Sunday 31 August 2008

Long way round

As the boy’s mother always said, ‘a mother’s place is in the wrong.’ And so it was at the start of our great adventure from one end of the A5 to the other. According to the boy, I chose the wrong place to have our pre-drive breakfast (The Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch…and yes it was phenomenally expensive at £18.95 each and yes it was served in a room more akin to a chamber in a Siberian salt mine and yes it was certainly not up to British Rail standards…although we could have had ‘Arab breakfast’…whatever that is.) I won’t go back again. And I shouldn’t have chosen the Hundred House Hotel, as it was too far off the A5. I’m not sure having a swing in the bedroom made up for it, nor did the most delicious lamb ever for dinner. But I would go back…it’s brilliant. And I shouldn’t have booked Bryn Gloch campsite. Again too far off the A5…and full of other kids, families and their caravans…chosen out of the Cool Camping book, it was anything but ‘cool’, but was certainly family-friendly and with good amenities…but not part of an ‘adventure’. My excuse was that in high season it would be daft to travel without somewhere to stay. But I wouldn’t go back again.

Fortunately I didn’t stay in the doghouse all week…although the start of our week was certainly strained. Not helped by the boy ‘forgetting’ to bring any pocket money with him and leaving his glasses behind…and his initial reluctance to map read. My comment that he wasn’t pulling his weight didn’t help matters in the way it should or was meant to. Oops...

A nasty stomach bug the day before we left and a sleepless night meant that I was less than 100% as the car pulled out of the drive in the morning…but I was as excited as a school boy in the tuck shop.

Driving the length of the A5 in a swanky BMW might not have the same challenge as going round the world on a bicycle (Mark Beaumont) or on a motorcycle (Charlie Boorman and Ewan MacGregor)…but it did have it’s moments. Not least because modern route planners have built numerous by-passes which claim the title A5, even though the original road goes a different way…as far as possible we stayed to the old road. Highlights included ‘Shoot-up Hill’ in north London (presumably long before this was a drugs reference) and just outside Milton Keynes another Loughton like the town which forms the second corner of the WAG’s triangle of which we are the first. We learnt that most English market towns were completely interchangeable long before the multiples gave every high street the same set of shops…but up towards Bedfordshire there were an awful lot of very closed shops indeed.

We stopped for the night in Shropshire and discovered the very delightful Bridgnorth as well as enjoying Ironbridge and associated gorge. Telford seems to have matured into quite a reasonable town too…and most importantly we managed at last to acquire the very vital Campingaz gas that we needed for our camp cooking.

The dreaded rain descended as we reached Snowdonia, depriving us until the end of the week of the tops of the hills, let alone the mountains. We managed to erect the tent in a gale with the boy hanging on for dear lif as I hammered in the pegs (note to self…don’t forget the rubber mallet next time as rocks are not always going to be at hand)…and then began our daily excursions to copper mines, slate mines, hydro-electric power stations, castles (2), and The Prisoner village which kept us mostly dry and mainly amused. Note to everyone – if you go to Portmeirion look out for the signs on the beach which say ‘Dangerous currents and quicksand’ as they’re quite important.

We chose the middle of the week to finnish off the A5 as our campsite was somewhat short of the distance…and it felt like a real achievement..and a moment to be treasured. And the sun came out.

Our other achievement was hiking up’s a long haul…but as I get a bit giddy at heights, it was probably for the best that the peak was shrouded in clouds.

So was it father/son bonding time – yes…probably. I said to the boy that with the beauty of hindsight I’d have done some things differently (taken a chance on finding somewhere to sleep, a few more activities such as kayaking, etc)…and hopefully he appreciates that the more you contribute, the more you’ll get out of something. I so much appreciate his energy, enthusiasm and carefree-ness….and hopefully he understands my ‘fatherlyness’. We certainly had a memorable time…and it’s a holiday that will improve with age I think…and I hope we have more road trips to plan.


  1. Love the pics - perhaps you should write a guide book to the A5 now?

  2. A swing in the bedroom? Never thought of that, can anyone lend me a hammer? MH

  3. Spontaneous is sometimes better planned; I think you got the balance right.

  4. it's nice just to have the time to spend with them, enjoy, it passes way too quickly


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