Last night I stayed at a camp site at Arnside (Hollins Farm). When I arrived the office was closed, so I found a place to pitch the tent in a crowded field. At about 8pm the warden arrived, asking if I was OK. Yes, I replied, and how much do I owe you? It appeared that he thought I was someone else who had booked that pitch. When he realised that I was not that person, he demanded £26. I was busy cooking supper, but expressed total amazement at that fee; the highest so far had been £17 (which was waived); the norm is about £10. He said that as I was just one person in a small tent he'd 'see me all right', by which I assumed he meant he wasn't charging me. After all, someone else had paid in advance for that pitch. And off he went.
In the morning, I packed up early and as I left he and his wife were busy near the entrance sorting out some rubbish bags. I said 'Hi' and continued out of the gate. He had nodded back. Then, some three miles down the road, I was confronted by the same warden in his Landrover, saying I hadn't paid and accusing me of trying to avoid payment. He tried to tell me that he had to justify the space I'd taken up. I explained that I thought he'd let me off the fee. After some nasty exchanges, I played my final card, the charity one. He then relented, with some reluctance. By then I had decided that I would pay him only £10, as the noise from drunken caravanners had lasted until well after 01.00, and the facilities were not as good as the previous night, which had cost a mere £8. So I put the tenner quietly away. But fancy being chased down the road!
Today I met up with George Thompson, whom I'd met at Durness in the north-west of Scotland. We had kept in touch after his Lands End to John O'Groats ride. We met just east of the Knott End ferry, after he had cycled up from Blackpool. He had got there by train from his home town of Darwen. He's a fit, nine stone something 66-year old, with a fancy bike. So he acted as pacemaker for me for much of the ride. We crossed via the ferry from Knott End to Fleetwood, which meant that I missed out a 15-mile loop. This would have taken to Skippool Creek, a former port, but not a serious omission. That helped me to get back on schedule. George eventually left me at Preston, where he was able to catch a train home. Good company - thanks George!
I eventually arrived on the outskirts of Southport at 20.00, where I dived into the first place offering accommodation, the Plough Inn at Crossens. Many thanks to the owner, Nigel, who gave me a discount rate as well as donating a hearty meal to the 'cause'.