Adventures in The Peak District

February 4th- 6th 

Gandalf the VW is parked up alongside his pal, Hiilda the Hymer (my Dad and Step Mum’s) motorhome and we’re nestled behind The Waterloo Inn in Biggin, Derbyshire, cashing in our Christmas present from them- a camping weekend.

We’re staying at the Waterloo Inn campsite, conveniently located just behind the pub. The site is fairly basic, but does have hard standing pitches, heated showers and loos, a washing up shack, usual waste emptying facilities, miles up on miles of walks and bike rides on its doorstep; and of course the  (dog friendly) pub complete with log fire within staggering distance. What more could we possibly need?! Some decent weather was on our wish list, but honestly, having been grounded due to a broken big toe and even ending up on crouches for some of January, I really couldn’t care less about the weather. I was just ready for an adventure and to see some hills!

We had a great journey up from Norfolk on Friday morning, arriving at the site just in time for lunch. Following lunch, we had a walk down to Hartington, a pretty little village with a nice and cosy pub, The Devonshire Arms.

We had a quick dram – it had to be a quick one as the daylight was fading fast, before making our way back up the track to Biggin ready for dinner in the pub.

The Waterloo Arms was unpretentious and exceptionally friendly. We instantly were made to feel welcome and the food was nice too. Keith and I enjoyed the local banger of the week from the butchers nearby at Stanage Edge. We enjoyed our evening in the pub catching up with Dad and Jenny, so engrossed we were with our company we had no idea that snow had fallen whilst we’d been inside!

Friday night was exceptionally peaceful on site and we all slept well. 

Saturday arrived, and whilst it was a bit blowy and chilly, it was dry- so we unloaded our bikes, and after breakfast baps, hit the very nearby Tissington Trail. 

The Tissington Trail is an old disused railway line, now turned into recreational track. The surface was ideal for our E bikes, and the scenery was stunning. The more exposed sections offered panaromic views of the The Peak District, as we whizzed by Alsop dale and beyond.

Some sections had terrifically tall and steep sides- the path (old track) cutting through the limestone like a knife. There were huge railways bridges for us to cycle under too.

The only problem was the rapidly deteriorating weather- it was blowing a hooley to put it lightly, and actually blooming cold wet and a bit miserable. We explored Tissington, a very pretty little village with picture perfect stone cottages and small lanes and a hall now used as a venue, and also a duck pond.

We nipped into the butchers, and enjoyed our picnic lunch…. in the bus shelter, which was a very welcome relief as it was FREEZING.

We had considered carrying on slightly further to Ashbourne, however we had done 7 miles already – some of which were hard work with the high cross winds, and also Dad didn’t have an E Bike so was struggling with the weather conditions on his bike. We all agreed we’d had enough for one day, and would rather finish and feel happy weather than carry on a bit further and begin to feel unhappy/ratty.

So we made our way back the way we came, along the Tissington Trail back to our new temporary local, where the roaring fires awaited us and a top shelf bottle of Jura to warm us up.

Despite the weather, it hadn’t dampened our spirits, and once warmed up I think we all felt a huge satisfaction about our day’s adventure. Keith and I really enjoyed the scenery along the way and I’m sure in warmer and dryer weather this would be a brilliant activity to enjoy. 

Dinner was a delicious beef brisket pot roast and we followed this by an earlyish night! Unfortunately our neighbours on the site did NOT have an early night and we were awoken several times by campfire singing and general noise. However – they were in TENTS! So clearly Needed to get wasted I think to cope! 🤣

Sunday dawned, and despite it absolutely lashing it down during the night, we awoke to fairly ok weather, so had a quick early breakfast and donned our walking boots. The campsite we’re being generous and allowing us to have a later check out. We enjoyed a terrific walk down through Biggin Dale- which reminded me and Keefy of something out of Lord of the Rings, with its green mossy banks and stone and scree banks.

As we had set off early we had the place to ourselves. If we had had more time, we could have extended the walk to either Hartington or Milldale in the opposite direction – however the river was a reminder of how rough the weather had been – you could hear it quite a distance away, it was thrashing though the valley.

Our return route was a retracing of our steps, or rather a sliding back to the pub- the grass path was really muddy and slippy in places with both Keefy and Jenny going over a couple of times. Still – we loved it. I really feel invigorated in this scenery, and having had a number of weeks being unable to even do the mile dog walk loop, just being out and feeling the wind and cold on my face and some scenery was brilliant. We had sunday lunch in the pub before retrieving Gandalf the VW and Hiiilda the Hymer, saying our farewells and retreating back to Norfolk, just in time to unload before it got dark. 

A splendid weekend away.

We’d recommend the campsite for walking/cycling around the Tissington/Hartington area. Its no frills, but did the job superbly!

Until Next Time – which is in less than 5 days… eek!

Lx 

Adventures on The Trans Pennine Trail

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

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

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

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

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

Zoom in to see the caravan next to Gandalf!

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

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

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

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

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

See video of our experience in the tunnel… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we nearly there yet?!

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time 

Lx 

May is National Walking Month – our top 10 Campsites for walks from your door

Due the current COVID 19 Pandemic and the fact that we are all in Lockdown, National Walking Month is taking a slightly different format to how I’m sure the organisers originally envisaged. However for us, we felt it was an ideal time to update our previous post from 2018 to include some walks we that we did last year and that still fill us with joy when we think back to them. Although we can’t be away right now, we can look back at previous and plan future adventures, so this post is published with that in mind. There is still a NATIONAL WALKING MONTH campaign that is encouraging you to walk for 20 minutes a day along with podcasts etc which can be enjoyed from the safety of your own home.

Remember at the moment it is important that we all stay at home to save lives.

Our Top 10 Campsites for walks from your front door

Camping in the Forest – Norfolk camp and walk

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.

Campsite:

Dower House Camping About 7 miles away from Thetford, Norfolk. Easily accessible from the A11.

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.

The Walk:

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.

Until next time

Lx

Adventures on the Marriott’s Way, Norfolk

It’s been a busy couple of weeks back at school, stress levels have been high and I was itching to get away for a night for a change of scenery. We’ve been meaning to revisit the Marriott’s Way, a disused railway line now turned into recreational track, that runs 26 miles from Aylsham to Norwich. Last time we visited we stayed about half a mile off the Marriotts Way, but whilst cycling along spied a quirky little Caravan and Motorhome club certified site (5 van site) in an old station situated right ON the Marriott’s Way. We made a mental note to revisit sometime – it’s only taken us 4 years!

More info about the Marriott’s Way can be found here

We got a last minute pitch at The Station, Attlebridge, and on Saturday morning left ours around 10am, arriving at the campsite at 11am – we’d checked that we could arrive early. This CL has a small toilet, hookup, tap and emptying facilities, so we decided to make use of the solar shower. What we love about CLs is the flexibility to park however we wish, rather than the more regimented club sites. We took advantage of this and parked side-wards on, and within 5 minutes we were enjoying a cuppa and admiring the view.

The Station Campsite is host to the former platform and station buildings and has lovingly resorted signalling box and gates, and even a small stretch of railway line. It’s ever so quirky and it’s big grassy paddock is perfect for a small quiet campsite.

After lunch, we put our best foot forward, this time opting to walk the Marriotts Way.

We walked as far as the Whitwell and Reepham railway, where there is a museum and cafe/bar – a distance of around 4.5miles.

The trouble with walking the Marriotts Way is that it’s linear, so we retraced our steps back to the campsite, clocking up 9 miles in total. We absolutely loved it though – it’s flat and easy walking. There are some old bridges and railway banks to admire, and at this time of year the tree canopies are really pretty.

Back at the campsite and Keith found a blind spot at the back of Ruby for his solar shower, which had heated up nicely in the sun on the roof of Ruby! We enjoyed a couple of (non alcoholic as we are doing sober September) drinks in the late afternoon sunshine, before knocking up a delicious pasta carbonara with some left over gammon. It was great to be able to cook and eat outside- we do love Indian summers.

We sat outside until the last rays of lights dipped behind the trees, reading and keeping an eye out for owls. We heard two but didn’t see them- before turning in for a early night.

Sunday morning dawned as bright as the day before so we enjoyed breakfast al fresco before walking in the opposite direction towards Norwich.

We covered a further 3 miles reaching Drayton before turning back to Ruby and waving bye to our perfect spot to relax for the weekend.

This campsite is perfect location for the Marriotts Way and at just £14 was a bargain.

We may well be back sometime soon!

Until next time

Lx

Adventures on The Thames Valley Path; May Bank Holiday weekend

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

The river is just behind us

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

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

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

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

Piggies! But they were delicious 😋

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

Monday

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

We’ll have to return!

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

Until next time

Lx

Cumbrian Adventures, part 1; February Half Term

Ruby the VW campervan whisked us away at the earliest opportunity after breaking up for half term. By lunchtime on Friday we were passing Wetherby Services after an early start, and by 2pm we’d arrived at the exceptionally pretty little village of Dufton, Cumbria and were enjoying the February sunshine with our first al fresco beer of the year.

Our location for the first part of our half term trip was Dufton Caravan Park, also known as The Grandie. The reason we were here? To attempt to walk England’s Grand Canyon – High Cup Nick. I saw this fantastic U shaped valley featured on Julia Bradbury’s 100 best walks programme a few years ago, and it’s been on my bucket list ever since. I was beyond excited that we were here and that the forecast looked fairly ok for our attempt tomorrow.

We spent the afternoon stretching our legs around the pretty village of Dufton before grabbing a couple of beers in front of the marvellous fire in the local, The Stag Inn, and settling in for an early night.


Saturday arrived rather earlier than I anticipated as I woke up at 06:15, however I was so excited I just couldn’t wait to get up and start our walk! Keith managed to grab a couple of extra hours sleep, so I had to wait patiently to leave until 10.30, by which time we’d had a lovely omelette and packed some soup and food for the day.

The route we chose starts at the campsite and through a lovely section of woodland before taking farm paths up to where the gorge is.

We approached the steep valley from the other side of the Pennine Way path and soon the path dropped down to the basin.

The steep sides of the gorge were impressive and the further in we walked the more spectacular it became.

As we got closer to the Nick – the head- we could see the route upwards was going to be tough but we’d come this far ( 5 miles) there was no way we were turning back now without the view I’d seen those years back on the tv!

The last scramble goes near enough vertical, and you’re on all fours, negotiating the loose boulders and stones under foot! I’m not going to lie, it was the toughest bot of walking I think I’ve ever done. There were a couple of areas to pause and appreciate the views looking back down the valley.

On this last pic above, you can see the people behind us on all fours!

Although the climb up is hard, it’s relatively short, so before I could talk myself out of finishing the last bit, we’d made the final hurdle over the rim. Keith’s first words to the couple looking down were “well that was an experience”. Mine I think involved a swear word! The sheer elation at reaching the top made my legs turn to jelly and it took me about 5 minutes on the floor with my back to the view before I even turned round!

When I did turn around, the view quite honestly took my breath away. I’ve never seen anything like it in the UK- it’s a perfect example of a U shaped valley and we reckon quite unique.

It was blowing an absolutely hooley, but the sun came out and we managed to sit right on the edge to enjoy our lunch before a local runner ( yes he ran up behind us!) took our photo, and then we took theirs as they were in shorts! 😱

The wind chill up there was extreme, and we were thankful we had our waterproof jackets as they took some of the wind off us. But it was just too cold to hang around there for too long so once we had all our pictures, we hit the old miners trail (now the Pennine Way) for our 4 mile return to Dufton. The route followed the upper ridge for a couple of miles and we had a great view of our walk, before bearing right away from the valley back towards to exceptional marker of the pub, the smoke billowing out of its chimney!

It was a tough walk back, we were absolutely exhausted, in fact Keith had hit the wall I think, he said he felt like he’d ran the London marathon – he’d know, he’s ran it 3 times! But luckily we had some chocolate and plenty of water, and the promise of a log fire and a pint of ale as soon as we got back to Dufton soon got us back down.

We passed a shepherd and his dog moving a herd of sheep up the track which was fun to watch.

By 4pm, we’d made it back to civilisation- and wasted no time in celebrating our successful walk with a pint of the local ale and three packets of crisps! Jazz made full use of the fire to rest his weary paws. We booked a table for dinner that evening as I didn’t fancy cooking plus the menu looked amazing.

So after a freshen up and a rest, we made our way back out again for our meal at 7.30pm. The pub is fantastic- a real walkers pub with slate flooring and thick stone walls. We ate a delicious meal of black pudding fritters and Appleby smoked cheese soufflé to start and then the stag baked suet pudding – crammed with venison and veg and absolutely huge. A perfect end to a fabulous day on the Pennines.


Sunday dawned sunny and despite our intentions of a duvet day at the van, we soon felt restless so whilst I cooked us a full English breakfast, Keith devised a small route that would take us low level around the base of the imposing Dufton pike, which is the backdrop to this tiny village.

The short circuit was lovely and we enjoyed the scenery all the way around the pike. We returned to the campsite through the very scenic Dufton Gyll woods which had banks upon banks lined with beautiful snowdrops. We whizzed through the walk, and were surprised that it was 5 miles- but after yesterday it seemed like a walk in the park!

The rest of the day has been spent chilling – we’ve got a joint of ham in the slow cooker and had Steak and Stilton panini’ s for lunch.

Dufton Grandie Campsite is lovely and quiet and a perfect location. There are lots of lovely little touches, like a water tap on each pitch, free Wi-fi, and fairy liquid in the washing up area. However the showers could do with a bit of TLC, and actually a couple more for each sex. For a site that holds up to 40 units, 1 shower per sex is probably a little sparse. The chemical loo point is a little grim too. However as it’s still out of season, it’s very quiet here, and at only £20pn it’s not bothered us for the short time we’ve been here.

Tomorrow we move on into The Lake District for some more walking and scenery.

We can’t wait!

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.