Back at the tent my companions from the previous evening were all up and about so I stopped by to say good morning, and during conversation I found out that the laughter of the previous night had come about because one of the dads had tripped over a guy line and sprawled full length in front of the tent, then just as he'd picked himself up had tripped over another one. It sounded so funny that I almost wished I hadn't gone to bed when I did! After chatting for a while I decided that as it was such a nice morning I would take the camera and have a walk round the castle grounds to see if I could get any good photos. The weather last year had been a bit hit and miss and I didn't really get any decent shots so now was the time to rectify the matter - I could go back to the show later on.
A couple of minutes walk from the showground entrance brought me to the bottom end of The Ride, the long lawned and tree-lined walk leading up to the castle itself. At the top I turned left and took a look round the formal gardens with their hedges cut into different shapes then went across the front of the castle and spent quite a while down by the lake. It seemed to be a very popular place and even though it wasn't yet lunchtime there were several families having picnics on the grass, and the tea room round at the back of the castle was keeping busy.
There was one feature in the castle grounds which I wanted to see and that was the golden gates, but having looked at a map they seemed to be quite a distance from where I was so I decided to leave those for another time. I did think about going round to the other side of the lake and walking through the woods but then decided against it as I also wanted to call on my friends Shelagh and Ken who lived just a couple of miles down the road. I had called a couple of times last year but they hadn't been in, and I didn't want to pass up the chance of calling again while I was in the area, so having taken enough photos to keep myself happy I made my way back to the tent. After giving the dogs a drink I settled them in the back of the van, checked that everything was ok with the tent, then set off for the two mile drive to Alvaston. And I've often wondered why that area of Derby is called Alvaston when the area round the castle is Elvaston - very confusing. I wonder which came first?
It only took a few minutes to get to Ken and Shelagh's - their house is one of a small group of nine set back off the road and as I pulled up onto the tree-shaded grass I could see their car parked on the drive so hopefully they were in. Leaving the dogs in the van I went and knocked on the door - nothing happened and I thought I was going to be out of luck but I knocked again and a few seconds later the door was opened by Shelagh. She was really surprised to see me and said they were sitting out in the back garden and had only just about heard the knock. She invited me in - and the dogs as well - and took me through to the back garden where Ken was equally surprised to see me, then she made a coffee and we settled down for a long chat and a catch-up of all the latest news and gossip while Sophie and Sugar mooched about round the garden. I mentioned having called last year and they said that they had been on holiday then as I'd originally thought. They were really impressed with my van and my solo camping life too, as the last time I'd seen them I couldn't drive and hadn't even thought about learning. I spent a good couple of hours with them and could have stayed longer but I wanted to get back to the show to see the dancing diggers, so eventually I said my goodbyes, put the dogs in the back of the van and set off back to the camp site.
I arrived at the showground's main arena with a few minutes to spare and managed to get a good place by the barriers at the front so I had an uninterrupted view of the display. The sky had clouded over somewhat by then and at one point it looked like it might rain but thankfully it stayed fine for the display. The dancing diggers are a group of five huge JCBs from a local plant hire and excavation firm and their operators do all sorts of weird and wonderful things with them, from driving round in formation to tipping them over on their sides and tilting them with their fronts facing steeply upwards or downwards. When they went over on their sides it was hard to believe just how far over they did go as it looked like they would end up on the ground at any second. The balance and precision were really something and testament to the experince of the operators - one wrong move and there was the very real possibility of serious injury or even death. And when they were tilted up, using the buckets and backhoes for balance, they went so high that another full size JCB could be driven underneath them - the hydraulics on these machines must be superb to enable them to go up so far. The finale of the display was when a couple of full size vintage steam rollers, one pulling a trailer full of passengers, were driven underneath. It was a great display, and just the sort of thing that I would like to do myself - in fact three years previously, after having seen a guy on his own doing a similar sort of thing at the Oswestry show, I had thought about buying a JCB in partnership with someone else and doing exactly that, but with both of us having various commitments at the time nothing really came of it. Needless to say, if I ever do get chance to do it I won't hesitate!
With the digger display over I made my way to the sandwich and cake stall and got something for my tea then had a last look round all the stalls and exhibits before everyone started packing up. The was one stall run by a charity which rescues owls and another one featuring rescued parrots and their various relations - I didn't buy anything from either stall but being a total push-over when it comes to anything to do with animals I did give each charity a donation. The only thing I did buy from one stall selling accessories was a pack of gas cartridges for my camping stove - I already had some but a few spares always come in handy and at less than a fiver they were cheaper than my local camping shop.
Back at the tent I fed the dogs, unwrapped my sandwiches and made a brew - the clouds were breaking up by then and the sun was shining properly again so I sat outside the tent and watched the comings and goings of other UKCS members as they packed up to leave. Those who had to travel a good distance had already left, though some were staying on till the following day - my companions from the previous evening were in the process of packing up though and once they were ready for off I went over to say goodbye and wish them a safe journey home. I don't know if they'll be at the meet next year but I hope so as it would be nice to see them again - they were a great bunch of people. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing with my book - with no power supply I couldn't do much else - then just before the daylight faded I took the dogs for a good walk right round the site then retreated into my tent for the rest of the night. Since many of the campers had left earlier on my nearest neighbour was now some distance down the field so with no-one in close proximity it was deathly quiet, though an owl hooted occasionally from somewhere across the field behind the hedge. Now some people might be rather apprehensive about being alone in a tent in such a quiet location, especially with the haunting sounds of a nearby owl, but things like that don't bother me - and as I snuggled down in bed a bit later on the only other noise was Sugar's gentle snoring coming from across the tent as she chased rabbits in her sleep.