrived at the venue and were able to admire the almost Venetian beauty of the Piece Hall before seeking out the Arts Centre.
The interior of the Arts Centre is also very beautiful with a mix of modern art and Georgian architecture.
We had been intrigued by the event as it wasn’t going to be the usual type of Mik Artistik gig. It was based in the fairly small Copper Auditorium and so promised to be quite an intimate performance which involved a short 2011 documentary film, ” Who is Mick Artistic”, an interview of Mik and his faithful band member, Jonny Flockton, by the BBC Radio 6 presenter Chris Hawkins and finally a live music set.
First how to describe his music. Well it is certainly of the Marmite variety. We absolutely love it…..our daughter absolutely hates it…and that’s despite years of indoctrination. I find it hilarious, surreal and at times totally mad. A bit like Mik himself!
For a largely unknown Leeds figure he has some very famous fans. Iggy Pop recently named “Sweet Leaf of the North” on National Public Radio in America as his favourite song from the last decade “because it’s human, and it’s real, and it has soul”. What a great recommendation for a song that’s about a leaf stuck on a van windscreen!
Actually, I find it quite hard to categorise his music. It is often amusing, sensitive, intelligent and thoughtful, but always unpredictable. To give it the label “comedy songs” would be to demean it. I would perhaps put him alongside artists such as Ivor Cutler or Viv Stanshall and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
What he does at his gigs is provide a sort of cabaret performance of his songs….usually involving impromptu and off piste ” musicalarised ” reactions to events or people at the gig itself. How on earth his fellow band members manage to keep up with his diversions from the songs on the set list heaven only knows….but they do. Such moments are hilarious at the time but do not transpose well when written down. On Thursday night for instance, he knocked over his drink during the performance and then made up a song about cleaning it up and in doing so immediately won the aged, rather reserved audience over.
For me his songs are surreal, beautiful observations of the mundaneities of everyday life which so often resonate with my own experiences. The plaintiff, “I’m turning into Dad” reminds me of when I was once in a phone box and caught sight of a stranger who was a dead ringer for my mother…..only to finally reach the ghastly conclusion that it was my own reflection! Or the numerous occasions I either have or have been tempted to make that impatient mistake of walking to the next bus stop and then had to race there, all the time worrying that the bus would overtake me before I reached the stop. The song that describes that event so well “Car That Makes A Bus Sound”, always makes me grin.
The short documentary film did provide more insights about Mik although it left many of our questions unanswered.
He was born in a small village in Ireland in 1955 and with his family came to live in Armley in Leeds when he was 5. He had quite a tough childhood and struggled with the grey, grimy, and grim aspects of industrial Armley in the sixties. After several fruitless jobs he went to art college in Bradford and art remains a great motivator for him today.
His house is a riot of chaos filled with objects and bits of detritus he has retrieved from the streets of Holbeck which he then uses as inspiration either for his songs or his artwork. He particularly enjoys “rescuing ” small, broken toys that he then puts in pride of place on his windowsill.
Although he has used a wide range of media in his art, he is most famous for his “paper bag portraits”. Simple pen or pencil portraits of local people drawn on the back of paper bags in pubs, cafes, community centres and streets around Holbeck and Leeds city centre. He says he used the bags as he thought it an interesting concept as to what might be behind the portrait on the back of the bag or what might be placed inside. And all along I had just presumed that it was simply a cheaper and more readily available paper source!
The Q and A conducted by Chris Hawkins did clear up another area of mystery. Several Christmases ago Gary was given the latest Mik Artistik CD by the family. He struggled to hide his disappointment…..he was convinced that he already had it in his collection. However when he played it later he realised that it did contain new material and indeed was a different album. It was just that the CD sleeve looked remarkably similar to the one he already possessed.
As you can see…..this is indeed true….
Mik told the audience that he deliberately kept the artwork on his all his CDs very similar as he enjoyed the thought that folks at his merchandise stall would be confused as to whether or not they had already bought the CDs on offer! This is clearly far more of a humorous prank than a sales tactic as most people will probably err on the side of caution and not buy the CD in case they already have it at home.
Being greedy I was slightly disappointed that the Q and A was not opened up to the audience so that some of my own burning questions could be answered.
Such as….was God still such a large feature in his life? In the film….now almost 10 years ago……he had said he went to mass every day …..albeit only with 6 old ladies and a priest with a club foot. As a Mik Artistik fan it had never occurred to me that he might be strongly religious.
Also although, it was probably not appropriate in that venue, I would like to know what had happened to the other regular stalwart of his band who had appeared in the film…..Benson, the bass guitarist whose musical talent my son and husband had felt irreplaceable.
Then came the moment we had all been waiting for an all too short, live music set featuring some of his best known and loved songs.
All in all a glorious evening was had by one and all.
And finally…if given the chance, what would you ask Mik?
Now that we are back home in Leeds, after spending almost 6 months on the marvellous island of Arran living in our Classic Hymer motor-home, we are having serious withdrawal problems.
Friends were amazed that living in such tight, close proximity to each other for 6 months that we didn’t fall out and that neither of us sustained or inflicted upon the other a serious injury. Especially as even at the best of times we are a rather argumentative if not combatative couple and are well known for squabbling about the slightest thing.
‘Tis true that I did complain about Gary’s insistence upon having the electric cool box in the van and about having to shift the bloody thing up and down, off the dinette, to under the table and then drag it down to under the drop down bed. Just so he could keep copious quantities of beer and wine cool for our many visitors. But, as Jamie pointed out, if having that kept him happy why be so mean as to quibble about it…..After all he was using it for the greater good. Also , to be fair, Gary did not moan much about the huge quantity of wool I had stashed about the van so that I could undertake almost any crochet project that took my fancy whilst we were away from the mother lode stash of yarn I have squatted in our cellar.
We miss Arran; its fabulous , ever changing landscapes, wildlife, beaches and fresh , clear air and we miss living in our cosy , snug van. It seems we have our best nights sleep in the van. Whether that is down to the bed or to the fact that we can seal the windows and skylights up so that hardly a speck of daylight can disturb our slumbers we do not know.
Now we are back in Leeds again my asthma is slowly worsening and breathlessness is returning. The air, here in Headingley is very polluted and we live close to one of the busiest roads into the city. The traffic along Headingley Lane was at a complete standstill this evening and the congestion stretched right from Hyde Park out to West Park….about 3 miles. Oh for the open roads of Arran. Travelling back from a night out in Brodick to Lochranza we only saw one car for the whole of the 15 miles! Although we did end up chasing a lone deer that got trapped in the glare of our headlights.
Once again Gary is struggling to sleep at night and is lucky if he gets 6 hours. In times gone past we could have blamed noisy students….or the “Stupids”…..as Gary prefers to call them. We are surrounded by hordes of them living both directly opposite in halls of residence and next door to us in a family house which has been converted into 3 flats which now accommodates 10 students! However, since our return in October they have largely been quiescent and apart from the occasional unreasonableness have been fairly quiet after the midnight hour.
We are missing North West Scotland and ache to return. In the meantime we have had to make “do” with trips away in the van to Bruges, Sheffield, Eastleigh, Skipton, Borrowdale, York, Howden and Penrith. Later this week we are off to a campsite at Hipperholme, Halifax. All wonderful places…..but not Arran!
In September we had just agreed with the Lochranza Campsite owners, Nigel and Kathy, that we would return the following Spring to resume our wardening duties when our daughter and partner announced they wanted to visit us on the Arran campsite once more.
We were a little surprised, after all it was only about a month before we would be back in Leeds for the winter. Also, we had thought that they were planning on going on holiday somewhere much warmer that month. Nonetheless a visit from them would be lovely, not only are they great company but Arya is a fabulous cook who always insists upon taking on the role of chef, food sourcer, fire stoker and chief bottle washer whenever he visits us.
I am sure you have guessed the rest. As soon as they arrived at the campsite they shared their wonderful news. Laura was 8 weeks pregnant, the baby was due in early May and they couldn’t wait for our return to Leeds in late October to tell us the good news.
This was something of a bombshell. There was definitely an emotional tear of joy in Gary’s manly eye at the thought of becoming a grandparent! We were thrilled for the young couple. We knew how much Laura wanted a baby and also that she would be a fantastic mother. As for Arya, he was obviously as pleased as punch at the prospect of imminent fatherhood and this was clearly a very special moment for him too. They swore us to secrecy as they didn’t want to broadcast their good news to everyone else before the pregnancy had been confirmed by the 12 week scan
However, this also meant an end to our Arran adventures. The baby is due in Spring and we would be immediately required for grandparent duties! Arya has no immediate family in the UK …..and every young family need as much help as they can get. I remember how difficult those early years had been for me and Gary and how we had struggled as we had no family close by.
So, sadly we were no longer Arran bound……but definitely Granny bound……
Friday 9th August dawned dark and grim with persistent, heavy rain pelting down.
It was our morning to be on duty as wardens at Lochranza campsite. We were expecting to be shadowed by Barbara and Colin who had arrived the day before as potential campsite wardens for next season. The previous evening I had arranged to call for Barbara in the morning to join me for my deer pooh collecting round of the campsite.
Nigel and Kathy, the campsite owners joined us in the office at about 8:30 am. Nigel had been watching the water level of the river Gleann Easan Biorach, which bounds the full length of the campsite on one side, all night. He was concerned that the river was going to flood at the bottom of the campsite.
But there was to be no pooh collection that day!!
Quite rightly, Nigel said that the campers in tents were most vulnerable to a flood. So accordingly, off we all went to warn those in tents in the bottom field to begin to pack up their gear to be ready to move their tents and belongings to higher ground.
All the while the rain continued to chuck itself at us. Very soon it was clear that the river level was continuing to rise rapidly. We helped move many tents and personal possessions to higher ground, repegging tents and wheelbarrowing valuables and camping equipment to an already packed Base Camp aka campers lounge. Several other campers came and helped . As for the sky it continued to throw buckets of water at us.
By now the river had breached its lower banks on the golf course and in the bottom of the campsite. As the levels continued to rise we now alerted campers on the top field. And, moved yet again the tents we had only just moved and repegged down!
Alerting campers on the top field and getting them to move their tents wasn’t easy as some folks had already gone out for the day and others were elsewhere on the campsite …..having showers in the toilet block for instance….or watching the fun and games of our struggles to rescue tents and campers personal possessions etc from the safety of the campers lounge !
But the river continued to rise and rise.
Then it became clear that not only tents but also campervans, motorhomes and caravans were also at risk from the encroaching dark waters. Nigel announced that we needed to evacuate the site.
At this point the river broke the banks at the Ballarie Bridge near the distillery,tearing down fences and ripping out gorse bushes, trees and hedges. It bypassed it’s normal course and headed straight for the top of the campsite where it came gushing over a high hedge behind the pods flooding all but the very highest ground. This meant that the road to the campsite was blocked and the fire brigade, whom Kathy had alerted early in the morning, couldn’t reach the campsite to help with the evacuation.
But with great difficulty and much help from some fantastic, public spirited campers we succeeded in safely evacuating the site. Many tents and personal possessions were lost…….but no-one was injured.
As we evacuated the site, we encountered a few problems…such as a broken down vehicle which needed towing out and some caravans that also needed towing.
The force of the water was so great that it moved not only heavy picnic tables dumping some of them miles away downstream but even wrenched the pods from their concrete moorings. One of the picnic tables made it to the middle of the river outside the Youth Hostel, it soon disappeared from there and was next reported having been spotted by the crew of the Cal Mac Lochranza/Clanaig ferry with its legs in the air floating towards Kintyre! All but one of the golf course bridges were damaged or moved from their positions. Tons of gravel from the hard standings and car park areas were carried away and dumped on the golf course fairways and greens.
It is unsurprising that this August 2019 has been one of the wettest recorded on Arran or that on that single morning 25% of the months rain fell…..over 45mm.
And what about Barbara and Colin, the rookie would-be wardens? What a baptism of floodwater they had had. They worked as hard as anyone that morning, moving tents, awnings, camping equipment etc. And, despite my advice after the evacuation to “head for the hills” they stayed for the rest of the week and worked hard helping with the big clean up that was so desperately needed!
Since we arrived back on Arran on the first of July we have been very busy with campsite duties, enjoying the beautiful countryside around us and playing host to wonderful friends and family who have been kind enough to visit. Combine that with virtually non existent wifi and the result is that I haven’t been able to write any posts for weeks!
As ever our return trip from Leeds was great. We stopped off for an overnight at The Hopetoun Arms Hotel at Leadhills which is reported to be the highest hotel in Scotland, although nearby Wanlockhead is acknowledged as the highest village at 1,295 feet These villages are only about 5 or 6 miles from the A74 motorway in South Lanarkshire and so are ideal for breaking a journey further north.There is also another pub at Wanlockhead , the Wanlockhead Inn, which also welcomes motorhomers ….and which we also intend to try at some point.
Both villages are very interesting and well worth a visit. Leadhills, as its name suggests, originally developed to accommodate miners who came for the deposits of silver and lead which could be found there. Gold was also found and the area around became known as “God’s Treasure House in Scotland”. In fact gold is still panned in the area, although you need a licence.
The Museum of Lead Mining looked fascinating and includes a real 18th century lead mine and 2 reconstructed miners cottages. But we didn’t have time to visit the museum or the Leadhills Miners library which is the oldest subscription library in the British Isles. Another attraction we didn’t have time for was the Leadhills and Wanlockhead narrow gauge railway which closed in 1939 but has been reopened by volunteers and railway enthusiasts.
So we will definitely be back for a longer visit!
This was the second time we had stopped over at The Hopetoun Arms and wont be the last.
The friendly landlord welcomes motorhomers and has 4 or 5 hard standing plots with hook up at the back of the hotel. Hook up costs £10 a night. He insisted that he recognised us, well… Gary at least, from our previous stopover a few years ago.
We have had lovely meals both times ……standard pub grub but well and freshly cooked with portions suited to hungry appetites. Several of the other couples/ people who were eating there that evening were also returnees …..another good sign with regard to the quality of the food and the warmth of the hospitality on offer.
The village shop is next door to the pub and has a good selection of groceries and the very helpful shopkeeper even offered to order newspapers for you if you ring him up in advance as they only have a couple of copies of each one.
The next day we drove along the winding B797 over Mennock Pass and through a beautiful, steep sided valley beside Mennock Water. There were lots of people wild camping along the way and some of them even seemed to be panning for gold. It seemed a beautiful, if a little desolate and wild, spot and it also all seemed a little vaguely reminiscent. I felt as if I had been through that valley before.
Was this aged photo taken in this valley too?
Can anyone identify these two youngsters?
I am struggling to write posts as regularly as usual as the strength of the campsite Wi-Fi signal is variable.
When the site is busy, which it has been for most of May it is impossible to connect.
In fact I am writing this on my phone in the lovely Ormidale hotel at Brodick .
Here are a few pictures of wildlife and views round and about the Lochranza campsite and golf course.
A pair of Golden Eagles nest on the hill at the back of the campsite. We have seen them fly over but we haven’t been able to get a photo of them yet. So you will have to make do with pictures of sheep,deer and rabbits which pose quite happily for everyone.
Although Gary did spot this rare beast in the campsite office the other day…..
…this is especially for Mick and Angie who wanted to see me in my warden’s uniform.
Life as an assistant camp site warden is quite varied. Apart from booking campers in, processing bookings and enquiries there are all the other jobs that need completing to successfully keep the campsite show on the road!
We have a great shift pattern here at Lochranza where the work load is shared between 3 couples as well as the campsite owners. We work one afternoon / evening shift from midday through to 9:00 in the evening followed by a morning shift from 8:00 till 1 pm We then have that afternoon, followed by a full day and then a further morning free to enjoy all the glories that this beautiful island offers.
Amazingly, one of my favourite jobs has been the 8:00 deer poo run!
To the delight of the campers wild deer roam the campsite and golf course and can be seen at very close quarters.
They do help to keep the grass down and tenters are frequently awaken in the deepest dark of night by strange chomping and munching noises immediately outside their fragile canvas home.
Now we all know that where there is an input there eventually has to be an output and these majestic beasts are no different from the rest of us.
So, early every morning one of the wardens is wandering the campsite collecting the mounds of deer poo before the campers step in it and walk it into their temporary dwellings.
The equipment is basic but very effective. A huge handled “dust-pan” and an accompanying rake to scoop or flick the droppings into the pan.
Perhaps it is due to their diet…..but deer poo seems to be odour free…..unlike the slurry you can get from cowpats.
I really enjoy these early mornings rambles. The light at that time of day is delightful and without the demands of a specific task I would probably otherwise remain snuggled up in bed and so miss one of the best parts of the day!
Naturally there is a close correlation between how many deer have been on site and the number of pan loads of dung collected.
My personal best has been 2 and a half pans but there has been as many as 5!
Sticking with the clean-up theme, one of our other duties includes cleaning the Ladies and Gents washrooms.When I do this I like to imagine that some Very Important People are due on site…..due to my egalitarian nature not royalty ….perhaps the Obamas…..but not some of my other heroes like Billy Bragg or The Mekons as I am sure they wouldn’t care! Whatever…. we aim to clean so that everything gleams!
We also ensure that there is a constant supply of toilet paper! The poor quality availability of toilet paper in campsite toilets is one of my pet hates as are those ruddy contraptions that only allow one measly sheet at a time. So I am so pleased that at Lonchranza soft paper runs freely from its dispenser!
Nor do mouldy shower curtains cling limply to your body when showering as the pretty curtains are changed monthly…..another warden duty.
Regular readers may be aware of a lavatorial theme running through this blog…..particularly regarding characterful loos. Like my good friend Maggie, the owners of the campsite have had their Ladies and Gents toilets twinned with toilets elsewhere . The aim of this admirable twinning is to provide sanitation in places where there is a significant lack.
Must rush off now…..need to help Gary book some campers in!
Wow! How lucky am I? I have just celebrated my 62nd birthday at one of the most beautiful spots on Arran. Nor have my friends and family forgotten me in this slightly isolated spot, where the nearest shop is 7 miles away. The postal service did a good job delivering cards and amazingly flowers from as far afield as New Zealand. The flowers were from Carol and Barry in NZ and the process of ordering the flowers was complicated and a little tricky! But what a fantastic surprise!!! My only problem was where to display them as I only had a very small vase. Luckily Gazza has a penchant for fizzy water. So I just cut up an empty water bottle and Hey Presto an impromptu vase appeared!
Our van is rather compact inside and a bit short on display areas but I managed to string up my cards across the cupboards.
There was a very clever card from the other Dangerous Sister…….
Gary and I were working in the camp site office in the morning but caught a bus from outside the campsite at 12:50 to go into Brodick for a celebration lunch at Crofters’ Music Bar Bistro
https://croftersmusicbar.com/. This is a lovely bar which holds live music sessions and also plays a wide selection of Folk, Jazz, Pop and Country music on its tape loop.
Then sadly it was back to yet another beautiful evening at the campsite.