Posted in England

UK Travels in April & May

Ludlow, Shropshire in April

Having previously lived in this area for many years, we never had time to be tourists during our working lives, now happily retired we had a few things planned for our long weekend away.  We explored the site at Far Forest and found a lovely walk in the campsite grounds on a track leading through fields to fishing lakes, woodland and open countryside.

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We drove west into Shropshire, travelling through undulating countryside towards Cleobury Mortimer with its famous brewery, Hobsons. Their ‘Champion Mild’ won the CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain in 2007, and it was subsequently served in the bar at the House of Commons!  Another icon of this town is the oak shingled, twisted spire of St Mary’s Church, dating to Norman times and which can be seen for miles around. Passing through this small market town with its centrally located, black and white Talbot Hotel, small independent shops and several pubs, we made our way up the flanks of Titterstone Clee Hill. The views are tremendous covering many square miles with sheep, cattle and ponies able roam freely over the commons area; passing over a cattle grid and through Clee Hill village we emerged on the western side with more lovely views of hills towards the distant mountains of Wales.

Arriving in Ludlow we parked in Smithfield Car Park, only £2 for the day! Walking up hill into the town centre we stopped for coffee in The Feathers Hotel with its ancient timbered exterior, a magnet for photographers and historians alike. It was a former Coaching Inn dating back to 17th Century and has wonderful Jacobean architecture, with a stylish interior and comfortable chairs to relax for a while.

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The day finally brightened and became warm and pleasant as we made our way through the old, narrow streets to the colourful market stalls with fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers and plants, textiles and colourful glassware, it certainly had a busy atmosphere.

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Heading a few yards further on towards the ruins of Ludlow’s Medieval Castle, with a large grass Outer Bailey, a smaller Inner Bailey and dominating Great Tower, there are lovely views over the steep valley sides below.

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We skipped the restaurant to walk around outside of the extensive wall which surrounds the castle; the pathway was edged with colourful spring flowers leading eventually down to the River Teme which looked spectacular having a substantial amount of water rushing over the weir.

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Many people were enjoying cakes and refreshments at the Millennium Green Cafe as we made our way over Dinham Bridge and up woodland steps to Whitcliff Common Nature Reserve. The leaves just starting to emerge on the trees and the weak sunshine was bringing out the primroses, violets, wood anemones and bright yellow of greater celandines, the birds were singing, it was a perfect Spring day. On reaching a view point with benches positioned to look back over the river, we sat in the sun and admired the old town set out below with its ancient streets and houses. The extent of the castle and its strategic position is more easily appreciated from this side, while the tower of St Lawrence’s Church dominates the skyline.

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Returning to the town centre over Ludford Bridge, through the huge stone Broadgate and onwards, up the wide, famous Broad Street with handsome Georgian properties on either side. The Buttercross with its stones columns, dated circa 1746, was originally a Market Hall and to its left a heavily timbered building leaning out at a jaunty angle with the church tower behind.

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Severn Valley Railway, Bewdley to Bridgnorth in April

The weather had deteriorated considerably next day, we could hardly see the end of the campsite field through rain and fog. Undeterred and togged up in coats, we took the bus to Bewdley in Worcestershire, arriving in Load Street with Saint Anne’s Church at the top, and a fine selection of shops, including Ashley’s Bakery where we bought treacle flapjacks which were delicious! Crossing over the bridge with the River Severn’s fast flowing and muddy water racing by underneath, we were able to appreciate the old buildings along the river’s edge as we looked back, including a bar and cafe overlooking the river itself which would be lovely on a summer day.

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Thankfully the rain was easing off and after a walk of approximately 10 minutes we arrived at the station for The Severn Valley Railway, the historic ticket office complete with grills over the serving hatches and old fire hose on the wall. Soon the steam train was pulling in, clouds of steam, hissing and squealing of metal wheels on the tracks, it was so atmospheric and the rain was soon forgotten as we got into the wooden carriage. Leather straps controlled the raising and lowering of the windows in the doors and enabled me to look out, take photographs and get smuts on my face all at the same time, it was exhilarating.  The drizzle and mist alongside the River Severn gave veiled views of pale damp primroses lined the track in places, hunched up lambs stood beside their mothers and muddy cattle gathered along the fences.

Arriving at Arley station several people got on and off while I looked out at the beautifully kept platform area with flower gardens, stacks of ‘old luggage’ and milk churns adding to the scene. The railway track runs alongside the River Severn a lot of the way and gentle curves of the track allowed good views of the steam train as it made the journey.  Onwards through Highley where there is an engine house housing old engines, coaches and historic exhibits; on a dry day we would have lingered a while, but rain made us stay on-board to Bridgnorth.

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The town is divided in two by the River Severn, and we made our way over a bridge and up into High Town, a walk of about 10 minutes. To escape the rain we stopped at The White Lion Pub for a lunch of homemade Scotch eggs, one Cajun and one black pudding which were served warm and melted in our mouths. We are members of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) so had decided on this pub as it is the Tap for the Hop & Stagger Brewery based at Norton just outside Bridgnorth. We tried a ‘paddle’ each with 3 different beers of one third of a pint, all of which were excellent.  Finally the rain had stopped and it was good to have the time to admire the Old Market Hall with its interesting brickwork, the large half timbered, black and white Town Hall in the centre of High Street, and the imposing Northgate entrance to the town and housing a museum about the Bridgnorth and the surrounding area.

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Walking around past the small, ruined remnant of Bridgnorth Castle surrounded by gardens and we could see down over the River into Low Town. To get there you can take the scenic but steep walk down the quaintly named Cartway, or you can take the Funicular Railway which is said to be one of the steepest in the country. Returning to the Railwayman’s Arms, a well renown bar on the station platform, we were spoilt for choice with many local beers on offer while we waited for our return trip on the second steam train of the day. Without the rain the journey back enabled good viewing through the windows as the engine gently chuffed along the tracks through woods and fields back to Bewdley.

 

 

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Bircher near Leominster, Herefordshire in May

Arriving for a weekend in the small hamlet of Bircher in a rural corner of Herefordshire, the campsite was beautifully kept and had far reaching views over the countryside beyond. With nice dry weather we explored the fields having direct access from the campsite, walking along the field margins listening to a cuckoo calling and coming out onto quiet country lanes.

 

 

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The Balance Inn welcomed us with a good array of  beers, friendly locals and a sunny terrace to sit at picnic tables.  We returned next day with my parents for a local beer and then came back to the campsite for an alfresco picnic lunch under the canopy.

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Nearby in Yarpole is Croft Castle set in open parkland and ancient woodland, it has a castle, garden and a small church with farmed land, in all totalling 1500 acres. The castle itself dates from 14th century and was the home of the Croft family, although it has been owned by the National Trust since 1957.

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We didn’t go into the castle this time but chose to go for a walk across the parkland to see the ancient sweet chestnut trees with their knarled and patterned bark and then in the woodlands, following trails with the quiet, restful greens, wildflowers, stream, ponds and birdsong.

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It was a tranquil couple of hours well spent finishing up back at the castle in a wildflower meadow overlooking a pool.  We still had a long walk back to the campsite, our total for the day covered almost 7 miles!

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Posted in England, Spain

2017 – End of Year Roundup

 

The year of 2017 started our ‘living in retirement’, we have certainly been extremely busy, seen new parts of the UK and been lucky enough to travel extensively in Spain.

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Della the Dellaware

We enjoyed having Della the Autotrail Dellaware for 7 months touring over 2,100 miles around Spain’s south and east coast in February and March, followed by Devon in May.  Being a bit on the large size at 8 meters long and 4.25 tons, it could be difficult for me to position her onto some pitches and so inspite of her luxurious facilites and fixed island bed in the rear, we decided it was time to say goodbye to Della.

 

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Bessie the Bessacarr

Coming home via Wellington in Somerset we found a very suitable motorhome. Bessie the Bessacarr is only 7 meters long and 3.5 tons! She is so much easier to drive and maneouver and we definitely made the better choice second time around.  She also has a full kitchen, luxurious and spacious end shower room and two long sofas for day time, which then convert to a large double bed or two single beds, thereby more choice should we ever need it.

During 2017 we have done a lot of touring in the UK including stays in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Devon, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, Yorkshire and Derbyshire  We were lucky to spend the four coldest months this year on the east and south coasts of Spain, venturing inland to the mountains and plains for variety and interest.

In total I have driven 6,180 miles and we stayed at numerous campsites, several Aires including some free nights too, wracking up a total of 147 nights on tour.  We have met some lovely people as we travelled around and stayed in touch with a good many of them.

I hope you have enjoyed following our adventures and finding out where we have been.  It has been a momentous first year doing and seeing new things, which we hope to add to as we head back to Alicante to collect Bessie from storage on 8th January, continuing a route around Spain leading us back home by early March.

L&C Nov 2017

 

Posted in England

5th – 7th September – Threshfield near Grassington

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We had been thoroughly spoilt with good weather for our trip in Derbyshire and Yorkshire, but finally it changed and we had a grey, wet and miserable morning to drive to Threshfield near Grassington.  This campsite scored ‘Brownie Points’ straight away with fresh baked scones and small jars of clotted cream and jam in reception, we just had to have some of those!  It was spacious, tidy mown grass and a fancy new shower block giving excellent facilities including hair-driers! Thankfully it only had trees around the edge – and the significance of this is getting a TV signal after days without it.  I was already planning a relaxing night with a bottle of wine and hopefully something half decent to watch.

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Once everything was set up, the weather was with us again and it was now dry, even if the sky was dull and grey.  Walking directly from the site along a path to a back lane we walked through the immediate village of Threshfield into Grassington about a mile away.  It was so picturesque, quaint with narrow cobbled streets, many individual and original shops, 3 hotels, several pubs and numerous tea rooms and cafes in the immediate centre.  Walking around the village it was obvious its inhabitants took a great pride in floral displays, everything was very tidy and well-kept and there was no litter anywhere.

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Walking back to Grassington next day, we caught a bus to Skipton a few miles away and had time to stare out of the windows at the beautiful scenery.  The name Skipton was derived from the Anglo Saxon words ‘sceap’ (sheep) and tun (town), it was recorded in the Doomsday Book as Scepeton meaning sheep town. When we arrived we found it was market day and spent some time looking at the stalls, and the individual shops either side of the street, including a stunning fancy shoe shop.

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The start was at the canal basin where there was a statue of Freddie Trueman the England fast bowler in 1950s and 60s, also many colourful narrow boats were moored, and others were heading out on the sightseeing tours out into the countryside.

 

Heading out under one of the road bridges over the canal, we walked directly below the castle walls and they towered above us. The castle was restored after the Civil War, and today it is privately owned and open to the public, however, having seen several castles we did not visit it this occasion. The footpath was on an elevated position between the canal on one side and the Eller Beck on the other, eventually crossing via a bridge we passed a saw mill on our way to a pool.  This was created by a dam across the Beck, the whole surface was covered in tiny floating plants where several mallards and a coot swimming around in the green soup.

20170913_104930-COLLAGESeveral waterfalls provided interest along the route and eventually the path led uphill through the trees, turned sharply back on itself which gave us lovely views out across the open fields, latticed by dry stone walls and dotted with sheep over to the hills beyond. Curving downhill again we entered the town again right by Skipton Castle and local church.

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After a night of rain, the day dawned grey and dull, not very inspiring.  I drove Bessie out to Malham Cove going several miles out of our way to stay on bigger roads. We knew there were busses that serviced the village of Malham so I figured that the road would be big enough for us.  However, it was quite narrow in places and passing by an equally big vehicle was quite challenging but we eventually made it to the carpark.

20170907_113744Walking towards the magnificent Malham Cove we could hear the call of a peregrine. We had recently volunteered for the RSPB at Salisbury Cathedral to show visitors our local peregrine family on the spire, which is why we recognised its call. The day was warm enough but the rain had started and was a fine mist in front of us like a net curtain.

The limestone escarpment that was spread before us is about 260 feet high and over 980 feet wide, it was somewhat obscured by the rain, however, the peregrine was flying in circles and I watched it land high up on the cliff face. Having taken our binoculars, I was able to locate him perched out of the rain, sitting under an overhang of rock taking shelter from the elements. By sharing my binoculars I was able to show three other visitors at the foot of Malham Cove just what we were looking at and they were amazed just how camouflaged the bird was against the grey of the cliff.

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20170913_110751-COLLAGEFollowing a steep path at the side of the Cove, we climbed up purposed built stone steps to the top to see the famous ‘limestone pavement’ spreading out over a large area. It is a unique habitat formed of Clints which are the blocks of limestone and the Grykes which are the gaps or fissures.  These provide a micro climate for small plants which gain shelter from the elements and thrive, but being quite late in the season we only spotted a few different species, Herb Robert and Hart’s Tongue and Thyme being most common.

20170913_110916-COLLAGEEventually back at the campsite, it started raining much harder and continued all night.  Thankfully, the sun came out by 9.30am next morning, we stowed everything away in all the cupboards, made Bessie ‘rattle proof’ and set off on our long journey home.  Calling in at Ludlow for a night to see family, it was then only a short hop of 3 hours home to Salisbury after a busy but rewarding couple of weeks.

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Posted in England

2nd – 4th September – Harmby near Leyburn

Another fine and sunny day for packing up and moving to a location at Harmby and after an uneventful drive, we arrived at a lovely campsite set in a disused quarry now completely transformed by nature.  The sides of the quarry had trees and bushes hiding the rocks, hardstanding pitches with mown grass between and plenty of room for everyone to have space to themselves.  Within half an hour we were having lunch in the sunshine when the resident peacock made his appearance.  He was a vision in his iridescent blue and green feathers in the sunlight, his tail a little short and without many of the spectacular ‘eyes’, his blue and white crest twitching while he walked around us.  As we continued our lunch he suddenly lay down on the grass beside us and spread out his chestnut wings, stayed for 20 minutes and continued on his way.  What a lovely welcome.

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Walking into Leyburn village later on it was noticeable how Autumn is taking hold, the leaves are turning gold and some had red tinges, the ragwort still glows yellow but most of the knapweed has finished flowering and is turning black.  The village itself was quite sizeable and attractive with no high street chain shops but several individual shops. There was a good display of hanging baskets and planters outside the Black Swan pub, and the village also had several hotels and tea rooms.  The walk was only about a mile but it was quite warm, we stopped outside the Golden Lion Hotel so could enjoy a beer from the Wensleydale Brewery called Semer Water, made with a citra type blend of hops.

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It was grey but dry next day so we walked over fields and footpaths, past cattle and alongside the river on our way to Middleham village.

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20170903_103725From the beginning we could see the ruined castle on the skyline and as we finally reached the village it seemed to have disappeared altogether. There was a pretty village church and at the entrance to a large house I was amused to see a tree with a bike displayed on its truck.

20170903_140355The square was unfortunately dominated by cars, parked in haphazard fashion filling the central space. Arranged around the periphery were several hotels, guest houses, pubs and tearooms, obviously a tourist honey pot.

20170910_202430-COLLAGE Walking around the back streets we found the castle and crossed the bridge over the dry moat through to the ruin of stone walls inside.  The castle is not huge but many of the walls are still in fair condition and still standing tall. The outer walls had towers at the corners and surrounded the inner keep giving an idea of the layout of the castle from long ago.  Against the outer walls were were broken and crumbled walls showing that there were many rooms of varying sizes and blackened stone could be seen where fireplaces had been. The keep originally had two rooms on the ground floor and two large upper halls above, each with massive stone fireplaces, arched windows and staircases at the corner.  Its claim to fame is that Richard III lived at the castle when he married, however he did not spend much time there during his reign.

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Chis giving the castle scale and Lucy with an ‘armless’ Richard III statue

As we were staying in Wensleydale, we decided to visit Wensley village and set off the following day on a long walk over fields and through woods with the aid of a map from the campsite.  Taking a different route out along the back lane we climbed in height, gaining lovely views over dry stone walls across the valleys stretching out to the horizon. Green fields dominated the area with grazing sheep and cattle, there were a few fields of harvested corn leaving scratchy stubble to walk over, the fields were all surrounded grey stone walls creating a lovely patchwork below us.

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We followed along a limestone escarpment known as Leyburn Shawl, steep slopes of rock falling away to our left with trees along the way.

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The pathway from the fields with wide open views, now led into mature, deciduous woodland with benches positioned for weary walkers who could only stare into the branches now blotting out any view. Falling leaves, fungi and the smell of damp decay under the canopy eventually gave way as we came out of a small gate into a long, gently sloping field of grass.

20170910_210545-COLLAGESonetime later, following a stoned track we passed by Keld Heads Smelt Mill with an impressively tall but disused chimney. Finally reaching Wensley with tired legs and very hungry, we stopped at The Three Horseshoes for a lovely cooked lunch with a cider and beer.  Having relaxed for around an hour we continued our walk through many more fields, some with horses, some with cattle and sheep, eventually coming back into Leyburn and taking the shorter, roadway back to the campsite. After a total of 8 miles I needed to sit down. Memories of those stunning views will last a long time!

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Posted in England

30th August – 1st September – York

nightawningHeading east towards York, our campsite at Beechwood Grange was only 28 miles away and we arrived just before lunch. We were impressed with the well cared for site, plenty of hardstanding and grass pitches to choose from. As rain was forecast and we didn’t want to be stuck, so a nice safe hardstanding pitch was chosen, we embarked on putting up our awning for only the second time since we owned it. Canopy out, side struts on, side panels on and then just peg it down, easy! Wrong, pegging out into compacted hard standing was like hitting knitting needles into concrete. 2217087-man-hammer-in-nails-isolated-3d-image

Nothing for it but to take it all apart, move Bessie before all the sunny grass pitches were taken and wallop it up again, which we did quite quickly and all pegged out too while eating lunch on the hoof. After that fairly exhausting exercise, the rest of the day was spent exploring the site, reading and relaxing, researching our trip into York next day and finally a pre-dinner drink in the awning which we had left open for the sun to stream inside.

Catching a double decker bus to York gave us great views as we approached the city. York Minster towered above the centre and we were joining a walking history tour meeting by the two towers on the west side. We headed first towards the old city walls which were built around 71 AD by the Romans to defend the Fort they built on the banks of the River Ouse, through Bootham Gate which is a huge four sided tower over the road and was possibly a toll gate. 20170831_111048

Walking out towards an area with the York Museum and Art Gallery, both buildings in the lovely warm coloured stone with more very old city walls to the side. Behind these buildings was the ruins of the Abbey of St Mary, the North and West walls form a partial outline of the nave, with high arched window portals and the bases of columns and walls.

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Later on we had good views of the Minster with its three towers and circular roof on the Chapter House showing above the residence used by the Dean of York Minster as we walked around on the top of the city walls

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Climbing down to road level again by Monksbar Gate we found out it was built at the time of Richard III and currently houses an exhibition about him, then we walked around to the front of the Minster, which we visited separately.

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The Shambles is the most famous street in York and was originally a street of butchers. The houses were built close together on a narrow street with the upper floors coming together to keep the streets below cool and shaded. The meat was hung outside the windows on hooks that you can still see today. The word Shambles comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘fleshammels’ meaning flesh shelves, we could still see these outside the shops. There was a gutter in the centre of the street where all the blood, offal and yucky bits were washed down the street.

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Walking around to Piccadilly we saw the magnificent Merchants Adventurers Hall which is a beautiful medieval guildhall built around 1357. It is a large timber framed hall with a brick built chapel on one end and was used as an almshouse or hospital for poor people of York, it now houses a museum and is used for weddings, parties and special occasions.

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Finally we were shown the ruins of York Castle originally a wooden ‘motte and bailey’ castle, later destroyed in 1069 and rebuilt in stone including a moat and artificial lake. Many times it was wrecked, redesigned and rebuilt. It was used for Royal Defence until 1684 when the interior was destroyed by a massive explosion, it was subsequently used as a jail until 1929. Only the ruined keep remains, commonly known as Clifford’s Tower, it is now a tourist attraction.

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After the tour around York finished, we decided to retrace our steps and look at some of the places again, most notably The Shambles which was full of character, quaint little shops and masses of people. Tired now we headed for an old pub The Swan for a rest and a drink before catching the bus back to our campsite.

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YORK MINSTER

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Next day we travelled back into York specifically to see the Minster and had a very good guided tour. There have been several churches on the site, the first one recorded was made of wood in 627 and following a fire in 637 it was subsequently built in stone. Prior to the existing Minster there were at least two others , but the Minster we see today was constructed over many years between 1220 – 1476 and is the largest Gothic Minster/Cathedral in Northern Europe. There are remains of Roman Barracks underneath the Minster, parts of which are on display in a dedicated museum beneath the existing building called the Undercroft.

It is both a Minster and a Cathedral: A Minster because it was used to train missionaries as part of a monastery, and a Cathedral because it is where the Bishop sits – so this magnificent Grade I Listed building can be called both.

Entering through the West Door the huge Great West Window stands immediately to the right hand side. It was installed between 1338-1339, at a cost of £67! It has 8 vertical sections of stained glass, above which is a ‘heart shaped’ section giving this window its other name as the Heart of Yorkshire.

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The Nave is lined with pillars and amazing Gothic arches that support a high, vaulted ceiling. It is 99 feet high and is so wide that it was not built of stone but is in fact wooden, light in colour and has decorative gilded bosses.


Moving down towards the North Transept, the dominant feature is the Five Sisters Window with unusual grisaille glass. The type of glass is named after the French word for greyness and it was painted with geometric designs. It dates from the mid 1,200’s, was restored between 1923-1925, and is the only memorial dedicated to the memory of the women of the British Empire who died during the First World War.

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The beautiful Chapter House is octagonal and has an unsupported, decorative vaulted roof and beautiful arched stained glass windows. Around the edges of the walls are stone carvings of many faces, some human, but also animals and birds. There is a massive wooden door that has elaborate and ornate iron work that can close the room off from the rest of the Minster.

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The East Window was created between 1405-1408 at a cost of £56, and in modern terms it is the size of a tennis court. It has the largest single span of stained glass in the country and it depicts the Bible stories from creation of all things in Genesis to the end of the world in Revelation. It has been undergoing a huge restoration, 311 panels of glass removed, the old lead being taken out and replaced is thinner and the glass has been cleaned and repaired so the pictures are brighter and you can see all the details. Half of the window has been completed and the final 154 pieces should be finished by 2018.

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The Quire also stands at the eastern end of the Minster. There are two elaborate high seats on either side where the Bishops sit, a brass bird lectern, fantastic Gothic carved partitions along the sides behind the decorative seating. A gometrically designed floor and set up high under an arch is the huge organ with all the pipes standing tall.

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20170901_102654Behind the Quire in the centre of the Minster is The King’s Screen which has 15 carved statues of the Kings from the Norman and Gothic phase, from William the Conqueror to Henry VI.

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The Minster has three towers, (seen below above the buildings in the foreground), the central tower is 235 feet high and weighs 16,000 tonnes, it is so vast that the Leaning Tower of Pisa would fit inside it. There are also two towers at the western end that are 196 feet high and contain 56 bells, the heaviest weighing 3 tonnes, it is the largest number of bells in any English cathedral.

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The South Transept also had a wooden roof which was destroyed by fire in 1984. After the reconstruction it now has a ceiling decorated with gilded and coloured bosses. Following a competition by the television program Blue Peter, six of the bosses were designed by children, one of them was of Henry VIII’s flag ship The Mary Rose which was raised from The Solent in 1982. Quite appropriately this boss is sited near to the Rose Window which commemorates the union of the Royal Houses of York and Lancaster dating from the time when Henry VIII was King.

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It was a wonderful and interesting tour of a fabulous, iconic building and not to be missed. After which our brains need a rest so we had another pub lunch and then I did my one and only bit of shopping, two pretty tops, and that was that, don’t need to go shopping again, phew…..!  Quick trip back on the bus then a quick walk and having taken down the awning before the predicted rain, and in readiness for moving on towards our next site. Finally we could relax in the last of the sunshine under the canopy.

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Posted in England

27th – 29th August – Harrogate

We arrived in Harrogate to visit Adam and Zena after a leisurely drive of just 2.5 hours. The day was sunny and warm, and we had a nice afternoon chatting in their conservatory looking out over the field and watching a red kite circling overhead. Walking into town in the early evening we passed though a park hosting a food and drink festival.  The Tour de France came through Harrogate in 2014, to commemorate the racing is a stunning depiction made in stained glass by Caryl Hallett, and also a huge wood carving on permanent display in the centre of the town. We were heading for Konak Meze, a stylish Turkish restaurant where we enjoyed a fabulous meal with great Turkish wine and attentive staff. Heading home by taxi, we were soon tasting one of Zena’s favourite cocktails – espresso martini – this is made from coffee, vodka and Kahlua (a coffee liqueur), and very good it was too!


Heading out by car next day we had decided on a fossil hunting trip to Staithes a few miles north of Whitby. We were lucky to have a partly sunny day and made our way down hill through a quaint and pretty village where we had a pub lunch before walking by the harbour directly onto the beach at low tide.

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Dramatic towering cliffs clearly showed the various lawyers of sedimentary rock, your eyes could follow the different colours and see fault lines altering and interrupting the longitudinal lines. Soon we were discovering small fossilised remains of squid and many clam shells, occasionally partial imprints of larger organisms and what looked life plant life too. Walking across rocks and boulders making our way to the far side of the bay, there were many fossils to look at and we were all quite engrossed with our discoveries.

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After a couple of hours and much scrambling up and down rocks, trying to keep our feet dry and not wanting to slip, we had walked some considerable distance and made our way into yet another bay to head inland.

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A mighty steep, uphill scramble ensued, much sweating and panting as we made our way along a tiny track between the stumpy bushes and brambles. In places we had a rope to help us up the really bad bits, deep steps had been dug out of the mud with timber added to create an easier way up, and near the end was a form of ladder in 3 sections leaning into the steep hillside that you had to traverse on all-fours! After at least 30 minutes of this last stretch, we finally reached tarmac and after gathering our breath, headed off across a field footpath, we arrived back at the car in 40 minutes. What an achievement, an exciting and different day out.

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That ladder was exhausting!

Unfortunately Zena had to work next day, but Adam took us to Ripley Castle near to Harrogate which was very interesting. We had a look at the surrounding walled gardens which still had much colour in the long borders, well kept lawns, tropical plant collection in the hot-houses, vegetable garden and rare fruit trees. There was a lakeside walk through picturesque parkland complete with an illusive herd of fallow deer, conspicuous by their absence! However, we didn’t walk in the park because we wanted to have a guided tour of the castle and it didn’t disappoint.

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Posing with my brother Adam!

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This Grade I Listed, country house was built in the 14th century with a tower at one end, part of it was destroyed by fire and is now Georgian. Belonging to the Ingleby family since 1308, surviving plagues, civil wars, religious persecution, involvement in the Gun Powder Plot, two world wars and numerous recessions, they have lived at the castle for 39 generations. The Georgian part of the castle has lovely light and spacious rooms with many portraits of the Ingleby family, great pieces of furniture, china and interesting artefacts. The tower luckily was not damaged by the fire and survived with all the wooden panelling around the walls. It was much darker inside than the previous part of the castle, however, it was very interesting with massive stone fireplaces and smaller windows. The first floor room had a secret ‘priest hole’ hidden behind the panelling and just big enough for a man be concealed. Sir William Ingleby was a Royalist and fought for Charles I at Marston Moor. The battle was lost to Oliver Cromwell who was a Palimentarian, he spent the night at Ripley Castle so William hid in the priest-hole and was never found. A fascinating day out with beautiful garden and grounds. No photography was allowed inside the castle but I hope you get the idea!


During our stay in Harrogate, Bessie had a rest on Adam and Zena’s drive while we stayed inside spending time together after our days out.

 

Posted in England

25th – 26th August – Chesterfield

20170825_161248Having arrived on site at Poolsbrook Country Park in Staveley, just a few miles from Chesterfield, after an uneventful 3 hour drive I was ready to chill out for the rest of the day. However, after only an hour we found ourselves walking to the nearby lake in beautiful sunshine, admiring the wild flowers and bird life on the water. The waters edge was lined with teasel, purple loosestrife, bull rushes and ragwort creating a colourful spectacle as we walked along the gravelled path circumnavigating the lake. Many great crested grebes graced the water collecting small fish for their young, still sporting their grey and white vertically stripped necks, looking very handsome in the late afternoon sunshine. Mute swans, black headed gulls, moorhens and mallard were accompanied by a motley gaggle of farmyard geese with a few strange looking crossbred geese.

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Returning to Bessie we had barbecued chicken skewers with mushrooms, courgette and onions before walking into Staveley along dedicated walking trails. Passing by old bridges, between tall oak, sycamore and hawthorn trees the vista sometimes looked out over fields into the distance. Chris had found a couple of pubs in The Good Beer Guide noted for their real ale, so we headed inside and tested their offerings. The light was fading rapidly and I felt very nervous walking along the darkened and well shadowed path back with bicycles and dogs appearing out of the gloom.

The sun was already shining next day when we planned our walk into Chesterfield via the canal towpath.

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A lovely late summer day stretched ahead as we set off, the pathway lined with pink great willowherb, red clover and remnants of the last purple knapweed. There was also the yellows of ragwort, tansy, toad flax and some type of Hypericum which looked bright under the trees. An ornate signpost showed distance and direction, one of 1,000 erected as part of the National Cycle Way.

We saw a sparrowhawk, some pretty orange dragonflies and several butterflies including small tortoiseshell, large white, small copper feeding on buddleia, speckled wood and a solitary red admiral. The tall skeletal giant hog weed with oval seeds silhouetted against the pale stretches of river reflecting the blue skies above, while fluffy thistle down sat in huge clusters against the hedgerow. It seems the seasons are changing with red hawthorn berries, colourful rosehips, hazel nuts and damsons showing Autumn’s bounty.

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After 7 miles and a couple of stops to rest awhile, we arrived in Chesterfield. The magnificent twisted spire of St Mary & All Saints Parish Church towered above the town with its golden cockerel glinting in the warm sunshine.

20170826_140324It is so spectacular and quite staggering that with its distortions it is still standing at all. The spire was added in the 14 century, it is 230 ft tall, (70m), made from unseasoned wood and clad with nearly 33 tons of lead, today it is twisting 45 degrees and leaning 9ft 6 in, (2.9m) from its true centre!

Going inside the stained glass windows are bright and colourful, the dark carved pulpit contrasts with the high altar with its ornate gold frieze and multi-tiered chandeliers. If front of the massive organ pipes, stands the original font that was missing for around 300 years. It had been rescued and hidden by parishioners when many churches were plundered and destroyed, and now stands in its rightful place.

A ‘tower tour’ was next on our agenda and we climbed the narrow, spiral stone steps to the top, pausing to admire the 11 bells, the heaviest weighing 1.23 tons (1,270kg). The wooden structure inside the spire looked quite haphazard but the twisting has not helped.

We went further on up more stone steps, finally a ladder led us onto the narrow walkway around two sides of the spire. It was scary for me and I stayed very close to the spire, looking up made me quite dizzy!

We could appreciate the marvellous views. Looking across the town with its lovely black and white buildings, large town hall, market stalls and the 21st century shops to the countryside beyond. We were so lucky to have an amazing clear afternoon. Coming down afterwards was not so easy with no handrails for half of it and the fear of slipping, but we made it in the end, the whole experience was well worth the effort.

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Posted in England

4th – 8th August – Sidmouth, Devon

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We joined the Bessacarr Owners Club when we bought Bessie and thought it might be nice to go to our first ever Rally to meet fellow motorhomers with a ‘Bessie’ of their own. Driving down to Sidmouth on a Friday afternoon on the A303 in the school holidays was not a wise or well thought out route. However after 3 hours we rolled up on the site, a small golf course transformed by many motorhomes, caravans and tents of every conceivable shape, size and age. Thankfully our small group of 14 people in 6 caravans and our motorhome fitted nicely into one corner of the grounds with trees at the back of us and plenty of people watching available in front of us.
We arrived at 5pm and literally after pulling on the hand brake and locking the doors, we were immediately invited to join everyone else for wine and cheese, masses of it! Getting to know everyone while eating a cheesy banquet, trying to remember names while drinking wine, and swapping stories about trips was a wonderful introduction to the group and it past 11pm when we went off to bed.
Our first goal next day was to attempt to put up our newly acquired, and ridiculously named, Privacy Room. It is 4 meters long by 2.5 meters wide and fits onto the wind-out canopy, having two sides and a front, complete with 3 large windows and a door. Private – I don’t think so. Anyway we accomplished it in a relatively acceptable time and it means we can store the table, chairs, sunbeds, BBQ, shoes etc without having to put them away every night.

 

 

That done, we disappeared to find the bus into Sidmouth town centre to have a look at the Folk Festival and accompanying Beer and Cider Festivals. As it was sunny we had a walk along the promenade and made our way up 50 steps to view the scene below while munching a very tasty ice cream and admired the Connaught gardens which have been constant winners of various awards since the 1980s.

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As we planned to spend the following day at the festival, we took the bus back and joined our fellows campers at our joint BBQ. We all contributed food items, a couple of chefs dealt with the cooking and we were soon tucking in to 2 types of Pimms by the jug-full, and all manner of food.

 

 

After coffee and Jill’s home made cakes on Sunday morning we decided to walk down to Sidmouth and after a short bit of busy road we made our way down a footpath and cycle track with mature trees and fields beyond. There was a small Nature Reserve with benches and noticeboards and further on it developed into an open space of trees, mown grass areas and gardens as it neared the town. Having worked up a thirst we decided to visit the Swan as there was live music, with a multitude of musicians playing small accordions, violins, various sized recorders and guitars. Everyone was so relaxed enjoying the music and sea shanties and as we can’t play or sing, we tried the beer and cider which was very good. Returning to the sea front we found the promenade heaving with people and craft stalls, and the streets were decked with flags and bunting, with lots of happy, smiling people enjoying the music, dancing and food on offer. We enjoyed fresh crab sandwiches on the promenade before winding our way through the streets, visiting another watering hole, before catching the bus back.

 

 


The weather was forecast to be rainy on Monday so we said our goodbyes and headed east to find better weather. Stopping at a campsite in Osmington for one night enabled us to visit Weymouth for the afternoon by bus. The beach is a long and wide curve of sand, complete with donkeys, helter-skelter, sand sculptures and ice-cream stalls at one end and a walkway the length of it passing a Nature Reserve at the far end. It was a little grey and breezy, so we opted to walk around by the harbour in the shelter of the quayside buildings and just happened upon a handy little pub with seating outside in the sun so we could watch the boats in comfort.

 

 


On our way back next day and not wanting to waste an opportunity, we decided to visit the Blue Pool at Furzebrook just south of Wareham. It is a disused clay pit and depending on the size of clay particles suspended in the water, the colour will vary from red-brown, grey, green to a blue/turquoise. It was more green and brown but still beautiful surrounded by paths among the pine trees and flowering heather which we meandered around for an hour before finally heading home.

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Posted in England

18th – 25th July – A Busy Week

With a lot of planning, telephone calls and emails, we finally pulled together a week travelling around in Bessie. We had three days at the Norfolk Motorhome Show, met up with family and friends en-route, and stayed in five different counties.
Oxfordshire was the first county staying at a small site in Tetsworth with mown pitches, roses and shrubs among mature trees. We met up with Wendy, my junior school friend, and soon made our way to Waterperry Gardens which were beautiful with colourful long borders. There were several sculptures including one of a boy on top of a beautiful ornate gate. After our evening meal together in their garden and lots of catching up, her husband John kindly returned us to Bessie.

 

 

 


Cambridgeshire followed on where we stayed at another small site, this time a grass field with electric hook ups on posts along one edge. Although the weather was dull and grey we walked back through the village, passing a fully working windmill on our way to visit the National Trust Wicken Fen Reserve. It was a nice walk alongside a canal and narrow boat, the fens had lots of wild flowers and rare Konic ponies, we saw marsh harriers, reed bunting, great spotted woodpecker and kingfisher among others. There was a rain streaked view across fields from the campsite to the village where we met up with Chris’ niece Lisa and husband Steve for our evening meal in the local pub, returning later to Bessie we finished the evening with brandy and coffee.

 


Norfolk was where we headed after breakfast, stopping off at RSPB Lakenheath with its fens to the side of the path, and huge poplars to shelter us from the wind and later on rain too. The only good birds we saw were a family of four marsh harriers including one parent making a food pass to a youngster. Continuing on to the Norfolk Show Ground near Norwich, we arrived around 4pm at the Motorhome Show for three days of fun. Apart from all the motorhomes to look at, there were many accessories, merchandise and sales goodies to investigate. Each night there was a music show which included Motown and Soul music, tribute acts too with Diana Ross, Four Tops, Michael Jackson, and lastly the original Jimmy James & The Vagabonds.

 

 

It was such good value for money as the three days including entertainment only cost £50, we took all our food and most of our drinks and made a couple of friends who we spent each evening with.

We also had an afternoon trip into nearby Norwich City and joined a walking tour with an enthusiastic guide showing and telling us about many historic highlights. It is a beautiful city with cobbled streets, stone and flint churches, city hall and the largest 6-days a week permanent market in the country, sadly there was no time to visit the cathedral so we will be going back!

 


Suffolk was our fourth county to visit my college friend Sue and husband Ron. Arriving in the small village of Woolpit our campsite was called Swan Lake and had a small paddock sheltered by tall trees, the good sized lake was to one side with several mallards but no swans! Having eaten lunch at the village pub together, we went back to their home for a cup of tea and chatted for a couple of hours, reminiscing about our agricultural secretarial course among other things.

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Surrey was the final county on our week of rambling. Arriving at Hoe Farm in Worplesdon to a mown camping field surrounded by pony paddocks, stables and trees, it was hard to imagine we were on the outskirts of Woking close to London. Taking the train after lunch we arrived at Guildford after 5 minutes meeting up with Chris’ cousin Ann and husband John. Following the River Wey and a canal called The Wey Navigation we headed into a park with a bronze sculpture and a family of swans, stopping at a couple of pubs as we went by. Later having caught up with each other’s news and holidays, we enjoyed an evening meal together before returning to Bessie for our last night.

 


It was a busy few days and very enjoyable too. The journey home was quick and the weather improved too, the sun finally coming out which had been lacking for most of our days away. We just have to book up Sidmouth in early August now ……

Posted in England

Bessie – Bessacarr, June 2017 …..

An unplanned series of events has lead us to change our motorhome sooner than planned. The idea was to investigate a shorter vehicle to change to in a few years time.  On our way home from Devon in May we stopped off at Chelston Motorhomes in Wellington, Somerset to look for a model we had researched.  Having looked around and weighed up various pros and cons, we eventually moved away from our previous ideas and instead of moving on ourselves, we continued looking, it was like kids in a sweet shop!

A Bessacarr took our attention and although the plan was only to look, we ended up ‘doing a deal’ and we were suddenly grinning like Cheshire cats 😆

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We unimaginatively nicknamed her ‘Bessie’, and took delivery in mid June, stopping for one free night at the dealership to test everything out and then moved on to Glastonbury for a a further night.  She is crucially shorter in length and at only 7.04m long she is easier to manoeuvre and position on a pitch. Her lighter weight at just 3.5 tons and a Low Profile model will also make fuel economy more efficient.

She has a pale coloured, modern interior with plenty of light coming through big windows. A well equipped kitchen with full cooker, grill, 3 gas rings and one electric, microwave, large fridge and good sized freezer section, this means we can continue to enjoy cooking while travelling. There is a dedicated shower room with great facilities that is  light and has plenty of floor space to move around comfortably. With access to two separate wardrobes and a small set of drawers there is also plenty storage for shoes and boots too.

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The front seats swivel to face the two long comfortable side seats giving plenty of space for daytime relaxing and a wall mounted TV for evening entertainment.  Having moved away from a dedicated bedroom to get a shorter vehicle, we have been very pleased with the seating that quickly and easily converts into a large double bed, or two separate single beds if required, both with ample storage beneath. Add to that, the dedicated bedding called Duvalays, that have a memory foam mattress contained within purpose made cotton covers zipped to the quilts which throw over you as in a regular bed, we are ‘snug as bugs in a rug’. The bed is made in 3 minutes, while storing under the seating during the day means no clutter either.

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As you can tell, we know we made a good decision to change our motorhome sooner rather than later. We gained valuable and lengthy experience with 7 weeks travelling around Spain in Della,  but it was time to let someone else enjoy her.  The things we learned will enable us to keep our dreams of adventure going for many more years with Bessie as our means of transport and mobile home.