mumsnetBack along, my family and I swapped a house for a three-acre field in Devon and a leaky caravan where we lived off-grid for two years. Sadly, we failed to get the planning permission we needed to stay. We are now back within four walls, with a proper loo and everything in a cottage in Dartmoor. So this is now a blog about living ethically amid a fabulous landscape with our home educated kids while we adjust to being 'normal' - for a while... and what we plan to do with our land next

Saturday, 5 May 2012

An awning chasm

A sizeable portion of our living accommodation blew away last weekend.

I wasn't there at the time being at work in London, which was largely wind free despite the torrential rain. Thus I was blissfully unaware until I was alerted by a phone call on the train home and told the awning, which acts as entrance, depository and storage facility, was on top of the caravan and the polytunnel plastic roof that keeps us dry in our trailer was flapping its last.

I don't get much sleep on a Saturday night. I work into the small hours and catch the first train to Devon, so this news was unwelcome since I had been promising myself a little snooze after lunch. But my woes were nothing to those being experienced at home.

Trailer trashed
Gully had spent the entire night awake as the trailer was buffeted by the winds, finally falling into an exhausted sleep somewhere after dawn from which he was awoken by a small, excited child shouting 'coo, come and look'. Before him, lay a scene of devastation. The tent had been lifted off its poles but with a single long zip bizarrely clinging on to the frame. In the space where it had been was an upturned picnic bench, which had been lifted into the air and thrown several feet into the awning – and had probably been its nemesis. Our assorted chattels were scattered everywhere.

Inside the caravan, the dog too had spent a sleepless night. She was found trembling unhappily and refused to eat her breakfast. Oody, it should be said, is no highly strung, dainty thing; she is a considerable poundage of bull terrier/labrador cross – refusal of food is not in her genes and a sign that she is very, very pissed off.

The wind, as I alighted at Tiverton Parkway, was strong though not alarmingly so. But on arrival at the field a hundred or so metres higher, the weather was savage. It was difficult to stand upright and hail was coming down – sideways. Bending double, with what felt like freezing gravel being persistently flung in our faces, it was a miserable trudge across the field to the sanctuary of the caravan. But poor Oody hated it the most, she whined and walked backwards shaking her head. She plunged into the undergrowth hoping for refuge, but finding none crawled out and walked backwards again. It was a pitiful sight.

There was little we could do to deal with the havoc outside. So we made a nice cup of tea and listened while the roof on the trailer billowed and flapped and tore, threatening to rip completely any minute  exposing the porch Gully had built to the elements – and leaving the wooden trailer roof unprotected from the rain.

I packed a bag and we left for yet another emergency stay with my mother, who should be able to enjoy her well-ordered life and house without her flaky daughter habitually turning up. There we stayed in comfort, while poor Gully was left to put what he could to rights. It took two days for the storm to die down, during which time the trailer roof finally gave up the ghost. Then he had to find a new roofing solution and fix it in place – quickly.

After the best part of a week of TV, comfy chairs and dinners cooked in a proper oven, the children were less than enthusiastic about returning home. But none more so than the dog. Oody loves her nana and she particularly loves her nana's house. For a start there are soft carpets on which it pleases her to roll and wriggle. Then there's a large ginger cat three doors down to get excited about – and two to three regular walks a day, necessitated by the lack of lawn there but not crucial in a three-acre field. Best of all, the house doesn't move and bits of it fall off and crash about in the middle of the night.

Back in the caravan, the kettle was whistling and the children picked up where they had left off with their toys and activities. But the dog stopped short of the door and stood resolutely outside, alone and forlorn. She didn't say as much, but her expression definitely read: 'You have got to be bloody joking!'


  1. Oh my goodness! Hope you are all settling back in and the dog has calmed down. We're just off for a week in a caravan booked bravely today despite the rain and then I read this lol

  2. It's an impressive thing that you're doing there! You should look into the portable breifcase unfoldable solar panels as they can be incredibly cheap and advantageous in providing power for a relatively low expense. I hope you are doing well, keep up the great work!

    Devon accommodation

  3. I am sure the sun will smile on you, Angela - just take some extra tent pegs in case! Hope you have a lovely holiday.