Posted in England

6th – 17th June, Hastings, Tonbridge and Brighton

6th JUNE – FAIRLIGHT WOOD, HASTINGS
After a swift beginning to our journey, things snarled up around Lewes. It took ages crawling in slow traffic, across the coast road on a hot sunny Sunday with the crowds out in force. Eventually we arrived at a camping site near the village of Pett, a blissfully calm oasis of green with mature trees surrounding the different levels of grass and hard standing pitches. The next puzzle was working out how to put up the new awning, turned out fairly straight forward and a wonderful additional space for comfortable camping! To make matters more perfect, we went to bed and listened to tawny owls hooting in the trees and in the morning awoke to the sound of the cuckoo, the first we heard this year!

From the corner of the campsite we went through a small wood, up the lane and across fields full of ewes and lambs making our way we made our way to the nearby village of Fairlight where we caught a bus into Hastings. Having driven along the crowded sea front the day before and not being keen on ‘seaside bling’, stopping in cafes or amusement arcades, we opted to explore the ‘old town’. There were lovely old black and white buildings, small lattice windows and some really tiny low doors, beautiful stone walkways with balustrades, flowers in pots, on walls, coming up through the pavement and out of the walls.

We walked up numerous steps to what looked initially like a castle, but it was in fact a funicular rail lift, up and down from the marina below. Back down the steps we went, through the narrow streets over to the other side of the town and up through a park to the ruined castle with its spectacular views over the town below and out over the sea. Thirsty work all that climbing so we stopped off to refresh ourselves and watch the world go by.

We used the bus to Rye and found a fabulous old town complete with an ancient stone entrance called the Landgate. It was built in 1329, complete with gates, portcullis and drawbridge, it is the only one of 4 gates left standing, originally built to protect the town. Many houses are black and white with terracotta tiled fronts, the building that houses the town council has lovely stone arches, numerous individual shops fit in perfectly with wooden facials and muted paintwork, no chain stores here.

The old castle had old cannons with piles of cannonballs arranged in front, it looked out towards the River Rother and over wetlands towards Rye Harbour now 2 miles away from the town due to coastline changes over many centuries The castle was not open due to Covid restrictions so we walked between the beautiful houses, quintessentially English with roses up the walls and gardens full or colour. There are many fascinating old hotels and pubs, the Bell Inn being the oldest pub in town dating from 1390 and we enjoyed lunch at The Mermaid which was rebuilt in 1420. These two establishments were joined to The Ship Inn and The Cinque Ports by underground tunnels, used by smugglers long ago.

The Castle, The Mermaid Inn and archway, The Bell


Our final good walk in this area was down to the Pett Levels, along the Old Military Canal, up over the fields to Winchelsea. It was another glorious day and as we walked by the canals we saw common terns, a marsh harrier, lapwings and heard Cettis and reed warblers to name a few birds, also saw many damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies and numerous buzzing insects, it was a real flavour of summer.

Stopping at the top of a large field we looked at the view and realised there were several fields of grape vines. Further along the footpath we came upon Charles Palmer Vineyard where we enjoyed our picnic accompanied by a glass of beautiful Rosé and finished off with a glass of Blanc de Blancs 2014, platinum award winning wine. What a fantastic addition to our picnic!

Winchelsea itself is a small and very pretty small town with a lot of history. Sadly we didn’t have much time before the bus back so we should take time and return one day. There is so much to see in this corner of East Sussex.

10th JUNE – TANNER FARM, TONBRIDGE
The whole excitement of this stop was to meet up with friends and fellow motorhomers. Three couples we met in Spain, on sites in different locations, who we have met in various locations since, but not altogether. We arrived from our various homes on the Gower Peninsular, the Isle of Wight, Clacton on Sea and Salisbury at a rural campsite on the western edge of Kent, for a few days together to catch up and hear about changes of motorhomes and future travel plans. It was great to play Boules again, last played in Spain some 15 months ago, and Mölkky, a Finnish game with wooden skittles, also learned in Spain but a new game for some. Great fun was had by all including relaxing together with some Pimms and nibbles one afternoon.

The farm was on the edge of a commercial apple growing farm with acres of trees in neat rows kept to optimum height for picking fruit. The fields were surrounded with high hedges for wind protection and a footpath lead us on through barley fields, by converted oast houses, along the edge of a vineyard, eventually arriving at Marden village 3 miles away.

It was so hot and sunny so it was a hot walk and the Unicorn Pub was very welcoming with air conditioning, a large jug of iced water and our various choices of drinks. Suitably refreshed our return journey started well, then it just got even better when we discovered the Herbert Hall Vineyard was now open so another stop was added to sample the produce. We sat by the vines under a large umbrella with glasses of a sparkling white Brut; it was of course delicious and a wonderful impromptu stop before returning to the campsite.

A couple of friends are keen cyclists and rode several miles to Scotney Castle; from their description it sounded so nice that we also visited on our way to the next camping location. It is a National Trust property and garden with a large house built in the 1830’s overlooking the valley with the moated castle ruins providing the focal point of the renowned ‘Picturesque’ gardens, an aesthetic style created in the 18th century. It was absolutely beautiful especially on such a sunny day, the reflections of the castle and flowers were so clear.

The woodland walk area was full of rhododendrons, several colourful borders, a stream area and the new wildflower meadows were looking good and with lots of buzzing insects. We spent ages wondering around this peaceful haven before making our way to the next campsite.

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14th JUNE – BRIGHTON
The campsite here was bigger than I’d imagined but done very well with small secluded areas as well as more open in the middle. It was a good 30 minutes walk to the Marina on the eastern side of Brighton with it’s restaurants, bars and a few shops. We spent some time along the harbour wall and along a stretch of the walkway high above the white cliffs and shingle beach, then headed west along the promenade another 40 minutes into Brighton itself. The Palace Pier built in 1899 stretches away into the sea with amusements located at the end, and the old seaside town hotels and guesthouses stand looking out towards the new wind farm far out to sea and barely visible on the horizon the day we visited.

Meeting up with two of my cousins for lunch was a highlight, not having seen them for a few years. Lots to talk about over lunch then a short walk to sit in the sun at the Marina enjoying a drink together before going our separate ways again. Having talked a bit about the old town area later we visited The Lanes area in Brighton was so different to the huge buildings on the seafront with small houses, shops and narrow streets.

The Royal Pavilion looked stunning with its iconic Regency architecture, the symmetry showed the elegant stonework set off with a small enclosed garden to the road side. I liked the contrasting styles of architecture and colours with other large buildings in the town, The Chapel Royal with its red brick clock tower dating from the 18th century and the Fabrica Art Gallery that has been created from a repurposed former Regency style church.

Between the shops and walkways the restaurants and coffee shops had spilled out onto the open spaces with seating and umbrellas, visually so appealing and tempting too, reminding me of the Spanish culture where eating outside is so common.

Having enjoyed our time away with 11 consecutive days of sunshine and visiting 3 different locations in the south earner corner of England, we decided to return home a day early due to a sudden, and very wet change in the weather. It would have been dismal driving back in the rain and it will be easy to return and explore more places in this corner of the country another time. It will soon be time to think of our July trip, north this time for a change.

Posted in England

4th-17th May, Devon & Dorset

Map of holiday locations: Start Bay below Torquay, Totnes above Torquay and East Fleet near Weymouth. Home is Salisbury marked in red


4th May – Start Bay
After a slightly nerve wracking last few miles due to narrow Devon lanes, we arrived at the pretty sunny campsite and soon settled on our selected pitch. With mature trees to the back of us, views up to hills above the site and footpaths leaving the site in both directions we were feeling very fortunate to have chosen this area to explore. A short walk leads to Torcross and directly onto the shingle beach, but we walked uphill through fields, flower filled pathways and into woodland, emerging out on a lane to admire a panoramic very of Slapton Ley stretching out before us.

Slapton Ley

The Ley is a freshwater lake 1.5 miles long which attracts numerous wildfowl and walkers with attractive reed beds and wildflowers along the margins. We listened to many birds in while walking including song thrush, wren, chiffchaff, blackcap and robin filling the afternoon with song and later watched swallows and house martins swooping over the Ley as we indulged in a refreshing drink in Torcross.

Mallard resting at Torcross

Taking the front seats on the top deck of a double decker bus all the way to Dartmouth was wonderful. Uninterrupted grandstand views of coast, fields and villages as we passed by, so relieved not to be driving this section with it’s quaint, narrow streets and overhanging trees. The town of Dartmouth is very picturesque with the beautiful gardens, a harbour full of boats, several ferries to Kingsweir and lots of handsome architecture. From a computer print out we followed a walk around the town and right down to the historic castle near the mouth of the river Dart before having a seafood platter to share at the authentic looking Platform 1 restaurant while we watched life on the river pass us by.

Views from the top deck of the bus
Dartmouth
Walk around Dartmouth
Lunch at Platform 1 with a view of Kingsweir across the water

Meeting up with Adam and Zena (my brother and sister in law) in Kingsbridge courtesy of another double decker ride, we met up at The Crabshell Inn with it’s varied menu and enviable location right on the quayside of the Kingsbridge Estuary. None of us could resist the Ultimate Scallop Gratin to start with and carried on with the fishy theme by ordering more starters, two Seafood Chowders and two Crabshell Bouillabaisse, and a ‘small side of fries’ to share per couple. Very enjoyable it was too with a few rounds of drinks. Although it was sunny, there was a cold edge to the wind so after a couple of hours Adam and Zena caught an earlier ferry back to Salcombe and we used the bus back to the campsite, no doubt all glad to warm up again.

We did a lot of walks in the area with Slapton Sands, Beesands, and villages enroute, through beautiful countryside, tracks, quiet lanes and alongside the beach, in total for this part of our trip we covered 33 miles during the 5 days.

9th May – Totnes
Although not far geographically from our last stop, the market town of Totnes is quite different to anywhere we’ve been before. It has a very bohemian, arty feel with lots of individual clothing shops, artisan foods, crafts, painting and pottery galleries. The high street has numerous individual shops, butcher and bakeries as well as a few chain stores, so something for everyone.

Totnes
All in a day; blue sky, turned grey, torrential rain, ending with drinks in the sun!

Along side the River Dart we walked pathways, fields and wooded slopes, listening to the birds and admiring the views and wildflowers before arriving at Sharpham Winery for a pre-booked wine tasting and cheese sampling. We were given a ‘menu’ of wines to choose from and independently and quite amusingly, we chose exactly the same ones based on the description alone. As it was near lunchtime we decided on the cheese board instead of cheese samples, and enjoyed our ‘experience’ very much. Starting with a lovely sparkling reserve wine and progressing to a dry refreshing white, then a flavoursome rosé and lastly finished off with a smooth fruity red. The cheeses selection was a beautiful buttery Sharpham Brié that just melted in your mouth, quite unlike any I’ve tasted before; a light and tasty Ticklemore Goat Cheese; a creamy sheep milk cheese called Washbourne, and finally Rustic Garlic and Chive. Well recommended for anyone in the area.

Walk to Sharpham for wine and cheese tasting

In the opposite direction and moving up-river, we meandered along a thin strip of trees and wildflowers looking quite beautiful, amazingly this tranquil scene was separated by a wire netting fence from an industrial estate on one side and the river on the other. Needless to say I only photographed the attractive side!

Riverside walk

Accessed over a large footbridge The South Devon Railway at Totnes usually runs steam trains, however it was inactive when we visited. The station was full of antique signage, rusting tenders, and signals with lots of old station buildings where we spent a short time looking at the history of a bygone era. When the trains are running, we would love to return and take the Round Robin trip that includes a steam train, river boat and open top bus connecting Paignton, Kingswear, Dartmouth and Totnes.

Continuing the walk we went back through the edge of town we sampled the delights of some arty shops, purchased a birthday gift, and thoroughly enjoying looking around. We eventually found the old Motte and Bailey castle however we were unable to go inside the grounds as we hadn’t booked. Not to worry, the dark sky was ominous and we walked back to have an outside lunch thankfully underneath a gazebo. While we were there, the rain hammered down followed by hail and then it dried up eventually to allow us time to walk back to the campsite when the sun finally pushed through for a relaxed warm evening.

All in a day; blue sky, turned to grey, torrential rain, followed by drinks in the sun!

East Fleet Farm near Chesil Beach

The campsite farm overlooks the Fleet and Chesil Beach with lots of well tended grass and hard-standing pitches, most with electricity, water and drainage. There are walks directly onto the coast path in either direction and up the lane to the road and village of Chickerell, regular busses and a supermarket.

The coast path to Abbotsbury set off in a westerly direction giving good views of the Fleet as it narrowed between a headland and the high shingle barrier of beach. The Fleet is a tidal lagoon that has water all day but the depth varies with the ebb and flow with the tides. I never realised how huge the shingle beach is at 15 meters high and 200 meters wide in places, I’d thought it would be nice to walk along it but it is 18 miles long and I imagine it would be very difficult walking too.

We turned inland following the well signposted route passing farms and fields, climbing numerous stiles and hills, through kissing-gates and alongside woodland. It was an interesting and varied 8 mile route before we finally dropped down hill to Abbotsbury Swannery. Having visited here previously we know it is a wonderful place especially in the spring when you can walk through the site where the swans hatch their cygnets. This time though, we only stopped for a late lunch before returning to Chickerell by bus and a final walk to the campsite. It was a long walk for me, 10 miles in total by the end of the day.

Abbotsbury Swannery beside the Fleet

Another day took us east to Weymouth, again using the coast path we could now see the Fleet at the point it flows under the bridge between the mainland and the Isle of Portland. We paused for an ice cream at Sandsfoot Castle ruin sitting in the gardens and overlooking the sea where 4 huge cruise boats were moored, having not been used during the Covid pandemic.

The cruise ships look bigger than the buildings

Arriving eventually in Weymouth and took the promenade alongside the long sandy beach that stretches for approximately 3 miles, before moving to the harbour area with plenty of boats, cafes and bars. Weymouth hosts a fantastic Seafood Festival which is a great event to go to, this year being held in September so may be we will be visiting again.

Returning by bus to Weymouth the following day, we caught a second bus to the Isle of Portland with the idea of walking 6 miles to the lighthouse at the of the point. Not such a good day weather wise, very blustery but there was some sun so it was a beautiful sight along Chesil Beach as we climbed high above the village onto the top and looked back.

Views of the climb and back along the Chesil Beach

Setting off along the western edge of the Isle of Portland, the scenery was lovely and it wasn’t long before we found the pathway ahead closed due to a land slip, we turned away from the sea and headed in between the rocks. It was an amazing sight to find an area of rocks, carved into animals, sea creatures and even a mermaid. There is a strange Portland tale of the Roy Dog, who apparently has one red eye and one green eye, is known to hunt smugglers and fishermen and on the sculpture the eyes of his victims can be seen in his fur!

The Roy Dog attack on Christopher Roy!

We didn’t make it much further on our walk, the weather had changed, rain was starting, the wind was much more blustery, and to finishing things off completely, I got terrified on a stretch of the walk with sheer drops to the rocks below. Retracing our steps we eventually found a village, the rain had become stronger and so we waited for a bus to return to the campsite.

We have been lucky to enjoy our May motorhome trip to a variety of locations, walk in different areas and see new places. It’s always good to do a bit of research first and see if there is a good local bus service to facilitate accessing places slightly further away than a good walk, very useful for tired legs on the return journey. We seldom use our motorhome like a car just to drive somewhere else, so have become quite adept at planning ahead and doing a bit of ground work first to make the most of a new location. It is always interesting to see what waiting to be discovered and apart from early mornings and later in the afternoons, we never spend time just sitting in a campsite unless we are spending time with friends. Looking forward to our June trip when we are doing just that!

Lisa at rest