Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up across the Border – we’re in deepest North Essex at Brit Stop number 221/18. It’s a lovely historical pub that we are nestled behind, and we have a private glade on hardstanding in the very quiet staff carpark. The pub has some links to a very famous Norfolk Boy so we are feeling right at home, and across the road we have a wonderful traditional Village Green – which if you carry on reading, you will see, comes in verrrrry useful later on!
We’ve had a busy one today doing heaps of admin – but admin of the pleasant kind – booking trips including NYE and February Half Term amongst other things. Since downsizing to Ruby and loosing our on board shower, we are enjoying C&MC and C&CC Club sites lots more than we used too, as the facilities tend to be immaculate and plentiful in hot water supply. Perfect for winter touring when you’ve had a long muddy walk and need a long hot shower – some of the non club sites we visited earlier this year were quite frankly gross, so we’ve kind of gravitated to Club sites which have so far done what they said on the tin for a reasonable enough price.
Having said that, we’re not quite ready to throw in our spontaneous souls just yet, so after filling the diary and part of next years, we made the most of a free Saturday night and travelled to North Essex for a few drinks, meal and more importantly, a head start on a journey that could have meant setting the alarm for 7am on a Sunday – a unheard of occurrence in the O’Gorman household.
On arrival at Britstop number 221 (in the 2018) book, Kevin, the landlord gave us a friendly welcome, and we spent an hour or so dribbling over the DELICIOUS looking menu whilst having a pint of Broadside and Aspall. We then took ourselves for a leg stretch around the paths of the village – admiring some of the pleasant properties on the green and a tasty looking farm shop. Luckily for the bank balance this was closed – next time however…
We enjoyed a really delicious meal in the restaurant – I had breaded Brie and Keith had homemade garlic mushrooms in a stilton sauce to start, which quite frankly was one of the best pub starters I’ve ever tasted. Next up was beef with chinese spices sizzler – on a bed of noodles. It was GORGEOUS. However the portions were huge! So for the first time I think in the 9 years of knowing Keefy – neither one of us could finish our meals! Luckily the pub was adequately prepared and we got the remains boxed up – which we finished for dinner tonight! Prices were really reasonable – the starters were £6 each and the sizzler £13.95 each.
We got so full that we had to do 3 laps of the village green to make ourselves comfortable! That along with an emergency cup of peppermint tea, and then a good ol singsong along to the Last Night of the Proms, ensured we got a great nights sleep.
This morning Keefy woke up bright and early – he was like a kid on Christmas Day – the reason for our night away was he was booked onto an Owl Encounter morning at nearby Lavenham Falconry (belated birthday present) Keith adores Owls. Eagle eyed of you may have noticed in pictures, in Ruby’s side window we have an owl cuddly toy. In our house we have owls everywhere! He’s obsessed with them.
So today – he got to handle and fly 4 different species, The Barn Owl, The Dark Breasted Barn Owl, The Great Grey and the Eagle Owl. We also saw the Eurasian Eagle Owl – which is huge and way too big for us to handle with normal falconry gloves. For an extra £15 I booked myself in to be his guest – which meant I could be paparazzi and snap away to my hearts content.
The 2 hour Owl experience cost £60 and was 100% worth every penny. It was fantastic value for money, and I can honesty say I have never seen Keith smile for such a long period of time (I don’t mean that horribly by the way!)- he’s still beaming away now 12 hours later.
If you have any interest in Owls or Birds of Prey including Falcons and Hawks, you need to check out Lavenham Falconry. Turn it into a mini break – stay at the BritStop and have a day in historic and wonderful Lavenham whilst you’re at it. We popped in on our way home, but we had a mound of stuff to do still at home plus it was packed being a Sunday afternoon so we just revisited the National Trust Guildhall before making our way back home.
Back to school tomorrow after a wonderful summer break. But lots of winter adventures planned – next up, is a weekend trip to Duxford in two weeks time for the Battle of Britain airshow.
Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up at Britstop number 217/18 – which is a pub in Cambridgeshire, just off the M11, A11 and A14. We are sharing the carpark with a Dutch family who are on the way to the Harwich ferry.
This one has been on our list since February, when the 2018 book was released and I spent a rainy Sunday flicking through each and every location, adding Post It notes to those which catch my eye. I’m not the only one who does this right?
Despite living only an hour from Cambridge, and having one of our best friends living near enough ON this walk, we had no idea until the Britstop book arrived that there was a Roman Road walk in Cambridge. Those who read regularly will know Keith is a huge history buff, and he particularly loves anything Roman. We’ve had two failed attempts at this trip – due to weather conditions either being too hot or too rainy. The joys of living in the UK and its unpredictable weather!
The Roman Road is approximately 10 miles in length and runs from about 1 mile away from Cherry Hinton Park and Ride almost to Haverhill, bypassing Wandlebury Country Park, Worstead Lodge, Little Abington, Hildersham, Linton and Horseheath.
We had arranged with the Britstop pub when booking our table for dinner, that we could leave Ruby in their carpark from 10ish that morning. On parking up, we grabbed our two rucksacks packed full with water and snacks, and jumped on the number 13 Stagecoach bus from near enough outside the pub to Wandlebury Country Park at an eye watering £5 each for a single! For any more than two of you, I reckon a taxi may have been cheaper! Shock subsided, we took our seats upstairs for the 20 minute journey to the Country Park, disembarking at “Fort Stop”.
We met our friends for a picnic lunch in the park (you need to bring your own as we didn’t see any cafe’s or anything) before waving bye to them and hunting down the Roman Road – actually its very well sign posted, as is the Bus Stop if you decide to do this walk the other way round.
We were joining the Roman Road about a mile or so from it’s starting point, just off Wort’s Causeway. As with any well-preserved Roman Road, the path was visible for as far as the eye could see. We put our best foot forward, and with the Memory Map app on Keith’s phone tracking us, we were pretty impressed with our pace considering it was quite a warm day and we’re a little out of shape.
The path varied in how well it had been preserved – some bits were really excellent and some less so. The walk took in the rolling hills of the Cambridgeshire countryside, but the Roman engineering never made us feel like we were climbing huge gradients. Well, to be fair, they weren’t huge gradients but there were definitely some gradual inclines!
Along the way we saw loads and loads of butterflies and wild flowers and parts of the path are SSSI. The heat of the day gave it a Mediterranean feel throughout so it was very atmospheric. We stopped for water every mile and got through a bag of haribo and a box of angel slices! Despite passing several villages equipped with pubs, cafes and shops, there wasnt any signs to these villages off the Roman Road – so you need to bring your own food and drink.
Before we knew it we had reached the end of the road, literally! We were both genuinely shocked that it only took us 3 hours to walk- time flies when you’re having fun but surprisingly considering our lack of long walks recently, physically we felt fine and like we could have carried on! Happily our parking spot in the pub was just off the Roman Road so by 4pm we’d found ourselves a table in their beer garden and enjoyed a few cold drinks – my first pint of Aspall did not touch the sides!
Our meal later on was absolutely sensational. We had scallops and tempura prawns to start, followed by homemade burger and chips for Keith and lamb kebab, flatbread greek salad etc for me. The bar was dog friendly and they served local gin from Bury St Edmunds, so we settled in there for the evening, feeling thoroughly satisfied that we’d managed to walk the walk!
The Britstop did well out of our stay – our bill came to £106! So far more expensive than a campsite, however the food, drinks and service was exceptional – far higher standard than the standard pub grub – and therefore a real treat for us to enjoy together without having to wash up. We also had probably £50 worth of drinks! And Jazz got a handful of dog treats too. More importantly the location was perfect for this walk.
It’s worth me pointing out that most people wouldn’t have to spend the amount we did- mains were between £10-£19- we chose the most expensive starters at £12 for the scallops but they were amazing and we fancied a blow out meal.
After quite a warm night, we woke up early and set off around 7.30am for Wandlebury Country Park again – where we started yesterday. Parking from 8am was £3 all day – we wanted to walk the small northern section that precedes the Country Park before going home. I’m really glad we did too as it was by far the best preserved section – the high banks which had been dug by the Romans are still visible and in use today to make the Road stand higher.
At the bottom of this section there is a free car park – so you could park here and walk the entire length then get the bus back to the Park and return to your car if you didn’t want to stay at the Britstop – your loss though there!
We feel privileged to enjoy this walk – we’ve spoken to loads of people since getting home from it and noone seems to have heard about it. Neither had we – so a big thanks to Britstops for once again opening up a new area/walk for us. We will absolutely deinitely return – next time we will treat ourselves to the Chaetaeubriand that lurked on the menu!
Monday We were up and away from Knights Folly Campsite by mid morning. We were sad to be leaving the site as it was lovely- however it's always exciting to be moving on elsewhere to see new places.
Our journey took us down the M4 and over the Severn Bridge, at which point we entered Wales and all the road signs were larger with both Welsh and English written on!
We were heading to Burry Port, but stopped at Llanelli for an Aldi shop. In Ruby we've been only shopping 4 days at a time but Keefy talked me into trying a 7 day shop this time. I was worried about fitting it all in, but I had to eat my hat-everything found a home – the cupboards are filled to busting, the fridge stocked to capacity, the cool box full of alcohol and sparkling water BUT we did it- 7 days shopping in Ruby and we can still fit ourselves in! She really is a tardis! We arrived at Burry Port Harbour, listed in the Britstop book but also many places elsewhere online & paid the Harbour master £8 for our overnight stay. We were encouraged to park side on against the sea- so our sliding door came into its own!
There were a couple of other vans with us- and we managed to have a little wander around the pretty harbour before the rain set in for the afternoon and evening. And wow did it set in- it absolutely LASHED down! So we settled in and watched some Cracker- before I made us a delicious Simply Cook Beef Rendang. Just as I'd finished washing up- the sky's cleared so we were able to have another wander, this time in the Fading light, before sitting and enjoying a dram before bed with the door open listening to the waves crashing below.
The forecast for Tuesday was great, and it did not disappoint. It's always exciting opening the curtains to a new location, when the day before the visibility was next to nothing. The beach here at Burry Port is fabulous!
I wasted no time and almost jumped out of bed- even forgoing my morning cuppa! I'd been itching to launch my DJi Phantom 3 drone and weather conditions just hadn't been on my side- but now they were! Woo! I loved sending Donny up and getting some shots. You can see the video below👇
After breakfast baps and a cuppa, we took Jazz for a run off lead on the beach. He doesn't normally go off lead as he can forget to come back if he picks up a scent. But on beaches that are secure we let him off and he loves it. Actually his recall was amazing today!
We had a paddle and the water was lukewarm. I wish I'd got my cozzie on as I could've had a dip but it was time to get moving- we were off into Pembrokeshire. Next time we come here there are loads of cycle paths to ride on, including a country park with a 4 mile Tarmac circuit, an old train line at Llanelli and a coastal bike path running through Burry Port.
We stopped off at Saundersfoot thanks to a Pinterest tip off- such a pretty little Harbour and coastal village. It really reminded us of a Cornish village. We grabbed the very last space in the Harbour car park – boy it was tight but I got Ruby in – and once in a random man came and congratulated me on some fab parking! 💪
We paid for an hours parking but we could have spent all day here really. It's gorgeous. Loads of families were crabbing over the Harbour wall. The beach was PACKED (but not dog friendly between May and Oct). There were old fashioned amusements, little beach shops, an old fashioned off license (where we stocked up on local Ale and cider), a local ice cream seller- we loved our Pembrokeshire Promise icecream (honeycomb and vanilla-yum). We even managed to squeeze in a quick pint in a really cool pub called The Old Chemist which had a really great smugglers alley entrance and beach and sea views.
Next stop was our campsite, Middle Hill Farm, just the other side of Tenby, on the outskirts of Manorbier. We were a bit disappointed at first- we booked at the beginning of March and was told we could have a sea view pitch. We were given pitch 4 which basically had a view of a hedge – right next to the main road-we could have been anywhere in the country! Two caravans had the best views, so we were a bit fed up. Plus one of them had a reserved for sign on. The facilities were quite a walk down hill through a field. Keith was grumpy and so was I. Yes, it's only £15 pn but we are here for 3 nights and paid on 3rd March up front! He went off for his shower and returned 5 mins later- he'd spotted a pitch at the bottom of the field next to the facilities and with a sea view, and went to ask if we could move. The answer was yes! Hurrah! So we threw the chairs, windbreaks etc in the back and drove to our new pitch, no. 8, and set up again! And enjoyed our Welsh Ale/cider enjoying the view.
The weather was gorgeous so we sparked up the BBQ for dinner- enjoying a homemade potato salad, garlic mushrooms and venison burger, lamb and mint burger and chilli sausage. We stayed outside until 10pm watching the day change to night. Perfect.
Wednesday Wow was it blustery in the night! The winds were up to 40mph and we've never heard rain lash down like it did! It was so loud that Jazz had a panic attack and therefore ended up squashed on our bed rather than up front in the passenger seat!
The weather was still rather blustery as we got up, and it was overcast with the promise of more rain from 4pm, so we had a steady morning before walking the short distance down the field path the farmer had put in, to the village of Manorbier.
Manorbier has a really lovely castle you can explore with the best preserved corners of tower we've seen. Inside there is a tea shop and you can enjoy it on the lawn. It's a nice place to spend an hour but there wasn't an awful lot of info about the castle and it's history therefore we found the £5.50 entry charge a little steep.
We carried on up the small road past the sandy beach, where despite it being very dull, lots of people were out enjoying themselves on the beach- good old British eh?! We carried onto a house aptly named as Atlantic View before taking a path off to the left which took us onto to Pembrokeshire Coastal Path for our return back to Manorbier beach. It's a dramatic section of Coastal Path and although Keith found the contours a little tough, we both really enjoyed the wild scenery matched with the driving wind.
We passed a couple of pretty hidden sandy coves but chose to have our picnic overlooking Manorbier Beach before washing it down with a little pint in thelocal, The Castle Inn. Prices down here in pubs are very reasonably priced- we've not paid more than £7 for two alcoholic drinks yet since being in Wales.
The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling and watching Cracker as the weather turned just as we arrived back at Ruby- talk about good timing! We enjoyed a chilli con carne for dinner before having an early night.
Ruby the Campervan is snuggled up on her lonesome, behind BritStop 243/17, a farm shop/cafe in Norfolk. Despite being 20 miles from our front door we had no idea this place even existed until the new BritStop book arrived! How we have lived without this place in our lives, I will never know, but I worry that now that we do know about it, we may have to remortgage the house! LOL
This week has been one of the busiest I can remember work wise. On Friday, we hosted our very own ABRSM Music Exam day, which was a pretty big deal but thankfully went well, and so when we saw the forecast for the weekend showing no rain, we had no hesitation in having a flick through the BritStop bible.
On top of our already ridiculous week- on Wednesday, Ruby decided to throw her toys out of the pram! The central locking on the passenger side broke, leaving the passenger door stuck in deadlock- not ideal, but not immediately urgent- until we realised that the fuel light had just come on and you can’t open the fuel cap without opening the passenger door. Argh. Cue an emergency day off to get it sorted, which turned into Ruby being away for 2 days, and us being relegated to a tiny, TINY KA – amusing watching 6foot 4 Keith trying to get in and out of that let me tell you, and don’t get me started on fitting all our musical instruments in there…
Anyhow, by the time Saturday arrived we were chomping at the bit for a change of scenery. It was also a good excuse for us to try out our new tow bar and tow bar fitted bike carrier, so Keith loaded them up whilst I threw some food bits into the fridge. Because obviously visiting a farm shop we wouldn’t find anything for dinner.. said no-one ever! We are chuffed to bits with the bike rack- its been a little bit of a headache finding a rack that would allow us to open the boot with the bikes still on, but this Atera bike rack ticks that box, and is amazing- its so easy to use.
We were on the road by midday and 30 mins later we were rolling onto the large car park. We introduced ourselves to the owner Stuart, who couldn’t have been nicer if he tried- and got busy taking a tour around the HUGE farm shop. If you are into eating/cooking local then this is the place for you. WOW. Meats, Cheeses, Pies, Dairy, Fresh Veg, Fudge, Ales, Wines, Whiskey, Gin… we managed to spend £40 but managed to get two juicy fillet steaks, sausages for breakfast, potatoes, cheese, mushrooms, 3 ales, a pack of fudge, sausage rolls, and a pork pie! We enjoyed the sausage roll and pork pie for lunch and set off on a little cycle ride round the local area.
We cycled through Pulham St Mary and Pulham Market, which were once home to an airbase that had several operating Airships, known locally as Pulham Pigs because of their shape.
The Church in Pulham St Mary was amazing, it had a unusual two story porch and lots of wooden medieval carvings inside.
We passed a fantastic old station that has been renovated into a house. The owner was tinkering in his garden so we had a nice chat with him. The station was a stop on the London to Lowestoft line and he’d done a marvellous job in restoring it including the original gates.
We carried on along quiet country lanes until we reached the pretty Pulham Market, and resisted the urge to stop for a pint.
We did a bit of geocaching on route and returned to Ruby after 11 miles in perfect time for Afternoon Tea – served with the fudge we had bought earlier and in our china of course. Nothing but the best in these parts!
The remainder of the afternoon was spent chilling- I did some knitting and Keith watched some crappy tv. Soon the farm shop closed, and we were locked in for the evening. We cracked open some drinks before cooking our fillet steaks. I knocked up some homemade chips and garlic mushrooms to accompany them and we also had some peppercorn sauce. Yum, yum, yum. It dawned on us that even though we had perhaps spent more than we intended, a meal like that in a pub would have been a lot more, and we could wear our Jim Jams! And of course, we had our accommodation for free. Win win.
After dinner we enjoyed a lovely cheese board before an hour or so of Saturday Night tv and an early night. It was so peaceful, we slept like logs. As the sun rose we were treated to a live version of the dawn chorus, including a tawny owl nearby. We were up relatively early and a made us a full english including the local sausages, which were delicious. We said thank you and goodbye to Stuart the owner, who seemed as thrilled as we did- we were his first Britstoppers and he insisted on taking a pic of us to celebrate! Before we left we had a walk around a nearby woodland, which was lovely- the rain stayed away and we did a couple more geocaches before heading home via Diss to do some errands.
A perfect escape from a crazy schedule- we’ve returned feeling ready to tackle next week!
Ruby the Campervan is parked up back at home after a quick night away, across the border to Suffolk. We had a crazy week of work, so decided a BritStop night away would be the perfect thing to look forward to, to celebrate our new 2017 edition of the BritStop Bible arriving.
We had a lavishly long lie in on Saturday, not getting up until 11:30, but the ease of having our camper van back out on the drive made for a really speedy getaway- we were on the road for 12:30, stopping briefly to return a couple of bike racks to Halfords, before arriving at Clare Country Park in time for a Campervan Cookbook lunch of Campfire Quesadillas.
We substituted the campfire for Ruby’s hob, and washed lunch down with a refreshing beer and a wander along the old Railway Path, around the old Railway buildings and ruins of Clare Castle and Priory. The weather was dull and dismal, but we enjoyed the leg stretch and the fresh air nonetheless, although it was sad to see so many trees blown over due to the recent Storm Doris. The winds were hanging on a bit actually so it was a bit drafty to send Donny my Parrott Drone up- a shame as I bet it would be a good arial shot – never mind though, always next time!
We had a little wander around the picturesque village of Clare and I stuck my head into a couple of the shops – as much as I could get away with anyway, Keith’s not the biggest shopper in the world, before having a cuppa and a jam doughnut back in Ruby!
We made our way ten mins or so to our BritStop location for the night, no. 232 in the 2017 book, a charming 16th Century pub near to Sudbury. The draw of the pub was that the landlord/chef doesn’t have a menu as such, he just cooks you what you fancy, depending on what local ingredients he has in. He also has a microbrewery onsite, we finished off his latest batch of bitter- it was yum!
We parked up, introduced ourselves and arranged to go back in 6ish to decide upon what to eat and have a beer. We used the time to play with our new gadget- a portable TV which, one you plug a memory card in has the function to record Live TV. We had zero phone signal at the pub, so my hopes of recording Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway were rather slim, so I enjoyed half an hour of knitting whist Keith played around with the TV. I was therefore mighty surprised when the next thing I hear is the roar of the rugby coming from this iPad sized screen- Keith had attached the magnetic ariel to the side of the van and it had somehow found a full digital signal! We were stunned. It has a 12v plug so can run off the leisure battery, or run without being plugged in for 2 hours.
We set it to record and went inside, ready for a beer. The welcome was warm, and not just because of the roaring log fire. The landlord was a right character, but his enthusiasm and passion for cooking impossible not to latch on to. He discussed menu options with us and disappeared into the kitchen, leaving us in the company of a friendly local, and before we knew it the most delicious garlic mushrooms were delivered to our table, which we absolutely wolfed down! Main course arrived next and we enjoyed a fabulous patter of curries and accompaniments, all lovingly homemade.
We had a fabulous night, and were shocked when the bill came to less than £50. A perfect evening. The recording on the TV had worked perfectly so we watched bit of Ant and Dec before having an early night- we must have needed it as we slept for almost 12 hours straight! We are finding the bed in Ruby extremely comfortable, even Keith, who has rigged up the portapotty at the end of his side of the bed so he has extended the bed by an extra foot- enabling us to both be able to stretch out fully.
Sunday dawned a little brighter so after a fairly lazy morning we set off home via Ickworth National Trust. It’s a favourite of ours, and this time we parked up in the overflow carpark which gave us panoramic views of the farm land, which Keith enjoyed whilst I cooked my very first Fry up in Ruby. It was a bit of a juggle on only 2 hobs but I managed it with no stress- I’m definitely enjoying the sitting down cooking approach!
We had a big walk around the grounds before heading Ruby’s wheels in the direction of home, vowing to return to our new favourite BritStop very soon, and feeling fully refreshed, recharged and ready to face the week ahead. When we were faced with having to get rid of Bluebell, it was exactly these weekends that I was most devasted at the prospect of not being able to do anymore. I’m so glad we found our gal Ruby quickly, and so far, she’s ticking all our boxes.
Until Next Time
Firstly, before I write this post, I need to make it clear that I have no affiliation with Brit Stops, and pay each year like everyone else for our copy of what we call the Brit Stop Bible. This post comes on the back of 5 years of paid membership, and many, many happy stopovers at Brit Stop locations, but mainly after a discussion that Keefy and I had last night, whilst enjoying our latest Brit Stop evening.
For probably as long as we’ve been members of BritStops, I’ve also been a lurker on many of the Facebook Motorhome and Campervan Discussion pages. Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed more and more people on these pages asking “Is Britstops worth it?”- and watched with interest people sharing their different opinions before sometimes feeling somewhat disappointed in people’s responses. Now don’t get me wrong, I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and actually isn’t that what makes the world wide web a wonderful place to be part of- so please don’t think that this post is intended to suggest that anyone who doesn’t agree with my opinion is wrong. Far from it. But last night, Keith and I experienced such a wonderful evening, that only came about because of our membership into Britstops, it really highlighted to me why we will always choose to be a member. So I thought I would share it.
Earlier this week, faced with a pretty long week at work, we decided we would nip out in Ruby the camper van on Saturday night for a change of scenery. We faced two choices- a BritStop location or a quiet CL site somewhere. It coincided with our brand new edition of the 2017 BritStop bible arriving, so after a loooooong day teaching on Tuesday, we sat down together for a leaf through to see if anywhere grabbed our fancy. So much these days is web based and online, and so we LOVE the fact that we can sit and flick through a proper book, page by page to see the locations available. This also is rather handy when you’re out and about on a tour and you need to change your plans but you don’t have any internet, like we did here. BritStops: 1 / other online database of pub stops: 0
You’ve got a user-friendly map page so you can see whats available in each area. In the case of us nipping away for a night we tend to say an hour’s journey from home- and we are lucky that this perimeter gives us lots of choice (although I’m sad that some of our favourites on the North Norfolk Coast are gone this year!) What we like about the BritStops book is that each place has a little write up from the owner describing their place. This really helps us to decide what we are in the mood for.
Our personal favourite types of stop are the farm shops and vineyards, of which there are loads in this years edition. I just love cooking, so to be able to buy fresh produce and cook it for our dinner that night is perfect. That or buying a local wine/beer and drinking it that night on site, knowing you’ve experienced a local taste, local flavour and given something back to the owner in return for a free night’s stopover is just brilliant- and very, very similar to France Passion, which is what Britstops is based upon. The misconception between people who don’t rave about BritStops seems to be that its only pubs and in theory most pubs will let you stay overnight. There are loads of pubs included. But it’s not only pubs, and for that we think it’s worth the £27.50 membership alone.
We stumbled across this inviting advert from BritStop no. 232/2017’s host.
“Completely refurbished in May 2013, this characterful 16th Century pub still offers traditional games. Next to a farm that supplies us with local produce. (Landlord) doesn’t work from a menu, but is more than happy to make most dishes if he has the ingredients in!”
This sounded an unusual, quirky place, and so we wasted no time in giving them a call on the number provided, to book in for Saturday night. After a bit of a chat to the landlord, he asked us what we fancied to eat, gave us a few options and after asking whether we were fish, veggie or meat eaters he said leave it with me, I’ll see you Saturday! I’m not going to lie, we were quite excited! This seemed a novel approach to hospitality and a quick look on trip adviser soon told us people were raving about this place, although we were slightly anxious that we may have signed ourselves up to a private dining experience and therefore may need to remortgage the house on our return as we forgot to check the price!
The rest of the week went in a blur with work, but Saturday soon dawned and it was time to set off on our mini break. We checked the postcode and directions and used the handy key to see if we needed water, would have electric etc. Everything about the book is convenient and you can just tell it has been lovingly assembled by keen motorhomes, Steve and Mandy, who started BritStops in 2011. Since then they have increased the number of stops from 75 to 761!
We stopped for a lovely walk at nearby Clare Country Park- which we found by using our iFootpath app, something we always do when we are heading to a new town/area because we are chasing a BritStop location, and early evening rolled into the car park of BritStop #232, just as the landlord was returning from a food shop. He opened up at 5:45pm and by 6:00pm we were sat at the bar having his last bottle of home brew bitter and having a nice little chat. The home-brew by the way was delicious. Probably just as well he only had the one bottle left though, at 5.5% I think we could have been in for a dangerous night otherwise!
Conversation soon got onto food, and Tony’s enthusiasm and passion for cooking immediately shone through. I can’t ever remember having such a passionate landlord/chef talk through a menu with us like we experienced here, and that includes my 30th where K took me for a Michelin taster menu at Morston Hall. He gave us options that included a curry platter, sausage and mash, linguine or home battered haddock and chips. After ten minutes of umming and ahhing and numerous changes, we decided on curry- Keith opting for a fish curry and me going for a section that included chicken and cauliflower balti, beef tikka, chickpea and sweet potato, homemade naan, basmati rice, popadoms, homemade ago chutney- the list went on. We asked if he could knock up a starter and he asked us if Garlic mushrooms and dough balls sounded ok. It sounded more like perfect.
We spent some time chatting to a friendly local and before we knew it the food was served. Huge portions, piping hot, absolutely gorgeous flavours. We were officially in food heaven. We were asked what we fancied as background music, we had a roaring log fire next to us, and Jazz the pampered pooch was enjoying fist fulls of home cooked ham!
Enough food for us!!!
As the evening went on, a couple more tables came in, and we witnessed the same passion and enthusiasm, enabling them to eat exactly what they fancied. It was time to ask for the bill and I’d got my credit card at the ready, with a slight sweat, and not just cos of the curry! You can perhaps imagine my shock when the bill read “Drinks: £21 (well we had had a long walk, and I didn’t have to drive!)… Food…….£28”. £28?! That’s surely per person I whispered to Keith. It wasn’t. £14 each for a completely home cooked to our specific taste meal. I’m not even sure I could cook it at home for that, and I didn’t have to wash up!
There is no way on earth we would have picked this pub, had it not been for BritStops. It’s in a tiny hamlet, in the depths of Suffolk. A little way off the tourist route. Not within walking distance of anything too interesting (although I’m sure given more time we may be proved wrong on this). If we had looked at google maps and tried to “pick a pub and call it” we just never would have found this place. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But with the help of BritStops, its taken all this information of where we are welcome and puts it into a user friendly format that doesn’t rely on internet connection – for us living on the Norfolk/Suffolk border we do not take this luxury for granted by the way! Mobile date hasn’t reached our village yet and we are not alone!
We look at our BritStop nights away not, as their tag line suggest, as Free Stopovers, but more like finding the real British gems and giving something back to off the beaten track hosts allowing us to spend the night there. Whether its a haggis pizza and a pint of home-brewed ale, some homemade cheese, local wine, or just old fashioned Great British service in a lonely village somewhere, we feel proud to be members and thank Steve and Mandy for their hard work in keeping the book up to date with regular monthly update emails.
It’s worth mentioning that the agreement of those listed in the BritStop guide does state that there is absolutely no obligation to buy anything, you just have to go and introduce yourself etc. However, for us, we couldn’t even entertain this as a thought – if someone is being kind enough to let you stay on their property the least we can do is have a few drinks and a meal. Pubs and small business’ are closing down left right and centre with the increase of larger shops’ and chain pubs- if we can’t help by spending twenty quid or so in their establishment then I’d rather go and stay in a lay-by somewhere. Or stay at home.
Some pictures below of our favourite all time stopovers.
So there you go, there’s my two – pennies worth on whether BritStops is worth the £27.50 annual fee.
If you are a member and are in/near to Suffolk and like your food – you NEED to pay #232 a visit. I promise you, you won’t visit anywhere else like it. Keep an eye on the website- he is doing themed food nights – with Italian night, Greek night, Curry night, and even a beer taster night- where you get 5 courses each matched with a different beer.
We retraced our steps back towards Otterburn for a quick stop at the site of the Battle of Otterburn, where there was a picnic area and info board, along with a large stone from the battle.
The wind was absolutely savage so we didn’t stop for too long! We made our way back down the A68 and then made our way towards Kielder, a beautiful journey despite not being via the private forest drive (toll) as that is closed for winter. Our destination was Brit Stop number , a village pub right in the heart of Kielder Forest and Water park. We were intending on eating at the pub but with it being New Years Eve food service wasn’t offered all day, the menu looked good though! We opted for several drinks instead whilst getting to know the friendly barman (see below!) and then a cosy night in the van accompanied by a fillet steak and bottle of Pape! Yum.
Sunday, New Year’s Day
New Years Day dawned bright yet chilly. A perfect day for a bike ride, so we dismantled the wheels and set off for a few miles on the Lakeside Way path, a wide, hard surface track that is 27 miles long around the circuit of the reservoir. We didn’t realise that Kielder Water is in fact the largest reservoir in Western Europe! We didn’t fancy over-exerting ourselves, we’d had a lazy morning already, so just went on a short circular which took us under the impressive Kielder Viaduct, then over it, and alongside the lake for a little way before turning round and returning via Kielder Castle. In actual fact it was only about 4 miles!
I had a good play with my drone camera around the viaduct taking some amazing shots, and we also did some Geocaching too.
It was a lovely day and the light was simply breathtaking, until the heavens opened as the sun set for the first time in 2017. Being New Years Day, food service in our Brit Stop was again disrupted, but they were happy for us to stay put for the evening and we returned the favour by enjoying a few pints of the local ale, which was very nice!
We had a New Year’s feast of Moules Marinade followed by chicken casserole for dinner in the van, and just as we finished eating we noticed a break in the pitter patter on our roof; the rain/sleet had stopped and a quick check through the sky light and bingo, the stars were out. Our main reason for visiting this area was the draw of the night time skies. Northumbria is a Dark Skies area, and Kielder actually has an observatory with telescope. Sadly the events at the observatory were all sold out for our trip however I’d been itching to get my new telescope out for play. Here was my chance. My highlight was viewing Vega- the star in which the film Contact receives extra terrestrial signals from.. cue some singing of that wonderful John Williams theme!
We wandered up 100 yards or so to Kielder Castle and set up. The sky was phenomenal. We saw the Milky Way with our naked eye, and thousands of stars. Absultely breathtaking. Until a snowflake landed on my face. Then another. “Keith, did you just feel that” by the time he answered “Yes” we found ourselves in the middle of a snow storm! Northumbria, your weather is mental.
Monday 2nd Jan
We had another quiet yet cold night’s sleep, the temperature dipped to -3c, but we were toasty inside. We both woke early, a little apprehensive that the snow shower we found ourselves in the middle of, may have settled, causing us problems getting out of Kielder. We needn’t have worried, although there was an awful lot of ice on the ground, the road out of the forest park was clear. The weather again was gorgeous, a perfect winters day.
About 12 miles away from Kielder, we passed a large car park and viewing area for Kielder Dam. We pulled in for a leg stretch, and slip slided our way across the footpath across the dam. I also managed to get some more good drone shots despite poor Jazz’s protests, he’s not a fan of the flying camera!
The light was beautiful. After a cuppa and the last of my gingerbread house (Annie, it really is yummy!!) we hit the road once more- our destination was Hadrian’s Wall.
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up admiring the views, and boy, are they special. We are up in the Highlands of Scotland, and, wait for it……. It’s glorious sunshine! Hurrah!
The last week has been ridiculously busy, we bought a house, moved in, had two big gigs, not to mention our normal teaching schedule. When we booked this jaunt to Scotland in January, we hadn’t in a million years thought that we would be house hunting, mortgage shopping, moving in the 4 months that would follow. There have been several times during the process that we nearly cancelled our Scottish trip, the house completion date was earmarked as Fri 27th May or Friday 3rd June for the majority of the journey, but we never got round to it, then in a last minute supermove by Nationwide, our mortgage lenders, it became apparent it was moving quicker so we pushed for 20th and the rest as they is history. Or mayhem, as I’m going to rename it.
Anyhow, in a swift move in/unpack manoeuvre, Thursday 7pm arrived in a blink, and we put down our teaching hats, got straight into a pre packed (as in pre packed at the start of May, just in case!) and hit the A11 from our school in Thetford. By 9pm we were in a lay by on the A1 near Newark picking up Jazz the pampered pooch, who had had a week with mum and stepdad whilst we moved, and by 01:10 we were sipping on a cold beer at Carter Bar Border Crossing, near Jedburgh! We had a good sleep and woke up feeling almost shell shocked that we had managed to get away, but very excited about the days to follow. Scotland is probably our favourite place to travel, and the weather looked promising.
We had a leisurely start, and enjoyed listening to the piper who turned up minutes before a coach load of Americans! We had a nice chat with him before hitting the road towards Loch Lomond in time for lunch. The traffic wasn’t brill between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but we were in no rush, and the weather was drizzly, so we settled in for the journey eventually arriving at “our” layby for a late lunch (* our layby because we’ve stayed there then, then, then and then)
We stocked up at the Farm shop on the A82 near Luss just before lunch, always risky when you’re hungry! “Our” layby is the second one Loch side before the Inverbeg hotel, now named The Lochside Inn”, where we have enjoyed many a dram. Happily, the litter problem we encountered here last time has improved, however selfish (in our opinion) parking hasn’t. As soon as we arrived we noticed a Winnebago parked lengthways taking up 3 spaces and a motorhome parked with a marquee up and the chairs the other of the marquee leaving not much room for any other vehicles. We squeezed in next to her, she wasn’t amused and was obviously saving the place for someone else arriving later. Selfish parking here is going to ruin it for everyone. Wild camping is allowed up here, but setting out your stall like this, in our opinion takes the Mick.
We had campfire quesadilla’s for lunch, not on a campfire I add, but still yum. Then sent the drone up for some pics before moving on up the road to the new viewIng platform beyond Tarbet.
The pyramid shape was an interesting design and it was nice to see a different view of Loch Lomond, this time from the head of the Loch.
We carried on towards Glencoe, stopping at the Black Mountain view point and sending the drone up again. there were a few vans parked up for a night there and it bought back happy memories of our night there two years ago.
We carried on though, although I could have easily stayed there! We were booked onto Glencoe Mountain Resort campsite for two night. When we booked this trip, we decided to travel less and make more use of campsites in order to relax more. Ironic given that we had no idea what lay ahead of us! So around 6pm, we rolled onto the campsite, checked in with a grump receptionist and on to our pitch. First impressions were …. Meh. A gravel carpark, not in the most picturesque area of the valley. But, a fully serviced pitch. £15 pn. At least we are here.
What followed over the next 10 hours was horrendous. What we didn’t know when we booked, or until we arrived, was that our visit coincided with a Scottish Downhill Association mountain bike event. This resulted in HUNDREDS of mountain bikers and their cars/vans/trucks/caravans/campervans turning up right through the night. I’m really not exaggerating here. From 9pm to 6am ALL we could hear was cars arriving, people directing each other into every last space there was, bike pumps pumping tyres, wow, that’s an annoying sound when it’s right on your pitch at 5am. At 07:00 the resort switched on their music and by 07:30 the decision had been made to abandon the campsite. I marched off to reception to explain we were leaving a night early and why, was met with a stubborn manager who insisted it was normal activity for cars to be arriving right through the night on a campsite, and I explained it wasnt for us, way too noisy and we wouldn’t be back.
We drove down to the main Glencoe viewpoint, where we’ve had to retreat to before(!) and had a leisurely breakfast of haggis sausages, bacon, beans, eggs and fried bread, which helped to restore sanity and we looked at new plans for the night ahead! The haggis sausages by the way were sensational! Our Britstops bible saved the day- we realised there was a Inn down the road that welcomes motorhome stopovers, so after a quick emergency phone call we booked ourselves in, and relaxed a little while more at Glencoe. The view here will never get old. We simply love it here.
After a while, and a drone flight, we carried on down the A82 and crossed Loch Linnhe via the Corran Ferry. Despite driving this road many times, this was entirely new to us. The short ferry crossing took 5 mins, and cost £8.20 but saved nearly 40 miles of driving. The views across the Loch Linnhe towards the Great Glen were super.
We soon found our Brit Stop, number 838 right upon the Lochside and said hello, had a couple of drinks each and pootled off for a leisurely bike ride. We have been Geocaching for a few weeks now and had a fun afternoon finding geocaches – a bit like a treasure hunt! The road was flat and on the banks of the loch. It was breathtaking.
We had a picnic and a paddle, much to Jazz’s displeasure- and mooched back to Bluebell for a nap. We didn’t eat at the pub, but went in for several more drinks and whiskeys before a late walk (10pm – and still light!) along the loch.
It’s simply beautiful and we are thankful to Britstops for guiding us here. We’ve lost count the number of times we travelled here and missed this spot. For us, this is the reason we love BritStops. Yes, wild camping is legal here and our back up would have been exactly that. But we feel happy that we spent a bit money locally, in return for a pitch with a view like this in an area we usually miss. Happy days.
Bank Holiday Saturday Bluebell the motorhome is feeling like she’s experiencing a case of De-ja-vu, she parked up by the sea and she’s fairly sure she recognises the view!
She’s right, we have been here before, and unlike anything that we usually do, we’ve decided to come back to Flint House CL in Walcott, Norfolk less than three months after leaving here back in February!
As you may (or may not know) we are smack bang in the middle of buying our first house together. Our entire life is stuffed into boxes and we are in that horrible period between offer acceptance and completion. Feeling stressed, tired and fed up of clambering over boxes to get from one side of the room to other, we saw the weather forecast give something other than grey miserable wet and cold weather on Wednesday and not the phone looking for somewhere that could fit us in. Luck was in our side and Flint House had received cancellations so were able to accommodate. £13pn hard standing with electric. A bargain.
We arrived at lunchtime and after a quick sarnie we headed out into the glorious sunshine along the coast to Bacton on the Norfolk Coast Path. Last time we were here we had a glorious walk to Happisburgh, and although the views weren’t as spectacular as the journey to Happsibugh as it was a lower stretch of path, the beaches here were glorious.
We walked past the Kingfisher Fish Bar (10 mins from the site) and noticed they were selling local ice cream so stopped for a Norfolk ice cream which was yum. We carried on past the Poachers Pocket pub, and onto Bacton before coming off the coastal path and finding a couple of geocaches and having a look at the remains of Bacton Priory, before a quick pint and walk back to Bluebell. That evening I cooked an amazing cod curry, we had stopped at The Fair Maiden Shellfish shop in Happisburgh on our way to the site and bought ourselves some half of a fresh local cod. Fish curry overlooking the sea made for the most pleasant of evenings. All our stresses went out with the tide as we drifted into a 12 hour sleep!
Bank Holiday Sunday
We had a really deep sleep (apart from nipping out to watch sunrise!) and woke feeling refreshed. Waking up and hearing the waves is really something! Jazz had a good run on the beach ( dog friendly all year) and I cooked us a Full English before we packed up and moved on, to a Brit Stops stopover, no. 248 (2016) on the Norfolk Broads.
If you haven’t heard of Britstops, it’s a fantastic resource for motorhoming in Britain. You okay £25 for a handy glovebox sized guide which lists over 640 places in Britain that you can stay overnight (generally no facilities) in your van, for free as a guest.The idea is that you take an interest in their produce, and perhaps even spend a bit of money however there is no obligation to do so. We always do, not because we feel we have to, but more because we want to, I mean, we’re at a pub offering local ales, a delicious sounding reasonably priced menu, with a beer garden on the side of one of the Norfolk Broads. And it’s sunny. We’ve parked up for the day/night.. Who wouldn’t want to sample a few drinks, it’s hardly a hardship, and in actual fact, we probably would have gone there for a few drinks if we were staying down the road on the CL anyway! For us, and we hope, the owners of the stopover, it’s win win. Not all of the stopovers are pubs, there are vineyards, farm shops, you name it.
So, I suppose my paragraph above sets the scene of our Sunday. We had a wander the 20 metres or so to the beer garden, found a table in the sun, and had a couple of drinks. Had another small wander to man made beach, watched the paddle boarders and sailors. Wandered back to the beer garden. Had another drink. Had a doze in the sunshine back at the van. Went for dinner at the pub and before we knew it we’d had several pints of Dog Dancer (6.9% local cider) and not only was the dog dancing but the room was spinning and it was time to hit the sack! A real gem of a stop though, we will most certainly return, and we are secretly high giving how lucky we are that its only an hour from our front door!
Bank Holiday Monday dawned and thank goodness we had no visit from the hangover fairies. We had a fairly lazy morning before hitting the road back home, where we gave Bluebell a wash and a good clean before taking her back to her new storage yard.
What a lovely relaxing and impromptu weekend!
Until next time, which could be from Scotland at the end of May, it will be depend on house moving dates..
Bluebell the Motorhome is parked up metres away from the front door of Britstops no. 241 (2015 book), a pub and brewery situated within the Norfolk Broads. As per the Britstops rules, I can’t tell you our exact location as its members only, but if you’re a motorhomer and love your food and drink, then you need to join! It’s a free stopover, but you are encouraged to spend some money within the establishment…. What an utter hardship!! It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to do it…! In return you get a place to park overnight, which is very handy considering all the ale on tap tonight! 🍻 Although some Britstops offer some facilities like water or hook up, there are no facilities here but that’s ok as we filled up/empitied before leaving this morning.
Today has been a lovely day- the weather has been cold but mainly clear- luckily we’ve timed our day so that when the downpours of hail arrived, and we’ve had a few, we’ve not been out and about. We had a fairly lazy morning, partly cos we were waiting for the owner of Deodara to arrive so we could pay him, but he never turned up despite telling us he was coming at 09:30 so we ended up leaving the cash inside the electric hook up box and make our exit around 11:00. Probably wouldn’t rush back to that site if we are honest- nice location, but this business of the clay pigeon shooting every other weekend was a bit off putting not to mention loud, plus Sunday afternoon was spoilt by the neighbourscoming onto our pitch cutting down trees in a tractor whilst we were parked! All these things we’d have liked to fed back to Tim, the owner, but as we never saw him it was difficult!
Moving on, we stopped off at Tescos for a couple of bits and bobs and head towards Ludham, a small village sat on a picturesque broad.
We had a 5 mile walk (courtesy of our AA Walk box) which we enjoyed. About half way through the walk, Keith noticed on his memory map, a detour of about half a mile from Toad Hall, How Hill Centre to the River Ant.
The sun was shining so we went down the track and were rewarded by one of the prettiest spots I’ve seen on the broads.
There were two wind pumps and some decking and picnic tables- in the summer boat trips go from there, but today despite the sun shining, we were the only ones and it was truly wonderful to have half an hour there taking in the world and hearing nothing but reeds rustling in the wind and the water lapping up against the boardwalk. Perfect
The walk took us past a large water tower and back to pretty Ludham.
Our Brit Stop pitch for the night was only a 20 minute drive away and so here we are, parked up outside one of our favourite pubs in the county, faces glowing and bellies rumbling. We’ve already been in to sample a Nog- research of course, needed to check it was on for later! Our table is booked for 7pm and we’re treating ourselves to a slap up dinner. I’ve noticed venison pie on the menu- may have done a little jig at the bar in excitement, I had everything crossed that it would be on..