The start of Guillaume’s Grand Tour.
Guillaume’s Grand Tour has been months in the planning. It was originally going to be a male bonding trip with just Franco and Guillaume. Francine had been intending to take her sister to see Casa Libélule in Spain, so I hatched a plan to go to Bonnie Scotland hunting Odonata; just me and Guillaume. I’m missing four Odos from my UK list and two of ‘em can be seen only in Scotland. [One of the four can be seen only in Ireland, incidentally, but you can forget that – wild horses wouldn’t drag me to Ireland.] Since my track record vis-a-vis weather in Scotland is pitiful, I blocked out three weeks, hoping three weeks would give me some chance of a bright spell or two, and began researching dragonfly hotspots and likely campsites nearby.
The National Biodiversity Network Gateway was a great help identifying locations – it’s where all the observation records we submit end up. Their original Interactive Map application was terrific. Then some wag decided to “improve” it. Their new mapping application is not terrific. Such is progress. Fortunately, my planning pre-dated the change.
My first stop was to be a week near Aviemore looking for Northern Damselfly (Coenagrion hastulatum). Then I’d move over to Loch Maree on the west and spend another week trying to find Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea) whilst simultaneously trying to avoid the accursed Scottish midges. Then I’d go for a third week in the centre, just on the north-western side of Loch Ness investigating Glen Affric, supposedly Scotland’s prettiest glen as well as seeming to be a bit of hotspot for my Azure Hawkers. Who knows, if I was lucky there’d also be a chance of Northern Emerald (Somatochlora arctica).
Then Francine’s sis couldn’t do Spain so Francine could come, too. That’s fine, Guillaume and I are glad of the company. [Did that sound sincere?] It did require some re-planning, though. Francine, being keen on landscape photography, fancied a bit of real west coast sunset stuff [the sun has to come out first, Francine]. Dutifully, I shortened each of my planned stays at the three original campsites and plugged in a fourth site, to be our second stop, right on the coast at the western end of Loch Maree. Right, everyone happy? Booked!
Eventually, a further adjustment was needed. I’d originally planned to stay en route at Englethwaite Hall near Carlisle, in both directions, a handy-dandy Caravan Club site. Then their blasted local water company decided to dig up the main approach road closing it. The resultant diversion wasn’t helpful. Instead, I booked in to the campsite at Tebay services [this is the best service station on our motorway network] on the M6 and has a bona fide campsite. Much less faffing about.
This morning at 08:30 Guillaume, Franco and Francine set sail for Tebay. It’s a journey of 240 miles so should be ~5 hours. Traffic was flowing well; the M6 Toll Road would’ve been a waste of £6.60. Our first comfort break was at Stafford services, which were pleasant and even had a large pond in the sunshine with some Odos to record. Good start. 🙂
Around Wigan, at junction 26, on the M6 things took a turn for the worse; the traffic stopped. We sat in continued glorious sunshine, baking just a little, because some dickheads had contrived to have an accident closing two out of three lanes up at junction 27. J26 to J27 is a distance of four miles. It took us 75 minutes. Nothing trivial, I trust?
We checked in at 15:00 after 6½ hours. No matter, the campsite residents get 10% at the Westmorland farm shop at the services and they do have some good cheeses. And wine.
It’s a good job we’re doing this in June 2017 because it’s been announced that this long-standing campsite at the finest service station we’ve got is to close for good in September this year. Apparently, offices are going to be built. The delightful campsite staff said this was described as “progress”, with a wry smile on their faces.
Ah, yes, I’m very familiar with progress that makes things worse.
What a crying shame. Though a little utilitarian – all cinder gravel hard-standing; no grass – the campsite really is quite pleasant, very friendly and extremely convenient. It’s at the perfect halfway point travelling from the south to the north AND you don’t have to piss about going far off the motorway and back again. Sad.