Winter Adventures and festive fun; London Part 2

Saturday arrived after another really great sleep- the Crystal Palace campsite is so incredibly quiet, despite being in so close to the centre of London.

We enjoyed a quick egg bap for breakfast before doing some house keeping- Keefy emptied the loo & refilled the water whilst I did the washing up. By 10.30 we were on the bus- this time we took the 363 to Elephant and Castle and then a short walk to Borough Food Market. Despite living in Croydon for just under 40 years, I was supposed to learn that Keith had never been here! When I lived in Croydon I’d often nip on the train to London Bridge and spend a few hours expanding my overdraft here.

Borough market is one of London’s oldest and largest food markets- a market has been there since the 12th century. Our first visit of the day ticked all our boxes- food and history and we spent a very happy hour or so perusing the stalls, trying as many samples as possible, buying some British saucisson and English mature soft cheese, and then treating ourselves to a sausage roll and also a portion of haddock and chips – well the stall proclaimed they’d just won an award for ‘best fish and chips’ so it would be rude not to ‘check’. They were bloooomin lovely by the way.

Borough Market is a perfect place to visit from Crystal Palace- and is totally dog friendly. It does get busy though.

After our fish and chips it was time for a beer to wash it down, so we popped to nearby favourite of ours, The George- a National Trust owned galleried pub, nestled just off Borough High Street and only 5 minutes walk from London Bridge station.

Inside the smaller bar there is a very interesting clock – apparently it’s one of the only clocks still hung in its original place. It was hung in this bar in 1797!

Fish and chips washed down, we took the short walk to London Bridge and made our way on the underground to Notting Hill Gate. Our destination was The Churchill Arms – one of instagrams most pictured pubs in London. The reason..

It has over 100 Christmas trees on its exterior and over 12,o0o lights. It’s not just the Christmas time when it becomes popular to visit. In the springtime it’s completely covered in over £25,000 worth of flowers! Another pulling point for us was that is serves very highly recommended Thai food – in fact it was London’s very first Thai restaurant in a pub over 30 years ago.

It. Was. Packed.

Properly rammed inside, but as luck would have it, we managed to get a seat at the bar to watch the endless tourists and locals battle their way through. We booked a table for lunch and happily got seated only 30 minutes later.

We enjoyed a couple of pints of Fullers Snow Globe whilst we waited and are 90% sure that we spotted Ian Mckellan emerge from the restaurant.

The meal was absolutely beautiful, we shared a chicken pad Thai and Thai green chicken curry. It was incredible value, just £9 per meal!

As the weather had turned bad, and we managed to get a table in the bar, we enjoyed another pint whilst we waited for it get dark to enjoy the lights outside. As day turned to dusk the bar became even busier, I seriously don’t know how everyone fit in!

Around 4pm, we jumped back on the tube and headed further west- to Turnpike Green. Our destination was Chiswick House and gardens for their After Dark light display. Sadly by now it was lashing it down but we weren’t going to let that dampen our spirits. Scuse the pun.

Chiswick House is a beautifully elegant 18th century villa, with acres of land. Sadly given the weather we weren’t visiting the inside – the After Dark trail was an outside event. The first part of the trail was a 4 minute loop of specially commissioned music composed by Sergio Pizzorno from Kasabian, set to a light display by Nick Gray. It was brilliant. We really loved the music, and actually the wet weather gave the whole thing an added atmospheric effect. Aren’t we British!

The trail was a little sparser than others we have done, however enjoyable nonetheless. We especially loved the laser projections over the lake and the large moon.

At the end of the trail there was a handily located marquee with street food and a bar, serving hot mulled wine and mulled cider – or wassail. As we were drenched we took advantage of a spot by the heater and warmed up with a mug of wassail before making the journey back to Westminster on the district line and then picking up the no. 3 bus to Crystal Palace just outside the Houses of Parliament. We were back to Ruby just before 9pm.

Sunday dawned much dryer thank goodness- in fact it was a perfect winters day- dry, yet cold and crisp with a stunning blue sky. We took our time packing away, but decided to make a couple of stops en route home. We stopped off at Greenwich, parking just off Blackheath common in a free parking spot, and walked down through Greenwich park to Greenwich Market.

Another great place for food lovers- we forced a sausage roll and a scotch egg down whilst browsing and finishing some Christmas shopping off.

After an hour or so we went back to Ruby and crossed underneath the Blackwall tunnel towards Hackney, our second stop of the day. We found a free on street car parking space on the road near Sutton House, a National Trust Grade II Tudor Manor House. It’s amazing to think that this old building is right in the middle of Residential Hackney. At the moment it has a ‘Christmas through the ages’ exhibition on which was really interesting; some rooms were set out as they would have been at Christmas in the Tudor times

Some rooms were set out as a Victorian Christmas which is more like the Christmas that we know.

And finally an 80s Christmas, which is a nod to when squatters took over the house before the National Trust evicted them and took over the house.

The most fascinating fact I learnt was that in the Tudor times turkey was eaten- however the Norfolk turkeys were walked from Norfolk to London, setting off around August!

It was a lovely visit and one to stop at if you’re passing- it’s right by the start of the M11 but is a pig to get to on public transport from central London.

We had the most wonderful time, despite learning of our friends death the day we arrived. Christmas in London is just so special and this time we found pockets of areas off the mainstream list of tourist spots which we just loved exploring.

Until next time, which won’t be long, as we’re heading north for a few days next weekend.

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 weekend at Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up on the C&CC site at Cambridge. It’s a quiet site despite being only a couple of miles from the centre of Cambridge, and has the usual high standard of facilities and cleanliness that we have come to enjoy this year, as we’ve stayed mainly on Club Sites.

The reason for our visit – as we are under an hour from home – is the Duxford Battle of Britain airshow. We booked our tickets in February, and booked the campsite at the same time as this event is so popular that it sold out a number of weeks ago. We opted to stay over and get a weekend ticket – which actually was only a couple of pounds more than just a one day ticket, due to reports of terrible traffic chaos last year. Plus we could both enjoy a proper drink. After quite a bit of research, we decided to book this campsite due to it’s close proximity to Trumpington Park and Ride, where there is a free shuttle to and from the airshow.

After a day of gigs and chores, we didn’t actually leave home till after 5pm on Friday and we been had dinner before leaving. It only took us an hour to get to the campsite and it was the quickest set up we’ve ever had! Within 10 minutes, we were having a little walk to the local the pub for a pint. The Hudson’s Ale house was about 15 minutes walk away towards Trumpington Park and Ride and we enjoyed a pint of their Hudson Ale and Lager before heading back to Ruby for a good sleep. I don’t know about you but I always sleep so well in the campervan.

Saturday – a day at the airshow

Saturday morning dawned rather early as we had set an alarm. The gates opened at the air show at 8am, so we decided to have an early shower and bacon and egg bap before walking with our chairs and a picnic down to the park and ride for 9am. We stopped at the Waitrose for a fresh baguette for our cheese and pate picnic.

When we arrived at the Park and Ride there was already a massive queue for the shuttle – but it was early still and so we didn’t mind too much. We waited for over an hour and only one shuttle bus had arrived. About 200 people had joined the queue behind us and there were no members of staff advising the situation – the mood was a bit panicky all round as we all knew the flying started at 12:45 and you could sense people calculating how many buses would need to suddenly appear to get us to Duxford in time. Some people at the front had been there since 7.30am!

By 10.15 I had decided I didn’t want to wait any longer, so arranged for an UBER to pick us up. A couple of ladies behind us heard me sounding off to Keith and said they would come in with us if we didn’t mind and spilt the fare. 10 minutes later our ride arrived – an 8 seater! It seemed silly for us to only fill half of it, and not entirely knowing how much it would be, I shouted out to the Queue – 4 spaces – who wants to join us! Better to split it 8 ways than 2!

Taxi full to capacity and the driver instructed to take the NON motorway route – twitter had informed us the buses and half of the Duxford crowd were stuck on the motorway – and 20 minutes later we had arrived half a mile from the entrance. The driver kindly let us exit before the official entrance rather than sitting in the traffic jam he could turn round and go back the way we came. The fare came to just £14! I chucked on a fiver tip, and we all paid £2.50. Situation taken control of- 8 happy strangers marched the half an mile to Duxford and joined another queue to get in!

Once in, we found a place to set our chairs up and paid and extra fiver to walk the flight line. I’m not sure whether this was worth it or not, we weren’t blown away – however that may because the weather had decided to go awol and start to rain, despite the forecast saying it wouldn’t. I think to be honest the stress of getting there had exhausted us!

We settled down with a couple of pints of Spitfire and awaited the opening of the flying. The opening act was 16 Tiger Moths in formation marking 100 years of the RAF.

The flying went on for 5 full hours and was terrific value for money, it really was. We saw pre WW1, WW1, WW2, Korean, American aircraft – plus modern. Sadly the rain had set in however and we were cold and wet! But we perservered as the forecast for tomorrow was even worse. Photos were impossible as the rain made them unable to focus!

The Red Arrows were an absolute highlight – they were just terrific and lifted the crowd (and our) moods no end. 20,000 people were there and every single person was silent. It was actually eeery! Wonderful stuff.

The finale to the show was a flypast formation of 19 Spitfires in the air – the largest ever to have displayed at an airshow. Despite being cold, wet and tired, it was just phenomenal.

As they started landing after the flypast, they played Nimrod over the speakers and I realised that the water on my cheeks was not rain, I was in fact bawling like a baby! It was utterly emotional and I can’t believe that almost half the crowd had left directly after the Red Arrows and before the finale so missed it.

The airshow finished at 5.45pm and getting back to Trumpngton Park and Ride was a mission. We ended up queuing up for another hour and half and so we didn’t get back to Ruby until 8pm. We were very tired and cold, but the joys of a lovely hot shower was wonderful, and a quick and easy reheat of a spag bol I’d made previously made made for a stress free dinner time. We were in bed snoring by 9.15pm dreaming of the spitfires.

Sunday dawned rainy and then some! It was so wet that we decided to forget about the Park and Ride and have a lay in before getting Ruby as close to Duxford as we could, for a quick walk around the indoor sections of the museum before coming home. We’d written off seeing the flying as we assumed, like most according to Twitter, that there wouldn’t be any due to the abysmal weather.

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings

When will us British learn NOT to trust the weather forecast? We found a great (free) parking spot within a mile of the front gate (I’m not going to name it as it may not be there next year!), and dressed head to toe in waterproofs made for the museum. Today there wasn’t a queue – mind you we were arriving closer to midday than 11am as we did yesterday.

We explored the whole of the main museum hanger, looking at Concorde and the Lancaster up close, amongst others. Duxford Museum is a great day trip by the way, we’ve been before, but it was good to relook around.

The flying schedule was exactly the same at the Saturday, but I requested to Keith that we nipped outside to watch the Typhoon display as I loved that yesterday but didn’t film it as it caught me completely off guard and I was just in awe of it. I just loved the immensity of the noise it made! It was wonderful!

So out of the hanger we emerged – to beautiful blue sky and sunshine! Can you believe it? All the rain had cleared up, so we stayed at the airshow, dressed in our waterproofs which we really could have done with yesterday, and enjoyed seeing all the displays again, this time with blue sky as the backdrop and no raindrops affecting the focus of my cameras.

The new Lightening bomber

Our favourites were the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane flypast,

The mustangs

the red arrows

and of course the spitfires, although it was too windy for all 19 today.

We had a terrific afternoon- our mood completely lifted by being warm and dry. Our secret parking spot was away from the congestion of everyone leaving, so we were back home by 7.30pm feeling very satisfied from a great weekend.

Would we recommend Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow? Absolutely! However, I think their logistical arrangements sucked. If we were to go again, we would stay at Cambridge campsite and cycle. We couldn’t this time as Keefy was recovering from a minor op on his leg. There are loads of bike parking spaces at Duxford. Or I’d park a mile away (check google earth for back roads with laybys and walk- but get there very very early. And take your waterproof trousers EVEN if its forecast for sunshine all day!

I hope you like my pics of the planes, I really enjoyed snapping away and was stunned at the performance of my hand held Sony Superzoom camera. Lots of people with HUUUUGE lenses on their cameras but I’m pretty chuffed with my pics and it is very portable.

Until next time

Lx

Touring The Thames Valley: Part 1, Chertsey

The Thames Towpath has been on our list of places to visit for quite a while now, but as with all these things, things get bumped up/down, life or sometimes long haul trips get in the way, you know how it goes. We both naturally enjoy being around water and enjoy walking and cycling along Rivers and Canals. For one thing, they are usually dead flat – so no sneaky hills for us to contend with!

This Summer Holiday gave us the ideal opportunity to get cracking on our Thames Towpath walk, and luckily we were able to get booked on to a couple of Club sites in ideal locations for us. So, after a gig on Friday morning, we threw everything we needed into Ruby the VW Campervan and set off south, only getting caught up briefly around Heathrow, which wasn’t bad considering it was the Friday before the last bank holiday and we were travelling in the afternoon.

Our first campsite base was the Camping and Caravan Club site at Chertsey – situated right on the banks of the Thames, overlooking Chertsey Lock and Weir it was an ideal location for us. The Club Site was clean, spacious and tidy and we were very happy with our pitch which had a lovely view of the river.

Last night I made a homemade Chicken Dhansak which I’d portioned up for our dinner tonight – an easy and delicious meal for our first night. Across the road from the club site is a 24 hours Spa and Petrol station so after a quick wander down the Thames and a pint at the local pub, The Kingfisher, we popped in and picked up a samosa to accompany our DIY curry night. The fresh samosas heated up very well in our Ridgemonkey.

As the site is situated close by to Heathrow, you get to watch the planes as they are ascending. We downloaded an app called Flight radar which was amazing as it told us where the flight was going and how long its flight was. We are so nosy and probably a bit geeky but we enjoyed ourselves!

We had a great night sleep and actually didn’t wake up until 10am – which must be a camping first for us! The noise of the planes or the M3 certainly didn’t bother us!

After a quick bacon bap, we made a packed lunch and donned our walking boots – we were heading off onto the Thames Path for a walk towards Shepperton.

The walk was a suggested walk off the C&CC website and took in the section of Thames Towpath between Chertsey and Shepperton, then we crossed the river via a 500 year old passenger ferry, before returning back to Chertsey via Weybridge and the River Wey. It was a lovely walk – and there were some absolutely magnificent riverside houses to admire the entire way round.

We enjoyed a half way beer at The Old Crown in Weybridge which was a quirky and historical little pub with a lovely terrace overlooking the river. The second half of the walk passed by a charming lock-keepers cottage, managed now by the National Trust.

You can view the walk as a PDF here: Chertsey-Shepperton

When we got back to Ruby, I put two jacket potatoes in the slow cooker (see recipe here) and settled in our chairs outside with a cider watching the planes and making the most of the late summer sun. 3 hours later, I reheated up a mexican bean and beef chilli that mum had made us whilst we were away in Cuba (thanks mum!) and we served it along with the jacket spuds and tacos and salad. It was delicious, and just what we needed after a long walk – plus the temperature was just starting to drop – proper comfort food.

Sunday dawned wet, wet, wet!

Well, it wouldn’t be a bank holiday would it without some rain. Actually we didn’t mind it at all – some on the site were packing up and heading home, but we made the most of the enforced rainy day, but staying in bed till almost 2pm and having a massive chill- reading, catching up on crappy tele. All the things you don’t do when its clear and you feel you should make the most of the day!

A break in the rain around 5pm meant a mad dash to the pub (well we had to walk Jazz!) for a swift pint – Keith enjoyed the local Windsor and Eaton Brewery Ale whilst I had a glass of fizz. Dinner on Sunday was a delicious Swartz Slow Cooker mix – chicken in red wine, served with mashed potatoes. It was gorgeous even if I do say so myself!

Bank Holiday Monday arrived and it was time to move to our next site. We’d brought the Kayak and Stand Up Paddleboard with us to try out, as the Chertsey site has a launch point onsite. However because of the rain yesterday, we didnt get chance to launch, so we decided to stop enroute to our next site in Henley on Thames for a go instead. On our walk on Saturday we had spotted somewhere suitable for us to drive to and launch, so shortly after breakfast we waved bye to the Chertsey Club site and drove the short distance to Chertsey Mead B carpark. *This carpark has a height barrier of 2.1m in height

The Aldi Stand Up Paddleboard was fantastic – it took less than 10 mins to roll out and inflate. The Kayak sadly had picked up a hole in its bottom chamber and therefore we couldnt use it. We both had a good go on the SUP and I even managed to STAND UP! (for roughly a minute and a half!) It was exciting and we both felt proud that we’d given it a go and got across the Thames and back without drowning! (we do wear lifejackets!)

After a clean down of both the board and ourselves, we made our way to Runnymead National Trust- the site where the Magna Carta was signed and sealed over 800 years ago! The National Trust Parking is right on the river bank and is the perfect place for a picnic – something which everyone was doing. It was wonderful – I loved having a picnic of pizza (cooked in the ridgemonkey) and cheese, and salami whilst watching the boats going by. If I’d have realised we would have been picnicking here, I would have gone to far more effort – but we will definitely return here.

After lunch, we took a wander down to see the JFK memorial – apt as we will be visiting the site where he was assinated in just a couple of months in Dallas. We also looked at the Magna Carta monument. There were tons of walks that were avaiable and wonderful open meadowland. I really recommend a visit before the summer is out if you’ve not been and have time.

Next stop before our next campsite was Ankerwycke – which is just across the river from Runnymede, but 15 mins in the car. Here lies a 2500 year old yew tree which is just astonishing.

There are some theories that now say that this was the site of the sealing of the Magna Carta, not across the river, due to it’s proximity to a Benedictine Abbey – the remains of which you can see by the tree. The tree has a girth of 8 metres and is said to have been a location that Henry VIII canoodled Anne Boleyn. National Trust have devised a short circular walk that takes in some more of the Thames across the bank from Runnymede and some ancient woodland. It’s very pretty but not brilliantly signposted so watch out!

We really, really enjoyed our visit to the Chertsey and Shepperton area of the Thames Valley- but for now it was time to move upstream for our next leg of our adventures.

Until Next Time

Lx

Stepping into Churchill’s footsteps – A night away and a visit to NT Chartwell

It’s hard to believe that our last little adventure in Ruby was back at the beginning of June, when we had a weekend at the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site at Crystal Palace and visited the Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms.

It therefore feels natural that our next little trip away followed in the theme of Sir Winston Churchill, with us visiting his house – National Trust Chartwell. Of course, in reality it wasn’t planned to be so ordered – we were of course supposed to be setting of to the New Forest on Wednesday for two weeks. Life got in the way however, and we decided to treat ourselves to a week in the Caribbean instead to recharge – but we don’t leave for a couple of weeks, so we decided to combine an important visit to Keith’s dad who is recovering after a new hip with a cheeky night away and then a day out to Chartwell.

After spending some time doing some odd jobs for Barry and Valerie and helping them with some chores (and having a little relax in their beautiful garden), we headed just 5 miles to the Caravan and Motorhome Club site Alderstead Heath. In all the years we’ve had a motorhome, we’ve never stayed here despite its close proximity to the M25, London and most of our family and friends! It also is literally across a field from where Keith lived for 6 years!

The campsite itself is fabulous actually – its huge and the pithes are well spaced out and landscaped. Despite it being close to the M25 its really not noisy – and is surrounded by rolling Surrey hills. It has all the excellent facilities that you come to expect from a Club site and at £24.90 for the night we thought it was good value.

We arrived at 4pm and headed straight out for a walk to nearby Chaldon Church, which is a really pretty little Church with rare and magnificent medieval wall paintings dating from the 1100s. The walk from the campsite took us about 20 minutes across the heath, over a field and through a field of sweetcorn. It couldn’t have felt more away from the traffic and chaos that surrounds the area! (We both lived there – K for 38 years – me for 3 years – so this area brings back lots of memories!)

There is the option at this point to carry on walking on a circular walk until you reach the Fox, but as it was late in the day and Keith wanted to show me his old house in the other direction we retraced our steps back across the fields and beyond the campsite to Netherne on the Hill to see Keith’s old stomping ground.

Nostalgic session over we got back to Ruby and had the most delicious BBQ we’ve had in ages, before sitting and chatting and chilling as the sun went down.

After a wonderfully silent night and deep sleep we woke and enjoyed a snooze with the tailgate open – the joys of a spacious private pitch! Keith made me an omelette for breakfast using our new gadget – Electric Omelette Maker. Just plug it in, whisk some eggs and whatever fillings you enjoy, pour in and ten minutes later you are enjoying the most perfect omelette. Perfect for campsite days with electric hook up and really dinky to store too. A bargain at £13.99  and it’s really easy to clean too.

After breakfast we packed up, waved bye to Alderstead Heath, joined the M25 and drove 25 minutes to Chartwell, once home to Sir Winston Churchill.

We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day to visit, the sky was a wonderful shade of blue with not a cloud in the sky. The National Trust own Chartwell so members visit for free. It is however worthwhile pre booking your house tickets online to make sure you have a time that suits you. Its free to do so (if you’re a member that is)

We really enjoyed our look around the house – but its understandably very busy – especially since the film The Darkest Hour – which parts of were filmed here.

There is also a really good museum which includes plenty of Churchill’s uniforms and medals. I loved the Monet painting of Charing Cross Bridge -it didn’t jump out at me first but when it did I was mesmerised by it.

The grounds of Chartwell are wonderful – there is no doubt why this was a favourite place for Churchill. We brought a picnic with us and enjoyed it on the lawn in front of the house.

After a wonderful few hours (and possibly the best local ice cream I’ve had – the salted caramel Kent ice-cream was gorgeous) we nipped into nearby NT Quebec House – home to General Wolfe, we hit the carpark of the M25 and got home about 7pm feeling refreshed.

Highly recommend a couple of nights at Alderstead Heath – one to walk their walk and one to visit Chartwell, then onto Crystal Palace site (but it closes end of this year) for your Churchill War Rooms visit

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

🇬🇧 A weekend camping in our capital; London 🇬🇧 8-11th June 2018

After a fairly stressful week this week trying to source not one, but two sets of new wheels for Ruby (thanks Yodel for loosing a wheel!) it was looking uncertain whether we’d actually manage to get to London for our pre booked weekend of Birthday celebrations for Keefy. Thankfully whilst I slaved away at school on Friday morning, K managed to sort it all out and after our gig on Friday afternoon, we set off towards London, via Bury St Edmunds to pick up a wheel then carried on towards to home for the next three nights, the Caravan and Motorhome Club Crystal Palace Club Site.

New wheels for Ruby

Our route from the M11 took us through London on the North Circular- a risky manoeuvre for rush hour on a Friday, however Google maps was insisting the M25 was a car park, so we obliged and sure enough 3 hours later we had arrived at the leafy Crystal Palace Site. Before pitching up, we had the small matter of taking off the spare and replacing it with the new wheel we’d just picked up. Keith managed it, with some help from the warden who had a brilliant winch- ours was next to useless.

The pitch was lovely- we were on a grass one with electric but it was surrounded by trees and shrubs, and nicely landscaped. It was also really large! Whilst K showered, I got on with dinner, burgers and salad and we enjoyed a gin together toasting the terrible week turning out ok.

We had an after dinner stroll to the pub; just ten minutes walk and you’re right in the hub of Crystal Palace where just about every type of restaurant and takeaway is available if you don’t fancy cooking.

Saturday dawned bright and fresh; we knew as the alarm was set for 7:30am, a very rare occurrence for weekends and camping trips! 🤣 The reason for our early start was that we had pre booked tickets to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, for 10am. The transport link into London from the site is excellent. Almost outside the gate is the number 3 bus stop which takes you directly to Trafalgar Square, the journey takes an hour and costs just £1.50 (or free if you’re over a certain age and have a bus pass!)

The Queen had kindly laid on a birthday celebrations for Keith- our arrival at the CWR coincided with the gates opening for Trooping of The Colour. We felt very underdressed in our jeans and flip flops!

The Cabinet War Rooms were fantastic. We spent almost 3 hours exploring the endless underground corridors and rooms- the hub of the British War Logistics and where Churchill lead us to victory.

After the war ended, the underground war office was closed- with everything left inside, maps, office items and everything else, and not found until about twenty years later- with everything as it was on the day we won the war. The map room you can see above is completely original and how to was left/ found.

There is an extensive Churchill museum which has many of Churchill’s clothes and personal items. It was an absolutely brilliant way to spend the morning and we highly recommend it- but advise you to prebook.

We managed to time our exit so that we enjoyed the Battle of Britain fly past which was lovely!

https://adventuresinamotorhome.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/img_8388.mov

Having lived in London for many years we’ve done most of the normal tourist sites many times before so after lunch at Bubba Gumps, we spent the afternoon having a wander around Soho taking in the atmosphere and having a drink stop here and there.

Keith had no idea, but I’d arranged for his friends to meet us at 5pm at Covent Garden for the evening, his face was a picture!

We enjoyed a curry at the Strand Tandoori and then a drink on the river Thames, at the Tattershall Castle- right opposite the London Eye, before catching our night bus back to the campsite.

Sunday morning arrived and we had a little bit of a woolly head. Obviously dehydrated.. Ahem 😜. Nothing that a eggs and bacon bap and a cold can of coke didn’t fix! We were back into London, this time in or “above average” camping clothes. We were being treated to Brunch at AquaShard (up the Shard) by Keith’s Dad and stepmom.

It was the first time we have eaten there and it was excellent. It’s not cheap, but the quality of the food was great and the views are marvellous. Definitely the best restaurant view in London.

After a long leisurely Brunch we bid farewell to Barry and Valerie and as the sunshine was glorious had a stroll down Southbank, stopping at a couple of bars on route before making our way back to Ruby on the number 3 from Trafalgar Square.

We just scratched the surface of London activities as we’ve done many of them before. What we can’t understand is why we’ve never stayed at this campsite before!

At just £25 pn we highly recommend it for a London trip- but, be quick – sadly it’s closing at the end of this year! Sad face.

Trip info

Until next time

Lx

A Cheeky escape to Chirk; May Bank Holiday 2018

Friday 4th May

Ruby the VW Campervan is nestled amongst 4 other motorhomes beside the Oxford Canal in Warwickshire. We are at Britstop number 427/18 and for the first time ever, we are sharing our Britstop location with other vans! In 6 years of using Britstops, we’ve never encountered other vans!

This weekend’s mini escape has been a little topsy turvy to say the least. We were supposed to be going to see Tears for Fears tomorrow in Birmingham, which meant bank holiday camping plans were difficult. Then, Keith popped onto Arena Birmingham’s website 2 days ago to get parking directions when he noticed TfF wern’t listed this weekend. A little bit of digging and we discovered that the gig had been been cancelled. Thanks for letting us know.. not. Thank goodness I have a nosey OCD husband otherwise we definitely would have been non the wiser and would have turned up.

As soon as we found out the gig was off, before we even investigated rescheduling/refunds, the next step was to embrace the fabulous weather forecast, and our now completely empty diary and get ourselves onto a site somewhere for the weekend. All the forums/facebook pages I follow had been saying May bank Holiday had been fully booked all over the country for ages so my hopes were not high and I went to work extraordinarily hacked off to say the least.

Happily my husband is some sort of miracle worker and found us a site within an hour – vaguely in an area that we wanted to visit at some point this year, Chirk. Our preference was of course the Camping and Motorhome Club’s “Lady Margaret Park” in Chirk – it ticked all our boxes, we’d had several people recommend it and it had near enough direct access to the Llangollen Canal and it’s cycle route to Pontcysyllte aqueduct. Obviously it was fully booked already, but the warden told us to keep trying. During work on Thursday my email pinged with the email “Booking Confirmation – Lady Margaret Park” – Keefy had managed to get us on THE site we’d wanted. Woo!

I had work until 4pm Friday so we decided to break the 4 hour trip to North Wales with a popular Britstop half way. We phoned ahead, booked a table for dinner and off we tootled, sunglasses on feeling pretty chipper.

Britstop 427 offered a very warm welcome, the landlord liked the look of Ruby – and we enjoyed showing her off like proud parents, especially as we gave her a little makeover this week.

We had a beer on the canal side before heading inside for a delicious meal and crashing out early. It’s been a hell of a week!

Saturday

We had peaceful night tucked away in the pub car park, but were keen to get up and on, as we still had to get past Birmingham. We were just having a cuppa when much to our surprise we found ourselves with some guests..! See video……. 🤣🚒

It delayed our departure a touch, but was fascinating to watch Warwickshire Fire Servie carry out a drill. Ruby gained a few more admirers from the fire crew and we were treated to a serenade of Morning has Broken. One of the more surreal mornings we’ve had, thats for sure!

Our journey to Chirk was smooth – a highlight was spotting Ruby the VW’s twin!

After a quick stop at the local butcher’s in Chirk of course we rolled onto the club site at midday exactly. It took us a while to set up as it’s been some time since we’ve been out on site with all the dry weather gadgets but it was soon time to have lunch – steak and stilton wraps, before having a little wander into town.

We enjoyed our walk, which took in the Chirk aqueduct and viaduct – which are positioned so close to each other that from a distance it looks like they are double decker.

We wandered across the aqueduct back into England and found my dream house.

We then picked up a couple of bits that’d we’d forgotten from shop before walking through Chirk tunnel – an amazing piece of engineering – a canal tunnel that is almost 500m long – so long that you can barely see the end of it!

It’s very cool – boats can only go through single file and have to have their light on so people know they are coming. We watched boat go through alongside us, and then some canooists we waiting to go through next. I quite fancy a go at that myself.

Back at the site – it was glorious weather so we tried out these self inflating sofabeds that we got off Dad and Jen for Xmas. I say self inflating – what I actually mean is “self inflating if you run around in circles wafting your arms around looking like a complete tool!” Our next door neighbour actually took pity on me and came to ask if I wanted to borrow his air pump – then looked mighty confused when I say thanks but this is actually how you’re supposed to do it! Once inflated though my goodness, they are comfy – it’s like you’re floating on a hammock!

We had a delicious bbq for tea which featured some welsh dragon sausages and welsh lamb leg steaks from the butchers down the road, before we both crashed out again at 9pm!

Sunday

Another day of sunshine was forecasted for today – we could hardly believe our luck! After a tea in bed watching the rabbits behind us, we got on with breakfast – a full English on our outside gas ring. I love cooking al fresco- and is there anything greater than walking through a campsite on a sunday morning with all those AMAZING smells tickling your nostrils. No, I don’t think so either!

Whilst I got on with breakfast, Keith prepared the bikes and by 10.30 we were off on our way. We joined the canal tow path just by Chirk Station – and the first bit towards Pontcysyllte aqueduct is especially beautiful – steep banks either side, lush green trees and banks upon banks of bluebells and wild garlic. Just wonderful.

In actual fact – the whole cycle all the way to Llangollen (9 miles each way linear) was just breathtaking. It has absolutely worked its way to our (imaginary for now) list of top cycle routes in the UK.

The main feature of course is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the UK’s longest and highest aqueduct, which has now received World Heritage Site status. As such it is absolutely heaving with people, on the tow path on bikes and foot, and on the canal in canalboats and canoes; but who can blame them.

We just loved it there. We walked our bikes across the aqueduct, then carried on the canal towards Llangollen (you have to go over the bridge, cross the road and then take the new tow path). This stretch was another breathtaking sections, and the 4.5 miles to Llangollen just flew by.

At Llangollen you have the option to take a boat trip on a horse drawn barge. We didn’t fancy the trip but enjoyed watching the horse pull the barge – we’ve never seen this before.

We turned back round at this stage but you can carry on to Horseshoe Falls. After stopping for an ice-cream at the sweetie barge and a quick purchase of some souvenirs (some of you reading this will know we are suckers for souvenirs 😜) we soon found ourselves back at Ruby – exhausted but completely overwhelmed by the scenery.

After a chill on the inflatables (and causing amusement to yet more campers on the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site!) we cooked fajitas for dinner and had a little evening stroll down across the border back into England, to the Bridge Inn for a swift one whilst watching the sunset, before bed.

What a cracking day. You can view our Llangollen Canal cycle video highlights here.

Monday

Monday dawned way too quickly – we were having far too much of a good time to have to pack up and start spinning Ruby’s wheels back home! Luckily we were both feeling it, so after packing up, we drove the mile down the road to Chirk Castle National Trust in a hope to procrastinate!

Arriving early worked in our favour – I bagged a prime seat within the castle courtyard at the cafe in the sun and read my kindle whilst Keith went inside then we swapped (Jazz obviously wasn’t allowed in and it was WAY too hot to leave him in Ruby so we were tag teaming!)

We had to do the same for the formal gardens and woodland unfortunately as dogs weren’t allowed in there either – only the estate grounds for the furry ones. I assume this is because of the actions of selfish dog owners in the past leaving their poop.

The gardens were lovely, but I don’t think either of us enjoyed visiting them without each other. Especially seeing all the families and couples enjoying picnics etc. 😦 But if you don’t have a dog – I’m sure you would just love it there!

All too soon, it was time to hit the road – we couldn’t put off the impending bank holiday journey home any longer. Luck was once again on our sides though it seemed as we got home in 4 hours exactly  with no traffic jams. Unlike the poor folk who were queuing to get out Norfolk on the A11 – we hit no traffic problems whatsoever.

Lady Margaret C&MC site – you have won us over and we will most definitely return. How’s next weekend?! Joke. 😞

If you haven’t yet visited this area and enjoy off road easy cycling, this is a must for you.

Until next time, which is departing in just over 2 weeks, eek and is one of our favourite trips of the year – our annual pilgrimage to Bonny Scotland. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Lx

February Half Term 2018; Wiltshire and Dorset. Part 2

Tuesday dawned wet and wild as forecasted, so we didn’t rush off our site at Dezizes. I’d woken with a stinking cold but was determined not to be held back. After a hearty porridge for breakfast, we packed up and waved bye to the C&CC site. We made a brief stop for groceries at Morrison’s in Devizes before carrying on to Stonehenge.

We arrived at 1:00, bang on our ticket time. As members of the National Trust we were able to visit for free, despite being run by English Heritage, the land is owned by National Trust therefore members are allowed in for free- however this isn’t too well advertised and you are encouraged to pre book before arriving. Our National Trust membership saved us £21 each!

We were told conflicting things about dogs being allowed in/ or rather not as it turned out to be. It didn’t bother us, we appreciate how historically important Stonehenge is, but the misinformation resulted in us wasting half an hour in the rain.

There is a brand new visitors centre that has opened in the last 3 years. You have to get a bus from the visitor centre to the actual site (or walk over a mile each way on a road!). As it was pouring with rain we opted for the bus. The stones were fabulous and well worth the visit – I’d never seen them, Keith had.

However, I couldn’t help but feel slightly of the opinion that English Heritage are overcharging people though. I also was completely hacked off about the fact that our National Trust entry didn’t allow us an audio guide and we were expected to pay a further £3 for this. I didn’t feel the visitor centre added much to the experience. But as I say, the stones were fabulous to see.

Our pitch for the night was actually closer to the Stones than the EH visitor centre. I’m sure EH hate it, but there is a bylaw that allows wild camping on the old Stonehenge Drove road which overlooks the Stones! So therefore it is a rather popular spot for Campervan and motorhomes to overnight park. We decided this would be very cool so had a night next to the stones!

We managed to pick the coldest night of the year, -4 outside! And we have NO heating! 😂 We tackled this minor setback by having a really long drawn out dinner- spaghetti carbonara first followed by pancakes for pudding. By not rushing and washing up between courses, dinner time lasted over 2 hours and we were snug as a bug during this time. We also sank nearly a bottle of mead which definitely assisted with my cold and also warming us up!

The sky was phenomenal and we couldn’t resist some star gazing despite it being a bit chilly. We had nearly every item of clothing on us by this time! We decided to head to bed just after 9pm, and our fleecy duvet set and our 13.5 tog duvet meant we were very cosy and warm- I didn’t even need a hot water bottle!

Wednesday morning dawned cold – so cold that our inside condensation had frozen! As had our sliding door! By the time Keith had made me a cuppa and showered me with Valentines Day choccies and sweets, we’d defrosted enough to enjoy the reason we’d put ourselves brought this indulgence test- it was so awesome to have our sliding door open and lay in bed looking at Stonehenge!!

The heavens opened – and they stayed open ALL DAY! So we made no rush to leave, enjoying a fry up and some crumpets for breakfast and gallons of tea.

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eisurely morning, we setoff in the direction of Shaftesbury, our next stop, but decided to have a stop at National Trust’s Stourhead en route as we were passing by. I was feeling ropey but didn’t want to ruin the day so we got our waterproofs and boots on and went for a little explore around Stourhead estate. I’m so glad we did.

Stourhead Estate is absolutely breathtaking- and that’s coming from us in the depths of winter on a wet and wild day! Seriously beautiful, it’s a huge landscapes garden estate, with a lovely walk of about 3 miles in length weaving up and round past countless different trees and bushes. Every now and again you get a glimpse of the lake, which is the head of the river Stour that has been dammed off into a landscaped lake. There are picture perfect bridges, a pantheon, a grotto, a waterwheel. It’s just fabulous and despite the cold wet and frankly miserable weather, it was a holiday highlight. We met a NT volunteer in the Pantheon who showed us an original statue of Augusta, and is over 2000 years old.

He said he thought Stourhead was the best garden in UK and we wholeheartedly agree.

There is also a fabulous farm shop, and regular readers will know we have a weakness for these. Armed with our credit card we took battle with the farm shop, stocking up on numerous cheeses, all of which are from less than 30 mins of Stourhead, ice cream, sausages, venison, pork pies, ale. We were in heaven.

After restocking the fridge, we got the road again, this time heading for our campsite, Blackmore Vale Campsite on the outskirts of Shaftesbury. Sadly right from arrival we had a vibe this wasn’t going to be quite as we’d expected. It took over 40 mins to “check in” – there was no reception, no answer to the mobile number that was pinned to the gate. After 30 mins traipsing through the holiday park looking for someone, in the rain, I was getting a little fed up. Eventually after being directed to the eighth place (via 2 incorrect places!) id found someone, who preceded to tell me that we weren’t expected – I had an email and had paid £20 deposit- but not to worry, there were a few places available so just drove down and find one. So we drove down and of course there was only one, and it had a reserved sign on. Keith went back to the man and he said don’t worry about it, take it and he’d send the other people elsewhere. Glad we weren’t the other people! 😳

In the meantime I gave Ruby a good clean- she was FILTHY inside from our wild camping excursion in the rain! Keith did the water and loo and went for a shower. When he came back he was less than impressed- the water kept cutting out throughout his shower and the shower block was gross. Off I went for mine and mine was stone cold- so I left my shower. I went to brush my feet and nearly fainted- look at the sink! 🤢😲

Not impressed but of course we couldn’t find anyone to inform. Keith went to the loo and came back pale- instead of urinals it was a tile wall to pee up! 🤢 it also was clear by now that it wasn’t a holiday site it was more of a “permanent site” – all the other caravans had workmen in trade vans on.

The rest of the afternoon went smoothly but we made the decision to cancel our second night and move on tomorrow.

We had a fabulous deli board from our farm shop goodies followed by steak and homemade chips for main and the local ice cream AND a Gu desert for pudding. Well it was Valentines Day!

Thursday arrived and thank goodness, there was no rain! Infact it was a picture perfect winters day, and the sun actually held a bit of warmth. We packed up, I went to inform the site that we would be leaving and highlighted our concerns. Not that the manager seemed at all bothered.

Next stop was our day visit to Shaftesbury. We were both exited- Shaftesbury is home to the famous Gold Hill, or rather Hovis Hill as it’s nicknamed as it’s the location of the Hovis advert that Ridley Scott directed.

Well, as they would say in Yorkshire, By Heck, what a view. Our first impression of the view from the top of Gold Hill absolutely knocked me for six. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Thankfully there was a perfectly located coffee shop with a table right at the peak of the view for us to grab a coffee and gather our thoughts. We decided what made the view quite so special was the combination of the view of the countryside behind the old fashioned houses, cobbled street and NO cars!

We were also lucky that the light was absolutely perfect- however when we visited later on it had clouded over and was still magical.

We popped into the dog friendly Gold Hill Museum and enjoyed our visit, before joining the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival trail. This wasn’t quite as impressive as I’d imagined but I think I was still bowled over by “that” view so perhaps it never stood a chance.

We had a packed lunch on the pretty park terrace which had similarly great views before a pint on the terrace at the Mitre Inn. One last look at our special view on Gold Hill before heading back to Ruby.

We’d managed to book onto a site on the outskirts of Salisbury, Coombe Caravan Park for the next two nights. Fingers crossed for a better time here!

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