Adventures in the Cotswolds – Part 1

Friday

October half term is here at last and we can press pause on work for a few days and recharge. I’m not going to lie; the last week or two have been stressful. Covid has become rife in some of our schools and whilst we’ve been able to carry on (thankfully for the bank balance) emotionally it’s been a rollercoaster to say the least, and quite frankly we’re feeling like, somehow, we’ve successfully dodged the bullet. For now.

Keefy and I worked as a true team over the last few days, we’ve both had very little free time, so with any spare ten mins we had here and there being carefully booked out to pack items and tick off our to do list. As such our clothes have been packed in bags since Monday, the wine and beer and gin have been touring in Gandalf around Norfolk as we’ve gone from school to school, the bikes were loaded on between lessons yesterday and therefore all we needed to do this morning was load the fridge and drive off, which was good as we were both a little bit fragile from some early birthday celebrations with friends last night!

We had a decent journey to the Cotswolds, with a brief stop at Deddington because we passed a deli and butchers and couldn’t drive by! Somehow we ended up with a very modest haul- I blame the hangover, but we managed to get some local sausages , game burgers and a local gin and whiskey miniature.

My beautiful birthday flowers have come on tour with us. Thanks Keefy

We arrived on site, a very lovely C&CC Certified Location on the outskirts of Chipping Norton just after 3pm.

The campsite, Nuhulme, has a shower cubicle and toilet so we made the decision to use these rather than set out our tailgate awning this weekend. When we spoke to the owner we were surprised to learn that we are the only people booked on this weekend. So no worries about noisy neighbours!

Once set up, we settled in for a long chill. Dinner was a pre home made pie which we heated up in the Remoska along with some roasted veg and mash. Delicious! After which we hit the sack – at 8:50pm!

Saturday

We had a great sleep last night and enjoyed a chill again for the first part of the morning. We utilised the on site shower cabin to freshen up – its nice to have this option rather than using the awning and 12v shower at this time of year – before prepping tonight’s dinner, a Cotswold sausage cassoulet in the slow cooker, and enjoying a bacon bap.

Keefy got the bikes off the rack whilst I washed up, and despite a lazy morning we were on our way for an explore by 11:30am.

Our first port of call was the next village along, Salford, where we admired the pretty Cotswold stone masonry,

before we made our way on back roads through Churchill and then Kingham.

Both beautifully quant and unspoilt, Kingham was declared the prettiest village in the UK at one time and has a lovely green which picture perfect cottages, some thatched.

Best of all a pub, two in fact, but so popular they are, we were unable to eat lunch in either with no booking. We did manage a drink outside under the heater at the Plough; Keefy enjoyed his first Hook Norton (the local) ale and I had a Cotswold G&T.

We continued on to Bledington where we succeeded in grabbing a table at the charming Kings Head in front of the fire where we enjoyed a light lunch of open chicken chipotle and slaw sandwich. I tried another gin, this time one from the village distillery before we made our way back via Chipping Norton to the campsite.

Gandalf smelt delicious, the sausages were cooking a treat in the slow cooker. We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling and reading before enjoying dinner and some more chill time.

Today has been a perfect mix of exploring and chilling. Something we need more of!

Sunday – Lydia’s birthday 🎂

After a terrific sleep, we both woke up to glorious blue skies – a treat as it went against all the weather forecasts! Today was a special day in Gandalf, it was my birthday and waking up in a huge open space with absolutely no one else around was the most perfect start to it! (We’re not antisocial, I promise)

The day started with bday cake, presents and tea, before donning our walking boots – I was proudly in my new boots, a welcome and generous present from Dad and Jenny, thank you.

We made our way into Chipping Norton – about a mile or so on footpath,

for breakfast and cocktails at the terrific Bitter and Twisted bar (extremely dog friendly) and enjoyed a scrumptious full English accompanied with a cocktail each.

Following our lazy brunch, we followed the historic town trail around Chipping Norton, admiring the many Cotswold stone buildings along the way, and of course enjoying a few pub stops on our way. Chipping Norton was very dog friendly by the way.

After a good few hours ambling the streets, we walked back to Gandalf for a chill and more cake! I’m reading a gripping book at the moment (The Light between two oceans) and therefore a couple of hours of undisturbed reading time with nice views was a real luxury!

As the sun set, we donned our glad rags and got a taxi back into town, for a delicious evening meal at the Blue Boar, a historic pub with a wonderful game menu. The meal was splendid and I couldn’t believe how busy the pub was for a Sunday night. Thanks goodness Keefy booked! Jazz was spoilt rotten by the bar maids, it’s so great to be in such a dog friendly part of the world.

I was on high alert for celeb spotting; apparently Chipping Norton is a magnet for the, with Jeremy Clarkson, The Beckhams, David Cameron, Amanda Holden and more all residing close by. Jeremy Clarkson’s famous farm and farm shop is also on the outskirts of Chippy – and next to the C&CC club site for those who are interested.

Tomorrow it’s time for us to wave goodbye to what’s felt like our own private retreat. We’re off to Cirencester club site via a bit of a mystery sightseeing tour. We’ve had a great time based here though and it’s been a great place to unwind yet enjoy some bday celebrations in civilisation too.

Thanks Keefy for spoiling me rotten, I’ve had a brilliant weekend ❤️

Until next time

Lx

Adventures in Suffolk – time to unwind

Gandalf the VW is parked on a beautiful C&MC CL, deep in the heart of the picturesque Suffolk countryside, on the outskirts of Framlingham. We’re staying at Waterpump CL, a newly opened CL this year, and it is a real gem. The pitches are huge- 5 hardstanding (with two grass ones available throughout the summer to replace 2 hardstanding ones which are closed for summer), electric and Water (with a water point on each double pitch) and peace and quiet in its bucketloads. 

We’ve whisked ourselves away for a recharge weekend – we’re only 2 weeks into term and already about running on empty! This site is perfect as its 45 minutes from home. It also has a very good 4 minute fieldwalk to the local pub. Happy days! 

We arrived at 2pm on Friday and spent the afternoon enjoying the late September sunshine and utter peace and quiet.

Around 5pm we took a short wander to the pub, a very pretty Suffolk inn – and very popular too- we’d missed our opportunity to eat there as we hadn’t booked and the whole weekend was fully booked. To be fair the campsite website did warn us to pre book! Luckily, we had some emergency bbq supplies, and the weather was great, so we enjoyed a couple of beers before cooking up bbq’ed venison steaks, lemon chicken kebabs and a nice salad. Followed by marshmallows on the campsite to finish. Perfect.

The night sky here was spectacular, and this time of year allows for star gazing at a sociable hour too! Which is good as we were fast asleep by 9pm!

Saturday morning brought with it another glorious morning. It was boiling!

We enjoyed a cooked breakfast, before donning our walking boots and taking a 3 mile walk across the fields to nearby Framlingham.

Framlingham has a really impressive castle, managed now by English Heritage – it is well worth a visit. The wall walk is really excellent. We have visited before so gave it a miss today, instead enjoying the grounds around the moat area and admiring the very impressively conserved walls.

More recently, Framlingham has become well known as it features in the Ed Sheeran song ‘ Castle on a Hill’. Ed Sheeran grew up here and wrote the song about his hometown. 

We enjoyed a wander around the small shops and market – stocking up on fresh vegetables for dinner and some nice bread and cakes. Plus a couple of refreshment stops of course.

We decided to take a cab back as we were laden down, plus my foot still isn’t quite right. But it was a lovely walk, and the none injured Lydia and Keith would have no problem in doing this as a round trip another time. 

Keith was rather excited to discover this campsite is as near as dammit located onto the old course of a roman road. Those who follow our adventures know Keith is a Roman History enthusiast, and his imagination was running in overdrive as we settled down for a bread, cheese and wine lunch on our return to the site after our expedition into town.

The remainder of Saturday afternoon was spent reading and soaking up the sunshine on our pitch, even squeezing in a nap – hurrah!- before enjoying a home cooked pie with local fresh veg for dinner. I’d pre made these pies at home, and popped a couple in the freezer in case we didn’t fancy/couldn’t eat out- they cooked perfectly in the remoska from frozen. Once nightfall fell, we settled down to watch a film before another early night. 

We had to leave fairly early on Sunday morning as we had tickets for a vineyard tasting event at Chilford Hall vineyard in Cambridgeshire, but our trip into Suffolk had been a perfect excursion to recharge our batteries for a day or so.

We will definitely return. There is a vineyard that is walkable, which we fancy trying next time, and lots of on site wildlife to watch. We heard the little owl and barn owls, but despite being on high alert watching we didn’t catch a glimpse. For those who tow a car, or don’t mind taking their vans off site, the site is located close to Orford which also has a great castle to visit, Snape Maltings which is a good place to visit and enjoy the arts, and of course Southwold and Aldeburgh.

Congratulations to the site owners, who are also campervanners, for setting up such a lovely jewel in the C&MC network. As Arnie says… “I’ll (or we’ll) be back”

Adventures in  London 

(backdated from the beginning of September- Sorry for the delay!

Friday 10 September

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked up on an old favourite site of ours, the C&MC Club site at Crystal Palace. Its usually an oasis of calm in the middle of suburban south London, however something tells us that this time may be different. Our spider senses were tingling as we made our way towards the site, and road closures became apparent, and then came the vast amounts of teenagers, many wearing less than I’d wear on the beach, swarming towards Crystal Palace! We felt old as we arrived at the campsite, and were utterly confused as to what was going on. The wardens soon set us straight. The Wireless festival was being held just metres behind the campsite for the whole weekend. DRAT! “Don’t worry” they said, “the music * stops at 10pm”.

*Music – Thats one word to describe it!!! Good grief!!!

The festival began at midday and therefore we were treated to its opening act as we set up. Our pitch was the closest to the stage. My goodness me- it was LOUD. We could NOT stop laughing. It was just so bad/loud. All we could do was laugh and thank our lucky stars we’d not planned to go to this site for a relax. Our neighbours, who arrived just after us, lasted a whole 30 mins before they threw the towel in and moved on to a different site. We left Gandalf to vibrate to the drum and bass beat, and hopped on the next bus into London. This site is soooo convenient for city breaks – the bus goes directly to Horse Guards Parade and runs 24 hours a day. Wireless wasn’t going to ruin our break.

Our first stop in London was the house in which Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding Fathers, resided during his time in London.

Benjamin Franklin’s House was situated in a lovely Geogian town house just behind Charing Cross, and we really enjoyed a pre booked tour around the house, which included lots of original Georgian features such as a terrific marble fireplace and wooden staircase which bore the weight of Franklin’s weight lifting efforts.

It was a terrific tour, and we learnt loads about the life of Benjamin Franklin – and also his inventions, including the interesting Glass Armonia, a musical instruments that uses glass and a rubbing technique to create different notes.

After our visit we had a quick drink before making our way towards The British Museum. The main feature of our trip to London was to visit the Nero Exhibition.  

The exhibition showcased hundreds of absolutely INCREDIBLE artefacts, many in pristine condition which dated from as early as AD30. Many looked like brand new.

The exhibition completely and utterly blew our minds. In fact, I actually thought Keith was about to collapse when he saw the ORIGINAL Praetorian Guard relief, dating from AD51. He was beyond emotional.

Other highlights of the exhibition were the wall paintings brought over from Pompei- the colours still outstanding.

We saw hundreds of coins, again as new, and depicting all sorts of scenes from Nero’s reign.

We even saw a writing slate that had imprints of Roman handwriting on. It was truly wonderful and if you have any interest in Roman history whatsoever it is vital that you go and see this exhibition – however be quick as it ends on 24th October!

After a couple of hours of having our minds blown, we wandered down into Soho and found a lovely Italian – it seemed appropriate – for dinner. We discussed the exhibition over a bottle of Italian red wine and a lasagne. It had been a great day!

Even better that when we arrived back to site at 11pm, all signs of Drum and Bass and underdressed teenagers had disappeared and our campsite was lovely and peaceful once more.

Saturday dawned a little earlier than hoped – as we were so close to the main stage and artist area, we were woken by hoovers from 5am which went on til 8am. Then we had sound checks from 9am. Not quite the morning we’d anticipated but it gave us a kick to get up and out and so we were on the bus by 10am! 

Today’s agenda was more Roman history sites. But before that we treated ourselves to a drink in our “London Office” – the Tattishall Castle – the best view for your drink on ground level London.

We toasted Londinium and watched the world go by on the Thames for a while before carrying on to Chinatown for a Dim Sung lunch.

We then walked from Soho to Bank, along the Strand and Fleet Street. We just love exploring London by foot. There is always something cool to see, somewhere new to take a picture and a new pub to try a pint in. We got great views of St Pauls as we wandered by.

We arrived at Bloomberg Space ready for a (free) tour of the London Mithraeum.

This site was discovered when the underground was being constructed nearby in the late 1800s. The temple of Mithras as it was also known, would have been a mysterious place to visit, with the mystical temple being underground and frequented by men who wore masks and worshipped scenes depicting Mithras killing a bull within a cave. The cult remained fairly secretive despite spreading across Europe over the period of around 300 years.

The remains of the Temple of Mithras were really great to see – but the highlight was how the site was displayed with a fantastic audio light show making the underground cave ooze in atmosphere. The vapoured light column were ingenious, and we really REALLY enjoyed our visit. 

From here, we had a drink on nearby Watling Street – an original Roman Road which also has great views of St Pauls Cathedral.

We then walked all the way back to Soho, via Millennium Bridge and a couple of really cool historical pubs – The Blackfriars being a highlight with its very instagrammable architecture and really great original decor.

We had a Thai meal for dinner before making our way back to Gandalf.

We’d walked miles but had a BRILLIANT day. We haven’t had much of plan for today other than the temple of Mithras and so it was especially good to have had a spontaneous mooch, going where our noses took us. Since Covid, there’s been a shift in spontaneity- most things have to be pre booked well in advance so today felt really good. We enjoyed using a book which Keith got for Xmas – it helped us find some hidden gems for sure. London for Instagrammers – would make a good Christmas pressie for those who like exploring London by foot.

London, you never fail to disappoint. We can’t wait to be back again! 

Until Next Time 

L x

Adventures IN Thame

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked up on another gem of a CL, this time just 40 mins down the road from Newbridge, which is ON the Thames, to Thame which is NOT on the Thames, but in fact the River Thame. This fact alone blew our minds the entire 40 minute journey!

We’re staying on Lashlake Barn CL, a C&MC CL within walking distance of Thame. The campsite is lovely – each pitch has electric and a water tap, and the site is very secure – it’s situated behind electric gates which we all have a fob to give us access on foot or wheels. At the far end of the campsite The River Thame runs and there is a stream runnning off it which was the backdrop of our pitch. The price of the pitch is £18 pn which feels a reasonable and fair amount.

We ended up meeting Dad and Jenny as we arrived which was handy and it didn’t take us all long to get our vans into relaxing mode, soon cracking open a gin and having some lunch.

After lunch, we were treated to a rare sight… the sun, which I think has been missing in action recently. We hailed its return and set off for a wander around Thame.

Just behind the campsite is St Mary’s Church, final resting place to the incredible Robin and Andy Gibb (Beegees).

Opposite their graves is Robin Gibb’s former house, Prebendal – an absolutely stunning medieval property with its own collection of impressive historical events that it has played host to, including it being the place in which the decision that Joan of Ark was to be sentenced to her death was made.

Keith found this really great video of Robin Gibb showing a camera crew around the house which we found fascinating.

From here we continued up to the high street, admiring all of the listed houses as we went. Thame was actually used in Midsomer Murders as a filming location. It’s easy to see why, there are many medieval houses with brilliantly preserved fascias.

Thame was also home to the famous poet – and Keith’s favourite Poet – Yeats. We saw the house in which he lived, and Keith even recited an extract of his favourite Yeats poem outside.

We spent some time indulging in our family hobby – charity shop hunting! All the shops were brilliantly dog friendly, and we all picked up one or two bits and bobs!

After a couple of drinks, we nipped back to the campsite to change for dinner, before heading back to town. We had a table booked in the Black Horse, a really lovely gastro pub bistro, which amazing also was dog friendly. The food and service was great and we really enjoyed our evening.

Friday dawned sunny! Yes Sunny!

After a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs and salmon on toast, we got our bikes unhooked and set off on the Phoenix Trail, an off road, disused railway path between Thame and Princes Risborough. The trail runs for just over 7 miles and has a number of sculptures to enjoy on route, along with great views of the Chilterns.

We had lunch and some more charity shop hunting in Princes Risborough before making our way back in record time to Thame. Dad was on the only non electric bike and did a sterling job setting the fast pace on our return! I was on high assist to keep up!

Apparently Jamiroquai lives opposite here!

Before making our way back to the campsite from Thame, I picked up some butchers lamb, and when we got back I knocked up a Lamb Dhansak in the Remoska, along with a chicken saag. That’s right, Friday night is Curry night! We enjoyed our feast of curry’s outside as it was still fairly mild before settling down in front of the campfire as the stars came out. What a lovely day we’d all had.