Go West for Summer – Part 4

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.

Go West for Summer – Part 2

Monday
We were up and away from Knights Folly Campsite by mid morning. We were sad to be leaving the site as it was lovely- however it's always exciting to be moving on elsewhere to see new places.

Our journey took us down the M4 and over the Severn Bridge, at which point we entered Wales and all the road signs were larger with both Welsh and English written on!

We were heading to Burry Port, but stopped at Llanelli for an Aldi shop. In Ruby we've been only shopping 4 days at a time but Keefy talked me into trying a 7 day shop this time. I was worried about fitting it all in, but I had to eat my hat-everything found a home – the cupboards are filled to busting, the fridge stocked to capacity, the cool box full of alcohol and sparkling water BUT we did it- 7 days shopping in Ruby and we can still fit ourselves in! She really is a tardis!
We arrived at Burry Port Harbour, listed in the Britstop book but also many places elsewhere online & paid the Harbour master £8 for our overnight stay. We were encouraged to park side on against the sea- so our sliding door came into its own!


There were a couple of other vans with us- and we managed to have a little wander around the pretty harbour before the rain set in for the afternoon and evening. And wow did it set in- it absolutely LASHED down! So we settled in and watched some Cracker- before I made us a delicious Simply Cook Beef Rendang. Just as I'd finished washing up- the sky's cleared so we were able to have another wander, this time in the Fading light, before sitting and enjoying a dram before bed with the door open listening to the waves crashing below.

Tuesday

The forecast for Tuesday was great, and it did not disappoint. It's always exciting opening the curtains to a new location, when the day before the visibility was next to nothing. The beach here at Burry Port is fabulous!

I wasted no time and almost jumped out of bed- even forgoing my morning cuppa! I'd been itching to launch my DJi Phantom 3 drone and weather conditions just hadn't been on my side- but now they were! Woo!
I loved sending Donny up and getting some shots. You can see the video below👇

After breakfast baps and a cuppa, we took Jazz for a run off lead on the beach. He doesn't normally go off lead as he can forget to come back if he picks up a scent.
But on beaches that are secure we let him off and he loves it. Actually his recall was amazing today!

We had a paddle and the water was lukewarm. I wish I'd got my cozzie on as I could've had a dip but it was time to get moving- we were off into Pembrokeshire. Next time we come here there are loads of cycle paths to ride on, including a country park with a 4 mile Tarmac circuit, an old train line at Llanelli and a coastal bike path running through Burry Port.

We stopped off at Saundersfoot thanks to a Pinterest tip off- such a pretty little Harbour and coastal village. It really reminded us of a Cornish village. We grabbed the very last space in the Harbour car park – boy it was tight but I got Ruby in – and once in a random man came and congratulated me on some fab parking! 💪

We paid for an hours parking but we could have spent all day here really. It's gorgeous. Loads of families were crabbing over the Harbour wall. The beach was PACKED (but not dog friendly between May and Oct). There were old fashioned amusements, little beach shops, an old fashioned off license (where we stocked up on local Ale and cider), a local ice cream seller- we loved our Pembrokeshire Promise icecream (honeycomb and vanilla-yum). We even managed to squeeze in a quick pint in a really cool pub called The Old Chemist which had a really great smugglers alley entrance and beach and sea views.

Next stop was our campsite, Middle Hill Farm, just the other side of Tenby, on the outskirts of Manorbier. We were a bit disappointed at first- we booked at the beginning of March and was told we could have a sea view pitch. We were given pitch 4 which basically had a view of a hedge – right next to the main road-we could have been anywhere in the country! Two caravans had the best views, so we were a bit fed up. Plus one of them had a reserved for sign on. The facilities were quite a walk down hill through a field. Keith was grumpy and so was I. Yes, it's only £15 pn but we are here for 3 nights and paid on 3rd March up front! He went off for his shower and returned 5 mins later- he'd spotted a pitch at the bottom of the field next to the facilities and with a sea view, and went to ask if we could move. The answer was yes! Hurrah! So we threw the chairs, windbreaks etc in the back and drove to our new pitch, no. 8, and set up again! And enjoyed our Welsh Ale/cider enjoying the view.

The weather was gorgeous so we sparked up the BBQ for dinner- enjoying a homemade potato salad, garlic mushrooms and venison burger, lamb and mint burger and chilli sausage. We stayed outside until 10pm watching the day change to night. Perfect.

Wednesday
Wow was it blustery in the night! The winds were up to 40mph and we've never heard rain lash down like it did! It was so loud that Jazz had a panic attack and therefore ended up squashed on our bed rather than up front in the passenger seat!

The weather was still rather blustery as we got up, and it was overcast with the promise of more rain from 4pm, so we had a steady morning before walking the short distance down the field path the farmer had put in, to the village of Manorbier.

Manorbier has a really lovely castle you can explore with the best preserved corners of tower we've seen. Inside there is a tea shop and you can enjoy it on the lawn. It's a nice place to spend an hour but there wasn't an awful lot of info about the castle and it's history therefore we found the £5.50 entry charge a little steep.


We carried on up the small road past the sandy beach, where despite it being very dull, lots of people were out enjoying themselves on the beach- good old British eh?! We carried onto a house aptly named as Atlantic View before taking a path off to the left which took us onto to Pembrokeshire Coastal Path for our return back to Manorbier beach. It's a dramatic section of Coastal Path and although Keith found the contours a little tough, we both really enjoyed the wild scenery matched with the driving wind.

We passed a couple of pretty hidden sandy coves but chose to have our picnic overlooking Manorbier Beach before washing it down with a little pint in thelocal, The Castle Inn. Prices down here in pubs are very reasonably priced- we've not paid more than £7 for two alcoholic drinks yet since being in Wales.

The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling and watching Cracker as the weather turned just as we arrived back at Ruby- talk about good timing! We enjoyed a chilli con carne for dinner before having an early night.

Our annual pilgrimage to Scotland, May 2017. Part 1. Norfolk to Skye 

Thursday (into Friday!)

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! 

The atmosphere on site was electric. Everyone having a drink, toasting the sun, it was just such a happy atmosphere. There were even people doing yoga on the beach! It’s a really really special place! Obviously the local gin helped of which I managed to make quite an indent and Keefy’s whiskey must have evaporated in the heat 😜 but we soon realised it’s was gone 9pm and we still hadn’t eaten! Whoops! Dinner was quickly cooked and eaten and we enjoyed the last of the sunshine. 


The whole campsite came out to see it dip below the horizon, I almost felt like applauding! Off to bed we went, tipsy but on a massive high to say the least! The next thing I know, and it’s 3am and K is raiding the fridge, rubbing the contents of the the fridge on his legs! Turns out he is in agony with his bites. 😞 An advantage of having Ruby is that he can’t pace any more, however tossing and turning in bed and grumbling is as bad for me to hear. At 4am I suggest we go down to the beach and he goes for a paddle! The seawater helped soothe his legs earlier and I know he must be in agony cos he agreed quickly, so at 4am we were on the beach having a paddle, like you do! 


The seawater must have helped as of course, he managed to get straight off to sleep, whereas I lay away awake for 2 hours! 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄 mind you hearing the sea lap beneath you and the dawn chorus is not the worst way I’ve spent a couple of hours. 

Monday arrived and as forecasted, the rain decided to make an appearance. Next door, bless them, gave Keith some antihistamines to help his itching, and also a couple of cans of Tennants for our fridge as a parting gift- how nice was that? We had another couple of people stop by Ruby interested in her conversion, and admiring her, it’s really a very strange sensation for us as unlike many others it seems, we were not drawn to VWs cos of their image! It was just the van which worked for us! Hey ho, it’s really nice to have chats with lots of different people and something that has never happened to us before in 7 years of motorhoming! We waved a sad farewell by 10:15, and rolled into. Mallaig for our ferry to Skye just before 11. “Are you booked on?” the man cheerfully asks. “Er no….”. “Sorry but we are fully booked ALL WEEK!” You could see the colour drain from our faces. What an epic oversight. We’ve done this crossing three times before and never booked. What’s going on?! The man offers for us to queue in the reserve queue for the next ferry at 12:00 although he says there is no guarantee that we will get on. We decided to go for it. Luckily, Lady Luck was on our side and they fit us on, what a relief, neither of us fancied the journey back to Fort William retracing our steps! 


We arrived on Skye thanks to a smooth crossing (unlike last time!) and it’s been raining all afternoon. Can’t complain though, we’ve had our share of good weather for Scotland. We drove to Tallisker, hoping to park somewhere local so we can have a few drinks and a meal in the pub opposite the distillery. Like everywhere else, Tallisker is heaving with people and we struggle to park. 😔 in the end we manage to get a space but we are unable to stay overnight. So we opted for an early dinner in the pub, which was delicious before driving on to a large lay-by on the way towards Sligachan where we settle in for a chill. 

Until next time 

Lx 

“Pimping” our Ride

As ecstatic as we were when we found Ruby the Campervan after our rather short- yet full on (in the grand scheme of things) search; there were a few “adjustments” we wanted to make to her to enable us to carry on as we had been in our beloved Bluebell the motorhome. From the day that we realised that we had to say Bye to Bluebell, we said there would more than likely have to be compromises made here and there, but we would concentrate on getting a decent (we hope!) base vehicle- anything extra can be added on.

First thing on the shopping list when we brought Ruby was a bike rack. Because she has a tailgate back rather than Barn Doors, it meant that we couldn’t get the standard Fiamma bike rack. On top of this, Ruby’s previous owner had taken “Pimping” up to an extra level by adding a rear spoiler. I still am not really sure what this adds to Ruby, other than the difficulty of adding a normal tailgate bike rack, so therefore a rather large hole in the wallet! Because we have this rear spoiler, we are unable to attach a normal tailgate bike rack, so investigations soon led us to getting quotes for a tow bar to be added, allowing us to go for a tow bar mounted bike rack instead.

We got a few quotes from a some local tow bar fitters, then Keith found a company online with an all singing and dancing website, and a quote that was a few quid cheaper than the local fellas. TowBarExpress.com. We booked and paid for our appointment for the following Monday- and celebrated with a cuppa. Then the phone rang- “Sorry Mr O’G, we can’t do that date”. “Ok”, we reply, and book in for the Monday after that. A week later, we get another phone call. This time, there were no apologies, just a curt “We can’t get a fitter, we need to reschedule”. Hmph. The only free day we have is Monday, so we rescheduled for the following week. Again. During that day, we both had a grumble, and Keith decided to go back to one of the quotes he had received. He realised it was only about a tenner more, so cancelled TowBarExpress and booked the local fitter in for the Monday that had been cancelled.

We cancelled our booking with TBE and asked for an email confirmation of the refund. We never got this, despite ringing twice and emailing. Almost a week later, still no sign of a refund and no word from Tow Bar Express- and our booking still showing on the online system, I decided I would take matters into my own hands. I rang up and received THE WORST customer service I’ve ever received over the phone. I kept asking for written confirmation about our refund and kept being told, we don’t have to give you written confirmation. Excuse after excuse I was given, but I lost my cool in the end when I could clearly hear the staff in the office mimicking me. I confronted the advisor and she denied it. They refused to put me through to a manager. In the end I got someone pretending to be the manager – I know this as she was so unprofessional but also, I later heard from our towbar man that the manager is a male! Along with a few other horror stories.

We eventually got our refund – but I would warn anyone about using them in the future. Disgraceful customer service- and that doesn’t half get my blood boiling.

poor_customer_service

On to the saga of finding a bike rack that would allow us to still open the tailgate door with the bikes on the rack. Did such a thing even exist? We were starting to think probably not! Keith must have ordered 10 different racks, of varying costs, and none of them worked! It was looking like we would not be able to open our boot with the bike rack on. Stress levels were rising, so I stepped in and asked on the VW Facebook page and also the overnight parking page. Keith, you see, is FAR too cool for Facebook (yeah right!!) but as I explained to him afterwards, he could have saved himself a week of stress if he were on Facebook as within 5 minutes I had over 10 replies, many of which saying the same thing. The http://www.roofbox.co.uk/scripts/rbvehsel4_tab.php?AR2603 . It was coming out a bit higher in price than we hoped, but- everyone was saying what a good job it does. So we ordered one. And, boy are we glad we did.

It’s very lightweight, yet doesn’t feel flimsy in anyway at all. It is so easy to use, it really is just a flick of lever to lower the bikes enabling the tailgate to open fully. Also, the attachment to the towbar is really slim, so you can walk in-between the tow bar and the van, really good when you’re trying to get something out that’s lodged its way further into the boot!

IMG_5280

Other enhancements that we have made include changing the factory fitted radio to a CD/Bluetooth radio. This was a simple and cheap upgrade thanks to our local Halfords Store. £60 radio / £30 to fit. It’s pretty decent in sound quality, and the bluetooth is fab. I’m loving having my spotify blasting out, plus it make in car phonecalls much easier/safer (and legal!)  We’ve just got our hands on Jamiroquai tickets so we’ve been blasting out quite a bit of JK- Keith now wants to fit a sub or something- I’ve told him he’s not allowed- unless he wants the world to know he’s having a mid life crisis!

Last but not least (I expect!) and we’ve bagged ourselves a //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=advinamot-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B00A4A07JA&asins=B00A4A07JA&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>portable 12v TV. Now I know its not everyone’s cup of tea, taking a TV away in the camper van. But we use our van all year round, including those ridiculously short winter days where by 4pm its pitch black outside. It’s then that we are most grateful for the TV. Especially when Strictly Come Dancing is on!

This portable TV is GREAT. It’s about the size of our iPad, picks up all the free view channels, has a handy little arial that is magnetic and reaches through the kitchen window onto the roof, and best of all- has a record button, so we stuck a large memory card in the side and suddenly we can record Saturday Night Takeaway, whilst away in the middle of nowhere *ahem, obviously I just stuck that TV programme in as a random one….* It has 2.5 hours charge without being plugged in, but comes with a 12v charger too. Perfect.

img_0374

So, theres a list of our new accessories for you. Ruby is now complete – although the new Cath Kidston catalogue has just arrived with some lovely melamine glasses, jugs and serving bowls in…. #justsaying

What are your must have camper van/motorhome accessories? Other than the obvious.. the corkscrew, that is!

Until Next Time

Lx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twixmas 2016: Northumberland, Part 2

New Years Eve Continued 

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

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

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


Sunday, New Year’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 2nd Jan

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

Our Brit Stop pitch in Kielder

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

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

Cycling The Bure Valley Way, Norfolk

A few days ago, we found ourselves with a unexpectedly free day, which happened to be sunny- Hurrah! Since our last trip, which saw us cycling along The Marriott’s Way, we’ve been on the hunt for other local traffic free cycle trails to go onto our list of places to go. It wasn’t long before we found The Bure Valley Way, a cycle/foot path that follows the 15 inch Narrow gauge railway that runs 9 miles between Aylsham and Wroxham. A quick Caravan Club search ensued and we were on the phone to Heath Farm CL in Buxton, exactly half way along the Bure Valley. Perfect.

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Buxton is less than an hour from us so we were up and on the road and pitched up by 11:00. The site was really pretty, with fields surrounding it. Be warned- it’s a very basic CL, offering 2 stand alone water pipes, electric, chemical loo point and a toilet and shower (although it was a very basic one, we chose to use our own facilities on board!)- but the price was remarkable – just a mere £9 per night!! What bargain and really, what more does one need?!

Keith’s agenda for the day was to be able to test his new bit of kit, his Memory Map Adventurer 3000 GPS (currently on sale). We’ve had the old version for 5 years now and it has successfully prevented navigational arguments guided us ever since, until someone dropped it *ahem* and the screen COMPLETLY smashed in!!

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Once set up, it was soon off on the bikes. Heath Farm campsite was only 1 mile outside of Buxton and we used the memory map to guide us down a very tiny back road into the pretty village and onto the Bure Valley Way. There is a small path that follows beside the train line for the whole 9 miles.

Bure Valley Way

We chose to head towards Wroxham first seeing as the sun was only set to be out until lunchtime before it was supposed to cloud over. It was about 5 miles and we were passed by several small steam trains – it was a lovely sight.

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Wroxham is a largish village on the Norfolk Broads and has everything from a supermarket to Kebab shop, tourist info to fishing tackle shop, and most importantly, what we were after… a nice pub with area to sit out overlooking the river.

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After a pint each and a chance to catch our breath, we ate our packed lunch and then, after a quick look round Wroxham Signal Box were back onto our bikes for the return leg – this time to the other end of the line to Aylsham.

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It took us just under an hour to cycle the 9 miles, and we rewarded ourselves with a nice ice cold can of coke from Tescos and some Ben and Jerry’s to take back to Bluebell’s freezer for pudding!

We doubled back on ourselves the 3 miles back to Buxton station where we were to leave the trail and head back to our campsite, passing numerous train spotters that we had seen earlier on! During our cycle, we were passed by probably 10 trains, all in wonderful condition, and with lots of passengers on board. I think there were some visiting engines from another railway also running that day. Hearing them choo chooing along the railway was a lovely experience.

We headed back to Bluebell (*Memory map informed us we had cycled 21 miles!) and enjoyed a really lazy evening and following morning, just what we needed with it being the end of term, we are frankly frazzled. The campsite owner was very easy going, he told us there was no hurry to leave, so we enjoyed a lay in and fry up, before packing up and heading the short journey home. Definitely would return, and do the cycle to Wroxham again – but next time, would leave the packed lunch and enjoy fish and chips instead!!

Until Next time

Lx