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Return to Sidley

I hadn’t got far before I became aware of a potentially dangerous problem. There was a knocking sound that I could feel through the brake pedal. I crawled into the layby on the A28 outside the village. There was a snack van in the layby. The proprietor has been trading there for a number of years. I got a cup of tea. I then sat and thought about what I should do.

The A28 is a very busy road, connecting Hastings, Ashford, Canterbury and the Isle of Thanet. I couldn’t let Rowan out. A railway line runs alongside the road at this point, too. Amazingly though, there were a number of children playing along the opposite side of the road! Some had bicycles, some had scooters.

I telephoned Michael. I explained that under the circumstances, I’d rather not have to remain at the layby. If possible, I needed him to come out to me and tow my caravan back to Sidley. I would lead the way, carefully, avoiding using the brakes as often as possible. That way, if anything went wrong with the truck, he’d be right there. I reasoned that getting back to Sidley, where I had room, time and assistance, if needed, plus easy access to parts, would be better than trying to repair whatever is wrong in the layby. I of course, suspected that the problem was related to the brake issues I had had back in the Haslemere area.*

Michael concurred. He said that he would be a couple of hours at least. “No worries.” I said. I unhitched the trailer. I then got another cup of tea and read a book.

Michael turned up a lot sooner than expected. As soon as I saw him coming along the road, I pulled the truck away from the trailer and reversed to behind it. By this time, Michael had turned around. He pulled up in front of the trailer. In a few minutes, we were ready for the off. Michael said that he had managed to get away a lot sooner than anticipated. After a quick conflab, we headed off, I pulling out around Michael and leading the way.

The journey went extremely well. I poodled along with Michael chugging behind me. Surprisingly, we got all the way to Rye without a single vehicle overtaking us, despite the fact that there were plenty of safe opportunities to do so, except for two motorcycles. The first, I spotted immediately, he had sat behind me on the offside, where I could see him in the mirror. As soon as it was safe to do so, he came pass me. As for the second motorcycle, the only reason that I knew that it was behind me was because I could see a shadow on the road moving erratically.

As Rye was busy, traffic had got between us. I continued on and climbed Winchelsea Hill. I strained to see down the hill after the hairpin. No sign of Michael. The next village on is Icklesham. I pulled into the layby. I knew that Michael would be down to first gear climbing Winchelsea Hill. As soon as he was in sight, I pulled out and continued on.

Next was Guestling Hill. Guestling Hill is a long steep hill out of the village of Guestling. It opens up to accommodate an overtaking lane. Inevitably, loads of vehicles came past. I knew Michael would get left behind again, so resolved to wait for him at the top of the hill, as it enters the environs of Hastings. The road is still very broad as it levels out before descending down to Hastings. I pulled over, gently touching the brakes. Nothing. The truck kept on rolling. I pulled the handbrake to come to a standstill. The truck had rolled to a pedestrian crossing outside a school. I reversed slowly to set myself in a safe position. I got out and flagged Michael down as soon as he came into view.

I was just explaining to Michael that the brakes had failed when I noticed oil on the road by the wheel. A quick examination revealed that the brake pipe had split. It then dawned on me how lucky I had been. Had I not stopped where I had, I would not have stopped at all before hitting something, possibly killing myself, Rowan and any unsuspecting persons. Just beyond the pedestrian crossing the road descends steeply to the town of Hastings. A short way down is a major junction that is controlled with traffic lights! I shuddered.

Michael 'phoned Froggy. We then locked the truck and with Rowan on board, took my caravan to the park up near Sidley. Rowan was now able to get out and stretch her legs, as well as chill out at home. We had a quick cup of tea, then headed back to the truck. Froggy soon appeared. He had a solid bar that he was going to use to tow the truck. I took one look at it and said, “That won’t do. I’ve had one of those before. It’s crap. It will fold the minute there’s any forward pressure.” It was pointed out to me that it was what was legally required. “I know.” I said, “That doesn’t make it safe though!” We used it, anyway.

We got to the traffic lights. We turned right to head along The Ridge. All of a sudden, I was a passenger hurtling towards the corner of Froggy’s van, then SNAP, I became stranded. Michael pulled up behind. Fortunately, there was no real damage to the vehicles. The bar had literally twisted and broke. We quickly removed the wrecked towing bar. I suggested that I towed Michael. We would set our mobile ‘phones to hands-free. I would tell him what I was doing and when to brake. “Don’t make me pull you up any hills, though!” I added. We had to use the pin from Froggy’s van on Michael’s towing eye. For some reason, it’s missing. The journey went perfectly.

*see entry A challenging week

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Hitched up ready for the off from Chilham to Sidley.

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