Updated: Nov 9
It continued to rain all morning as we joined the B-road East, through Lympne to the A20 and over the M20 motorway. I then picked up the road to Lyminge. The next village on is Ottinge where I pulled into a farm shop for some groceries. However, it was closed. It seems that my information (via the internet) was wrong. I was told that there is a vending machine for milk and yoghurts. I got talking to a bloke who was getting milk for himself. He informed me that the milk was fresh unpasteurised milk from the farm. I don’t normally do cow juice, but on this occasion, beggars can’t be choosers. Unfortunately, I had no change. I asked the bloke whether he had change for a fiver. “No.”, he said, “But I do have a pound coin that you can have to get some milk.” I thanked him for his kindness, then was soon back on the road.
By the time we were transiting the village of Elham the rain had stopped. A short distance on from the village a good sized potholed layby appears on the right. Not ideal, but far enough off of the road. Besides, from what I could gather, there was nothing else for some miles.
Annoyingly, Rowan decided to cross the road! There was a bit of wood about, but of course, wet. Typical. The first wooded area I come to and it’s soaking wet. The mobile signal wasn’t particularly good either.
Elham Valley stretches across the North Downs roughly between the A20 and A2 London roads. It’s carved out by the River Nailbourne.
I had been there for, I suppose, about an hour when a car pulled into the layby. A holler came from the car. I went to the door. The man, Mark, I soon discovered, exclaimed, “Man, I love your caravan!”
I thanked him, then he said, “This is a shit place to park. I run a campsite along the road. Come there.”
I explained that I can’t afford campsites.
“No bother.” he said, “Come, be my guest for a couple of days. Have a shower and get some laundry done.”
It was too good an offer to refuse. Mark shot off to get on with what he was supposed to be doing when he spotted me. Half an hour later, he was back. I was tacked down and ready to follow him. A mile later, we turned into a little campsite on the left. It’s a beautiful little spot that gets the Sun all day. I chose the best spot with the best view from my door.
Once settled, I went for a shower. It was a bit tepid and was one of those showers that involves having to push a button and hold it in. If you let go, the water stops flowing. I am assured that tepid water is not the norm. Nor was it the case when I used the shower subsequently. There are no laundry facilities officially. However, Mark opened the private laundry room for me. He also lent me a clothes horse for drying. I told him about my blog and made sure that I had his e-mail address. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I spent a couple of days relaxing and meeting some of the people there; all very relaxed and friendly. Even the dogs were friendly and well behaved.
The next morning, I was due to move on. However, the Universe had other ideas. As I stepped out, half asleep, a gust of wind suddenly slammed my door shut. The force of which broke the shelf of the lower section! I was forced to stay so that I could repair the damage. I had to wait until the following day to start. The wind was pretty full on all day. The next day, I unhitched the caravan and unsheeted the truck. The repair itself was quick and easy enough. However, as it involved wood glue, it needed 24hrs. to set. While the truck was open, I took the opportunity to do some maintenance on both my caravan and the truck. And as I was in need of a few groceries, Mark gave me a lift to a supermarket in Canterbury.
It was at this time that I (and Rowan) started to receive gifts. I was given a number of reasons for the offerings. A South African fella called Michael gave me, among other things, a beautiful little African clay hut. He claims that it was made by Nelson Mandela. I have no reason to believe it untrue. Either way, it’s a beautiful gift.
The reason behind his gifts is that by allowing him to investigate the origins of a Chinese relief wood carving that I have, it would be giving him a mission; a purpose. Many photographs of the relief were taken from every conceivable angle.
Michael the South African also created the first bit of graffiti on my caravan. He drew a groovy little image of Snoopy.
I made up some herbal medicines for a couple of people, which started with Kaz, Mark’s partner. I think it was the magic of the Valerian root that got her attention. She had been having trouble resting at night. A cup of Valerian put her in a restful state, pronto! Much time was spent chatting and listening.
I ended up staying there for ten days! Mark and Kaz are wonderful, kind and generous beings. The love they showed me was exactly what I needed, though I probably didn’t realise it at the time. They gave me sanctuary; space for Rowan and I to recharge in a loving, peaceful environment.
Early morning Moon
*relief carving photograph courtesy of Oliver Herbert