A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

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Stones and More Comfort

Ride Date 8 May 2022

By Ren Withnell

It was warmer last night and sleep did come, albeit in fits and starts between needing a pee and pins and needles in my arms. We have the chair situation sorted out, now I need to fix the bed problem. Hmmmm. 

I'm not the only one up early, I guess it's not just me that struggles in a tent. By 0600 there's already a handful of campers doing the stuffing, squishing and Tetris packing required to fit portable accommodation onto the back of a motorcycle. By 0800 when Her Ladyship is stirring half the field is already loaded and ready to go. By 1000 there's but a handful left. Sharon and I are the last to leave at 1045 save for our host who is checking the field for rubbish. He finds very very little indeed, not a bad lot this lot.

Ren's tent and all that is within must fit on the bike
Everything you see and all within must fit on the bike.

Regular readers will know I'm a fusspot and worry-wort and stress-head when we're out on our adventures. I'm always wanting to move on and get to the next place, always thinking "what if" and we need to leave plenty of leeway in case of a problem. Today is less stressful - why? We only have around 110 miles to cover today and all day to do it. Our campsite is already booked and paid for. This makes the whole experience less stressful.

Google sat nav wants me to take the motorways. Err, no thanks, I turn off that option and add in Swindon, this appears to give me a more rural route. 

Our route works well. We're mostly on main "A" roads that are flowing well enough to feel like we're getting somewhere while being mostly rural so we get to see the countryside passing by. It doesn't feel long at all before we're getting close to Swindon and I can feel the need, the need for tea. I pull off the road and using google maps I find a cafe not too far away. This being Sunday I'm not sure it'll be open, but it's worth a shot.

TJ's Cafe is on an industrial estate north-east of the town. It's not pretty or posh, it's a proper cafe aimed squarely at working folks wanting good grub and a hot brew. Why they're open on a Sunday I don't know because it's more than quiet. Damn - their prices are more than fair. We discuss. I mean, you know, we could have a main meal here and just get a snack for tonight rather than cooking later? Yeah? That'll be sausage chips 'n beans and a chilli baked potato please. Oh and 2 teas. Simple, tasty, filling, affordable - we couldn't ask for more.

Our next destination is on Sharon's list of places we need to see - Avebury Ring. I'm *SURE* I've been here before and on a motorcycle, but for the life of me I can't remember the when or what or why or who of it all. 

Ancient monoliths standing in a circular form as part of the massive Avebury Ring
It's all Deja-Vu for me but I can't work out why.

To walk around the stones is free but of course the parking isn't. There's 2 young and, err... attractive ladies handing out flyers and managing the car park on behalf of The National Trust. Obviously I don't notice their youthful good looks as I only have eyes for Sharon (HELP!). They're super friendly and enthusiastic, informing us that we can park here and it's free for motorcycles. Great! We lock the helmets and jackets to the bike, feeling a little safer knowing the ladies are close by to keep an eye on things.

It's warm. Perhaps a tad too warm to be walking around in bike gear. Yes we've dumped the jackets and helmets but we're still wearing bike boots and bike pants and carrying our valuables. Not to worry though, Sharon seems delighted with the massive standing stones and I'm happy to wander slowly among them. There's plenty of people about though thankfully it's not packed. 

Sharon leans against a massive standing stone at Avebury
Sharon felt a spiritual need to touch many of the stones.

We stop for a rest in the cafe, parting with some hard earned to purchase 2 small tubs of ice cream. It really is very tasty yet alas at £2.50 per tub I'd expect it to be. At that price I think it should include a foot massage while watching a documentary about Avebury Ring. 

A small tub of ice cream and a plastic spoon to eat it with
Lovely ice cream, no foot massage.

Onwards again, our next destination is to be our home for 3 more nights so I do hope it's nice. More of England's finest countryside rolls by then along with a throng of traffic we stumble upon Stonehenge's visitor centre. Hmmmm. Note to self - Stonehenge is a busy place at the weekends. 

Finding the campsite is troublesome, even with Sat Nav. We go up hill and down dale, through, around and across many junctions. This damn technology is making no sense at all. Up to Stonehenge, then back, into the country, then back, along the dual carriageway, then back. I eventually work out that there's a tiny turning off a complex junction I've missed several times. I'm getting tired now and a tad angry. 

My first impressions of the site aren't great. A seemingly incomplete building, a rough gravel driveway, a large grassy bit and 3 large teepees. And not a soul nor a reception in sight. I ought not judge on first impressions though. 

The 2 bikes and an unclad breezeblock build building at the campsite
It ain't looking much so far...

The incomplete building is 99.9% finished, save for perhaps some paint and cladding. Within is a smart kitchen complete with fridge, freezer, electric hob, toaster, kettle, microwave and 2 sinks. It's all near-as-dammit new. There's bench tables and crockery and pans and plates and bowls. There's 2 very smart showers and 2 equally smart loos, all in their own private cubicles, each shower cubicle has a heater too. There's also stocked shelves with fair prices for basic foodstuffs and an honesty box to pay into. There's also a note from the owner advising we can pitch where we like as there's no-one else on site.

A set of wooden shelves filled with food basics like beans and crisps inside the basic building
Nothing amazing but damn useful if you ain't gotten food with you.
Smart kitchen, wooden table benches and plenty of facilities at the campsite
Handy and far more comfortable to cook in.
A covered area with table benches and a ping-pong table
You can dine alfresco even if it's raining.

While the grass ain't bowling green flat this is turning out rather splendidly. We pitch up and settle in. With the building to ourselves this immediately becomes "ours" as we make a brew and sit down to soak it all in. It is most gratifying to use a real kettle and cook on a proper stove and have worktops and a sink. I could live here, there's everything I'd ever need... I suppose a garage and workshop out back would be out of the question?

The evening slips by far too easily. I think I'm getting old because I'd have been bored just "hanging out" and "chilling out" a few years back. Or, or has lockdown changed me? I suspect the answer lies somewhere between the two. I feel as though I ought to be cross with myself for being so undriven, then I realise I've enjoyed the evening and the reasons don't matter. 

It seems a shame to part the comfort of the building and head to the restricted confines of the tent. I'm tempted to pull the matt and sleeping bag into the kitchen, perhaps not, that might be construed as taking too many liberties. It's not too cold outside anyhow. 

We'll review your bike stuff - contact [email protected]

Prologue - It's Not Up North Happenstance and circumstance is the driving force behind this trip's direction. Ren explains it all.
Down To Akeley It's the first day of the southern adventure and already Ren is reclining in sumptuous luxury. So, err... what's changed?
A Look Around F1 Country Ren offers an all too lengthy explanation of his uncouth approach to museums before taking in some quintessentially English countryside.
Stones and More Comfort It's time to depart the rally and head even further daaan saaaf. There's plenty of time for tea and to explore some ancient standing stones. What will the next 3 nights' accommodation be like?
Stonehenge On The Cheap, Salisbury On The Hoof It's time to take in Britain's most famous monolithic structure - Stonehenge. Salisbury is also going to endure a good dose of looking at as well.
A Walk In Dinton There's a simple and lazy day ahead of The Dynamic Muppets today with not much planned. This eventually leads Ren to his new career as a Surrealist Artist Extraordinaire. Soon he will be famous and rich?
Off To The New Forest It's time to move on once again and head even further daaan saaaf. The New Forest might be quite lovely but given the foul weather Sharon and Ren won't be finding out today - in fact they are struggling to see the road ahead.
Exploring The New Forest With better weather and a tank full of fuel it's time to look around the New Forest. There's a risk of trees and horses and tractors.
Half Way Home Oh no! Disaster! The weather is just right, the trip goes well and even the accommodation is lovely. Surely there must be something Ren can find to moan about? It's all going terribly wrong.
Homeward Bound And Thoughts There's not much to report on the final leg of the journey - in a good way. Ren shares his thoughts on this adventure in that there daaan saaaf.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Hanging out, Chilling out......it's got my vote any blummin day of the blummin week. We may be retired but everyday at home is full, or thereabouts. One of the great pleasures of being away is the gardening, painting, car washing, cleaning, shopping etc are all too far away to worry about. 24 hours everyday to do just as you damn well please.
Your missing of the junction reminds me of a time a few years back in Northern Italy, I couldn't find the blummin turn, turned out the road sign was buried in someone's hedge. It's amazing how you can go from chilled.....that's if you can be chilled when it's a stinking 39 degrees in an Italian town centre in full kit on a motorcycle that weighs around 500 KG....to a blithering wreck who'd probably kill for a cold beer, or a cup of char.
That campsite looks positively gorgeous, all it needs is double beds and en-suite showers.

06/06/2022 09:09:06 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Yes, Avebury is brilliant and I must go there again. I have a feeling I've mentioned this before her (Ren's search doesn't seem to be working) but many many years ago a small group of us including an 18 month old baby decided on the spur of the moment to pile into my rickety J4 minibus and trundled down there in the early hours of a spring morning. The stones in moonlight were staggering (as were some of the party having ingested various substances) but it all became a bit Dennis Wheatley when we discovered the corpse of a new born lamb at the foot of one of the stones.

No idea whether it was a local coven or just that the poor thing's mum had given birth there and abandoned it but it certainly sobereed us all up, even those of us who hadn't been indulging, and it was a quiet ride back to Brum.

Getting tired and hot is one of the hazards of bike touring, and I've had a couple of near misses in the past due to that. Hence always looking for a place to lay my weary head by early afternoon.
06/06/2022 10:26:17 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The campsite was indeed most handy and in a lovely location Upt'. If it did have beds and an en-suite then it would have cost a lot more per night. As it was it ain't the cheapest of campsites.

As for your youthful tales Ian - as a "maturing" chap who is now a decent upstanding pillar of the community I am shocked and appalled to hear your younger days were not so clean cut. I'm envisioning some kind of hippy commune travelling down to "the stones" in an old beat-up VW van to partake in inebriated orgies. Prey tell me it's not so and you were all university students wearing formal dress and simply having a "jolly jape".
06/06/2022 17:20:10 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Enlighten us Ed, how much does it cost to pitch a tent in the year of our Lord 2022?
I really haven't got a clue.
But I know you're lucky to get a decent b and b for less than 3 figures.
06/06/2022 19:05:20 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
While still cheaper than a hotel or BnB, it's no longer "cheap".

Last year I managed to find a pitch for the night for £7. While the location was lovely the facilities were basic, a rough cut field with 2 toilets and a shower in a corner of the cow shed. Sufficient rather than luxurious.

Most places seem to be charging between £17 and £23 per night. The place above cost us £25 per night. I've seen places running up to £35. The price does not always reflect the quality either with the odd ones just being a right royal rip off.

If you look hard enough it is possible to find a "fairly good" hotel for £75. Travelodges can still be had for £30 per night but that's the exception rather than the rule.
07/06/2022 08:06:56 UTC
Glyn said :-
I'm not so sure that you're of maturing age yet Ren. My thinking is that Ian and company did not travel to the stones in a relatively modern VW but a Commer J4 van, the like if which I have motored thousands of miles in 40+ years ago. Enlighten us Ian, I'm mostly wrong these days I do admit.
07/06/2022 09:27:33 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Ren's first guess was nearer the mark although as said it was an Austin not a horrible VW. And how are you suggest that I would have anything to do with undergraduate "japes" - my name isn't Johnson! The van was like the pic although not as tidy and obviously not LHD. I seem to remember that the gearlever gate was "backwards ie the 1st / 2nd was where you expect 3rd/4th and vice versa although I may be thinking of something else. I can't for the life of me remember why I even had it.....
Posted Image
07/06/2022 10:00:31 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
It must have been standard to give you a crap gear change in an English van. Anyone driven a Commer? God awful things, your fingers got trapped against the dash in 1st and 3rd. Dare to touch the brakes and the things would kangaroo violently with gay abandon.
Oh the good ol'day's, I wonder why we don't design and manufacture many vehicles in the UK these days, it's a mystery.
07/06/2022 11:34:28 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Gosh yeah I saw a few of the old Commers around in the good old days. They were miserable then and any remaining now must be blooming awful. I don't recall the Austin van pictured but that looks equally horrible too.

I figure the British car industry went the same way as the British bike industry. Poor quality products in comparison to models from the far east, expensive production costs and a general malaise when it came to modernising, updating and improving things.
07/06/2022 12:55:21 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
I think you're being a bit unfair to the British car industry Ren. It did suffer, as did the bike industry, from incompetent management but many of the problems especially when compared to the German and Japanese industries were that in Britain they were soldiering on with worn out plant whereas our erstwhile enemies, having had all their factories demolished, were forced to start again with new stuff.

And although people laugh at cars like the Allegro although I don't know why, there was much innovative and clever design going on from the Mini and its larger stablemates to the Hillman Imp of which I have fond memories. People also forget the instant-rot Fiats and Datsuns of the 1970s.

Having said all that the J4 was indeed something of a horror and the Transit unsurprisingly saw it off.
07/06/2022 15:29:59 UTC
Glyn said :-
I, like Ian, remember the J4 well (it was a BMC as you say). Those days of free love certainly had some extra appeal in a J4 van as we went camping at Hollands Wood in Hampshire. The only free thing I get these days is a pen if I apply for over 60s life insurance. The J4 was a works van that was eventually replaced with a Hillman Imp van.. yeah god's.. it was some years later that the 1st very fine Escort van was issued.
07/06/2022 15:31:20 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ed, can you take control please. Well, as much as a small person can.
It's turning into a nude, drug taking frenzy. The worst part is......it passed me by.
We used a Commer van at our Division for riot duties, it had two polished slatted wood bench seats on each side. If you hit the braked hard, it kangaroo'd everybody into the front usually landing on the Sgt in the passenger seat. Everybody usually turned quite green.
Happy,happy days. I got to drive it because I had the permit for it, then I realised the only reason I got it is because no one else wanted it!
07/06/2022 17:00:54 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'll admit the Mini WAS a great car - I learned to drive in a Mini estate. They handled supremely well and how they made it so small yet usable was impressive. The A series motor wasn't a baddun either. It's a shame a certain Germanic company has transformed it into a massive bloated monstrosity. How on earth they can use the word "Mini" without breaking several advertising regulations I know not.

While I have reached the dotage of 50+ years I wasn't around for those seemingly halcyon days of "free love". I'm quite sure you're all remembering through rose tinted glasses. I can see you all "peace man" with flowers in your long hair, well, except for Upt' who'd be knocking you about with his truncheon once he'd recovered from being gassed and squashed in the riot van.

I noticed the other day... Prestige cars. Once upon a time on seeing a "Beemer" (BMW) we young 'uns would point and go "wow!", thinking the owner was some rich executive (or a drug dealer). Today most cars appear to be prestige models - in which case where's the prestige? Walk around any modernish estate today it's all Audi, BMW and top of the range Kia, barely anything over 5 years old too.

It's no wonder Boris is in power, everyone's gotten too much money (except me).
07/06/2022 18:02:48 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ahhhhhhhh. The Mini.
If anyone feels like reminiscing about the long lost Mini can I suggest you try a 60hp Mii.
Yes the Mii, or UP! Or indeed Citigo. Fantastic "little" car, take it down a country lane in 3rd screaming the nuts off it, it's very reminiscent of the Mini. Except it's got suspension and doesn't stop when it rains. Very roomy too in the front.
It's the most fun you can have on four wheels with your clothes on.
07/06/2022 18:22:48 UTC
Bill said :-
My first mini, bought for £8 with supposed seized gearbox, put engine back into posion with new mounting untrapping gearstick and gearbox perfect.
Posted Image
07/06/2022 18:58:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I've seen a few UP!s around Upt', never driven one though. I'm surprised you dimensionally overendowed folks would fit in one. Be just about right for me though.

£8 Bill! That sounds like a bargain... until you realise that was a month's wages back in 19 something and plonk-de-plonk. Looks a tad rough around the edges.
08/06/2022 14:46:57 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Minis eh.... My first car was a Moggie 1000 van which I bought (for £30) for a trip to Switzerland with my mate, his wife and his sister (who I later realised was holding a torch for me but I was too innocent & naive to know). The sturdy Morris took us to Grindelwald quite happily but when there developed a gearbox fault where it would "automatically" change from 1st to 2nd on a steep climb which of course was common in the Alps. It did get us home but later started to refuse to engage reverse and eventually the petrol tank fell out (rotten mountings) on my way to work.

I tied the tank in with some cable from the power station where I was apprenticed and drove to a shady used car lot where I was careful to park where I didn't need to get reverse to drive away and where the proprietor couldn't see the tank "mountings". After some tough negotiation - mostly on his part - I drove away in a beat up Minivan leaving the Moggie in a pile of its own rust.

On my trip home that evening I realised I may have had the worse of the bargain. The brakes were all but inoperative and there were huge holes in the footwells. And the petrol pump was shot. Aficionados of these vehicles know that the electric pump was inside the rear subframe and a sharp rap would usually get it going again. I was engaged in this exercise in a handy layby when a police car drew up beside me and after a quick going over pronounced the car was a death trap and wanted me to take it off the road.

To my shame I mentioned when I gave him my details and he noticed the unusual surname that my father was an inspector in his division and that he would make sure I sorted the defects out. The cop let me go but of course told Dad what had happened. So I had to spend the next couple of weeks trying to sort out the various problems. I never heard the last of it from Dad who was still bringing it up decades later.
08/06/2022 16:07:13 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Essentially Mr Soady, you got off the hook simply because of family connections. It's never what you know but who you know, friends in high places and all that huh? The more I hear the more I think your trip to the stones was indeed an undergraduate jape in a Johnsonesque fashion. We common folks would have been clapped in irons, mind you if they were British Leyland irons we'd have soon escaped due to the rust issues.

I recall back in the day when assessing a car it was important to poke and prod the sills and floors and wheelarches. Oft times a finger or other pointy object would vanish into the bodywork. This was on all cars, from BMWs through Nissans and Renaults. More recently while looking over a car with a car dealer friend of mine I got down on the floor to inspect the underside. My friend looked at me oddly - "modern cars don't rust".

They do, but nothing like how they used to. Apparently they're galvanised or otherwise treated which negates some if not most of the horrors of the past.
09/06/2022 08:36:59 UTC
Bill said :-
"Tad Rough around the edges" Ren were you looking in a mirror. The term is drivable classic in need of minor refurbishment. The numberplate alone would now be worth £500.
It lasted 12 months including a trip to Cornwall full of camping gear and big box of spares borrowed from work on buy or return terms. Then got £11 of scrap man when subframe snapped.Bargain motoring in early 70s and wages, even as an apprentice were more than you think.
09/06/2022 19:56:11 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Drivable classic! A triumph of marketing over substance. You made £3 profit on the whole deal Bill, well done. Did you ever consider a career in car sales? I can see you as an Arthur Daley.
10/06/2022 08:54:18 UTC
Bill said :-
Ren, a years maintenance free and cleaning free motoring and sell at a profit, here's me thinking it would fit your ethos perfectly and you cut me to the bone with your Arthur Daily insult, so I won't tel you about the free moped of my youth for fear of more dispersions on my wheeling and dealing past.
10/06/2022 19:23:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Aaaawww Bill! I think you'll find I was casting aspersions...

I once picked up a Fiat Punto for £80, ran it for 9 months before it failed it's MOT. Mind you the scrappy only gave me £50 for it so I lost £30 on the whole deal. I hear so many stories of people wheeling and dealing and always making a profit, even if it's a small one. I've never made a profit on any deal.
13/06/2022 14:00:45 UTC
Bill said :-
OK you northern pedant (not peasant or pheasant)
Mind you perhaps in your case I was correct in my error :-) sounds like your camping trip

the action or process of distributing things or people over a wide area.

Never mind Ren you make a profit in your experiences even if not monetary and you are always a prophet to your readers.
13/06/2022 17:37:46 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Pedant! It's my pedantic ways that help me craft such beautiful skilful and intellectual blogs like wot these is. I wish I was not a peasant though. With my good looks and superior intellect I still find it remarkable I've not been "discovered" by media outlets and transformed into the guru of motorcycling. Oh well, their loss. Tell me Bill is there a way to profit from being a prophet? I can't see any of you lot paying me a penny let along half your income to be one of my disciples.

14/06/2022 08:27:53 UTC
Bogger said :-
Just to rub salt into the wounds Ed. Last year I happened upon a Range Rover 2012 plate. No damage but running rough. Bought it for £500.00. Sold it 3 days later for £2,500.00. Twelve month before that I bought a Megane Diesel for £100.00 sold it for £1400.00 . I did have to spent £220.000 on it though and 4hrs of my labour. Oh the free Majesty scooter is coming along ok as well.

15/06/2022 12:45:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Do me a favour you super duper money making traders - go away in the rudest form you can think of. Pfffffft.
15/06/2022 14:11:44 UTC
said :-
"Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'll admit the Mini WAS a great car - I learned to drive in a Mini estate. They handled supremely well and how they made it so small yet usable was impressive. The A series motor wasn't a baddun either. It's a shame a certain Germanic company has transformed it into a massive bloated monstrosity. How on earth they can use the word "Mini" without breaking several advertising regulations I know not."

I had an original Mini back in the day...loved it to bits but it was rotten as a pear, rusting away before my eyes!

It's not easy being a BAT disciple...Ren, The Great Leader, slags-off Audi's and Audi drivers so I sell my Audi and buy something smaller and sensible in an effort to please and pacify 'The Great One', what could possibly be wrong with a nice new MINI...Oh!!
16/06/2022 10:50:21 UTC
Ross said :-
Oops, last post was from me but forgot to add my name!
16/06/2022 10:51:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
HAHAHA!! Oh my word Ross, poor you. My delicate ego would like to believe you follow my every word and cling to my life ethos, but I suspect you tease me muchly. If you truly wish to be just like me you need an Astra Estate with a 1.3l diesel engine out of a Fiat that can barely pull the skin off a rice pudding... but it does return 60mpg all day long.

As previously stated any true disciple would send me half their income. Pfffft.

In spite of this I hope you're well and making the most of this clement weather, for it won't be long 'til winter is upon us once again.
16/06/2022 12:32:28 UTC
Borsuk said :-
I will happily give you half my current income Ren, in fact I would give you twice my current income if you wanted it.

16/06/2022 17:50:42 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Half of nothing is nothing, twice nothing is nothing! Sounds like a deal to me Borsuk, thanks.
16/06/2022 19:19:25 UTC

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