Adventures in the South Downs; Part 2- Arundel Castle and Fishbourne Roman Palace

Tuesday arrived bright and sunny, just as the weather forecast predicted and after a delicious smoked haddock and poached eggs we packed away in the blistering heat and made our way the short way to Arundel Castle. We were extremely thankful for Gandalf’s air con!

On arrival at Arundel, we parked in the public car park opposite the castle which is large enough for the biggest of motorhomes, and made our way to the Castle entrance. First impressions were absolutely excellent- Arundel Castle looks like a fairytale castle when you scratch the surface, but delve a little deeper and you realise that it’s a mix of both Medieval and Victorian, with a medieval keep high on a motte and then these wonderful big ramparts and towers.

Inside the castle you can see a fair bit. We were particularly interested in the history of the seat of the Duke of Norfolk – as back in the 1600s in the next village to us, Kenninghall- the duke of Norfolk had a Manor House which got destroyed. There is a fair bit of history regarding this Manor House so when we get home we will set about trying to research this some more.

In the pictures above- the one in the bottom right hand corner is a beautiful decorative table made out of tiny mosaic segments. The library is exquisite.

Outside of the castle, the gardens are terrific; and the irises just looked superb. There is a lovely rose garden along with a water garden. We really enjoyed our time visiting!

After our visit we went for lunch at the Red Lion on the high street which was lovely.

We then moved on to our next location of this surprise trip for Keefy’s birthday. 30 mins beyond Arundel is Chichester- and our home for the next two nights was a very lovely C&MC certified called Fir Trees on the outskirts of Chichester.

We settled into our lovely pitch, this time with EHU , and had an hour or two basking in the sun on our inflatable chairs. The site is a huge grass (but very short grass) field -with impeccable chemical loo point, Keefy tells me!

We had a bbq for dinner – chicken kebabs and swordfish, before having a very early night. I was exhausted and my foot was still playing up!

Wednesday arrived and I broke the news to Keefy where we were going today; Fishbourne Roman Palace which was conveniently just 4 miles down the road and an easy cycle. We made our way onto the Salterns Way- a cycle route up to Chichester and down to West Wittering. We rode north past very pretty harbours and house boats and stopped for an early lunch at the amazingly beautiful Dell Quay. We felt like we were at the Mediterranean!

After lunch of crab burgers, we continued up to Fishbourne Roman Palace. We really enjoyed our visit. It was much bigger than Bignor- the size of this plot was huge and there were lots of mosaic to see. The layout of the visitors centre made it very easy to imagine the scale of the site here. They still don’t know who lived here but given it’s size we felt sure the emperor must have visited if not lived here.

From here we joined the aptly named Centurian Way, a disused railway route now turned into a traffic free cycle path. It gets its name from the Roman Road that it loosely follows and has some interesting sculptures not to mention terrific railway bridges along the way.

The Centurian way runs 6 miles each way from Chichester to West Dean.

We stopped a couple of times to pretend we were Roman drinking red wine from travel cups, before just as we turned back my bike broke! 🤦‍♀️ we’re not entirely sure how it happens but the cog that carries the chain bent at a 45 degree angle. Lucky for us we were near a pub which lent us a mallet and a screwdriver to get me back on the road home.

Had this not have happened, we were intending on following the Saltern way again all the back down to West Wittering, and I’d also hoped to visit Bosham, but we’ll have to save that for another time.

Dinner tonight was ribs, chilli and Mac n cheese – before a big chill. We are moving on again tomorrow and won’t be camping for the actually day of K’s bday. Whilst we both have had an AMAZING week, he has drawn the line at having to deal with chemical loos on his 50th bday. He has no idea where we are going to- but I’ve promised him he won’t have to drop his (or my!) plops 😂

Until next time

Lx

Adventures on The Trans Pennine Trail

Gandalf the VW is parked high up above the Trans Pennine Trail, overlooking Wogden Moor on the outskirts of Carlecotes, South Yorkshire.  Our home for the next three nights is Thurlmoor Farm, a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified Site.

We had a pleasant and easy journey ‘oooop north’ on Friday morning making one slight detour to pick up some supplies from the wonderful Hinchcliff’s Farm shop near Holmfirth. We had lots of fun shopping for local meats, cheeses, local gins and beers to see us through the May Bank Holiday weekend. This place is heaven for local food and drink lovers like ourselves, and we could have easily bought EVERY thing inside. The butchers and deli counters were immense, and the local gins were in abundant supply.

With our supplies purchased and packed away we made the 20 minute journey to the campsite, arriving around 3pm- just as the sun decided to take over from the showers we’d encounter throughout our journey.

The views from Thurlmoor Farm are wonderful. It is situated at 1100 feet and landscaped into two separate terraces. We were given a very friendly welcome by campsite owner Mandy and we were excited to be able to pitch up sideways. We took advantage of the room and set our the canopy as well as our trusty friend the tailgate awning – serving as our ensuite bathroom this weekend again! There are no facilities other than hook up, water and disposal at this site and as such the fee was very low at just £13 pn. The views were just great and we could see in the valley below us the Trans Pennine Trail – our reason for booking this site. 

Unfortunately – our neighbours ended up pitching their caravan very much on top of us. I’m not entirely sure it was their fault- pitches wernt marked and at the same time they arrived another van arrived the other side of them. We assumed someone would be coming the other side of us, otherwise we probably would have asked to moved to pitch number 1- which would have left a pitch between us. But as it happened no-one else arrived and the van the other side of our neighbours only stayed one night – so with perhaps a little more planning from the owners it could have been avoided. As it happens though our neighbours were fairly quiet – it just looks obscene on pictures given how much other space there was in the camping field! We were aware of them and I’m sure they were aware of us too. Hey ho – it could have been worse!

Zoom in to see the caravan next to Gandalf!

We had little wander down the local footpath, and a sundowner drink lower on the campsite, a natural slope made a perfect private terrace overlooking the sheep fields, before reheating a spag bol on the cadac for dinner on Friday night. Whilst it was bright and sunny, the wind was fresh, but we managed to cook and eat outside. We were very happy campers indeed! 

No walkable pubs from the site right now, so I came prepared with a little help from the farm shop we stopped at beforehand!

Saturday dawned bright and cool and after a full English with goodies from our farm shop haul, we hit the road on our bikes. We cycled 1.4 miles (very much downhill) to nearby Dunford Bridge, which is where we picked up the Trans Pennine Trail. The Trans Pennine Trail is a mainly traffic free Recreational route which spans from Southport on the West Coast to Hornsea on the East Coast. It’s a staggering 215 miles long, runs mainly traffic free and largely follows the route of old railway lines, canals and riversides. The section that we were tackling this weekend ran from Dunford Bridge to Thurgoland – a distance of around 10 miles, all off road, all level* and all very scenic and lovely. It is worth noting that there is a car park at Dunford Bridge if you don’t fancy the ascent back up to the campsite. The reason we had been drawn to this section in particular was the impressive Thurgoland Tunnels, which we’d seen on a tv programme a while back.

We easily settled in to the ride from Dunford Bridge – the route very obviously following an old disused railway like, with steep gauges either side at times, and many original railway bridges to pass under.

We passed by Penistone and soon we arrived at our main feature, the Thurgoland Tunnel; a double bored disused railway tunnel that is 282 metres in length. It has a distinct 4000 foot radius curve which gives it unique 20+ second echo inside. Acoustically its really REALLY cool, and we loved messing around inside making sounds and clapping, listening to the long acoustic reverberating echoes. I wished I had taken my sax! Although it is double bore – one of the tunnels has been blocked in, so now you can only access one of the two tunnels.

See video of our experience in the tunnel… 

About a mile or two on from the tunnel, we grabbed a pint at the Bridge Inn, before retracing our route back to the campsite. *The return route was harder by far. We thought we were unfit perhaps – this was our first cycle out for months. As the miles dragged on we became more and worried about the big hill back to the campsite! When we got back, my tracker revealed that actually we had done 10 miles downhill and 10 miles up. No wonder we struggled – but the beauty of tramline engineering is that these gradients are disguised very well and whilst they are gradual, we definitely noticed this one. Thats our excuse for our struggle anyway!!

A refreshment stop at Penistone* gave us that last push we needed and although it was a much slower return, we made it up that hill and back to the campsite by 4pm. We loved the route and were proud to have totted up 20.6 miles. You can see our route video below.

*There is a terrific taproom and brewery in Penistone where we picked up some lovely locally made lager.

It’s worth mentioning, you can still access this spectacular tunnel if you don’t cycle. There is a bus stop immediately outside the campsite which takes/ brings you back to Thurgoland on the number 29 bus every day except Sunday /and bank hol- Timetable here. You could walk 10 miles along the TPT and bus back, or you could bus there and bus back. Either way you do it, if you have an interest in railway history, cool places etc etc, its worth a visit and this site is one of the closest you’ll get to the Thurgoland Tunnel. 

After showers in the awning, we settled into Gandalf for the evening, enjoying a delicious Barnsley chop dinner (Fillet Steak for Keefy) before a relatively early night. Barnsley Chop in Barnsley…. my month is made already! 

Sunday arrived and we had a slightly lazier start to the day. The weather was still clear, despite being a bit blowy and fresh, and after a scrambled egg breakfast we donned our walking boots and walked to nearby Winscar Reservoir, then back down to the TPT at Dunford Bridge before returning to the site along (or rather up!) a farm land footpath. The reservoir was worth seeing, we enjoyed watching some of the boats from the local sailing club and it was really nice to see so many families out and about. We also were serenaded by Lapwings which was lovely.

Are we nearly there yet?!

After our walk we enjoyed delicious baked Camembert, cooked in my Lakeland Remoska which I still use most days in the Campervan!

Later on we had a bbq for dinner in front of the fire pit – but my gosh it was cold! We couldn’t soak enough of the view up – we’ve really missed hills and high ground during lockdown. Luckily with the terraced positioning of the site we were able to move inside and enjoy the view just as much in the warmth of Gandalf for our final night of this adventure.

All too soon it was time to pack up on Monday morning, but we made an early start and as such missed the horrific rain and wind on both packing up and arriving home. Bonus! We had hoped to make a stop at National Trust’s Wentworth Castle Gardens but the weather god’s had been kind enough during the weekend and our luck ran out on that front.

We really loved this site, and would not hesitate to recommend it to you all. It has no facilities at all, other than EHU and waste and water, and sadly there are no walkable pubs (although this may change if the local one – about a mile away reopens later this month).  But if you like peace and quiet, and nice views this one is for you. The bus route outside will take you to Sheffield in one direction (thats the way you need for Thurgoland) and Holmfirth in the other. Electric bikes would probably be an advantage here – these are the next thing on our shopping list. 

The Atera Strada bike rack had it’s first outing on Gandalf and worked a treat, as did our tailgate awning shower set up. We returned home from BH weekend refreshed and happy after a brilliant weekend away! 

Until Next Time 

Lx 

Adventures on the Weavers Way, Norfolk

Seeing as the weather forecast for this weekend was so good, we decided to jump into Ruby again for a cheeky night away on Saturday, two weekends away in a row – how lovely!

Our wheels we once again set towards North Norfolk, this time towards The Weavers Way at North Walsham. The Weavers Way is a 61 mile footpath – parts of which are disused railway lines – and it takes it name from the cloth industry that was once one of the areas major industries.

We were staying at another Caravan and Motorhome club CL site, this time with no facilities other than hook up, tap and disposal facilities. Old Bridge Farm is situated conveniently just off the Weavers Way- perfect for our weekend of walking and enjoying the weather.

After a quick lunch, which we enjoyed in the beautiful sunshine, we actually had a quick nap! Feeling much more rested, we don our boots and head towards Aylsham on the Weavers Way.

Less than a mile from the site we came across one of the most well preserved stations we’ve seen on these disused railways; Felmingham Station. Sadly it’s not in use- it would make a wonderful cafe.

The banks along the Weavers Way are steep in places and full of pretty butterflies. We really enjoyed our 3.5 miles stroll to Aylsham before doing an about turn and making our way back to Ruby.

Once again, Keefy found an appropriate blind spot to take a shower, although the wind was a bit fresher than last week so it was a bit cooler.

We sat for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet before moving inside for dinner- that wind was very fresh!

Dinner was teriyaki salmon, noodles and stir fry. I used the Remoska to cook the salmon and it was delicious.

We ended up going to bed at 8.45pm – what party animals lol! And slept soundly until 7am. Must have needed that! These CLs are wonderfully quiet though – a real place to relax and unwind.

The sunrise was spectacular

As we had woken up so early, and the forecast for later in the day was rain, we got up early and went for a walk in the opposite direction, to North Walsham. It was just over a mile, so we walked about 2.4 miles in total. The light was wonderful.

We really enjoyed our time exploring the Weavers Way and highly recommend this campsite – it’s location and serenity were perfect and at just £12pn, we felt a real bargain.

On the way back we stopped for some local potatoes at a nearby farm and then at a farm shop for some leeks. Leek and potato for lunch!

Until next time

Lx

Adventures on the Marriott’s Way, Norfolk

It’s been a busy couple of weeks back at school, stress levels have been high and I was itching to get away for a night for a change of scenery. We’ve been meaning to revisit the Marriott’s Way, a disused railway line now turned into recreational track, that runs 26 miles from Aylsham to Norwich. Last time we visited we stayed about half a mile off the Marriotts Way, but whilst cycling along spied a quirky little Caravan and Motorhome club certified site (5 van site) in an old station situated right ON the Marriott’s Way. We made a mental note to revisit sometime – it’s only taken us 4 years!

More info about the Marriott’s Way can be found here

We got a last minute pitch at The Station, Attlebridge, and on Saturday morning left ours around 10am, arriving at the campsite at 11am – we’d checked that we could arrive early. This CL has a small toilet, hookup, tap and emptying facilities, so we decided to make use of the solar shower. What we love about CLs is the flexibility to park however we wish, rather than the more regimented club sites. We took advantage of this and parked side-wards on, and within 5 minutes we were enjoying a cuppa and admiring the view.

The Station Campsite is host to the former platform and station buildings and has lovingly resorted signalling box and gates, and even a small stretch of railway line. It’s ever so quirky and it’s big grassy paddock is perfect for a small quiet campsite.

After lunch, we put our best foot forward, this time opting to walk the Marriotts Way.

We walked as far as the Whitwell and Reepham railway, where there is a museum and cafe/bar – a distance of around 4.5miles.

The trouble with walking the Marriotts Way is that it’s linear, so we retraced our steps back to the campsite, clocking up 9 miles in total. We absolutely loved it though – it’s flat and easy walking. There are some old bridges and railway banks to admire, and at this time of year the tree canopies are really pretty.

Back at the campsite and Keith found a blind spot at the back of Ruby for his solar shower, which had heated up nicely in the sun on the roof of Ruby! We enjoyed a couple of (non alcoholic as we are doing sober September) drinks in the late afternoon sunshine, before knocking up a delicious pasta carbonara with some left over gammon. It was great to be able to cook and eat outside- we do love Indian summers.

We sat outside until the last rays of lights dipped behind the trees, reading and keeping an eye out for owls. We heard two but didn’t see them- before turning in for a early night.

Sunday morning dawned as bright as the day before so we enjoyed breakfast al fresco before walking in the opposite direction towards Norwich.

We covered a further 3 miles reaching Drayton before turning back to Ruby and waving bye to our perfect spot to relax for the weekend.

This campsite is perfect location for the Marriotts Way and at just £14 was a bargain.

We may well be back sometime soon!

Until next time

Lx

May Half Term Part 1 | Adventures in the New Forest

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up in the heart of the glorious New Forest National Park having a rest after a helluva week! She’s transported us across Norfolk for hours of lessons, to Bedford for a massive gig, into Suffolk and Norwich for smaller gigs and to school on a Friday for a series of music concerts we’ve organised. That’s just this week!

Because of our music festival in school we couldn’t get away until lunchtime on Friday and we of course got caught up on the M25 which was basically a rolling car park resulting in what should have been a 3.5 hour journey turning into 6 hours. By the time we rolled into the Caravan and Motorhome New Forest Centenary site, we were bushed.

After a quick and friendly check in we were advised to drive round and pick our spot- it would be obvious which ones were free as anyone who wasn’t parked up and on a day trip would have left a pitch marker. Behind us we’re 4 other vans chomping at the bit to check in and grab their spots, and I must admit we were rather chuffed with the pitch in Typhoon that we pulled into. It overlooked the wildlife area and was lovely and private. I left Keith to get plugged in and start setting up whilst I walked back to reception to advise them of our pitch number as requested, at which point the wardens told me this pitch wasn’t available – I rang Keith to double check the number and that there wasn’t a pitch marker or something. Nope absolutely nothing. The chap had gone out and left nothing. Feeling fractious, I told him we were going to have to move, which baring in mind he’d already got the wind break up and the chair turned, went down like a lead balloon. This mood dipped even more as we then spent 15 minutes driving round trying to find the one remaining blue peg pitch on a 200+ pitch site- the poor wardens were desperate to tell us which ones were free but those who had come in behind us had yet to tell the reception where they had parked. We of course ended up on the worse pitch of the site crammed in on the corner with a caravan less than really close to the corner of our unit. By this point we were frazzled and in a pretty bad mood. £35 a night to be crammed on a corner for 4 nights. We cracked on with our set up, and managed to hash together a fish risotto for dinner. The warden came to see if we were ok, severely apologetic- I managed to contain my mood and so did Keith, it wasn’t their fault. The warden had come to tell us that the person on our “original pitch” was only there one night so we were very welcome to move tomorrow if we wanted to. We’d sleep on it.

Pitch number 1.

Saturday morning arrived and despite a very heavy sleep we were feeling a bit brighter but still a touch crotchety. This often happens when we are run down – it takes a few days to chill down. Keith suggested a walk up to our “original pitch” to make a decision about moving. We weren’t too keen – we’d set our stall out, and we weren’t sure we fancied the upheaval. As soon as we saw the old pitch vacant, it was a no brainier. We double checked at reception, chucked everything in and half an hour later we were feeling much better. Our new pitch was wonderful and our holiday could now begin.

Pitch number 2. Overlooking the wildlife area

After a lovely hearty full English breakfast using local bacon, sausage and eggs from the on site shop, and a nice chat with the warden who came to check if we were ok and to apologise again, we decided to unload the bikes and take ourselves down to the local village of Bransgore to stock up at the butchers for a bbq.

Bransgore village is nice and is home to 2 pubs, a butchers/country market/ co op and a charity shop. We brought lovely sausages, chicken kebabs, burgers and local cheese, before sampling a drink in each pub and making our way back to Ruby.

The rest of the afternoon was spent snoozing, getting sunburnt and then having a delicious meat fest of a bbq.

Project recharge was well underway.

Sunday

It wasn’t quite as intense sun this morning but we still made the most of the privacy on our pitch, by opening the tailgate around 7am and snoozing with the boot open, listening the bird song- it really was lovely.

After a bacon and egg cob, we made a pack lunch and got the bikes back out. Our route today was mainly off road, we used the minor road to get to Burley where we then picked up route 2, which happened to be a dismantled railway line; the Ringwood to Brockenhurst line. We had a pit stop at Holmsley Railway station cafe, as the name suggests the building and old platform is now turned into a licensed cafe.

We carried on on route 2 to Brockenhurst, stopping for a picnic surrounded by New Forest Ponies, before arriving in Brockenhurst.

Once in Brockenhurst, we quickly found the vineyards- it was time for another refreshment stop- we tried the local red wine which actually was very nice and smooth. The vineyards look like they are fairly young, so the red wasn’t too heavy, but tasty.

There is an impressive farm shop, garden centre and also a certified campsite here too.

Almost next door was the The Filly Inn and seeing as the rest of our route was off road, Keith talked me into a swift pint of Ringwoods Best Bitter. One for the road!

Our return journey retraced our steps back to Wooten Bridge on the old railway track, where we then took a cycle trail through Wooten Coppice Inclosure and then Holmsley Inclosure back to the site. It was a fabulous days cycling and we’re were surprised to see we’d done 20 miles! We’d really experienced some cracking New Forest views and tastes and although a little saddle sore, we’d thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Dinner was a simple roast chicken in the Remoska – simple because I’d forgotten the Yorkshire puds and gravy!

Bank Holiday Monday

After another great nights sleep, and a relaxing early morning bird watch from bed (we saw a woodpecker!) we had a simple scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast before tenderly getting on the bikes for today’s explore. We were following the Caravan and Motorhome Club site’s published route – down to the sea at Mudeford Quay. The route was mainly following route 2 and other than a short off road section at Christchurch, mainly followed small and very quiet lanes – we actually saw more cyclists than cars.

Mudeford Quay is a small, quaint and traditional seaside resort. There is a nice stretch of beach and a traditional fishmongers selling fresh fish and shellfish straight from the fishermen. A cosy inn with sea view beer garden and a cafe and small shop, alongside loads of fisherman equipment such as lobster pots etc. It’s very clearly a working Quay and we loved it. Keith immediately likened it to Amity Island in Jaws.

All along the promenade were families dangling crab lines and buckets, and not an amusement arcade in sight.

It was heaving – unsurprising considering it was bank holiday and not raining! Also the first ever Mudeford Quay Seafood Festival (free) was taking place.

On the way we’d been discussing whether to try for a fish bbq tonight- the final decision would be made if we could find some local fresh fish. As soon as we arrived we saw The Fish Stall – our dinner decision was made!

Over a pint we discussed what to buy – everything looked amaaaaazing, but we decided on Swordfish, tuna steaks and smoked haddock along with a portion of samphire. The fishmonger wrapped it in tons of ice, and we went for a wander around the seafood festival which may as well have been called “ Heaven”.

Numerous local seafood wagons lined the park, selling all sorts of tempting offerings such as squid, tuna wraps, whitebait, fish and chips, grilled prawns. Oh I could have had a portion of everything. They were interspersed with local drinks stalls – local lager, local Hampshire English fizz, ale, gin, vodka…. We were both in heaven.

We settled on a portion of salt and pepper squid which was splendid washed down with a local lager (I’ve forgotten the name!) and Hampshire English fizz for me. We also picked up some Cornish smoked Brie and a bottle of local Beachcomber gin. Yum.

I could have stayed there all day, but we had a 7.5 mile bike ride to get back and also a rucksack full of fresh fish. We also needed to stop at Sainsbury’s for a few bits before it shut at 4pm

We sadly waved goodbye to Mudeford Quay, thrilled that we’d stumbled upon this place all thanks to the Caravan and Motorhome club.

Keith managed remarkable well with the heaviest rucksack we’ve ever had. All that fish, a bottle of gin, a bottle of wine, a bottle of tonic, rice, cereal – I could barely lift the rucksack, let alone carry it for 7.5 miles! Jazz helped with sharing his bike basket but he wasn’t too amused!

When we arrived back at Ruby we had gained new neighbours. Unfortunately they’d not read the “camping etiquette” handbook and set their kids swing all literally 4 foot from our van. We discovered that the sound of a swingball game goes down as rather an annoying one when you’re trying to relax and listen to the birds. Nice of them to realise this and put it at the furthest point from their van/ closest to ours.

Despite this we enjoyed a phenomenal fish bbq, washed down with the local gin and a crisp bottle of white, and even when their kids decided to use the back of our pitch as a bike cut through, we could tell we were relaxing as after a discreet “please don’t do that” we were still rather chilled and happy.

Tuesday

Our four nights in the New Forest have come to an end- it was time to move onwards into the depths of Dorset.

We decided to leave the bed assembled and packed away everything on top. Before leaving the new forest I drove us up to the Rufus Stone; the site where King William II received a fatal wound in an hunting accident. Some theories suggest that it wasn’t an accident instead Sir William Tyrell murdered him in a disguised attach. Either way we will never know the truth but the stone is set in a rather picturesque area of the New Forest.

The weather was ok so we decided to have one last adventure before crossing the border into Dorset. We drove to nearby Fritham, to do a 4.5 mile walk which took in some lovely heathland scenery along with a fabulous stretch of forest.

We stopped for lunch on the site of a royal hunting lodge before looping back round and returning to Ruby.

We had a swift half in the 17th century charming thatched Royal Oak before heading off on our merry way to Dorset.

We’d thoroughly enjoyed our time at the C&MC Centenary club site despite it being a bit busy for our liking, and we’re looking forward to part 2 in Corfe Castle.

Until next time

Lx

A wander around Thetford Warren

We are so lucky to live in the area that we do. We’ve had so much to do this weekend that we were unable to get away; however after blitzing the to do list yesterday we decided to go for a nice walk and a cuppa tea somewhere local today, for a change of scenery.

Just 10 miles down the road lies Britain’s largest lowland pine forest, Thetford Forest.

We headed to Thetford Warren, a (free) English Heritage site that is a rare example of a rabbit Warrener’s lodge, a now lost local industry.

After a quick look at the building remains, we put our best foot forward and set off on the well signposted 4.5 mile Beech Trail. The trail takes you through woodland glades, along grass and sandy tracks, past tall pines, and Rhododendron Bushes (sadly we’ve missed their peak now). Occasionally the track is overlapped by another trail, some of which are bike trails

Nearby is High Lodge which is a hive of activity, with numerous walking and cycling trails along with a Go Ape. You can also get refreshments from the cafe there. Our trail, the Beech trail didn’t go as far as High Lodge but at one point we were very close to the car park (payable)

Parking at Thetford Warren is free though and far enough off the main road to enjoy a peaceful cuppa and cake in Ruby after our walk.

We really enjoyed our walk and will definitely return for a similar day sometime soon. Isn’t it amazing how a walk and a cuppa in the Campervan makes you feel like you’ve had a mini break, even if you’re only 15 mins from home!

If you’re not local enough to enjoy Thetford Forest as a day trip, we’ve heard the following campsites are really good and very local:

Puddledock Farm 9 miles/ 15 mins

Dower House 11 miles/ 18 mins (this is on the outskirts of our village!)

Other things to do in the area:

National Trust Oxborough Hall

Lyndford Stag Walks

Knettishall Heath Walks

English Whiskey Distillery Tours

Where do you like popping to for a local walk/change of scenery? We’d love to hear so comment below.

Also if you find yourself in this neck of the woods, let us know

Until next time

Lx

Our Top 10 Campsites for Cyclists

Did you know that the 9th -17th June is Bike Week? Nope, neither did I! For us, bike week’s tend to be when we are away in Ruby the VW Campervan, (previously Bluebell the Motorhome). In fact one of the very first gadgets we brought for Ruby when we bought her last year was a towbar and an Atera Strada DL3 Bike Rack, a phenomenal piece of kit, which usually attracts a lot of attention onsite as Keith effortlessly tilts the rack (with bikes on) back several times a day to enable us to get into the tailgate boot.

For us when we go camping, we like to pitch up and not have to move the van for the duration. We use the bikes to get us to and from the local town or city for supplies and a look around. We also LOVE cycling on converted disused railway lines, now made into bridleways, or canal towpaths – traffic free routes are so relaxing and enjoyable, that now we actually base our holidays on where there are traffic free cycle routes to enjoy.

To celebrate Bike Week, and to accompany my recent “Top 10 Campsites for Walkers” blog post, I thought I’d share with you our favourite campsites that have direct or very close access to Cycle Routes in the UK.

  1. Caravan and Motorhome Club, Lady Margaret’s Park Club Site, Chirk for the Llangollen Canal Towpath and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. 9 Miles each way

We actually only recently discovered this gem of a club site, however the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct has been on our list of places to visit for a long time now. The site is conveniently located to access the canal and is about 3 miles cycle to the UK’s longest and highest aqueduct. You can carry on to Llangollen for an extra 4 miles. The canal path itself is breathtaking. It’s a popular route but one worth doing. In the opposite direction from the site you can cycle (or push your bike rather!) though the impressive Chirk Tunnel.

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2. Devizes Camping and Caravan Club Site for the Kennet and Avon Canal Path and Caen Hill flight of locks and Devizes in one direction and Bradford on Avon in the other.

This campsite is open all year round, in fact we visited in winter and enjoyed a crisp winters day cycle. The route to Caen Hill Locks is only about 3 miles, and pretty good surface. The locks are fascinating to see and there is a lovely tea room at the top.

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3. Beech Croft Farm for the Monsal Trail 8.5 miles each way

We’ve developed quite a liking for cycling old railway paths – largely because they tend to be flat, or have a very gentle incline, which makes for happy cycling. There are quite a few to choose from in The Peak District, but we think we like The Monsal Trail the best as it links two interesting and pretty market towns, Buxton and Bakewell (which of course is home to the famous Bakewell Pie. The Monsal Trail also has some beautiful scenery and some impressive tunnels which you can cycle through.

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4. Heath Farm CL Norfolk for the Bure Valley Way 9 Miles each way

This is one of our local ones and if you time your ride well you will be lucky enough to experience a steam engine or five choo choo past you, as this line still runs providing leisure rides mainly at the weekends. Our favourite bit is the approach to the very pretty waterside town of Wroxham where you can pick up some delicious fish and chips and enjoy them overlooking the broads.

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and whilst you are in this neck of the woods, just 5 miles away is

5. Breck Farm or Attlebridge Station CL  for the Marriots Way 26 Miles each way

Breck Farm is a fabulous little campsite with a lovely sunset, and although we haven’t stayed at Attlebridge Station CL its on our list for this year as it looks superb. The converted station has been done amazingly well. The Marriotts Way links Norwich with Ayslham, so it’s possible to cycle for a day trip to Norwich from here. There is a fabulous railway museum and cafe just down the road too. The position of both sites is right in the middle of the Marriots Way so it’s perfect to break into two 13 mile each way days.

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6. Canterbury Park and Ride Motorhome Stopover for The Crab and Winkle Way 7 Miles each way

First of all, a huge well done to Canterbury Council for having the business sense to allow motorhomes to park overnight in their park and ride facility for a small charge! We really enjoyed our couple of days in Canterbury, a highlight of which was our bike ride on the Crab and Winkle Way – an off road paved track all the way to the seaside town of Whistable. If you’re an oyster lover – this is a heavenly place to have your lunch!

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7. Armley Lodge CL for Rutland Water  17 Miles circular

Rutland Water is a large man made resevoir in the East Midlands. It’s used for watersports, cycling, walking and is a hive of activity year round. You can either hire bikes there or take your own, and the paths are a mixture of Tarmac and loose sand/stone so hybrid or mountain bikes are best.

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8. Grafham Water Camping and Caravan Club Site for Grafham Water 10 miles circular

Along with Alton Water (below) this is another Anglian Water reservoir/water park. There are 10 miles of offroad track and the campsite is lovely too. If you re into Geocaching there are also loads and loads to find on this trail. Grafham water is also used for trout fishing and we had some wonderful local trout that we brought from a house down the road from the campsite.

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9. The Brair Campsite for Alton Water 8 miles circular

The Briar is a lovely little C&CC club site just 3 miles on a very quiet road from Alton Water. There is also a lovely pick your own fruit farm in the same village and the owner makes some wonderful marmalade which he sells. Alton Water was an enjoyable cycle and you pass a wonderful wild flower field on the way round. Just lovely.

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10.  Glen Nevis Campsite, Fort William for Neptune’s Staircase and The Great Glen Way on the Caledonian Canal  Up to 72 miles linear, but we did about 8 miles each way.

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It’s taken us about 5 trips to Scotland before we actually used our bikes! When we think of Scotland, we think of huge mountain ranges and none bike friendly (well for us anyway!) hills. It took at least 5 trips through Fort William before we stopped at Neptunes Staircase and realised that actually there was a really beautiful canal towpath we could follow (which was obviously.. flat!) The campsite is nestled right under Ben Nevis by the way – so you could attempt to climb it whilst staying there.

 

 

As you can see, where we take our doggie with us on all these trips and he sure doesn’t half get some attention on the way. Many people stop us and ask where we got our dog basket from. It’s from Amazon (link below) and as you can see, he loves it!

Dog Basket

We are aware there are hundreds of other enjoyable off road cycle trails. We use this book to plot and inspire us,

We are always on the look out for new sites/cycle combinations, so where is your favourite? Let us know – our list is always growing!

Until Next Time

Lx

 

 

 

A Cheeky escape to Chirk; May Bank Holiday 2018

Friday 4th May

Ruby the VW Campervan is nestled amongst 4 other motorhomes beside the Oxford Canal in Warwickshire. We are at Britstop number 427/18 and for the first time ever, we are sharing our Britstop location with other vans! In 6 years of using Britstops, we’ve never encountered other vans!

This weekend’s mini escape has been a little topsy turvy to say the least. We were supposed to be going to see Tears for Fears tomorrow in Birmingham, which meant bank holiday camping plans were difficult. Then, Keith popped onto Arena Birmingham’s website 2 days ago to get parking directions when he noticed TfF wern’t listed this weekend. A little bit of digging and we discovered that the gig had been been cancelled. Thanks for letting us know.. not. Thank goodness I have a nosey OCD husband otherwise we definitely would have been non the wiser and would have turned up.

As soon as we found out the gig was off, before we even investigated rescheduling/refunds, the next step was to embrace the fabulous weather forecast, and our now completely empty diary and get ourselves onto a site somewhere for the weekend. All the forums/facebook pages I follow had been saying May bank Holiday had been fully booked all over the country for ages so my hopes were not high and I went to work extraordinarily hacked off to say the least.

Happily my husband is some sort of miracle worker and found us a site within an hour – vaguely in an area that we wanted to visit at some point this year, Chirk. Our preference was of course the Camping and Motorhome Club’s “Lady Margaret Park” in Chirk – it ticked all our boxes, we’d had several people recommend it and it had near enough direct access to the Llangollen Canal and it’s cycle route to Pontcysyllte aqueduct. Obviously it was fully booked already, but the warden told us to keep trying. During work on Thursday my email pinged with the email “Booking Confirmation – Lady Margaret Park” – Keefy had managed to get us on THE site we’d wanted. Woo!

I had work until 4pm Friday so we decided to break the 4 hour trip to North Wales with a popular Britstop half way. We phoned ahead, booked a table for dinner and off we tootled, sunglasses on feeling pretty chipper.

Britstop 427 offered a very warm welcome, the landlord liked the look of Ruby – and we enjoyed showing her off like proud parents, especially as we gave her a little makeover this week.

We had a beer on the canal side before heading inside for a delicious meal and crashing out early. It’s been a hell of a week!

Saturday

We had peaceful night tucked away in the pub car park, but were keen to get up and on, as we still had to get past Birmingham. We were just having a cuppa when much to our surprise we found ourselves with some guests..! See video……. 🤣🚒

It delayed our departure a touch, but was fascinating to watch Warwickshire Fire Servie carry out a drill. Ruby gained a few more admirers from the fire crew and we were treated to a serenade of Morning has Broken. One of the more surreal mornings we’ve had, thats for sure!

Our journey to Chirk was smooth – a highlight was spotting Ruby the VW’s twin!

After a quick stop at the local butcher’s in Chirk of course we rolled onto the club site at midday exactly. It took us a while to set up as it’s been some time since we’ve been out on site with all the dry weather gadgets but it was soon time to have lunch – steak and stilton wraps, before having a little wander into town.

We enjoyed our walk, which took in the Chirk aqueduct and viaduct – which are positioned so close to each other that from a distance it looks like they are double decker.

We wandered across the aqueduct back into England and found my dream house.

We then picked up a couple of bits that’d we’d forgotten from shop before walking through Chirk tunnel – an amazing piece of engineering – a canal tunnel that is almost 500m long – so long that you can barely see the end of it!

It’s very cool – boats can only go through single file and have to have their light on so people know they are coming. We watched boat go through alongside us, and then some canooists we waiting to go through next. I quite fancy a go at that myself.

Back at the site – it was glorious weather so we tried out these self inflating sofabeds that we got off Dad and Jen for Xmas. I say self inflating – what I actually mean is “self inflating if you run around in circles wafting your arms around looking like a complete tool!” Our next door neighbour actually took pity on me and came to ask if I wanted to borrow his air pump – then looked mighty confused when I say thanks but this is actually how you’re supposed to do it! Once inflated though my goodness, they are comfy – it’s like you’re floating on a hammock!

We had a delicious bbq for tea which featured some welsh dragon sausages and welsh lamb leg steaks from the butchers down the road, before we both crashed out again at 9pm!

Sunday

Another day of sunshine was forecasted for today – we could hardly believe our luck! After a tea in bed watching the rabbits behind us, we got on with breakfast – a full English on our outside gas ring. I love cooking al fresco- and is there anything greater than walking through a campsite on a sunday morning with all those AMAZING smells tickling your nostrils. No, I don’t think so either!

Whilst I got on with breakfast, Keith prepared the bikes and by 10.30 we were off on our way. We joined the canal tow path just by Chirk Station – and the first bit towards Pontcysyllte aqueduct is especially beautiful – steep banks either side, lush green trees and banks upon banks of bluebells and wild garlic. Just wonderful.

In actual fact – the whole cycle all the way to Llangollen (9 miles each way linear) was just breathtaking. It has absolutely worked its way to our (imaginary for now) list of top cycle routes in the UK.

The main feature of course is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the UK’s longest and highest aqueduct, which has now received World Heritage Site status. As such it is absolutely heaving with people, on the tow path on bikes and foot, and on the canal in canalboats and canoes; but who can blame them.

We just loved it there. We walked our bikes across the aqueduct, then carried on the canal towards Llangollen (you have to go over the bridge, cross the road and then take the new tow path). This stretch was another breathtaking sections, and the 4.5 miles to Llangollen just flew by.

At Llangollen you have the option to take a boat trip on a horse drawn barge. We didn’t fancy the trip but enjoyed watching the horse pull the barge – we’ve never seen this before.

We turned back round at this stage but you can carry on to Horseshoe Falls. After stopping for an ice-cream at the sweetie barge and a quick purchase of some souvenirs (some of you reading this will know we are suckers for souvenirs 😜) we soon found ourselves back at Ruby – exhausted but completely overwhelmed by the scenery.

After a chill on the inflatables (and causing amusement to yet more campers on the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site!) we cooked fajitas for dinner and had a little evening stroll down across the border back into England, to the Bridge Inn for a swift one whilst watching the sunset, before bed.

What a cracking day. You can view our Llangollen Canal cycle video highlights here.

Monday

Monday dawned way too quickly – we were having far too much of a good time to have to pack up and start spinning Ruby’s wheels back home! Luckily we were both feeling it, so after packing up, we drove the mile down the road to Chirk Castle National Trust in a hope to procrastinate!

Arriving early worked in our favour – I bagged a prime seat within the castle courtyard at the cafe in the sun and read my kindle whilst Keith went inside then we swapped (Jazz obviously wasn’t allowed in and it was WAY too hot to leave him in Ruby so we were tag teaming!)

We had to do the same for the formal gardens and woodland unfortunately as dogs weren’t allowed in there either – only the estate grounds for the furry ones. I assume this is because of the actions of selfish dog owners in the past leaving their poop.

The gardens were lovely, but I don’t think either of us enjoyed visiting them without each other. Especially seeing all the families and couples enjoying picnics etc. 🙁 But if you don’t have a dog – I’m sure you would just love it there!

All too soon, it was time to hit the road – we couldn’t put off the impending bank holiday journey home any longer. Luck was once again on our sides though it seemed as we got home in 4 hours exactly  with no traffic jams. Unlike the poor folk who were queuing to get out Norfolk on the A11 – we hit no traffic problems whatsoever.

Lady Margaret C&MC site – you have won us over and we will most definitely return. How’s next weekend?! Joke. 😞

If you haven’t yet visited this area and enjoy off road easy cycling, this is a must for you.

Until next time, which is departing in just over 2 weeks, eek and is one of our favourite trips of the year – our annual pilgrimage to Bonny Scotland. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Lx

February Half Term 2018; Wiltshire and Dorset. Part 1

Saturday

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up by the Kennet and Avon Canal on the outskirts of Devizes, Wiltshire. We set off from Norfolk at around 09:00 this morning and had a fairly smooth journey despite atrocious weather!

We made a stop at the National Trust location of Lacock Abbey and Village, which is about 6 miles from Devizes.

Lacock is beautiful traditional Quintessentially English Village, which houses the impressive Lacock Abbey- once a Nunnery but then sold on to the Tarbet family, and of course Henry Fox Tarbert who took the very first photographic negative from inside.