The Lovely Lake District- Part 2

Seeing as we had fulfilled our main objective for the trip on our first day, it was decided that days 2 and 3 would be food/drink based around our bellies! Starting as we meant to go on therefore, after a breakfast fit for kings in the beautiful dining room of our hotel, The Ennerdale Country House Hotel, we gathered our bits and pieces and intend the car in the direction of Cockermouth, our first destination of the day. Cockermouth was circled in our mapbook because it’s where all the magic happens……it’s home to Jennings Brewery 👏

   

We’d been enjoying the Cumberland Ale, and on visiting the brewery, we were able to try some of their other, equally delicious beers in their onsite pub/tea rooms.  

   

You may notice that the glasses have Marstons on- the reason for this is that Marstons have just recently bought out Jennings.. So interesting times ahead. Keith said his favourite was the “Cocky Blonde”…… Now, back to the beer….! He also liked the “Sneck Lifter” but that was a bit strong for pre 12:00 drinkies 🙂  

 We didn’t do the brewery tour as we had Jazz with us, but did stock up on some bottles of Ale to bring home. Looking forward to tucking into those sometime soon! Seeing as we still had 45 mins on our parking ticket, and the weather wasn’t brilliant, we felt it would have been rude not to have a quick look at their flagship pub, The Bush Inn, on Cockermouth’s high street (I must add, I was In charge of the wheels so had soft drinks- made up for it in the evenings though!) The Bush Inn was listed on my dog friendly app and the landlord went out of his way to make us feel welcome. It was a great place to spend half and hour- full of locals and nice to watch the world go by. 

  
Next stop was the picturesque road from Cockermouth down the side of Crummock water and onto Buttermere. We’d done this drive a couple of times before in Bluebell- it’s a lovely drive.  

Another place, another pub- as you can see the weather wasn’t so good, so it was nice to have a leisurely drive. We had a drink at The Bridge hotel, Buttermere, another dog friendly establishment and had a nice chat with another couple with a dog, and eyed up the delicious looking meals being sent out to those that were eating. We’d already made our decision to have our main meal mid afternoon at The Fox and Hounds in Ennerdale Bridge, but the prawn sandwiches and chips looked so good that we vowed to pop in tomorrow for lunch! 
   
Our final stop for the day was  The Fox and Hounds in Ennerdale Bridge. This had made its way onto our list as it was the flagship pub for The Ennderdale Brewery, brewers of the enjoyable Ennerdale Blonde we’d been enjoying at our hotel. It’s a very cosy and traditional community owned and run pub, and the food was exceptional. I had Pork belly soaked in Ennerdale beer and Keith and Cumberland Sausage ring and mash. Its a popular spot for walkers on the Coast to Coast trail, not to mention cyclists, locals and even the Ennerdale brewery  chap was there too. 

   
  

  
A fabulous afternoon was spent there- luckily we (I*) only had 3 miles to drive us back to the hotel where I rolled up the stairs into bed for a 2 hour snooze!! Bizarrely enough the only thing that woke us was the sunshine through the window- another first for The Lake District, and so we had drinks in the hotel gardens before being piggy and devouring yet another gorgeous meal!!  
     

^ a pint of Ennerdale Blonde for Keefy and a beefeaters G&T for me- well it was World Gin Day!

 ^ Lady of the manor!! Haha 
The next morning and the sun was still shining- we enjoyed another lovely breakfast, albeit a somewhat lighter affair after our major pig out yesterday. I had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and Keith tried the poached haddock in milk.  We got the best seat in the house!

Today’s plan was a picturesque drive from Grasemere to Buttermere via the Honister Pass. We took the scenic Route- The B5289 through Rosthwaite and alongside the stunning Derwentwater. Absolutely beautiful- I’ll let the pics oaint the picture so to speak… 

  
^Grasmere

 ^Looking across to Helvellyn
   
^Derwentwater – totally reminded us of Loch Lomond
   

  

  

 ^Ashness Bridge, looking over Borrowdale

   

  

  

  

  

  ^ Surprise View– looking over Derwentwater and Borrowdale. 

   
  

  

 

^Watendlath Tarn and Hamlet

   
           

^ Bowder Stone– a 30ft free standing erratic stone- fantastic!! It defied gravity!!! 

 ^Pit stop at Scafell Hotel, Rosthwaite 
   
  

           

^Honister Pass 

   

  

  

 ^Buttermere 

   

  

 ^Pit Stop- and mighty fine it was too- we had Toffee apple and Chocolate. Mmmmm🍦 

I got the inspiration for the above car tour Here and we loved it. There was lots to see, and handily located National Trust car parks at each location. We paid £4 for a parking ticket which was transferable between all car parks- a nice touch, although National Trust members can park  for free.  

We couldn’t have asked for a better finish to our short break, despite piling on a few pounds hahaha ( we ate and drank like kings and queens!!)  Keith is still raving about Cumbrian Ale- it has such a delicious creamy taste. Yum. 

So concludes another tour, as much as we enjoyed doing the hotel/car thing we missed the motorhome for sureand  are looking forward to our next proper road trip/mini break- hopefully in a couple of weeks! Just need to fix ourselves up with a couple of new bikes and we will be sorted 🚲

Stay tuned, until next time 

Lx 

The Lovely Lake Distict- Part 1

Blubell the Motorhome is parked up safely at home (although she did hear a whisper that she may be getting a little outing in the next couple of weeks!). Today’s blog entry is about a trip in our other motor, Yoda the Skoda, who is in our garage recovering after a mad dash to the Lake District and back! Why didnt we take the motorhome I hear you mutter? The objective of the weekend- The Hardknott Pass.

It all came about a few months ago- I’d asked Keith what he would like for his birthday, given it was only two weeks after the wedding. His answer- a trip over the Hardknott Pass- something we’d been unable to do on all our previous trips to the Lakes, due to the size of our van. I set about searching for a hotel, and came across The Ennerdale Country House Hotel – what’s more, it was dog friendly! Hotel booked, we popped it in the diary and forgot all about it until the wedding had been and gone!

Things are never simple though, are they- Keith started experiencing severe headaches not long after we returned from Paris, and actually spent the run up to his birthday in bed poorly. In fact, I doubted we would get away. Thankfully he managed to get an emergency appointment and was checked over- nothing serious, thank goodness, and doctors orders were a weekend of rest (and mountain air!) and some massages to relieve tension. You don’t need to tell me twice, an hour later, we were on the road- a day earlier than expected, but with one thing in mind- The Lake District. 

7 hours later, we’d pitched (parked!) up at a dog friendly B and B at Bowness on Windermere, Virginia Cottage, where we had managed to get a last minute room booking for that night. First impressions of the area were great, it did help that the weather was absolutely AMAZING. I’ve been to the Lakes for years and years and never had weather like it there before.   

               We had the most glorious evening at Bowness, and enjoyed a delicious meal at The Royal Oak, washed down by a couple of pints of Jennings’ Cumberland Ale, right next door to our digs.     

   Perfect ❤️

Next morning, we woke feeling fresh as daisy- enjoyed a lovely cooked breakfast courtesy of the guest house- Jazz enjoyed his homemade doggy treats, what a nice touch, and we set off- sun burning down on us- I even had to wear sun cream! Never had to do that before in the Lakes I’m sure! 

First stop- the vehicle ferry that crossed Lake Windermere.  

   
     After a short queue, the ferry arrived, we paid our £4.20 and off we went. It was a lovely calm crossing and a great way to see the lake, especially in the sunshine.  

  
 5 mins after driving off the ferry we found ourselves at our fist stop- NT’s Hill Top- once Beatrix Potter’s house, but also where the famous American Painter Thomas Kinkade painted his famous picture “Julianne’s Cottage”. The house was closed but the gardens were magnificent.    

                 Handily there was a lovely looking watering hole next door, therefore I’m sure you agree, it would have been rude not to have nipped in for a “swift half”! 

   
  

       
Next stop- Tarn Hows, also owned by National Trust, a picturesque accessible tarn- ie, you’re a can drive there and there was a nice circular walk of 1.75 miles around.  
        

           There was also a pretty waterfall to visit there, adding about an extra mile onto our walk.  

   
  

  

         
We managed an ice cream after our walk before heading off for the main reason we were there in the first place.. The Hardknott Pass 
     

  

  

  

     
As I am the worst passenger in the history of passengers, there was no way Keefy was getting his hands on the steering wheel- so I took charge and enjoyed the trip over in wonderful conditions. Keith was in charge of pictures- there was only one bit in which he exclaimed “we’re driving up a cliff!” – I checked the handle on the passenger door afterwards and there were no fingernail marks, so I must have done an alright job!  Having said that, I’ve just noticed there are no pictures of us going up!!

   
  

  

  

  

  

  

                   
On the summit of Hard Knott is a Roman fort, so we stopped to have a look/let the brakes/clutch cool off/ admire the many cyclists attempting/ and watch in amazement as a fellow motorhomer tackled the pass!! (In a conversion- but still same length as Bluebell!) – Hats off to you sir!
             
     
By now it was most definitely lunch time, so we drove double speed down the rest of the pass (only joking!) and disembarked at the nearest eatery- the handily located Woolpack Inn in Boot, where we enjoyed some delicious homemade flatbreads. 

   
 Onwards to the hotel where we checked into our decadent room – a real bargain at £60pn incl breakfast, and there we settled into the bar for a few pints of Ennerdale Brewerie’s FABULOUS “Blonde” before turning in for the night, very happy (and mildly tipsy!) bunnies. 

👍🍻

The Easter hols 2015: Kent and East Sussex- Part 5, Battle and The Cuckoo Trail 

Thursday arrived and we had an early start- we were heading to Battle. Before we left the campsite on Romney Marsh, we got chatting to our neighbour in a caravan- who was travelling with his wife and his two birds of prey!! 

Keith had visited Battle a couple of times before, so we decided against visiting the actual Abbey and Battlefield (Battle of Hastings 1066), instead opting for the town trail and a pub lunch which was absolutely sensational (I’m really not exaggerating!!!) at The Chequers Inn.    

 

  

  

History states that the Abbey at Battle was built by the Normans on the site of the battle to give thanks to God for their victory against the Saxons. However a couple of years ago, the Time Team TV programme had a documentary on a new theory that the site of the battlefield was 200 yards away on what is now the site of a mini roundabout. After doing the complete town walk and visiting the mini roundabout (pictured above) (and the pub!!) Keith has a new theory….. The mini roundabout is at the left end of the ridge of high ground that the town of Battle was built upon. The monastery and main battlefield is 200 yards to the right of the ridge of high ground. Historians know that the Normans were attacking uphill (as seen on the Bayeux Tapestry) The mini roundabout is on the main road that runs through Battle, which has been the ancient route from Hastings to London since Roman times. It makes sense that the Saxons would have been guarding this route on the high ground to prevent the Normans advancing. Historians know that there would have been at least 15,000 men fighting so it makes sense that the battle took place over a large area that would have included the mini roundabout AND where the Abbey stands as it is all part of the same high ridge of high ground. The high alter of the Abbey was supposedly built where the Saxon king, King Harold was killed at the end of the battle. This would make sense as it is slightly higher than the mini roundabout area, and he would have been in this position for strategic purposes. (Paragraph above courtesy of my guest writer, Keith!!) 

 

 After a day exploring and investigating, and a marvellous lunch- consisting of a beef, melted cheese and gherkin sandwich for K, a smoked chicken, egg and bacon sandwich for me, leek, potato and Stilton soup and a portion of chips, that altogether hands down wins the best sandwich EVER award, at the Chequers, we headed to our first Brit Stop stay of the trip, number 136, a vineyard near to Battle. Being wine fans, we always enjoy a stop at a vineyard and this one was no exception. 

   

 We parked up right next to the vines and wasted no time heading into the shop for a very generous tasting of their selection of English whites,  sparkling and cherry liquor. It was all delicious, and we opted for a bottle of their 1066 dry white and a cherry wine. There was a nice little trail that you can take leading you round the perimeter of their vineyards and by now the sunshine had appeared- it felt like we were in France! 

  

  

Friday was a washout- the weather was terrible so we made the most of a long lie in, a big breakfast, then hit the nearest supermarket to stock up on supplies for the Easter Weekend, before heading to our next stop, a CC certified location campsite on the outskirts of Heathfield, which we were booked on for 3 nights. We had a good chill and around 4pm when the rain stopped, Keith suggested a walk to to an old pub he had spotted in the good pub guide. It ended up being almost a 6 mile round trip but it was worth it. The Star Inn in Old Heathfield was a wonderfully atmospheric 14th Century coaching inn, with a huge cosy inglenook fireplace complete with benches you could snuggle down into. It was really lovely there and totally worth the long walk to get there! 

  

Saturday arrived and the weather hadn’t improved massively, however it wasn’t going to stop us- we’d planned to cycle the Cuckoo Trail, another disused railway converted into cycle/foot path. As it turned out, it wasn’t just the weather against us- my bike wheel decided to buckle about a mile into our ride, throwing me off in the process. Luckily, I escaped with a few scrapes and nothing major, but we had to say a sad farewell to my trusty bike- a hand me down off Freecycle 5 years ago! Luckily Jazz’s basket was riding on Keith’s handlebars, so he was ok. We decided to leave Keith’s old bike with mine, (he’s been riding a bike too small and with one brake broken!) – I was adamant it wasn’t going to stop us seeing the cuckoo trail, so we rescued the baskets off our bike and carried on by foot! 10 miles later and we got back to Bluebell tired, muddy but totally satisfied. The cuckoo trail is lovely, and we passed some beautiful countryside vistas,  a lovely display of old railway gates and signs, and an old station at Horam. We didn’t manage the whole trail as we were on foot but will definately return when we get some new bikes! 

   

      

 

  

It’s now Easter Sunday, and we have declared a day of rest. We are enjoying listening to Classic Fm with our views of the countryside, and have a leg of lamb for dinner tonight. 

 

Tomorrow we are heading towards Hassocks, where we are going to do the the Jack and Jill walk, which sounds nice 🙂

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, we wish you a Happy Easter. 

Until Next time 

Lx 

 

 

 

 

 

The Easter hols 2015: Kent and East Sussex- Part 4, Sandwich- Romney Marsh and The Royal Military Canal 

Bluebell the motorhome is on a lovely little Caravan Club certified location on the Romney Marsh Nature Reserve, a stones throw away from the banks of The Royal Military Canal.  The sun is shining, and although it’s a bit blustery, we are both rosy cheeked and enjoying the warmth of the sun on our faces! 

This morning we left Sandwich Lakes via The White Mill heritage centre on the outskirts of Sandwich. The museum, which is run entirely by volunteers, claims to be one of the only windmill sites that still has its original millers cottages and farm buildings set out in its original form. The volunteers here couldn’t have made us feel any more welcome, they even instisted we take Jazz in, and knew all about the history, which was very interesting.  They are doing a fabulous job in restoring all the buildings, and were busy during our visit this morning doing work on the exterior walls, gardening etc. 

  

  

  

Jazz even managed a trip up the windmill!

   

The windmill, which was built in 1760, hasn’t been in use since 1951 and it’s almost about to have a new set of sails, or sweeps as they are known as in Kent, put on- when they are on its going to look fabulous! We were so lucky with the weather, despite it blowing a hooly, the bright blue skies made a perfect backdrop for the the White mill to be photographed! 

   

   

 

Next up was the seaside town of Deal, just 10 miles outside of Dover- it’s interesting being so close to the gateway to Europe, having travelled through so many times it’s really nice to be exploring this area- we are sure it must get hugely overlooked.

 

Whilst Deal isn’t in the same league as Sandwich with its historical listed buildings everywhere, there is still a lot to be seen- it’s a nice example of a Victorian seaside resort. We were sad not to catch the ball dropping at the Time Ball Tower, but enjoyed a good hour wandering around the town. 

 

  

 

  

  Horatio Nelson was a visitor to Deal and lodged in a nice looking hotel/bar on the seafront- a perfect excuse for a swift pint in the sunshine, if ever I’ve known one!    

Deal Castle is also worth a look- although we couldn’t go in with pooch, so settled for a walk around the perimeter.  

By now, time was pushing on, so we said goodbye to Deal and made our way 45 mins drive to our campsite just in time for lunch outside the van- for the first time this year! If that’s not worthy of a selfie stick moment, then I don’t know what is…!  

Wednesday arrived and we were to be treated to wonderful blue skies again! We had a light breakfast, made a packed lunch and offloaded the bikes- we were heading to Hythe along the Royal Military Canal. Sadly, we couldn’t join the canal path straight away as hoped, as a local had blocked off his section of the bridle way so we had to take a couple of quiet roads and join the canal a bit further down. Still, once we were on the canal path,  we were in for a treat- not only did we cycle past a zoo but also another Roman Fort remains, and a castle! 

   

  

 

  

  

There wasn’t a massive amount to see in Hythe, which was probably a good – my cold seems to be catching up with me today and I’ve felt a bit fluey- mind you we still managed to stop for a swift medicinal pint of the very tasty Whitstable Lager in the oldest pub in Hythe, the Kings Arms, where there has been a pub there since Tudor times. Later on, soldiers were signed up here for the army during The Neopolian war. 

The Whitstable lager was so good we were happy to see a local wine and ale shop, where we were able to stock up on a few bottles, along with some delicious local cider too. 

  Before heading back to our bikes, we had a little picnic on the banks of the canal. 

   

After a quick look at the 11th century church, we headed back to Bluebell the motorhome for a well earned nap!

 

 

Until next time

Lx 

  

Easter hols 2015: Kent and East Sussex- Part 3, Herne Bay to Sandwich 

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the very quiet Caravan Club Certified location on the outskirts of Sandwich: Sandwich Lakes. As the name suggests, it has its own fishing lakes, and a rather large well kept field for up to 5 caravans. Each pitch has 16amp hookup, and we think it’s a bargain at just £12pn. 

  

Sunday dawned a wet and wild day so we opted for a lazy morning on the aire at Canterbury. When it came to being time for us to move off (at the end of our 48 hours since arrival) we went off to the pay station to pay our parking charge- £6. The ticket machine kept spitting out our ticket though, branding it as “unrecognisable” and after about 20 mins trying to reach someone by pressing “help”, a bus driver gave us an emergency contact number. We were told to drive up to the barrier, flash our lights and they would remotely lift the barrier for us. We followed their directions and sat for probably 5 minutes flashing our lights, to no avail. On calling the emergency number again we were told they could see us and we’re trying to let us out but their remote system had failed and they were struggling to connect! We were told to sit tight and they would get us out asap!   

45 mins later, still no barrier release, and my phone rang- the man said their system had died so they needed to send someone out to manually release the barrier! We obviously are well and truly in holiday mode as we found the situation rather amusing. Probably wouldnt have done if we were going on to catch the tunnel or a ferry though! Next thing a high vis man turns up and tries to direct us to a TINY gate in the main fencing, saying he has a key to the gate and that we need to “squeeze through” as he can’t manually lift the barrier as he doesn’t have the right override key! Er, joke over, Keith and I say “no way, we’d rather sit and wait til tmorrow and matey returns with his key!” 

  

Mr high vis man disappears  and next thing the barrier opens. We still have no idea how, but suffice to say it was a welcome sight! We ring the number back, as we still haven’t paid and don’t want to return home to a bill but get told not to worry and that call it a freebie as they’ve wasted our time trying to get out! 

So rather later than hoped we set off towards Herne Bay and Reculver, although having waited over an hour meant that the worst of the rain had passed. We parked up on the sea front of Herne Bay and enjoyed a bracing walk along the promenade. Herne Bay reminded me a lot of Cromer- it has a nice seaside feel but isn’t as pretty as Whitstable. There is a pier and clock tower and a quaint bandstand, but the whole place felt deserted (probably the weather- although it did clear up). You can cycle from Herne Bay to Reculver Towers on the Oyster Trail, which basically follows the sea front, but we didn’t fancy doing that today’s as we are a bit sore from yesterday’s epic bike ride!

 

^Reculver Towers as seen from Herne Bay  

  

^ the promenade which you can cycle between Herne Bay and Reculver on – Known as the Oyster Trail

        

     ^Herne Bay

We were hoping to warm up for half an hour in a pub on the sea front, and nipped into the historical Ship Inn, but sadly they couldn’t accommodate us with Jazz, so we hit the road to Reculver to see the English Heritage maintained Reculver Towers and Roman Fort.    

     

The towers were an impressive sight, but we had to rush our visit as we couldn’t park the motorhome anywhere legal(!)   Actually, we were a bit miffed, we’d driven 2 miles down a fairly narrow slim lane to find a council run large car park, with height barrier. It was tight to say the least getting turned around, and we only just got turned round. We managed to park in the “keep clear” bus stop/turning circle for 5 minutes to get these pics but only cos it said no buses on Sunday’s (or bank holidays). So, if you’re thinking of travelling down to see these impressive towers I should think carefully if you’re in anything bigger than us! We quite fancied a meal in the pub there, but lack of parking prevented this so we had lunch on route to the campsite, pitched up and enjoyed a restful afternoon!  

^Plenty of moorhens looking for their tea around our van- Jazz is fascinated by them 

  

We awoke on Monday to beautiful clear blue skies, a real welcome sight after being battered by a storm last night! Wanting to make the most of the weather, we had an early start, and set off on our bikes to Sandwich – a short 1.5 mile cycle from the campsite. Neither os us knew much about Sandwich, so were pretty blown away from the moment we passed the “twinned with Honfleur, France” (incidentally another of our favourite places to visit!) welcome sign at the entrance of the town. 

The town of Sandwich, which apparently gained its name when someone invented the sandwich here(!) is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Every single house in the main town is medieval and holds some history, which is generally described on the handy town trail signs dotted about. A visit here gave us an insight into many different eras, most of the houses remain in their original form. The town was set out in a way I’ve not experienced befor, and it actually took us all day to to see everything! There were nooks and crannies dotted everywhere! Obviously we managed time to fit in a sandwich in Sandwich- a rather tasty one at that, washed down with a couple of pints of their own ale, in the Crispin inn, right on the main junction of the town. 

  

The toll booth that you can see in the above left photo was used between 1500s and 1700s to collect money from travellers using the bridge to cross the river. Prior to this being used, a ferry was used to transport visitors across the river, the ferry master lived in the house in which the pub at we drank in, The Crispin Inn, occupied.  

 

The town trail took in the river, as well as the remains of the town walls, as seen in the above photos. 

As an extension of the town trail walk we decided to extend the walk with a walk from our AA box of walks- a “gentle 3mile town walk” that actually was nearer 6 (and not through our* dodgy navigating (*my!) ) it took in the nearby Richborough Roman Fort. I have to be honest the extended section of the walk wasn’t very inspiring at all, and we got to see the less picturesque area surrounding Sandwich, however the fort itself was interesting to see- there were lots of remains left to see (probably a good thing as I may have gotten a bit grumpy if we’d have trekked up there to see an empty grass field!!!)  

 

There is a nice looking windmill that we plan to nip into on our onwards journey tomorrow  – looking forward to hearing the story behind it only having one sail!

 

 

^The Guildhall 

 

^Dragon Hall 

   

     

^this last picture is of “The Kings Lodgings”- apparently Henry VIII stayed here twice, and Elizabeth I also was a guest here. 

We absolutely loved our visit here, but one thing we did both come away saying was what a shame it was about all the traffic. I’m not kidding, at times, it felt like we were in central London! The roads here are literally tiny, cars were parked all over the place, it was near impossible to walk on the pavements safely. The village occupies a one way system, but it is a shame the main sections can’t be pedestrianised. Cars were driving like loons, double decker buses SQUEEZING through every gap possible- everyone was in a rush! I know we are used to the slow pace of Norfolk traffic but it did feel at times like we needed an extra pair of eyes bringing up the rear!

Nevertheless, Sandwich is a real gem of a place to visit- I’m not sure if my photos did it justice today so be sure to pop by next time you’re down this end of the country!

 

Oh yes- and can anyone settle a 2 day discussion between my beloved and me- would we class Sandwich as on the North coast of Kent or the South Coast?! 

 

Until next time 

Lx  

A long weekend in Rural Essex; Oct 2014 part 1

Bluebell the motorhome is currently parked up on a lovely field behind BritStop number 209. We aren’t too far from either Halstead or Braintree and the sun is shining for us all to enjoy.

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Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate we chose a nice looking Brit Stop to book into for a splash out meal. We chose number 210, a vineyard/restaurant in Essex, and had a pleasant hours journey through the countryside to get there.

The BritStop itself didn’t disappoint one bit- as soon as we arrived we knew we were going to enjoy ourselves!

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Bluebell parked amongst the recently harvested vines

After a quick sandwhich for lunch we took ourselves for a leg stretch down to the very pretty village of Coggeshall. The village itself is quite large and is home to 3 pubs, some nice shops, a couple of nice looking restaurants and tea rooms. Pretty much every single property is listed and we spent a very happy couple of hours doing the well designed Coggeshall town walk (leaflet obtained from the library) which took in all the main sights.

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The very pretty Paycockes NT property- a former wool merchants house

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The colours around the river were breathtaking especially once the sun peeped out.

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Another highlight was a cheeky look into Grange Barn, another NT property in the village. Grange barn is an 800 year old barn, with huge timber roof- in fact it’s the largest and oldest in Europe. I say sneaked as the lady was closing up for the night and let us peep round without charging us! Thank you nice lady.

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After a couple of refreshment stops we tottered back to the van to get in our glad rags ready for our big night out. Keefy had arranged a private wine tasting followed by dinner. He’d even booked the best table in the house ❤

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I cannot put into words how much I LOVED the entire night- many many thanks to our wonderful hosts, we had such a great time. The wine, of which we tried 3 English whites (the one from that vineyard was particularly good), an English rose, an English red (from a Norfolk vineyard down the road- which was superb!) and their own sparking wine which was fantastic. The girl conducting the tasting was knowledgable, friendly and patient and we supped our way through fair amount of wine! A nice touch was the complementary glass of fizz we each received as a birthday treat from the lady afterwards, as an aperitif. Delicious.

We had a lip smackingly great 3 course meal. I had goats cheese, beetroot, pickled Apple and walnut salad to start – a lovely reminder of food we enjoyed in The Dordogne region of France, followed by fish tagine- too good for words, and white chocolate and cappuccino cheesecake. Keefy enjoyed squid to start, homemade chicken schnitzel with hen egg on top and the best sticky toffee pud (with rum sauce) that he’s ever had. We washed the meal down with a bottle of their 2013 white- the whole experience was perfection.

If you love good quality local food and wine you NEED to visit this place ^ Look it up in your Brit Stop book- number 210- and if you aren’t a member then go buy a book www.britstops.co.uk so you can be in on the secret. And if you haven’t been convinced yet……… How’s this for a morning view from bed???

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The morning after the night before…
How do you top an evening like we had? We took full advantage of the Autumn sunshine and hit the road to Braintree, where we joined the Flint Way- a 7.5mile off road, traffic free cycle route along an old disused railway line.

A particular highlight was the station at Rayes which despite being redundant for many years now, still captured the feel of a busy working railway by having a disused carriage set up at the station as a museum and a busy cafe housed within the old station building.

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Further along the line was another old station, this time Bannister Green Holt, which proved to be a nice place for a picnic.

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The scenery along the whole route was lovely and it was a really nice way to burn off some of the cobwebs from last nights tasting!!

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The 15 mile cycle nearly finished us off- so once we arrived at our Brit stop for this evening we had a major chill, and a couple of pints in the pub. We are shattered after our eventful couple of days so an early night is planned with the intention of a nice walk tomorrow.

Until next time
Lx

Cornwall/ Devon – Summer 2014; Part 6

Friday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up at The Plume of Feathers pub “campsite” in Princetown, on Dartmoor. Rain stopped play somewhat today- that along with some absolutely moronic drivers on the road – one of which literally seemed intent on forcing us off the road!!

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We had a fantastic meal last night and slept like logs in our castle location (no spooky shenanigans to report!) Our first stop today was to a street in Okehamptom, to look for Keith’s mum’s old house. She grew up in Okehampton and lived here until she moved to London for teacher training, and Keefy has memories of coming to visit his grandparents here in Okehampton.

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After a trip down memory lane, we carried on into the depths of Dartmoor. We took the road to Chagford, a very pretty but small Devonshire town, however seeing as we managed to visit on market day we struggled to negotiate Bluebell through the crowds and the nutty IMPATIENT local drivers- one of which was in such a hurry they couldn’t wait behind us as we waited in a passing place to allow an oncoming driver to pass us on the single track road, so decided to overtake us and nearly ended up in a head on collision right next to us.

Another driver decided as we were exiting the town (and contemplating at how a scooter may be a worthy addition to our gear!) that they’d had enough of us driving cautiously seeing as there were market goers everywhere and decided to overtake us at an alarming speed and once beside us tried to barge us off the road (I’m honestly not making this up!!) Thank god I noticed him in the wing mirror and managed to swerve up on the pavement to avoid a chunk being taken out of our van (god knows what else) but even more of a miracle was that there were no pedestrians on that stretch as my reflex swerve failed to notice pre swerve and I don’t think they would have faired well.

The whole experience shook me up beyond belief and frankly ruined my day , I couldn’t stop shaking and felt physically sick at the thought of what could have been. Keith took over driving duties from therein and after a strong cuppa and cake overlooking the fast disappearing view in a nearby layby we were ready to hot the road again.

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^^ just noticed Jazz hiding under the van in this one! ^^

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Next stop was Postbridge, to see the medieval Clapper Bridge. The weather by this point had well and truly turned but we still enjoyed half an hour wondering around and a trip to the visitor centre.

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By this point unfortunately my mood had reached a new low, so we decided to take refuge at the nearby a Plume of Feathers pub in Princetown. We’d read this was a pub stop where you could park overnight in return for a meal but on enquiring they wanted to charge £6.95 pp pn regardless of us eating in there or not. As the weather was crappy we relented, but decided not to eat- we would have been happy paying £14 had it been a proper campsite, but we were told to park on the carpark. There was however an Elsan point which proved useful and some showers which looked like they’d not been cleaned in a month. We’d have been happier parking on their carpark for free and then spending £50 on a nosh up meal there. Their loss though…

We did however try a pint of Dartmoor brewery’s Jail Ale, named after the Jail that is in town… It was a great pint and definitely made me feel a bit better!

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Saturday
The new day dawned dry thank goodness, and as such my mood was much better. Today was sadly time to go home, but in an effort to avoid getting stuck in traffic, and seeing as the weather was looking good, we decided to try another day on Dartmoor before setting off for the M5 around 4pm.

First stop was to be “Wistman’s Wood” – a weird yet wonderful landscape full of myth and legend. It’s about 1.5 miles walk each way from the small parking area opposite Two Bridges hotel. The trees in this wood are dwarf trees and give the impression of old men bent over as you get closer.

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The views on the walk were lovely down the valley.

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Next stop was to find one of the stone Tors that are so iconic of Dartmoor. We headed towards Coombestone Tor, and was really happy with how Bluebell coped with the dramatic road up. This was a great collection of rocks, and we enjoyed climbed up onto them and posing for silly pictures!

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The good thing about this particular Tor is that you can get there easily in the car/van, so no long walk to get there! 🙂

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It was a good place for a spot of lunch and a cuppa, and I’m fairly sure you could have a very quiet night wild camping up there too.
Next stop was the pretty village of Widdecombe on the Moor- a very picturesque Dartmoor village (and pleased to report ample parking too!)

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Last stop, but by no means least, was the incredible viewpoint at the top of the road out of Widdecombe on the Moor (The B3387 between Haytor and Bovey Tracy)

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We hadn’t intended on going here, but stumbled across it by accident- the view was tremendous as you can see from the pic above, and it was a hive of activity with lots of people climbing the 500 metres or so up to the two Stone Tors away from the road.

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The heather is a gorgeous colour at this time of year and I spent ages trying to picture the lilac and yellow.

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It really was a perfect way to finish our holiday- we’ve had a great time exploring the West Country. Our holiday highlights were Clovelly, Treen/Pothcurno, and Lydford. We left our viewpoint at 4pm and had a marvellous journey back, arriving into our lovely Norfolkshire village at 10:30 on the dot.

Until next time
Lx

Cornwall/ Devon – Summer 2014; Part 3

Wednesday
Bluebell the Motorhome is parked up along with several other motorhomes in the village carpark in Tintagel. For £3 we’re allowed to park overnight here, within walking distance (50m!) to the nearest pub, half a mile to the English Heritage castle site and across the road from the National Trust Post Office site.

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you can see Bluebell tucked up on the left

On leaving Barnstaple we visited the most beautiful Heritage Village of http://www.clovelly.co.uk
We paid £6.75 each and headed down through the visitors centre and down to the village. Words can’t describe how pretty the village is so here are my pics so you can see for yourself.

IMG_3579.JPGthe Main Street lined with pretty houses

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looking down over the Harbour

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more pretty houses

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the harbour and the hill we’d just walked down

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the hotel on the harbour

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a very picturesque refreshment stop!
After a good couple of hours, we marched back up the hill to the car park: Clovelly is totally traffic free, the locals have to use sledges to transport their gear up and down the hill- once upon a time it was donkeys!
On the way back up, Keith was able to hold and have his picture taken with his favourite animal- A Little Owl

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Next we headed towards Tintagel. We hoped to stop at Boscastle, but it was heaving and we couldn’t even get in the carpark to check for spaces (although I’m fairly sure it was chocka block) so we carried on and found a space in the car park at Tintagel much more easily.

Once we’d got our ticket we walked down the hill to visit the impressive site where it’s believed King Arthur lived. It was a beautiful day to visit and although it was VERY steep (something which freaks me out a little!) we had a great visit

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After a tiring days exploring we naturally found the pub, and tried a few local pints of cider/ale, wobbled back to the van and chilled out for the rest of the evening!

Thursday
Thursday we parked up at Brit Stop #003, a pub near Redruth. We didn’t have the best day to be honest, everywhere we visited we had trouble either parking or exploring due to restrictions made by the council. First stop, Port Issac, saw us turned away from the main car park as we were over 2.5 tons (daytime parking). We then struggled to get back out due to ignorant drivers and got stuck whilst driving up a 1 in 4 single track hill road with hairpin due to an impatient 4×4 who wouldn’t wait and let us pass him. Next stop was Polzeath to relive some of Keith’s old childhood memories of hols down here with his parents. We managed to get parked easily, despite the very heavy no overnight parking signs, but then couldn’t take Jazz our dog on the beach. We left him in the van reluctantly, because we’d already paid for parking (clever that!) but nevertheless we enjoyed a (dog less) walk along the shore

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We carried onto Padstow, hoping to have a fish and chip lunch, but seeing as we got turned away from the park and ride, then got stuck in the middle of Padstow with tourists ten a breast walking in the middle of the road with no awareness of us and the other cars driving down the road, we were frankly relieved, if not slightly hacked off once we got safely out of the town. We rang over 10 campsites trying to find a local one with a last minute cancellations to no avail, so ended up carrying on to Redruth, to a very welcoming Brit Stop pub, where we drank away our troubles of the day!

We did manage a little dog walk around the local area and stumbled (literally!) across an interesting site just down the road, Gwennap Pit, an interesting open air amphitheatre that was originally formed by mining in the area.

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It’s now used (and has been since 1700s) as an open air preaching area and is owned by the Methodist Church. Very interesting place to visit!

On our walk back we also passed an old mining chimney, a stark reminder about the history of tin mining in this area.

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Friday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked overlooking the sea, on the cliffs in the community carpark at Treen.

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We came this way as we are off to the Minack theatre tonight to see Keefy’s brother lead in Monty Pythons’ Spamalot. We also were in desperate need of facilities, and were hoping to get on Treen Farm camspite, which is a short walk away from the theatre. Sadly, by the time we arrived at 09:30, there were already over 50 early birds who had got on the list before us- this campsite offers a no booking policy, so you have to just turn up and hope for the best, hence the early start! In an amazing act of generosity, despite us not getting a pitch, the owners of the campsite allowed us to fill/empty water and loo and pointed us in the direction of the community carpark where we were allowed to park up for £3.50 overnight and £2 all day. The views from here were better than the campsite to be honest, and substantially cheaper, however we spent a lot of money in the campsite shop/farm shop on local ales, ciders, sausages, and even marshmallows!

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We were meeting some of Keith’s old friends at the local pub for what turned into a liquid lunch

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– this Cornish Tribute Ale is lovely!
By mid afternoon we thought it would be wise to check out the coastal path down to Porthcurno and the Minack ready for our trek down that night.

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Porthcurno beach in this weather rivals Greece

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managed a dip or 4 in the sea- it was a bit nippy, unlike Greece!

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Keith’s brother and sister in law and some of the cast

That evening we watched the show at the Minack and it was fab. Definitely recommend a visit. I’ve never been before but Keefy has played in various show bands here before.

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Keith’s brother Neil, playing King Arthur in Spamalot

Saturday
The weather was great but forecasted to change on Sunday, so we decided to stay another night at Treen carpark. We enjoyed a walk to Logan’s Rock, then a massive chill in the sun and a BBQ! Perfect

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the view to the Minack on the left and Portcurno bay from Logan’s Rock

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The Minack on zoom from Logan’s Rock.The chain of people you can see is the next theatre company passing their set down from the carpark to the stage

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IMG_3742.JPGLogan’s Rock
We finished off our Saturday with a mahoosive chill in the sun, then a BBQ- steak and sausages accompanied by a bottle of Pape. Perfect

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We then tucked into the marshmallows for the first time EVER- we’ve clearly missed out. It was amazing!

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As the sun went down the stars came out and what a sky it was- we sat and saw loads of shooting stars. Absolutely cracking day.
Sunday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up right beside the seaside, at Praa Sands.

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We’ve managed to find another place that welcomes motorhomes by allowing us to stay overnight for £5. We’ve paid £8 and this gives us 24hrs parking.

Cornwall is slightly confusing with its attitudes towards motorhomes, and dogs for that matter. Some carparks seem to be happy allowing us to stay whereas others a mile or so down the road have several ‘campers and motorhomes prohibited” signs per carpark. Some beaches allow dogs, others don’t. Lands End, you pay £6 to get in but then you can take your dog into every shop there. It’s all very confusing, but we’ve been lucky and only had one day of anti motorhome/anti dog stress (so far!)

We nipped up to Lands End today, as Keefy’s been wanting to get a matching sticker to go next to our J O’G one from last year. I have to admit, the £6 parking charge seemed steep initially, but on thinking about it, I suppose it’s not too bad- if we had 4 passengers it’d be a cheap to visit. Also, once the £6 is paid, there is no extra admission charge, although there are plenty of outlets for you spend extra money once inside, including an official picture next to the sign (an extra tenner!)

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We stopped off at the Famous First and Last Inn on our way out, intrigued to check out the camping area we knew about. We could have stayed over for £10 with no services, not even a water tap, in their back field, but frankly we thought that it was a rip off considering our location the previous two nights for less than half of that. If they’d said free for diners, £10 otherwisewe’d have stayed and eaten/drank. We did enjoy a quick drink there though before carrying on to Praa sands.

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Sorry for the lengthy blog this time- a mixture of relaxing offline and lack of signal has results in no updates this week, however you are now up to date 🙂

Our plan for the next week is to Brit Stop along the south coast, hope the weather gets better though as today isn’t great!
Until next time
Lx

Cornwall/ Devon – Summer 2014; Part 1

Bluebell the motorhome is back on the road for our summer holiday- and we’re down in the West Country! Currently Bluebell is resting in a farmyard/carpark surrounded by a couple of turkies, lots of free range hens, a beaut of a cockerel, a pot bellied pig and plenty of sheep and cows! We’re at Brit Stop number 28- which is without a doubt THE best one we’ve stayed at to date (and I’m sure I’ve said that a number of times previously!) its a farm shop/ farm park just off the M5 on the Somerset coast.

We had a quite an eventful trip down here, leaving Norfolk around 06:30, by 08:00 we had managed to trip every single one of the Tesco fuel pumps when filling with fuel, and encounter a suicidal pigeon that decided to take out our entire indicator light and housing on the M11. So perhaps achieved more than average Sunday morning!

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thanks to a suicidal pigeon for taking out our indicator…

After a temporary fix until we find a garage to help (thank goodness for our side and back indicators) we soon found ourselves reaching Bridgewater on the M5, our cue to say goodbye to the motorway for a couple of weeks 😊
20 miles later and we pulled up onto essentially a farmyard / carpark and went off in search of the farm shop. We’ve frequented a good few farm shops in our time, but this one hands down is the best we’ve been too! It’s got the largest selection of local cider/ale, fresh meat, veg, chutneys, jam, pressies- you name it. Naturally we found our way to the most important section….

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Selecting a few ciders and ales to settle ourselves into the Somerset climate….

We also picked up the ingredients to make a full roast dinner, which we’ve now demolished (and very good it was too!)

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Along with some homemade ice cream for pud!
Shopping done we went for a wander around the farm park, enjoying the free entry, however we’d have been happy to pay a couple of quid each and saw a variety of popular farmyard favourites along with a number of more obscure animals!

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Mr Stood the Turkey

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baby meerkats!

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a

IMG_3456.JPG shot of Bluebell hiding, with Mr Snood the turkey photo bombing!

After a mooch, we found the path to the beach, and since then we’ve been chilling, eating, drinking and testing Spotify (thanks Motoehome Wifi and Bt Fon!)

A most perfect day!

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Until next time
Lx

A weekend mini break exploring the beautiful Essex countryside

Day 1Bluebell the motorhome is parked up behind Brit Stop number 216- which is nestled in an absolutely gorgeous part of Essex’s countryside. The sun is shining despite the forcast warning of rain all day (win!) and we are having a brilliant weekend, that has been a combination of a little work and some play!

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Brit Stop 216

Yesterday, after a gig in Suffolk, we hit the Friday rush hour traffic (although in reality we had a great run) with the destination of Thaxted, a pretty town in Essex, that was on our map for three reasons: it was close to a gig we were doing the next day, it was listed in both our Brit Stop bible and our Europe Camper Stop book as there being a motorhome aire in the car park, and it was close to the Secret Nuclear Bunker at Kelveden Hatch.

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Thaxted Motorhome Aire- the parish council welcome motorhomers to park for up to 48 hrs, free of charge

We arrived at the carpark in Thaxted at around 18:30 and were instantly made to feel welcome as motorhomers in their village. If only all towns had this mentality, the amount of space allocated for motorhomes was minimal, however because of their welcoming attitude we relaxed and went for drinks and a meal in their pub.

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The Swan Hotel, Thaxted, where we enjoyed a lovely meal

The town of Thaxted is just gorgeous: it has a picture perfect windmill, a good example of a traditional long house and Armshouses, an interesting Engine house that houses the village fire engine, a medieval Guildhall, the house where Gustav Holst lived, and numerous other medieval properties.

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Thaxted Windmill

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LongHouse and Armshouses

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Engine House

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Guildhall

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Standing outside Holst’s former house! Very exciting treat for us

Next morning, we decided on another quick wander around the town of Thaxted, before a 40 minute drive south towards Kelveden Hatch- a small village which is home to a decommissioned Secret Nuclear Bunker. The bunker has been on our list of places to visit for a while; it was only revealed in 1992, prior to that it was run by the government and would have been used to house up to 600 Government officials, including the Prime Minister in the event of a Nuclear War.

Visiting Kelveden Hatch was absolutely incredible – it was without a doubt one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited. It stirred up a mixture of emotions from us both- fascination at how it was built, maintained, and how it would have been used to “run” the country in the aftermath of a nuclear blast; fear over the prospect of how it would have affected not only our country but the world, how close it came to happening, the impacts of it happening, the preparation that civilians needed to undertake in the event of an attack; the questioning of morals when we discovered that the survival guide written for civilians was giving false hope in order to maintain calm and order in the hours running up to an attack; and amazement at the engineering of this humongous underground city, that was built underneath what looked like from the outside, a normal farmhouse!

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the farmhouse which sits over and disguised the bunker below. scary!!

What made the bunker even more interesting to visit, aside from its amazing history, was the way in which it was presented. All the equipment and materials displayed were as it was during the years it was in operation, meaning you really didn’t need to use any imagination at all whilst waking around the dimly lit, long cold corridors. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos whilst inside due to the numerous signs informing visitors that to do so required a £5 permit, something which in hindsight I wished I’d done – I didn’t because I was intending on getting a guide book or postcards at the end of the visit, but once we got to the end they didn’t really capture the atmosphere. I know though, that our visit will remain in my memory for a very long time.

It was also incredibly good value for money- at just £7 per adult, this fee included a very comprehensive and engaging audio tour, and we both came away agreeing that we would have happily paid several more pounds each to visit.

Once we’d completed our humbling tour, and after a quick lunch in the car park, we made the journey north for 36 miles (though a tremendous rain storm!!) towards Castle Hedingham, another picture perfect village which is home to one of the finest kept Norman Keeps in Britain, and where we are intending to visit tomorrow. As luck would have it, as soon as we pulled up, the rain stopped and the sun returned, and so we celebrated with a cheeky beer in the amazingly characteristic saloon bar of Brit Stop 216 before a village wander past all the old pretty houses. This area rivals some of the pretty villages we are lucky to have in Norfolk and Suffolk, and we had no idea about how chocolate box pretty it was going to be here.

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having a beer at Brit Stop 216 and decided what to eat later!

So tonight we are booked in for a meal at 216, we have worked up an appetite that’s for sure, and Keith’s in his element as he had an interesting chat with the guy that brews the beer for the pub, two pints of which he enjoyed this afternoon! I’ve got my eye on the Turkish specials board!

Day 2
After a delicious meal accompanied by several pints (well, we were researching the gravity fed ale!!) we enjoyed an early night and a lay in this morning, helped somewhat by the rain that was pouring when we awoke this morning! Last night our meal was delicious- I tryed the Turkish special, Lamb and Aubergine casserole, and Keefy tried a homemade burger. Both were mouth wateringly good, and were enjoyed washing it all down with some of the local ale.

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enjoying our meal

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the beer here is gravity fed

Our intention today was to visit The Castle at Castle Hedingham and once the rain had stopped we made the short journey there. The Castle is said to be one of the best preserved Norman Keeps in Europe, and is set within several acres of enjoyable gardens and woodland. We enjoyed walking round the gardens and woodland walks first, tiring out Jazz so he could sleep in the van whilst we went for a look inside.
We were lucky to see some lovely displays of Rhodedendrums and bluebells.

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the gardens at Castle Hedingham

The keep is astonishingly well preserved- the arches and a real treat to be able to not only enjoy from the outside but also have a look around the inside.

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never too old to dress up as a Knight, eh?!

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The arch in the banquet hall is said to be the largest Norman arch in the world that is fully survived, and is 28 feet wide!

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We really enjoyed our visit here, and again, thought it was a bargain at only £7.50 each to enter. On our way to the castle we had passed a road sign saying that the local Water Mill was open today as part of a national Mills Open weekend. Since the weather seemed to be behaving we decided to head on over for a look round.

We had rather a narrow approach into the car park and negotiated several low flying branches but I thing we survived with no damage! It was a lovely way to spend an hour or so, chatting with the volunteers who were very knowledgable, and we even got to try som biscuits that had been made from flour that had been ground at that mill. They were delicious. I was allowed to turn the wheel to make the water wheel go round and we’ve got a video of this, so il try and figure out how to include it on here.

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Alderford Watermill

During our visit, we were recommended a short stroll that left Alderford Mill and walked down to another local mill, Hulls Mill. It was not possible to visit inside as it was privately owned and had been turned into a very large house, but nevertheless, we really enjoyed the pretty circular walk, and the mill itself was gorgeous. I would love to live somewhere like that!

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Hull’s Mill

Both these mills were recorded in the doomsday book, giving an idea of how old they are and it was really enjoyable seeing them.

This marked the end of our visit to Essex, so we grabbed a quick cuppa for the road and headed home- but we had an amazing weekend and we both are quite smitten with this area, so I know that we will return soon!!!

Until next time!
Lx