Social Distancing across England

Braunton Devon

After our dramatic return from Tenerife and the relief to be back in England we started to have a think about what we were going to do next. Our original plan had been to travel around East Sussex and Kent visiting friends and family but obviously we had to cancel every single meet due to the Coronavirus pandemic situation.

With lots of well meaning advice to self-isolate and sit tight for weeks we began searching for somewhere to stay long-term as all of our housesits and pre-arranged backpacking travels had also been cancelled. With everyone being told to ‘Stay at Home‘ and with us not having a home we were struggling. Hotels and BnB’s were an option of course but we couldn’t possibly afford 8, 9 or 10 weeks in one of those.


Surprising Offer

Then on the day of returning from Tenerife we were surprised to be contacted by a fellow traveller and blog follower, Anne from Cheltenham, who very kindly offered us her Airbnb for 2 weeks at a ridiculously reduced rate. We were so touched by her kindness and provisionally decided to go there as soon as we had completed our movements around the South East of England. We did get a bit of ‘advice’ from family about still getting trains and moving from East Grinstead to Bromley to Maidstone but the bookings were non-refundable and we really needed that time to organise ourselves.

After spending 4 days in lockdown in the Canary Islands where everyone was ultra-careful about social distancing and cleanliness we actually felt that we were more switched-on to the situation that a lot of people back here where the situation was still a week or so behind.

Whilst we were in Bromley Jo spoke to her brother Jon down in Devon and he mentioned that a good friend had an apartment that we could rent for 2 months if we were interested. Were we? Of course. Their incredibly kind offer meant that we graciously let Anne know that we wouldn’t be taking up her thoughtful offer but we would never forget her kindness and hopefully once this is over we may be able to meet up and treat her to a glass of wine or two.

JWalking
“Still smiling …..”

Cross Country Dash

So after five days hiding in different hotel rooms and existing on snacks and cold food from Lidl we decided to cut and run and just get to Devon before the trains were cancelled and we got stuck. Repacking of our backpacks in the storage depot before a six hour, multiple train journey down to Barnstaple on the North Devon coast. Amazingly it was one of the smoothest journeys we have ever taken, empty carriages of course but dead on time.

Barnstaple Devon

Jo had booked us three nights at the Travelodge in Barnstaple which would take us up to when we could stay in the apartment, and our two mile uphill hike with full packs from the station was just about possible as we knew the end was in sight.

Not the reception we expected

Finding the entrance wasn’t easy and we had to climb through hedges and over muddy paths but we were ready to drop as we walked in the door and up to reception. Our normal cheery hellos were met with smiles from the two friendly ladies behind the desk and as we prepared to check in they casually and quietly said;

Sorry, we’re actually closing in an hour so your booking has been cancelled!

Shocked? Slightly. No emails or text messages or anything from Travelodge. Plus we’d been travelling for over seven hours and were knackered! Existing residents were being kicked out of the hotel as we waited.

Barnstaple Devon

Calling local hotels and Airbnbs was a complete disaster as everywhere was closing or not picking up the phone. Jo managed to add a couple of nights to our booking at The Granary but were completely stuck for anything that evening. As we searched online the Travelodge lady started to get interested in our predicament and threw up a whole host of ‘helpful‘ suggestions.

  • Why don’t you buy a tent?
  • Have you called the Salvation Army? They might have beds.
  • Couldn’t you just sleep in the car? Oh you don’t have a car. Could you hire one and sleep in it?
  • Go to the police station and make them find you somewhere.
  • Why don’t you go to Exeter? It might be better there.
  • What about the Town Hall?

I think the constant chatter was starting to get to us a little as we packed up and headed off into the fading light with Mrs Travelodge shouting even more useful suggestions in our ears.


Camping in Braunton

As we trudged downhill back towards Barnstaple Station Jo decided to call her brother Jon to see if he knew of anyone who might be able to help. We really didn’t want to call but were completely out of options. By complete chance they were speaking to the friends that we would be staying with the following week, Rose and Jim, and they very kindly offered us a bed for the night in their comfy campervan on their driveway in nearby Braunton.

Braunton Devon

Sitting just outside the house it felt luxurious after the worries we had been feeling just minutes earlier. Warm, cosy, and safe. Just what we needed and we couldn’t thank Rose and Jim enough.

Braunton Devon

Coffee and snacks, a bit of TV, and then a good nights sleep were exactly what was needed.

Braunton Devon

Next morning we cleaned the van and said au revoir from a distance before heading off to our next stay. Ironically the place that Jo had found was a short walk up the footpath near Rose and Jim’s house so not far to trek at all.


The Granary

Our accommodation for the next five nights was an outbuilding on the Buckland Manor estate, an old granary store converted into a self-catering apartment. The owner had been more than helpful allowing us to add extra days to our stay and the reasonably remote location made it a perfect place to rest up.

Braunton Devon

It’s actually like the Tardis in Dr Who as from the outside it looks tiny but inside it has shower, toilet, kitchen area, table and chairs, settee, tv, and a double bed up on the mezzanine. Everything.

Granary Braunton

Granary Braunton

Granary Braunton
“Our view out of the back of our home from home”

So here we are for a few more nights, safe and sound until we move down to the apartment next week.

Keep safe and healthy everyone, and keep in touch in these traumatic times.

24/03/2020


Social distancing across England

77 comments

  1. “Why don’t you buy a tent?” Gimme a break – no clue at all these people.
    Sorry, flippant suggestions like that in the face of serious issues really get my ire up.
    So glad you had a trail of good buddies able to help as best they could. That apartment is a goldmine of a gift!
    Once you’re hunkered down there, you’ll have plenty of time to rest up – COVID isn’t letting up any time soon.
    😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was quite a long day and a little stressful towards the end but we kept fairly relaxed and had faith that we would find something eventually. It’s all part of the adventure isn’t it?

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    • It was touch and go for a while but with the help of some very kind people we seem to be well sorted out now. Comfy little place and decent weather for a few days, seems quite nice at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The camper van looked so cosy. All these airlines and places like travel lodge aren’t doing themselves any favours as things will eventually go back to normal and you won’t be using these business again. Enjoy Devon 😎

    Liked by 1 person

    • The van was exactly what we needed and the Granary we’re now in very comfortable. Hopefully everyone will remember how bad these companies have treated people and not use them when the world returns to normality.

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  3. I almost cried reading this post, firstly, at just how awful the unknown must be at this time for adventurous vagabonds such as yourselves. And secondly I almost cried tears of gratitude on your behalf, for the camper van, the granary, and the apartment. There is always kindness to be found somewhere. Caravan parks and camp grounds here in Australia are starting to close down, so I’m fearful for all of our Grey Nomads who have passed up their homes so as to travel the countryside. I hope they all manage to meet people as kind as the ones you’ve met up with. In these circumstances I’m so pleased circumstances took us away from that direction. Keep safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really does make you appreciate how kind and thoughtful people can be. Times are hard for everyone and I fear they will get seriously worse, and it’s heart-warming to see communities and people helping each other. Not sure what we would have done without these kind offers of assistance. Probably Anne from Cheltenham was the kindest offer as she approached us.

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  4. What a hair raising trip that was😱!! Fair play to you both for not giving up. Travel lodge are a disgrace to the hospitality business. And that’s all you needed was that lady coming out with those ridiculous ideas. Some people just don’t have a clue!! I’m glad you have sorted out accommodation for the next few weeks, it must be a weight of your mind. This post also highlights people’s kindness in these worrying and uncertain times. Keep safe both😊😘

    Liked by 1 person

    • Travelodge have treated people unbelievably badly, the numbers they just kicked out with no notice. Just hope people don’t forget once this crisis is over. We’re both safely ensconced in our little Granary now and to make it even better the weather has turned lovely over the past few days. Lots of long healthy walks and social distancing from absolutely everyone. Hope you are looking after yourself and keeping well.

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  5. You’ve faced a few challenges that’s for sure. The Tardis sounds like a unique form of accommodation 😂 but seriously, I hope you’re well and coping with life in these strange uncertain times. Thank goodness for the generosity of some people. Take care and stay safe. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • She really thought she had all the answers and was starting to seriously wind us up. Everything has worked out fairly well thank goodness, we’re moving into our long-term apartment tomorrow so looking forward to just chilling out and locking down. How’s everything with you?

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      • All good here, staying home and doing lots of little jobs, enjoying the garden, watching TV and keeping in touch with people online and on the phone. The restrictions are getting tighter every day but the numbers of new cases are decreasing so that is great news.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sounds like you are doing exactly the right thing in keeping busy and filling your time. Restrictions seem to be tightening every day but hopefully that will contain the spread and prevent more people from getting infected. Unfortunately I think it’s going to get far worse before it gets better, hope I’m wrong.

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            • It’s the complete unknown that is so difficult to comprehend isn’t it? Staying inside under lockdown is fine but not knowing how many weeks or months it will last is much tougher to handle. I don’t really think we’ll know how the long term looks for quite a few weeks unfortunately.

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  6. Hi, thanks for the kind mention your post. I can’t believe the way Travelodge treated you, that was ridiculous. Thank goodness you are now sorted and can take a breath. We would love to catch up for a glass of wine or two at some stage in the future when everything gets back to ’normal’, whenever that may be.
    Stay safe and look after yourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Travelodge was a complete disaster and they still haven’t been in touch, not confident about getting a refund at all. We’re moving on to our ‘permanent’ accommodation tomorrow so will just keep our heads down and try to see it out. A few drinks and a chat sound perfect once this is all over.

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  7. Top work from Travelodge. Is it run by that idiot that owns Wetherspoons. Can’t begin to imagine how stressful this lock-down must be for the both of you. So easy by comparison for me with my permanent address to stay home. So glad its worked out for you.

    Liked by 1 person

      • We’re doing fine thanks, Jonno. My wife is working from home – not ideal, as she has to arrange and minute child protection conferences for Social Services and it’s all being done by Skype. She says it’s an absolute nightmare to minute, but at least she can do it. And at least we can get out to walk in the woods nearby.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Things are still pretty quiet down here in Corpus Christi TX. If you had been in the states, I would have invited you to come stay with us! Glad it all worked out! We have a 30 foot RV and it is quite comfortable and love to travel in it – what do you think? Have you thought about traveling that way?
    You two take care of each other and hope to see you again someday!
    Chris and Ray

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad things are still quiet in Texas, the whole world is completely locked-down here. Everything in the country is shut virtually and the majority of people inside their homes. We’ve looked into RV living but it’s not really practical in the UK with our small roads and villages. Look after yourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey Jon and Jo,

    really glad that you could find accommodation after this “adventure” 🙂 Puts your faith back in human nature.

    Reminds me of when we were doing Lands End to John O Groats on the bike (1979). Couldn’t find any accommodation in Plymouth and finally a very generous land lady put us up in rooms that we still being refurbished. I dont think she charged us a penny (breakfast included).

    Stay safe and look forward to your next blog!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does give you faith in human nature for sure. There are lovely people all around and we’ve been so lucky with our new accommodation. Hope you guys are all okay too?

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  10. Unreal that people are chucked out of a hotel like that! You must have wished you’d gone with the Airbnb offer. Most people are kind, aren’t they? But not all! I had to giggle at the lead photo because I thought Jo was standing in a public toilet block! Glad it turned out to be palatial in the end. Happy landings, you two! 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh my goodness how stressful! I am so glad you found a perfect place to live a for a few months in the end! At least if you are social distancing, it’ll be in a beautiful area!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sounds like another adventure, and definitely not in a good way! I was imagining something like that was going to happen when you mentioned staying in hotels, and that lady sounds especially irritating! I know my local Travelodge is being used to provide accommodation for homeless people at the moment, so at least it is being put to good use for now. I’m happy to hear you have managed to sort out somewhere to stay for at least a couple of months!

    Liked by 1 person

    • She was unbelievably irritating although I do think she was trying to help in her own annoying way. We’re all settled now and just getting into a bit of a routine for the long lockdown.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, what an experience Jonno. I love the heart-warming stories of people stepping up to help, and I am impressed by your ability to take it all in stride. Take care and stay safe. I found your blog through a comment you left on Deb’s World. So glad I did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for coming by Christie, really appreciate the kind comment. We’re settled into our little self contained apartment now so getting comfy and ready for a long stay. We are both pretty relaxed about travelling I suppose and try to take it all in our stride. Hope you’re doing okay?

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  14. Really enjoyed reading your experience regarding lockdown and your time in Tenerife! Interesting to hear it from your perspective rather than the other side (I’m the one organising getting passengers on flights home haha). I hope everything goes back to normal soon but glad to hear you are safe for the moment and have some accommodation to settle in.

    I will definitely need to start watching this program that you’ve been talking about! I’ve been recommended it a few times 🙂 Stay safe and keep smiling x

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve been so lucky in getting this lovely self contained apartment down in Devon, it’s worked out so well. You should give Race across the World a go, it’s interesting to see how people travel under pressure. Great series. Do the first series first though, much better.

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  15. This blog makes me appreciate that a worldwide epidemic, is probably not the easiest time when you don’t have a fixed address! At least you didn’t have to buy a tent!

    Liked by 1 person

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