Bit of a lie in today, 9am start at work. It’s only a short shift, finishing at 2pm. Followed by a day off tomorrow and a lunchtime start the day after. Days off have been plentiful since we started the new job. Not much time to ourselves though, due to various commitments and going home to pick up a few more bits and pieces.
This little break is going to be different. It’s our anniversary, 31 years he’s made me suffer, I would’ve served less for murder. Anyway, with the anniversary comes the promise of an afternoon out exploring our new locality and even better, out for tea later, not dinner, still a northern girl at heart.
After our two hour work out cleaning the loos we are suitably energised and starving. Back at the caravan the sun is shining and wispy clouds float by, promising signs of spring maybe. Hard to believe that just two days ago the site was blanketed in snow for the second time in two weeks. We still have the remnants of a snowman looking quite forlorn. Butties washed down with a cup of builders tea and the bike chain starts to clink as The Boss starts to do his pre ride checks. The tandem hasn’t been ridden since our jaunt around Europe and has started to think we’ve forgotten about it. Tyres checked, chain checked and for the first time in nine months the tandem sparkles in the sunshine. It must, at this point, be pointed out that our bodies aren’t Lycra ready, to say we’ve put a little bit of weight on is an understatement, if I were to don my cycling attire I feel I’d stretch it to the point of being see through. Jeans and a hoodie it is.
The Boss has done his homework, famous last words but I’m used to him now, so, we’ll point the bike in the general direction of tea and cake and see what happens.
We take a left out of the site heading towards a car park on the right, he’s sure it’ll appear soon. I’m not bothered, New Forest ponies graze at the side of the road and stare at us as we approach. They move for no one, man, beast, bike or car. Everyone slows down and either patiently waits or manoeuvres around them.
Said car park appears just before Burley and true to form, we sail straight past the entrance. The road that had been relatively traffic free up to this point suddenly resembles the M25 on a Friday tea time, meaning lots of huffing and puffing on the front of the tandem as he waits to turn around. The car park resembles the surface of the moon, full of craters, craters that are full of water. Trying to negotiate a tandem around them is a skill in itself. At the far end of the car park is the path he’s been looking for. A narrow, stony path leading to a disused railway line which now is popular with walkers and cyclists. Apparently, my favourite New Forest tearoom is at the end of it. With the promise of tea and cake the pilot on the back, (me), knuckles down and pedals to get us through the muddy puddles and past the pot holes that blight the track. The track, which is very picturesque has its downfalls. Downfalls that the good old tourist could stop. One use empty coffee cups, now rusty beer cans, dog poo bags and weirdly, lots of single shoe soles!! All abandoned at the side of the track and in the hedgerows. One dog poo bag had even been left decorating a tree! Why oh why? Don’t even get me started. I know there’s a lack of bins but please, carry it just that little bit further to a bin.
Further along, the tree lined track ends at a road. Through the gate and The Old Station Tearooms appear. Typical, well timed, five past four, they shut at four. I suppose we’ve saved ourselves the tenner that tea and cake would probably have cost. Turn around and head back. A disgruntled family of cyclists also re mount their cycles after pulling frantically on the door in the hope that somehow it may, miraculously open.
Back on the track, The Boss knows another way back, turn left at the next turning. Bit of a blip. 100 yards up the left turn it splits left and right. He heads left, crunching down the gears as the only steep hill in the New Forest rises ahead of us. Top of the hill and ‘Surely this isn’t right!’ he grumbles, once again turning the tandem around and free wheeling down the hill I’ve just struggled to pedal up. Heading along the other branch of the track, this leads to familiar territory, albeit across a field so muddy that stopping or falling off was definitely not an option. Finally, a road, in the distance a propeller. A memorial to the New Forest Airfields, upon which our caravan site stands. A moment of reflection and back in the saddle, around the corner and back to site.
Louis, our tandem, is looking particularly mucky, fortunately we’ve a bike washing area on site, Louis heads off with The Boss, whilst I head for the kettle. The promised cup of tea, no cake though.
Having promised ourselves a nice meal out in a local pub to celebrate 31 happy years, half an hour later and a cup of builders later, it’s gone 6pm and I can’t be bothered to shower and make myself public ready. It’s decided, jump into the car, head for Christchurch, takeaway and a walk along the beach at Steamer Point.
The beach is totally relaxing, even in the fast fading light. The waves gently lapping on the beach in what is an otherwise quiet and still evening. The spring like feel of this afternoon disappears quickly as night time draws in and the temperature falls. Still wearing shorts but bundled up with his hat, scarf and coat on, The Boss suggests we head back to the car. The Jellybeans bought us a particularly nice bottle of white at the weekend. Time to open that when we get back. Did I mention it’s our 31st anniversary? If you’d told me 31 years ago that I’d spend today as a Caravan and Motorhome Club assistant warden, scrubbing toilets, cycling on a tandem, eating takeaway and walking on the beach, I’m not sure I would’ve believed you. I doubt I would have believed you one year ago.
Happy anniversary Steve, thanks for the card.