Crich couple in marathon lockdown ‘adventure’.
How have you been passing the time during the current lockdown?
Roger and Pauline Cowen, both long retired and enjoying life, have lived on Cromford Road in Crich for about six years.
Being of independent spirit, they love to escape for regular breaks in their motorhome and in recent years have taken off to spend a few months each winter in the kinder climate of Southern Portugal. This year was no exception and they left Crich in early January, with a return ticket for a Brittany Ferries crossing from Santander in Northern Spain on 6th April. Then guess what happened?
Yup – along came Covid-19 and all the attendant lockdown restrictions which affected most European countries. So, the April 6th sailing was progressively postponed to later and later dates. Not only this, but of course the campsites in Portugal were also forced to close. Luckily, they were able to park up in the yard of a local garage that they used for minor maintenance jobs, but access to day to day essentials became a challenge. Water for washing and the toilet had to be fetched from a well, water for drinking from a supermarket about 3km away. LPG for vehicle heating and cooking etc. was available about 5km away, the only electrical supply was from the vehicle solar panels and getting rid of waste, including emptying the chemical toilet involved not a little exercise!
Appeals to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to help find ways to get them home resulted (eventually) in the advice to take the first available flight. But the motorhome exceeded the baggage allowance, so this was not seen as a practical option.
With the first possible sailing from Santander deferred until at least the middle of May, they eventually decided on another course of action. So last week they decided to set off on the long drive (the best part of 2000 miles) to Calais in France to catch a ferry to Dover.
And so the next stage of the adventure began – the drive through three European countries in lockdown! Plus, the same in the UK when they finally arrived in Dover.
Using the toll motorway system, the journey through Spain was uneventful and picturesque with quiet roads. Crossing into France was easier than expected, with the single border policeman being unable to read the English paperwork and waving them through. Presumably they didn’t look like troublemakers!
To hasten the journey, Roger and Pauline stayed on the toll roads through France, enduring bad weather, high costs and pay booths with perfect ergonomics for lorries or cars, but not motorhomes! A stressful time! Only once were they quizzed by the police about why they were there (mad English people) but were waved on when they grumbled about their treatment by a French ferry company.
They finally arrived in Calais after a tiring drive but two days ahead of the planned ferry departure. They managed to get on an earlier sailing and finally arrived back in Crich on Tuesday 21st April after a five-day journey.
On arrival, they found that their friends and neighbours had maintained the garden, done the shopping and stocked the fridge with pre-prepared meals.
Great to be back in the hugely supportive Crich community!