Portsmouth has been on our list to visit ever since owning a motorhome! Unfortunately however, Portsmouth doesn’t seem to have too many campsites to choose from that close to the historic dockyards, and the ones that we could find were extortionate. We also knew that it’d be a full day in a place not suitable for doggies so our desire to visit Portsmouth has been on the backburner, until a chance look on Air B n B discovered we had plenty of options to consider using that route.
A couple of hours later and we’d discovered some ridiculously cheap train tickets all the way from Norfolk to Portsmouth and back at £15 each return! Suddenly we felt inspired, and the next thing we knew we’d booked ourselves a little rail adventure.
It took 4 hours on the train – we traveled from Diss to London Liverpool street, then walked from Liverpool street to Waterloo, where we picked up the train to Portsmouth. We cover a fair few miles week to week so we found travelling by train really relaxing – plus we could have a beer and a picnic whilst en route.
We arrived in Portsmouth in the beautiful sunshine, and checked in to our Air BnB – Gill’s house. We had the use of the upstairs – perfect for what we needed as we were planning on being out all day. She very kindly cooked a full english for us both days so we felt at £52 pn it was excellent value. Her apartment had a sea view and was 15 minute walk to the main attractions.
Friday afternoon we enjoyed a visit up the Spinnaker Tower, the largest tower outside of London. The views were wonderful, and the glass floor was terrifying but exciting! We had a little bit of a wander round grabbing a few pints here and there, before a gorgeous fish and chip supper in The Still and West, which had a sea view.
Saturday dawned cold and snowy, but it didn’t stop us, we had our breakfast and were queuing at the Historic Dockyards by 09:50. Doors opened at 10:00 and there was quite a queue! We pre booked our tickets online, which saved some money, but the tickets are valid for a whole year- handy if you’re local. As we are not local, we set ourselves a challenge to see everything in one day. Battleplan drawn, as soon as those gates to the dockyard opened, we hot footed it to The “Brand New in the last year or so” Mary Rose exhibition.
Let me say this: this exhibition was truly one of the greatest we’ve been to in the UK and worthy of the ticket price alone. How they’ve displayed the wreck of the Mary Rose is just marvellous – and all the Tudor artefacts that were found on board were just fascinating and in remarkable condition due to being buried in sand silt for 400 years. We spent 2 hours in there but easily could have spent the whole day in there alone.
Our next stop was HMS Victory – Lord Nelson’s beloved ship. Again, we had a fascinating visit – Keith discovered he would be no good at sea at 6 foot 4 – he spent the entirety crouched almost in half!
After the Victory we nipped on the waterbus to take us to HMS Alliance – the submarine, where we enjoyed a fascinating tour lead by retired sub-mariners.
We then picked up a 45 min harbour cruise which showed us the current Naval ships, including the brand new one – which are so so ugly but so so big – especially in comparison to the historical ones.
We nipped onto HMS Warrior, which again was beautiful, before nipping round the Naval museum.
By 5pm, we were done in! But delighted to have had such a cram packed day. We had successfully seen everything that we hoped to, so celebrated with a Mary Rose g&t in the Old Customs house before moving to the historical Bridge Tavern – which was a bit rowdy! We ended up back at the Still and West for our dinner again – and managed to bag the best seat in there, overlooking the Solent so we spent a great evening watching the Brittany Ferries and Isle of Wight ferries come backwards and forwards.
As you can see, we had a super mini break and we would highly recommend a trip to the Historic Dockyards – they really were outstanding. Well done Portsmouth Tourist board and the Royal Navy for producing a museum and historical attraction that we really can be proud of.
Apolgies this Blog Post is late! I’ve had horrendous computing problems but I’m now back up and running! Yay 😀
A couple of weeks back, Keith and I found ourselves with a completely free weekend! These do not seem to come around a lot these days – so when we saw that the weather forecast was looking good (cold but bright) we wasted no time in zipped off for a cheeky night away in Ruby the Campervan. Ruby was pleased as she hadn’t been used for camping purposes since our jaunt to Pembrokeshire in Aug!
Our chosen site for the night was Reedham Ferry Touring Park, which is an hours drive from us. Our journey took us through Diss, which was very handy as coincidentally “The Flying Scotsman” locomotive was due to be passing through mid morning. My Great Grandfather used to drive the Flying Scotsman for many years, so it was very excited for me to be able to see this glorious engine fully working and looking her best.
Diss Train Station was heaving with people, which was lovely – so many people had come out to see for themselves what a beauty she is.
As she approached the whole platform went quiet in awe! She’s stunning! I suppose I am officially a train spotter now! Here’s a video Keith took, as I got way too emotional – I’m my father’s daughter for sure!
were lucky as the train was scheduled to stop for water here so we got about 15 minutes to admire her before she choo chooed off on her way to Norwich. Won't forget that day in a hurry.
We carried on up the A140 towards Norwich, stopping at our favourite Farmshop/ Britstop en route to stock up with some treats for our night ahead, before pulling onto the practically empty Reedham Ferry Touring Park (£19pn). First impressions were good, the toilets and showers were clean, warm and modern, pitches spacious and the River Yare just behind us. <<
ter a quick lunch of homemade Leek and Lemon soup we donned our walking boots and set off down the well trodden Wherryman's Way towards the village of Reedham. It wasn't far, and we intended on walked perhaps a little further than we did – but, in the 1 mile downstream (or is it upstream?) we passed a chain ferry, a swing bridge and not one, not two, but THREE dog friendly pubs, all selling the local Humpty Dumpty Brewery Ale (and a local Norwich Gin) and all with delightful river side beer gardens. So – in the interest of sampling the wares, we abandoned the walk, and turned it into a rather lovely pub-crawl! You can thank us later. The verdict on the ale by the way was that Little Sharpie was delicious and so was the Bullards gin!
e Wherryman Way is a long distance footpath that runs along the River Yare from Norwich to Great Yarmouth. There are a number of circular walks running alongside the Wherryman's way, so its certainly one for us to return to.
The last of the afternoon light was simply spectacular and I don't think I can remember a more pleasant way to spend a Saturday in Norfolk.
We popped back into the Ferry once the sun had gone down to enjoy the cosy log fire – although we didn’t eat, the food looked lovely and we will will definitely return.
Next morning dawned and the weather looked not so promising. We got up pronto and enjoyed a stall down the river on the Wherryman’s way in both directions. I just love the sound of the wind rustling through the reeds.
Ever since Keith and I got together 7 years ago- one (along with many others!) mutual bucket list adventure we wanted to achieve was attending The Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh. 10 years ago I spent an entire summer up in Edinburgh playing in a Fringe Show, and Keith's dousing has lived up here for years and years, yet still we've never been able to make it happen. 7 years ago we made a pact that we would and this year is the year it finally was able to happen!
We dropped Jazz with my mum and Alec and boarded our Virgin East coast train on Friday morning. Unsurprisingly, as not only was the Tattoo starting on Friday but so was the Fringe Festival, the train was packed and quite uncomfortable so we settled ourselves in and watched some catch up on the iPads, and actually before we knew it we were rolling into Edinburgh Waverley Station.
Simon couldn't meet us until after work so we had an hour or so to kill- naturally we headed for the pub, one of our favourites the Ensign Ewitt for the first of many gins, beers and drams!
Our very good friend Mark is a sound engineer for the Tattoo and was busy at the castle in his super duper recording van prepping to record that nights show – his job is to record it, edit it and have the official CD on the shelf for Monday's performance. He contacted us and said although he couldn't get away we were welcome to pop up and see his office for the weekend which was exciting, and as always, lovely to see him for ten mins.
It was 4pm and time to meet Simon so we bid Mark a farewell and headed to the Malt Shovel on Cockburn St. The Royal Mile is always a fun place to be at this time of year- lots of people doing publicity for their shows and a really happy, exciting if not slightly nutty vibe all the way!
Once we'd met Simon, Friday night followed in a big catch up, naturally involving a few bars and refreshments! Simon once again showed us some really cool places in Leith and we enjoyed our dinner of Shetland Mussels and beef and Haggis burgers at Nobles.
Saturday dawned brighter than the BBC had indicated, despite a few foggy heads in the O'Gorman/Williams clan! 🤣 Nothing a good sausage and haggis roll, super charged espresso, a pork and Haggis scotch egg and a Bloody Mary, or in Keith's case a Bloody Scotsman (replaced vodka with whiskey!!) can't sort out!
After a lazy morning we took the bus from Leith up to Princes Street where I deposited the boys in John Lewis Gadget section whilst I went off for a shop for an hour. Big mistake- Keith, inspired by Simon's "Smart Flat" has brought a Amazon Echo Dot and subsequently has spent every available minute researching what we can link up to it in our house! Boys and their toys eh?!
Edinburgh is always such a special place for me, I had a little moment as I dragged myself away from the shops- look at the view from Princes Street- lovely architecture, Arthur's seat- and check out the blue sky!
We opted for lunch at Wagamama's, a treat for me as usually when we go I'm driving- so today I could indulge in my other favourite alcoholic drink, SAKE! KANPAI!
Trying to be sensible (!) we decided to head back to the flat for a nap ready for the excitement of the evening to come.
We made our way back into town 6ish and had a couple of drinks, including one on the mile so we could indulge in some people watching before a delicious curry at Gurkha Restaurant- definitely recommend it there, it's our second visit!
It was now time to head to the castle, I e never seen so many people queuing to get in either! Mark had texted us to make sure we gave ourselves lots of time, he said at the 7:30 showing people were arriving once the show had started. At 9:00 when we were wandering up, we had he previous audience departing and the current audience arriving- so 18000 people and the top end of the mile is rather narrow. Still, the organisation was with military precision, what else would you expect, this is the 68th year!
We were in within 20 mins of he doors opening at 9:45- exceptional!
To show was simply SENSATIONAL. Everything that I hoped it would be and a million times more. The special effects and projectors (all 12 of them according to Mark) casting phenomenal images and patterns onto the castle backdrop, the music obviously, the choreography, THE WEATHER!- everything was just awesome. I will never forget our night there!
We walked all the way home to Leith and to took me about an hour to get to sleep- I had so much adrenaline! Today has dawned sunny again, hurrah! So we will head back into town. Plans are to try and see the Jacobites exhibition and perhaps see some Jazz.
Then back south tomorrow to see Dad and Jenny, pick up Ruby and Jazz and get some adventures going in our campervan!
For the last five years we've had to endure driving past signs for the Old Buckenham Airshow knowing we were unable to go because of other diary commitments or us taking our holidays too early. This year however our diary was full of local commitments so for the last 6 weeks or so we've been quietly looking forward to this event.
Old Buckenham airbase was built for the USAAF 453rd Bombardment Group during the war and was home to the legendary James Stewart for a time. It's just off the A11 in between Thetford and Norwich.
Showday soon came around and we'd spent all week planning what to take in our picnic hamper. Yes, that's right- Old Buckenham Air Show is one of the few events we've attended recently that still allows a good old fashioned picnic – despite the fact that there was a very enticing local food (and drink) village as part of the show at reasonable prices.
We bundled Jazz the pampered pooch into the van along with enough food to feed the five thousand, and set off nice and early to secure a good spot! As well as being family friendly (apparently the kids changing areas were very good this year) Dogs are also welcome and catered for with a great big Doggie Watering station.
Car parking was easy and free- all the local air cadets were doing a fabulous job guiding cars in and before we knew it we were setting our stall out in prime position (with lots of others I hasten to add- definitely worth arriving around 10am as gates open).
We left our picnic with our chairs and went for a wander around the show. First up for us was the large display of WW2 vehicles- Keith was in his element, he's a huge history buff and the vehicles were in great condition. He had to drag me past the queue for tank rides! It looked so much fun so maybe next time for that!
There was also a large collection of classic cars to look at including a couple of beautiful split screen VWs 😍. May favourite was the one painted in the colour of my favourite wine 🍷.
Further round the site was a small funfair for the kiddies, a collection of stalls selling camping bits, aviation and wartime souvenirs.
After an hour or so of mooching I couldn't wait any longer to get picnicking- this was timed well as the commentators announced the bar opened at 12:00. Keith went to get some beer whilst I set our food out. He really enjoyed all four of the local ales on offer but his favourite was the Shark.
After a lovely leisurely lunch it was almost time for the main feature and boy what an exciting program it was!
First up was some airplane aerobics and some impressive loop de loops! This was followed by local pilots The Wildcats doing some amazing synchronised formation work. A favourite act was next- O'Brien's Flying Circus- where Brendan attempted successfully to land his plane on a moving landing area being towed at 60mph by a car! Which was gripping! He managed a touch down despite fairly strong winds
Next up was our show highlight- star of the film "Memphis Belle" – the last flying B17 in Europe, SallyB. Absolutely sensational seeing her in the air. And when she put her smoke on for her final salute and they played We'll meet again through the speakers- well, Keith and I were blubbing like babies!
How do you follow this?! Well, with the P51 Mustang "the Shark" of course. Listen to the sound of the wind rushing through the gun placements. AMAZING
The Hurricane that was scheduled to fly was sadly unable to fly due to technical problems so instead the Messerschmitt took to the skies.
Next up and another treat- the Spitfire- this particular one is used in all the films. Again- just listen to that sound.👇isn't it fabulous.
After such an indulgence of history and beauty it was onto the lighter fun acts, including Otto the helicopter from O'Brien's flying circus doing all sorts of crazy things that you wouldn't normally see helicopters do! There were a couple more local pilots doing light aircraft manoeuvres before the finale – a real plane shadowed by a remote controlled 41% sized model aircraft- doing a simultaneous routine. Fantastic. The flying went on for over 1.5hours and was fantastic. We absolutely LOVED the whole show (as you can probably gather by this post!)
Tickets cost £18 (advance online rate) or £20 on the door for Sunday. Saturday is a reduced rate but there were less acts flying. Would highly recommend this for next year.
Campsites close by include Old Buckenham Country Park. Or you can pre book camping at the airfield.
Keep an eye on twitter @OldBuckAirshow for details of next years show and if you want to see more pics of the day search #oldbuckairshow
Ruby the campervan is parked up alongside 4 caravans on a very pleasant Camping and Caravan Certifed site, The Briar, just south of Ipswich. The main draw for us to visit this area, is Alton Water, a man made reservoir complete with cycle path around the circumference.
The Briar is a lovely grassy CL situated in the small village of Bentley, and offers EHU, a loo and emptying and filling points. It’s very relaxed and at only £15 for the night, and less than an hour’s drive for us it’s perfect location for a one nighter. The owners are lovely and made a point of coming to say hello once we were set up. They’d kindly let us arrive before lunch to enable us to enjoy an afternoon of cycling. They were fascinated with Ruby and were keen to have a nosey, as they are thinking about getting their own Ruby in the near future.
We enjoyed a quick cheese and ham toastie before we unloaded the bikes and hit the road, less than 3 miles to Alton Water. The weather was cloudy, but not raining, and there were lots of families out and about around and on the water which was lovely to see. The track around Alton water was kept well and our bikes coped well – I was so impressed, despite some steep bits we managed to cycle non stop with no getting off and pushing! We stopped every now and again to find some geocaches and take some pictures, and didn’t rush, the circuit took about 2 hours to complete. There was a lovely wildflower meadow that we passed- It was lovely.
We cycled back to the campsite, via the local strawberry seller (check out the size of those 🍓 and promptly had a longish nap! I love Ruby naps! Good for the soul!
We’d decided we were going to be brave and risk an outdoor BBQ for dinner, despite the weather forecast being a bit so so, you can imagine our delight when just as Keefy sparked up, the weather gods took care of the lingering dull skies and the sunshine and warmth we’ve missed recently came out to say hello! It was glorious, we even took our jumpers off and had short sleeves!
Keefy cooked a blinder of a feast for us; local burgers, pork and apple sausages and chicken, cooked to perfection on our new gas BBQ that we were gifted from May and Bernard, whilst I served couscous, coleslaw and jacket potatoes, which were an experiment done in the slow cooker, but they were fantastic! It really was a lovely evening, and as the sun went down we decided to have a walk to the local for a couple of pints which was really nice.
Sunday dawned wet unfortunately, so we made the most of a lie in, partly as someone, ahem, had a little bit of a headache. A bottle of red wine followed by two pints of aspall will do that Lydia, when will I learn! By the time I was ready to surface the rain had gone, and so we cracked the bacon and eggs out and I was soon feeling 100% again. We also tried some toast (done in the toastie maker, worked well!) topped with John, the campsite owners Saville Marmalade, which was delicious.
He caught us mid marmalade sampling as he came to check we’d had a nice evening and was thrilled we were enjoying the marmalade. He also wanted to tell us that having been in Ruby yesterday, his wife had dragged him to Marquis to view two yesterday afternoon!! We had another nice chat before packing up and waving goodbye. The sun had decided to reappear so we pointed Ruby’s wheels in the direction of National Trust Flatford Mill, 3 miles away. Flatford Mill is well known as being the view behind the painter John Constable’s paintings.
It was a picture perfect day, so we enjoyed a 5 mile circular walk from Flatford through the Depdale Valley. I can’t think of anywhere that is more English- with green meadows, a perfect river running through, rowing boats, ducks and ducklings, a tea shop, and 16th century buildings to peruse.
We enjoyed a lovely cream tea overlooking the bridge and then a local ice cream before heading home feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead.
What a lovely bit of escapism- and now it’s less than two weeks til our next trip- one of our favourites, Scotland.
Ruby the Campervan is snuggled up on her lonesome, behind BritStop 243/17, a farm shop/cafe in Norfolk. Despite being 20 miles from our front door we had no idea this place even existed until the new BritStop book arrived! How we have lived without this place in our lives, I will never know, but I worry that now that we do know about it, we may have to remortgage the house! LOL
This week has been one of the busiest I can remember work wise. On Friday, we hosted our very own ABRSM Music Exam day, which was a pretty big deal but thankfully went well, and so when we saw the forecast for the weekend showing no rain, we had no hesitation in having a flick through the BritStop bible.
On top of our already ridiculous week- on Wednesday, Ruby decided to throw her toys out of the pram! The central locking on the passenger side broke, leaving the passenger door stuck in deadlock- not ideal, but not immediately urgent- until we realised that the fuel light had just come on and you can’t open the fuel cap without opening the passenger door. Argh. Cue an emergency day off to get it sorted, which turned into Ruby being away for 2 days, and us being relegated to a tiny, TINY KA – amusing watching 6foot 4 Keith trying to get in and out of that let me tell you, and don’t get me started on fitting all our musical instruments in there…
Anyhow, by the time Saturday arrived we were chomping at the bit for a change of scenery. It was also a good excuse for us to try out our new tow bar and tow bar fitted bike carrier, so Keith loaded them up whilst I threw some food bits into the fridge. Because obviously visiting a farm shop we wouldn’t find anything for dinner.. said no-one ever! We are chuffed to bits with the bike rack- its been a little bit of a headache finding a rack that would allow us to open the boot with the bikes still on, but this Atera bike rack ticks that box, and is amazing- its so easy to use.
We were on the road by midday and 30 mins later we were rolling onto the large car park. We introduced ourselves to the owner Stuart, who couldn’t have been nicer if he tried- and got busy taking a tour around the HUGE farm shop. If you are into eating/cooking local then this is the place for you. WOW. Meats, Cheeses, Pies, Dairy, Fresh Veg, Fudge, Ales, Wines, Whiskey, Gin… we managed to spend £40 but managed to get two juicy fillet steaks, sausages for breakfast, potatoes, cheese, mushrooms, 3 ales, a pack of fudge, sausage rolls, and a pork pie! We enjoyed the sausage roll and pork pie for lunch and set off on a little cycle ride round the local area.
We cycled through Pulham St Mary and Pulham Market, which were once home to an airbase that had several operating Airships, known locally as Pulham Pigs because of their shape.
The Church in Pulham St Mary was amazing, it had a unusual two story porch and lots of wooden medieval carvings inside.
We passed a fantastic old station that has been renovated into a house. The owner was tinkering in his garden so we had a nice chat with him. The station was a stop on the London to Lowestoft line and he’d done a marvellous job in restoring it including the original gates.
We carried on along quiet country lanes until we reached the pretty Pulham Market, and resisted the urge to stop for a pint.
We did a bit of geocaching on route and returned to Ruby after 11 miles in perfect time for Afternoon Tea – served with the fudge we had bought earlier and in our china of course. Nothing but the best in these parts!
The remainder of the afternoon was spent chilling- I did some knitting and Keith watched some crappy tv. Soon the farm shop closed, and we were locked in for the evening. We cracked open some drinks before cooking our fillet steaks. I knocked up some homemade chips and garlic mushrooms to accompany them and we also had some peppercorn sauce. Yum, yum, yum. It dawned on us that even though we had perhaps spent more than we intended, a meal like that in a pub would have been a lot more, and we could wear our Jim Jams! And of course, we had our accommodation for free. Win win.
After dinner we enjoyed a lovely cheese board before an hour or so of Saturday Night tv and an early night. It was so peaceful, we slept like logs. As the sun rose we were treated to a live version of the dawn chorus, including a tawny owl nearby. We were up relatively early and a made us a full english including the local sausages, which were delicious. We said thank you and goodbye to Stuart the owner, who seemed as thrilled as we did- we were his first Britstoppers and he insisted on taking a pic of us to celebrate! Before we left we had a walk around a nearby woodland, which was lovely- the rain stayed away and we did a couple more geocaches before heading home via Diss to do some errands.
A perfect escape from a crazy schedule- we’ve returned feeling ready to tackle next week!
Firstly, before I write this post, I need to make it clear that I have no affiliation with Brit Stops, and pay each year like everyone else for our copy of what we call the Brit Stop Bible. This post comes on the back of 5 years of paid membership, and many, many happy stopovers at Brit Stop locations, but mainly after a discussion that Keefy and I had last night, whilst enjoying our latest Brit Stop evening.
For probably as long as we’ve been members of BritStops, I’ve also been a lurker on many of the Facebook Motorhome and Campervan Discussion pages. Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed more and more people on these pages asking “Is Britstops worth it?”- and watched with interest people sharing their different opinions before sometimes feeling somewhat disappointed in people’s responses. Now don’t get me wrong, I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and actually isn’t that what makes the world wide web a wonderful place to be part of- so please don’t think that this post is intended to suggest that anyone who doesn’t agree with my opinion is wrong. Far from it. But last night, Keith and I experienced such a wonderful evening, that only came about because of our membership into Britstops, it really highlighted to me why we will always choose to be a member. So I thought I would share it.
Earlier this week, faced with a pretty long week at work, we decided we would nip out in Ruby the camper van on Saturday night for a change of scenery. We faced two choices- a BritStop location or a quiet CL site somewhere. It coincided with our brand new edition of the 2017 BritStop bible arriving, so after a loooooong day teaching on Tuesday, we sat down together for a leaf through to see if anywhere grabbed our fancy. So much these days is web based and online, and so we LOVE the fact that we can sit and flick through a proper book, page by page to see the locations available. This also is rather handy when you’re out and about on a tour and you need to change your plans but you don’t have any internet, like we did here. BritStops: 1 / other online database of pub stops: 0
You’ve got a user-friendly map page so you can see whats available in each area. In the case of us nipping away for a night we tend to say an hour’s journey from home- and we are lucky that this perimeter gives us lots of choice (although I’m sad that some of our favourites on the North Norfolk Coast are gone this year!) What we like about the BritStops book is that each place has a little write up from the owner describing their place. This really helps us to decide what we are in the mood for.
Our personal favourite types of stop are the farm shops and vineyards, of which there are loads in this years edition. I just love cooking, so to be able to buy fresh produce and cook it for our dinner that night is perfect. That or buying a local wine/beer and drinking it that night on site, knowing you’ve experienced a local taste, local flavour and given something back to the owner in return for a free night’s stopover is just brilliant- and very, very similar to France Passion, which is what Britstops is based upon. The misconception between people who don’t rave about BritStops seems to be that its only pubs and in theory most pubs will let you stay overnight. There are loads of pubs included. But it’s not only pubs, and for that we think it’s worth the £27.50 membership alone.
We stumbled across this inviting advert from BritStop no. 232/2017’s host.
“Completely refurbished in May 2013, this characterful 16th Century pub still offers traditional games. Next to a farm that supplies us with local produce. (Landlord) doesn’t work from a menu, but is more than happy to make most dishes if he has the ingredients in!”
This sounded an unusual, quirky place, and so we wasted no time in giving them a call on the number provided, to book in for Saturday night. After a bit of a chat to the landlord, he asked us what we fancied to eat, gave us a few options and after asking whether we were fish, veggie or meat eaters he said leave it with me, I’ll see you Saturday! I’m not going to lie, we were quite excited! This seemed a novel approach to hospitality and a quick look on trip adviser soon told us people were raving about this place, although we were slightly anxious that we may have signed ourselves up to a private dining experience and therefore may need to remortgage the house on our return as we forgot to check the price!
The rest of the week went in a blur with work, but Saturday soon dawned and it was time to set off on our mini break. We checked the postcode and directions and used the handy key to see if we needed water, would have electric etc. Everything about the book is convenient and you can just tell it has been lovingly assembled by keen motorhomes, Steve and Mandy, who started BritStops in 2011. Since then they have increased the number of stops from 75 to 761!
We stopped for a lovely walk at nearby Clare Country Park- which we found by using our iFootpath app, something we always do when we are heading to a new town/area because we are chasing a BritStop location, and early evening rolled into the car park of BritStop #232, just as the landlord was returning from a food shop. He opened up at 5:45pm and by 6:00pm we were sat at the bar having his last bottle of home brew bitter and having a nice little chat. The home-brew by the way was delicious. Probably just as well he only had the one bottle left though, at 5.5% I think we could have been in for a dangerous night otherwise!
Conversation soon got onto food, and Tony’s enthusiasm and passion for cooking immediately shone through. I can’t ever remember having such a passionate landlord/chef talk through a menu with us like we experienced here, and that includes my 30th where K took me for a Michelin taster menu at Morston Hall. He gave us options that included a curry platter, sausage and mash, linguine or home battered haddock and chips. After ten minutes of umming and ahhing and numerous changes, we decided on curry- Keith opting for a fish curry and me going for a section that included chicken and cauliflower balti, beef tikka, chickpea and sweet potato, homemade naan, basmati rice, popadoms, homemade ago chutney- the list went on. We asked if he could knock up a starter and he asked us if Garlic mushrooms and dough balls sounded ok. It sounded more like perfect.
We spent some time chatting to a friendly local and before we knew it the food was served. Huge portions, piping hot, absolutely gorgeous flavours. We were officially in food heaven. We were asked what we fancied as background music, we had a roaring log fire next to us, and Jazz the pampered pooch was enjoying fist fulls of home cooked ham!
Enough food for us!!!
As the evening went on, a couple more tables came in, and we witnessed the same passion and enthusiasm, enabling them to eat exactly what they fancied. It was time to ask for the bill and I’d got my credit card at the ready, with a slight sweat, and not just cos of the curry! You can perhaps imagine my shock when the bill read “Drinks: £21 (well we had had a long walk, and I didn’t have to drive!)… Food…….£28”. £28?! That’s surely per person I whispered to Keith. It wasn’t. £14 each for a completely home cooked to our specific taste meal. I’m not even sure I could cook it at home for that, and I didn’t have to wash up!
There is no way on earth we would have picked this pub, had it not been for BritStops. It’s in a tiny hamlet, in the depths of Suffolk. A little way off the tourist route. Not within walking distance of anything too interesting (although I’m sure given more time we may be proved wrong on this). If we had looked at google maps and tried to “pick a pub and call it” we just never would have found this place. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But with the help of BritStops, its taken all this information of where we are welcome and puts it into a user friendly format that doesn’t rely on internet connection – for us living on the Norfolk/Suffolk border we do not take this luxury for granted by the way! Mobile date hasn’t reached our village yet and we are not alone!
We look at our BritStop nights away not, as their tag line suggest, as Free Stopovers, but more like finding the real British gems and giving something back to off the beaten track hosts allowing us to spend the night there. Whether its a haggis pizza and a pint of home-brewed ale, some homemade cheese, local wine, or just old fashioned Great British service in a lonely village somewhere, we feel proud to be members and thank Steve and Mandy for their hard work in keeping the book up to date with regular monthly update emails.
It’s worth mentioning that the agreement of those listed in the BritStop guide does state that there is absolutely no obligation to buy anything, you just have to go and introduce yourself etc. However, for us, we couldn’t even entertain this as a thought – if someone is being kind enough to let you stay on their property the least we can do is have a few drinks and a meal. Pubs and small business’ are closing down left right and centre with the increase of larger shops’ and chain pubs- if we can’t help by spending twenty quid or so in their establishment then I’d rather go and stay in a lay-by somewhere. Or stay at home.
Some pictures below of our favourite all time stopovers.
So there you go, there’s my two – pennies worth on whether BritStops is worth the £27.50 annual fee.
If you are a member and are in/near to Suffolk and like your food – you NEED to pay #232 a visit. I promise you, you won’t visit anywhere else like it. Keep an eye on the website- he is doing themed food nights – with Italian night, Greek night, Curry night, and even a beer taster night- where you get 5 courses each matched with a different beer.
Bank Holiday Saturday Bluebell the motorhome is feeling like she’s experiencing a case of De-ja-vu, she parked up by the sea and she’s fairly sure she recognises the view!
She’s right, we have been here before, and unlike anything that we usually do, we’ve decided to come back to Flint House CL in Walcott, Norfolk less than three months after leaving here back in February!
As you may (or may not know) we are smack bang in the middle of buying our first house together. Our entire life is stuffed into boxes and we are in that horrible period between offer acceptance and completion. Feeling stressed, tired and fed up of clambering over boxes to get from one side of the room to other, we saw the weather forecast give something other than grey miserable wet and cold weather on Wednesday and not the phone looking for somewhere that could fit us in. Luck was in our side and Flint House had received cancellations so were able to accommodate. £13pn hard standing with electric. A bargain.
We arrived at lunchtime and after a quick sarnie we headed out into the glorious sunshine along the coast to Bacton on the Norfolk Coast Path. Last time we were here we had a glorious walk to Happisburgh, and although the views weren’t as spectacular as the journey to Happsibugh as it was a lower stretch of path, the beaches here were glorious.
We walked past the Kingfisher Fish Bar (10 mins from the site) and noticed they were selling local ice cream so stopped for a Norfolk ice cream which was yum. We carried on past the Poachers Pocket pub, and onto Bacton before coming off the coastal path and finding a couple of geocaches and having a look at the remains of Bacton Priory, before a quick pint and walk back to Bluebell. That evening I cooked an amazing cod curry, we had stopped at The Fair Maiden Shellfish shop in Happisburgh on our way to the site and bought ourselves some half of a fresh local cod. Fish curry overlooking the sea made for the most pleasant of evenings. All our stresses went out with the tide as we drifted into a 12 hour sleep!
Bank Holiday Sunday
We had a really deep sleep (apart from nipping out to watch sunrise!) and woke feeling refreshed. Waking up and hearing the waves is really something! Jazz had a good run on the beach ( dog friendly all year) and I cooked us a Full English before we packed up and moved on, to a Brit Stops stopover, no. 248 (2016) on the Norfolk Broads.
If you haven’t heard of Britstops, it’s a fantastic resource for motorhoming in Britain. You okay £25 for a handy glovebox sized guide which lists over 640 places in Britain that you can stay overnight (generally no facilities) in your van, for free as a guest.The idea is that you take an interest in their produce, and perhaps even spend a bit of money however there is no obligation to do so. We always do, not because we feel we have to, but more because we want to, I mean, we’re at a pub offering local ales, a delicious sounding reasonably priced menu, with a beer garden on the side of one of the Norfolk Broads. And it’s sunny. We’ve parked up for the day/night.. Who wouldn’t want to sample a few drinks, it’s hardly a hardship, and in actual fact, we probably would have gone there for a few drinks if we were staying down the road on the CL anyway! For us, and we hope, the owners of the stopover, it’s win win. Not all of the stopovers are pubs, there are vineyards, farm shops, you name it.
So, I suppose my paragraph above sets the scene of our Sunday. We had a wander the 20 metres or so to the beer garden, found a table in the sun, and had a couple of drinks. Had another small wander to man made beach, watched the paddle boarders and sailors. Wandered back to the beer garden. Had another drink. Had a doze in the sunshine back at the van. Went for dinner at the pub and before we knew it we’d had several pints of Dog Dancer (6.9% local cider) and not only was the dog dancing but the room was spinning and it was time to hit the sack! A real gem of a stop though, we will most certainly return, and we are secretly high giving how lucky we are that its only an hour from our front door!
Bank Holiday Monday dawned and thank goodness we had no visit from the hangover fairies. We had a fairly lazy morning before hitting the road back home, where we gave Bluebell a wash and a good clean before taking her back to her new storage yard.
What a lovely relaxing and impromptu weekend!
Until next time, which could be from Scotland at the end of May, it will be depend on house moving dates..
Bluebell the motorhome is parked on a lovely spacious pitch overlooking Woodland within Sandringham Country Park. We are nestled upon the Caravan Club club site- a first for us, but there were no CLs close enough for us to park up on Friday and not drive again til today, so here we are.
We are lucky in that Sandringham is only an hours drive from home, so we arrived on Friday bang on the check in time of 12:00 ready to explore. On arrival we were told about SCD (Seasonal Canine Disorder) from the cautious warden and advised not to take the dog out into the Country Park. Panicking, we didnt know what to do for the best, as the country park goes for miles and we were smack bang in the middle. We decided to walk Jazz as normal, but not let him off lead ( well we dont do that anyway) and be extra vigilant for signs of illness.
The weather was fantastic, blue skies, no clouds, so we decided to set out on a 6.5 8 mile walk to Wolfreton and back through the park and past the visitor centre. The walk was glorious, taking in the wonderful Royal Wolfreton Station, once the main station where Royals would disembark on their way to Sandringham, but now a residential property which has been wonderfully restored privately. You can access the station, and visit the museum and it’s all free. Remarkable.
The walk took us over Dersingham bog (on the boardwalk of course!) with views of the wash and then back through the country park. We haven’t walked that length in a while (it turned out to be 8 miles as we added 3/4 mile each way getting from the campsite to join the AA Route.
We had a great sleep on Friday night, the site is very quiet, and we were treated to hearing the Owls in the woods. They sounded very close to us! Always a lovely sound.
Saturday dawned another sunny day, so we got the bikes off the rack and set out on a 15.5 23 mile cycle, a route we found on the Caravan Club website. The route took us through West Newton, Amner (and past Amner Hall where Kate and Wills live- not that you could see it!) Great Bircham and its impressive windmill (sadly now closed until Easter- we’ve been up previously and it’s fantastic).
We then carried on through Fring, Snettisham – where we stopped at the picturesque Rose and Crown, winner of Pub of the Year 2015, and we can see why, it’s very pretty and our sandwiches were delicious. It was then the home stretch through Dersingham and back to Sandringham campsite via the visitor centre.
We passed several shops selling local produce, and took advantage of the fact stopping to get cheese at each, and chutney atSandringham visitors centre, building ourselves a nice little local cheese board for later that night! Not sure why the cycle ended up being 7.5 miles longer than the route suggested, we don’t think we went wrong! Anyway, we were glad to get back as it was just about our limit and actually there were a surprising amount of hills- but it was a lovely day nonetheless.
Saturday night was spent chilling and watching Strictly. Here’s a strange story- I went to enquire about a TV arial lead at reception as Friday night our TV signal off the status arial was ok but sometimes broke up, and we noticed everyone else on site had Arial leads. I was shocked that they were not available to hire, you had to buy them and they were £15! I’m not sure if we are out of touch with these larger commercial sites or what, but I was surprised to hear that, especially in an area where TV signal isn’t so good, you would think that they perhaps would let you have them for free to hire with a deposit or something? Especially when we are paying £20 a night? Suffice to say, I didn’t buy one, and in the end we had no problems off status arial so that was satisfying!
Sunday dawned and we were up early ready to pack away and the short drove to Sandringham House. It’s 1.5 miles from the campsite, so we could have walked t you can’t take dogs in so we wanted to reduce the time that Jazz needed to stay on his own in the van.
It cost £13.50 each to get into Sandringham, this included the stunning gardens, downstairs of the house, and also a large museum. We felt it to be very good value. The gardens were spectacular, the leaves just starting to change colour.
The first view of the house was exciting, it’s a stunning property you can see The Queen chooses to spend Christmas here.
We weren’t allowed to take piccies inside, but we got to see the lounge/saloon, drawing room, dining room (where they have their Turkey!) and ballroom. It was better value (IMO) than Ballmoral.
Inside the museum were loads of old Royal vehicles and a wealth of history and information. Also, a very large Pumpkin!
The west lawns were our favourite
Finally, after going to pick Jazz up, via the shop may I add, we went for a quick look around the church where The Royal Family worship on Christmas Day. What a pretty spot, the inside is lovely. We will watch the news with a vested interest on Xmas Morning
Jazz licking his lips on the above signalled time for home- we’d had a lovely break, and are now looking forward to doing Leicestershire over half term!
A few days ago, we found ourselves with a unexpectedly free day, which happened to be sunny- Hurrah! Since our last trip, which saw us cycling along The Marriott’s Way, we’ve been on the hunt for other local traffic free cycle trails to go onto our list of places to go. It wasn’t long before we found The Bure Valley Way, a cycle/foot path that follows the 15 inch Narrow gauge railway that runs 9 miles between Aylsham and Wroxham. A quick Caravan Club search ensued and we were on the phone to Heath Farm CL in Buxton, exactly half way along the Bure Valley. Perfect.
Buxton is less than an hour from us so we were up and on the road and pitched up by 11:00. The site was really pretty, with fields surrounding it. Be warned- it’s a very basic CL, offering 2 stand alone water pipes, electric, chemical loo point and a toilet and shower (although it was a very basic one, we chose to use our own facilities on board!)- but the price was remarkable – just a mere £9 per night!! What bargain and really, what more does one need?!
Keith’s agenda for the day was to be able to test his new bit of kit, his Memory Map Adventurer 3000 GPS (currently on sale). We’ve had the old version for 5 years now and it has successfully prevented navigational arguments guided us ever since, until someone dropped it *ahem* and the screen COMPLETLY smashed in!!
Once set up, it was soon off on the bikes. Heath Farm campsite was only 1 mile outside of Buxton and we used the memory map to guide us down a very tiny back road into the pretty village and onto the Bure Valley Way. There is a small path that follows beside the train line for the whole 9 miles.
We chose to head towards Wroxham first seeing as the sun was only set to be out until lunchtime before it was supposed to cloud over. It was about 5 miles and we were passed by several small steam trains – it was a lovely sight.
Wroxham is a largish village on the Norfolk Broads and has everything from a supermarket to Kebab shop, tourist info to fishing tackle shop, and most importantly, what we were after… a nice pub with area to sit out overlooking the river.
After a pint each and a chance to catch our breath, we ate our packed lunch and then, after a quick look round Wroxham Signal Box were back onto our bikes for the return leg – this time to the other end of the line to Aylsham.
It took us just under an hour to cycle the 9 miles, and we rewarded ourselves with a nice ice cold can of coke from Tescos and some Ben and Jerry’s to take back to Bluebell’s freezer for pudding!
We doubled back on ourselves the 3 miles back to Buxton station where we were to leave the trail and head back to our campsite, passing numerous train spotters that we had seen earlier on! During our cycle, we were passed by probably 10 trains, all in wonderful condition, and with lots of passengers on board. I think there were some visiting engines from another railway also running that day. Hearing them choo chooing along the railway was a lovely experience.
We headed back to Bluebell (*Memory map informed us we had cycled 21 miles!) and enjoyed a really lazy evening and following morning, just what we needed with it being the end of term, we are frankly frazzled. The campsite owner was very easy going, he told us there was no hurry to leave, so we enjoyed a lay in and fry up, before packing up and heading the short journey home. Definitely would return, and do the cycle to Wroxham again – but next time, would leave the packed lunch and enjoy fish and chips instead!!