Tuesday arrived bright and sunny, just as the weather forecast predicted and after a delicious smoked haddock and poached eggs we packed away in the blistering heat and made our way the short way to Arundel Castle. We were extremely thankful for Gandalf’s air con!
On arrival at Arundel, we parked in the public car park opposite the castle which is large enough for the biggest of motorhomes, and made our way to the Castle entrance. First impressions were absolutely excellent- Arundel Castle looks like a fairytale castle when you scratch the surface, but delve a little deeper and you realise that it’s a mix of both Medieval and Victorian, with a medieval keep high on a motte and then these wonderful big ramparts and towers.
Inside the castle you can see a fair bit. We were particularly interested in the history of the seat of the Duke of Norfolk – as back in the 1600s in the next village to us, Kenninghall- the duke of Norfolk had a Manor House which got destroyed. There is a fair bit of history regarding this Manor House so when we get home we will set about trying to research this some more.
In the pictures above- the one in the bottom right hand corner is a beautiful decorative table made out of tiny mosaic segments. The library is exquisite.
Outside of the castle, the gardens are terrific; and the irises just looked superb. There is a lovely rose garden along with a water garden. We really enjoyed our time visiting!
After our visit we went for lunch at the Red Lion on the high street which was lovely.
We then moved on to our next location of this surprise trip for Keefy’s birthday. 30 mins beyond Arundel is Chichester- and our home for the next two nights was a very lovely C&MC certified called Fir Trees on the outskirts of Chichester.
We settled into our lovely pitch, this time with EHU , and had an hour or two basking in the sun on our inflatable chairs. The site is a huge grass (but very short grass) field -with impeccable chemical loo point, Keefy tells me!
We had a bbq for dinner – chicken kebabs and swordfish, before having a very early night. I was exhausted and my foot was still playing up!
Wednesday arrived and I broke the news to Keefy where we were going today; Fishbourne Roman Palace which was conveniently just 4 miles down the road and an easy cycle. We made our way onto the Salterns Way- a cycle route up to Chichester and down to West Wittering. We rode north past very pretty harbours and house boats and stopped for an early lunch at the amazingly beautiful Dell Quay. We felt like we were at the Mediterranean!
After lunch of crab burgers, we continued up to Fishbourne Roman Palace. We really enjoyed our visit. It was much bigger than Bignor- the size of this plot was huge and there were lots of mosaic to see. The layout of the visitors centre made it very easy to imagine the scale of the site here. They still don’t know who lived here but given it’s size we felt sure the emperor must have visited if not lived here.
From here we joined the aptly named Centurian Way, a disused railway route now turned into a traffic free cycle path. It gets its name from the Roman Road that it loosely follows and has some interesting sculptures not to mention terrific railway bridges along the way.
The Centurian way runs 6 miles each way from Chichester to West Dean.
We stopped a couple of times to pretend we were Roman drinking red wine from travel cups, before just as we turned back my bike broke! 🤦♀️ we’re not entirely sure how it happens but the cog that carries the chain bent at a 45 degree angle. Lucky for us we were near a pub which lent us a mallet and a screwdriver to get me back on the road home.
Had this not have happened, we were intending on following the Saltern way again all the back down to West Wittering, and I’d also hoped to visit Bosham, but we’ll have to save that for another time.
Dinner tonight was ribs, chilli and Mac n cheese – before a big chill. We are moving on again tomorrow and won’t be camping for the actually day of K’s bday. Whilst we both have had an AMAZING week, he has drawn the line at having to deal with chemical loos on his 50th bday. He has no idea where we are going to- but I’ve promised him he won’t have to drop his (or my!) plops 😂
Gandalf the VW is parked high up above the Trans Pennine Trail, overlooking Wogden Moor on the outskirts of Carlecotes, South Yorkshire. Our home for the next three nights is Thurlmoor Farm, a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified Site.
We had a pleasant and easy journey ‘oooop north’ on Friday morning making one slight detour to pick up some supplies from the wonderful Hinchcliff’s Farm shop near Holmfirth. We had lots of fun shopping for local meats, cheeses, local gins and beers to see us through the May Bank Holiday weekend. This place is heaven for local food and drink lovers like ourselves, and we could have easily bought EVERY thing inside. The butchers and deli counters were immense, and the local gins were in abundant supply.
With our supplies purchased and packed away we made the 20 minute journey to the campsite, arriving around 3pm- just as the sun decided to take over from the showers we’d encounter throughout our journey.
The views from Thurlmoor Farm are wonderful. It is situated at 1100 feet and landscaped into two separate terraces. We were given a very friendly welcome by campsite owner Mandy and we were excited to be able to pitch up sideways. We took advantage of the room and set our the canopy as well as our trusty friend the tailgate awning – serving as our ensuite bathroom this weekend again! There are no facilities other than hook up, water and disposal at this site and as such the fee was very low at just £13 pn. The views were just great and we could see in the valley below us the Trans Pennine Trail – our reason for booking this site.
Unfortunately – our neighbours ended up pitching their caravan very much on top of us. I’m not entirely sure it was their fault- pitches wernt marked and at the same time they arrived another van arrived the other side of them. We assumed someone would be coming the other side of us, otherwise we probably would have asked to moved to pitch number 1- which would have left a pitch between us. But as it happened no-one else arrived and the van the other side of our neighbours only stayed one night – so with perhaps a little more planning from the owners it could have been avoided. As it happens though our neighbours were fairly quiet – it just looks obscene on pictures given how much other space there was in the camping field! We were aware of them and I’m sure they were aware of us too. Hey ho – it could have been worse!
We had little wander down the local footpath, and a sundowner drink lower on the campsite, a natural slope made a perfect private terrace overlooking the sheep fields, before reheating a spag bol on the cadac for dinner on Friday night. Whilst it was bright and sunny, the wind was fresh, but we managed to cook and eat outside. We were very happy campers indeed!
Saturday dawned bright and cool and after a full English with goodies from our farm shop haul, we hit the road on our bikes. We cycled 1.4 miles (very much downhill) to nearby Dunford Bridge, which is where we picked up the Trans Pennine Trail. The Trans Pennine Trail is a mainly traffic free Recreational route which spans from Southport on the West Coast to Hornsea on the East Coast. It’s a staggering 215 miles long, runs mainly traffic free and largely follows the route of old railway lines, canals and riversides. The section that we were tackling this weekend ran from Dunford Bridge to Thurgoland – a distance of around 10 miles, all off road, all level* and all very scenic and lovely. It is worth noting that there is a car park at Dunford Bridge if you don’t fancy the ascent back up to the campsite. The reason we had been drawn to this section in particular was the impressive Thurgoland Tunnels, which we’d seen on a tv programme a while back.
We easily settled in to the ride from Dunford Bridge – the route very obviously following an old disused railway like, with steep gauges either side at times, and many original railway bridges to pass under.
We passed by Penistone and soon we arrived at our main feature, the Thurgoland Tunnel; a double bored disused railway tunnel that is 282 metres in length. It has a distinct 4000 foot radius curve which gives it unique 20+ second echo inside. Acoustically its really REALLY cool, and we loved messing around inside making sounds and clapping, listening to the long acoustic reverberating echoes. I wished I had taken my sax! Although it is double bore – one of the tunnels has been blocked in, so now you can only access one of the two tunnels.
See video of our experience in the tunnel…
About a mile or two on from the tunnel, we grabbed a pint at the Bridge Inn, before retracing our route back to the campsite. *The return route was harder by far. We thought we were unfit perhaps – this was our first cycle out for months. As the miles dragged on we became more and worried about the big hill back to the campsite! When we got back, my tracker revealed that actually we had done 10 miles downhill and 10 miles up. No wonder we struggled – but the beauty of tramline engineering is that these gradients are disguised very well and whilst they are gradual, we definitely noticed this one. Thats our excuse for our struggle anyway!!
A refreshment stop at Penistone* gave us that last push we needed and although it was a much slower return, we made it up that hill and back to the campsite by 4pm. We loved the route and were proud to have totted up 20.6 miles. You can see our route video below.
*There is a terrific taproom and brewery in Penistone where we picked up some lovely locally made lager.
It’s worth mentioning, you can still access this spectacular tunnel if you don’t cycle. There is a bus stop immediately outside the campsite which takes/ brings you back to Thurgoland on the number 29 bus every day except Sunday /and bank hol- Timetable here. You could walk 10 miles along the TPT and bus back, or you could bus there and bus back. Either way you do it, if you have an interest in railway history, cool places etc etc, its worth a visit and this site is one of the closest you’ll get to the Thurgoland Tunnel.
After showers in the awning, we settled into Gandalf for the evening, enjoying a delicious Barnsley chop dinner (Fillet Steak for Keefy) before a relatively early night. Barnsley Chop in Barnsley…. my month is made already!
Sunday arrived and we had a slightly lazier start to the day. The weather was still clear, despite being a bit blowy and fresh, and after a scrambled egg breakfast we donned our walking boots and walked to nearby Winscar Reservoir, then back down to the TPT at Dunford Bridge before returning to the site along (or rather up!) a farm land footpath. The reservoir was worth seeing, we enjoyed watching some of the boats from the local sailing club and it was really nice to see so many families out and about. We also were serenaded by Lapwings which was lovely.
After our walk we enjoyed delicious baked Camembert, cooked in my Lakeland Remoska which I still use most days in the Campervan!
Later on we had a bbq for dinner in front of the fire pit – but my gosh it was cold! We couldn’t soak enough of the view up – we’ve really missed hills and high ground during lockdown. Luckily with the terraced positioning of the site we were able to move inside and enjoy the view just as much in the warmth of Gandalf for our final night of this adventure.
All too soon it was time to pack up on Monday morning, but we made an early start and as such missed the horrific rain and wind on both packing up and arriving home. Bonus! We had hoped to make a stop at National Trust’s Wentworth Castle Gardens but the weather god’s had been kind enough during the weekend and our luck ran out on that front.
We really loved this site, and would not hesitate to recommend it to you all. It has no facilities at all, other than EHU and waste and water, and sadly there are no walkable pubs (although this may change if the local one – about a mile away reopens later this month). But if you like peace and quiet, and nice views this one is for you. The bus route outside will take you to Sheffield in one direction (thats the way you need for Thurgoland) and Holmfirth in the other. Electric bikes would probably be an advantage here – these are the next thing on our shopping list.
The Atera Strada bike rack had it’s first outing on Gandalf and worked a treat, as did our tailgate awning shower set up. We returned home from BH weekend refreshed and happy after a brilliant weekend away!
Seeing as the weather forecast for this weekend was so good, we decided to jump into Ruby again for a cheeky night away on Saturday, two weekends away in a row – how lovely!
Our wheels we once again set towards North Norfolk, this time towards The Weavers Way at North Walsham. The Weavers Way is a 61 mile footpath – parts of which are disused railway lines – and it takes it name from the cloth industry that was once one of the areas major industries.
We were staying at another Caravan and Motorhome club CL site, this time with no facilities other than hook up, tap and disposal facilities. Old Bridge Farm is situated conveniently just off the Weavers Way- perfect for our weekend of walking and enjoying the weather.
After a quick lunch, which we enjoyed in the beautiful sunshine, we actually had a quick nap! Feeling much more rested, we don our boots and head towards Aylsham on the Weavers Way.
Less than a mile from the site we came across one of the most well preserved stations we’ve seen on these disused railways; Felmingham Station. Sadly it’s not in use- it would make a wonderful cafe.
The banks along the Weavers Way are steep in places and full of pretty butterflies. We really enjoyed our 3.5 miles stroll to Aylsham before doing an about turn and making our way back to Ruby.
Once again, Keefy found an appropriate blind spot to take a shower, although the wind was a bit fresher than last week so it was a bit cooler.
We sat for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet before moving inside for dinner- that wind was very fresh!
Dinner was teriyaki salmon, noodles and stir fry. I used the Remoska to cook the salmon and it was delicious.
We ended up going to bed at 8.45pm – what party animals lol! And slept soundly until 7am. Must have needed that! These CLs are wonderfully quiet though – a real place to relax and unwind.
The sunrise was spectacular
As we had woken up so early, and the forecast for later in the day was rain, we got up early and went for a walk in the opposite direction, to North Walsham. It was just over a mile, so we walked about 2.4 miles in total. The light was wonderful.
We really enjoyed our time exploring the Weavers Way and highly recommend this campsite – it’s location and serenity were perfect and at just £12pn, we felt a real bargain.
On the way back we stopped for some local potatoes at a nearby farm and then at a farm shop for some leeks. Leek and potato for lunch!
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 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.
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!
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 ☀️
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).
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.
It was another wet and wild night last night- we even had some thunder and lightening! Again we had winds ofup to 40mph- needless to say Jazz was on our bed again! Ruby is coping so well with the wild weather – we are toasty inside despite having no heating. The bikes are ok on the back still and it’s doesn’t feel as wobbly as when we were in Bluebell the motorhome – I suppose we are lower.
Despite the weather overnight today dawned a beautiful morning. We went to the farmhouse for some fresh eggs – and they couldn’t have been fresher, the farmer had just picked them out of the nest- they were still warm. They made the wonderful egg and bacon rolls – I’ve never seen such a large yolk.
We walked down to the bus stop at the end of the field and caught the number 349 to Tenby. It was a 20 minute journey and cost £5.50 pp return. Not bad value at all- especially when you can use your ticket for unlimited travel throughout the day.
We walked through the town down to the Harbour and stopped at The National Trust 15th Century Tudor Merchants House. Worth a visit if you’re a member but if not again we thought the £5.75 entry charge a little steep as there wasn’t much to see at all.
Tenby Harbour is absolutely STUNNING. There are loads of cute pastel coloured houses that line the street and the Harbour is full of boats. The beach beyond the Harbour has lovely sand and the bag is full of banana boat rides and pleasure trips. There are tiny little lanes leading away from the Harbour- it was just gorgeous. It knocks socks off places like Southwold. We saw a sign for lifeboat rides and decided this sounded fun – even better than dogs were allowed obviously! So we booked on for 1:45- a bargain at £5 for 20 mins we thought. We spent the time before the ride mooching and shopping- all the shops were dog friendly – there was such a lovely atmosphere here. 1:30 arrived and so we made our way down to the Harbour to board our Lifeboat.
The ride was so much fun and it was really interest riding on an actual lifeboat (now out of service). All that see air and we worked up quite a thirst! So we found a pub with a sign claiming to have the “most sunniest beer garden in Tenby” – I found a seat whilst Keefy got the beers in- a Tenby beer for him aptly named after a Tenby lifeboat and brewed in the brewery on site, and a Welsh dragon cider for me.
We then went for a delicious fish and chip lunch before another pint at the Lifeboat, which had a really cool bar made out of an old Lifeboat (see pic above), although it didn’t serve any local beers. Before we caught the bus home we stopped at the fishmongers for some locally caught cod and samphire before looking around once more soaking in the atmosphere – it’s a fabulous place to visit and a real highlight of our trip so far. Also EVERY where was dog friendly even the shops! The rest of Thursday night we just chilled and enjoyed a cheese board for supper whilst watching Cracker.
riday Friday arrived and it was time to pick up the van and move onwards. We had enjoyed our stay at Middle Hill Farm and would recommend it to anyone visiting this area- especially to those who don’t want to drive to explore as the bus route was really good from very close to the site.
After leaving the site we made a stop at Pembroke to see the castle. Pembroke Castle was birthplace to Henry VII and although we didn’t go in we enjoyed a terrific walk around the outskirts which gave great views of the impressive outside .
We drove on to nearby Nayland and followed signs for the Marina. The reason for our visit was Brunel, who lived here for a time and extended his GWR to have a terminus here- aiming to build an ocean terminal for onward travel to New York. Nowadays you can cycle some of this GWR line as part of the Brunel Line which we did and was fab. We did only 5 miles each way but the full line is 9 each way. On the way to Johnson it felt hard- on the way back we realised why- we barely peddled! Brunel was such a genious, building these tracks at an exact angle to not feel steep so the steam trains could manage the incline.
After our cycle we heading onwards to our next stop for 3 nights, the St Davids Camping and Caravanning Club Site. On arrival it hammered down so we had a quick set up before an early dinner of Pembrokeshire Chowder with the fish we got from Tenby yesterday. Oh wow- don’t like to blow my own trumpet but it was delicious. Recipe here! (Looks gross- was delicious!)
The rain cleared up after dinner and so we enjoyed a dram outside watching the sun set over the sea from our pitch. Lovely
Ruby the Campervan is parked on Court Farm Campsite, Twigworth, Gloucester- a lovely landscaped C&CC Certified site with shower, hook up and loo- best of all it’s only £15 pn.
We set off from Newark around 10:00 and had a smooth journey to Court Farm, apart from the weather which was just grim. Happily though as we rolled onto the campsite at 12:30 the rain dried up, leaving us to set up in the dry and even contemplate lunch OUTSIDE! Happy faces all round! Lunch was leftovers from a curry we’d had on Monday and whilst I prepared it, Keefy dismounted the bikes off the rack.
By 2pm we were on our bikes towards Gloucester. We picked this site due to its close proximity to the historical city of Gloucester- it’s a very easy 20 minute cycle into the city centre, you basically turn right onto the main road (with pavement the whole way) and keep going straight. If you don’t fancy cycling there’s also bus stop right outside the gates.
First stop in Gloucester was the cathedral- which was gorgeous. We took it in turns to go inside for a look as we have Jazz with us- inside is just breathtaking. The main feature were the corridors with the most spectacular cloisters we’ve ever seen. They are also the oldest surfing cloisters – so no wonder the cathedral is used regularly for film and TV locations. You may even recognise these corridors as they were used as Hogwarts in Harry Potter.
Another highlight inside was being able to see Edward II’s tomb.
Before leaving I’d noticed on the Gloucester city website that is an online self led historical walking tour so I led Keefy on it from the Cathedral. It took in lots of interesting historical sites and buildings, including a couple of watering holes too. Perfect for an afternoons exploring.
The absolute standout was the hidden gem that there is no way we would have seen without this tour; the 16th C medieval timbered 4 storey townhouse which was complete with tiny alley way. It’s surrounded by McDonalds and KFC! And from the main the high street the only sign of it is the tiny top window sticking out. I think we may have been lucky that the gate was open to the alley so we were able to nip down, where you could see the actual side of the building complete with 16c timber. It was amazing – but sadly photos just won’t do it justice.
Anyone visiting Gloucester – I would highly recommend following this tour! It’s available here: and throughout the city there is free wifi so you can use that to follow the tour.
There is also a fun piggie trail on at the moment so we enjoyed spotting the pigs as we made our way around the city. My favourite was Harry Potter Pig!
We stopped for a drink at the historical Fountains Inn which had a pretty courtyard and is on the the oldest site of brewing in Gloucester.
We also popped into have a look at The New Inn, which had a fantastic galleried courtyard – one of the best, if not THE best in the country. Sadly the pub has been taken over by a chain and had sky sports blasting out so we decided not to have a drink here.
Just before retrieving our bikes, we popped to look at the Quayside which was lovely.
Sun was shining so we got the chairs out and enjoyed a drink outside before heading in for homemade spag Bol- a perfect day
Thursday dawned sunny and excitement was anticipating, we were heading to Bristol to attend the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. I’d wanted to go to this for years, in fact we booked camping for a a couple of years ago and then our plans had to change. We waved goodbye to Court Farm and slipped onto the M5, after a quick National Trust stop at a medieval barn, which is still being used as a tithe barn. Amazing to think something built in the 15th Century is still being used for its original intention
An hour later and we arrived
at Cotham Park RFC, which had allowed campers to book a pitch on their field. We booked in May- you need to book early as it’s a very popular event and location, the campsite is only 20 mins off road walk to the site of the Fiesta. It is up hill on the way back though!
After a delicious lunch of steak and Stilton wraps, we went down to the site of the fiesta for a look around. There were lots of stalls (mainly food or advertising stands)
We decided as there wasn’t much entertainment on during the day on Thursday, that we would go back up to Ruby, make a picnic and head back down for the 6pm Mass Accent of special shapes. Picnic made, off we walked, this time with picnic and chairs. Unfortunately however the mass assent was cancelled due to the wind.
We sat for 3 hours waiting for the night glow, and felt pretty unimpressed the updates and also the lack of entertainment. This, along with a ridiculous queue for the loos, which ended in someone saying “join that queue over there, people are peeing in the bushes it’s much quicker(?!)” meant that our moods were quite low by the time the night glow began at 9pm! Happily though, the nightglow was fantastic, it was where lots of balloons were tethered and lit up in a choreographied programme to music. Something I’ve never seen before, it really was great.
The fireworks that followed were equally good, so we hiked up the hill with thousands others afterwards feeling happy.
Friday dawned quite a bit earlier than I am used to on holiday, my alarm sounded at 5am. Yes, you read that right! The reason was the mass assent scheduled to take place at 6am. Keith decided he was too tired and couldn’t bear the thought of the walk down in case the balloons didn’t go up- completely understood, and was almost tempted to not go myself, however I knew I’d be so grumpy if I missed it. So I left Keefy and Jazz in bed, and joined twenty or so others from our site in the walk down. You can imagine my relief when we got the green smoke, signalling weather conditions were good to fly. My relief turned into absolute joy and wonder as the first of the 104 balloons floated up, up and away. I’ve never seen such a beautiful graceful site- certainly not at that hour anyway lol!
I returned back to Ruby at 7:30 and fell back into a deep sleep. When we woke up, Keith couldn’t believe it and was well miffed with himself! I explained as sweetly as I could without rubbing it in “you snooze, you loose!”
After an hour or so nap we got up- I was still happy about seeing all my balloons and Keith decided that he wanted to go down in the morning. We had a lazy morning before unloading the bikes and making the short 2 mile ride to Clifton Suspension Bridge. Brunel’s design won awards and is now grade 1 listed. It’s not hard to see why. It’s beautiful! There are several viewpoints and a newish visitor centre which we visited (free). We also cycled over for free – but to drive over costs £1. I hadn’t prepared myself for such a steep gauge that the bridge is built over- it’s actually really steep!
We cycled back to Ruby for a late lunch/early dinner of chicken fajitas which were absolutely delicious, what a feast! then settled into Ruby for a duvet afternoon as the weather deteriorated and we dead all the balloon fiesta activities were cancelled.
Saturday arrived and we were up with the alarm again at 5am. Neither of us “do” mornings especially well so we had a pre agreed agreement to not talk to each other for half an hour or so! So it was a quiet and brisk walk down to the fiesta site. Neither of us would admit how worried we were the balloons may not go up. There was a mild breeze and I was desperately trying to remember how it
compared to yesterday’s weather conditions to try and reassure Keith his early rise wasn’t wasted! When we got the green smoke – to say the balloons would fly, it was a tremendous relief! They have a system similar to the Pope announcement smoke system to inform the public and the pilots whether they could fly. Talk about tension!
After almost 30 balloons took off, we heard an air raid siren- this was to inform pilots that having received feedback from pilots already in the air, the conditions were not great therefore no more could take off. It wasn’t a huge surprise- visibility wasn’t great the balloons were disappearing into clouds! Nevertheless we went back to Ruby happy- Keith had seen enough to feel like a mass assent.
We got back to Ruby and after a cuppa started to pack up. Today we were
leaving the fiesta and moving to a new site. We were driving up to the SS Great Britain first though, so were happy to have an early start.
We arrived at the car park of SS Great Britain just after 9am- a first for us on holiday that’s for sure! We were surprised to read that overnight camping is allowed here- one for future reference that’s for sure.
It didn’t open til 10 so we treated ourselves to a pot of tea and toasted tea cake at the cafe next door before joining the queue for the ship.
Brunel s SS Great Britain was the first public ocean liner – and remarkably made the trip to New York in just 2 weeks. The visitor centre is excellent- you get to go beneath the water and see the base of the ship, and propellor in dry dock. The dock where it is now is where the ship was built, and we really enjoyed our tour on the ship, beneath the ship and around the museum.
Following our tour we drove the short distance to our next campsite, The Knights Folly camping and caravan club CS- where we received the warmest welcome we’ve ever had onsite! The owners were lovely and absolutely adored Ruby! The site was nicely laid out and had the cleanest loos and showers we’ve seen. It was a bargain at only £18pn.
The sun was shining so we set the sun loungers out, had a snooze then chilled off the remainder of the afternoon. For
dinner we had chicken stuffed with goats cheese, cooked in the slow cooker for 2 hours. It was amazing- definitely cooking that again.
We crashed out at 9pm, despite our afternoon nap our early morning caught up with us!
Sunday dawned a stunning day- and as we were right on the Avon cycle path – a disused railway path running from Bath to Bristol- in fact it was the first converted railway cycle path to be made, we decided to abandon plans to go back into Bristol and instead turn left and head the 7 miles to Bath. The cycle was absolutely gorgeous- we’d highly recommend it. It runs parallel to the Avon Valley railway for a small part (we were lucky to see a steam train depart Bitton station) then the path drops down alongside the river Avon into Bath. Gorgeous.
We’ve visited Bath before, but Keith asked whether I’d mind him revisiting the Roman Baths as we didn’t last time we visited, we went to the spa instead (😀) and it was over 15 years since he’d been. No problem I said, deposit me in a beer garden with wifi and il Jazz sit and do my blog! 2 hours later he returned happy as Larry- apparently it was a great visit and had changed loads with projections etc since his last visit. My prize for not going was a roman rubber duck which was hilarious! Unfortunately WordPress was playing silly buggers so I’d had less success!<
e nipped around the rest of the sights in Bath, stopping for the occasional refreshment stop, before returning back to Ruby for slow cooked ham. Yum< b>Monday<<<<<<<
was time to bid farewell to Bristol and Bath. We'd enjoyed our time here and loved all the Brunel sites in Bristol- I felt satisfied with the Balloon Fiesta- however to anyone thinking of coming for that, book camping early so you can have the while weekend here- we hadn't realised the chances of actually seeing the balloons go up were so slim because of weather conditions (I know, that's us being stupid!) You need the whole weekend as then it doesn't matter if it gets cancelled the first two days.. also book camping near to the fiesta site. Either Cotham Park RFC or Parsonage Farm (although you can't pre book that) All the motorhome clubs have rallies too but you need to ore book well in advance as it's very popular. Despite it being a free event you need to be staying local to avoid car parking charges as a) they are expensive and b) they'd sold out for Saturday and therefore people coming to Saturdays mass assent couldn't park unless they'd prebooked and it was a bit chaotic!
ould be go to the Balloon Fiesta again? Probably not- unless they announced more entertainment- particularly entertainment for when balloons can't go up! Without the balloons going up it was dull as dishwater (on Thursday) – perhaps Saturday is different. There was also a lack of balloon stalls- the stalls were literally just catering or their sponsors.
owever – we (especially me!!) are thrilled to have seen the mass assent- it really was a fantastic site to see!<
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.
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.
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!
I had a good play with my drone camera around the viaduct taking some amazing shots, and we also did some Geocaching too.
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!
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.
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!
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.