Monday 21 August 2023
Nido's parked up with a couple of other vans next to the Canal de la Somme, at Écluse de Sormont. After a warm day it's cooling down nicely and the sun has set. The only downside is it's hunting season here in France, so the peace and quiet is regularly broken with nearby gunfire; Salty hates this and is trying to bury a hole in the bed to hide in!
We left home early on Saturday morning and arrived at our daughter's house in Leighton Buzzard at about midday. Having just returned from living in the USA for six years, she'd just moved back into her house after renting it out and wanted some help to 'fettle' the front garden. Jobs done, we made the most of a shoreside shower before enjoying a delicious Korean meal, cooked by her partner Neal, who's American but with Korean heritage. We were able to park the van directly outside her house so we slept there overnight, our first night away on this six week trip.
After breakfast on Sunday we said our farewells and drove the three hours around the M1, M25 and M2 to spend a few hours at a car park at Farthing Common. Although the nearby road was quite busy, there was a lovely countryside walk over the chalk downs, with the channel in the distance. The Battle of Britain Memorial Museum isn't far away and we watched a couple of Spitfires flying and rolling over the Kent countryside. We arrived at the Shuttle check in at about 6.15pm and were able to get a train an hour earlier than our booking at no extra cost. The crossing was uneventful and the drive to our first stopover in France - in Ardres - took about thirty minutes. We stayed here last year and it's an easy stop with plenty of room, next to a canal and some lakes. We settled down to sleep with a firework party firing off nearby, which freaked Salty out. The hunters then started shooting at about 5am, so it was an interrupted night's sleep!
Today was planned as an admin day, to do some food shopping, fill up with diesel and find somewhere to relax and get into the France routine. We stopped at a huge shopping complex with an Auchan in Arras, but couldn't park there due to height barriers. I parked in the adjacent Leroy Merlin car park as I needed some electric anti-corrosion spray. The previous night the toilet SOG fan had stopped working, quickly followed by the toilet flush giving up. On arrival at Ardres I checked the fuse that's sited in the toilet cassette compartment; it was oxidised and so I replaced this, but the fuse section needed a clean and a spray to reduce corrosion - Leroy Merlin had the stuff I needed! I used this later in the fuse compartment and on the micro-switch that operates the SOG fan. Both now seem to be working OK. As Auchan was a non-starter I drove on to a nearby Le Clerc supermarket, where we topped up with food and diesel. Both were very expensive, which seems the norm now.
The drive to Écluse de Sormont took an hour and we parked up in the shade overlooking the canal, followed by a quick lunch sat under the trees by the water. We had a walk along the canal before crossing the bridge and walking on the other side, with glimpses of the lakes and waterways that make up 80 hectares of wetlands. It was here the hunters have taken to punts and are now blasting away at anything that moves!
There's currently a heatwave in France, mainly in the middle and the south, and it's due to last for a few days. So we'll take a slow meander, heading first for the Champagne region before turning south towards our planned destination of the Auvergne department, to explore this volcanic region. Although we stopped in that area on our first motorhome trip to France in 2013, we only stayed one night. We want to spend some time exploring that area, so long as the climate allows us to enjoy it. But, as always, we may just wander around as the mood take us, checking out different places as we come across them.
|Farthing Common Viewpoint car park
|Écluse de Sormont, by the Canal de la Somme