February Half Term 2018; Wiltshire and Dorset. Part 3

Friday

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked at Combe Caravan Park on the outskirts of Salisbury. We woke to glorious sunshine and the plan today was to visit Salisbury. The campsite was about 4 miles walk or cycle to the city centre and our original plan was to have a non driving day and visit the medieval city.

However, unfortunately whilst my shower last night was nearly warm, Keith’s was cold, and we were disappointed with the cleanliness of the shower and toilet blocks. I’m sure during peak season these would be immaculate as the owners were nice enough and seemed to really care about the site. However with only us and one other motorhome on site it was unacceptable for Keith to have to clean the shower out and then have a cold shower. There were also some pretty nasty skiddies🤢 in the ladies loo that hadn’t been cleaned (the cleaning hours were apparently 05:30-06:00) and they definitely weren’t cleaned Friday.

We would have made do but actually our location wasn’t quite right for visiting Castle Combe on our return home the next day so we packed up Ruby again and drove into Salisbury for our day visit.

Salisbury was a lovely city to visit. The Cathedral was worth a visit- there is a very well preserved Magna Carta to see in the chapter house. Keith and I took it in turns to doggie sit whilst we went for a look inside the cathedral.

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bury is made up of some very interesting medieval timbered buildings, especially around the Tourist Information. There is also a very impressive Cathedral Close- where there are lots of gorgeous properties to admire.

The city is also home to a very old historic pub, called The Haunch of Venison which is well worth a visit. It’s said that Eisenhower and Churchill met here to discuss the planning of the D Day landings in 1944. The pubs dates back over 700 years which is just amazing. We really enjoyed our drink here and had a nice chat with a couple of local ladies who were interesting and knowledgeable about the history of the pub.

During our walk back to Ruby, who was parked on the outskirts, we stopped at another lovely pub called The Mill- which aptly looked out over the water mill. The weather was great so we enjoyed a quick “one for the road”.

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is time we had managed to book back on to our original campsite, the C&CC Devizes Site, which was better located for our trip the tomorrow. So with the stress of where we were going to stay gone, we popped into he nearby English Heritage site of Old Sarum. This was where the old cathedral and Abby of Salisbury was located before the new town and cathedral were built a couple of miles away. There was a great example of a Motte and Bailey.

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enjoyed our look around the site before heading back to Devizes for our first piping hot showers since Monday! Stinky O'Gorman's 🤭

We enjoyed lamb steaks and veg and potatoes for dinner and some more of that lovely local ice cream. We received another very warm welcome at the club site- it’s a great place to stay.

Saturday Saturday dawned sunny again and we made a fairly early getaway as we were looking forward to visiting Castle Combe, a pretty English Village. Parking is provided for free which is generous, on the outskirts of the village.

It was a short walk down to the village. As soon as we arrived Keith squealed in excitement- “this is where they filmed War Horse”!

He is such a film fan, he couldn’t believe he’d forgotten this was where they filmed it! It is just beautiful at Castle Combe. The houses are typically British, and there are two old pubs. A river and a pretty stream cross the village at the end. It’s just gorgeous.

There is a 5 mile AA walk that takes int he village but we gave this a miss as we had or journey back to Norfolk to consider.

As we’d managed a whole week self catering, Keith decided to treat me to a pub lunch before we made our way back east. We had a lovely lunch at The White Hart. Keith said the sausage doorstep sandwich was the best he’d had!

Before we knew it our week had drawn to a close. Despite some campsite disappointments, we have had a fantastic week- this area is just so typically English and beautiful- we fell in love with area and are sure to be back sometime.

Until next time

Lx

February Half Term 2018; Wiltshire and Dorset. Part 2

Tuesday dawned wet and wild as forecasted, so we didn’t rush off our site at Dezizes. I’d woken with a stinking cold but was determined not to be held back. After a hearty porridge for breakfast, we packed up and waved bye to the C&CC site. We made a brief stop for groceries at Morrison’s in Devizes before carrying on to Stonehenge.

We arrived at 1:00, bang on our ticket time. As members of the National Trust we were able to visit for free, despite being run by English Heritage, the land is owned by National Trust therefore members are allowed in for free- however this isn’t too well advertised and you are encouraged to pre book before arriving. Our National Trust membership saved us £21 each!

We were told conflicting things about dogs being allowed in/ or rather not as it turned out to be. It didn’t bother us, we appreciate how historically important Stonehenge is, but the misinformation resulted in us wasting half an hour in the rain.

There is a brand new visitors centre that has opened in the last 3 years. You have to get a bus from the visitor centre to the actual site (or walk over a mile each way on a road!). As it was pouring with rain we opted for the bus. The stones were fabulous and well worth the visit – I’d never seen them, Keith had.

However, I couldn’t help but feel slightly of the opinion that English Heritage are overcharging people though. I also was completely hacked off about the fact that our National Trust entry didn’t allow us an audio guide and we were expected to pay a further £3 for this. I didn’t feel the visitor centre added much to the experience. But as I say, the stones were fabulous to see.

Our pitch for the night was actually closer to the Stones than the EH visitor centre. I’m sure EH hate it, but there is a bylaw that allows wild camping on the old Stonehenge Drove road which overlooks the Stones! So therefore it is a rather popular spot for Campervan and motorhomes to overnight park. We decided this would be very cool so had a night next to the stones!

We managed to pick the coldest night of the year, -4 outside! And we have NO heating! 😂 We tackled this minor setback by having a really long drawn out dinner- spaghetti carbonara first followed by pancakes for pudding. By not rushing and washing up between courses, dinner time lasted over 2 hours and we were snug as a bug during this time. We also sank nearly a bottle of mead which definitely assisted with my cold and also warming us up!

The sky was phenomenal and we couldn’t resist some star gazing despite it being a bit chilly. We had nearly every item of clothing on us by this time! We decided to head to bed just after 9pm, and our fleecy duvet set and our 13.5 tog duvet meant we were very cosy and warm- I didn’t even need a hot water bottle!

Wednesday morning dawned cold – so cold that our inside condensation had frozen! As had our sliding door! By the time Keith had made me a cuppa and showered me with Valentines Day choccies and sweets, we’d defrosted enough to enjoy the reason we’d put ourselves brought this indulgence test- it was so awesome to have our sliding door open and lay in bed looking at Stonehenge!!

The heavens opened – and they stayed open ALL DAY! So we made no rush to leave, enjoying a fry up and some crumpets for breakfast and gallons of tea.

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eisurely morning, we setoff in the direction of Shaftesbury, our next stop, but decided to have a stop at National Trust’s Stourhead en route as we were passing by. I was feeling ropey but didn’t want to ruin the day so we got our waterproofs and boots on and went for a little explore around Stourhead estate. I’m so glad we did.

Stourhead Estate is absolutely breathtaking- and that’s coming from us in the depths of winter on a wet and wild day! Seriously beautiful, it’s a huge landscapes garden estate, with a lovely walk of about 3 miles in length weaving up and round past countless different trees and bushes. Every now and again you get a glimpse of the lake, which is the head of the river Stour that has been dammed off into a landscaped lake. There are picture perfect bridges, a pantheon, a grotto, a waterwheel. It’s just fabulous and despite the cold wet and frankly miserable weather, it was a holiday highlight. We met a NT volunteer in the Pantheon who showed us an original statue of Augusta, and is over 2000 years old.

He said he thought Stourhead was the best garden in UK and we wholeheartedly agree.

There is also a fabulous farm shop, and regular readers will know we have a weakness for these. Armed with our credit card we took battle with the farm shop, stocking up on numerous cheeses, all of which are from less than 30 mins of Stourhead, ice cream, sausages, venison, pork pies, ale. We were in heaven.

After restocking the fridge, we got the road again, this time heading for our campsite, Blackmore Vale Campsite on the outskirts of Shaftesbury. Sadly right from arrival we had a vibe this wasn’t going to be quite as we’d expected. It took over 40 mins to “check in” – there was no reception, no answer to the mobile number that was pinned to the gate. After 30 mins traipsing through the holiday park looking for someone, in the rain, I was getting a little fed up. Eventually after being directed to the eighth place (via 2 incorrect places!) id found someone, who preceded to tell me that we weren’t expected – I had an email and had paid £20 deposit- but not to worry, there were a few places available so just drove down and find one. So we drove down and of course there was only one, and it had a reserved sign on. Keith went back to the man and he said don’t worry about it, take it and he’d send the other people elsewhere. Glad we weren’t the other people! 😳

In the meantime I gave Ruby a good clean- she was FILTHY inside from our wild camping excursion in the rain! Keith did the water and loo and went for a shower. When he came back he was less than impressed- the water kept cutting out throughout his shower and the shower block was gross. Off I went for mine and mine was stone cold- so I left my shower. I went to brush my feet and nearly fainted- look at the sink! 🤢😲

Not impressed but of course we couldn’t find anyone to inform. Keith went to the loo and came back pale- instead of urinals it was a tile wall to pee up! 🤢 it also was clear by now that it wasn’t a holiday site it was more of a “permanent site” – all the other caravans had workmen in trade vans on.

The rest of the afternoon went smoothly but we made the decision to cancel our second night and move on tomorrow.

We had a fabulous deli board from our farm shop goodies followed by steak and homemade chips for main and the local ice cream AND a Gu desert for pudding. Well it was Valentines Day!

Thursday arrived and thank goodness, there was no rain! Infact it was a picture perfect winters day, and the sun actually held a bit of warmth. We packed up, I went to inform the site that we would be leaving and highlighted our concerns. Not that the manager seemed at all bothered.

Next stop was our day visit to Shaftesbury. We were both exited- Shaftesbury is home to the famous Gold Hill, or rather Hovis Hill as it’s nicknamed as it’s the location of the Hovis advert that Ridley Scott directed.

Well, as they would say in Yorkshire, By Heck, what a view. Our first impression of the view from the top of Gold Hill absolutely knocked me for six. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Thankfully there was a perfectly located coffee shop with a table right at the peak of the view for us to grab a coffee and gather our thoughts. We decided what made the view quite so special was the combination of the view of the countryside behind the old fashioned houses, cobbled street and NO cars!

We were also lucky that the light was absolutely perfect- however when we visited later on it had clouded over and was still magical.

We popped into the dog friendly Gold Hill Museum and enjoyed our visit, before joining the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival trail. This wasn’t quite as impressive as I’d imagined but I think I was still bowled over by “that” view so perhaps it never stood a chance.

We had a packed lunch on the pretty park terrace which had similarly great views before a pint on the terrace at the Mitre Inn. One last look at our special view on Gold Hill before heading back to Ruby.

We’d managed to book onto a site on the outskirts of Salisbury, Coombe Caravan Park for the next two nights. Fingers crossed for a better time here!

Until next time

Lx

February Half Term 2018; Wiltshire and Dorset. Part 1

Saturday

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up by the Kennet and Avon Canal on the outskirts of Devizes, Wiltshire. We set off from Norfolk at around 09:00 this morning and had a fairly smooth journey despite atrocious weather!

We made a stop at the National Trust location of Lacock Abbey and Village, which is about 6 miles from Devizes.

Lacock is beautiful traditional Quintessentially English Village, which houses the impressive Lacock Abbey- once a Nunnery but then sold on to the Tarbet family, and of course Henry Fox Tarbert who took the very first photographic negative from inside.

We really enjoyed our visit to Lacock and enjoyed a pint at the George which is home to a great log fire but also a very rare turnspit – a dog wheel which in its day, would have had a dog inside the wheel walk-in and rotation the spit over the fire.

It was fascinating visiting Lacock Abbey and of course the very spot where the first ever photo was taken, and we could easily understand why the village is so popular with film and tv location scouts- Harry Potters house is in Lacock, classroom scenes of inside Hogwarts were filmed in the Abbey, not to mention series such as Cranford, all filmed here.

We arrived at our home for the next 3 nights, the Camping and Caravaning Club site at Devizes just after 4 and by quarter past we’d got the chairs out to enjoy the last few minutes daylight whilst we had a beer, our first al fresco beer of 2018.

First impressions of the site are good- as you would expect with C&CC club sites- free hot showers, dishwashing facilities etc and friendly wardens along with large hard standing pitches.

We reheated a stew we’d made a few days ago and froze for dinner and had a relatively early night. Time to relax- perfect.

Sunday

After a wonderfully quiet night we had a lazy Snooze this morning before getting up around 09:30. I prepared some ham for the slow cooker and Keith sorted the bikes. After a quick bacon sarnie we hit the canal towpath just outside the campsite. The weather was bright and sunny albeit icy cold, but we enjoyed our 3 mile or so cycle to Devizes. We passed the very impressive Caen Hill flight of locks- 29 in 2 miles and the longest flight of consecutive locks in the country.

There was a nice tea room in the old lock keepers cottage so we popped in for a coffee and cake and to admire the view. I’m not sure if it was the cold weather, the fact that it was our first ride since August, or that the locks cover quite an incline but we found the cycle pretty tough! Enjoyable nonetheless.

We enjoyed our wander around Devizes- there was museum dedicated to Wiltshire life but we decided to give this a miss as we had Jazz with us. We popped in for a pint at the oldest pub in Devizes, The White Bear, an old Tudor inn where there was a lovely fire. Keith was enjoying the Wadworth ale, brewed in this town.

We enjoyed a flask of homemade soup overlooking the canal before a much easier (downhill!) journey back for the campsite. Ruby smelt amazing, slow cooker camping meals are just the best!

We settled in for an afternoon nap after picking up some local ice cream for pudding from the reception. Soon it was tea time and we cooked up some broccoli, cauliflower and new potatoes and some cheese sauce. Perfect.

Monday

Monday dawned a lovely sunny morning and once we’d done some housekeeping in Ruby like replacing the gas etc we had a quick breakfast of porridge before unloading the bikes and setting off again along the Kennet and Avon Canal. This time we were travelling the other way- towards Bradford on Avon. We passed a lovely pub about two miles into the journey but ‘‘twas too early for a pint so we earmarked it for the return journey.

A mile or so on we saw a heron right in front of us on the path. It was a timid thing- I’ve never been so close to one. Turns out it was waiting for a local couple to come and feed it br breadcrumbs, and they were just behind us so we watched as the man threw the heron bread then the heron dipped it in the canal and ate it.

Beautiful creatures ❤️

Another couple of miles along and disaster struck. Keith got a puncture! 😩 it wouldn’t be a Ruby holiday without this happening – so you would think we would be prepared. Of course, we weren’t; so we had to come off the canal path on the outskirts of Trowbridge where luckily there was a bicycle repair shop that was open. Good old 4G and google saving the day. It was a 2 mile walk to the shop however and moods were low! Half an hour later, we’d got Keith’s bike repaired – not one but two punctures by a Hawthorne, can you believe it! Apparently the stretch we’d just passed is notorious for Hawthorne punctures! We’d had our picnic in Trowbridge whilst they fixed the bike but we didn’t find the town too inspiring, so we decided to turn round and head back towards that nice pub we’d seen on the canal. Rather than taking the canal path and risking more punctures we took the road which was 6.3 miles. It wasn’t too bad but we found it difficult for the last mile or so as the road was hilly! Never mind, all was forgiven as we enjoyed a couple of drinks at the Barge inn at Seend. It was a lovely little pub right on the canal- I bet in summer it’s packed!

We were then on the home straight, only a mile or so back to the campsite with better surfaces – mind you our legs were a gonner. We really need to get or fitness back up- Keith said he was feeling like he felt after running the London marathon! 😂

Luckily I’d decided to do another slow cooker meal today- beef and bean stew – so as we arrived back to Ruby she was smelling delicious.

We’ve really enjoyed our stay at Devizes Camping and Caravan club site- facilities are clean and pitches are spacious. Location wise is fabulous – I think we’d return here.

Tomorrow we move on to Stonehenge. I’ve never been and I’m really excited!

Until next time

Lx