Adventures in the North East of England- using THS

Tuesday

Gandalf the VW is parked up on a rugby pitch- literally next to the goal post- on the outskirts of York. We’re on a rally field essentially, a Temporary Holiday Site (THS) ran by C&CC like a pop up campsite. There are no loos/ ehu or fancy ness- it’s a field with a tap, non and loo emptying facilities, but at £10 pn it’s a bargain and heaps cheaper than the other options for camping in York.

Our journey here from Burnley was smooth and picturesque as we crossed country via the scenic Yorkshire Dales. We pulled into site at lunchtime- in the middle of a county cricket match and had the surreal experience of driving through the cricket match to get to the rally field (the rugby field!)

Set up was quick and easy, and before we knew it we were taking the river path from the site for 20 mins on foot into the centre of York.

We’ve been to York many times, it’s a city we return regularly too and if you’ve not been it’s well worth a visit. It’s rich in history and has the unique Roman city wall walk which can be enjoyed. The shambles – a medieval street with heaps of character is like something off a pantomime set and the majestic minster is also worth a visit.

Our visit today was organised by Keefy- he was keen to visit the Yorkshire life museum as on display currently is an impressive Roman Horde called the Rydale horde. As we had Jazz with us who couldn’t go into the museum, I dog sat in a nearby bar overlooking the river.

As well as the Rydale horde, Keith enjoyed a collection of Prehistoric, Viking, Anglo Saxon and medieval artefacts, all found in York and surrounding areas. He was particularly impressed with the Anglo Saxon helmet dating from 750, considered to be the best preserved in the world and some Viking shoes. He was really impressed with the whole museum and would definitely recommend it.

Follwing this, and reunited once more, we had a quick wander through the city, doing a couple of errands as we passed through, before meeting our friend Gary for a few drinks in the evening.

Our afternoon and evening in York was brief this time, but enjoyable non the less.

Wednesday

After a quiet night on site, we packed up and hit the road at a reasonable hour. We had a 3hr journey north ahead of us- we were heading to Northumberland. We made a stop at National Trust Cragside on route. Somewhere I’d wanted to visit for some time now and thankfully it was cool enough to leave Jazz in the van whilst we went inside together.

Cragside is considered to be Britain’s first “smart home”. Living in a smart home ourselves- Keith loves his technology- I knew we’d enjoy this visit. Built by Lord Armstrong in the Victorian era, this home was carved into rock in a crag- and boasts wonderful views from every corner. But its the pioneering technology inside that makes it’s particularly interesting. Lord Armstrong developed all sorts of gadgets running inside such as hydraulic “dumb editors” – rotating hydraulic spits over the fire, underfloor and over head heating, hot water taps and the first hydroelectric light bulbs in the world.

The thing that blew me away the most was the 10 ton marble fireplace, installed in the “drawing” room – an additional wing built for a royal visit. Lord Armstrong’s pioneering technology gained interest from the Royal family and as such they paid Cragside a visit in the late 1800s. What was fascinating was the idea that their bedroom here would be more advanced than at their own royal home.

After our visit inside we took Jazz for a wander around the grounds before retrieving Gandalf and enjoying the carriage route around the grounds- a 6 mile scenic loop in the car through the grounds.

From here we made a quick stop at Alnwick, filling the fridge with supplies before arriving at our next home, Beadnell Bay THS.

This large rally field, ran by Teesside DA was another corker. Two large fields this time, right opposite a beautiful beach situated walking distance from both Beadnell village and Seahouses. Again, just £10 pn. We paid our dues for 3 nights, and went to set up.

Dinner that night was a homemade curry from home that had been packed in our freezer. We enjoyed a chill before an early night.

Thursday arrived and the weather was drizzly to begin with. We had a fairly lazy morning waiting for the weather to blow over, which it did- before making our way on foot via the gorgeous and empty beach to Seahouses.

Seahouses is a small little village with a couple of pubs, a couple of fish and chip shops, and some touristy gift shops. It’s got a pretty harbour and is know as being the gateway to the Farne islands. There are plenty of boats trips available (although we’d been organised and pre booked ours with Golden Gate).

We enjoyed a delicious lunch of crab soup- Devine! in the Olde Ship- in their beer garden overlooking the Farne Islands. The sun was shining- life was good!

At 3pm we boarded our (dog friendly) boat trip to the Farne Islands. Our boat is the only one which stops at the Indians of Longstone- with its pretty red and white lighthouse, once home to Grace Darling, which we could visit. (Keith went in- I enjoyed the view outside with Jazz).

The boat then continued around the inner and outer Farne islands where we saw lots of birds and seals. Even a couple of puffins- it’s not puffin season anymore so this was a treat!

We really enjoyed the boat trip. A lovely way to enjoy an afternoon.

Once back on dry land, we enjoyed a beer in the Bamburgh Castle pub before enjoying a fish and chip supper at the harbour (from Neptunes- they were delicious!)

We’d had a cracking day, and once back at Gandalf, we enjoyed the last rays of the day with a drink.

Friday

Today we took the bikes out for a pootle along the coastal route. We nipped down into nearby Beadnall to see the 17th century kilns on the harbour wall, before making our back past the THS to Bamburgh.

Bamburgh is home to the phenomenal Bamburgh Castle, which dominates the coastline for as far as you can see. It’s also linked to Lord Armstrong (from Cragside) as he purchased it and restored it in the late 1800s. So tied nicely in with our visit to Cragside a couple of days ago.

The views of the Farne Islands from the grounds (which are dog friendly by the way) are great and the expanse of white Sandy beach below are just stunning.

We took it in turns to go inside – I finished my book whilst Keith went in, and he had a coffee and cake whislt I went in, and both found the interior really interesting.

It was a great visit and one which we’d not planned as we didn’t think it was dog friendly even in the grounds.

We enjoyed cycling a bit beyond the village, admiring the views constantly. What a marvellous section of coast.

Back at the site and we enjoyed a prawn and avacado cocktail and spag bol for tea.

We’d really enjoyed our time here. The THS site runs from July to mid august each year and I think there is another in September. To find out about the THS’s use this link. (You need to be members of C&CC to attend)

If you’d prefer the luxury of a more formal campsite and perhaps ehu, there is a club site next door.

Gandalf had coped admirably with 4 nights off grid, we’d had a mix of weather so the solar panel didn’t get sun ALL the time. The thing with VW’s is the fridge running of the leisure battery rather than gas which is a shame and makes off grid a bit more of a challenge. Having said that, ours managed – we just ran the fridge and water pump off the solar panel and van leisure battery. We then used this – a new gadget for this trip- to charge phones and run the 12v shower, plus give us light for the evening. It worked a treat.

This area is an ideal base for a few days as there are bus stops outside the site for routes along the coast, to Alnwick or even Newcastle. So plenty to do without moving your van.

What a great time we’d had. But it was time to move on! Where next?!

Twixmas 2016: Northumberland, Part 3

An hour after leaving Kielder Dam we were back in civilisation again- phone signals had pinged back, and we were turning off the A6079 at Chollerford onto the beautiful B6318, the road that skirts Hadrian’s Wall. The weather was still incredible, a heavy frost on the moors left the ground sparkling, yet the sky was this fabulous shade of winter Blue. The ultimate winters day. A few miles along we passed signs for the Temple of Mithras, so we pulled in for a quick look.

Temple of Mithras, Carrawburgh

It was a fascinating insight into the early Roman Pagan religions, and seeing the Roman inscriptions was really amazing.

We carried along the B6318 occasionally catching glimpses of Hadrian’s Wall, before turning off at The Milecastle, following signposts for half a mile for our campsite, Herding Hill Farm. This was a last minute booking, the temperatures had plummeted and we decided it was important for us to have electric hook up. Nearby Hadrian’s Wall Campsite were full so we emailed Herding Hill and they responded very quickly to tell us we were most welcome. The campsite has to be one of the best we’ve stayed on. Yes, it comes at a price tag, we paid £58 for two nights- one of the highest we’ve paid for a UK campsite- however, it was absolutely fabulous. The pitches were large, and we had the campsite to ourselves actually! The amenities block, well, they won “Loo of the year” last year, and I can see why. It was clean and luxurious- Radio 2 was playing through the speakers all the time, the showers were HUGE with endless piping hot water, there was a SAUNA!!, two cubicles with baths in in the ladies, a drying room, hand sanitiser next to the Elsan Point- wow I can go on. Location wise, second to none, we were about a mile’s walk to a fab section of wall at Cawfield’s including a Milecastle. We were a mile from Haltwhistle, and had miles of footpaths from our door. A bit of a splash out for us, but just what we needed to thaw out our cold bones!

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Bluebell the Motorhome parked on her “Super Pitch” at Herding Hill Farm

After a quick bowl of soup, we threw on our walking boots and in a style similar to the Roman Army, marched down to Hadrian’s Wall at Cawfields just in time to catch the last winter rays of the day.

img_9602Hadrian’s Wall at Cawfields

img_9611Sunset at Hadrian’s Wall

img_9615Looking down over the Milecastle

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Drone Pic

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Drone Pic

That evening we were treated to a fabulous night sky, so I took full advantage of the empty campsite, doing some serious star/moon gazing using my new telescope. We were treated to a fantastic view of the crescent moon, viewing the craters and even the sea of tranquility. We also were able to view Venus and Mars alongside the moon. Wonderful stuff!

Tuesday arrived and sadly the weather was a bit dull and overcast, so we took full advantage of a lie in, even indulging in Breakfast in Bed! We decided to take short walk down to Haltwhistle to get some supplies, so using a map the campsite provided us with, we took a short but picturesque path over some fields and down a steep gorge into Halthwhistle. There wasn’t an awful lot to see in the “Centre of Britain”, and all the pubs were sadly closed, despite the sun being well over the yardarm. We treated ourselves to a sausage roll from the butchers, which ended up being worth the walk alone- quite simply the best we’ve ever had! and a bargain at 90p each!!!

Supplies purchased, we took the return path to Cawfields which was a beautiful riverside path next to Haltwhistle Burn, with steep gorge surrounding us. On reaching the Milecastle Inn, we decided to stop for a quick pint, it’s always nice to sample the local ale on our trips. Sadly, despite the pub being EMPTY, stone floors in the bar area and us saying we would like food, we were denied access with Jazz, so had to settle for a pint whilst sat outside in the FREEZING COLD! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those annoying “my dog has to come everywhere with me” people, however a pub that is situated half a mile off a major walking route, not allowing dogs….. to me seems like there are just turning away business- especially when there is no one in there!!

Wednesday dawned and we awoke to another corker of a day weather wise. Sadly it was time to head south, we had work commitments at home on Thursday evening. We had a look at the map trying to decide where to have our final night of the tour before settling upon the city of Durham. Campsite located and booked, we made an early start, waving a reluctant goodbye to our slice of heaven on Hadrian’s Wall.

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We made a stop at Steel Rigg car park on Hadrian’s Wall, about 5 miles down from the campsite. We took a fairly strenuous 1 mile walk right beside the wall, which was rather hilly and caused us to be out of breath for most of the walk, our destination was Sycamore Gap, a lone sycamore tree in a dip that has become one of the most photographed spot in Northumbria. It also features in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. The walk was stunning, we saw more stretches of fantastically preserved wall, and Sycamore Gap itself was stunning, it really was worth the walk. As we had had an early start, we were treated to the whole place to ourselves. I made use of playing with my drone, but sadly my SLR decided to pack up, so all photos are iPhone from now on!

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The walk was invigorating to say the least and our return to Bluebell was much quicker.

We carried on towards Housesteads Roman Fort and made use of our National Trust Membership. Again, we really enjoyed our visit- amazing to see the underfloor heating systems still in place 2000 years later! I may or may not of sent my Drone up for a sneaky picture. I’l let you decide… 😉

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After a quick lunch in the van, we hit the road to Durham. An hour later and we were pulling onto our Caravan Club CL right next to the river in Durham. The site was at Durham Amateur Rowing Club, and cost £12.50 per night, with electric. It was only a five minute walk along the river to the City centre, and we managed to get into the centre just before sunset. We had a quick look round the cathedral, which was beautiful, before making our way to some dog friendly pubs, thanks to our Dog Friendly Pub app!

Durham Amateur Rowing Club CL £12.50 pn

Durham Cathedral 

The Court Inn, Durham, my favourite pub, it had 120 gins to try- and was Dog friendly. My fave was the Durham Cask Aged Gin, devine!! 

Our whistlestop tour of Durham was the perfect end to our week in Northumberland. We had a brilliant time, and can’t believe that we have taken this long to visit!

In total we travelled just short of 800 miles, spending around £300 including fuel and site fees. Would we go again? Absolutely.

Until Next Time

Lx

Twixmas 2016: Northumberland, Part 2

New Years Eve Continued 

We retraced our steps back towards Otterburn for a quick stop at the site of the Battle of Otterburn, where there was a picnic area and info board, along with a large stone from the battle.

Battle of Otterburn site
 The wind was absolutely savage so we didn’t stop for too long! We made our way back down the A68 and then made our way towards Kielder, a beautiful journey despite not being via the private forest drive (toll) as that is closed for winter. Our destination was Brit Stop number , a village pub right in the heart of Kielder Forest and Water park. We were intending on eating at the pub but with it being New Years Eve food service wasn’t offered all day, the menu looked good though! We opted for several drinks instead whilst getting to know the friendly barman (see below!)  and then a cosy night in the van accompanied by a fillet steak and bottle of Pape! Yum. 

Friendly barman, Charlie 🐾
Last supper of 2016 in our home on wheels


Sunday, New Year’s Day

New Years Day dawned bright yet chilly. A perfect day for a bike ride, so we dismantled the wheels and set off for a few miles on the Lakeside Way path, a wide, hard surface track that is 27 miles long around the circuit of the reservoir. We didn’t realise that Kielder Water is in fact the largest reservoir in Western Europe! We didn’t fancy over-exerting ourselves, we’d had a lazy morning already, so just went on a short circular which took us under the impressive Kielder Viaduct, then over it, and alongside the lake for a little way before turning round and returning via Kielder Castle. In actual fact it was only about 4 miles! 

Kielder Viaduct
The cycle path over the Viaduct
An old railway line over the Viaduct has been transformed into a decent cycle path which goes right around the water.

 I had a good play with my drone camera around the viaduct taking some amazing shots, and we also did some Geocaching too. 
Kielder Viaduct from the sky- taken on my Parrott Bebop Drone with full HD camera

It was a lovely day and the light was simply breathtaking, until the heavens opened as the sun set for the first time in 2017. Being New Years Day, food service in our Brit Stop was again disrupted, but they were happy for us to stay put for the evening and we returned the favour by enjoying a few pints of the local ale, which was very nice! 

Who says camping and caravanning means Beans on toast and Frey Bento pies..!

We had a New Year’s feast of Moules Marinade followed by chicken casserole for dinner in the van, and just as we finished eating we noticed a break in the pitter patter on our roof; the rain/sleet had stopped and a quick check through the sky light and bingo, the stars were out. Our main reason for visiting this area was the draw of the night time skies. Northumbria is a Dark Skies area, and Kielder actually has an observatory with telescope. Sadly the events at the observatory were all sold out for our trip however I’d been itching to get my new telescope out for play. Here was my chance. My highlight was viewing Vega- the star in which the film Contact receives extra terrestrial signals from.. cue some singing of that wonderful John Williams theme! 
We wandered up 100 yards or so to Kielder Castle and set up. The sky was phenomenal. We saw the Milky Way with our naked eye, and thousands of stars. Absultely breathtaking. Until a snowflake landed on my face. Then another. “Keith, did you just feel that” by the time he answered “Yes” we found ourselves in the middle of a snow storm! Northumbria, your weather is mental. 

Monday 2nd Jan

We had another quiet yet cold night’s sleep, the temperature dipped to -3c, but we were toasty inside. We both woke early, a little apprehensive that the snow shower we found ourselves in the middle of, may have settled, causing us problems getting out of Kielder. We needn’t have worried, although there was an awful lot of ice on the ground, the road out of the forest park was clear. The weather again was gorgeous, a perfect winters day.

Our Brit Stop pitch in Kielder

About 12 miles away from Kielder, we passed a large car park and viewing area for Kielder Dam. We pulled in for a leg stretch, and slip slided our way across the footpath across the dam. I also managed to get some more good drone shots despite poor Jazz’s protests, he’s not a fan of the flying camera!
Kielder Dam

Aerial shot of Kielder Dam- taken from my Parrott Bebop drone with HD camera

 The light was beautiful. After a cuppa and the last of my gingerbread house (Annie, it really is yummy!!) we hit the road once more- our destination was Hadrian’s Wall. 

Until next time 
Lx  

Twixmas 2016: Northumberland, Part 1 

Hello and Happy New Year!

After a quiet autumn for motorhoming yet manic Autumn for life and work- we are back out on the road! 🚍 hurrah!

I have a small confession to make actually, this is our second trip of the festive fortnight- for the first time ever we spent Christmas in Bluebell the motorhome, just the two of us and Jazz of course. We had a lovely relaxing time, but having had a particularly stressful and tiring term, I declared a digital detox over Christmas and switched off the Internet/phones/camera- so no Christmas blog I’m afraid! 

Twixmas 2016: Northumberland, Part 1 

Thursday 29th Dec 

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up at Border Forest Caravan Park, Northumbria. Situated right on the edge of Kielder Forest, but located just off the A68, the site is ideally located for convenience after a long drive North, yet benefits from miles upon miles of walking routes right from Bluebell’s door. We’re on a pitch overlooking a stream and therefore can hear the flow of water, beautifully relaxing. 

Pitch at Border Forest Park
 

We arrived mid afternoon after a decent run up the A1 including a quick comfort stop at The Angel of the North. Having passed the large sculpture many times it was quite something standing directly underneath, the sheer size was quite overwhelming!

Angel of the North

It didn’t take long to set up, most things were already in from Christmas so we managed a quick leg stretch along The Pennine Way which runs directly behind the site. Just as the sun was setting – which was felt really early- being an area of official dark skies, there is no light pollution here at all- it was pitch black by 4:30pm, we (I think!) spotted a tawny owl hunting for its dinner! 

We settled down with a couple of drinks and a book, before I prepared our own dinner- using the remains of the Turkey, a lovely turkey risotto. 

Keith had a shower on site and declared it to be “the best shower he’s ever had, he didn’t want to get out”- anyone who knows Keith personally will realise this is rather high praise! 
Santa bought me a telescope for Christmas which I was hoping to put into good use but sadly increasing winds and cloudy skies meant I was unable to do that tonight! Fingers crossed for the next few days! 🔭
Friday 30th December 

It didn’t seem to get light til nearly 9am today so we had quite a lie in, which was lush! It was quite blustery in the night though but other than that everso quiet. Perfect. 

After a frittata for breakfast, we made a pack lunch and prepared dinner for later; a small joint of ham stuffed with cloves went into the slow cooker along with a can of cider. Keith was consulting his memory map (ordnance survey) and had lined us up a nice circular walk along some of the Pennie Way, up to Hindhope Lin (Waterfall) and through the forest to The Three Kings Standing Stones before coming back to the van.

Hindhope Lin, Kielder Forest
3 Kings standing stones and view back to the Campsite

 It was a lovely 5 mile walk, and we enjoyed our lunch up at the standing stones. We were back by 1:30 so had a nap and read our books for the remainder of the afternoon. Teatime came and we served the ham with cauliflower cheese and new potatoes. Wow, it was delicious! Sadly last night’s cloud hadn’t lifted all day so my hopes of using the telescope were dashed! 😢 however it sounds like the rest of England is covered in fog so can’t complain! 

New Years Eve

We woke fairly early after another really quiet night, despite being just off the A68 there is zero traffic noise from our pitch near the stream. Today we were saying farewell to Border Forest Park, and moving further into Kielder Forest towards a Brit stop pub for the next two evenings. Before we could do this though, we had to find diesel! We made a big error on Thursday in not filling up with diesel in Newcastle cos we didn’t need any, and it nearly bit us on the bum because we didn’t see another fuel station at all! 15 miles before arriving at our site the dreaded light came on, and on arrival, the friendly campsite owner said the best bet was Jedburgh, 16 miles down the very hilly A68! Needless to say it was a rather tense 16 miles, with a fair bit of bottom clenching and even more coasting, but somehow we made it to the welcome Shell garage at Jedburgh!  After a brief stop in Bonny Scotland and all our will power not to continue into our beloved Scotland for the remainder of our trip,  we made a quick stop at Carter Bar to drop off a Geocaching traceable that we picked up at Grafham water, Cambs, and we were back in England, ready to enjoy NYE. 

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