On The Road with the Garmin CamperVan dedicated Sat Nav device

Gandalf the VW campervan has been on a very special mission recently, testing a very cool new gadget that has just hit the UK Market; a Campervan specific Sat Nav Device.

The Garmin CamperVan is a device aimed at those who like to take more time to enjoy the world around them. It differs from other Sat Navs/mapping software and apps by pointing out attractions along your route, linking to pictures, trip adviser ratings and more.

One of our favourite features is the Custom “Trendy Places”section- something that you can set up in advance; for example a category of shops, beauty spots etc – in our case we programmed it to look for Farm Shops- close to your destination, or along the route. We’ve trialled it on each of our trips this year and as a result we have found some cracking farm shops to divert to as we close in on our destination, allowing us to stock up with enough local meat and treats to see us through our stay.

We really love the “Trendy Places” feature. Even without our own custom farm shops popping up as we drive along, it flags up all sorts of attractions such as theme parks, museums , pubs etc which are close by or on the route as we make our way from stop to stop.

Another really cool feature is the “Road Trip” option – something for those who aren’t in a rush, and want to see the scenic route rather than just stick to the motorways or larger A roads. If you have the time, then this option is brilliant to see off the wall places that you never would have known about without.

The tag line for this product is “Plan to be Spontaneous” and whilst right now, as we come out of lockdown, it’s a little harder to be as spontaneous as one may like to be, this device is certainly geared up for the moment we CAN relax our plans a touch. With an option to search Campsites at the touch of the button, we look forward to the day we can roll up to a new area with no concrete plans at all and rely on the Garmin CamperVan to look after us!

The device connects to your phone via bluetooth and offers live traffic updates on route. The screen size is great, and the maps show up very clearly on the device. Even in full sunlight- which our “car play” screen struggles immensely with – It’s really very easy to use with big clearly labelled icons to navigate around the Home Screen at just the touch of a button.

Living in Norfolk, where the phone signal isn’t always the best, we’ve previously had many times where we haven’t had enough Mobile Data to get our maps loaded to get us home. We’ve tested this device now for a number of months and it’s never let us down in finding a signal and getting us home as it relies on GPS rather than 4G.

Whilst in Cornwall last week, this device came into its own. We like to stop at supermarkets to stock up on fizzy water and other larger bits each time we move campsites. The Garmin was fabulous as it allows you to search on your “active route” – ie your route to your next destination- for certain categories on route. So we left a campsite, then searched for grocery stores “on route” and we had huge success with this, saving us bags of time googling the nearest Tesco (other supermarkets are available 😉) and then matching it up with our route.

We really REALLY love the device, and feel confident that it will enhance all our future trips immensely.

This is a sponsored post and the product has been sent to us by Garmin, but this did not affect my review or feedback at all. All views are solely my own.

Adventures on The Trans Pennine Trail

Gandalf the VW is parked high up above the Trans Pennine Trail, overlooking Wogden Moor on the outskirts of Carlecotes, South Yorkshire.  Our home for the next three nights is Thurlmoor Farm, a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified Site.

We had a pleasant and easy journey ‘oooop north’ on Friday morning making one slight detour to pick up some supplies from the wonderful Hinchcliff’s Farm shop near Holmfirth. We had lots of fun shopping for local meats, cheeses, local gins and beers to see us through the May Bank Holiday weekend. This place is heaven for local food and drink lovers like ourselves, and we could have easily bought EVERY thing inside. The butchers and deli counters were immense, and the local gins were in abundant supply.

With our supplies purchased and packed away we made the 20 minute journey to the campsite, arriving around 3pm- just as the sun decided to take over from the showers we’d encounter throughout our journey.

The views from Thurlmoor Farm are wonderful. It is situated at 1100 feet and landscaped into two separate terraces. We were given a very friendly welcome by campsite owner Mandy and we were excited to be able to pitch up sideways. We took advantage of the room and set our the canopy as well as our trusty friend the tailgate awning – serving as our ensuite bathroom this weekend again! There are no facilities other than hook up, water and disposal at this site and as such the fee was very low at just £13 pn. The views were just great and we could see in the valley below us the Trans Pennine Trail – our reason for booking this site. 

Unfortunately – our neighbours ended up pitching their caravan very much on top of us. I’m not entirely sure it was their fault- pitches wernt marked and at the same time they arrived another van arrived the other side of them. We assumed someone would be coming the other side of us, otherwise we probably would have asked to moved to pitch number 1- which would have left a pitch between us. But as it happened no-one else arrived and the van the other side of our neighbours only stayed one night – so with perhaps a little more planning from the owners it could have been avoided. As it happens though our neighbours were fairly quiet – it just looks obscene on pictures given how much other space there was in the camping field! We were aware of them and I’m sure they were aware of us too. Hey ho – it could have been worse!

Zoom in to see the caravan next to Gandalf!

We had little wander down the local footpath, and a sundowner drink lower on the campsite, a natural slope made a perfect private terrace overlooking the sheep fields, before reheating a spag bol on the cadac for dinner on Friday night. Whilst it was bright and sunny, the wind was fresh, but we managed to cook and eat outside. We were very happy campers indeed! 

No walkable pubs from the site right now, so I came prepared with a little help from the farm shop we stopped at beforehand!

Saturday dawned bright and cool and after a full English with goodies from our farm shop haul, we hit the road on our bikes. We cycled 1.4 miles (very much downhill) to nearby Dunford Bridge, which is where we picked up the Trans Pennine Trail. The Trans Pennine Trail is a mainly traffic free Recreational route which spans from Southport on the West Coast to Hornsea on the East Coast. It’s a staggering 215 miles long, runs mainly traffic free and largely follows the route of old railway lines, canals and riversides. The section that we were tackling this weekend ran from Dunford Bridge to Thurgoland – a distance of around 10 miles, all off road, all level* and all very scenic and lovely. It is worth noting that there is a car park at Dunford Bridge if you don’t fancy the ascent back up to the campsite. The reason we had been drawn to this section in particular was the impressive Thurgoland Tunnels, which we’d seen on a tv programme a while back.

We easily settled in to the ride from Dunford Bridge – the route very obviously following an old disused railway like, with steep gauges either side at times, and many original railway bridges to pass under.

We passed by Penistone and soon we arrived at our main feature, the Thurgoland Tunnel; a double bored disused railway tunnel that is 282 metres in length. It has a distinct 4000 foot radius curve which gives it unique 20+ second echo inside. Acoustically its really REALLY cool, and we loved messing around inside making sounds and clapping, listening to the long acoustic reverberating echoes. I wished I had taken my sax! Although it is double bore – one of the tunnels has been blocked in, so now you can only access one of the two tunnels.

See video of our experience in the tunnel… 

About a mile or two on from the tunnel, we grabbed a pint at the Bridge Inn, before retracing our route back to the campsite. *The return route was harder by far. We thought we were unfit perhaps – this was our first cycle out for months. As the miles dragged on we became more and worried about the big hill back to the campsite! When we got back, my tracker revealed that actually we had done 10 miles downhill and 10 miles up. No wonder we struggled – but the beauty of tramline engineering is that these gradients are disguised very well and whilst they are gradual, we definitely noticed this one. Thats our excuse for our struggle anyway!!

A refreshment stop at Penistone* gave us that last push we needed and although it was a much slower return, we made it up that hill and back to the campsite by 4pm. We loved the route and were proud to have totted up 20.6 miles. You can see our route video below.

*There is a terrific taproom and brewery in Penistone where we picked up some lovely locally made lager.

It’s worth mentioning, you can still access this spectacular tunnel if you don’t cycle. There is a bus stop immediately outside the campsite which takes/ brings you back to Thurgoland on the number 29 bus every day except Sunday /and bank hol- Timetable here. You could walk 10 miles along the TPT and bus back, or you could bus there and bus back. Either way you do it, if you have an interest in railway history, cool places etc etc, its worth a visit and this site is one of the closest you’ll get to the Thurgoland Tunnel. 

After showers in the awning, we settled into Gandalf for the evening, enjoying a delicious Barnsley chop dinner (Fillet Steak for Keefy) before a relatively early night. Barnsley Chop in Barnsley…. my month is made already! 

Sunday arrived and we had a slightly lazier start to the day. The weather was still clear, despite being a bit blowy and fresh, and after a scrambled egg breakfast we donned our walking boots and walked to nearby Winscar Reservoir, then back down to the TPT at Dunford Bridge before returning to the site along (or rather up!) a farm land footpath. The reservoir was worth seeing, we enjoyed watching some of the boats from the local sailing club and it was really nice to see so many families out and about. We also were serenaded by Lapwings which was lovely.

Are we nearly there yet?!

After our walk we enjoyed delicious baked Camembert, cooked in my Lakeland Remoska which I still use most days in the Campervan!

Later on we had a bbq for dinner in front of the fire pit – but my gosh it was cold! We couldn’t soak enough of the view up – we’ve really missed hills and high ground during lockdown. Luckily with the terraced positioning of the site we were able to move inside and enjoy the view just as much in the warmth of Gandalf for our final night of this adventure.

All too soon it was time to pack up on Monday morning, but we made an early start and as such missed the horrific rain and wind on both packing up and arriving home. Bonus! We had hoped to make a stop at National Trust’s Wentworth Castle Gardens but the weather god’s had been kind enough during the weekend and our luck ran out on that front.

We really loved this site, and would not hesitate to recommend it to you all. It has no facilities at all, other than EHU and waste and water, and sadly there are no walkable pubs (although this may change if the local one – about a mile away reopens later this month).  But if you like peace and quiet, and nice views this one is for you. The bus route outside will take you to Sheffield in one direction (thats the way you need for Thurgoland) and Holmfirth in the other. Electric bikes would probably be an advantage here – these are the next thing on our shopping list. 

The Atera Strada bike rack had it’s first outing on Gandalf and worked a treat, as did our tailgate awning shower set up. We returned home from BH weekend refreshed and happy after a brilliant weekend away! 

Until Next Time 

Lx 

A weekend at Sandy Gulls Adults Only Caravan Park, Mundesley

Like many others in England, this week we managed to reclaim some of our freedom, as Covid restrictions began lifting, and campsites were allowed to reopen. We had a few days at work to get through, but they flew and before we knew it I was wide awake at 05.30 on Friday morning with excitement seeping through my veins at our impending departure to the North Norfolk Coast.

Our campsite of choice, booked way back at the start of the new year for the beginning of March and rescheduled, was Sandy Gulls, an adult only caravan park situated as close as close can be to the North Sea. We’d pre picked our pitch, a new feature I think for this year, and were bursting with excitement that we’d bagged a front row pitch, high upon the cliff top with uninterrupted sea views.

We set off from home relatively early; we wanted to make a stop at the Adnams shop in Norfolk to stock up on their delicious gin and also some of their Kobbold Lager. We then made our way to Mundesley in time for the seafood van not to close, so that we could buy some fresh fish for a bbq later that evening. The Lobster Pot is situated in a trailer next to the butchers and we picked up two terrific looking cod tails and a pint of prawns to cook. We also grabbed some local sausages and bacon from the butcher and some local eggs, sausage rolls and scotch eggs. Yum, we were all set!

On arrival to the site, we got settled onto our stunning pitch- pinching ourselves that the weather God’s were shining down on us yet trying our best to remember how to set up our relatively new to us Campervan! The weather was glorious (if not a touch chilly) and the local paragliding club were out in abundance, soaring not that much higher that our vans. Life felt absolutely terrific, like others, we have missed this soooo much!

After a couple of drinks admiring the view, we walked along the coast path to Mundesley village. Here you can drop down onto the dog friendly beach, and then rejoin the promenade into the village centre. Mundesley is a small, relatively unspoilt Norfolk village/seaside location.

There are a couple of chippys, a couple of shops, a couple of tea rooms, and a pub. We opted for a pint in the beer garden of the ship, mainly because the beer garden is possibly one of the most scenic in the UK, again with uninterrupted views of the sea. Sadly the service was utterly dismal, and our potential pub lunch turned into a complete non event. It’s difficult to complain right now isn’t it, pubs have been so hard hit with the pandemic, but this one really needs to pull its socks up.

View from the beer garden.

Link to trip advisor review here for the full story if you’re interested. ( I do these so rarely, I hated having to this, but it was shocking.)

We wandered back to the campsite, via the Tesco express for a couple of bits we’d forgotten, mainly Jazz’s dog food Whoops! Before Keith gave the solar shower in our tailgate awning a whirl. He was pleasantly surprised, the awning cancelled out the wind chill and his shower experience was a good one despite the chilly air blowing off the sea.

We then set about our fish bbq, which had been eagerly awaited and planned to the finest detail. We served garlic chilli prawns as a starter, followed by cod tails served on creamed spinach, with cous cous. Yum.

And with this view! We were in heaven. We layered up, got the hot water bottles out and watched as the last rays of sunlight trickled down behind us and the twinkly lights of the boats at sea began to sparkle. I found a great app telling us what each boat was carrying and where it was heading from. I’m so nosey. Once the sky became ink black, the stars came out and we enjoyed a Jack Daniels honey as we watched for shooting stars. It couldn’t have been a better first day back camping and we slept like logs.

Saturday dawned brightly and we had a relatively lazy start to the day. Early on we peeled back the front curtains to reveal the sea ahead – watching the view as we had a couple of cups of tea. We then cooked a fry up on the cadac, again, not wanting to miss a moment of that staggering view, I even remained in my onesie in public much to the amusement of some of the passers by. Our pitch was practically on the coast path, so we had lots of opportunities for friendly hellos with passers by.

I then braved my shower- a far more pleasant experience than I had thought it may have been.

Around midday we walked the very short distance to the coast hopper bus stop, which conveniently stops almost right outside the site, and made our way to the lovely Cromer where we met up with my mum, who had caught the train to see us.

The coast hopper bus runs once an hour and is dog friendly.

Once in Cromer, we didn’t stray far from the Pier, enjoying watching passers by and the ever changing sea. We’ve all missed the seaside so much. We’d brought some drinks with us and just sat, in the sun, until our tummies started to remind us that it was almost time for fish and chips. No 1 Cromer was busy, but not as busy as I’ve seen it in the past, but those fish and chips are just delicious and well worth the wait.

As the sun lowered in the sky, we went our separate ways, waving mum off at the station before we caught our bus back to Mundesley. We had time for a cuppa and another sit outside before the temperature plummeted forcing us inside – but our view remained through the windows until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any more.

Sunday arrived all too quickly, and our departure was looming. Before we packed away we enjoyed another cooked breakfast outside- we loved the local sausages, trying two interesting flavours, a bourbon smoked sausage and a pork and black pudding Sausage.

The Cadac Safari Chef 2 has proven to be a welcome addition to our camping equipment. It’s dinky size and versatility in terms of mixing and matching with our own frying pan etc make cooking on it a dream.

Sandy Gulls Caravan Park is terrific, so good that I almost don’t want to share it! In fact, I realised this weekend, that I must have had the same feeling when we last visited in October, as I appear to have failed to write a blog post about our previous stay here in October.

Back in October

At £20 pn at this time of year, we consider it to be a bargain. Even at peak times it doesn’t raise higher than £32 pn. The site has been invested in heavily, with new roads and hard standing pitches having been introduced. Pitches are well spaced, flat and have decent electric hook up. The facilities (water and waste disposal) are well kept and well organised, especially during the time of covid, and there was sanitiser everywhere. Plus, it must be the most scenic waste disposal location in the country right? We haven’t used the toilets or showers here as both times we’ve stayed they’ve not legally been allowed to open them, but I’ve read terrific reviews about them. The touring park is adults only, so it’s nice and quiet and there is easy access to the beach, and miles upon miles of walks from the site. We will DEFINITELY we back.

We may have only managed two nights away, but we’ve returned home feeling recharged and raring to the start the week ahead. We’re almost back to fully face to face now and life in school is chaotic but really excellent to be back. We’ve got loads of trips lined up in the coming weeks, so we look forward to sharing them with you.

Have you been away this week? Where have you been? Where’s on your list?

Until next time, keep safe and happy camping to you all

Lx

Adventures on The Thames Valley Path; May Bank Holiday weekend

Ruby the VW campervan is parked up on the banks of the River Thames. We can just about see boats going past through the trees from our pitch at Hurley Riverside Park, and the campsite is filling up, as you would expect for May Day Bank Holiday. We were drawn to Hurley Riverside Park due to its close proximity to the river, and our desire to clock up some more miles on the Thames Path.

The river is just behind us

After a hectic week at work, and a morning gig on Friday, it was lunchtime by the time we had thrown some food, clothes and ourselves into Ruby and escaped. I was frazzled – I’d managed to clock up 42 hours of teaching in 4 hours, 20 hours of admin and a gig. Our mission for the weekend was to eat, sleep and walk!

Hurley is a really pretty little Thames-side village which is home to the campsite and two pubs – one of which is the oldest coaching inn in England. We managed a quick drink outside Ruby before the heavens opened, so we opted for an early dinner – a new recipe for us, Tandoori Sea Bass which was delicious.

By the time we’d eaten it had stopped raining briefly, so we grabbed a brolly and went for a wander along the Thames to the village – just under a mile – and had a drink at The Olde Bell, England’s oldest coaching inn, which is dog friendly in the bar and had a great fireplace.

By the time back we got back to Ruby, the fish and chip van that visits the campsite on Friday evenings was just closing, and so we took advantage of the leftovers at a bargain price as we’d got cold and wet on our walk back from the pub.

Piggies! But they were delicious 😋

Saturday

We enjoyed a fairly lazy morning, and a nice omelette for breakfast before setting off towards Marlow on the Thames Path.

There was a section which was closed off due to a bridge needed repaired, but this diversion on quiet roads took us right past Town Farm butchers. Whoops. We cannot resist local butchers, specially those on a farm!

We stocked up on sausages, lamb kebabs and burgers with the intention of trying for a bbq tomorrow if the weather behaved, before carrying on towards Marlow.

At Marlow there was a great little farmers market where we got to have some local sausage rolls and also some local gin, which was so good I brought a bottle. Thank goodness we bought our large rucksack on the walk! DuPaddlebodring our walk we’d encountered blue skies, rain and even hail so we wore our raincoats allowing for more space in the rucksacks.

We decided to walk back on ourselves along the river up to the bridge that we couldn’t cross, and passed some huge houses right on the edge of the river. It was a truly gorgeous stretch of the Thames. We realised at this point we’d walked 7 miles and the thought of going 7 miles bake was exhausting – plus the weather had turned again, so as there was not any bus routes from Marlow to Hurley riverside park we opted for an Uber which picked us up right on the footpath and delivered us all the way back to Hurley – to the pub, the Rising Sun – a pint had definitely been earned, and we enjoyed the local Marlow brewery Rising sun ale.

Saturday night we enjoyed pulled pork which had been cooking in the slow cooker whilst we had been walking, along with some local gin, before crashing out for an early night.

Sunday

There had been quite a lot of rain in the night but thankfully it dawned quite sunny. The forecast today was brighter earlier so we opted for a lunchtime bbq. Before that, we inflated the Stand Up Paddleboard- one feature of Hurley Riverside Park is it’s on site slipway into the Thames. We had an hour or so larking around on that before showering and sparking up the bbq.

The bbq was one of the best I can remember – those sausages from Town Farm were so good that even our neighbour came to ask where they were from!

After lunch we were absolutely stuffed so decided on a walk the other way down the Thames- towards Henley on Thames. Last year you may remember we walked as far as Hambleton Lock, and so this afternoon we decided to walk back to The Flowerpot Hotel – this means that we’ve now covered from Henley on Thames to Marlow of the Thames Path.

We enjoyed a couple of drinks before making our way back to Ruby to fall into a Food coma! Actually, we made homemade pizzas in the Remoska but we were tiddly and we made a right mess of them – we did managed a slice each, before falling asleep!

Monday

Time to pack up, but before we headed east home, we dropped into National Trust Cliveden – along with the world and his wife! It was so busy and chaotic there that we managed a lap around the gardens before calling it a day and heading home. The gardens were stunning, there were just so many people.

We’ll have to return!

We had a brilliant weekend, and actually came home a bit grumpy as we’d really “come down”. We enjoyed the location of Hurley Riverside Park, although we personally bought the facilities could have done with a bit of investment. The showers were in a portacabin and although it was warm it wasn’t hugely clean – though I suspect that was more our fellow campers not cleaning up free themselves. The park was full to busting and in our opinion there probably could have been a few more showers – 2 male and 2 female for such a huge site seemed slightly under catered for – we actually had to queue a couple of times! However, a great location for the River Thames.

Until next time

Lx

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

 

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 1

Ruby the VW campervan is parked up almost directly underneath the Crystal Palace transmitter mast and she’s experiencing a sense of deja vu. It been just over 6 months since we last visited this campsite, and we booked this mini break almost as we departed back in June.

Since June, the Camping and Motorhome’s Crystal Palace club site has some good news. Developers have the lease on the land and when we last visited it was set to close this very weekend in fact, hence our booking. Happily, the developers are not ready to build yet, so the campsite has been given another year of being able to be open.

End of the Christmas term is our busiest and this year has been no exception. We actually started Christmas music engagements over 4 weeks ago, and have been flat out with Christmas concerts and performing at Christmas parties etc. This year we decided to book the last two weekends off so we could have some downtime so here we are in London for treat number 1. My mum is Jazz sitting so we can embrace London in all its splendour.

We arrived at a Crystal Palace club site around 7pm on Thursday and was greeted by the very cheerful warden Matt, otherwise known as one half of Walter’s Wardens on Twitter. That afternoon we had learnt of the sudden death of a friend of ours so it was nice to have a friendly face greet us, thanks Matt. W had a quick and simple dinner of spag Bol which I’d made a couple of weeks ago and frozen, then wandered to the local, the Weston House, for a couple of drinks and a dram each.

Despite it being almost zero outside, we were once again amazed at Ruby’s fabulous insulation, with the help of our little plug in heater we remained snug as a bug all night.

Friday dawned a beautiful crisp winters morning, so we wasted no time in heading into London on the very conveniently located number 3 bus to Trafalgar square. We had some time to mooch so we walked along the Strand to Fleet Street, for a pint in The Old Bank of England (Fullers) pub. This really is a stunning pub, as the name suggests it’s housed in the old bank and the decor as such is brand and wonderful. We’ve eaten here before, the pies are tasty.