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

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

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

 

  

  

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

 

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

   

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

  

  

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

  

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

   

      

 

  

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

 

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

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

Until Next time 

Lx 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

  

  

  

Jazz even managed a trip up the windmill!

   

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

   

   

 

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

 

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

 

  

 

  

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

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

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

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

   

  

 

  

  

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

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

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

   

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

 

 

Until next time

Lx 

  

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

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

  

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

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

  

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

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

 

^Reculver Towers as seen from Herne Bay  

  

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

        

     ^Herne Bay

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

     

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

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

  

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

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

  

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

^The Guildhall 

 

^Dragon Hall 

   

     

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

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

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

 

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

 

Until next time 

Lx  

February half term 2015; An overdue escape to Oxfordshire

Monday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on a lovely little certified location (5 van Caravan Club site) just on the outskirts of Oxford, at Kidlington.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/search/+the+moors,+kidlington/@51.8307518,-1.2983899,17z

We arrived after a rather uneventful but a bit longer than anticipated journey west. We hit several batches of roadworks on our way and the weather was horrific!

The certified location was easy to find, and is in quite a residential area. There are 5 well spaced out pitches surrounded, surprising given its location, by fields. There are electric points on each pitch and a water point and Elsan point and we feel it’s excellent value at just £11 pn. There is even a handy coop store almost opposite the site!

Given the terrible weather we decided to abandon our planned bike ride, instead deciding to take advantage of a short rest bite from the rain and found the Oxford canal tow path, which is just a few hundred yards way from the site, for a little wander.

IMG_1038

IMG_1039

IMG_1033

IMG_1037

IMG_1032

Soon the rain came back, so we hot footed it back to the warmth and dryness of Bluebell, where we enjoyed a relax and an early night!

Tuesday
We woke up this morning to a totally different weather front- blue skies and sunshine, so we were up bright and early to take full advantage! We’d planned to catch the bus into Oxford (bus stop at end of road) but given we were unable to do our planned tow path bike ride yesterday, decided to encorporate this with our day trip into Oxford, taking advantage of the Oxford Canal towpath from The Plough Inn at Wovercote into the city centre. We used the excellent cycle network to navigate our way mainly off road from Kidlington to the Plough where we then picked up the towpath for 4 miles into the city centre.

IMG_0947

IMG_0948

IMG_0950

IMG_0949

IMG_0954
^this last picture shows a section of the canal path that runs between two different canals- the Oxford canal to the left of the towpath and the Thames canal to the right!^

Oxford is extremely bike friendly and so we easily found a safe place to park up the bikes for the day, whilst we explored the city by foot. The weather was fabulous, picture perfect blue skies with a slight chill in the air- a perfect day to explore the city. First stop was the Tourist information centre, where we were able to get a map of the city which included a suggested self guided walking tour to take in the sights. It was an excellent way to see the city- and at £1.50 for the brochure worked out much cheaper than the guided tour (£9 pp)

IMG_0961

IMG_0959

IMG_0958

IMG_0966

IMG_0969

IMG_0965

IMG_0972

IMG_0963

It’s thirsty work this cycling and walking malarkey, and it wasn’t too long into our exhibition that Keith sniffed out one of his favourite types of establishments- a historical public house! The Turf Tavern is found close to the Bridge of Sighs, and is really very cool. It’s built right into the city walls, with 13th Century foundations and has a very impressive list of previous drinkers (see picture below)

IMG_0977

IMG_0974

IMG_0978

IMG_0981

IMG_0976

After a swift pint, it was time carry on our whistlestop tour, and next up was The University Quarter. We both found the architecture absolutely wonderful, and the lack of graffiti was really good to see- apparently Rome is terrible for this.

IMG_0984

IMG_0983

IMG_0985

IMG_0995

IMG_0987

IMG_0993

IMG_0990

IMG_0989

IMG_0992

IMG_0991

IMG_1003

IMG_1004

IMG_0999

IMG_1005

IMG_1006

IMG_0998

We were keen to check out The Eagle and Child pub, as allegedly it was where Tolkien and CS Lewis used to frequent to discuss their literature.

IMG_1007
It was a cosy kinda place, with lots of character, but sadly they wouldn’t let us in with the pooch, so it won’t be finding its way on my list of dog friendly pubs which I’m intending on writing at some point, and so after a quick nose in, we went on our merry way in search for somewhere we could go with the dog. 🙂

IMG_1008

IMG_1012
^ Jazz couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome in the Kings Arms, Oxford, where we enjoyed a burger and he got spoilt with plenty of fuss, dog biscuits and a big bowl of water.^

By this point, time was ticking on, so we decided to pick up our bikes and head back to the campsite- but first of all we nipped to see Oxford Castle, where we experienced a splendid marriage between old and new. The main tower is partly ruined from the Norman period, and the moat is still visible as is the motte. The Bailey courtyard was turned into a prison in the 14th century and only closed in 1996, when it, along with the courtyard, was redeveloped into a hotel and “Castle Quarters” containing fancy restaurants and such.

IMG_1013

IMG_1016

IMG_1020

IMG_1021

IMG_1022

IMG_1018

We decided to use the sustains cycle network to get us back to the campsite, and were very impressed with the cycle network signs and route even though by the time we got back to the campsite we had clocked up 18 miles on the bikes, and 5.5 miles on foot- leaving us both feeling like this:

IMG_1028

Wednesday
The nice weather was set to continue for another day, so we had an early start and drove to Ufffington White Horse, where we had a wonderful 9.5 mile walk that took in the White Horse, Uffington Castle, The Ridgeway, Wayland Smithy, and The Ashdown Estate. The views round the entire walk were truly spectacular!

IMG_1061

IMG_1066
^standing above the White horse looking down^

IMG_1067

IMG_1068

IMG_1069
^Uffington Castle site- on the summit of White Horse Hill and the site of a large Iron Age fort^

IMG_1073
^ a large section of the walk was on the Ridgeway- an ancient route between Dorset and The Wash, described as one of the oldest road in Europe^

IMG_1074

IMG_1078

IMG_1077

IMG_1076
^Wayland’s Smithy- a Neolithic chambered long barrow, believed to have been the home of Saxon smith-God Wayland^

IMG_1081

IMG_1084

IMG_1083
^Ashdown House Estate^

IMG_1085

IMG_1092

IMG_1091
^Red Kites flying overhead on Weathercock Hill and the view from Weathercock hill to the house^

After an exhausting but completely fabulous walk, we headed the 20 mins or so to our next campsite, one just outside of Wantage, another CC CL – not as nice as the first one, but still for £12 pn with electric and water, we didn’t care- we soon settled in and even managed to pick up a BT Fon hotspot.

Thursday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up back at home – sadly we had to return a day early due to having some work business to sort out, but also the weather gods turned against us, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. We did however get chance to cycle the 16 miles of the Phoenix trail, a disused railway line turned cycle path running between Thame and Princes Risborough. We made a very early start in an attempt to avoid the bad weather heading our way, and got 3/4 of the way before it kicked in. The wind picked up so much it nearly blew me off my bike, and the rain started lashing down, but still, we continued and enjoyed the ride nonetheless.
There are some interesting sculptures along the way, and lots of red kites flying above. There is a beautiful railway house/station conversion half way along, and the last section before Princes Risborough  offers some lovely views across the fields. Sadly, the weather deteriorated so I didn’t get as many pictures as I’d have liked, but here are those I did get…

IMG_1102

IMG_1109

IMG_1105

IMG_1111

IMG_1107

IMG_1116

IMG_1114

IMG_1112

IMG_1115

As you can probably make out – I was fairly chuffed to be back at the van – modelling my best drowned rat impression!

So there we have it, another trip done, and a long overdue one at that. We are sad to have had to come back a day early, but the weather looked terrible for this evening and tomorrow, and we’ve had a couple of work issues to come back home to. The joys of being self employed! Still, we’ve had a marvellous break and enjoyed some brill weather.

We travelled 350 miles in the motorhome from home to home again, and thats used exactly 1 tank of fuel at £65. We’ve cycled 36 miles, walked 15 miles and watched an entire series of X Files! We spent £36 on site fees and had a lovely meal out in Oxford. We’ve spend less than £150, and thats been for a 4 day break, so we are pretty happy with that!

Our next task is to start planning our Easter break, as we leave in 6 weeks time!

Sorry its been a lengthy post – until next time

Lx

Planning our February Half term Escape to Oxfordshire

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but thank goodness, we are finally able to start planning a little trip in our beloved Bluebell the Motorhome. A mixture of saving for our wedding and a ridiculous work schedule has meant that Bluebell hasn’t had quite so many outings last year as we would normally like, so to say we are looking forward to our next trip is a MASSIVE understatement!

We will be heading west towards Oxfordshire for February Half term so have spent a little while this afternoon getting the maps, the cycle books and the new addition to our planning tools, The Caravan Club site book, and having a little look to see what floats our boat. In true Keith and Lydia style, this initial look has turned into a “right, thats all booked then” and I’ve even got my nerd on by making a fancy spreadsheet itinerary!

Nothing like a bit of holiday spontaneity, eh?!

The truth of the matter is that due to gigs on both weekends of the holiday we can only get away for 4 nights, so we wanted to be especially organised so we don’t waste any of our precious time away with the dreaded “What do you want to do today” discussions! That and I really do enjoy making spreadsheet lists!

So we are hoping to have 5 blissful days of cycling and walking- I’ve found us an ex railway cycle path to enjoy, a canal side cycle path, a day out in Oxford and a couple of hopefully lovely walks. We’ve made the decision to join http://www.caravanclub.co.uk in order to hopefully enjoy some of their Certified Location Sites (5 vans or less). The reason for this is so that we can base ourselves at small site for a couple of nights every now and again so we can switch off and relax – the latter was something that we were struggling with a little at some Brit Stops due to all sorts of reasons. We are still HUGE fans of the Brit Stops scheme and will continue to use their hosts to enhance our time away when we can. 🙂

This is the route we are looking at following; we have booked ourselves onto two small sites for two nights at each, one near to Kidlington (£11pn) and one near to Wantage (£12n) both with electric. We aim to travel home via Thame on the Friday, stopping for a quick cycle down the Phoenix Trail – like you do.

Proposed route

So that’s about all for now, Bluebell the motorhome has her MOT booked in for Monday, so please keep your fingers crossed that she gets through with no problems to worry about.

Do you have any recommendations of places to see/visit etc in Oxfordshire? We’d love to hear from you if you have!

Until Next time,

Lx