February half term 2015; An overdue escape to Oxfordshire

Monday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on a lovely little certified location (5 van Caravan Club site) just on the outskirts of Oxford, at Kidlington.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/search/+the+moors,+kidlington/@51.8307518,-1.2983899,17z

We arrived after a rather uneventful but a bit longer than anticipated journey west. We hit several batches of roadworks on our way and the weather was horrific!

The certified location was easy to find, and is in quite a residential area. There are 5 well spaced out pitches surrounded, surprising given its location, by fields. There are electric points on each pitch and a water point and Elsan point and we feel it’s excellent value at just £11 pn. There is even a handy coop store almost opposite the site!

Given the terrible weather we decided to abandon our planned bike ride, instead deciding to take advantage of a short rest bite from the rain and found the Oxford canal tow path, which is just a few hundred yards way from the site, for a little wander.

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Soon the rain came back, so we hot footed it back to the warmth and dryness of Bluebell, where we enjoyed a relax and an early night!

Tuesday
We woke up this morning to a totally different weather front- blue skies and sunshine, so we were up bright and early to take full advantage! We’d planned to catch the bus into Oxford (bus stop at end of road) but given we were unable to do our planned tow path bike ride yesterday, decided to encorporate this with our day trip into Oxford, taking advantage of the Oxford Canal towpath from The Plough Inn at Wovercote into the city centre. We used the excellent cycle network to navigate our way mainly off road from Kidlington to the Plough where we then picked up the towpath for 4 miles into the city centre.

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^this last picture shows a section of the canal path that runs between two different canals- the Oxford canal to the left of the towpath and the Thames canal to the right!^

Oxford is extremely bike friendly and so we easily found a safe place to park up the bikes for the day, whilst we explored the city by foot. The weather was fabulous, picture perfect blue skies with a slight chill in the air- a perfect day to explore the city. First stop was the Tourist information centre, where we were able to get a map of the city which included a suggested self guided walking tour to take in the sights. It was an excellent way to see the city- and at £1.50 for the brochure worked out much cheaper than the guided tour (£9 pp)

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It’s thirsty work this cycling and walking malarkey, and it wasn’t too long into our exhibition that Keith sniffed out one of his favourite types of establishments- a historical public house! The Turf Tavern is found close to the Bridge of Sighs, and is really very cool. It’s built right into the city walls, with 13th Century foundations and has a very impressive list of previous drinkers (see picture below)

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After a swift pint, it was time carry on our whistlestop tour, and next up was The University Quarter. We both found the architecture absolutely wonderful, and the lack of graffiti was really good to see- apparently Rome is terrible for this.

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We were keen to check out The Eagle and Child pub, as allegedly it was where Tolkien and CS Lewis used to frequent to discuss their literature.

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It was a cosy kinda place, with lots of character, but sadly they wouldn’t let us in with the pooch, so it won’t be finding its way on my list of dog friendly pubs which I’m intending on writing at some point, and so after a quick nose in, we went on our merry way in search for somewhere we could go with the dog. 🙂

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^ Jazz couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome in the Kings Arms, Oxford, where we enjoyed a burger and he got spoilt with plenty of fuss, dog biscuits and a big bowl of water.^

By this point, time was ticking on, so we decided to pick up our bikes and head back to the campsite- but first of all we nipped to see Oxford Castle, where we experienced a splendid marriage between old and new. The main tower is partly ruined from the Norman period, and the moat is still visible as is the motte. The Bailey courtyard was turned into a prison in the 14th century and only closed in 1996, when it, along with the courtyard, was redeveloped into a hotel and “Castle Quarters” containing fancy restaurants and such.

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We decided to use the sustains cycle network to get us back to the campsite, and were very impressed with the cycle network signs and route even though by the time we got back to the campsite we had clocked up 18 miles on the bikes, and 5.5 miles on foot- leaving us both feeling like this:

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Wednesday
The nice weather was set to continue for another day, so we had an early start and drove to Ufffington White Horse, where we had a wonderful 9.5 mile walk that took in the White Horse, Uffington Castle, The Ridgeway, Wayland Smithy, and The Ashdown Estate. The views round the entire walk were truly spectacular!

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^standing above the White horse looking down^

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^Uffington Castle site- on the summit of White Horse Hill and the site of a large Iron Age fort^

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^ a large section of the walk was on the Ridgeway- an ancient route between Dorset and The Wash, described as one of the oldest road in Europe^

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^Wayland’s Smithy- a Neolithic chambered long barrow, believed to have been the home of Saxon smith-God Wayland^

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^Ashdown House Estate^

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^Red Kites flying overhead on Weathercock Hill and the view from Weathercock hill to the house^

After an exhausting but completely fabulous walk, we headed the 20 mins or so to our next campsite, one just outside of Wantage, another CC CL – not as nice as the first one, but still for £12 pn with electric and water, we didn’t care- we soon settled in and even managed to pick up a BT Fon hotspot.

Thursday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up back at home – sadly we had to return a day early due to having some work business to sort out, but also the weather gods turned against us, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. We did however get chance to cycle the 16 miles of the Phoenix trail, a disused railway line turned cycle path running between Thame and Princes Risborough. We made a very early start in an attempt to avoid the bad weather heading our way, and got 3/4 of the way before it kicked in. The wind picked up so much it nearly blew me off my bike, and the rain started lashing down, but still, we continued and enjoyed the ride nonetheless.
There are some interesting sculptures along the way, and lots of red kites flying above. There is a beautiful railway house/station conversion half way along, and the last section before Princes Risborough  offers some lovely views across the fields. Sadly, the weather deteriorated so I didn’t get as many pictures as I’d have liked, but here are those I did get…

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As you can probably make out – I was fairly chuffed to be back at the van – modelling my best drowned rat impression!

So there we have it, another trip done, and a long overdue one at that. We are sad to have had to come back a day early, but the weather looked terrible for this evening and tomorrow, and we’ve had a couple of work issues to come back home to. The joys of being self employed! Still, we’ve had a marvellous break and enjoyed some brill weather.

We travelled 350 miles in the motorhome from home to home again, and thats used exactly 1 tank of fuel at £65. We’ve cycled 36 miles, walked 15 miles and watched an entire series of X Files! We spent £36 on site fees and had a lovely meal out in Oxford. We’ve spend less than £150, and thats been for a 4 day break, so we are pretty happy with that!

Our next task is to start planning our Easter break, as we leave in 6 weeks time!

Sorry its been a lengthy post – until next time

Lx

Feb Half term- The Peak District, Pt 2: Edges and Ales

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on a lovely hard standing pitch with panoramic views on…..wait for it…. A………CAMPSITE!

We are pitched up for the night on the very pretty, and extremely good value Beech Croft Farm Caravan and Campsite

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During winter months, we can manage 2-3 nights without hookup/ water/ loos, then we need a night on site to empty, re fill, charge etc. So, here we are, and first impressions are very good! Especially for just £18 for the night.

So yesterday, we made an early start and drove the 5 miles from our Britstop to another pub, The Robin Hood Inn which was the starting point of the walk we were doing and where we had pre booked a table for dinner, and during the process of booking asked if we could stay overnight in the car park, to which they obliged.

We set off on our “Edges and Ales” walk and couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather!

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It was a lovely walk which took in Bircham Edge, Chatsworth Estate and then Dobb Edge although we both found it tough as we are out of practice with the ol hill walking! Mind you, my homemade sloe gin helped!

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When we got to the Chatsworth House estate there was a big trail hunt about to start, and we were offered mulled wine and cake! Which was very welcome by that point I can tell you!

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We carried on the walk and got back to Bluebell feeling a bit like this…..

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One advantage to parking our motorhome in the pub car park was that we could both shower and change before dinner! We went in early for dinner and enjoyed a couple of pints of Pedigree before. The menu was lovely and we both were near enough foaming at the mouth by the time our parsnip and honey soup came out! I followed the soup with Sirloin of Roast beef and Keefy had homemade fish and chips and we both had homemade treacle tart with whiskey cream and ice cream for pud. The meal was gorgeous and the ale slipped down very well indeed!!

After “one for the road” we stumbled back to our room for the night and fell into a deep snooze! Must have been all that fresh air!!

We had a chilled and quiet evening and managed to escape hangover thankfully!

This morning the weather wasn’t so bright, so we decided to have a drive and then check in to the site at the earliest opportunity, in this case 12pm.

We drove up through Froggart, then to Bakewell, where we nearly stopped, but it was packed busy and we’ve both been before, so carried on to the quieter but equally as pretty Ashford in the Water

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then Monsal Head viewpoint

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We’re now all settled on our campsite, re charging and chilling – after all the weathers a bit gloomy and we are on holiday so are quite happy to have a day of doing not much!! 🙂 ***

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*** edit 5:30pm***

Us being us, got bored of chilling by roughly 2pm, so decided to see what walks were around from the site. We knew were close to the famous Monsal trail but didn’t realise we were within walking distance. A quick cross reference on streetmap and the memory map and a donning of the waterproofs and we were off.

We did a 3.5 mile circuit in 1.5 hrs- it took us across the moor

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Down into the gauge and onto the Monsal trail

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Along the trail and through some cool tunnels

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And back up a hill to the campsite!

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Not forgetting past the campsites very own dog and muddy boot wash! (Much to the disapproval of Jazz!)

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The sun has now set, and it’s most certainly time for a beer!

Until next time

Lx

Feb Half term- The Peak District, Pt 1: The Crooked Spire of Chesterfield

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up in the car park at BritStop 518 (2914 book) overlooking the Derbyshire Dales and the town of Chesterfield.

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We didn’t leave Norfolkshire til lunchtime as we’d had a busy day yesterday moving Keefy’s mum. We weren’t in a major rush, as all we wanted to do was see the Crooked Spire of Chesterfield, and then chill and have a couple of beers in the pub.

It was a very blustery journey across the fens, but we still made good time, despite us rarely going about 50mph. We passed through rain and sun then rain again, but by the time we reached Chesterfield we had a break in the rain so found a car park right by the church and so set off for a quick explore.

The spire really is worth a visit to see, the crook in it is believed to becau sed by untreated timber being used when it was built 700 yrs ago- it’s very Tim Burton like.

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After a good circuit round the church ( there wasn’t much else to see in town) we drove the 4 miles or so out of town to our rural retreat of a pub which is on a hill so overlooks the valley. We had a good chill, watched a film, napped, went for a couple of beers and watched the International Space Station pass overhead, then turned in for the night.

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It was so peaceful during the night, and this morning we were treated to a gorgeous sunrise over the valley. We are feeling chilled to the max, and are looking forward to driving up to near to a Chatsworth house today for a good walk – and weathers looking promising so hurrah!

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In other news, I’m somehow picking up 4G from here which is a first for me, and although we weren’t able to pick up wifi from this site, my 4G on my phone is tethered to my ipad and Keith’s ipad and seems to be powering it very impressively. Currently I’m online uploading photos and writing this blog post, and Keith is online streaming music from Spotify, and enjoying his new Bluetooth speakers, which are fab btw (more on those another time). I will just have to keep an eye on my data allowance! :-/

Have a great Sunday folks, and happy half term to fellow teachers out there!

Until next time

Lx

Yorkshire Dales- The final Chapter

Bluebell the motorhome is currently hurtling down the A1 Southbound, somewhere between Doncaster and Newark! We’ve decided to head homewards today as we both fancy going to the village fireworks event tonight, but my gosh, we are heading home fully relaxed, well fed, watered and a little stiff round the knees from the walks we’ve enjoyed!

We had a fantastic 2 nights at Brit Stop no 713 (near the viaduct 😉 ). We asked them if we could do 2 nights, as there were two walks that we fancied trying out and they were more than happy for us to stay. It was win win- we must have spent £70+ on their legendary a Station ale the first day alone, and day 2 we drank them out of the Ale (whoops!) and enjoyed a hearty 3 course meal off their huge menu! For us, it was really nice to not have to drive, and we found that even after a rather immense walk we totally chilled down and felt tons better for it (if not slightly hungover!!)

We did two walks near Ribblehead, one at took us under the viaduct and another that took on some of the Ribble Way. The latter was really adventurous! We found ourselves having to try out some survival skills fresh off the tele- on finding ourselves at a river that needed to be crossed, with no sign of a bridge, we remembered a tip from one tv prog, take off your boots and socks before wading through- it keeps them dry. So off came our boots and socks, Keefy lobbed them across the river (thankfully he’s got a good aim!) and off we went! It. Was. Freezing! Luckily we got through despite a near miss with Jazz where the current dragged him off and he almost slipped out of his harness! And we were very pleased to have dry socks and boots to put on the other side!

After our two nights at 713 we travelled south to Malham and parked up at the tarn. We had a walk that took in all the main sites, the Tarn, the Cove- a huge natural limestone pavement on the top of a big gorge, the pretty village, Janet’s floss waterfall, and Gordale Scar crag. At 6.5 miles (and a lot of challenging paths) it was a great walk but very tiring, although we were really lucky with the weather! After the walk we headed for our final BritStop of the week, a farm shop about 2.5 miles away from Malham. We enjoyed looking round the shop, and stocking up on the essentials; bacon, beef steaks for tea, local cheese and some veg! All the ingredients for a hearty local tea, beef in reed wine stew from my new campervan recipe book- thanks Sam! 🙂

We had a lovely evening chilling and enjoyed listening to the tawny owl that was on the tree above us. Sadly we couldn’t see it, but it was a lovely sound to hear.

So now we are on the home run, having had a brilliant week of eating drinking sleeping and chilling! We are so glad we chose to do the Dales, we’ve seen so many awesome things here and it’s been nice doing a smaller scale tour with less driving.

BritStops once again has been beyond Marvellous. We’ve managed to centre our tour around a small area taking in local pubs and farm shops and we cannot recommend it enough to anyone.

Holiday highlights are Ribblehead, Fountains Abby and Malham 🙂

Until next time

Lx

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This post is fuelled by the Station inn ale!! ;-)

Bluebell the motorhome is parked in the car park of our 4th Brit Stop of the week! We are high up in the Dales, where it is clear but blustery, that sort of weather where after a long walk, it only seems right to take advantage of the log fire in the pub!

We’ve had a brill couple of days, departing Harrogate yesterday morning and visiting Fountains Abby, which was stunning with the autumn colours in the trees. We spent a great couple of hours there (I actually think the £9.50 each entrance was more than reasonable with the Abby, the hall, the mill plus miles of beautifully landscaped gardens to explore- plus Jazz was welcomed in too!)

After our visit to NT Fountains Abby we stopped at Ripon to visit the cathedral to see the 6th Century crypt, very cool! And the prison museum, very creepy! We then carried on to Masham, home to Theakstons brewery and the MAsham sausage- both of which we sampled extensively 😉

We then headed to our stop for the night, an old Brit Stop hotel/bar in the heart of Wensleydale. It had a fantastic roaring fire and we were able to continue our Theakstons and Masham sausage tasting into the evening as I cooked us a sausage stew from some local Marsham sausages, which we washed down with a couple of bottles of Old Peculiar… Hic 🙂

Today, we got up bright and early, and tackled Buttertubs- a high pass that links Hawes to Thwaite. On the summit you can see these marvellous limestone stones that have been caused by years of acidic rain falling onto the limescale rocks to cause these 100 ft deep gorges. It got its name Buttertubs as legend says that in the olden days men used to store their butter there between market days, to prevent having to carry it down the hill then back up the next day.

We then made our way to Ribblehead, which is where we are now. There is this fantastic viaduct here which with the backdrop of the rolling dales, it’s very atmospheric. We’ve had a lovely walk this afternoon, and then a good session in the pub where we are staying tonight and tomorrow. It’s got some brill ales on, wine, whiskeys and food. What more could we want!!!

Until next time

Lx

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This post is fuelled by Theakstons ;-)

Bluebell the motorhome is out and about for half term, despite the weather warnings! We were supposed to go to Kent this week, but yesterday when we were due to leave we (luckily) caught sky news and learnt about this storm that was supposedly heading Kent way. Needless to say, after a few hours of umming and ahhing, we departed East Harling and rather than heading south, we decided to had north. To be fair, it doesn’t take much for me to consider visiting Yorkshire, it’s a well known fact I love it here, and any opportunity for me to carry on showing Keith that it’s not all grim up here, il gladly take.

3 hours later and a very very good journey traffic wise ( perhaps everyone else was taking the advice plastered on the tv- only make necessary journeys….) we rocked up into a rather large car park of the BritStop we had set the sat nav for- a 14th century village pub, promising log fires, real ale, and good grub. Perfect, just what we were after (who isn’t?!) We had a lovely night sampling their local ales, chatting to the very friendly staff and of course, being a Sunday night, catching up on Strictly! That’s right- the pub had strictly on their bar tv- can’t remember watching it in such a brill location- beer on tap, fire… yes I was in heaven.

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After a very good, long sleep we had a fry up, and set the motorhome towards Knaresborough. We’d read about its famous viaduct and knew that Mother Shipton, the prophet was born here. Nothing had prepared us for how beautiful it was. The viaduct and river was so pretty, and the old houses stuck out of the rock reminding me of Dinan and to some extent the Dordogne. It was lovely. The weather certainly helped- we kept hearing on the radio about the chaos in the south of England, but here we were in our sunglasses enjoying the autumn leaves and breeze. Lovely

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We visited Mother Shipton’s cave and the petrifying well. It was a great place to visit- we liked the fact that our pampered pooch Jazz could also enjoy it with us. The petrifying well was particularly amazing- basically anything that was hung there turned into stone by the minerals in the water after 3 months, and there were examples of teddy bears hanging, turned into stone, hats, gloves and even a lobster shell.

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We also enjoyed the Halloween figures dotted around the site…. Creepy or what?!

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After a really enjoyable day we headed towards Harrogate, where we found our next Brit Stop pitch within walking distance of Harrogate centre. It’s a not a pub, it’s a shop, but the owner was very friendly and also a motorhome owner. We enjoyed an evening stroll into Harrogate, which is where the Old Peculiar came in… Great night, great day! It’s good to back touring 🙂

Until next time x

Celebrating Jazz’s 1st birthday and St David’s day in Castle Acre

We’ve nipped away for a cheeky night away- we are 40 mins from home just outside of Swaffham, staying on Breckland Meadows Caravan park

Today we celebrated our first proper 3 day weekend with a lay in, and about half ten chucked some bits in Bluebell and hit the road. We first visited Castle Acre back in 2010 in Daisy, but it was a stop off on our way home. We loved the village and wanted to revisit for a while. The castle ruins are amazing and there are also some priory ruins that are worth a visit. We did a 6.75 mile walk which took in part of the Nay Valley way, and we crossed several fords (pooch went through the last in an unsuccessful attempt to get clean). It’s lovely open countryside round here, apparently this part of Breckland is protected. There are several wind turbines dotted about which avoid being an eyesore- the one in Swaffham is massive, and has a viewing tower at the top. Think we shall give that a miss, just reading about it made me feel dizzy!

We got to the site around 3.30pm and were greeted by an overly friendly guy who filled our water tank for us- in all this time this has never happened before! He asked if we wanted papers for the morning (which i thought was a nice touch, despite us not using the service). He proudly gave us a tv aerial having clocked our aerial, a no frills standard aerial) and told us we would need to plug it in to receive tv as our aerial would only pick up analogue. Not sure where he has been hiding for the last two years, but as far as I’m aware analogue in this area has been off for a while now, and we’ve never had problems before, and unsurprising tonight we’ve managed to pick up 180 digital channels tonight without the cable! However outdated, another nice touch I felt.

There’s also free wifi here and a dismantled railway line footpath into Swaffham that we intend to use tomorrow. I’m hoping we may bump into Stephen Fry- according to the Swaffham walks booklet, this is his patch!

🙂 until next time

Lx

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Feb half term 2013 – The Cotswolds, night one- Winchcombe

I’m writing this from the campsite on the first night of our four night trip. We left Norfolk at 9 this morning and had a long journey to get here, but my, is it worth it. Neither of us have been to this part of the country before, and we fell in love as soon as we got onto the B road after Buckingham. Sat nag bought us a long winded route but we soon forgave her as we winded our way through the pretty little villages. We eventually arrived at our destination, Winchcombe just before 2. We had a walk planned so grabbed a quick cuppa and headed on our way. What a quaint little place Winchcombe is. We enjoyed a lovely 6 mile walk in glorious sunshine – the daffs are poking out their heads, spring is definitely in the air!

We walked up a large hill (neither of us had anticipated that the Cotswolds were hilly… Durrrrrr) and at the top enjoyed the views down to the town. There is a lovely castle here, and lots of antiques shops and specialist shops to wander around.

We are pitched at a caravan club site tonight – called Pinnock Wood Farm- it was almost dark when we arrived, but the views look promising for the morning, the weather forcast is good and we are heading to Broadway tomorrow, where we will meet Krystle and do a walk to see the tower.

Spag Bol for tea tonight, we are all tucked in, the wind is blowing a gale, but we are warm and the gin is flowing and therefore life is good! 🙂

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Glorious night in Cambridgeshire- 16th Feb

We have had a walk pinned to our notice board in the kitchen for ages now- the walk being a nice ramble around Devil’s Dyke in Cambridgeshire, and this weekend we finally managed to check it off the walks to do list..

We arrived at the start of Devil’s Dyke in Reach around midday, and poor Keith had a tight bit of manoeuvring to get Bluebell into the small car park. After a twenty point turn, and a team effort – him steering, me guiding and Jazz being generally nosey out the back window, we were in, our walking boots were on and we were off on our eagerly anticipated trot.

It was a nice fresh day and it was good to see lots of people out and about enjoying the fresh air and beautiful views. We walked for nearly 6 miles, half of which was on the dyke itself- Devil’s Dyke is one of the finest remaining Anglo Saxon earthworks in the country, and is remarkably high!

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We passed through two very pretty villages Reach and Swaffham Priory- home to two windmills and two churches! Not bad for a tiny little village!!

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Once we’d finished our walk we headed off to our campsite for the night – we did debate wild camping, but as we only had the one night we wanted to be able to fully recharge our batteries and felt that the best way to do this was on a site, so we booked a night at The Missing Sock campsite. On arrival we filled with water, found our pitch and had a quick chat with the owner. We were very intrigued to nip for a pint later to see what the place was like inside- you know us, usually so reluctant to have a beer… Haha

We settled in for an afternoon nap which was Fab!! How I miss having an afternoon nap in our normal life! We woke feeling refreshed and decided it was time to try a beer out, so went to have a nosey. The bar was really funky, we loved the decor, it had a very worldy theme

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The menu looked interesting with food such as kangaroo burgers and things on! Otherwise though, it seemed a bit pretentious and we felt a bit out of place rolling in from the camping field!

After a rather strong pint of German lager we stumbled back to bluebell and I knocked up a delicious carbanara – I got the recipe from an app called Meals4wheels, an app designed for couples in campervans! It was yummy!

After a very quiet nights sleep (which we were relieved about as the site was very close to the A14) we awoke to a glorious day!

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We quickly decided on relaxing walk around Wicken Fen then a drive to Ely to have a wander along the riverfront. We enjoyed the walk at Wicken Fen and spent some time watching the deer feed. It was everso busy there! We headed over to Ely once we had finished our walk and found a cracking free spot to park. It was listed on the wild camping website and was a lovely quiet road overlooking the river and marina. We had a bite to eat, watched the world go by and had a wander round the historic streets of Ely. We managed to have a quick look inside the cathedral and were blown away by how grand it was. The symmetries inside were amazing.

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We reluctantly headed homewards about 3ish as Keith has a rehearsal tonight, but once again, we had a flipping awesome weekend and can’t wait to point Bluebell in the direction of the Cotswolds on Wednesday!

🙂

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Lake District and Blackpool October half term 2012

So the aim of this trip was to show Keith that there was more to the Lake District than Windermere. Cue visits to Wasdale, a climb up Scafell, Ennerdale and Buttermere and he was well and truly converted! My prize- a night in good ol Blackpool to see the illuminations. Another first for Keith!!

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