For us when we arrive at a campsite, once we are set up, we don’t want to move the van if we can help it. I spend all week chasing around in between schools and gigs so once the journey is out of way, I want to hang up those car keys and embrace not having to drive. Because of this we are always on the look out for campsites with walks or bike rides from our pitch.
For the second year running Keith and I have signed up to “walk 1000 miles”. Last year we smashed it by walking over 1100 miles which we were thrilled about- crossing the 1000 mile mark in mid November.
As usual its been a busy start to the decade, and with some pretty rough weather and my lingering lurgy, the 40 odd miles walked so far this year by us have been mainly in the dark either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. But this weekend a welcome break in the weather arrived at the same time as a welcome day off.
As we only had the day spare we opted for a local walk just 5 miles away from our front door. However seeing as we have a really rather decent campsite in the middle of the walk and various attractions around us – we felt it was well worth a write up to add to our ‘Campsites with walks from the pitch’ list.
This campsite is right in the heart of the forest. The pitches are really pictuesque and there are decent facilities and even an outside pool for the summer months. It gets very busy, we even know neighbours who go there on holiday despite it being 3 miles from our front door. It is open from Mid march to mid October.
9 miles but many shorter (or longer) routes available.
Because we live so close obviously we didn’t camp. We parked Ruby at Knetttishall Heath which has two large and free carparks. Knettishall Heath also has miles of trails to follow and is the start of the Peddars Way.
Our route began in the main car park which we walked away from by turning left out of the main gates, following the road back towards the A1066. After about half a mile we took a small footpath towards Riddlesworth Hall Private School. The path goes behind the school and you get good views of Princess Diana’s former school – the impressive Riddlesworth Hall.
We then crossed the 1066 and took a quiet lane through the forest towards Dower House Campsite. We took the campsite entry road and followed it for the mile or so before breaking off to the left following the path towards Thorpe Woodlands (Forest Holidays). This is a good place for a refreshment stop as there is a pet and child friendly bar/cafe which serves decent food and is open to non residents.
We carried on to the Peddars Way National Trail which we followed all the way back to Knettishall Heath. Our route covered 9 miles and was really enjoyable.
If we were staying at the campsite we would head towards Riddlesworth Hall first then Knettishall Heath as that way you get the road walking (albeit quiet road) done first.
There are enough walks directly from the campsite to occupy you at least 2-3 days so it’s perfect for a weekend break.
East Harling is just about walkable from Dower House – or cyclable on a very quiet lane. There are two decent pubs, one that serves exceptional food – The Nags Head and one that is a drinkers pub, The Swan. There is also a traditional tea room, Peppers, a village store, fish and chip shop and post office. The 2 pubs and the tea room are all all dog friendly. If you don’t fancy the distance, there is a great cab service that is based in the village.
Just outside of East Harling is England’s oldest Whiskey Distillery. Its well worth a trip if you like Whiskey or Baileys – they do a very nice Norfolk Nog which is similar to Baileys. There is also a restaurant and cafe at the distillery too.
A little further afield but less than 10 miles away there is Snetterton Race circuit and also Banham Zoo, or Bressingham Steam Museum.
Did you know that the legendary actor James Stewart was stationed nearby to here in Old Buckenham, about 8 miles away during WW2? You can visit the small museum on the airfield and visit Jimmy’s cafe. Or perhaps come and watch the very popular and really great air show in July.
As you can see we are blessed with where we live. If you decide to come and try the campsite out do let us know, we’ve love to meet up! This truly is our stomping ground! In fact during this walk we bumped into two of our followers randomly! Great to meet you Eric and Pam!
We’re always on the look out for inspiration of where to visit for a night or two which requires no driving once on site. If you have any spots you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below.
Our next Ruby adventure is just 3 weeks away, we’re looking forward to seeing some hills in West Yorkshire.
Ruby the VW campervan is parked up on the beautiful and idyllic ‘Tumbleweed’; a Camping and Motorhome Club certified location situated 4 miles outside of Orford on the Suffolk coast.
We decided to avoid the club sites during the August holidays this year as even during the May half term they were packed and fairly noisy. We’ve been quite busy doing gigs and a handful of teaching since returning from our Canada and Alaska and fancied some peace and quiet. Tumbleweed (£14 pn) had a space free despite our fairly late booking and even better, it had a shower (£1 for a 10 minute shower) and toilet on site.
We arrived just before 1200 and instantly relaxed. The site, despite only hosting 5 vans, is a relatively large and beautifully landscaped site, nestled just to the side of the owners house. There are a couple of hard standing pitches and the rest are grass. We chose the pitch closest to the small stream that runs alongside the site.
We wasted no time in getting the bikes off the back of Ruby and pointing our wheels in the direction of Orford, just 4.5 miles away along a small quiet lane.
Seeing as we’d arrived at lunchtime, and the pubs on this this stretch of coast weirdly stop serving food at around 2.30 despite it being the height of summer, we decided to have our fish and chips lunch before our walk so we didn’t run the risk of missing out!
Orford is very famous for its Castle, a unique and fantastically preserved polygonal tower keep, which stands proudly above the small village and is seen for miles along the coast on a clear day. It’s looked after now by English Heritage and worth a visit. We visited a few years ago so didn’t go inside today. Dogs are allowed in.
Orford is also famous for its fishing – it’s been a fishing port for years and years and as such you can find the famous Pinney’s of Orford smokehouse shop here. They still fish on two boats from Orford quay and have a large smokehouse just behind. It’s the place to buy your smoked fish from round here.
In the Jolly Sailors, our lunch venue, they were selling a pint of Pinney’s smoked prawns, something we’ve not seen before, so we of course ordered a pint to share followed by two battered fish and chips.
Both were delicious and washed down by the local Adnams lager. It took all my strength not to order the adnams gin which is fab, but I’ve got a bottle at home so resisted.
After lunch, we moved our bikes to the large car park where there was ample bike parking and began our country walking route.
We followed the estuary for a couple of miles following the Suffolk coastal path. And then cut inland before following a good path back to the castle.
We would have had a drink at the other pub in the village but it was closed – I told you, weird opening hours! – so grabbed some Suffolk gold cheese, and cycled back to Ruby. The return journey was a little easier on the legs.
Back at Ruby, we had a quick shower set our stall out and made the most of the sunshine and peace and quiet. We sat out until gone 8pm reading. It was perfection.
Once the sun had gone down, we moved inside and had a simple dinner made up of some leftovers from a Mexican bbq we cooked at the weekend and settled down to watch a film, but we didn’t even make 20 minutes before our eyelids became increasingly heavy, so we called an early night!
We slept like logs for over 12 hours! It was absolutely silent here- perfect for our weary bodies!
We had a simple al fresco breakfast before quickly packing up Ruby, saving goodbye to the site owners and heading down a mile or so to the large picnic car park (this has a height barrier so is not suitable for people in anything taller than 2m) just along the Iken road near Snape.
Here we picked up the coastal path for the mile or so to Snape Maltings, which as the title suggests is a converted Maltings that was built to malt barley, which was then sent on to make beer in London and Europe. It’s spot, right on the banks of the River Alde, made it a desirable and useful spot and it remained a busy Maltings right up to the 1960s. At this point, local but very famous composer, Benjamin Britten, had the vision or turn the derelict buildings of Snape Maltings into a concert hall and ever since the famous Aldeburgh Music Festival and much more has been held there. It’s now home to much more than just the concert hall, also an array of shops, boutiques and gallery’s and is worthy of a trip if you’ve not been before.
Our walk continued through Blaxhall common or Blaxhall Heath as it more resembles- we lost the path due to overgrown-ness a couple of times but we enjoyed the varied landscapes and all the beautiful purple heathers.
We were surprised to learn that we racked up 5 miles by the time we got back to Ruby – which brings our walk 1000miles target to 690 miles walked so far this year!
After a quick bite to eat, we turned our wheels back in the direction of home, but not before one last stop at the wonderful Friday Street Farm ship just before we turned onto the A12. We were exceptionally disciplined- we’re trying not to spend a fortune, but I stocked up on fresh fruit – much of which was harvested from High House fruit farm which was only a mile away from our campsite. Tomorrow has been declared a jam making day!
We absolutely loved Tumbleweed Cl, and thought the facilities were exceptional for a small site. We’re starting to prefer these quiet sites during the peak seasons, so finding one with such spotless and modern facilities is just wonderful.
Does anyone else have any recommendations for CL or CS sites with a decent shower? Please comment below if you do
Since we got home from America, it’s been full on with work as we’ve had a show production as well as our normal teaching routine. As soon as the show was over I was itching to get out for some fresh air, and luckily my lovely husband had preempted this and prebooked some tickets to nearby Anglesey Abbey for their winter lights event.
Anglesey Abbey is a National Trust owned country house that was formerly a priory and is set within acres of woodland. A perfect canvas for a magical winter wonderland trail.
We met Keith’s Dad and Stepmum for a late Sunday dinner at the nearby Red Lion in Swaffham Prior, before driving the couple of miles to Anglesey Abby for our 7pm entrance ticket. Our meal was gorgeous, one of the best Sunday lunches we’ve had in ages and really great value.
We had a few minutes to spare at Anglesey Abbey so had a hot chocolate and a browse of the gift shop; I just love the National trust gift shops and left laden with goodies! At 7pm we were called through and began our winter trail. The lights were extremely pretty and atmospheric, and although completely different to Kew Gardens winter lights which we visited last year, it was equally as lovely.
The trail is about 1.75 miles long, and there are a couple of rest areas with hot food, coffee and mulled wine of course. There were also some entertainers at each rest point- a fire eater and country band in one section and a brass band in the other.
We carried on along the trail admiring the huge silver birch trees all lit up beautifully and our favourite section was the stretch along near the mill.
The Abbey itself was pretty with multicoloured lights that you could control using devices on the path, which was unique.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and was the perfect outing to get us starting to think about Christmas. Tickets for this year have sold out already, however you can get tickets through the National trust website here – we booked in September.
We didn’t stay as we were local and it was a Sunday night, however you could easily combine this trip with a stay on:
Anglesey Abbey also is very proud to host one of the best displays of snowdrops in the country and is well worth a visit in February too.
The following weekend, hailed the return of the ever popular Bury Christmas Fayre. Each year this 4 day Christmas fayre becomes even more popular- we’ve been making a point of visiting every year that we’ve lived here. Despite us only being 30 mins from Bury St Edmunds we always camp overnight as we are partial to a drop of Greene King Abbotts Reserve, but at 6.5% I only need to sniff it and be over the limit!
In Bury St Edmunds there is an official motor home overnight parking area in the main car park, where we can park legally for 24 hrs at only £2.50. We are so lucky to have this, if only more councils supported motorhome owners on this way but that’s a different story.
Despite this wonderful facility being available, we rarely get to use it during the Xmas market weekend as there are only 5 spaces and they are always full, so we tend to discreetly park up outside of town for the night. This year however due to a wedding on the Saturday, we ended up at Bury on Friday and i’ll be blowed, we got a space in the Aire!
We wasted no time and headed straight for the Abbot reserve tent!
The market is centred around the picturesque Abbey gardens and Angel hill and is full of stalls offering lovely gifts and food and drink galore.
This year, we did less shopping and more drinking hehe, but we stocked up on cheeses! The Greene King tent is right opposite the stage and so we enjoyed watching the commitments tribute band.
It really is a lovely Christmassy event, and we look forward to it every year. It’s also dog friendly.
We can’t go to Bury St Edmunds without a drink in the Nutshell, claimed to the smallest pub in the UK and this trip was no exception. It’s also dog friendly. 🐾
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
*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 😢🎃
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.
Ruby the Campervan has whisked us away for a little bit of a change of scenery for a couple of days. School is now officially out for Summer (hurrah!) but we can’t go too far afield as we’ve got a few days of private teaching and gigs, plus a holiday course to run before our main holibobs.
Feeling totally drained having had to battle with not only end of term shenanigans, but also a flooded house (arghhh) we were so tired we couldn’t even decided on where to go! We ended up settling on the Suffolk coast for a night for some sea air and then a night in land, at the gateway to the broads at Beccles. Both locations were near to walks we’ve previously done before should we feel the need to be energetic.
Friday morning arrived, the sun was shining, so off we set, an hour down the road to Dunwich. Dunwich was once the capital of East Anglia and was the third biggest port in England back in Anglo Saxon times. Now, its home to less than 200 according to the 2011 census, because of coastal erosion, the entire village has gone! It’s a lovely wild, pebbly beach, and has a fab Adnams pub, not that we visited this time.
We parked up in the huge beach carpark at Dunwich and set off on our walk towards Dunwich Heath, a huge National Trust heathland, that at this time of year is the most gorgeous shade of purple.
We thoroughly enjoyed the walk, and were surprised we had clocked up 5.5 miles by the time we got back to Ruby. The walk wanted us to carry on further up past Ruby, but we were shattered so grabbed a picnic blanket, our flasks, and had a relax on the beach for a while instead.
We realised we were nodding off on the beach so moved Ruby the 15 mins dive to our base for the night- Eastridge Farm Camping and Caravan Club CL at Eastbridge (nr to Leiston). This was a basic site, at only £9 there was nothing other than a waste disposal, a tap and a very VERY basic loo. BUT- it was a huge field and was absolutely silent therefore, in our eyes it was perfect- the sun was shining so we got our stuff out, including sun loungers for the first time this year- and had 40 winks.
The water was really warm, and so we hung it on the sliding door and took it in turns to protect each others modesty whilst we had a quick rinse. We were really impressed with how it works. It has certainly opened the option of us being wild for more than two nights at a time now (perhaps only during summer though!)
We had a lovely BBQ that evening, the sun shone brightly for us all night! Keith was in his element as he didn’t even have to get out his seat to get another cold beer thanks to his birthday present 12v Electric Coolbox
Around 9pm we decided to have a wander to the local pub, The Eel’s Foot, less than 5 mins walk- perfect. A great selection of Adnams beers and a lovely menu (handy for next time) Despite Eastridge being a tiny hamlet the pub was PACKED! Great to see.
We slept so heavily and had a big lay in, whilst the rain eased off, which it did around 9am. We had toast using my RidgeMonkey MK2 Standard Toaster ‘Black’ with FREE Utensil Kit and homemade jam before setting off towards Beccles. I’ve set a summer goal of doing as much Farm shop shopping/cooking as possible, and knew we’d pass at least one farm shop on our journey. We did- so we pulled in, where we had a splurge, and bought some local chicken breasts, local mushrooms, local scones, clotted cream and loads of local raspberries and apricots to make jam with when we are home. On our walk yesterday we had also picked up a courgette from someone’s roadside stall for 20p!
We arrived at our next campsite, Dove Cottage, (£11.50pn incl. electric and with shower) near to Beccles around midday. We picked this site due to it’s close proximity to Beccles, where we had a 7 mile walk in mind, but in reality, despite it being a glorious day, we both just fancied going straight to the campsite and relaxing for the afternoon! So thats what we did. I made us beef and cheese pannini’s in the Ridgemonkey, we had a little explore from the site then we just set our stall out and relaxed away! Sometimes you just need to stop! The weather was amazing, and we actually got quite tanned 🙂 We dragged ourselves away from the sunbeds for a cream tea mid afternoon.
Dinner was a delicious Chicken, mushroom and Courgette risotto and as it cooled off we moved inside and began our Cracker boxset. We enjoyed a very local cheeseboard with cheeses we had brought earlier from the farm shop.
We had a fair amount of rain overnight but luckily it had cleared in time before breakfast. We were due to have a full English, but it turned into a bit of a disaster – first, the gas ran out on the hob in Ruby. So Keith got out our outside portable one. Then the gas on that ran out. So we changed that over. Then our sausages, which were from our local butchers, and are usually amazing, just would not cook! Put it this way, I was cooking them for 1 hour 20 mins and they were still raw inside. So they ended up in the bin, and we had a well done bacon, eggs, beans and mushrooms. This delay meant that the weather was beginning to take a turn for the worse, so rather than our planned 7 mile walk from Beccles we decided to do a much shorter river walk, which was lovely, and got home just as the rain started.
We had such a lovely mini break, just what the doctor ordered thats for sure. So just a handful of working days left now before we are off for our main summer holidays to South Wales, via Edinburgh (!) for a night at the Tattoo and Bristol for the International Balloon Festival! So excited about both of these!
Links to our new on board gadgets below (click on the pics)
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 parked up back at home after a quick night away, across the border to Suffolk. We had a crazy week of work, so decided a BritStop night away would be the perfect thing to look forward to, to celebrate our new 2017 edition of the BritStop Bible arriving.
We had a lavishly long lie in on Saturday, not getting up until 11:30, but the ease of having our camper van back out on the drive made for a really speedy getaway- we were on the road for 12:30, stopping briefly to return a couple of bike racks to Halfords, before arriving at Clare Country Park in time for a Campervan Cookbook lunch of Campfire Quesadillas.
We substituted the campfire for Ruby’s hob, and washed lunch down with a refreshing beer and a wander along the old Railway Path, around the old Railway buildings and ruins of Clare Castle and Priory. The weather was dull and dismal, but we enjoyed the leg stretch and the fresh air nonetheless, although it was sad to see so many trees blown over due to the recent Storm Doris. The winds were hanging on a bit actually so it was a bit drafty to send Donny my Parrott Drone up- a shame as I bet it would be a good arial shot – never mind though, always next time!
We had a little wander around the picturesque village of Clare and I stuck my head into a couple of the shops – as much as I could get away with anyway, Keith’s not the biggest shopper in the world, before having a cuppa and a jam doughnut back in Ruby!
We made our way ten mins or so to our BritStop location for the night, no. 232 in the 2017 book, a charming 16th Century pub near to Sudbury. The draw of the pub was that the landlord/chef doesn’t have a menu as such, he just cooks you what you fancy, depending on what local ingredients he has in. He also has a microbrewery onsite, we finished off his latest batch of bitter- it was yum!
We parked up, introduced ourselves and arranged to go back in 6ish to decide upon what to eat and have a beer. We used the time to play with our new gadget- a portable TV which, one you plug a memory card in has the function to record Live TV. We had zero phone signal at the pub, so my hopes of recording Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway were rather slim, so I enjoyed half an hour of knitting whist Keith played around with the TV. I was therefore mighty surprised when the next thing I hear is the roar of the rugby coming from this iPad sized screen- Keith had attached the magnetic ariel to the side of the van and it had somehow found a full digital signal! We were stunned. It has a 12v plug so can run off the leisure battery, or run without being plugged in for 2 hours.
We set it to record and went inside, ready for a beer. The welcome was warm, and not just because of the roaring log fire. The landlord was a right character, but his enthusiasm and passion for cooking impossible not to latch on to. He discussed menu options with us and disappeared into the kitchen, leaving us in the company of a friendly local, and before we knew it the most delicious garlic mushrooms were delivered to our table, which we absolutely wolfed down! Main course arrived next and we enjoyed a fabulous patter of curries and accompaniments, all lovingly homemade.
We had a fabulous night, and were shocked when the bill came to less than £50. A perfect evening. The recording on the TV had worked perfectly so we watched bit of Ant and Dec before having an early night- we must have needed it as we slept for almost 12 hours straight! We are finding the bed in Ruby extremely comfortable, even Keith, who has rigged up the portapotty at the end of his side of the bed so he has extended the bed by an extra foot- enabling us to both be able to stretch out fully.
Sunday dawned a little brighter so after a fairly lazy morning we set off home via Ickworth National Trust. It’s a favourite of ours, and this time we parked up in the overflow carpark which gave us panoramic views of the farm land, which Keith enjoyed whilst I cooked my very first Fry up in Ruby. It was a bit of a juggle on only 2 hobs but I managed it with no stress- I’m definitely enjoying the sitting down cooking approach!
We had a big walk around the grounds before heading Ruby’s wheels in the direction of home, vowing to return to our new favourite BritStop very soon, and feeling fully refreshed, recharged and ready to face the week ahead. When we were faced with having to get rid of Bluebell, it was exactly these weekends that I was most devasted at the prospect of not being able to do anymore. I’m so glad we found our gal Ruby quickly, and so far, she’s ticking all our boxes.
Until Next Time
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.