Posted in England

8th-12th July, Minehead

As new members of the Bursner owner’s group we decided to join a Rally at Minehead, meet fellow owners and make new friends. The camping spot for 5 days was at the Barbarians Rugby Club where 12 motorhomes and owners got together, and after initially setting up our various homes on wheels we did what we all do best, gathered for drinks and a chat. In the morning it was time to explore, it was a fair walk into the town which we did, (but a much quicker ride by bus from very close by), there were shops and a steam railway station, charity shops and cafes, pubs and a promenade, and an impressive collection of numerous sculptured figures made from recycled gas canisters that were positioned around the town. We saw 15 and I know there were more.

We indulged our new hobby of Geocaching with a walk along the coast path in glorious sunshine before disappearing into woodland and a long slog uphill onto North Hill for a picnic with great views. The Caches were a good variety, cleverly disguised as rocks, in camouflaged plastic boxes, metal tubes, small metal canisters hung up in trees and a really big box with a numerical dial to open it.

Back down a long rough track down of uncomfortable stones into Woodcoombe and a cheap refreshing pint in Wetherspoons. Eventually we arrived back to the Rally site for a Somerset themed evening with a Ploughmans supper of cheese, chutney and rolls with many chilled cans of cider accompanied by the music of The Wurzels from the 1970s which gave everyone a laugh.

The following day some people visited the excellent Dunster Castle but having visited it only last year, Chris and I took the Exmoor Coaster bus to Lynmouth for a day out. The small town suffered devastating floods in 1952 and afterwards the river was widened and diverted to prevent a similar incident there in the future.

It is a very pretty village with individual shops, art gallery, restaurants, bars and a small harbour. High above is the village of Linton, connected to Lynmouth by a funicular cliff railway which is the steepest in the world and powered only by water. There are wonderful views from the high vantage point 500 feet above Lynmouth and it’s a steep walk back down, or a return trip back down the railway.

We squeezed in a couple of Caches at the bottom in Lynmouth and then walked back up to Linton along a narrow path, up over the top to the Valley of the Rocks where we found a beautifully situated cricket field plus a game in progress. After much sweating and chasing the winding path uphill to find an ‘identified bench’ and the next cache, there followed a long search and a lot of consternation, we had to leave without finding it in order to catch the bus back. All that effort in the heat so very disappointing!

After a great quiz night and a nights rest, we took a bus along to the village of Carhampton and walked across fields to Blue Anchor where we had a fabulous flapjack and drinks before setting off along the coast path back to Minehead, Geocaching along the way. The waters of the Bristol Channel were far in the distance and being a tidal estuary it was hardly a beach, but some sand and rocks with a golf course pathway and wild flowers certainly made it look pretty.

Walking back from Minehead we passed The West Somerset Heritage Railway Station. Steam trains travel from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard and it is the longest Heritage Railway in the country at 22.75 miles long. It ran from 1862 before finally closing in 1971, however it reopened in 1976 as a Heritage Line that is now run by volunteers and a Charitable Trust. The evening was spent playing Skittles at a nearby pub and we all had a great time with the men’s team beating the Ladies; however, I did manage to achieve the highest ladies individual score equalling the highest individual man’s score, so we both won in a way.

The rally site was very close to the village of Dunster so we set off uphill, it always seems that way, eventually getting to the start of a nearby walk ….. and a few Caches! The walk into the woods was lovely and cooler out of the sun. We saw a red deer and several ponies with foals and heard buzzards overhead. With the two caches found we headed downhill to Dunster Railway Station where we were so lucky to see a steam train coming in and heard the classic sounds and it pulled away again, then we found our 3rd and final cache near the end of the station platform.

The final farewell get together on Tuesday was held at the Rally site with a Indian takeway being delivered so everyone could be together and the dogs could enjoy a good run around amusing us all. It was a great few days in a swelteringly hot July, followed by a visits to see my Mum and sisters in Ludow 140 miles away, then to Shawbury another 37 miles north to visit my son Richard and Amanda, with a 4 more caches added. Finally 143 miles south to Slaughterford west of Chippenham to have a picnic with my daughter Jen and a walk introducing her to Geocaching where we found 6 out of 7 on a loop around fields and a river. I drove the short journey of 40 miles home arriving around 6.15pm and we ended up being invited to our neighbour’s BBQ, what a fantastic finale. Total round trip of 455 miles and added 31 caches in a variety on locations to our tally.

Posted in England

27th June 2022, Holmsley, New Forest

Just a short drive of 23 miles from home we arrived to find a rural and informal campsite for 3 nights on the old Holmsley South Airfield used during WWII. A total of 12 airfields were constructed in The New Forest starting in 1942 and Holmsley was the largest with 3 runways, hangers, support buildings and accommodation facilities. During 3 short years there was flight training for gliders, missions for the D-Day landing support squadrons, and equipment sent to Europe, Africa and the Far East with Prisoners of War being brought back. By 1946 it was being returned to The Forestry Commission and is now a campsite surrounded by common land and trees, New Forest ponies, deer and birds. Perfect!

We walked out of the site over closely nibble grass with tall green bracken and colourful wildflowers, there were a number of ponies sorting out who was who in the herd, they looked lovely in the afternoon sunshine. For an hour it was very pleasant to stroll over Plain Heath seeing stonechats, pied wagtails, skylarks and goldfinches and a few heathland butterflies.

A beautiful sunny morning encouraged us out walking and we found our way to a Memorial of the New Forest Airfields with a map showing the locations and poignant poems placed on the fence. We continued to Bransgore mainly by quiet lanes as there was a serious lack of footpath signs, then collapsed at The Three Tuns for a rest. Further along the lanes we found our way back and during the later part, thankfully over common land, there were lots of mares and foals, they really are so cute.

By way of a contrast, next day we went Geocaching, mainly in Holmsley Enclosure with the tall forest trees in some areas making it difficult to get signal on my phone to know where we were headed. However as relative newbies to this hobby, with a few difficult finds, we chalked up another 9 caches on a 6.5 mile circuit. Very tired we stopped for a short break at The Holmsley Tea Rooms formerly the site of the old Holmsley train station in 1964, a casualty of the Beeching Report, before returning back to camp.

30th June – Hollands Wood, New Forest
Three additional nights at Hollands Wood Campsite, further east between Brockenhurst and Lyndurst, gave us a new area to explore. The campsite is wooded with open spaces and a ‘camp where you like’ policy, with ponies and foals walking right in front of our pitch and acres of grassland to watch them roaming freely. There are grey squirrels racing around up and down the oak trees and many deer around the area which we are told also come out at night, although we haven’t seen any here, but we have seen them and a very young fawn on our walks.

Our first evening was spent with my sister Helen, Steve and family meeting up at The Snakecatcher pub. It was named after a man who lived near Hollands Wood as a hermit in a hut, he caught large numbers of snakes, mainly grass snakes and adders, it was a means of pest control but also he sold them to research centres, zoos and the public. He died in 1905 aged 65 after a regular evening drink, he walked outside and collapsed, what a way to go! After a great meal and lots of chatting we went walking around Brockenhurst College where Steve started his teaching career, there were lots of memories and such funny tales too.

The forest in this area is very beautiful, a large variety of trees and open spaces, woodland flowers, dragonflies and butterflies. We sorted out a Geocaching circular walk and found 8 out of 10 so not too bad. Clues like ‘at the base of a moss covered tree’ and ‘look for an old stump’ or ‘under fallen trees’ were not the most helpful in a forest full of them but we walked, talked and enjoyed our picnic. It was a long day and a total of nearly 9 miles so a relaxing evening with a gin and tonic in the sun was most welcome as we watched the ponies and cows wandering around.

Taking the bus up to Lyndhurst was a welcome luxury the following day when we notched up another 5 Geocaches walking around the town, having completed that we admired the Ferrari display room with a few beauties parked outside, and then looked in the shop windows at delicious looking pasties, Scotch eggs and pork pies before heading for refreshments at The Mailmans Arms, a very pretty pub with lots of flowers and nice rear garden away from the road.

After that it was a quick bus ride down to Brockenhurst for one more Geocache by the station and then a 20 minute walk to Pig Beer to try some locally brewed beverages. Brewing started in 2018 on a former pig farm, they grow their own hops, collect rainwater for irrigation and local farmers feed the used malted barley to their cattle. The beer was delicious too, offerings include hoppy refreshing beers and a dark milk stout which Chris really enjoyed.

What a great way to end out sabbatical in The New Forest. We walked 44 miles in 6 days and added 26 more Geocaches to our total, sampled a few good beers and luckily had 6 days of dry sunny weather! It’s so close to home, so different and we plan to do it again more often and at other times of year.

Just a few more ponies and foals!