Iona is heading south again, and by ‘south’, we mean Surrey and beyond! This trip was actually arranged back in April this year when my younger nephew married his fiance just north of Benderloch. The wedding was a small family affair, and so the bride and groom had also arranged a party in mid-August in Surrey for their friends and peer groups. And so here we are, setting out to arrive at Moat Farm on Saturday, 19th August, Hookwood, Horley!
On the way, we booked into Crosshill Campsite just south of Penrith. However, as it turned out, there are two campsites south of Penrith with similar names, and we pitched up at the wrong one at 17:30, after a two-and-a-half-hour drive. We were then advised that we should be over the other side of the hill, ten miles away! Groan, however, we were soon at the site we had booked, only to discover it was shabbier than we expected and the ‘on site’ pub was shut that night! Having set up camp and visited the wc facilities, we decided to head back to near the first campsite, to the Crown Hotel, which we knew allowed campervans to stay overnight if we bought a drink or a meal. It transpired that the Crown has a Thai menu in addition to the usual pub fare, and boy, was it good! The sticky rice was fabulous, and the Singapore noodles were delicious!
As we headed further south, our next stop was at the Cricket Club in Todmorden, an unusual but enjoyable overnighter. As we pulled into the grounds, we encountered a game being played by youngsters, and we had to stop and wait for the bowler to deliver his ball, as etiquette required, before driving around to our spot at the back of the field. As it was early afternoon, we decided to explore the town once we had set up camp. We found the town centre and the market stalls. We had an enjoyable afternoon wandering the back streets and checking out the shops, which included a local family butcher, where we bought a couple of fillet steaks and an artisan bakery, where we purchased a couple of delicious buns and a lovely sourdough loaf. There was another junior game of cricket in flow when we returned to Iona, and as we prepared dinner, we enjoyed the evocative sound of leather on willow!
We showered after our cup o’ Java in the morning and set off towards Birmingham and the Lyons Boat Yard for our next stopover. Needless to say, the roads were starting to clog up and driving in this neck of the woods was not very enjoyable; however, we made it to the boat yard and were soon parked up in the same spot as during our last visit.
Once settled, we walked the half hour into King’s Heath, where we visited the Hare and Hounds for a libation before revisiting Bizantium, an excellent tapas-style restaurant for our dinner, and Nadia even got to converse in Italian with one of the waiters! And just as winter follows summer, rain follows sunshine, and we woke to the mesmeric symphony of raindrops on Iona's roof. We thought there was nothing else for it, so we snuggled down into our duvets and listened to a couple of podcasts as the rain passed overhead. Eventually, we emerged from our cocoons and enjoyed our belated morning coffee routine while waiting for the sun to appear. Finally, at about 15:30, we walked along the canal for a pleasant stroll. Along the way, we encountered a couple of cyclists, two other people, a heron, and five ducks! Our walk took us on a loop back towards the boatyard, where we settled in for a quiet evening and enjoyed the smoked salmon we bought on our way back to Iona.
Saturday morning was pleasantly sunny, and the birdsong that woke us was joyful and exuberant! Once we were 'caffeinated', we decamped and soon were on our way to Reigate and the 'post-wedding party'. Our two-and-a-half-hour journey south was uneventful until we joined the M25, at which point it was "slow, slow, quick, quick, slow"! However, we made it to our digs at about 15:10, giving us just enough time to get spruced up and get ourselves outside for the taxi that took us to the party.
The venue was a former farm with a covered area housing the bar sponsored by the local brewery (Pilgrim), a shed for the band and the dancers and a mobile hot grill food van! It turned out to be a great evening, during which we were 'well fed and watered', caught up with family and friends and met new folks, all in the balmy summer weather of Southern England! As Nadia and I returned to our room for the night, we reflected on how wonderful the trip had been to date and how enjoyable the party was.
The southern McGregors