A Life in the Slow Lane

Hilda Ogden back from the dead?!

An English couple moved onto the campsite yesterday and set up only three pitches from us. The lady of the couple is, vocally, the reincarnation of Hilda Ogden*. Her shrill, Mancunian voice has been echoing across the empty campsite for the last twenty four hours, usually scolding her husband or barking orders. As a watcher of Coronation Street in its heyday, it has brought a wry smile to my face.

Today was our last day at Huttopia Fontvieille before we start our long slow journey home, it was tempting to do nothing today, but we had still not visited the nearby Roman aqueduct and some Americans, with whom we conversed at some length at the restaurant yesterday, urged us to see it.

Before we went to the aqueduct, we spent the morning trying to organise somewhere to stay when we visit my brother in Belgium and Sarah’s sister in Hastings, on the way home. Meeting up with my brother has been complicated by campsites in Southern Belgium and Luxembourg being very full next weekend. This has astonished us, sitting on a near empty campsite in the South of France.

Sarah also gave me a going home hair cut. She has become very proficient with the shears.

View over the forest from our high point today

After lunch we set out to walk to the aqueduct. It was reachable on paths through the pine forest adjacent to our campsite. But, of course, paths do not run directly. It was only a little over one and a half miles by road, but via the forest it was more like two and a half each way. It was hot today, about 27 degrees, so it was dusty and a little hard going. The paths were full of large rocks, making it more difficult, especially for Meleck. We climbed slowly until we reached the top of a ridge with views across the lowland to the south of us. The descent brought us to a channel of fast flowing water, of recent construction, and then to the remains of the aqueduct.



The aqueduct supplied water to the major Roman town of Arles and was built nearly 2000 years ago. Its importance was enhanced, because where the water from the aqueduct was channelled over a cliff, the Romans build sixteen waterwheels with water from the first driving the second below it and so on. The mills are thought to have produced over 4 tons of flour per day. It is the biggest known Roman mill complex.

Aqueduct channel at the edge of the cliff. The water from this channel would have driven 16 waterwheels below it.

Several hundred metres of the aqueduct survive, albeit heavily eroded over time. It is possible to clearly see where one of the channels was diverted through a cut in the rock and over a cliff with the remains of the mill complex below. It is just another example of what amazing engineers the Romans were.


On our way back into the campsite we bumped into “Hilda” and her husband. We had a little chat and when we told them we had stayed on some aires, they said that they had previously stayed on aires but had once been gassed!

I have not discussed the controversial, in motorhoming circles, topic of “gassing”. There have been numerous stories circulating, of people being gassed in their motorhomes and while they are unconscious the perpetrators have robbed the occupants. As far as I can ascertain none of these stories have been verified, but they have helped a small industry selling extremely expensive detectors for noxious gases.

The saga got a new lease of life a couple of years ago when Jenson Button, the Formula 1 driver, was robbed in his house and claimed that he and his girlfriend did not wake up because they had been gassed. A Consultant Anaesthetist commented at the time that rendering people effectively unconscious but at the same time not killing them, was not only impossible but to buy enough anaesthetic to fill a house would cost a fortune!

I am completely unconvinced that, so called, gassing has ever been responsible for robberies. Far more likely that the thieves involved are skilful enough to rob a house or a motorhome without disturbing the occupants, who are soundly asleep!

I, of course, did not proffer this opinion to “Hilda”.

Praying Mantis we saw in the forest – not, I repeat not, Hilda.

*Hilda Ogden, and her husband Stan were two of the best known long running characters in the Manchester based British soap opera, Coronation Street. Poor old Stan was harried from pillar to post by Hilda’s shrill commands.