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!

We 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

Monday
Today it 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!

Would 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.

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

Until next time (from Wales)
Lx

Twixmas 2016: Northumberland, Part 2

New Years Eve Continued 

We retraced our steps back towards Otterburn for a quick stop at the site of the Battle of Otterburn, where there was a picnic area and info board, along with a large stone from the battle.

Battle of Otterburn site
 The wind was absolutely savage so we didn’t stop for too long! We made our way back down the A68 and then made our way towards Kielder, a beautiful journey despite not being via the private forest drive (toll) as that is closed for winter. Our destination was Brit Stop number , a village pub right in the heart of Kielder Forest and Water park. We were intending on eating at the pub but with it being New Years Eve food service wasn’t offered all day, the menu looked good though! We opted for several drinks instead whilst getting to know the friendly barman (see below!)  and then a cosy night in the van accompanied by a fillet steak and bottle of Pape! Yum. 

Friendly barman, Charlie 🐾
Last supper of 2016 in our home on wheels


Sunday, New Year’s Day

New Years Day dawned bright yet chilly. A perfect day for a bike ride, so we dismantled the wheels and set off for a few miles on the Lakeside Way path, a wide, hard surface track that is 27 miles long around the circuit of the reservoir. We didn’t realise that Kielder Water is in fact the largest reservoir in Western Europe! We didn’t fancy over-exerting ourselves, we’d had a lazy morning already, so just went on a short circular which took us under the impressive Kielder Viaduct, then over it, and alongside the lake for a little way before turning round and returning via Kielder Castle. In actual fact it was only about 4 miles! 

Kielder Viaduct
The cycle path over the Viaduct
An old railway line over the Viaduct has been transformed into a decent cycle path which goes right around the water.

 I had a good play with my drone camera around the viaduct taking some amazing shots, and we also did some Geocaching too. 
Kielder Viaduct from the sky- taken on my Parrott Bebop Drone with full HD camera

It was a lovely day and the light was simply breathtaking, until the heavens opened as the sun set for the first time in 2017. Being New Years Day, food service in our Brit Stop was again disrupted, but they were happy for us to stay put for the evening and we returned the favour by enjoying a few pints of the local ale, which was very nice! 

Who says camping and caravanning means Beans on toast and Frey Bento pies..!

We had a New Year’s feast of Moules Marinade followed by chicken casserole for dinner in the van, and just as we finished eating we noticed a break in the pitter patter on our roof; the rain/sleet had stopped and a quick check through the sky light and bingo, the stars were out. Our main reason for visiting this area was the draw of the night time skies. Northumbria is a Dark Skies area, and Kielder actually has an observatory with telescope. Sadly the events at the observatory were all sold out for our trip however I’d been itching to get my new telescope out for play. Here was my chance. My highlight was viewing Vega- the star in which the film Contact receives extra terrestrial signals from.. cue some singing of that wonderful John Williams theme! 
We wandered up 100 yards or so to Kielder Castle and set up. The sky was phenomenal. We saw the Milky Way with our naked eye, and thousands of stars. Absultely breathtaking. Until a snowflake landed on my face. Then another. “Keith, did you just feel that” by the time he answered “Yes” we found ourselves in the middle of a snow storm! Northumbria, your weather is mental. 

Monday 2nd Jan

We had another quiet yet cold night’s sleep, the temperature dipped to -3c, but we were toasty inside. We both woke early, a little apprehensive that the snow shower we found ourselves in the middle of, may have settled, causing us problems getting out of Kielder. We needn’t have worried, although there was an awful lot of ice on the ground, the road out of the forest park was clear. The weather again was gorgeous, a perfect winters day.

Our Brit Stop pitch in Kielder

About 12 miles away from Kielder, we passed a large car park and viewing area for Kielder Dam. We pulled in for a leg stretch, and slip slided our way across the footpath across the dam. I also managed to get some more good drone shots despite poor Jazz’s protests, he’s not a fan of the flying camera!
Kielder Dam

Aerial shot of Kielder Dam- taken from my Parrott Bebop drone with HD camera

 The light was beautiful. After a cuppa and the last of my gingerbread house (Annie, it really is yummy!!) we hit the road once more- our destination was Hadrian’s Wall. 

Until next time 
Lx  

An Autumnal visit to Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire

The nights are drawing in and the leaves are turning golden brown. There is the faint smell of smoke lingering in the air and it feels acceptable to draw the curtains, get the Jim jams on and watch strictly back to back. Autumn is here and al out rolled into winter! I feel like I’ve blinked and lost 8 weeks- since returning from our epic Europe adventure, poor Bluebell the motorhome has been having a big rest in storage, whilst we have seemed to be non stop! I couldn’t believe it, 8 weeks since our last adventure in a motorhome, it was most certainly time to go and get Bluebell and hit the road for a few days to catch the last few days of this gorgeous autumn we are having.

Half term began for us at 7pm on Thursday, when we headed north in the car to Newark, where we dropped Jazz off for a weekend with my mum, then caught an early train up to Edinburgh- Keith had treated me to a weekend of non driving, and even so,asked out for first class- not that we will bother with that again, virgin east coast were diabolical and provided a disappointing start to my birthday weekend. We arrived in Edinburgh and had 3 great, booze fuelled nights staying with Simon, Keith’s cousin, in Leith. I set myself a target of trying every gin available in Scotland, and think I probably smashed it! A highlight was our visit to the Royal Britannia Yacht. Well worth a visit if you haven’t been, we loved it.


Monday, and my birthday, came and it was back on the train south to Newark to pick up Jazz and enjoy a birthday meal at Damon’s, famous for its ribs, in Lincoln with Mum and Alec. After a quick lunch with Dad on Tuesday it was back to Norfolk for a meal with friends Annie and Ash, before picking up Bluebell first thing Wednesday. We sure know how to cram things in!

Our destination was only an hour down the road, to Grafham Water, a reservoir near to Cambridge. We had booked onto the Caravan Club club site at Grafham- unusual for us, but given its close proximity to the water and not much other option we went for it, and actually we really enjoyed our stay. At £21.50 a night we thought it was good value for hard standing pitches serviced pitches. The site wasn’t as large as others we’d stayed on and the wardens not too overbearing. Phew. We also were hopeful that we would see Ollie the Owl whilst there, but sadly that wasn’t to be.

After a quick lunch and nap, we wandered the half a mile into the village over fields, visiting the community shop and also stopping at a house on Church Road who sold fresh trout, line caught from Grafham water. We got a massive fillet for £3!

We did several circuits of the site around dusk looking for Ollie, and even had a play on my drone, which was interesting as it highlighted how close we were to the water!


Next morning after a great sleep, I chucked some meat and veg into the slow cooker and Keith got the bikes ready. We were off on our bike ride around Grafham water by 10:30, promising to ourselves we would take it easy with lots of picture stops and even some geocaching.


The ride itself was great, a real mix of terrains, not too steep, but through woodland, waterside, across fields and even through a village, all off road.


If you’re into Geocaching, it’s a cacher’s paradise, I’ve never seen so many caches in one area. We managed 8- and didn’t even scrape the surface – as you can see! We were very lucky with the autumnal light, and we had a lovely day.

That night we tried to find Ollie the owl again,despite hearing him several times, didn’t catch a glimpse. Next time, and there definitely will be a next time.

On route home the next day we decided to have a stop at Wimpole National Trust site, where we were treated to another phenomenal dismay of Autumn leaves.


A Winter’s Escape to The Peak District – Twixmas and New Year, 2015-16 Part 1

Monday 28th Dec:
Bluebell the motorhome is all settled into our home for the next three nights, Topley Head CL site (Caravan Club, £10pn w/electric and hard standing), near Buxton, Derbyshire. We arrived here as the sun was setting but our whistle has been wet, and we are looking forward to daylight as the view looks promising!
We had an uneventful journey up to the Peak District, arriving at Eyam just in time for our turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich and sausage roll lunch to be devoured! The weather was dry albeit notably chillier than down in Norfolk, and we set off with Jazz for a wander around this fascinating village- a village in which during the summer of 1665, a parcel of damp cloth from London changed the course of its future, sadly carrying plague infested fleas which spread and went on to kill 260 people in just one small, sleepy village.
It’s such a pretty little place, right in the middle of a valley with hills surrounding and the typical white peak brickwork on all the houses. Most of the houses in the village have a plaque outside depicting who within those walls were killed. Some has as many as 9 family members who died in that one house – whole generations wiped out. Keith noticed that in many families the wife appeared to survive over the men and the children.
 
 and I found the road where I should live, Lydgate 🙂
What was amazing was that all of these properties are now inhabited and are looking very cosy. Bet there are some serious ghost stories told in the pub these days…
There is a national trust property here, Eyam Hall, that was unfortunately closed today, but we are going to try and come back later in the week.
A short drive from Eyam and we found our campsite for the the next 3 days. It’s right on the Monsal Trail, which we hope to cycle on tomorrow. The drive was through Millers Dale and reminded Keith of Lord of The Rings scenery!
We are surprisingly the only ones on this site – amazing as it’s hard standing with electric and only £10 a night! It’s across the road from Beech Croft Farm campsite where we stayed a couple of years ago, a lovely site, but twice the price and looking very full from what we could see from the road!
Tuesday 
Dawned a bright winters day, perfect for a bike ride, so we were up and out by 10am after a lovely brew and some brekkie whilst enjoying this view from our window.
The start of the Monsal trail was found just down the road from the campsite- walkers have access to a steep path at the end of the farm entrance down to the trail, but on the bikes, we opted for half a mile down the A6 to the Wyedale car park (it’s downhill meaning a rather steep incline on our return!)
 
The Monsal trail is an old industrial railway trail that goes from Wye Bridge to Bakewell covering a distance of about 8.5 miles. It cuts through some magnificent countryside, passing serveral interesting sites along the way, including Lime Kilns and mills, through several tunnels and over the impressive Monsal Head Viaduct. It’s a lovely way to spend a day- and it seemed like the whole world was too, it was packed! Nice to see lots of people out and about in the fresh air, but sometimes a challenge navigating around those who thinks its ok to walk 5 a side, leave their bikes mid track etc! Never rang my bell so many times in a day!
 
On arriving at Bakewell we assumed we would find bike parking, and spent a considerable amount of time trying and failing to find somewhere safe and unobstructive to leave them. Bakewell is such a pretty little town, home to the Bakewell pudding AND Bakewell tart, so it seemed rude not to buy two of each for a tasting later! Bakewell was even busier than the Monsal Trail, it was heaving!
We rejoined the Monsal trail and headed back to Bluebell, the return journey was hard work on our unfit legs, but we really enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. I was pleased that I remembered to pack my hip flask – getting back up that hill to the campsite was haaaarrrrrddd!
We’ve battened down the hatches as the wind is picking up and more rain in the name of Storm Frank is on the way, so we’re bracing ourselves for a blustery evening! We are warm and cozy though inside our home on wheels
Wednesday 
Storm Frank passed overnight and during today and although we didn’t get hit badly, in fact we both slept through it (!), a day out during high winds and thrashing down rain was unappealing to us, so it was declared as a motorhome duvet day, where we literally stayed in bed til lunchtime watching Shogun, ate the leftovers in the fridge up, watched crappy tele, watched more Shogun, I read a book, then we went back to bed! We very rarely do this, at home or away, but enjoyed the chill enormously, and felt very rested, which is what holidays are for aren’t they, so will probably try and do more of this on subsequent trips!
Until Next Time
Lx

October Half Term 2015 (and Lydia’s 30th) Part 3 

Wednesday

Bluebell the motorhome is on the edge, the waters edge that is, enjoying an enormous fully serviced pitch right on the lake at Waterloo Leisure site on the outskirts of Market Harborough.  

^ We ended up totally wasting the space on our pitch as we wanted to take advantage of the on pitch grey water drainage, therefore were restricted by the length of our grey water waste pipe! ^

It’s slightly more than we would usually like to pay for a site at £24.50 pn but it’s location being right on the Brampton Valley Way trail, that links Northampton to Market Harborough on an old railway path, made us bite the bullet and book it. If you’re into fishing you would love it here, our door literally opens onto a rather large fishing lake, and if we wanted to, we could have 2 rods as part of our nightly fee.
The pitch is absolutely gigantic for little ol’ Bluebell- but it’s hard standing base and grey water disposal/drinking water tap on pitch is proving to be beyond helpful considering the amount of rain we’ve had over night!


We arrived yesterday lunchtime and after finishing off the remains of the slow cooker beef casserole we enjoyed the night before, we got our walking boots on and walked about 3 miles along the old railway track towards Northampton.


We managed to take in a 400 Mt tunnel which was pitch black, apart from a shaft of light in the middle which presumably was a ventilation hole. I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of the tunnel, it was damp, pitch black, cold and really eery! Keith however loved it and he did a good job protecting me with the help of our iPhone torches!
  
  
Along the way there were loads of juicy sloe berries crying out to be picked ready for a mass slow gin making effort when we get home!

  
After a nice leg stretch we headed back to Bluebell in time for afternoon tea and a chance to finish of my birthday cake before having a chill and watching Shaun of the Dead on Keith’s Blu Ray player that we cart around everywhere and rarely use!

Wednesday dawned a wet one to say the least- although it really is lovely being tucked up nice and warm and DRY and hearing the rain hitting the motorhome roof. We decided to utilise the rainy morning by having an enormous lay in, which these days meant we lasted til around 09:30 before getting itchy feet! So I cooked us a spinach and mozzarella frittata and made a packed lunch, all the weather apps were telling us the rain would pass by 1pm. We were keen to get on the bikes as we wanted to get to nearby Foxton Locks. Around 11:30 there seemed to be a gap in the rain so we decided to don our wet weather attire and go for it, a good decision as it ended up stayed dry, with even the sunshine coming out as we arrived at Foxton.


We took the Brampton Valley Way trail to Market Harborough (around 1.5 miles) then picked up the Millenium mile cycle path along the riverside towards the Grand Union Canal on cycle route 6. We then cycled 6 miles alongside the canal on the towpath, ending up at Foxton Locks at around 1:30. The colours alongside the canal were breathtaking.


Foxton Locks are a set of 10 Grade II listed locks that form a staircase transporting canal boats up the valley.



 We enjoyed watching some boats travelling through the lock system, helped by the lock keepers and found the old boat lift fascinating. The old lock keepers cottages had been well restored into a tempting looking tea rooms, however we chose for a refreshment stop in the Foxton Locks Inn at the bottom of the staircase.  


 The above two pics are the old boat lift which was engineered in the early 1900s. It would carry boats up in a tank on water- each one carryed two boats and used a pulley system to pull the entire tank up or down the hill.

It was an easier journey back, and we opted to stay on the canal path right into the centre of Market Harborough into a Union Wharf.


  Annoyingly Keefy managed to get a puncture (he is so unlucky with his bikes!) – luckily this happened as we were coming into Market Harborough so we ended up walking the bikes the last couple of miles back getting back to Bluebell just as the sun was going down.

We enjoyed our stay on the Waterloo Leisure site- the only extra thing that we would have enjoyed was on pitch wifi – apparently the owners are working on this though.

Sadly our trip was over and it was time to head back home this morning (Thursday). We have had another fantastic break away, done some lovely cycles and walks and generally been pretty lucky with the weather. We are hoping we may get a cheeky weekend away before Christmas, but we are looking forward to our next adventure over New Year in the Peak District.

Until next time
Lx