A Royal Retreat; Part 2

Ruby the VW is parked up in Windsor, and we can see Windsor Castle from our window! We are parked up in a sectioned off part of the Coach Park in Alexandria Car Park and amazingly they allow overnight parking/sleeping in Campervans/Motorhomes.

We arrived late morning having had a lay in and a full English Breakfast. The weather had been unsettled over night and the wardens at Chertsey C&CC were quite rightly closing the Island part of the campsite due to fears of flooding. Overnight the river had burst its banks and water was getting close to the pitches on the island area.

We made the short journey to Windsor (about 25 mins) from the site and arrived at the car park just before noon. The Security team showed us where we could park and we felt very pleased to be “wild camping’ for the night. We paid £15 for our parking but this was from 12 noon through to 9am the following morning. Considering we paid £6 to park at Hampton Court Palace for 4 hours, we felt this was fairly reasonable. There is a toilet near the station however this closes in the evening and overnight. There was also a tap near to the coach area but not sure if that’s for use by campervanners.

See video here

Feeling pleased to be parked up we made the short walk to Windsor Castle entrance. I’d been very excited to make this visit – I have just recently finished reading Lady in Waiting and am watching The Crown so am totally in ‘The Zone’ when it comes to the Royal Family right now!

We’d pre booked our tickets through the Windsor Palace website (£23.50 pp) and arrived just after noon to no queues or anything. It was just a shame that the weather was drizzly and wet.

We first visited St George’s Chapel – the site of the most recent Royal Wedding of Harry and Meghan. We also saw the tomb of Henry VIII which tied in well with our visit the previous day to Hampton Court Palace. The chapel is beautiful, especially the roof and the organ. Sadly no pics were allowed.

We then moved on to the State Apartments and also the Queen Mother’s Dolls House. The Doll’s House was incredible – made in the 1920s its a full scale model of a Royal Household, and everything inside it works! The scale is 1 foot to 1 inch. Even the grammerphone plays real LPs, and the miniature wine bottles had real wine in!

From here we walked through the wonderful collection of State Apartments. Its hard not to be impressed here, especially given that they are still in use for Royal Receptions and the such to this day. St George’s Hall was destroyed in the 90s by a terrible fire, but has been rebuilt and was the venue for the most recent Royal Wedding.

After visiting this section of the castle the rain had nearly stopped so we went to look at the outdoor courtyard where we could see the current Queen’s private apartments. We were told by a guide that she regularly comes to Windsor Castle, in fact she’d been there a couple of days prior to our visit.

We enjoyed looking at the round tower, the oldest part of Windsor Castle, and hope to return in August or September as it opens up to the public then. Our ticket today got stamped so we can return for free again within 12 months.

We really enjoyed our 3 hours or so exploring Windsor Castle – the audio guide was really informative and for me it was a big bucket list tick.

After our visit, we decided to enjoy the fact that we were parked up for the night. We went for a drink at the nearby Horse and Groom – opposite the Castle. Keefy soon spotted a Windsor and Eton Brewery ale trail leaflet, and so the rest of the afternoon was spent dodging the rain as we made our way around the trail – we may have added in some extra pubs too! We really enjoyed the pubs it took us to and the ale was really tasty too.

About 8pm we realised we hadn’t eaten since our breakfast, so made our way back to Ruby where I cooked up a Carbonara before we both crashed out – we were asleep by 9pm and enjoyed a very peaceful night in the carpark along with one other motorhome. I fancied trying the BBQ restaurant in town but as we’d been on the go all day (and had a few jars) we were ready to turn in! We will definitely return and will make a point of eating there next time.

We’d had a marvellous day exploring Windsor and really commend the council for having the business sense to make this scrap part of a car park a place for us to park up overnight. If we hadn’t have stayed here, then there were no other campsites for us to stay at within the range of public transport and therefore we would have been unable to take part in the pub crawl.

Well done Windsor! See our video Here

Tomorrow we are making our return journey home but not without a visit to Bletchley Park to see if we can bag a a new job as a codebreaker.

Thursday Dawned another wet and grey day. We waved goodbye to Windsor Castle just before 9am and the new day’s parking charges kicked in and made the 1.25 hour journey north to Bletchley, near Milton Keynes.

Bletchley Park has been another place on our ‘to visit’ list and we were excited to be finally ticking it off. Despite the grey and murky weather we arrived just after 10am and after having a quick late breakfast/early lunch in the carpark we entered the very important historical site.

During WW2 Bletchley Park would have been a hive of activity and the people who worked here were instrumental in ending the war. It was here that mathematicians and scientists worked tirelessly trying to crack the codes that were being intercepted from Germans to their Army. It was also here that Alan Turrin and his team developed the Bombe machine which was instrumental in deciphering and decoding messages from the German Enigma machines. If you haven’t already seen the film, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a fantastic Alan Turrin in The Imitation Game.

Visiting Bletchley Park is an all day affair. The site is large and there is lots and lots of information to read (perhaps too much) and quite a number of interactive code breaking multi media displays. There are numerous huts to visit, including the famous hut 11a and 11 where the Bombe machine was made and also Hut 8 which was where Alan Turrin had his office and team. There is also the mansion – although half of it was closed sadly.

In Block B there were a number of original Enigma machines to view, but aside from these and a few original facsimiles and essays written by Turrin we found the original artefacts lacking and this was disappointing considering that the entry price was £20 per person – and that was booking in advance price. Buying tickets on the day would have been more. Whilst we very much enjoyed being on the site, and found being in hut 8 very interesting and atmospheric, the endless multimedia displays and projections of actors and recordings of the actors voices very repetitive and just not needed. We were also incredibly disappointed that there is no original (or replica) Bombe machine here. Very sadly (and not the museums fault we realise) all the work that Turrin and his team did was ordered to be demolished at the end of the war and this included the codebreaking machine and everything to do with it. A working replica was made around 10 years ago but this is not housed at Bletchley. This is down the road at the National Computer Centre and requires additional entry fees.

There is an original Bombe machine in Maryland USA so we’ve decided to go and see that sometime instead as you know we love USA!

As I said, we enjoyed visiting the site, and rewatched The Imitation Game last night with nothing buy admiration for this who worked there. But, we felt disappointed by our visit – we should have read up beforehand, but didn’t, and as such felt disappointed not to be able to see originals. Also we felt there was an overload of repetitive and complicated information. It was hard to follow as it didn’t flow brilliantly well. I suppose its always going to be difficult to understand the information there unless you have a very mathematical and scientific mind as the formulas etc behind the code breaking machines were just so advanced! We would have liked to have read more about the people who worked there and their lives.

Like Windsor Castle, our tickets are valid for 1 year of return visits, so perhaps we will revisit later in the year with fresh eyes and without the expectation of seeing an original Bombe machine.

It’s worth noting by the way, if you plan to visit here, they won’t allow dogs in the car park. We didn’t have Jazz as we had booked three days of none dog friendly attractions so he went for a holiday at my mums, but there was a security guard checking vehicles on entry for animals and even if someone is sitting in the car with them, you would be turned away.

It was a shame to be finishing our mini break feeling flat. We’d really enjoyed our time away, and felt we’d made the best out of a disappointing week of weather, but I could do with a couple more days away to recharge and am desperately craving some mountain vistas.

We’ve got a very busy 4 weeks ahead, with no free weekends as we are gigging and holding exam days etc –  but then we travel to Vietnam and Cambodia for almost 3 weeks! I’m hoping we may manage a night away at a Britstop before then – our new Book was waiting for us on our return home!

For this weekend, we have more rain and more wind on its way so it”s time to batten down those hatches again!

Until Next Time

Lx

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A Royal Retreat; Part 1

The trouble with writing a blog post having had some fizz, is it ends up in the wrong place!

So please click on the link for this mornings blog list about our first day on tour yesterday at Hampton Court Palace!

A Royal Retreat; Part 1

Our morning view at Chertsey Camping and Caravan Club site

Plan B

We made it to half term- yay!- and Ruby the Campervan SHOULD currently be ooop North. We were due to be heading to West Yorkshire yesterday, but the impending Storm Dennis has resulted in us delaying our departure. Since the reason we were heading there was to do plenty of walking in Bronte country, and high winds and torrential rain was forecasted we opted to stay in the warm and comfort of our house until the storm passes.

Instead, we spent yesterday at the Beach. It was actually a lovely sunny but rather blustery day in Aldeburgh, Suffolk and we enjoyed fish and chips and some Adnams Old Ale and a brisk sea front walk to blow our cobwebs away.

Beach Selfie at Aldeburgh Beach on Valentines Day.
Fish and chips on the beach

It’s great what a bit of sea air does. I started the day feeling a bit grumpy that we’d had to change our plans. I look forward to hitting the road once our work commitments are done, and I don’t think we’ve ever had to cancel because of weather. But, as our day progressed, I could feel myself relaxing and the starting of a new plan was formulating. Helped I’m sure by the Old Ale.

The best winter ale in the world – Adnams Old Ale

The weather is looking consistently awful in Yorkshire for the week ahead. As we have lots of walks planned in Yorkshire, and neither of us are THAT dedicated that we will start a walk in the wet- unless it looks like it will improve, we were starting to wonder if we should see if the weather looked any better elsewhere next week. Sure enough, it looks better down south, and a chance comment about how we had been meaning to visit Windsor Castle led onto an official plan B being formulated.

Cheers to plan B

We will batten down the hatches and have a weekend at home whilst we get battered by Storm Dennis, then as soon as we can on Monday, point Ruby in the direction of Berkshire. We’ve booked onto Chertsey C&CC club site and will visit Hampton Court Palace first, then Windsor Castle the next day and then have a visit to Bletchley Park on route home. All three have been on our list of places to visit for a couple of years. We feel really pleased with our new plan B and are keeping everything crossed that we can get away easily on Monday.

Hope you are all keeping safe and warm. Are any of you out and about this weekend?

Until next time

Lx

Camping in the Forest – Norfolk camp and walk

For us when we arrive at a campsite, once we are set up, we don’t want to move the van if we can help it. I spend all week chasing around in between schools and gigs so once the journey is out of way, I want to hang up those car keys and embrace not having to drive. Because of this we are always on the look out for campsites with walks or bike rides from our pitch.

For the second year running Keith and I have signed up to “walk 1000 miles”. Last year we smashed it by walking over 1100 miles which we were thrilled about- crossing the 1000 mile mark in mid November.

As usual its been a busy start to the decade, and with some pretty rough weather and my lingering lurgy, the 40 odd miles walked so far this year by us have been mainly in the dark either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. But this weekend a welcome break in the weather arrived at the same time as a welcome day off.

As we only had the day spare we opted for a local walk just 5 miles away from our front door. However seeing as we have a really rather decent campsite in the middle of the walk and various attractions around us – we felt it was well worth a write up to add to our ‘Campsites with walks from the pitch’ list.

Campsite:

Dower House Camping About 7 miles away from Thetford, Norfolk. Easily accessible from the A11.

This campsite is right in the heart of the forest. The pitches are really pictuesque and there are decent facilities and even an outside pool for the summer months. It gets very busy, we even know neighbours who go there on holiday despite it being 3 miles from our front door. It is open from Mid march to mid October.

The Walk:

9 miles but many shorter (or longer) routes available.

Because we live so close obviously we didn’t camp. We parked Ruby at Knetttishall Heath which has two large and free carparks. Knettishall Heath also has miles of trails to follow and is the start of the Peddars Way.

Our route began in the main car park which we walked away from by turning left out of the main gates, following the road back towards the A1066. After about half a mile we took a small footpath towards Riddlesworth Hall Private School. The path goes behind the school and you get good views of Princess Diana’s former school – the impressive Riddlesworth Hall.

We then crossed the 1066 and took a quiet lane through the forest towards Dower House Campsite. We took the campsite entry road and followed it for the mile or so before breaking off to the left following the path towards Thorpe Woodlands (Forest Holidays). This is a good place for a refreshment stop as there is a pet and child friendly bar/cafe which serves decent food and is open to non residents.

We carried on to the Peddars Way National Trail which we followed all the way back to Knettishall Heath. Our route covered 9 miles and was really enjoyable.

If we were staying at the campsite we would head towards Riddlesworth Hall first then Knettishall Heath as that way you get the road walking (albeit quiet road) done first.

There are enough walks directly from the campsite to occupy you at least 2-3 days so it’s perfect for a weekend break.

East Harling is just about walkable from Dower House – or cyclable on a very quiet lane. There are two decent pubs, one that serves exceptional food – The Nags Head and one that is a drinkers pub, The Swan. There is also a traditional tea room, Peppers, a village store, fish and chip shop and post office. The 2 pubs and the tea room are all all dog friendly. If you don’t fancy the distance, there is a great cab service that is based in the village.

Just outside of East Harling is England’s oldest Whiskey Distillery. Its well worth a trip if you like Whiskey or Baileys – they do a very nice Norfolk Nog which is similar to Baileys. There is also a restaurant and cafe at the distillery too.

A little further afield but less than 10 miles away there is Snetterton Race circuit and also Banham Zoo, or Bressingham Steam Museum.

Did you know that the legendary actor James Stewart was stationed nearby to here in Old Buckenham, about 8 miles away during WW2? You can visit the small museum on the airfield and visit Jimmy’s cafe. Or perhaps come and watch the very popular and really great air show in July.

As you can see we are blessed with where we live. If you decide to come and try the campsite out do let us know, we’ve love to meet up! This truly is our stomping ground! In fact during this walk we bumped into two of our followers randomly! Great to meet you Eric and Pam!

We’re always on the look out for inspiration of where to visit for a night or two which requires no driving once on site. If you have any spots you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below.

Our next Ruby adventure is just 3 weeks away, we’re looking forward to seeing some hills in West Yorkshire.

Until next time

Lx

A new year ahead – welcome 2020!

Welcome 2020! A new decade lays ahead of us, and it feels like a freshly laid road lies ahead. New memories to make, fresh eyes to see the journey with. Miles upon miles of roads to be discovered, countries and continents to explore. It’s a great time to stop and reflect, and get planning some adventures for the year ahead.

2019 was a phenomenal year for us. We ticked off more bucket list items – despite adding more to the list, we worked harder than ever and travelled more than we could have dreamt.

Camping wise we ticked off two bucket list adventures – our stay at Dufton last year and led us to complete a walk I’d been itching to do, High Cup Nick. We also took Ruby the VW across the Irish Sea and did a fantastic tour of Northern Ireland – ticking off the Giants Causeway.

We managed our earliest ever outside BBQ during feb half term in the Lake District of all places!

Worldwide adventures went off the scale – we travelled to Canada and Alaska, and saw some incredible scenery and wildlife.

I took my first cruise and got hooked and I also overcame my two biggest fears – firstly taking a sea plane in Alaska and then later swimming in the deep ocean with whale sharks in Mexico. I can still remember how scared I was on both those occasions- I genuinely thought I would die but the sense of achievement and adrenaline afterwards will never leave me!

Keith ticked three bucket list items off by visiting Colditz Castle in Germany, Chitchen Itza in Mexico and Gettysburg Battlefield in PA 🇺🇸.

As a couple we celebrated a whole decade of being together and booked a indulgent but marvellous trip to New York for Thanksgiving. A day we’ve always celebrated (despite not being American) for 10 years – this year we watched the Macy’s Day Parade from the front row on sixth avenue.

Blog wise we started a sister site to Adventures in Motorhome – a specific place for us to share our non Motorhome travel. We introduce WanderLeefy.com.

Please pop and give us a follow. We’ll be keeping this site more specific for camping trips and pairing worldwide on WanderLeefy. We have a new Facebook page and would love you to follow us on both.

Despite all our worldwide travels last year we still managed 43 nights in Ruby – that’s one more than the previous year! This year, we’ve got some exciting adventures planned for Ruby including Switzerland in May – and Yorkshire in February and much more I’m sure. Worldwide adventures include Vietnam and Cambodia in March/April and possibly a couple more USA trips if the January sales are good to us!

Thank you to all our followers – we love sharing our adventures and hearing from you.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2020!

Cheers

Lx