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

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 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.

Next up we wandered down the road 200 metres or so to our next watering hole, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, a phenomenal old character pub which dates from the 1600s- it’s interior looks like it’s straight out of A Christmas Carol. Their sausage rolls and pork pie bar snacks are just delicious by the way. Research obviously- we knew you’d ask us how they were 😉

It was now time for a longer walk to Soho which took us around 45 minutes without stops. We love wandering the streets of London and rarely take the tube. We wandered through Covent Garden and Leicester Square, before heading across Piccadilly Circus into Soho. We met up with Keith’s dad and Valerie as we had a reservation at Cahoots bar at 3pm. Cahoots is a brilliant little hidden gem found just off Carnaby Street. It’s an underground bar set out as it would have been underground on the tube during the 1940s. It’s atmospheric and quirky, and they serve lovely cocktails. You need to prebook your table in advance and the tables are timed with a strict entrance time. During the evenings you can expect to hear live swing music, but during the day they place atmospheric jazz. We really loved our visit.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and left slightly merry! We wandered down the beautiful Carnaby Street towards Regents Street for our dinner reservation at John , Yes; John Lewis. During the winter months the roof of John Lewis turns into a winter wonderland, with a pop up restaurant, bar and this year ice rink (albeit slightly small ice rink). Nestled high above the chaos of Oxford Street a little of a week before Christmas, we were transported to a haven, an oasis of calm and festive ness. This years pop up is MYPIE- as the name suggests a pie and mash pop up. Keith, Valerie and I went for chicken leek and brie pies and Barry went for shepherds pie. Honestly they were completely and utterly scrumptious.

We waved Barry and Valerie off in an Uber- they were heading to Festival Hall for a carol concert. We chose to take in more of the street life, and enjoyed a walk down Regents street to enjoy those iconic and beautiful Xmas lights.

We went back for another look at Carnby Street as the lights there were linked with Bohemian Rhapsody and were fun, before walking back to Trafalgar Square for our bus back to Ruby.

We’d had a jolly good day but don’t want to burn ourselves out as we had more planned for tomorrow.

Fall into October with a visit to Undley Farm Pumpkin Patch, Suffolk

Whether we like it or not, Summer is becoming a distant memory now. The nights are drawing in and the air has become fresher and less humid, the smell of log burners lace the night sky and supermarkets and shops have started stacking shelves from floor to ceilings with Halloween and dare I say Christmas paraphernalia.

Personally, I’m happy to see this shift. I love Autumn. Firstly I’m an October baby, so once those blackberries and apples have been harvested, people start asking me if I have any birthday present ideas. But aside from celebrating, I adore the darker evenings- no feeling guilty for snuggling up in my pjs on the sofa drinking hot chocolate on weekends, the return of Strictly, winter walks, crispy leaves under my feet in the woods and those gorgeous golden colours. I’m definitely an Autumnal addict.

If you are looking for an October break away, especially if you have kids (or dogs!) We highly recommend a day at Undley Pumpkin Patch.

A pick your own pumpkin patch, which offers a huge and wonderful display of pumpkins and squash in all shapes and sizes, at a remarkably good price.

There are seasonable food and craft stalls, photo opportunities galore, inflatables, mazes, and faceprinting, so grab your wellies and head on over to Suffolk for a really fun day out.

It’s open weekends and right through half term, so why not book onto the local campsite The Willows Campsite and make a mini break of it.

Until next time

Lx

*NB We made our visit a couple of years ago, but forgot to blog about it- from what I’ve read it’s grown from strength to strength. We just haven’t had chance to visit this year and due to our USA trip in a couple of days, and then someone pranging Ruby last week, we won’t get there this year 😢🎃

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

A last minute Brit Stop night away in North Essex

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up across the Border – we’re in deepest North Essex at Brit Stop number 221/18. It’s a lovely historical pub that we are nestled behind, and we have a private glade on hardstanding in the very quiet staff carpark.  The pub has some links to a very famous Norfolk Boy so we are feeling right at home, and across the road we have a wonderful traditional Village Green – which if you carry on reading, you will see, comes in verrrrry useful later on!

We’ve had a busy one today doing heaps of admin – but admin of the pleasant kind – booking trips including NYE and February Half Term amongst other things. Since downsizing to Ruby and loosing our on board shower, we are enjoying C&MC and C&CC Club sites lots more than we used too, as the facilities tend to be immaculate and plentiful in hot water supply. Perfect for winter touring when you’ve had a long muddy walk and need a long hot shower – some of the non club sites we visited earlier this year were quite frankly gross, so we’ve kind of gravitated to Club sites which have so far done what they said on the tin for a reasonable enough price.

Having said that, we’re not quite ready to throw in our spontaneous souls just yet, so after filling the diary and part of next years, we made the most of a free Saturday night and travelled to North Essex for a few drinks, meal and more importantly, a head start on a journey that could have meant setting the alarm for 7am on a Sunday – a unheard of occurrence in the O’Gorman household.

On arrival at Britstop number 221 (in the 2018) book, Kevin, the landlord gave us a friendly welcome, and we spent an hour or so dribbling over the DELICIOUS looking menu whilst having a pint of Broadside and Aspall. We then took ourselves for a leg stretch around the paths of the village – admiring some of the pleasant properties on the green and a tasty looking farm shop. Luckily for the bank balance this was closed – next time however…

We enjoyed a really delicious meal in the restaurant – I had breaded Brie and Keith had homemade garlic mushrooms in a stilton sauce to start, which quite frankly was one of the best pub starters I’ve ever tasted. Next up was beef with chinese spices sizzler – on a  bed of noodles. It was GORGEOUS. However the portions were huge! So for the first time I think in the 9 years of knowing Keefy – neither one of us could finish our meals! Luckily the pub was adequately prepared and we got the remains boxed up – which we finished for dinner tonight! Prices were really reasonable – the starters were £6 each and the sizzler £13.95 each.

We got so full that we had to do 3 laps of the village green to make ourselves comfortable! That along with an emergency cup of peppermint tea, and then a good ol singsong along to the Last Night of the Proms, ensured we got a great nights sleep.

This morning Keefy woke up bright and early – he was like a kid on Christmas Day – the reason for our night away was he was booked onto an Owl Encounter morning at nearby Lavenham Falconry (belated birthday present) Keith adores Owls. Eagle eyed of you may have noticed in pictures, in Ruby’s side window we have an owl cuddly toy.  In our house we have owls everywhere! He’s obsessed with them.

So today – he got to handle and fly 4 different species, The Barn Owl, The Dark Breasted Barn Owl, The Great Grey and the Eagle Owl. We also saw the Eurasian Eagle Owl – which is huge and way too big for us to handle with normal falconry gloves. For an extra £15 I booked myself in to be his guest – which meant I could be paparazzi and snap away to my hearts content.

The 2 hour Owl experience cost £60 and was 100% worth every penny. It was fantastic value for money, and I can honesty say I have never seen Keith smile for such a long period of time  (I don’t mean that horribly by the way!)- he’s still beaming away now 12 hours later.

If you have any interest in Owls or Birds of Prey including Falcons and Hawks, you need to check out Lavenham Falconry. Turn it into a mini break – stay at the BritStop and have a day in historic and wonderful Lavenham whilst you’re at it. We popped in on our way home, but we had a mound of stuff to do still at home plus it was packed being a Sunday afternoon so we just revisited the National Trust Guildhall before making our way back home.

Back to school tomorrow after a wonderful summer break. But lots of winter adventures planned – next up, is a weekend trip to Duxford in two weeks time for the Battle of Britain airshow.

Anyone got any winter tours planned?

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trip info

Until next time

Lx

A Cheeky escape to Chirk; May Bank Holiday 2018

Friday 4th May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lx

Historic Portsmouth – an Air B’nB mini break

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.

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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.

Until Next Time

Lx

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