Our Escape to Colditz

Keith is a huge history enthusiast and has expressed a desire to visit Colditz Castle for as long as I’ve known him. In fact, we almost made it there in Bluebell the Motorhome in 2016, however decided to stay in Austria and revisit another time when we were a little more prepared. The opportunity finally arose this year as I decided to book tickets for Keith’s Christmas present – the man who has every gadget under the sun – and it went down brilliantly! Due to work commitments, I decided that rather than drive, we would grab a quick weekend return flight from Stansted to Berlin, however I’ve included motorhome/campervan stopovers too on this blog.

We stayed overnight prior to flying at the Holiday Inn Express Stansted, which was convenient as it offers onsite parking and evening meals – we wouldn’t arrive until gone 8pm following work so would need dinner. Free breakfast was also offered, and was actually very pleasant despite it being 5am! A shuttle bus took us to the departures terminal in just 7 minutes at a cost of £3pp.

10.30am local time on Friday saw us touchdown at Berlin Schönefeld airport and by 11am we had picked up our wheels for the weekend – a VW Golf hired from Sixt.com. They did manage to sneak some added extras on which meant we ended up spending over €100 extra to the hire charge which was a bit of an irritating beginning.

Although we had flown to Berlin, due to the regularity of flights available to ensure we got the most time possible from our limited time away, our destination was 2 hours south – Leipzig. It is possible to fly direct to Leipzig however they only fly twice a week from Stansted and it didn’t work timing wise for us.

Leipzig is a very exciting place to visit as a musician, and I can’t help but feel that it’s massively overlooked on the tourist trail. Leipzig was home to J.S.Bach, who worked at Thomaskirche as the Kapellmeister for many years.

His family, many of whom were also musicians, also were based in Leipzig, and although their family home no longer exists because of WW2 Damage, the cathedral does and their neighbours and friends house is now The Bach Museum and Archives.

Inside the church you can see Bach’s grave along with many very rare and historical musical instruments from the Baroque Period.

We were lucky enough to hear the organist perform some Bach’s Organ Pieces which was incredibly moving and really very exciting.

 

Our visit to the Bach Museum also didn’t disappoint, we got to see some very rare, handwritten by Bach manuscript, which was ridiculously neat and just completely awesome to see. (No pics allowed)

We did some of the Music Trail although time was not on our side – you could easily enjoy 2 days + here. Other famous musicians who are linked to Leipzig are Felix Mendelssohn’s who died here- his house is now a museum which we’d have liked to have visited but we ran out of time, and Richard Wagner.

During the walking tour we enjoyed looking at some of the beautiful buildings which have survived the war including the opera house.

We also stumbled across a traditional winter fayre, which was a great chance to warm up with some Gluwein.

We had three delicious meals in Leipzig – lunch at Ratskeller, a really atmospheric beerhouse which serves local Saxon Fayre, a bratwurst at the winter fayre, and finally our evening meal at the historic and atmospheric Auerbachs Keller and tried loads of absolutely delicious local beer and even a Leipzig gin!

Our home for the night was the Mercure Hotel which as just down the road from Mendelssohn’s house and had an underground carpark for us to leave the car whilst we explored on foot.

On Saturday we were up fairly early and checked out at 9am. Keith was very excited as today was our trip to Colditz Castle. His reaction as we caught our first sight of the beautiful looking castle was priceless.

I’d booked us the extended tour (€18 pp payable in cash on arrival) and we were surprised to learn that we were the only one booked on the tour – so it was to be a private tour – an unexpected perk of being out of season. Our guide Steffi, began leading us around the vast corridors, cellars, and grounds, giving us brilliant commentary throughout.

Colditz Castle is a striking Renaissance Castle, sat perched on a large rocky outcrop, high above the River Mulde and became best known during WW2 – it was used as a High Security Prisoner of War camp for allied officers who had repeatedly tried to escape from other POW camps. Despite being considered as a high security camp, it had the highest number of successful escape attempts and only one assassination, and that was, according to Steffi, an accident. Prisoners here were treated with respect and a little more dignity than elsewhere and had huge libraries to peruse, a fully functional theatre in which they used to put on full scale productions and also the dorms were less crammed in and some officers even had their own rooms which were bigger than you may expect.

During the tour we got to see the famous gap in which Pat Reid managed to escape from – he later went on to develop the famous boardgame “Escape from Colditz”;

The French tunnel which ran 44m in length right underneath the chapel

The end of the British tunnel

the attic room where the famous glider was built in secret and found when the Americans liberated the castle

and much more. We saw the theatre, complete with secret trap door under the stage,

the officers rooms, the British Dorms, and heard story after story of escape efforts – some successful and some not. Despite the nature of the history here it was hard not to feel inspired here, the sheer determination of those who were held here almost lives on in the walls, its just truly fascinating – even for someone who isn’t such a history buff as her husband!

Our tour was supposed to last 2 hours, but Steffi, encouraged by our enthusiasm and interest I think, showed us some extra places and we actually ended up being there for over 3 hours!

There is a Campsite within walking distance if you go in your campervan/motorhome and also a Stellplatz (overnight parking area) in the next town – although Colditz is very small and I’m not sure I’d fancy driving our old motorhome up to the castle.

Our final stop of the trip was 1.5 hours down the road on the border of Czech Republic, at Bastei. This addition to our itinerary was last minute after reading about it in the Lonely Planet Germany Book and my goodness are we pleased we discovered it.

Bastei is a large area of rock formations which tower 194m high above the River Elbe. There is a fabulous bridge nestled amongst the rocks and lots of viewing platforms dotted around – some of which aren’t for the faint hearted, especially when they are covered in ice and snow as they were for our visit!

I managed to put my big girl pants on and conquered them all, despite a few deep controlling breathes and jelly legs as you can just about see from this pic!

We managed an hour of exploring the paths before we lost the sunlight

and enjoyed a bratwurst sausage and beer (alcohol free for me being Des, but it was fab!!) at the kiosk just as they shut, before returning to our car and discovering a car parking ticket -whoops!

Our journey back to Berlin Schönefeld Airport took just under 2 hours, where we stayed in an airport hotel (which was grim but served its purpose) ready for our extremely early 06.30 flight back home. We had a lovely traditional meal of Schnitzel at the local Gasthaus – which we needed to drive to as there was nowhere within walking distance of the hotel and no restaurant at the hotel. Check out the size of those Schnitzel’s!

We had a brilliant time – and can’t believe we were actually only in Germany for a day and a half. We covered 582km/361m and found German roads brilliant. A note to myself, next time the car hire kiosk asks me if I would prefer automatic or manual – get automatic! I kept going for an invisible gear stick!

Until Next Time (which won’t be long as this time next week we will be in the Lake District for half term in Ruby- woo)

Lx

 

Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival, Jan 2019

Sometimes the best laid plans are those that are conceived after a few too many sherbets in the village local. That’s certainly how this little weekend’s escape came about; an unplanned pub session on Halloween saw us chatting to a local about all things Pagan. Keith was explaining to anyone who would listen about the end of harvest festival Samhain, and a local farmer went on to tell us that if we liked that sort of thing then we should check out Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival. A few days later and after a Google and Instagram reccy, we were booking a campsite and blocking the January weekend out of our new diary.

Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival has been happening longer than records exist. It begins on the Tuesday following Plough Monday (the 1st Monday after Twelfth Night), when it became customary to dress one of the confraternity of the plough in straw and call him a Straw Bear. The Bear then is led around the town to entertain in a clumsy and frantic manner whilst the townsfolk provide great spreads of beer, beef and tobacco. The straw for the bear was carefully selected and the whole point of the exercise was to hope for good fertility and a good harvest in the year ahead.

We originally booked to stay at nearby Northey Lodge campsite due to its close proximity to Whittlesey- an easy walk apparently. However, on arrival on Friday we had one of the most bizarre arrival and check in procedures that we’ve ever encountered, leaving us both rather creeped out to be perfectly honest, and so as the site itself was an absolute dump and the electrics were hanging off with loose wires on show, the shower covered in plastic and the next door caravan sporting a large “no valuables left inside” we made a sharp exit and went elsewhere.

Thankfully The Camping and Motorhome Club have a Club Site, Ferry Meadows Peterborough fairly close by and they could accommodate us for the weekend. Phew.

Friday night was spent downing a few beers and a homemade turkey balti whilst mulling over our day; it had started with us playing a gig and accompanying the State Secretary for Health in a dance with a resident at a celebration lunch and finished with this bizarre encounter at Northey Lodge.

Saturday arrived and it was time to figure out how we would get to Whittlesey. There was a bus stop nearby to the Campsite which we could have used along with a connecting bus in Peterborough, and also a train service from Peterborough but to get to the station was around a 4 mile walk. We needed up grabbing a local cab for just £14 each way for ease, speed and laziness. Once in Whittlesey we soon found the heart of the festival, on Market Street, and it wasn’t long until the Straw Bear had been located for a selfie! 🤳

There were loads of different Morris dancing teams, all with their own individual style and costume. Some had black face paint, others had multicoloured.

We found a souvenir programme and found the history of the Morris dancers really interesting. We also learnt that this is the biggest Morris dancing event in the UK and teams come from across the country to participate.

We followed the Straw Bear and his team of minders and musicians along the high street towards the Ivy Leaf where he was to have his lunch.

We made use of the hour and half gap to enjoy Morris Dancing displays outside the Wetherspoons, and of course sampling a few beers whilst we did. We particularly enjoyed the Straw Bear Ale. it was amazing to see some of the teams using really traditional instruments- we saw two hurdy-gurdy’s which was amazing!

After his lunch, the Straw Bear came back along the high street and weaved round the small streets and alleys, stopping at each pub for a dance with whichever Morris dancing team was already dancing in the car park or beer garden.

I don’t know if it were a coincidence or not, but as time ticked on and more pubs were visited, the Bear’s dancing became more and more lively. 😜

He’s being fed something in a tankard 😜

By 3pm, we’d found ourselves right in the heart of the Parade, humming along the tune of the March thoroughly captivated into the spirit of the event. It seemed like the entire town, young and older were out enjoying themselves- it’s obviously a real tradition here.

By 3.30 the finale had taken place, the Straw Bear had been joined by another and also a smaller bear and a mass dance along with the Morris dancers took place to mark the end of the day.

It had been a really unique experience for us “outsiders’ but we were made to feel welcome and we really enjoyed ourselves. What really surprised us was how many younger people were part of the Morris Dancers- it’s obviously still a very popular pastime.

Back at the campsite we settled in for the night and enjoyed a homemade carbonara and a bottle of wine. Ferry Meadows campsite is lovely and we will definitely return with our bikes next time as there are loads of off road paths.

Sunday dawned a beautiful winters morning, however it was chilly! It dropped to -4 last night as whilst we were snug as a bug in bed, the doors and windows had frozen up so we had to spend a few extra minutes in bed whilst we defrosted with the heater and kettle on. What a shame!

We decided to make the most of the beautiful day and do a walk so after a hearty breakfast, we waved goodbye to the site and drove 5 miles to nearby Elton.

Our 7.5 mile walk took in some really beautiful scenery along the Nene Way. The weather couldn’t have been any better – I just love this crisp winter sunshine on a frosty ground.

Half way into the walk we stumbled across the birthplace of Richard III and also the place where Mary Queen of Scots got beheaded in the small quaint village of Fotheringhay. The motte and bailey is really well preserved and although the castle remains are no longer there the views from the motte are spectacular. The church at Fotheringhay is also really interesting as it has a octagonal tower.

Fotheringhay Bridge was the earliest bridge over the Nene. This stone one dates from 1722 and replaced an original timber bridge.

We stopped for lunch at the Falcon Inn and made a note of the Certified Location Campsite right next to the Motte and Bailey- right on the river banks it looked a definite for us to return to someday.

What a varied but lovely weekend. Have a great week,

Until next time

Lx

Hello 2019! Seeing in the New Year on the North Norfolk coast

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked on the very lovely Deepdale Backpackers hostel and Campsite, at Burnham Deepdale, North Norfolk. We’ve driven by this place many a time, but the recent addition of electric hook ups and a complete toilet and shower revamp saw us booking on back in September for our much anticipated New Year break.

The campsite is absolutely excellent by the way; huge pitches and probably the best facilities we’ve ever come across; plenty of massive wet room showers with your own private loo and hand basin, even heated flooring! There are plenty of dish washing facilities, free Wi-fi and even not one, but two warm doggie showers!

These are the facilities just on site, aside from these we’ve got a fully stocked supermarket/petrol station that is open 7-7 even on New Year’s Day! A number of lovely shops, a cafe, not one but two pub/restaurants, the Norfolk Norfolk coastal path running practically from the site and a bus stop that is the coastlines and runs from Hunstanton to Fakenham and back every hour. It’s just the perfect place to spend New Year- a time when we always end up walking miles and miles to try and burn off some of those excess pounds that we’ve gained since, well Texas really!

The journey here on Sunday was indirect from ours but relatively quick- just over an hour and we were pulling onto our pitch. We took our time setting up as our last pack away was in the middle of the night and after a hearty lunch of homemade pea, ham and mint soup, made in my compact soup maker that Santa brought me, we donned our boots and set off on a small walk. The soup was amazing by the way!

We turned left out of the campsite and walked along the coast path towards Brancaster Staithe, a walk of around 1.5 miles and then looped back along the road, obviously checking the two pubs out too. We passed two small places selling fresh mussels. Obviously we brought a bag of live mussels, (and some fresh eggs) ready for a starter tonight.

Sunday night was spent chilling before dinner. Dinner was a rather exciting affair; first we had the local Brancaster mussels, cooked in a simple white wine and onion sauce- oh my they were good.

Main course was homemade turkey, ham and leek pies using our new gadget, an electric pie maker. I made the pies at home and we reheated them in about 15 mins using electric. It was a blustery wet evening, and our pie and mash dinner really hit the spot!

It never fails to surprise me how well we eat in Ruby, considering we only have just two gas hob rings!

New Years Eve

We had a fairly lazy morning, and after a breakfast of sausage and egg baps, we set off on a 3 mile or so saunter, this time in the opposite direction of yesterday’s walk – so turning right out of the campsite.

Despite leaving Ruby at 11:30 we found our pace was fast, so we decided to pause for a quick drink at The Hero, and then carry on along the coast path through Holkham and finishing at Wells-next-the-Sea 11 miles later!

Crossing the field towards Burnham
I saw the sea.. at Burnham

The path goes behind the large sand dunes at Holkham

Then through the trees and forest before coming up to the sea wall at Wells Next the Sea

The final approach to Wells Next the Sea. Boy those fish and chips were calling us!

We arrived at Wells at 3pm, not bad at all- we really loved the walk, even with our fast pace!

Obviously after such a long walk with no snacks/water (although there is a cafe with water station and loos at Holkham. And a pub which we didn’t stop at!) our first objective was to find a drink, and then fish and chips at Frenchies which hit the spot and beyond, before grabbing the next coasthopper bus back to the campsite (£2.10pp & £1 for dogs). We accidentally 😜 missed our stop and got off at the next stop, the Jolly Sailors, for “one for the road”; well it was NYE!

Our evening was quiet and chilled, exactly as we like it. We managed to polish off a steak and noodle dinner around 9.30pm, and then opened a bottle of fizz as we waited for the big countdown.

The atmosphere on site was good – a lot of campers had gone down to the Jolly sailors (or we assume they did as we watched them leave dressed as pirates and there was a pirate party on). A midnight, a few of our neighbours came out with sparklers singing Auld Lang Syne, and in the distance (but far enough not to trouble Jazz) we watched a pretty impressive firework display. But ten mins later the site was quiet again, so we pulled out the bed and promptly dozed off – not waking again until 10am.

New Years Day started rather lazily, in fact, I don’t think I got out of bed until 11! Once I did get up I made us a fry up, and we tested our legs after yesterday’s long walk. Luckily neither of us had still legs so we decided to do a nice 4.5 miles loop provided by the campsite, Burnham Deepdale – Brancaster and back via Barrow Common.

Despite there being a few drops of rain as we lay in bed, by midday the weather had cleared right up, and actually the sun was attempting to show its face. We really enjoyed walking over Barrow common, and took the opportunity to toast the new year with a swig or five from our hip flasks whilst looking out to sea.

The walk included walking across a field ahem, I mean the remains of a Roman Fort, Branodunum, which dates back from 200AD, and would have been one of three important sites in East Anglia. Keith was absolutely in his element – I’m better at seeing physical remains rather than using my imagination but I understood that it was a very important archeological site, and in its day would have looked like this:

Picture taken from SUMO Services: https://www.sumoservices.com/brancaster-roman-fort-case-study/

Today it looks like this

There is an interesting time team episode filmed here which we watched later on.

The walk rejoined the coastal path just below the fort and we followed it all the way back to Burnham Deepdale. As we passed Brancaster Staithe the sun fully came out and the light was just wonderful. The tide was now almost fully in and lots of people were out taking pictures, bird watching, even some launched sea kayaks. It really is my happy place here.

A mile or so further along and we returned to our starting point, and paid a quick stop at the church to see the Norman square font, before returning to the campsite, just in time to watch the sun dip down behind Ruby.

The first sunset of 2019.

All this walking means we are hungry Horace’s, so we devoured a cheese board for a late lunch and then a delicious slow cooker venison and red cabbage stew for dinner. Recipe below, it was gorgeous!

We’ve had a brilliant break, and really feel recharged and ready to start the year with a bang. We’ve signed up for Country Walking’s Walk 1000 miles in 2019, (we actually started it on 27th Dec hopefully that won’t matter) so are going into 2019 with lots of walking based trips in mind, and lots of trips in Ruby and beyond already booked.

Whatever 2019 brings for you, I do hope it’s a good one, and if you have a camper van, Motorhome or tent, we really really recommend a visit to Deepdale Farm. We’ll be back for sure!

Until next time

Lx

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