Adventures in Brora

Gandalf the VW is at his most motherly point of this trip. We’re parked up a stones throw from the sea, and it’s glorious. We can hear the waves crashing and smell the salty seaweed as we watch the Artic Turns overhead.

You could be forgiven for thinking that we’re actually in a prison camp with this huge fence and barbed wire; however the reason for the maximum security is that this campsite, a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified Site called SeaBreezes Caravan site, is a former World War 2 Listening Station. In fact it was so top secret that it doesn’t even appear on the map. 40 people from across the UK were stationed here and it was used throughout both World War 2 and the Cold War before being decommissioned in 1986.

The views to the sea are unrivalled and we fell in love with this place as soon as we drove onto our pitch.

Our journey here today was let’s say, stormy! The weather in Inverness as we passed through was so bad that the coop we tried to visit had closed as their roof caved in, B and M bargains had sewerage coming up under the store as the storm drains overflowed and Aldi was evacuated due to flooding inside! It was so bad I honestly thought “sod this, let’s go home!” But then my northern stubborn genes kicked into action and errands finally complete, we made our way north to Brora into more bad weather.

Apart from…. Unbelievably with just 10 mins of our journey remaining, someone switched off the rain tap above, sucked the grey and black clouds out of the sky and we rolled into Brora with not a cloud in the sky and blue skies above us. Absolutely insane and very lucky, as we were DREADING a wet set up!

We celebrated with an emergency bbq (always have meat in the freezer to knock up an unplanned BBQ) which was delicious and enjoyed some outdoor relaxing time after being cooped up inside yesterday. Honestly we could have been in Greece (perhaps the temperature was a touch lower!)

Sunday

Sunday dawned with a dodgy forecast but we were thrilled to wake up to bright blue skies. In fact it was really quite warm! We had a lazy morning enjoying the view before deciding to have a leg stretch around the village of Brora, following the Village Historical trail.

Brora is a really beautiful little spot on the very north east of Scotland. The river Brora meets the North Sea and as such Salmon fishing was once one of the main industries here.

We saw an old Ice House which used to be used to keep salmon cold, and the oldest house in the village, the oldHarbour master’s house which also included an original barometer on the outside dating from the late 1700s.

In the late 1800s, the arrival of the railway here and the beautiful beach brought holidaymakers and as such large villas were built.

We stopped for a drink in the Garden room, part of the hotel marine, one of the for-mentioned villas, and then went for a drink or two, including sampling the very local whisky, at the Sutherland Arms.

It was interesting sat outside there in the glorious sunshine watching the traffic (a lot of motorhomes and Campervans) travelling on the A9/NC500. There were loads and none were stopping here. Please do, it’s a lovely village with some nice little shops and a great pub. Don’t ignore this beautiful Stretch of coast!

We had an early dinner; the weather was sublime- and we enjoyed a smoked haddock and salmon lemony linguine with fish brought from Buckie on our journey yesterday. Ooph, it was delicious! Recipe here

We then did something that we’ve never ever done before! Used a campsite washing machine and washed our bed linen, towels and some underwear as we’re running short!

Keith made a makeshift washing line from bungies and we let the campsite name (Sea Breezes) work it’s magic!

What a lovely day we’ve had!

Monday

After crashing out quite early last night, we slept really well but Monday soon arrived, and we felt sad about it’s arrival. It’s our last full day here – and indeed in Scotland for a while.

We decided to have a cooked breakfast, and do a coastal walk to Golspie, a 6 mile walk that hugged the coastline all the way. We timed our walk with a return journey via either train or public bus – this is fiddly but manageable as they are quite sporadic (although more available than where we live in Norfolk!£

The first section of walk was slightly rocky underfoot and we found ourselves concentrating more on our step than the view. But we kept plodding along and it became an easier path the further we went.

Unlike the South West coastal path the gradient is very low, most of the path is on field edges and so no mass ascents to worry about.

The Sandy beach turns into pebbles and about 3 miles in we saw possibly 70 seals having a little sunbathe. What a remarkable sight- it was a joy to watch them from a far for some time.

Round the next bit of headland we went and were faced with a wonderful vista – the stunning Dunrobin Castle- which in our opinion transported us to Bavaria and then France.

Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. Dunrobin Castle is also one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s, home to the Earls and later, the Dukes of Sutherland.

The coastal path goes right behind the castle so we were treated to amazing views. You can easily visit the castle from the path we were on however it doesn’t allow dogs into the grounds so we just enjoyed the view.

By now we were only 2 miles from Golspie, and as the weather was looking moody, we picked up our pace, arriving into Golspie just ahead of the rain.

We grabbed a quick drink at the Golspie Inn before making our way towards the train station, but instead Intercepting a bus heading our way for just £3pp.

By the time we reached Brora and Gandalf we looked like drowned rats as the rain had caught up with us, but it didn’t matter- we’d really enjoyed the walk – route found here.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening chilling and watching Breaking Bad which we are utterly hooked on! As the sun set (much later than down south- it’s still light at 10pm), we have enjoyed watching the lighthouse across the water wake up. The lighthouse is Tarbet Ness Lighthouse and looks like this

Not my picture – taken from Wikipedia

Isn’t it amazing how effective just one bulb and lots of reflectors is.

Tomorrow is our big journey home. In a bid to avoid traffic jams we are planning on leaving mid afternoon rather than first thing and travelling into the night.

So with some time to kill tomorrow we’ve hopefully got one more adventure up our sleeve!

Tuesday

Tuesday travel day dawned overcast but dry. Despite our long day ahead we decided to get up and on, Keith being keen to get the kit packed up on the dry. No rain was forecast but the second we’d closed the boot, the heavens opened. Top tip, never trust the weather forecast and if it’s dry on pack up day- just get on! We’d been having some issues with our bike cover – and which I’ll cover on a separate post when it’s resolved 😳 so that delayed our departure a touch but it felt good to be able to take our time and not rush to a time schedule of “oh we really should be on the road by now”.

We did however roll off the site at 10:30, waving goodbye to the very friendly and hard working owner of SeaBreezes. We made our way an hour and 20 mins south to the outskirts of Inverness- our destination to “hang out in” until later in the day was Chanory Point – on the Black Isle. Chanory Point is reportedly one of the best places in the world to see wild dolphins. Access is tight; as the name suggests it’s at the point of a rather slim bit of headland – the road leading to the car park is single track with a golf course on each side and with holiday traffic and the bin man causing havoc, getting there wasn’t quite as stress free as I’d have hoped. But- we persevered and we’re rewarded with bagging a car park space immediately. Which was good because the best time to see the dolphins, I’d read – was 2 hours before high tide, and the clock had just crossed that marker!

I’m not lying, I actually RAN from the van to the beach whilst Keith sorted paying etc out, and therefore couldn’t believe my eyes (through the binoculars which I’d hastily grabbed) when less than a minute after looking I could see a pod of dolphins about 100m out having the time of their lives.

Keith soon caught up and we spent a good twenty mins or so along with a significant number of others admiring these beautiful creatures playing blissfully in the Moray Firth.

I honestly could have stood there all day, and have already eyed up a caravan park for future reference to stay at along with a boat trip I want to take. Here’s a slightly bad video which doesn’t capture the moment properly but gives you an idea. (Look near the white boat)

Around 1pm we decided to make lunch in the car park – a large plate of spaghetti bol to keep us going through the night, and around 3pm we hit the road- stopping at Halfords Inverness to try and rectify our cover problem.

Our journey home took just over 10 hours with us taking 2.5 hour driving shifts. The roads moved freely and the journey was actually really pleasant indeed and rather scenic, passing through the Cairngorms and then the lowlands and the Pennines. We’d far rather this approach to a near 600 mile journey home.

We have had the most amazing trip- Scotland’s East Coast has been everything we could have hoped for and more. Stayed tuned for a debrief post with some hints, and a summary of our trip in a few days- but for now it’s time to get the washing on and get my “Bridesmaid” hat on as I’ve the honour of being a bridesmaid my best friend this weekend near Coventry.

Until next time

Lx

Adventures in Eastbridge, Suffolk

Gandalf the VW is parked up on a glorious field in Eastbridge, in the heart of Suffolk and not too far from Minsmere and Dunwich. We’re on a C&CC certified site with no hookup, and just a tap, loo and chemical disposal. At just £9 for the night, we are very happy campers indeed. Eastbridge Farm, Suffolk

Yesterday we finally got our new solar panel fitted to the pop top ; after over a year of uming and ahing- a change of van, and then a long wait for our trusty caravan serviceman, Simon from Thetford Caravan Service- who is FLAT OUT! Yesterday was finally the day!

I’m not going to lie; our hearts were in our mouths as we watched Simon drill into Gandalf’s roof, but he did a marvellous job. We opted for Sunpower 110v flexible solar panels sitting on our pop too and this weekend ended up being the perfect test as we enjoyed the hottest weekend of the year so far.

Saturday dawned hot, and we were very thankful for our air con as we made the hour journey to Eastbridge via Morrison’s. By 1pm we had arrived set up camp. The weather was top notch, and we enjoyed a major chill for the entire afternoon; snoozing, reading and listening to music.

We are two days from breaking up from the summer and officially almost burnt out. The chill in the sun did a very good job at recharging our own batteries, never mind the solar panel charging the leisure battery. We kept checking the solar panel and couldn’t believe that we were drawing 5vs into the leisure battery. Most importantly the Prosecco and beer was ice cold.

Dinner time soon arrived and we bbqed a great big slab of steak with sausages – absolutely delicious; before thinking perhaps we should take a walk, so walked the 5 mins max to the local pub the Eels Foot Inn- an Adnams freehouse.

On our return to camp we set up our new piece of kit, a folding handmade fire pit. A student that we have both taught for over 10 years goes to Uni this summer so we received this immensely thoughtful homemade gift- handmade and designed by her mum. Isn’t it fab!

We slept like logs, and before we knew it Sunday morning had arrived. The cows mooing provided a gentle start to our Sunday morning, and as the sun rose the heat soared! We got out our sun canopy and had a light breakfast before packing up camp and heading to nearby Dunwich Beach.

We were joined here by both our mums, and Keefy treated them to a delicious fish bbq on the beach for lunch. That cadac safari chef 2 is really versatile and perfect for moving it around to find a picturesque cooking spot.

We spent all day on the beach – mum and I drinking mocktails pretending we were in Greece (we were both driving!) Several swims in the sea were enjoyed and before we knew it it was time to make our way home. We may have only been way for just over 24 hours but we feel recharged ready to tackle the last two days of a very unusual year of music education and performance!

We’ve got loads planned for the summer in Galdalf; we can’t wait to take you along with us on the ride.

Lx

Adventures on the Marriott’s Way

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked at Eves Hill Farm, a C&CC certified site in Norfolk on the outskirts of Reepham. We should have been in Wales this weekend, but two absolutely bonkers weeks at work, along with a middle weekend moving my mum, meant that by the time Thursday came along Keith and I were running on fumes- and I think that’s an overstatement! Sadly we we’re just too tired (and felt quite ill) to make the 5 hour journey each way for just two nights near to Bodnant Gardens, so we had to send our apologies and add the Laburnum archway and stunning gardens that are featured in the newest Secret Garden film onto a list for next year.

Instead we got some well needed rest on Friday and had a regroup. We managed to book a last minute pitch at Eves Hills Farm for the night on Saturday- a mere 40 min drive from home felt much more palatable and we were able to take our new bikes with us to try them out on the nearby Marriott’s Way– a disused railway track now turned into leisure path.

We’ve cycled this a few times before, and it remains a favourite place for us to head off to for just a night.

2019 Marriott’s Way trip

2015 Marriott’s Way

Eves Hill Farm was a perfect base. Just a couple of miles outside of Reepham – which we stopped at before hand to stock up on local sausages and bacon for breakfast from the butchers, and cheese from the deli next door. What more did we need? Homemade burgers from the campsite of course! Luckily for us Eves Farm have their own herd of Hereford cattle and make their own steaks and burgers. Bbq ready for later, and a cheese board for lunch set us up for an afternoon of cycling. The 2 miles back into Reepham were a doddle on our E bikes and we were soon on our way on the Marriott’s Way.

We decided to head south on the trail and stopped for refreshments after around 7 miles at Whitwell Station.

We enjoy stopping here, there is very often some steam train activity to watch.

Video highlights of bike ride

We decided to make our way back to the campsite, we’d noticed a charming looking pub at Reepham which we enjoyed a drink at before arriving back at the campsite totalling up 18 Miles’s – a breeze on these e bikes!

The campsite has a fairly decent shower (along with washing up station with hot water!) so we ditched our diy awning shower in favour of an electric shower before dinner, which was a delicious bbq followed by local strawberry’s and clotted cream. Perfection!

Sunday dawned grey however we had a lazy start and enjoyed a full English breakfast before packing up. The campsite was able to accommodate a late check out so we explored more of the Marriott’s way, this time heading north to Aylsham.

Marriott’s day video day 2

Lovely Daisy’s

We had coffee and cake at Aylsham station, which links with the Bure Valley Way, before taking the back roads to return to the campsite. Aylsham is another good place to watch the steam trains.

Our last trip to Bure Valley Way

The joy of this was when we passed a fantastic French gothic church – Booton church- with its twin towers and phenomenal hammered roof and carved angels.

It’s nickname “the cathedral of the fields” really is accurate. What a fabulous building.

From here we continued past the campsite to Little Witchingham- to another historical church; this one an abandoned church saved from demolition when stunning medieval wall paintings were discovered dating from the 15th century.

The intensity of the paintings was incredible, and the remoteness of the church and its abandonment certainly added to its charm!

We cycled the 2 miles from here back to Eves Hill, clocking up over 21 miles on total.

We are thrilled with our new E Bikes!

Keith held onto his Aldi Vitesse Rush – my Aldi one was faulty so I now have a Pendleton Somerby E bike from Halfords. I’m in love with it!

We’ve got a couple of weeks at home coming up as we have our Mot and then we are having a solar panel fitted to the roof, but on just 3 weeks we’ll be off out on numerous trips. We can’t wait!

Until next time

Lx

Go West for Summer – Part 3

Thursday

It was another wet and wild night last night- we even had some thunder and lightening! Again we had winds ofup to 40mph- needless to say Jazz was on our bed again! Ruby is coping so well with the wild weather – we are toasty inside despite having no heating. The bikes are ok on the back still and it’s doesn’t feel as wobbly as when we were in Bluebell the motorhome – I suppose we are lower.

Despite the weather overnight today dawned a beautiful morning. We went to the farmhouse for some fresh eggs – and they couldn’t have been fresher, the farmer had just picked them out of the nest- they were still warm. They made the wonderful egg and bacon rolls – I’ve never seen such a large yolk.

We walked down to the bus stop at the end of the field and caught the number 349 to Tenby. It was a 20 minute journey and cost £5.50 pp return. Not bad value at all- especially when you can use your ticket for unlimited travel throughout the day.


We walked through the town down to the Harbour and stopped at The National Trust 15th Century Tudor Merchants House. Worth a visit if you’re a member but if not again we thought the £5.75 entry charge a little steep as there wasn’t much to see at all.

Tenby Harbour is absolutely STUNNING. There are loads of cute pastel coloured houses that line the street and the Harbour is full of boats. The beach beyond the Harbour has lovely sand and the bag is full of banana boat rides and pleasure trips. There are tiny little lanes leading away from the Harbour- it was just gorgeous. It knocks socks off places like Southwold. We saw a sign for lifeboat rides and decided this sounded fun – even better than dogs were allowed obviously! So we booked on for 1:45- a bargain at £5 for 20 mins we thought. We spent the time before the ride mooching and shopping- all the shops were dog friendly – there was such a lovely atmosphere here.
1:30 arrived and so we made our way down to the Harbour to board our Lifeboat.



The ride was so much fun and it was really interest riding on an actual lifeboat (now out of service).
All that see air and we worked up quite a thirst! So we found a pub with a sign claiming to have the “most sunniest beer garden in Tenby” – I found a seat whilst Keefy got the beers in- a Tenby beer for him aptly named after a Tenby lifeboat and brewed in the brewery on site, and a Welsh dragon cider for me.

We then went for a delicious fish and chip lunch before another pint at the Lifeboat, which had a really cool bar made out of an old Lifeboat (see pic above), although it didn’t serve any local beers. Before we caught the bus home we stopped at the fishmongers for some locally caught cod and samphire before looking around once more soaking in the atmosphere – it’s a fabulous place to visit and a real highlight of our trip so far. Also EVERY where was dog friendly even the shops! The rest of Thursday night we just chilled and enjoyed a cheese board for supper whilst watching Cracker.

riday
Friday arrived and it was time to pick up the van and move onwards. We had enjoyed our stay at Middle Hill Farm and would recommend it to anyone visiting this area- especially to those who don’t want to drive to explore as the bus route was really good from very close to the site.

After leaving the site we made a stop at Pembroke to see the castle. Pembroke Castle was birthplace to Henry VII and although we didn’t go in we enjoyed a terrific walk around the outskirts which gave great views of the impressive outside .


We drove on to nearby Nayland and followed signs for the Marina. The reason for our visit was Brunel, who lived here for a time and extended his GWR to have a terminus here- aiming to build an ocean terminal for onward travel to New York. Nowadays you can cycle some of this GWR line as part of the Brunel Line which we did and was fab. We did only 5 miles each way but the full line is 9 each way. On the way to Johnson it felt hard- on the way back we realised why- we barely peddled! Brunel was such a genious, building these tracks at an exact angle to not feel steep so the steam trains could manage the incline.

After our cycle we heading onwards to our next stop for 3 nights, the St Davids Camping and Caravanning Club Site.
On arrival it hammered down so we had a quick set up before an early dinner of Pembrokeshire Chowder with the fish we got from Tenby yesterday. Oh wow- don’t like to blow my own trumpet but it was delicious. Recipe here!
(Looks gross- was delicious!)

The rain cleared up after dinner and so we enjoyed a dram outside watching the sun set over the sea from our pitch. Lovely

Go West for Summer – Part 2

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.

Tuesday

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.

Go West for Summer 17- Part 1

WEDNESDAY
Ruby the Campervan is parked on Court Farm Campsite, Twigworth, Gloucester- a lovely landscaped C&CC Certified site with shower, hook up and loo- best of all it’s only £15 pn.

We set off from Newark around 10:00 and had a smooth journey to Court Farm, apart from the weather which was just grim. Happily though as we rolled onto the campsite at 12:30 the rain dried up, leaving us to set up in the dry and even contemplate lunch OUTSIDE! Happy faces all round! Lunch was leftovers from a curry we’d had on Monday and whilst I prepared it, Keefy dismounted the bikes off the rack.

By 2pm we were on our bikes towards Gloucester. We picked this site due to its close proximity to the historical city of Gloucester- it’s a very easy 20 minute cycle into the city centre, you basically turn right onto the main road (with pavement the whole way) and keep going straight. If you don’t fancy cycling there’s also bus stop right outside the gates.


First stop in Gloucester was the cathedral- which was gorgeous. We took it in turns to go inside for a look as we have Jazz with us- inside is just breathtaking. The main feature were the corridors with the most spectacular cloisters we’ve ever seen. They are also the oldest surfing cloisters – so no wonder the cathedral is used regularly for film and TV locations. You may even recognise these corridors as they were used as Hogwarts in Harry Potter.

Another highlight inside was being able to see Edward II’s tomb.

Before leaving I’d noticed on the Gloucester city website that is an online self led historical walking tour so I led Keefy on it from the Cathedral. It took in lots of interesting historical sites and buildings, including a couple of watering holes too. Perfect for an afternoons exploring.

The absolute standout was the hidden gem that there is no way we would have seen without this tour; the 16th C medieval timbered 4 storey townhouse which was complete with tiny alley way. It’s surrounded by McDonalds and KFC! And from the main the high street the only sign of it is the tiny top window sticking out. I think we may have been lucky that the gate was open to the alley so we were able to nip down, where you could see the actual side of the building complete with 16c timber. It was amazing – but sadly photos just won’t do it justice.

Anyone visiting Gloucester – I would highly recommend following this tour! It’s available here: and throughout the city there is free wifi so you can use that to follow the tour.

There is also a fun piggie trail on at the moment so we enjoyed spotting the pigs as we made our way around the city. My favourite was Harry Potter Pig!

We stopped for a drink at the historical Fountains Inn which had a pretty courtyard and is on the the oldest site of brewing in Gloucester.
We also popped into have a look at The New Inn, which had a fantastic galleried courtyard – one of the best, if not THE best in the country. Sadly the pub has been taken over by a chain and had sky sports blasting out so we decided not to have a drink here.

Just before retrieving our bikes, we popped to look at the Quayside which was lovely.

Sun was shining so we got the chairs out and enjoyed a drink outside before heading in for homemade spag Bol- a perfect day

THURSDAY

Thursday dawned sunny and excitement was anticipating, we were heading to Bristol to attend the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. I’d wanted to go to this for years, in fact we booked camping for a a couple of years ago and then our plans had to change. We waved goodbye to Court Farm and slipped onto the M5, after a quick National Trust stop at a medieval barn, which is still being used as a tithe barn. Amazing to think something built in the 15th Century is still being used for its original intention

An hour later and we arrived
at Cotham Park RFC, which had allowed campers to book a pitch on their field. We booked in May- you need to book early as it’s a very popular event and location, the campsite is only 20 mins off road walk to the site of the Fiesta. It is up hill on the way back though!

After a delicious lunch of steak and Stilton wraps, we went down to the site of the fiesta for a look around. There were lots of stalls (mainly food or advertising stands)

We decided as there wasn’t much entertainment on during the day on Thursday, that we would go back up to Ruby, make a picnic and head back down for the 6pm Mass Accent of special shapes. Picnic made, off we walked, this time with picnic and chairs. Unfortunately however the mass assent was cancelled due to the wind.

We sat for 3 hours waiting for the night glow, and felt pretty unimpressed the updates and also the lack of entertainment. This, along with a ridiculous queue for the loos, which ended in someone saying “join that queue over there, people are peeing in the bushes it’s much quicker(?!)” meant that our moods were quite low by the time the night glow began at 9pm! Happily though, the nightglow was fantastic, it was where lots of balloons were tethered and lit up in a choreographied programme to music. Something I’ve never seen before, it really was great.


The fireworks that followed were equally good, so we hiked up the hill with thousands others afterwards feeling happy.

FRIDAY
Friday dawned quite a bit earlier than I am used to on holiday, my alarm sounded at 5am. Yes, you read that right! The reason was the mass assent scheduled to take place at 6am. Keith decided he was too tired and couldn’t bear the thought of the walk down in case the balloons didn’t go up- completely understood, and was almost tempted to not go myself, however I knew I’d be so grumpy if I missed it. So I left Keefy and Jazz in bed, and joined twenty or so others from our site in the walk down. You can imagine my relief when we got the green smoke, signalling weather conditions were good to fly. My relief turned into absolute joy and wonder as the first of the 104 balloons floated up, up and away. I’ve never seen such a beautiful graceful site- certainly not at that hour anyway lol!

I returned back to Ruby at 7:30 and fell back into a deep sleep. When we woke up, Keith couldn’t believe it and was well miffed with himself! I explained as sweetly as I could without rubbing it in “you snooze, you loose!”

After an hour or so nap we got up- I was still happy about seeing all my balloons and Keith decided that he wanted to go down in the morning. We had a lazy morning before unloading the bikes and making the short 2 mile ride to Clifton Suspension Bridge. Brunel’s design won awards and is now grade 1 listed. It’s not hard to see why. It’s beautiful! There are several viewpoints and a newish visitor centre which we visited (free). We also cycled over for free – but to drive over costs £1. I hadn’t prepared myself for such a steep gauge that the bridge is built over- it’s actually really steep!

We cycled back to Ruby for a late lunch/early dinner of chicken fajitas which were absolutely delicious, what a feast! then settled into Ruby for a duvet afternoon as the weather deteriorated and we dead all the balloon fiesta activities were cancelled.

Saturday arrived and we were up with the alarm again at 5am. Neither of us “do” mornings especially well so we had a pre agreed agreement to not talk to each other for half an hour or so! So it was a quiet and brisk walk down to the fiesta site. Neither of us would admit how worried we were the balloons may not go up. There was a mild breeze and I was desperately trying to remember how it
compared to yesterday’s weather conditions to try and reassure Keith his early rise wasn’t wasted! When we got the green smoke – to say the balloons would fly, it was a tremendous relief! They have a system similar to the Pope announcement smoke system to inform the public and the pilots whether they could fly. Talk about tension!

After almost 30 balloons took off, we heard an air raid siren- this was to inform pilots that having received feedback from pilots already in the air, the conditions were not great therefore no more could take off. It wasn’t a huge surprise- visibility wasn’t great the balloons were disappearing into clouds! Nevertheless we went back to Ruby happy- Keith had seen enough to feel like a mass assent.

We got back to Ruby and after a cuppa started to pack up. Today we were
leaving the fiesta and moving to a new site. We were driving up to the SS Great Britain first though, so were happy to have an early start.

We arrived at the car park of SS Great Britain just after 9am- a first for us on holiday that’s for sure! We were surprised to read that overnight camping is allowed here- one for future reference that’s for sure.

It didn’t open til 10 so we treated ourselves to a pot of tea and toasted tea cake at the cafe next door before joining the queue for the ship.

Brunel s SS Great Britain was the first public ocean liner – and remarkably made the trip to New York in just 2 weeks. The visitor centre is excellent- you get to go beneath the water and see the base of the ship, and propellor in dry dock. The dock where it is now is where the ship was built, and we really enjoyed our tour on the ship, beneath the ship and around the museum.

Following our tour we drove the short distance to our next campsite, The Knights Folly camping and caravan club CS- where we received the warmest welcome we’ve ever had onsite! The owners were lovely and absolutely adored Ruby! The site was nicely laid out and had the cleanest loos and showers we’ve seen. It was a bargain at only £18pn.

The sun was shining so we set the sun loungers out, had a snooze then chilled off the remainder of the afternoon. For
dinner we had chicken stuffed with goats cheese, cooked in the slow cooker for 2 hours. It was amazing- definitely cooking that again.

We crashed out at 9pm, despite our afternoon nap our early morning caught up with us!

Sunday dawned a stunning day- and as we were right on the Avon cycle path – a disused railway path running from Bath to Bristol- in fact it was the first converted railway cycle path to be made, we decided to abandon plans to go back into Bristol and instead turn left and head the 7 miles to Bath. The cycle was absolutely gorgeous- we’d highly recommend it. It runs parallel to the Avon Valley railway for a small part (we were lucky to see a steam train depart Bitton station) then the path drops down alongside the river Avon into Bath. Gorgeous.

We’ve visited Bath before, but Keith asked whether I’d mind him revisiting the Roman Baths as we didn’t last time we visited, we went to the spa instead (😀) and it was over 15 years since he’d been. No problem I said, deposit me in a beer garden with wifi and il Jazz sit and do my blog! 2 hours later he returned happy as Larry- apparently it was a great visit and had changed loads with projections etc since his last visit. My prize for not going was a roman rubber duck which was hilarious! Unfortunately WordPress was playing silly buggers so I’d had less success!<

e nipped around the rest of the sights in Bath, stopping for the occasional refreshment stop, before returning back to Ruby for slow cooked ham. Yum< b>Monday<<<<<<<
was time to bid farewell to Bristol and Bath. We'd enjoyed our time here and loved all the Brunel sites in Bristol- I felt satisfied with the Balloon Fiesta- however to anyone thinking of coming for that, book camping early so you can have the while weekend here- we hadn't realised the chances of actually seeing the balloons go up were so slim because of weather conditions (I know, that's us being stupid!) You need the whole weekend as then it doesn't matter if it gets cancelled the first two days.. also book camping near to the fiesta site. Either Cotham Park RFC or Parsonage Farm (although you can't pre book that) All the motorhome clubs have rallies too but you need to ore book well in advance as it's very popular. Despite it being a free event you need to be staying local to avoid car parking charges as a) they are expensive and b) they'd sold out for Saturday and therefore people coming to Saturdays mass assent couldn't park unless they'd prebooked and it was a bit chaotic!

ould be go to the Balloon Fiesta again? Probably not- unless they announced more entertainment- particularly entertainment for when balloons can't go up! Without the balloons going up it was dull as dishwater (on Thursday) – perhaps Saturday is different. There was also a lack of balloon stalls- the stalls were literally just catering or their sponsors.

owever – we (especially me!!) are thrilled to have seen the mass assent- it really was a fantastic site to see!<

until next time (from Wales)<<

A weekend in sunny Suffolk <3

Ruby the Campervan has whisked us away for a little bit of a change of scenery for a couple of days. School is now officially out for Summer (hurrah!) but we can’t go too far afield as we’ve got a few days of private teaching and gigs, plus a holiday course to run before our main holibobs.

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Feeling totally drained having had to battle with not only end of term shenanigans, but also a flooded house (arghhh) we were so tired we couldn’t even decided on where to go! We ended up settling on the Suffolk coast for a night for some sea air and then a night in land, at the gateway to the broads at Beccles. Both locations were near to walks we’ve previously done before should we feel the need to be energetic.

Friday morning arrived, the sun was shining, so off we set, an hour down the road to Dunwich. Dunwich was once the capital of East Anglia and was the third biggest port in England back in Anglo Saxon times. Now, its home to less than 200 according to the 2011 census, because of coastal erosion, the entire village has gone! It’s a lovely wild, pebbly beach, and has a fab Adnams pub, not that we visited this time.

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We parked up in the huge beach carpark at Dunwich and set off on our walk towards Dunwich Heath, a huge National Trust heathland, that at this time of year is the most gorgeous shade of purple.

2017-07-21 12.48.54-2We thoroughly enjoyed the walk, and were surprised we had clocked up 5.5 miles by the time we got back to Ruby. The walk wanted us to carry on further up past Ruby, but we were shattered so grabbed a picnic blanket, our flasks, and had a relax on the beach for a while instead.

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We realised we were nodding off on the beach so moved Ruby the 15 mins dive to our base for the night- Eastridge Farm Camping and Caravan Club CL at Eastbridge (nr to Leiston). This was a basic site, at only £9 there was nothing other than a waste disposal, a tap and a very VERY basic loo. BUT- it was a huge field and was absolutely silent therefore, in our eyes it was perfect- the sun was shining so we got our stuff out, including sun loungers for the first time this year- and had 40 winks.

We got the opportunity to try out our new Milestone Camping Solar Shower – Black, 20 Litres“>Solar Shower that Dad gave us. We filled it at home and it sat on our dashboard whilst we were walking in Dunwich.

2017-07-21 15.06.48The water was really warm, and so we hung it on the sliding door and took it in turns to protect each others modesty whilst we had a quick rinse. We were really impressed with how it works. It has certainly opened the option of us being wild for more than two nights at a time now (perhaps only during summer though!)

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We had a lovely BBQ that evening, the sun shone brightly for us all night! Keith was in his element as he didn’t even have to get out his seat to get another cold beer thanks to his birthday present 12v Electric Coolbox 

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Around 9pm we decided to have a wander to the local pub, The Eel’s Foot, less than 5 mins walk- perfect. A great selection of Adnams beers and a lovely menu (handy for next time) Despite Eastridge being a tiny hamlet the pub was PACKED! Great to see.

We slept so heavily and had a big lay in, whilst the rain eased off, which it did around 9am. We had toast using my RidgeMonkey MK2 Standard Toaster ‘Black’ with FREE Utensil Kit and homemade jam before setting off towards Beccles. I’ve set a summer goal of doing as much Farm shop shopping/cooking as possible, and knew we’d pass at least one farm shop on our journey. We did- so we pulled in, where we had a splurge, and bought some local chicken breasts, local mushrooms, local scones, clotted cream and loads of local raspberries and apricots to make jam with when we are home. On our walk yesterday we had also picked up a courgette from someone’s roadside stall for 20p!

We arrived at our next campsite, Dove Cottage, (£11.50pn incl. electric and with shower) near to Beccles around midday. We picked this site due to it’s close proximity to Beccles, where we had a 7 mile walk in mind, but in reality, despite it being a glorious day, we both just fancied going straight to the campsite and relaxing for the afternoon! So thats what we did. I made us beef and cheese pannini’s in the Ridgemonkey, we had a little explore from the site then we just set our stall out and relaxed away!  Sometimes you just need to stop! The weather was amazing, and we actually got quite tanned 🙂 We dragged ourselves away from the sunbeds for a cream tea mid afternoon.

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Dinner was a delicious Chicken, mushroom and Courgette risotto and as it cooled off we moved inside and began our Cracker boxset. We enjoyed a very local cheeseboard with cheeses we had brought earlier from the farm shop.

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We had a fair amount of rain overnight but luckily it had cleared in time before breakfast. We were due to have a full English, but it turned into a bit of a disaster – first, the gas ran out on the hob in Ruby. So Keith got out our outside portable one. Then the gas on that ran out. So we changed that over. Then our sausages, which were from our local butchers, and are usually amazing, just would not cook! Put it this way, I was cooking them for 1 hour 20 mins and they were still raw inside. So they ended up in the bin, and we had a well done bacon, eggs, beans and mushrooms. This delay meant that the weather was beginning to take a turn for the worse, so rather than our planned 7 mile walk from Beccles we decided to do a much shorter river walk, which was lovely, and got home just as the rain started.

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We had such a lovely mini break, just what the doctor ordered thats for sure. So just a handful of working days left now before we are off for our main summer holidays to South Wales, via Edinburgh (!) for a night at the Tattoo and Bristol for the International Balloon Festival! So excited about both of these!

Links to our new on board gadgets below (click on the pics)

Until next time

Lx

 

A cheeky night away in Constable’s Country, Suffolk May 13th 2017

Ruby the campervan is parked up alongside 4 caravans on a very pleasant Camping and Caravan Certifed site, The Briar,  just south of Ipswich. The main draw for us to visit this area, is Alton Water, a man made reservoir complete with cycle path around the circumference. 


The Briar is a lovely grassy CL situated in the small village of Bentley, and offers EHU, a loo and emptying and filling points. It’s very relaxed and at only £15 for the night, and less than an hour’s drive for us it’s perfect location for a one nighter. The owners are lovely and made a point of coming to say hello once we were set up. They’d kindly let us arrive before lunch to enable us to enjoy an afternoon of cycling. They were fascinated with Ruby and were keen to have a nosey, as they are thinking about getting their own Ruby in the near future. 


We enjoyed a quick cheese and ham toastie before we unloaded the bikes and hit the road, less than 3 miles to Alton Water. The weather was cloudy, but not raining, and there were lots of families out and about around and on the water which was lovely to see. The track around Alton water was kept well and our bikes coped well – I was so impressed, despite some steep bits we managed to cycle non stop with no getting off and pushing! We stopped every now and again to find some geocaches and take some pictures, and didn’t rush, the circuit took about 2 hours to complete. There was a lovely wildflower meadow that we passed- It was lovely. 





We cycled back to the campsite, via the local strawberry seller (check out the size of those 🍓 and promptly had a longish nap! I love Ruby naps! Good for the soul! 

We’d decided we were going to be brave and risk an outdoor BBQ for dinner, despite the weather forecast being a bit so so, you can imagine our delight when just as Keefy sparked up, the weather gods took care of the lingering dull skies and the sunshine and warmth we’ve missed recently came out to say hello! It was glorious, we even took our jumpers off and had short sleeves! 


Keefy cooked a blinder of a feast for us; local burgers, pork and apple sausages and chicken, cooked to perfection on our new gas BBQ that we were gifted from May and Bernard, whilst I served couscous, coleslaw and jacket potatoes, which were an experiment done in the slow cooker, but they were fantastic! It really was a lovely evening, and as the sun went down we decided to have a walk to the local for a couple of pints which was really nice. 

Sunday dawned wet unfortunately, so we made the most of a lie in, partly as someone, ahem, had a little bit of a headache. A bottle of red wine followed by two pints of aspall will do that Lydia, when will I learn! By the time I was ready to surface the rain had gone, and so we cracked the bacon and eggs out and I was soon feeling 100% again. We also tried some toast (done in the toastie maker, worked well!) topped with John, the campsite owners Saville Marmalade, which was delicious.


 He caught us mid marmalade sampling as he came to check we’d had a nice evening and was thrilled we were enjoying the marmalade. He also wanted to tell us that having been in Ruby yesterday, his wife had dragged him to Marquis to view two yesterday afternoon!! We had another nice chat before packing up and waving goodbye. The sun had decided to reappear so we pointed Ruby’s wheels in the direction of National Trust Flatford Mill, 3 miles away. Flatford Mill is well known as being the view behind the painter John Constable’s paintings. 


It was a picture perfect day, so we enjoyed a 5 mile circular walk from Flatford through the Depdale Valley.   I can’t think of anywhere that is more English- with green meadows, a perfect river running through, rowing boats, ducks and ducklings, a tea shop, and 16th century buildings to peruse. 


We enjoyed a lovely cream tea overlooking the bridge and then a local ice cream before heading home feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead.
What a lovely bit of escapism- and now it’s less than two weeks til our next trip- one of our favourites, Scotland. 

Until next time 

Lx