Having left the Naughty Step at Shurrup behind, the charabanc motors sedately along a verdant B-road as it winds through a heavily wooded area. It is a mere 12 miles between Shurrup and Upper Slappington. For the most part, the road twists beneath a leafy canopy, penetrated only by golden shafts of bright sunlight. It is a very scenic drive, with hundreds of interesting trees to look at.
Stumbleson Falls can be located just outside the small town of Upper Slappington, which, generations ago was built around a local stone quarry, but whose principal industry now is a mini-Kiev factory on a modest industrial park.
"It's rather pleasant here," the Major opines as the charabanc approaches Upper Slappington.
"Indeed," says Mrs Percy as she observes an overweight middle aged man - obviously intoxicated - fall flat on his face in the garden of what appears to be a council house. She merely frowns when she sees a man trying to fend off an angry pit bull terrier with a yard brush, a little further down the road. After the dog brings the man down to the ground, anything further is left unseen as the charabanc presses ever onward.
Upper Slappington is a deceptive little town - from a distance, it looks idyllic, perfectly located, quaint, but dig a little deeper, and the squalour rapidly becomes evident. Upper Slappington consists mainly of boarded up shops and crumbling buildings; its pavements are cracked and weed spotted, gutters hang loose, people look out through dirty windows which sit in rotting frames.
"You were saying, Major..." Mrs Percy teases.
"It looked all right from a distance," the Major grunts. "How was I to know it's all fur coat and no knickers?"
The charabanc passes through the town, and climbs a steep hill. The engine groans.
"Good gracious," Mrs Percy gasps. "I do hope that we aren't about to suffer some form of mechanical breakdown!"
"She'll be all right," the charabanc driver calls out over his shoulder as he wrestles with the gearstick and the steering wheel. "She always does this! But she usually makes it! We'll be there in a minute!"
And sure enough, precisely fifty nine seconds later, the charabanc turns off the road, and parks up in a gravel car park.
"Here we are then!" the charabanc driver announces. "The Stumbleson Falls are a two minute walk along the path up there through the brick archway. Can we have everybody back in thirty minutes, please!"
"Do they do refreshments?" somebody shouts from the back of the charabanc.
"There's usually a burger van," the driver replies. "He might have some ice cream and some canned soft drinks."
"Is there a bloody surcharge again?" the Major grumbles.
"No surcharges here chief," the charabanc driver says cheerily. "You can leave a donation if you like, but it's entirely voluntary."
So the plucky tourists disembark from the charabanc and file along the path and through the brick archway.
Two minutes later, the party arrive at a small concrete viewing platform, overlooking a deep gorge.
"Ooh! I say!" Mrs Percy says. "How beautiful! I can honestly say that I didn't expect anything like this!"
"Utterly breathtaking!" the Major gasps. "It puts me in mind of a place I stumbled across whilst on a survival exercise in the jungles of Belize!"
Stumbleson Falls truly are beautiful. Crystal clear water drops some fifty to sixty feet, straight down over a rocky precipice into a large clear pool below. It is surrounded by sheer rocks, topped off by trees and verdant shrubs.
Kingfishers and dragonflies aplenty flutter and dance, glowing green and blue in the late afternoon sunshine. Major and Mrs Percy lean contendly on a metal safety rail, feasting their eyes on the beauty of nature, hearing the rush of the water, and the crash as it lands below.
They both appear to be thinking that this place alone has made the whole trip worthwhile.
They drink in the sheer beauty of the spectacle before them, until the Major consults his wristwatch.
"We have sixteen minutes sharp until the charabanc departs," he announces. "We'd better be making our way back if we're to have coffee and a sandwich."
"All right," Mrs Percy appears reluctant to tear herself away, but she does so, and the pair head back to the footpath.
Only to find their way blocked by a burly man wearing a black suit, white shirt and sunglasses.
"Excuse me..." says the Major.
"No exit," says the man.
"What do you mean my good man?" blurts the Major.
"No exit. This is the entrance."
"So where is the exit?"
"Follow the arrows."
"What blithering arrows?"
"On the floor. Arrows. Spray painted. White they are. Follow them."
"Why can't we just go back the way we came?" Mrs Percy says.
"Because this is the entrance. You can't exit through an entrance. Same as you can't enter through an exit. Rules is rules. Follow the arrows."
"But can't we just..."
"Follow the arrows. Rules is rules."
The Major and Mrs Percy begin to look for arrows on the tarmacced observation deck. Mrs Percy finds one. It says 'Eksit This Weigh' so they follow the trail.
The arrows take them down a short flight of steps and onto a narrow woodland path, which after a short distance opens out onto a clearing. There are a smattering of picnic tables in the clearing, and a burger van.
"I say," the Major says. "I'm sure that chappie in the burger van is the same chappie as was in that other burger van. The one we saw earlier..."
"They're all Ottoman's Major," Mrs Percy says. "They all look the same. There are vans like that on every street corner and in every lay-by. Heaven knows how they make a living."
The Major and Mrs Percy settle down at a picnic table and Mrs Percy starts extracting sandwiches and the thermos from the picnic basket.
When a shadow falls over them.
Another big man in a black suit and sunglasses.
"You can't do that," he says. "It's not allowed."
"What isn't allowed?" the Major says - clearly exasperated.
"Can't eat your own food here mate. S'against the rules. You have to get freshment from the van if you wants to sit here."
"Oh for crying out loud," Mrs Percy groans. "It's a bloody public picnic area!"
"No it's not. There's a sign up. Says you got to get freshment from the van. You're not allowed to bring your own."
"What bloody sign?" the Major blurts. "I can't see any bloody sign!"
"Sup there somewhere. Big Trev put it up last year. You wants to sit here for freshment, you have to buy it from the van. It's the rules."
"Oh bugger this!" the Major splutters. "Come on the wife. Pack up. We're leaving. Bloody jobsworths!"
Mrs Percy hurriedly replaces the food and the thermos into the picnic basket.
"Stick your bloody van up your arse! Mate!" Mrs Percy rants as she and the Major follow the exit path leading to the charabanc park.
As they leave the clearing, yet another man in a black suit and sunglasses pops up, blocking the way.
"Bloody hell!" the Major says. "What now!"
"You didn't make a donation."
"It isn't compulsory!"
"Sin the rules. You has to make a voluntary donation. For the upkeep of the paths. And the burger van."
"How much?" the Major demands.
"Four pound. Each. Would 'ave bin three pound each, but you didn't buy nuffink off the van."
"Now look here..." the Major starts, but Mrs Percy cuts him off.
She takes her purse from her handbag and counts out eight pound coins.
"Here," she says, dropping the money on the ground. "And when you've picked it up, you know where you can ruddy well stick it! Parasite!"
And with that, the Major and Mrs Percy head off back to rejoin the charabanc for the drive home.
To be continued...