Adventures in the North East of England- using THS

Tuesday

Gandalf the VW is parked up on a rugby pitch- literally next to the goal post- on the outskirts of York. We’re on a rally field essentially, a Temporary Holiday Site (THS) ran by C&CC like a pop up campsite. There are no loos/ ehu or fancy ness- it’s a field with a tap, non and loo emptying facilities, but at £10 pn it’s a bargain and heaps cheaper than the other options for camping in York.

Our journey here from Burnley was smooth and picturesque as we crossed country via the scenic Yorkshire Dales. We pulled into site at lunchtime- in the middle of a county cricket match and had the surreal experience of driving through the cricket match to get to the rally field (the rugby field!)

Set up was quick and easy, and before we knew it we were taking the river path from the site for 20 mins on foot into the centre of York.

We’ve been to York many times, it’s a city we return regularly too and if you’ve not been it’s well worth a visit. It’s rich in history and has the unique Roman city wall walk which can be enjoyed. The shambles – a medieval street with heaps of character is like something off a pantomime set and the majestic minster is also worth a visit.

Our visit today was organised by Keefy- he was keen to visit the Yorkshire life museum as on display currently is an impressive Roman Horde called the Rydale horde. As we had Jazz with us who couldn’t go into the museum, I dog sat in a nearby bar overlooking the river.

As well as the Rydale horde, Keith enjoyed a collection of Prehistoric, Viking, Anglo Saxon and medieval artefacts, all found in York and surrounding areas. He was particularly impressed with the Anglo Saxon helmet dating from 750, considered to be the best preserved in the world and some Viking shoes. He was really impressed with the whole museum and would definitely recommend it.

Follwing this, and reunited once more, we had a quick wander through the city, doing a couple of errands as we passed through, before meeting our friend Gary for a few drinks in the evening.

Our afternoon and evening in York was brief this time, but enjoyable non the less.

Wednesday

After a quiet night on site, we packed up and hit the road at a reasonable hour. We had a 3hr journey north ahead of us- we were heading to Northumberland. We made a stop at National Trust Cragside on route. Somewhere I’d wanted to visit for some time now and thankfully it was cool enough to leave Jazz in the van whilst we went inside together.

Cragside is considered to be Britain’s first “smart home”. Living in a smart home ourselves- Keith loves his technology- I knew we’d enjoy this visit. Built by Lord Armstrong in the Victorian era, this home was carved into rock in a crag- and boasts wonderful views from every corner. But its the pioneering technology inside that makes it’s particularly interesting. Lord Armstrong developed all sorts of gadgets running inside such as hydraulic “dumb editors” – rotating hydraulic spits over the fire, underfloor and over head heating, hot water taps and the first hydroelectric light bulbs in the world.

The thing that blew me away the most was the 10 ton marble fireplace, installed in the “drawing” room – an additional wing built for a royal visit. Lord Armstrong’s pioneering technology gained interest from the Royal family and as such they paid Cragside a visit in the late 1800s. What was fascinating was the idea that their bedroom here would be more advanced than at their own royal home.

After our visit inside we took Jazz for a wander around the grounds before retrieving Gandalf and enjoying the carriage route around the grounds- a 6 mile scenic loop in the car through the grounds.

From here we made a quick stop at Alnwick, filling the fridge with supplies before arriving at our next home, Beadnell Bay THS.

This large rally field, ran by Teesside DA was another corker. Two large fields this time, right opposite a beautiful beach situated walking distance from both Beadnell village and Seahouses. Again, just £10 pn. We paid our dues for 3 nights, and went to set up.

Dinner that night was a homemade curry from home that had been packed in our freezer. We enjoyed a chill before an early night.

Thursday arrived and the weather was drizzly to begin with. We had a fairly lazy morning waiting for the weather to blow over, which it did- before making our way on foot via the gorgeous and empty beach to Seahouses.

Seahouses is a small little village with a couple of pubs, a couple of fish and chip shops, and some touristy gift shops. It’s got a pretty harbour and is know as being the gateway to the Farne islands. There are plenty of boats trips available (although we’d been organised and pre booked ours with Golden Gate).

We enjoyed a delicious lunch of crab soup- Devine! in the Olde Ship- in their beer garden overlooking the Farne Islands. The sun was shining- life was good!

At 3pm we boarded our (dog friendly) boat trip to the Farne Islands. Our boat is the only one which stops at the Indians of Longstone- with its pretty red and white lighthouse, once home to Grace Darling, which we could visit. (Keith went in- I enjoyed the view outside with Jazz).

The boat then continued around the inner and outer Farne islands where we saw lots of birds and seals. Even a couple of puffins- it’s not puffin season anymore so this was a treat!

We really enjoyed the boat trip. A lovely way to enjoy an afternoon.

Once back on dry land, we enjoyed a beer in the Bamburgh Castle pub before enjoying a fish and chip supper at the harbour (from Neptunes- they were delicious!)

We’d had a cracking day, and once back at Gandalf, we enjoyed the last rays of the day with a drink.

Friday

Today we took the bikes out for a pootle along the coastal route. We nipped down into nearby Beadnall to see the 17th century kilns on the harbour wall, before making our back past the THS to Bamburgh.

Bamburgh is home to the phenomenal Bamburgh Castle, which dominates the coastline for as far as you can see. It’s also linked to Lord Armstrong (from Cragside) as he purchased it and restored it in the late 1800s. So tied nicely in with our visit to Cragside a couple of days ago.

The views of the Farne Islands from the grounds (which are dog friendly by the way) are great and the expanse of white Sandy beach below are just stunning.

We took it in turns to go inside – I finished my book whilst Keith went in, and he had a coffee and cake whislt I went in, and both found the interior really interesting.

It was a great visit and one which we’d not planned as we didn’t think it was dog friendly even in the grounds.

We enjoyed cycling a bit beyond the village, admiring the views constantly. What a marvellous section of coast.

Back at the site and we enjoyed a prawn and avacado cocktail and spag bol for tea.

We’d really enjoyed our time here. The THS site runs from July to mid august each year and I think there is another in September. To find out about the THS’s use this link. (You need to be members of C&CC to attend)

If you’d prefer the luxury of a more formal campsite and perhaps ehu, there is a club site next door.

Gandalf had coped admirably with 4 nights off grid, we’d had a mix of weather so the solar panel didn’t get sun ALL the time. The thing with VW’s is the fridge running of the leisure battery rather than gas which is a shame and makes off grid a bit more of a challenge. Having said that, ours managed – we just ran the fridge and water pump off the solar panel and van leisure battery. We then used this – a new gadget for this trip- to charge phones and run the 12v shower, plus give us light for the evening. It worked a treat.

This area is an ideal base for a few days as there are bus stops outside the site for routes along the coast, to Alnwick or even Newcastle. So plenty to do without moving your van.

What a great time we’d had. But it was time to move on! Where next?!

Adventures in  London 

(backdated from the beginning of September- Sorry for the delay!

Friday 10 September

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked up on an old favourite site of ours, the C&MC Club site at Crystal Palace. Its usually an oasis of calm in the middle of suburban south London, however something tells us that this time may be different. Our spider senses were tingling as we made our way towards the site, and road closures became apparent, and then came the vast amounts of teenagers, many wearing less than I’d wear on the beach, swarming towards Crystal Palace! We felt old as we arrived at the campsite, and were utterly confused as to what was going on. The wardens soon set us straight. The Wireless festival was being held just metres behind the campsite for the whole weekend. DRAT! “Don’t worry” they said, “the music * stops at 10pm”.

*Music – Thats one word to describe it!!! Good grief!!!

The festival began at midday and therefore we were treated to its opening act as we set up. Our pitch was the closest to the stage. My goodness me- it was LOUD. We could NOT stop laughing. It was just so bad/loud. All we could do was laugh and thank our lucky stars we’d not planned to go to this site for a relax. Our neighbours, who arrived just after us, lasted a whole 30 mins before they threw the towel in and moved on to a different site. We left Gandalf to vibrate to the drum and bass beat, and hopped on the next bus into London. This site is soooo convenient for city breaks – the bus goes directly to Horse Guards Parade and runs 24 hours a day. Wireless wasn’t going to ruin our break.

Our first stop in London was the house in which Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding Fathers, resided during his time in London.

Benjamin Franklin’s House was situated in a lovely Geogian town house just behind Charing Cross, and we really enjoyed a pre booked tour around the house, which included lots of original Georgian features such as a terrific marble fireplace and wooden staircase which bore the weight of Franklin’s weight lifting efforts.

It was a terrific tour, and we learnt loads about the life of Benjamin Franklin – and also his inventions, including the interesting Glass Armonia, a musical instruments that uses glass and a rubbing technique to create different notes.

After our visit we had a quick drink before making our way towards The British Museum. The main feature of our trip to London was to visit the Nero Exhibition.  

The exhibition showcased hundreds of absolutely INCREDIBLE artefacts, many in pristine condition which dated from as early as AD30. Many looked like brand new.

The exhibition completely and utterly blew our minds. In fact, I actually thought Keith was about to collapse when he saw the ORIGINAL Praetorian Guard relief, dating from AD51. He was beyond emotional.

Other highlights of the exhibition were the wall paintings brought over from Pompei- the colours still outstanding.

We saw hundreds of coins, again as new, and depicting all sorts of scenes from Nero’s reign.

We even saw a writing slate that had imprints of Roman handwriting on. It was truly wonderful and if you have any interest in Roman history whatsoever it is vital that you go and see this exhibition – however be quick as it ends on 24th October!

After a couple of hours of having our minds blown, we wandered down into Soho and found a lovely Italian – it seemed appropriate – for dinner. We discussed the exhibition over a bottle of Italian red wine and a lasagne. It had been a great day!

Even better that when we arrived back to site at 11pm, all signs of Drum and Bass and underdressed teenagers had disappeared and our campsite was lovely and peaceful once more.

Saturday dawned a little earlier than hoped – as we were so close to the main stage and artist area, we were woken by hoovers from 5am which went on til 8am. Then we had sound checks from 9am. Not quite the morning we’d anticipated but it gave us a kick to get up and out and so we were on the bus by 10am! 

Today’s agenda was more Roman history sites. But before that we treated ourselves to a drink in our “London Office” – the Tattishall Castle – the best view for your drink on ground level London.

We toasted Londinium and watched the world go by on the Thames for a while before carrying on to Chinatown for a Dim Sung lunch.

We then walked from Soho to Bank, along the Strand and Fleet Street. We just love exploring London by foot. There is always something cool to see, somewhere new to take a picture and a new pub to try a pint in. We got great views of St Pauls as we wandered by.

We arrived at Bloomberg Space ready for a (free) tour of the London Mithraeum.

This site was discovered when the underground was being constructed nearby in the late 1800s. The temple of Mithras as it was also known, would have been a mysterious place to visit, with the mystical temple being underground and frequented by men who wore masks and worshipped scenes depicting Mithras killing a bull within a cave. The cult remained fairly secretive despite spreading across Europe over the period of around 300 years.

The remains of the Temple of Mithras were really great to see – but the highlight was how the site was displayed with a fantastic audio light show making the underground cave ooze in atmosphere. The vapoured light column were ingenious, and we really REALLY enjoyed our visit. 

From here, we had a drink on nearby Watling Street – an original Roman Road which also has great views of St Pauls Cathedral.

We then walked all the way back to Soho, via Millennium Bridge and a couple of really cool historical pubs – The Blackfriars being a highlight with its very instagrammable architecture and really great original decor.

We had a Thai meal for dinner before making our way back to Gandalf.

We’d walked miles but had a BRILLIANT day. We haven’t had much of plan for today other than the temple of Mithras and so it was especially good to have had a spontaneous mooch, going where our noses took us. Since Covid, there’s been a shift in spontaneity- most things have to be pre booked well in advance so today felt really good. We enjoyed using a book which Keith got for Xmas – it helped us find some hidden gems for sure. London for Instagrammers – would make a good Christmas pressie for those who like exploring London by foot.

London, you never fail to disappoint. We can’t wait to be back again! 

Until Next Time 

L x

Adventures on the Thames

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked up a stones throw from the River Thames in Newbridge, a tiny hamlet consisting of 800 year old bridge, two pubs and a farm, who’s field we are camped on! We’re on Newbridge Farm, a C&MC CL, with no facilities other than a loo disposal, tap and bin. We’ve come for a last hurrah before we return to work next week, after a terrific summer of travel and adventures. The first part of this trip is a bit of a “working holiday” as we both attacked our return to work admin and time tabling for the term ahead. However, as all we needed for this was a phone, iPad and 4g, we decided a change of scenery out of our office window would be nice. Also there is something really liberating about being off hook up- it does something (positive) to our mind and so we’ve found the headspace here that we needed to crack on with admin.

The site itself is a medium sized field, with elson point, tap, and rubbish disposal and views over the fields. There is a footpath which takes you across a field to the Thames and the Thames Path, and not one but two pubs, and a very historical bridge.

There is some road noise, however it didn’t cause us too much of a problem, and at £6pn we just can’t complain at all! It’s packed as you can see…..!

As I said earlier, we just ADORE these off grid sites. It’s also really interesting to see how the solar panel copes as it’s very grey and cloudy- we seem to be stuck in a cloudy tunnel at the moment! (Update – it worked brilliantly! 2 nights off grid with very cloudy skies and we’re still sat at 12.5 v – really chuffed!)

We arrived here on Tuesday afternoon and settled down for some admin time before taking a dog walk to the local for a river view. We enjoyed a pint in the Rose Revived, a green king pub, and as the seasons have apparently shifted to autumn, it would have been rude not to try an Abbots Ale overlooking the bridge and river.

Newbridge, contrary to its name, is actually the oldest original crossing of the River Thames. It’s 800 years old and was built during the reign of King John. It’s a beautiful bridge.

After our pint at The Rose Revived we decided to inspect the bridge from the other side, this time taking a river front seat at The Maybush. Our luck was in as they had declared £1 a pint as they tried to clear some left over beer festival stock.

We returned to Gandalf, had a shower each in the awning and then made beef and potato curry for dinner. Delicious! Before settling down under fairy lights and reading our magazines.

Wednesday dawned grey again, never mind, we cracked on with our admin in the morning, and just before lunchtime went for a 3 mile linear walk from Newbridge towards the sea (which is 153 miles to the east)

In lockdown earlier this year, I spent a considerable amount of time planning a Thames Path adventure using Gandalf and campsites as our base each night. Sadly I got a foot injury and we had to postpone our walk. The Thames Path runs for 183 miles and runs from the source of the Thames just south of Cirencester where it’s just a spring and tiny stream, into the sea at the Thames Barrier. I really really want to walk this, so hope my injury improves for next year. In the meantime I’ll blog about my Thames Path plans separately sometime.

Today’s walk took in a very remote and pretty section of the The Thames. It’s hard to image this picture perfect rural river ending up running through the capital of England with high rises, Parliament etc on each bank.

After our walk we stopped for lunch at The Maybush -unfortunately the staff in The Rose Revived were extremely rude to us, but it was their loss. Plus, the Maybush still had £1 a pint!