Adventures in Suffolk – time to unwind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adventures IN Thame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday dawned sunny! Yes Sunny!

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

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

Apparently Jamiroquai lives opposite here!

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

Saturday soon arrived and our time was up. Before we left though, Keith spotted some enormous crayfish in the stream behind us. Having never seen these before (me and Keith anyway) they kept us amused for quite some time.

This one only had one claw, but if you click on the photo you can see it’s got a new claw growing back.

Dad had accidentally sent some of our bacon flying into the steam and they were enjoying it massively! We also had some other new friends on site- the free range chickens although Jazz wasn’t sure about these!

We’d had a wonderful couple of days and really enjoyed our time in Thame, despite our mind being blown that it wasn’t on The Thames.

Until next time

Adventures on the Thames

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked up a stones throw from the River Thames in Newbridge, a tiny hamlet consisting of 800 year old bridge, two pubs and a farm, who’s field we are camped on! We’re on Newbridge Farm, a C&MC CL, with no facilities other than a loo disposal, tap and bin. We’ve come for a last hurrah before we return to work next week, after a terrific summer of travel and adventures. The first part of this trip is a bit of a “working holiday” as we both attacked our return to work admin and time tabling for the term ahead. However, as all we needed for this was a phone, iPad and 4g, we decided a change of scenery out of our office window would be nice. Also there is something really liberating about being off hook up- it does something (positive) to our mind and so we’ve found the headspace here that we needed to crack on with admin.

The site itself is a medium sized field, with elson point, tap, and rubbish disposal and views over the fields. There is a footpath which takes you across a field to the Thames and the Thames Path, and not one but two pubs, and a very historical bridge.

There is some road noise, however it didn’t cause us too much of a problem, and at £6pn we just can’t complain at all! It’s packed as you can see…..!

As I said earlier, we just ADORE these off grid sites. It’s also really interesting to see how the solar panel copes as it’s very grey and cloudy- we seem to be stuck in a cloudy tunnel at the moment! (Update – it worked brilliantly! 2 nights off grid with very cloudy skies and we’re still sat at 12.5 v – really chuffed!)

We arrived here on Tuesday afternoon and settled down for some admin time before taking a dog walk to the local for a river view. We enjoyed a pint in the Rose Revived, a green king pub, and as the seasons have apparently shifted to autumn, it would have been rude not to try an Abbots Ale overlooking the bridge and river.

Newbridge, contrary to its name, is actually the oldest original crossing of the River Thames. It’s 800 years old and was built during the reign of King John. It’s a beautiful bridge.

After our pint at The Rose Revived we decided to inspect the bridge from the other side, this time taking a river front seat at The Maybush. Our luck was in as they had declared £1 a pint as they tried to clear some left over beer festival stock.

We returned to Gandalf, had a shower each in the awning and then made beef and potato curry for dinner. Delicious! Before settling down under fairy lights and reading our magazines.

Wednesday dawned grey again, never mind, we cracked on with our admin in the morning, and just before lunchtime went for a 3 mile linear walk from Newbridge towards the sea (which is 153 miles to the east)

In lockdown earlier this year, I spent a considerable amount of time planning a Thames Path adventure using Gandalf and campsites as our base each night. Sadly I got a foot injury and we had to postpone our walk. The Thames Path runs for 183 miles and runs from the source of the Thames just south of Cirencester where it’s just a spring and tiny stream, into the sea at the Thames Barrier. I really really want to walk this, so hope my injury improves for next year. In the meantime I’ll blog about my Thames Path plans separately sometime.

Today’s walk took in a very remote and pretty section of the The Thames. It’s hard to image this picture perfect rural river ending up running through the capital of England with high rises, Parliament etc on each bank.

After our walk we stopped for lunch at The Maybush -unfortunately the staff in The Rose Revived were extremely rude to us, but it was their loss. Plus, the Maybush still had £1 a pint!

As we’d had such a productive couple of days, we decided to treat ourselves to a trip on the Thames, by hiring an electric punt boat from a stall just by the Rose Revived – Oxford Punts. We spent an hour having the most relaxing time making four way towards the source of the Thames. [£25 for 1 hour on electric punt, £3 for dog] I was desperate to see either an otter or a kingfisher but it was not to be. This stretch of the Thames is so quiet and tranquil. Keith did a marvellous job driving the punt- much better than me! It was great to sail under the historic bridge too.

Following our adventure on the Thames we made our way back to Gandalf for a rather large chill. We attempted pizzas on the Cadac using our new pizza stone but they weren’t successful. We followed the instructions of putting the stone directly on the flame, but it soon became obvious that this was a misprint and infact we ended up with a burnt base. Never mind, next time we will know to follow our instincts rather than the instructions!

Thursday and it’s moving on day! Admin completed, we’re off for an adventure with my Dad and Step mum down the road. Stay tuned for updates!

Until next time

Lx

Adventures on the Moray Firth

Gandalf the VW is parked up with panoramic views of the Moray Firth ahead. Our home for next three nights is Sunny Brae; a C&MC CL on the outskirts of Findlochty. The site is small but very well positioned with all 5 hard standing pitches positioned to give privacy and a view. Once again we have no facilities other than EHU and a tap/emptying point- oh and some shaky WiFi, but at £12pn we can’t help but think this is one of the best priced CLs on the network.

We managed to get set up just before the rain fell, and we enjoyed watching a storm out at sea from the shelter of our sun canopy with a g&t.

We’re starting to feel quite tired – we’ve been on the road and on the go now for two full weeks (bar one night quick changeover) since the end of the school term, and whilst we’ve had a brilliant time, it comes at a cost of beginning to feel worn out!

Dinner tonight was homemade haggis, mushroom and spinach pizzas, made in the Remoska which were delicious and then we settled down for a quiet night of reading and watching Ozark (K).

Haggis Pizza Recipe in Remoska

Thursday

This morning dawned with beautiful blue skies. Seeing as it looks like our run of good weather may be changing tomorrow we decided to get up and on, in order to enjoy the best of the weather.

After a quick bacon sandwich and some household chores, we got on the bikes. Today’s adventure was cycling some of the Moray Coastal trail; a mostly off road cycle trail. We picked the trail up in Findlochty, just half a mile from our campsite and followed it to Cullen.

The first part was directly on the cliff top and as such had tremendous coastal views.

At Portknockie we opted for the Disused railway track- the coastline between there and Cullen looking more rugged and contouring on the map, and perhaps less suitable for our road E bikes. Plus we do enjoy disused railways tracks (and they tend to be level!)

Our approach into Cullen was spectacular, the weather gods were really on our side, and we enjoyed cycling over the impressive viaduct that dominates the skyline.

We headed up to the castle hill, a former motte and Bailey and enjoyed the views over the coast.

We then cycled back down to the village and onto the beach and harbour area, checking out the viaduct from ground level too.

We considered taking the coastal path back but in the end the Scottish Open being held on Cullen links prevented that so we happily retraced our steps back to Portknockie on the railway path, pausing for lunch at Bow Fiddle, a dramatic rock formation that resembles the upper part of the a violin bow.

We watched (and listened to – they’re noisy so and so’s!) the sea gulls and cormorants that nest here for some time, before making our way to Findlochty. We then continued in the opposite direction to Buckie- again this stretch of the coastal trail is disused railway with lovely views across the sea and a wonderful tarmac path.

At Buckie we picked up fresh fish from Eat Muir and then made our way back to the campsite, via the pub at Findlochty, where we enjoyed a drink overlooking the pretty harbour.

Once back at Gandalf we spent the afternoon enjoying the sunshine: if the weather forecast is to be believed this may be the last of the blue skies we see for some time!

Dinner tonight of course was… Cullen skink!

Delicious 😋

Friday

Well the weather forecast was correct for once and rain did indeed fall today! Lots of it! it actually didn’t bother us at all, as I’d mentioned earlier on this list we were beginning to feel exhausted -in a nice way – so we took the rain day as an opportunity to have a duvet day; something which we very VERY rarely do. We stayed in bed til 11:30, then got up and made a brunch cooked breakfast.

We then settled in to begin watching Breaking Bad, which we ended up watching for the remainder of the day, with a break in the middle for a game of monopoly and sweet and sour chicken dinner.

By dinner time the rain had stopped so we were able to cook under the canopy and we were even treated to a glimpse of blue sky.

After dinner, we went for a short leg stretch on the track behind the campsite, before retreating back to Gandalf to continue Breaking Bad .

Sometime I think we get a bit carried away on these trips and forget to give ourselves time to stop and catch our breath. We get so caught up in wanting to make the most of our time, and not wanting to miss anything in the new areas that we travel in, but we forget that our normal day to day life is exceptionally busy, and we’re mainly rushing around and working 12 hour days. At some point we just have to pause! This site has been the perfect place to draw breath as we’ve got wonderful sea views in the distance and it’s lovely and quiet.

We move on tomorrow for our last push north. We’ll definitely return here to cycle more of the Moray a coastal Route and also do a bit of coastal walking and the cliffs and contour gradients are not as dramatic as down south on the South West Coast, yet the views are just as dramatic. I’d also like to do the walk from Cullen to Findlater Castle and cycle to Portgordon and beyond.

Until next time

Lx

Adventures on the coast of Aberdeenshire

Gandalf the VW campervan is back on our favourite type of site, a Caravan and Motorhome club Certified location, on the outskirts of Gamrie Bay (Gardenstown) Aberdeenshire. The site, called Gamrie Bay CL is surrounded by beautiful wild flowers and it is OH SO QUIET which is quite honestly music to my ears, having had 3 nights on the noisy Mortonhall Caravan site on the Outskirts of Edinburgh.

The drive from Edinburgh was an easy 4 hour journey mainly along A90- although we didn’t hit any traffic the journey did seem to drag a bit! We made a stop at Morrison’s for provisions and also to pick up an Amazon delivery that we’d had made to an Amazon locker! We used our Amazon prime account to purchase a couple of new hats, selected deliver to locker, added our postcode of where we were local to; when the package was delivered we went to pick it up- scanned a code that had been emailed to us and the appropriate locker pinged open! What a time to be Alive!

Travelling through rural Aberdeenshire was pretty, mainly passing fields and fields of golden Barley. We’ve since learnt that the barley grown in Aberdeenshire accounts for a third of Scottish malting requirements.

Not my picture but this is what we passed, miles and miles of barley and I couldn’t help but sing Fields of Gold as we travelled towards our campsite

When we arrived at Gamrie Bay CL, we met the friendly owner Linda and were directed to our pitch, a hard standing fully serviced pitch, overlooking wild flowers and rolling countryside. At just £17pn this feels like a bargain, and we can’t wait to explore the local area on our bikes tomorrow. We’re about a mile or so to the closest harbour village, Gardenstown and something tells me the E bikes are going to be useful!

We had a big chill tonight. The weather is much cooler here so we sat inside Gandalf, and read and watched some episodes of Ozark (well Keefy did!)

I cooked us a lovely Scottish style Sunday dinner in the Remoska; Chicken Balmoral which is chicken stuffed with haggis wrapped in bacon served with roasted new potatoes and carrots and green beans. It was delicious and actually one of the first Sunday dinners cooked in this van by us.

We really love Gandalf so much, the living space is just perfect for us.

It’s really very peaceful here, have I mentioned that already?! We really do love these certified locations SO MUCH

Monday

It was a fresh night last night and we actually ended up plugging the heater in. As the weather was not so good we decided today to make use of the public bus service that runs between Gardenstown and Banff/Macduff. We walked into Gardenstown along the quiet road – about 1.5 miles- and the last mile downhill!

We had a mooch around the exceptionally pretty Gardenstown. It’s very small, very unspoilt and just adorable.

The small little residential roads weave down to the working harbour and the backdrop of steep hills is just dreamy.

You can actually overnight park at the beach car park for £10 if you wish, but we just adore this CL. The CDP (loo emptying) is the cleanest we’ve seen on a CL, it actually makes most club sites look dated and unkempt. The owners, both motorhomers clearly understand our needs and it’s just so enjoyable to stay here.

Back to Gardenstown- we enjoyed our mooch around and would have had a drink at the pub but it was closed so instead we enjoyed the views before catching the bus from the harbour to nearby harbour town Macduff. By doing it this way we avoided walking back up the very steep hill! The bus ran every 2 hours and the timetable could be found by typing into maps on my iPhone “Bus stops near me”. 2 adults were £7.50 pp each return and Jazz the dawg was free.

The journey to Macduff was pretty, with ample views of the sea and also barley fields and the occasional wild flower meadow.

Macduff was a hive of activity- we only went and stumbled on the cast of The Crown, including Imelda Staunton making her debut as the Queen. They were taking up the harbour by filming scenes for series 5.

Not my picture – taken from here

Whilst it made an enjoyable hour of so being nosey, it was a shame as we couldn’t get down to the harbour because of it, and that was the highlight of Macduff.

We did manage to buy some fresh fish from the fishmongers though and by mid afternoon the sun had reappeared.

We probably wouldn’t rush back to Macduff- it’s a very traditional working harbour but not as pretty compared to Gardenstown and not much to see (other than the harbour which we couldn’t access!) there are lots of shipyards here and the two pubs were a bit run down. But the fish was superb!

The bus brought us back to within half a mile of the campsite – and the appealing side of the hill! Where we settled back onto the campsite, sparked up the cadac and the fire pit for a fish supper. We enjoyed Scallops and tomato kebabs, fresh salmon and cod accompanied by samphire and vegetable rice. Delicious!!

We enjoyed an hour around the fire pit before retreating for an early night. All this fresh air is really wiping us!

Tuesday

This morning we were woken with shards of sunlight shining into Gandalf. The air was much warmer and it was great to see such blue skies, especially as our plan for today was a spot of cycling, exploring the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail. We stocked up on a full Scottish breakfast and hit the road.

Whilst we weren’t covering too greater mileage – it was only 4 miles to our furthest destination, the contours were close together and we knew to expect some serious hills, something which we don’t see on our Norfolk bike rides.

The journey to Pennan from the campsite was breathtaking, the road hugged the coastline and those fields of barley shone in the golden sunlight.

The final approach to Pennan saw us taking in a 17% hill descent before back up, then back down into Pennan, a beautiful unspoilt fishing village made famous in 1983 when the film Local Hero was released as many of the harbour scenes and external shots of the hotel and village scenes were filmed here.

We have visited before back in 2012 but it was joyous to return, it’s absolutely wonderful with its row of houses lined up along the Main Street, many with washing lines on the street – I imagine the sea breeze here dries their washing in no time at all. The pub was sadly closed but there was a coffee hut on the harbour. It is absolutely worth a detour here if you’re ever in close proximity.

It’s all very well coming sailing down the hill into Pennan with not a care in the world- getting back up to the main route is bloody awful – despite our E bikes, which proved helpful with their walking assist to push up the hill, I still nearly collapsed by the time we’d reached the main road. Just 3 more of those to navigate Lydia! 😱🥴

We stopped at the next village along, Crovie which absolutely blew our minds. It is absolutely stunning.

There is absolutely nothing there but don’t let that put you off a visit. Crovie is fairly unique in that it’s entirely vehicle free, because the ledge in which the single line of houses sit is so small no vehicles can pass through. Locals park in a car park on the edge of the village, and use wheelbarrows to transport their shopping etc whilst visitors are requested to park half way up and use the steps to descend into the village.

Because of this, and restrictions on development here, Crovie is one of the best preserved fishing villages in Europe. I honestly can’t remember feeling so at peace in anywhere else we’ve visited. Just wonderful!

Once again, we found ourselves high assisting our way back up out of the village for a good couple of miles, before then the gentle return to the campsite. We’d only rallied up 9 miles return but my gosh, they were tricky and most of all satisfying!

Dinner tonight was chilli con carne and a rewatch of Local Hero, at which point we realised that the pub, which we always have photographed as the hotel in the film, is not actually on the film! Major facepalm! So- as we wave goodbye to Gamrie Bay CL we shall be making a quick detour to rectify our film location tick list!

Gamrie Bay CL has been everything we hoped for and more. The facilities here (disposal facilities- there are no loos or shower blocks here) are the nicest we’ve ever encountered on a CL. The large hard standing fully serviced pitches are a joy to park on, far more level than many Club sites and the chemical loo point is just spotless and not grim, like sometimes CLs can be!

It is SO peaceful here, and we managed two full days of exploring without moving the van once. Obviously having a car or motorcycle would enhance your stay here even more, but even us, two relatively unfit adults managed just fine! It’s a wonderful area and one which we think is often overlooked.

Wednesday

The sun was shining for us as we packed away from Gamrie Bay, and so we made the short detour and retrace of our steps back to Pennan – this time in Gandalf, to try and find once and for all the property used as the hotel/bar and accountancy firm in Local Hero.

We succeeded!

And even better… we met the owner of the house on the end, who lived in that house during the filming in the 80s. We were both in our element as she very patiently answered all our questions regarding the filming and changes made to the properties etc. I think she was impressed we’d figured out her house was used as she mentioned how they laugh at the tourists who take pictures of the Inn, when they know they’re looking at the wrong place 🤭

So there we have it- we are officially super fans.