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