We are on a BritStops weekender in our motorhome. We have stayed at the lovely Melbury Vale Winery with Jo and Claire who were great hosts. The free wine tasting and potted histories were a delight, as were the facilities and bottle of Elegance wine. Please consider a visit but approach the place from the west not the east if in a campervan. Sitting here we are in the carpark of the Old Inn in Holt with a lovely view of trees and fields. I came across a rather negative post about BritStops on Twitter so I had to redress the balance. This is what I replied.
In response to Ed James’ post on Motohomes Mayhem
Interesting article and viewpoint. You missed out that it costs to get the book and sticker too. Although we got ours free this year as we put Britstops in contact with a pub in Ireland that joined the scheme. However, as a member let me say we have never yet been pressurised to buy anything though sometimes we are asked. We are not approaching this as a free campsite. We see it as convenience with there being places to stop over for a night in locations where there are no campsites or if there are they may be full. Also for example in Ireland the campsites in October were mostly shut (we had nearly 30 days Indian Summer weather BTW). Some of the locations are stunning. The low number of pitches means you’re also not blotting the landscape too much. White Motorhomes are a blot no two ways about it. I hated them before I got one and I am still sympathetic to those that groan when we arrive. And what about if you want to get the meal, wine, curry, beer etc. Basically I see it as £10-£25 off the price of the commodity. Yes there is the lack of facilities and less security but the convenience of finding a stopover in many towns and many villages is great. We plan where we go and we consider the options of buying the offerings. Part of the Britstops code is too be prepared to support the business. Many pubs are failing these days especially village pubs. If me attending goes part way to helping a pub survive then great. At a recent stopover at a winery we were given a free wine tasting before purchasing a bottle of English wine for a tenner. Not a bad deal at all. We had a good hour chat with the owners too. Their stopover included really modern 24hr toilets and shower all freely available with no tokens. I for one will happily promote Britstops, not as a free lunch but as a great way of supporting part of this nations economy and making Motorhomes less of a pox on the landscape as one smaller campervan driver told us. We are considering painting Boudicca (our humble reg 2000 Swift Lifestyle) sap green to blend in 🙂
So it’s not quite how you see it. We all see through a glass darkly my friend. But I do value your viewpoint. Happy camping.
The Month of June is nearly over and we will soon be into our final 3 weeks of volunteering
at Nicholaston House. The last two weeks have flown by. Two weekend ago we had the privilege of being hospitable to a group of 30 or so Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees displaced from their home because of the troubles in those countries. The house was awash with the sound of laughter as several of the group were under 10. Swansea and Cardiff are well known as cities of sanctuary for refugees. I had time to speak with a few of the adults. Many of these are professional people who are struggling to get jobs matching their education but in humility they are accepting any roles to support their families. Some of their singing though rhythmic ,as you’d expect for Africans, sounded sad and solemn.
More recently we have hosted a week called ‘Discovering Your God Given Song’ with Cath & Dai Woolridge plus the ‘Sound Of Wales’. These talented and passionate people filled the house with worship music spoken word dramatic sets and encouraged the participants to deepen their understanding of the love of God towards them using music and song to create an atmosphere that moved from one of awe to beauty and spirit filled. The team leading the week and the visitors greatly appreciated the lovely setting and hospitality for this musical pursuing of God. On the Thursday there was a concert attended by over 70 visitors.
We’ve also had visitors from King’s or should I say Pakistan and Burundi. Jean Brand who is on furlough, staying at our house in Lordswood, from teaching counselling skills in Ralwapindi and Rachel Carpenter on furlough from all the tensions in Bujumbura. I trust they found the house restful and helpful.
This last weekend I left Kathy behind suffering from a bad cough as I travelled back to Southampton to go to the King’s Men’s Weekend at the Greenhouse Christian Centre (formerly Green Pastures). My journey home was one of the best times ever with God as I played tracks and sang along to One Hundred Hours, Matt Redman and Keith Green. God did some serious work in me on that journey which followed on from Prayer Ministry I’d received at the hands of my beautiful wife. Several ideas and words for the weekend came through too. We had a great time of fellowship, walking, talking, worship, swimming, listening to talks, Holy Spirit prayer times and of course a couple of pub visits. The walk to Old Harry and his wife at Studland was a breath of fresh air with sunshine between a couple of showers. We had some photos taken by a very obliging American lady.
Though down on numbers from the last two years I believe the depth of fellowship and fun factors increased. Simon Orton our pastor led the talks on ‘Fight the Good Fight’ using Job, Daniel and Revelation. The content was superb and the question time and prayer sessions that followed were thought-provoking and encouraging. Also the meal time activity of guys sharing 3 stories about themselves only one of which had to be totally true was revealing, relationship building and quite hilarious at times. I came away for the first time feeling like I had developed my love for the guys as well deepened my love for God. The fact I’d been harbouring the same bug as Kathy all weekend didn’t matter.
However, the bug is still with me and Kathy and on returning to Nicholaston House I have found out that dear Anne and lovely Becky had both succumbed to the bug. Becky so badly she lost her voice. And what a voice to lose! She sings so beautifully. Hopefully we are all now on the mend and Pam, she of the lyrical Welsh voice, is thankfully back after 10 days leave. This place isn’t the same without Pam.
I ought to mention Europe I guess. Both the EU referendum and the football Euros 2016. I’d also voted back in Southampton. I had three votes as I was proxy for Ben and Kathy. Personally I voted out as I believe God wants the UK to be a sovereign nation again not tied into political and economic union with the EU which is a self-proclaimed godless institution. I also don’t like the fact that Europe passes laws we have little if any say in. I believe in democracy as the best way for the world to function if you are not looking to God and the EU is not democratic. Yes we will lose out on some freedoms and may suffer some hardship but we can, as individuals and churches, have more say in the way our country is run. What we need now is to pray Christian believers into parliament. Regarding the Euros, I have really enjoyed supporting Hungary (have I said we have 2 passionate Hungarian staff here in Anita and Gary?) and the smaller home nations but don’t want to say anything about England. It’s just too embarrassing. All I can say now is “C’mon Wales!”
The weather has been mixed. Several rainstorms and the odd thunderstorm. We have just had a very windy day but as the sun sets the calm arrives and I can see salmon pink tinted clouds lined up along the sky as I look across the now calm Bristol Channel. What a beautiful place this is.
We are now into a Prayer ministry week where the house has three people who have come to receive from God through sessions where they can talk and be listened to sensitively and then prayed for by a pair of prayer ministers. Kathy and I have joined that team. Again it was a privilege to be used by God to serve others. And He does provide. I can say without hesitation that the times in my life when I have received extended times of prayer ministry have been some of the most important times of my Christian walk. God does speak and heal our souls. He is in the business of making us whole, redeeming us and restoring us to be closer to who we were meant to be. Praise God that Jesus has broken the power of sin and death. That our past does not have to define our present not our future. Hope is found through faith in the love of Christ who is in us, the hope of glory!
Well it appears that over 3 weeks have gone by. Time is really passing quickly. We went to our first church service last Sunday. Liberty Church part of Cornerstone meets in the Welsh Bible College at Blackpill between the Gower and Swansea. They meet in an indistinguishable long hut like building with an angle roof so the projection screen is at 60 degrees. We arrived as the singing started squeezing into the last two seats on the side and the worship was simply joyous. There were faces from several continents and ages from babies to octogenarian yet most were loud and bouncing. How some kept up their joyful bouncing for so long I don’t know. As I (Colin) joined in I scanned the room and several times choked up as I saw true worshippers so immersed in praising God yet others were aware of the need of those to be handed tissues as God touched them.
It was an unusual service and didn’t follow the plan we were told later. Impromptu sharing and moving testimonies led the way no doubt because the Holy Spirit wanted to have things His way.
We heard from a volunteer serving on a YWAM ship moored off Lesbos in Greece catering for the thousands of refugees now incarcerated in the camp. Men rioting for food and trouble between cultures adding to the fear and hopelessness of the abandoned women and children whose stories break your heart. Will BREXIT hinder this work as the love and gospel of Christ moves among these people groups many who have been told by their religious leaders to stay away from the Christians tales of ʿĪsā ibn Maryām. When a hurting, fearful and hopeless Muslim hears the truth the joy is tangible so I am told.
We also listened to a visitor from Nazareth. A deeply voiced lady who has worked to bring Arab and Jewish believing leaders together in the city where Jesus was not accepted in his day. The Arab Christians were convicted of their previous rejection of the Jewish believers and washed their feet.
All in all an amazing service.
Kathy and I visited Caswell Bay and did some walking towards Langland on a concreted path around the cliff tops. The views are lovely being able to see across the channel. Kathy managed to get some body surfing in as well. I recalled that the last time I was on that beach I was a student in Swansea and we helped with a young child who went into a fit when hit be a cricket ball his dad had struck. I recalled the exact spot as we walked past it.
God does seem to be drawing out several threads from my past and I am getting more and more reassurance I am in the place he wants me to be at this time, despite some struggles with me being not quite sure where I fit in the work here. Kathy, on the other hand, as is her norm has struck up strong relationships already and God has used her to help others in many varied situations. I was thinking there would be more opportunity for discussions on faith and encouragements regarding bible study but the dominant work of service can be quite exhausting. I do manage to get some time reading but little time in brother to brother discussion and prayer. The workers here have churches and home groups where I guess they get much of their inspiration and recharging. As a couple we do encourage one another and actually Kathy has really helped me reflect on things and look to apply what God is teaching me. Thank you God for a believing and caring wife.
Well we’ve been here for over a week and a half. Time is flying. Colin has spent days in the office answering a myriad of phone calls emails and answer phone messages. This place is fairly busy but it’s the variety of events and retreats on offer that cause most of the work in the office. And that’s ignoring the general overheads maintenance. Kathy continues to bounce (in the nicest way) between prayer ministry, weeding the garden, waitressing and washing up.
It’s been a fairly aerobic week too. On Saturday I did a 20 mile cycle around the south of Gower. Starting from the House I cycled past the Penrice Castle grounds including stopping off at the King Arthur pub in Renoyldston and the Kings Head in Llangennith. There are some exceptional real ales brewed on and around the Gower. I ended up pushing my bicycle over the dunes onto Rhosilli Beach and then cycling along this wonderfully flat long sandy shore. Pushing the bike up the path at the end was a bit of a chore though.
After Rhosilli I cycled past but not down to Port Eynon, Oxwich and Horton then made a disastrous decision to go through Penrice. Quaint though it was I should have been warned by the exciting fast downhill to a stream. The road up was hard!
The final cycle back to Nicholaston house was dodgy on the roads as the traffic was thick and fast though I must admit drivers were very careful when passing by. Thank you drivers n the Gower.
Tonight I have just walked out the back along Cefn Bryn on the Gower Way. I intended to just pray and take some photos but the vista was so amazing. You can see Burry Estuary, Oxwich Bay, Swansea, across the Bristol Channel to Exmoor and the East to the Brecon Beacons.
I kept walking to higher ground and in the end decided to go all the way to Renyoldston village to have a pint of Gower Gold at The King Arthur pub.
They have Excalibur on the wall they say. Hmmmm! Cleverly I decided to text Kathy asking her to come and join me for a drink. As I sat there downing my pint and a naughty bag of crisps and dry roasted nuts (I WILL be self-controlled with snacks, I WILL be self-controlled with snacks) people who were dining outside started streaming in as swarms of midges descended as the sun was setting. Apparently it was really unusual but be warned. The menu by the way looks excellent as does the food itself. And the prices were very fair I thought.
Anyway to cut a long story short Kathy didn’t reply to the texts and so at 9:45pm I had to strike back out on the Gower Way. As I hit the path I was reminded of that scene in American Werewolf in London as the guys leave the Slaughtered Lamb and cross the moors. Just as I thought that I heard a wolf (dog) howl. I began to wish I’d brought Excalibur with me. Anyway the headphones went on and I started singing along at the top of my voice to Noel Richards ‘There is power in the name of Jesus’ and ‘He is our Fortress.’ As darkness descended the sight of me with an iPhone torch on my own singing loudly was probably enough to scare off all but the hardiest demons! (and werewolves). Exhausted I got back to the camper-van at close to 11pm and a dozing Kathy who was suitably chagrined as she’d ignored my texts. Needless to say I slept well. In fact I slept in so was late to help the wonderful Anita and Pam with breakfast. They were very forgiving. They do what it says on the tin 😉
Well actually it’s mostly a trip to London! Our first cooked breakfast as we were largely on our first day off. I will have to stay away from these if that weights going to come off but the odd one is OK isn’t it? Kathy spent the morning in prayer ministry with a guest which bore fruit. This place is such a place of peace and tranquillity but with the Lord acting through our prayers and love for the guests little would be achieved. We shot off at 12:30 to get to London to see the Royal Marines Beating the Retreat for Prince Philip at Horseguard Parade. A 3 hour journey out of Wales to Hounslow West tube station on the Picadilly Line (I decided my confusion expecting the map to show it as yellow was due to me thinking of it as the Picallili Line) and an hour journey to Westminster via the District Line. We picked up our tickets then met up with Sam to watch Ben in the parade as part of the Royal Guard. A powerful display of precision and music with the band of the Royal Marines. Hard to spot Ben but we now know as we met him after that he was three from the back in the first group. My favourite bits were the Dreadnought and Lord of the Rings music plus of course the Marines showing off their skills in marching and handling their guns. There were poignant visual and music commemorating the Battle of Jutland. So sad and so dreadful war at sea.
Afterwards we met up with Ben and had the best Steak and Ale pie ever at The Red Lion on Parliament Street. Then another 4 hour journey back to Nicholaston House arriving at 1:30. Kathy had to be up at 7 to serve breakfast but I was only needed at 9 to go in the office 🙂
We had a lovely walk last night down from the house past the farm onto the beach at one end of Oxwich Bay. Watched the sun set as we strolled back across the cliffs with a wander over to Three Cliffs Bay one of the most wonderful bays you will see in Wales. We woke up with the dawn chorus to another beautiful blue sky day. We were Up early as Kathy was serving breakfast with Anita the amazing Hungarian housekeeper and I was cooking breakfast with Gary one of the chefs also from Hungary. Seems I will be expected to do breakfast on my own later. Again trying to lose weight will be a problem. It’s so hard to resist a full English breakfast when you’ve actually cooked it! Learning also about checks and recording for food health and safety. There are so many fridges and freezers in this place.
Once the guests finished breakfast and we’d cleaned up Kathy then joined the prayer ministry team to serve some of the guests as this is a prayer ministry week. By all accounts this was very encouraging.
I went into the tiny reception office with Ian an ex-serviceman who met Frank Collins to learn about the admin system for bookings. They are in the process of moving from a manual and largely paper based system to a new bespoke online CRM system. Mind-boggling complications for running the bookings for this place and that is despite there only being 14 rooms and restrictions on what length of room bookings they take. Must admit I had a rather naïve view on what running a smaller retreat like this would be like.
After a lunch of roasted butternut and coconut soup with garlic bread, I then spent most of my time sorting out the CCLI song recordings. That was fun as I had over 50 prompts to sing worship songs to myself as I got on and entered records of them being displayed by projection via the CCLI website. I was a bit rusty on taking phone calls but managed to work on my polite greeting rather than my usual “Yes what?” That you may get from me at home.
So now Kathy and I have the late afternoon off. We can discard our black trousers and white shirts (we looked like brother and sister stood next to each other) and relax on the beach or up the Bryn behind the house. I believe Kathy has gone off surfing!!
Well we have arrived and had our first day. Actually we arrived last night at 5 just in time for a chapel time with the managers Owen and Anne Marvelly and some staff and volunteers. The message brought by David and Jane two prayer minister volunteers who spent time with us years ago was of adoption and sonship with the great I AM who I AM. Knowing who we are in Christ, such a vital thing. But knowing God even more so despite knowing that He is also a mystery.
The day’s work reminded me of Hadrians Task. I had to reconfigure how a cupboard of chairs, tables and books was packed. Seems like I kept moving stacks of chairs in and out. I was pleased with the outcome however. Lunch was a lovely leek and potato soup and excellent conversation with the myriad of volunteers. The afternoon was spent reorganising the vast amounts of art and crafts materials in the art and crafts room and in conversation with Sylvia, a lovely lady I had met a couple of years ago on a painting break.
Dinner was beef pie with mash and veg followed by a rather large helping of amaretto laced cheesecake. And I am supposed to be losing 2 stone over the two months!
We are so blessed to have this opportunity to serve in a Christian community bringing love and healing to those in need. And on such a beautiful location too!
After the seaweed bath we drove on to Rosslare and the ferry, but first stopped at the ‘Last pub in Ireland’ to have some supper and one last Guinness. At the ferry terminal we were told to queue in line 20. Colin duly drove into this ’empty’ line gazing at the lines of motorhomes in lines 17 and 18. We parked round the bend under the covered line assuming it to be the place to be as there were vans there. However, as vehicvles got on the ferry and we were not called Kathy got concerned that the vans all had French number plates. In the end Colin got out and checked with the guy directing traffic. Turned out we’d drove too far round and were in the French ferry line. We nearly missed the Pembroke Dock boat! Phew.
Once on the ferry we settled for the journey of 4 hours with just a bit of rocking and rolling. At Pembroke we drove off and after a few miles parked up at a laybe on a road off the main road next to a river and settled down to sleep before driving home. Torrential rain during the night did not lead to yet another flood adv enture and we woke to a nice view looking over a tidal river near Cosheston.
We drove on from Wales stopping for a lovely full breakfast at the last roadside cafe before the M4 (recommended). We had noticed the roads were so much smoother and wider than Ireland, drtiving a motorhome was much quieter but less exciting. The air also seemed dirtier though. Once in England we stopped off in Bristol to drop off a present, driving through Bristol’s St Paul area was a trial the rounds are so narrow and parked up with cars both sides. At last we arrived home around 5pm. The house was lovely and tidy, thanks Julian.
What an adventure! Thank you God for all your protection and blessings.
Colin is sitting in the Solas na Mara http://solasnamara.ie outside Dungarvan on our way home. Kathy said she could do with a bath so she is having one along with a tub full of steaming seaweed! An early Christmas present.
We have had an encouraging but bit less eventful lovely 5 days since the last blog post. On Monday we went with Cyril and Gabrielle to an outreach service in Moy Ross which is a tough estate on the north east of Limerick. A powerful service with great worship and people experiencing the Holy Spirit. Speaking and praying with some of the locals was a moving experience. The 50 mile journey back to Ballybunion lasted 90 mins arriving after midnight. Cyril will know the road blindfold soon I reckon!
On Tuesday we left Ballybunion, Tom, Cyril and Gabrielle feeling a bit sad but excited for stepping out again, heading to Cork City. It was a three hour drive including a search on winding roads to a 4 star campsite near Blarney Castle as the sun set we arrived looking forward to showers, laundry and electric hookup to find the place closed on Nov 1st! So we looked for a pub car park and settled up a dark lane at the Waterloo Inn. Wondering if This was our Waterloo 😜 we went in to find the locals stop talking and stare at us. Yes it really was like that. However, the lovely landlady was happy to let us stay so we had a Guinness and settled down for Tuesday night. Next day we went to kiss the Blarney Stone on Roger Hedley Lewis’s recommendation but baulked at the admission price. Instead we headed off to Cork City.
Once there we found you cannot park unless you have a parking disc which we did not have. It wasn’t till later we found you had to purchase them in shops. We drove further and further up St Patrick’s Hill along tiny steep lanes till we found free flat parking next to the old army barracks. It was another wild camp on Wednesday night. Colin spent the afternoon walking the streets hoping to talk and pray with someone. Two hours later about to give up he sat next to Eric, in an O’brien’s coffee shop, a lovely young man hoping to break into the Cork rap scene with his version of life walking in faith with God. After an encouraging discussion Colin prayed for Eric to rap out from the heart of the Father. Watch this space for this young man. God doesn’t let us down if we persevere in faith.
That evening we decided to go to the cinema to see ‘The Martian’. An enjoyable thought provoking adventure a bit like Robinson Crusoe in Space (which has been done before). It became clear to Kathy that this was also an allegory of man trying to survive on alone using his own wisdom. In the end he fails and needs help from the sky and a whole world watching and hoping (possibly praying) for him to survive. There is one line in the film that mentions prayer). At the end of the movie he is seen telling astronaut students that you need to just get on and solve your problems when you are in trouble. An admirable aim but not acknowledging all the help he needed to come through. Without friendship, advice and sacrifice he would not have made it. Wisdom alone can’t keep you alive.
Next morning Colin again spent time on the streets of Cork City, talking with people and in two or three cases praying for them, including several people collecting for ‘Suicide Awareness’ as suicide is a big problem in Ireland. Latest statistics put Ireland 59th in the world and the rate is the highest since records began. There is also big Romanian population some of who have joined local evangelical churches. Colin met a local churchman Billy O’mahony who has been running the Cove Street Fellowship bookshop for many years. We had a great discussion discovering we knew several people in common including Pete Drew. There were other coincidences that were evidence of this being a God ordained meeting. We prayed together and Colin went to meet Kathy for tea on quite a high. We visited the amazing ‘English Market’ buying fresh fish and bread to make Fish Chowder in the evening.
At 5pm we said our goodbyes to Cork City a place we had begun to really like. We drove on to Dungarvan and after another disappointment of closed camp sites we ended up parking ‘wild’ alongside Davitts Quay with a nearby loo in the SuperValu store 😳. The fish chowder was fab.
That brings us up to date and the seaweed bath, massage and eyebrow makeover. Kathy has just come out. What do you think?