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.
Ruby the VW campervan is parked up on the beautiful and idyllic ‘Tumbleweed’; a Camping and Motorhome Club certified location situated 4 miles outside of Orford on the Suffolk coast.
We decided to avoid the club sites during the August holidays this year as even during the May half term they were packed and fairly noisy. We’ve been quite busy doing gigs and a handful of teaching since returning from our Canada and Alaska and fancied some peace and quiet. Tumbleweed (£14 pn) had a space free despite our fairly late booking and even better, it had a shower (£1 for a 10 minute shower) and toilet on site.
We arrived just before 1200 and instantly relaxed. The site, despite only hosting 5 vans, is a relatively large and beautifully landscaped site, nestled just to the side of the owners house. There are a couple of hard standing pitches and the rest are grass. We chose the pitch closest to the small stream that runs alongside the site.
We wasted no time in getting the bikes off the back of Ruby and pointing our wheels in the direction of Orford, just 4.5 miles away along a small quiet lane.
Seeing as we’d arrived at lunchtime, and the pubs on this this stretch of coast weirdly stop serving food at around 2.30 despite it being the height of summer, we decided to have our fish and chips lunch before our walk so we didn’t run the risk of missing out!
Orford is very famous for its Castle, a unique and fantastically preserved polygonal tower keep, which stands proudly above the small village and is seen for miles along the coast on a clear day. It’s looked after now by English Heritage and worth a visit. We visited a few years ago so didn’t go inside today. Dogs are allowed in.
Orford is also famous for its fishing – it’s been a fishing port for years and years and as such you can find the famous Pinney’s of Orford smokehouse shop here. They still fish on two boats from Orford quay and have a large smokehouse just behind. It’s the place to buy your smoked fish from round here.
In the Jolly Sailors, our lunch venue, they were selling a pint of Pinney’s smoked prawns, something we’ve not seen before, so we of course ordered a pint to share followed by two battered fish and chips.
Both were delicious and washed down by the local Adnams lager. It took all my strength not to order the adnams gin which is fab, but I’ve got a bottle at home so resisted.
After lunch, we moved our bikes to the large car park where there was ample bike parking and began our country walking route.
We followed the estuary for a couple of miles following the Suffolk coastal path. And then cut inland before following a good path back to the castle.
We would have had a drink at the other pub in the village but it was closed – I told you, weird opening hours! – so grabbed some Suffolk gold cheese, and cycled back to Ruby. The return journey was a little easier on the legs.
Back at Ruby, we had a quick shower set our stall out and made the most of the sunshine and peace and quiet. We sat out until gone 8pm reading. It was perfection.
Once the sun had gone down, we moved inside and had a simple dinner made up of some leftovers from a Mexican bbq we cooked at the weekend and settled down to watch a film, but we didn’t even make 20 minutes before our eyelids became increasingly heavy, so we called an early night!
We slept like logs for over 12 hours! It was absolutely silent here- perfect for our weary bodies!
We had a simple al fresco breakfast before quickly packing up Ruby, saving goodbye to the site owners and heading down a mile or so to the large picnic car park (this has a height barrier so is not suitable for people in anything taller than 2m) just along the Iken road near Snape.
Here we picked up the coastal path for the mile or so to Snape Maltings, which as the title suggests is a converted Maltings that was built to malt barley, which was then sent on to make beer in London and Europe. It’s spot, right on the banks of the River Alde, made it a desirable and useful spot and it remained a busy Maltings right up to the 1960s. At this point, local but very famous composer, Benjamin Britten, had the vision or turn the derelict buildings of Snape Maltings into a concert hall and ever since the famous Aldeburgh Music Festival and much more has been held there. It’s now home to much more than just the concert hall, also an array of shops, boutiques and gallery’s and is worthy of a trip if you’ve not been before.
Our walk continued through Blaxhall common or Blaxhall Heath as it more resembles- we lost the path due to overgrown-ness a couple of times but we enjoyed the varied landscapes and all the beautiful purple heathers.
We were surprised to learn that we racked up 5 miles by the time we got back to Ruby – which brings our walk 1000miles target to 690 miles walked so far this year!
After a quick bite to eat, we turned our wheels back in the direction of home, but not before one last stop at the wonderful Friday Street Farm ship just before we turned onto the A12. We were exceptionally disciplined- we’re trying not to spend a fortune, but I stocked up on fresh fruit – much of which was harvested from High House fruit farm which was only a mile away from our campsite. Tomorrow has been declared a jam making day!
We absolutely loved Tumbleweed Cl, and thought the facilities were exceptional for a small site. We’re starting to prefer these quiet sites during the peak seasons, so finding one with such spotless and modern facilities is just wonderful.
Does anyone else have any recommendations for CL or CS sites with a decent shower? Please comment below if you do
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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 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.
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.
We really enjoyed our visit to Lacock and enjoyed a pint at the George which is home to a great log fire but also a very rare turnspit – a dog wheel which in its day, would have had a dog inside the wheel walk-in and rotation the spit over the fire.
It was fascinating visiting Lacock Abbey and of course the very spot where the first ever photo was taken, and we could easily understand why the village is so popular with film and tv location scouts- Harry Potters house is in Lacock, classroom scenes of inside Hogwarts were filmed in the Abbey, not to mention series such as Cranford, all filmed here.
We arrived at our home for the next 3 nights, the Camping and Caravaning Club site at Devizes just after 4 and by quarter past we’d got the chairs out to enjoy the last few minutes daylight whilst we had a beer, our first al fresco beer of 2018.
First impressions of the site are good- as you would expect with C&CC club sites- free hot showers, dishwashing facilities etc and friendly wardens along with large hard standing pitches.
We reheated a stew we’d made a few days ago and froze for dinner and had a relatively early night. Time to relax- perfect.
After a wonderfully quiet night we had a lazy Snooze this morning before getting up around 09:30. I prepared some ham for the slow cooker and Keith sorted the bikes. After a quick bacon sarnie we hit the canal towpath just outside the campsite. The weather was bright and sunny albeit icy cold, but we enjoyed our 3 mile or so cycle to Devizes. We passed the very impressive Caen Hill flight of locks- 29 in 2 miles and the longest flight of consecutive locks in the country.
There was a nice tea room in the old lock keepers cottage so we popped in for a coffee and cake and to admire the view. I’m not sure if it was the cold weather, the fact that it was our first ride since August, or that the locks cover quite an incline but we found the cycle pretty tough! Enjoyable nonetheless.
We enjoyed our wander around Devizes- there was museum dedicated to Wiltshire life but we decided to give this a miss as we had Jazz with us. We popped in for a pint at the oldest pub in Devizes, The White Bear, an old Tudor inn where there was a lovely fire. Keith was enjoying the Wadworth ale, brewed in this town.
We enjoyed a flask of homemade soup overlooking the canal before a much easier (downhill!) journey back for the campsite. Ruby smelt amazing, slow cooker camping meals are just the best!
We settled in for an afternoon nap after picking up some local ice cream for pudding from the reception. Soon it was tea time and we cooked up some broccoli, cauliflower and new potatoes and some cheese sauce. Perfect.
Monday dawned a lovely sunny morning and once we’d done some housekeeping in Ruby like replacing the gas etc we had a quick breakfast of porridge before unloading the bikes and setting off again along the Kennet and Avon Canal. This time we were travelling the other way- towards Bradford on Avon. We passed a lovely pub about two miles into the journey but ‘‘twas too early for a pint so we earmarked it for the return journey.
A mile or so on we saw a heron right in front of us on the path. It was a timid thing- I’ve never been so close to one. Turns out it was waiting for a local couple to come and feed it br breadcrumbs, and they were just behind us so we watched as the man threw the heron bread then the heron dipped it in the canal and ate it.
Beautiful creatures ❤️
Another couple of miles along and disaster struck. Keith got a puncture! 😩 it wouldn’t be a Ruby holiday without this happening – so you would think we would be prepared. Of course, we weren’t; so we had to come off the canal path on the outskirts of Trowbridge where luckily there was a bicycle repair shop that was open. Good old 4G and google saving the day. It was a 2 mile walk to the shop however and moods were low! Half an hour later, we’d got Keith’s bike repaired – not one but two punctures by a Hawthorne, can you believe it! Apparently the stretch we’d just passed is notorious for Hawthorne punctures! We’d had our picnic in Trowbridge whilst they fixed the bike but we didn’t find the town too inspiring, so we decided to turn round and head back towards that nice pub we’d seen on the canal. Rather than taking the canal path and risking more punctures we took the road which was 6.3 miles. It wasn’t too bad but we found it difficult for the last mile or so as the road was hilly! Never mind, all was forgiven as we enjoyed a couple of drinks at the Barge inn at Seend. It was a lovely little pub right on the canal- I bet in summer it’s packed!
We were then on the home straight, only a mile or so back to the campsite with better surfaces – mind you our legs were a gonner. We really need to get or fitness back up- Keith said he was feeling like he felt after running the London marathon! 😂
Luckily I’d decided to do another slow cooker meal today- beef and bean stew – so as we arrived back to Ruby she was smelling delicious.
We’ve really enjoyed our stay at Devizes Camping and Caravan club site- facilities are clean and pitches are spacious. Location wise is fabulous – I think we’d return here.
Tomorrow we move on to Stonehenge. I’ve never been and I’m really excited!
Saturday Saturday dawned with sunny spells so we wasted no time and made a packed lunch before setting off from the campsite with our best foot forward. The Camping and Caravan Club site was ideally located to visit the Blue Lagoon – only a mile walk to the beach at Abereiddy, behind which was a large man made lagoon – originally a quarry which was blasted out to make a deep sea pool. I'd seen it on Pinterest and was desperate for a dip in- not like most people who were diving in, far too much of a wuss for that- but I did manage my dip. If coasteering is your thing then this is the place to try it. Not for me though..!
Once I'd dried out we carried on up the coast path towards Porthgain. We really enjoyed the walk- there was lovely scenery and lots of disued quarry buildings to look at en route. We did a spot of geocaching and found a great beach only accessible by foot (and 100 steps!) so we let Jazz off for a run around- his second this trip lucky thing! Porthgain was a pretty little village with a nice little Harbour and a couple of pubs and a shop selling Pembrokeshire Promise ice cream- our absolute favourite so we treated ourselves to our third of the trip before making our way back to the campsite. In total we'd walked 6 miles!
We'd been lucky with the weather it had stayed dry but was windy as anything! Overnight we had the tail end of hurricane gert and had winds of over 40 mph again! Id was disappointed I couldn't use drone despite carrying it on my back the whole walk! Lol
We enjoyed the sun from our pitch but it was too blustery to cook outside so we moved in side for Lyd's Seafood restaurant – tonight I was cooking a brew course seafood meal. Mussels to start, tuna steak and local samphire for main and salted caramel cheesecake for our. It was yummy! I've never tried samphire and I adored it!!
We had an evening reading and listening to music- there is no phone signal at all- wierd as 0.5 miles around the circumference of the site there is 4g and full signal. Makes you wonder if they block the phone signal to encourage you to buy their overpriced internet – which we desired but resisted. £10 for 3GB no thanks. The warden as much as said it's rubbish!
Sunday The warden told us the weather was going to be dry until 2pm so we opted for a quick breakfast and were on our bikes for 10am. We were cycling the 5 miles to St Davids as the bus timetable was surprisingly rubbish – considering we were in a tourist area at peak time that is and compared to the route between Pembroke and Tenby. The warden told us it was flat. Erm. Well let's just say we don't think he's ever cycled it…
St Davids was sadly a huge disappointment. Our relationship didn't start well in that there was absolute nowhere to park our bikes. At the Tourist info there was only room for two bikes- and yes, they were taken already. We ended up having to chain up to a light post something that we were not at all happy to do so therefore our trip was cut short – annoying as I was suppose to be getting lunch brought for me! ☹️ instead Keith ran into the butchers and picked a pasty up each and we carried on to the beach area at white sands.
We stopped briefly at the cathedral but weren't allowed in despite it not being advertised as closed (no signs up or anything) Keith got aggressively shouted at by a church warden for opening the door during a service – sorry how's he and the ten others supposed to know this – all that was outside was a sign saying please be as quiet as possible. The man was aggressively rude and so unfortunately they didn't get their donation from us and we were unable to light a candle for our loved ones we've lost, as we like to do at every new cathedral we visit.
We did however have a very enjoyable walk around St Davids head despite the weather having now turned for the worse- we got soaked, the rain was coming sideways and the wind howling!
We then had a lovely 6 mile bike ride "on flat as a pancake roads" whilst being soaked to our skin! You can perhaps imagine both our moods on return to Ruby! Luckily the campsite had brilliant showers- I was in before Keith had even finished putting the bikes back on the bike rack!
Dinner was a slow cooked turkey casserole with rice which did a good job warming and cheering us up.
Sorry St Davids- I know lots of people who visit regularly and love the place – but for us, based on this visit, I'm afraid we felt it was highly underwhelming here -there was a lack of character, the locals weren't at all friendly, a lack of bike facilities- and although St Davids Head was nice enough we didn't think it was anything special.
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.
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.
Ruby the campervan is parked up at our favourite Scotland Border crossing, Carter Bar, just before Jedburgh. It’s 00:30 (Friday morning) and we were working until 7pm in Thetford. It’s been a funny ol week, we’ve battled illness, workload and a new (unplanned!) motor for Ruby’s habitation sliding door, but somehow we’ve made it here and in record time! If that doesn’t warrant a beer I don’t know what does. Unlike previous stays here, tonight we have company in the form of two other motorhome. Trying to be as quiet as we could, we set Ruby up for bed and crashed out for a hefty deep sleep. Friday
Friday dawns the most spectacular of day’s. We were up by 07:15 and enjoyed actually seeing the view! Usually it’s misty! Not only is it ☀️- it’s also HOT!!! At 07:30 I’m parading around in shorts and a vest top- with NO FLEECE! We had a quick chat with our neighbours before hitting the road again just after 08:00- destination, Loch Lomond, via New Lanark, a UNESCO heritage site near to Glasgow. We followed the Tweed Valley all the way and it was so beautiful, all these years of coming, it’s always a great treat to discover a new gem and has earnt a place on our “next time” list.
New Lanark was lovely. It’s now looked after by UNESCO but once was a Georgian Mill village. All the buildings have been kept original, and you can go inside many for a fee. We chose not to as it was such a sunny day it seemed a shame to be inside. Instead we took advantage of the 5km woodland and waterfall trail along the banks of the River Clyde. Parking was free which was a nice touch and there is no entrance fee if you are only wandering the village without going inside. Parts of the walk along the Clyde reminded us of being in Colorado. After our walk, we enjoyed some of the New Lanark ice cream which is made on site.
After a quick lunch we hit the road again passing through Glasgow and onto Loch Lomond. Always an exciting moment for us getting that first view of Ben Lomond. We stopped at the farm shop near to Luss, stocked up with local cider, cheese, venison- all the essentials! before carrying on to the main car park in Tarbet. Recently wild camping in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs has been banned, however they have introduced a fair system of pre purchasing a permit for the evening at £3 per night. We were keen to support it and duly paid our £3 online 30 days in advance, choosing where we wanted our permit to be valid. Sadly, on arrival at 5pm the car park was packed. We managed to squeeze in a space but the area was heaving. Obviously the sunshine and the bank holiday was bringing the world and his wife out, and although we gave it a good hour, we decided it was far too busy for us, and so we set off again, this time heading for the viewpoint at Black Mountains, just beyond the Bridge of Orchy. It was a gamble, would we turn up and find no space, as it was going to be near to 7pm. It was a tense journey, but luckily we arrived to find bags of room, with only one other van there. We bagged the best spot too, so we went about setting up a BBQ and went on to enjoy a fabulous evening. During the evening several other vans arrived, including a caravan, all stopping for some rest before heading north again early the next morning. We had a wonderful evening and slept like logs!
Saturday arrived and the sunshine was still here. Hurray! The forecast however was not so optimistic, so we set off, stopping for breakfast at Glencoe, always a favourite- good lord, it was SO BUSY! We’ve stopped there every year for breakfast and this year without a doubt was the busiest we have seen. We squeezed on to the end and managed to have our breakfast, I decided to make the bagpiper a cuppa which he enjoyed. Good deed done so off we travelled again, towards Fort William.
Again, it was PACKED! We squeezed into Morrisons for a top up shop, there were queues everywhere, not too dissimilar to the Christmas Eve shopping experience! I managed to get some local gin, which cheered me up, so shopping loaded in, we set off along the road to the Isles, our destination being one of our favourite sites, SilverSands at Arisaig. We tried to stop at Glenfinnan Viaduct, but couldn’t get parked. Are you noticing a theme here?
Onwards we went, arriving at Silversands just as the rain began. A spot of rain does not take away the beauty of this place, and once again we were lucky to have a sea front pitch so we settled in, had a long nap and woke in time for the rain to have gone. 10 steps away from our pitch we had the most gorgeous white sand beach. It really is idylic. We enjoyed a beer on the beach, and met our neighbour, Charlie, who turned out to be a lovely fella- always checking if we needed anything from the shop when he went in his car. That evening I cooked us a delicious Simply cook prawn linguine and we went to bed around 11- it was still light!
Sunday- the weather forecast wasn’t good, which was disappointing so we decided to have a lazy morning. I cooked us a cooked breakfast and just as I was serving up, the sun came out! “Quick”, I said to Keith, “get the outside chairs out, it may not last”! We enjoyed our sea view and watched as people fled to the beach, kayaks and dingies in hand, everyone desperate to enjoy the sun whilst it was there!
Last night we discovered that the midges are here! Booo! Apparently it’s the long mild winter, but they are here, and in force. Keefy has been eaten alive! And guess what, we’ve left all our sprays at home! During a morning chat to our neighbour, he got brave and asked if they had any repellent he could borrow. Cue Charlie giving us an entire full spray of Smidge, insisting we keep it. What a nice man!
Ruby is getting a lot of attention. Keith gets stopped several times as he is getting the bikes off! All these years of motorhoming and barely anyone ever speaks to us, yet now we have Ruby we seem to be attracting people for chat after chat! Not that we are complaining, it’s nice to be sociable, and everyone here is just SO FRIENDLY!
We finally manage to get off, we are cycling 2 miles down the road to Camusdarach Beach- where the film Local Hero was filmed 35 years ago. We came a few years ago but the weather was dull and murky then.
Today, the sun is hanging on in there, so we optimistically pack a picnic and keep everything crossed! The weather gods are certainly on our side it seems, it’s a picture perfect day. This beach is simply stunning. It stretches for probably nearly a mile when the tide is out, as it was when we visited today. When the tide is in, there are 2 beaches not reachable without getting wet! I tried to send my drone up but it wasn’t happening, a badly timed update request means I can’t send it up which is annoying but can’t be helped. 😡 We had a lovely picnic though of cheese, venison slices, fresh baguette, and of course a beer and cider to wash it down. We had such a lovely visit!
The sun was still shining on our cycle back, and it continued to shine the remainder of the day and evening. We sat outside taking in the ever changing view from our pitch- we watched as the tide came in and then went out again.
We had a lovely chat with next door, and shared a drink together. As the evening went on we were joined by several other couples seeking out the best views of the site. Seems we were on the best pitch going- we were happy to share it. I also managed to override my drone so I sent that up to capture the phenomenal sunset. Next door also had a drone, a DJ phantom, so he sent his up too!