Day adventures in Thetford Forest

Hi everyone, we hope you are keeping safe and well? We are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has grounded all our travel plans and adventures for the foreseeable future. As it continues, we find ourselves wondering daily what it means for the rest of year. Having already lost (or rather rescheduled) our Vietnam trip, our second trip has just been cancelled. This Thursday coming we should have been fleeing south after work for a late Eurotunnel crossing, heading to Colmar, France and then into Switzerland for May Half term and our 5th wedding anniversary. The mountains will still be there and when it is safe to visit we will, so although we feel sad, we are still thankful that we and our family remain well. Eurotunnel have given us a voucher valid for a year, so as soon as we get the green light we can make the trip that we have looked forward to so much.

This week in England, lockdown restrictions eased a touch, and whilst the message is still clear that this is far from over, we are now allowed to go for longer and unlimited exercise and travel to do so. We are now allowed to picnic and sit in the park in the sun. The message changed from Stay at Home to Stay Alert. It took us by surprise – we would have been happy to have a full lockdown for another couple of weeks, and we felt disappointed at first that this would encourage people to be irresponsible and therefore bring a new peak. This, I believe, triggered a wobbly week for us both. We both struggled through the week and after a stressful trip to Morrison’s on Friday followed by a stressful walk on the way home we both realised that we were struggling being out of our bubble at home. I think we’d become or were starting to become institutionalised perhaps. We decided we needed to try and push ourselves to get out a bit further than 15 mins from our house- Keith has only been out of the village twice to Diss and then he stayed in the van. I’ve been to Tesco each week – a 15 min drive. It was taking its toll.

I picked a spot just 25 mins from our house- but one weirdly we’ve not been to before. I made a quiche, scotch eggs and we gathered some tasty treats into Ruby’s fridge. We felt a bit nervous about once again leaving our bubble – but this time we were taking our bubble with us. We have a loo, water, soap, food and drink and shelter in the form our trusty little campervan.

We arrived at St Helens Picnic site in Santon Downham, part of Thetford forest, just after midday. The car parking was busy but we found a space easily and although there were plenty of people about, everyone was social distancing. The main difference was the space. There was tons of it. We checked the fridge was on and set off on a 5 mile walk.

As soon as we left the car park and got onto our trail head, we saw only 3 other people the entire way round. The space felt huge and the fact we hadn’t walked that trail before was liberating. Each step we took felt like one step closer to feeling ourselves again. By the end of the walk we wondered if actually the government easing the rules slightly was to aid our mental health. (This is not an invitation to start a political debate – it’s just how we felt in the moment)

After our walk, we’d built up an appetite. We had planned to eat lunch in Ruby, but the sun had come out and there was an inviting glade right next to the river. We loaded up the picnic basket which lives in Ruby, grabbed a blanket and a chair and bagged the private glade. Whilst we could hear others doing the same, we couldn’t see anyone – the space was huge. We set ourselves out facing the river, tucked in and again felt the stress sweeping out of our bones. We watched the ducks as they built their nest, waved at several kayakers paddling by and we even grabbed an unscheduled nap each.

We retreated back to Ruby for a cup of tea and an eclair – why does tea made on the gas hob in Ruby always taste better? We sat and pretending we were camping for half an hour before packing up and driving home. We’d driven 16 miles each way but we had crossed the border into Suffolk, not had a panic attack and felt like we’d had a mini break. It felt like a huge achievement.

I feel guilty for not coping so well. We have it easy really. We have a roof over our heads, we’re healthy- we don’t work on the front line, although my mum does and I worry about that constantly. We have a garden, we have Netflix and all the other channels you could hope for. We are managing to do some work so don’t have financial worries. All we’ve been done is been asked to stay at home, but when you’re used to being free and doing as you please it feels hard at times. I have to keep reminding myself that actually it’s ok to not be ok. Our friend sent me this poem the other day when I admitted on Facebook we’d had a wobbly week.

It’s OK to have good days.
It’s OK to have bad days.
It’s OK to cry about absolutely nothing.
It’s OK to cry about absolutely everything.
It’s OK to find this hard even if you know there are other people in much worse situations that you. This is not a competition.
It’s OK to feel frustrated.
It’s OK to feel anxious.
It’s OK to feel scared.
It’s OK to feel.

I didn’t start this post with the intention of sharing all this info, it was to share our happy day yesterday and the joy of being out in Ruby- but when I write these blogs I write from the heart so this is what I’ve ended up with. I nearly amended it but as it’s Mental Health awareness week next week, perhaps it’s rather fitting.

We hope you are keeping safe and well, we’re going to continue to take each day as it comes- I’m sure there will be more wobbly days ahead and when they do come we will remember that as the sun goes down it signals that it’s nearly the start of a new day tomorrow.

Until next time

Lx

Winter adventures and festive fun; Part 1

Since we got home from America, it’s been full on with work as we’ve had a show production as well as our normal teaching routine. As soon as the show was over I was itching to get out for some fresh air, and luckily my lovely husband had preempted this and prebooked some tickets to nearby Anglesey Abbey for their winter lights event.

Anglesey Abbey is a National Trust owned country house that was formerly a priory and is set within acres of woodland. A perfect canvas for a magical winter wonderland trail.

We met Keith’s Dad and Stepmum for a late Sunday dinner at the nearby Red Lion in Swaffham Prior, before driving the couple of miles to Anglesey Abby for our 7pm entrance ticket. Our meal was gorgeous, one of the best Sunday lunches we’ve had in ages and really great value.

We had a few minutes to spare at Anglesey Abbey so had a hot chocolate and a browse of the gift shop; I just love the National trust gift shops and left laden with goodies! At 7pm we were called through and began our winter trail. The lights were extremely pretty and atmospheric, and although completely different to Kew Gardens winter lights which we visited last year, it was equally as lovely.

The trail is about 1.75 miles long, and there are a couple of rest areas with hot food, coffee and mulled wine of course. There were also some entertainers at each rest point- a fire eater and country band in one section and a brass band in the other.

We carried on along the trail admiring the huge silver birch trees all lit up beautifully and our favourite section was the stretch along near the mill.

The Abbey itself was pretty with multicoloured lights that you could control using devices on the path, which was unique.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and was the perfect outing to get us starting to think about Christmas. Tickets for this year have sold out already, however you can get tickets through the National trust website here – we booked in September.

We didn’t stay as we were local and it was a Sunday night, however you could easily combine this trip with a stay on:

Cherry Hinton Caravan and Motorhome club site

Gayton Farm CL

Anglesey Abbey also is very proud to host one of the best displays of snowdrops in the country and is well worth a visit in February too.

The following weekend, hailed the return of the ever popular Bury Christmas Fayre. Each year this 4 day Christmas fayre becomes even more popular- we’ve been making a point of visiting every year that we’ve lived here. Despite us only being 30 mins from Bury St Edmunds we always camp overnight as we are partial to a drop of Greene King Abbotts Reserve, but at 6.5% I only need to sniff it and be over the limit!

In Bury St Edmunds there is an official motor home overnight parking area in the main car park, where we can park legally for 24 hrs at only £2.50. We are so lucky to have this, if only more councils supported motorhome owners on this way but that’s a different story.

Despite this wonderful facility being available, we rarely get to use it during the Xmas market weekend as there are only 5 spaces and they are always full, so we tend to discreetly park up outside of town for the night. This year however due to a wedding on the Saturday, we ended up at Bury on Friday and i’ll be blowed, we got a space in the Aire!

We wasted no time and headed straight for the Abbot reserve tent!

The market is centred around the picturesque Abbey gardens and Angel hill and is full of stalls offering lovely gifts and food and drink galore.

Picture from http://www.burystedmundschristmasfayre.co.uk/

This year, we did less shopping and more drinking hehe, but we stocked up on cheeses! The Greene King tent is right opposite the stage and so we enjoyed watching the commitments tribute band.

It really is a lovely Christmassy event, and we look forward to it every year. It’s also dog friendly.

We can’t go to Bury St Edmunds without a drink in the Nutshell, claimed to the smallest pub in the UK and this trip was no exception. It’s also dog friendly. 🐾

Photo from Wikipedia

Accommodation options for Bury St Edmunds are:

Ram Meadow Motorhome Aire

The Dell Campsite, Thurston

We’ve got another couple of trips in Ruby lined up before Christmas; London and York so check back in a couple of weeks for more festive fun!

Until next time

Lx

A wander around Thetford Warren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puddledock Farm 9 miles/ 15 mins

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

Other things to do in the area:

National Trust Oxborough Hall

Lyndford Stag Walks

Knettishall Heath Walks

English Whiskey Distillery Tours

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

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

Until next time

Lx

Winter Walks; North Elmham, Norfolk

Hasn’t this January been murky?! It’s no secret that many suffer with the dreaded “January Blues” and although I’m normally a very positive person (most of the time!) there’s been a few family issues that have disrupted my normal positive vibes this year and along with the horrid weather, this January I’ve therefore not been quite my normal self.

We decided this weekend to get out in Ruby just for the day and take advantage of the lovely county that we call home, Norfolk. Happily the weather Gods decided to cut us some slack and we were accompanied by something that’s been lost in action for the last few weeks; the sun ☀️

Keith raided our 30 Walks in Norfolk (AA 30 Walks in) (AA Walking in Series) walks and found an interesting one just down the road beyond Dereham, at North Elmham.

We threw a can of soup, some milk and water into Ruby and off we went.

Free Parking was at the English Heritage Saxon Chapel Site, so we had a little look around the ruins of that first which were excellent (and free).

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5 mile walk took us out of North Elmham and onto an old dismantled Railway Line, which regular readers will know, we enjoy exploring either on bike or on foot.

Whilst this is a bridle way, the path lends itself more to walking as it’s grassy (and in some parts muddy).

It’s not long before you reach a section of the track which has original tracks still in place. This leads to a fascinating, if not pretty eeery abandoned station, the former County School station. It’s complete with a former train, waiting area, and during summer months there is a tea room. It was fantastic and really atmospheric!

County School was built in 1873 but only survived as a school for 21 years, before being turned into a Naval College and then a Barnardos House, before sadly being demolished. You can read more here<<<
walk carried on beyond the station following the old track bed for a mile or so before we came off onto some very small and quiet lanes which we followed back towards North Elmham. The last section was through some vast woodland where we were treated to a great display of early snowdrops and aconites.

These never fail to put a smile on my face, so by the time we were back at Ruby the Campervan, we were feeling refreshed and revitalised. We enjoyed lunch and a cuppa before heading home.

If you are interested in walking, we highly recommend these AA walk boxes. Each walk is printed on a laminated card and has clear directions along with a map. They are a great size to store in the Campervan or motorhome.

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ou wanted to turn this walk into a mini break/ part of a Norfolk trip, nearby campsites are: Bylaugh Caravan Park or Four Acre Caravan and Camping Certified Location<<<
il next time

Lx