Thursday, 31 December 2015

Another Year Closer

It's New Year's Eve and we're parked up at Fairbourne in Wales, overlooking a stormy sea, with rain lashing the windscreen and the dark clouds rolling in….and it's just started to thunder and lightning!  We'll be heading off to the campsite at Graig Wen shortly for three nights.  So with some peace and solitude, with the seagulls battling the winds overhead, it seems a good time to reflect on the year.

2015 seems to have flown by.  It only feels a short while since I was writing about 2014 and all that happened; certainly this year has been much better.  We finally took ownership of our camper van - El Nido - in April, after a long struggle.  The first converter made a real mess of it and, we found out later, had ripped off many of his 'customers'.  I reported him to Trading Standards, who prosecuted him.  He initially pleaded Not Guilty but, with overwhelming evidence, he changed his mind and pleaded guilty to all six charges in court on 1 October.  This meant I didn't need to attend and give evidence, but in some ways I would have liked my day in court.  He's also being prosecuted by the police for various other offences and that trial starts in less than two weeks, on completion of which 'our' charges will be taken into consideration when sentencing.  Hopefully he'll get what he deserves.

But we've put all that behind us now and we were really pleased with the conversion completed by A&E Services in Anderton.  We took delivery of the van on 16 April and the next day drove down to the Peterborough Showground for the National Motorhome Show, but more importantly, the annual gathering of the Myrtle's Mates Massed Meet Up - a group of like-minded motor homers from around the country.  We always have fun when we meet up with them but, by God, it was cold in the marquee this year!  We followed this up with another MMMMU at the Malvern Motorhome Show in August, when the weather was much kinder.  We're already booked in for Peterborough in April 2016 and look forward to more laughter with a few drinks and a BBQ.

So once we had 'El Nido' we were able to start to live the dream.  Considering we've only had him for 8 months, we've covered a lot of ground and enjoyed lots of weekends away.  One of the earlier ones was a return to the Llyn Peninsular over Cathy's birthday, including another overnight stop at our favourite spot - Porth Iago.  Our big trip this year was to France again, starting in late June for two weeks.  We visited some of Normandy, including 'Skipper's Bar' - a small, family-run bar we found about 15 years ago that serves the best Moules Frites.  The little children we met when we first visited after they recently opened the bar were now teenagers and helping their mum and dad.  We stopped off in Brittany before heading down to Ile d'Oleron, where we spent five lovely days in hot, sunny weather.  On the way north we also witnessed Stage 7 of the Tour de France, which was on my birthday - what a day that was!  We also spent a week in Yorkshire, staying in Swaledale and the areas around Malham and Gordale Scar.  The late August bank holiday was a bit of a wash out, but the weather improved and we enjoyed some lovely walks in sunshine later that week.  We also had a few good weekends away, particularly at the end of this year when the weather has been rough - stormy and very wet - but it's been a good test for the van.  We've had a few niggly problems, but A&E soon sorted that out and, with a recently fitted new awning, the van's looking good and ready for the years to come.

So 2015 has passed quickly and, as we get ready to move into 2016 at midnight tonight, we're planning our major trips for next year.  Our fortnight in Europe will hopefully cover four countries - France, Belgium, Germany (along the Mosel Valley) and Luxembourg. For our week trip, we're thinking of returning to Northumberland, where we spent our first ever motorhome trip. We like the vastness and solitude of the place - lovely in any weather.  And no doubt we'll have a few weekend trips away to break up our working weeks.  The year 2016 will also bring us another year closer to our dream of giving up work and spending the winters in the sunshine of southern Spain and Portugal.  We continue to plan for this and save all we can to reach the financial independence we'll need to make it happen, whenever it happens......


We'll no doubt have our usual quiet New Year's Eve and wake early tomorrow for what we hope will be a better day weather-wise, so we can get out for a walk.  Whatever you're doing today, tonight and next year, we wish you a very happy, healthy and successful New Year.  

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Blowing a hooley in Lancashire

It's been about six weeks since we went away in El Nido and we were ready for a break.  It was our 32nd wedding anniversary on Thursday, so we thought a short trip away would be a good way to celebrate.....

Friday 27 November 2015
We drove up to Nido's storage home, stored and provisioned him up, topped up the fresh water tank and hit the road.  Our first stop was a Britstop (#619), a pub in rural Lancashire, about 45  minutes drive away.  We arrived at about 2.30pm and parked up at the end of the car park with plenty of room around us.  We popped in to let the landlady know we were there and had a drink to chill out and start our weekend.  After a snooze in the van we went back to the pub later to have a bite to eat.  The staff were friendly and the food was filling, wholesome pub grub.  By now the weather was turning - high winds and rain - but luckily our commute from van to pub was short!

Saturday 28 November 2015
The next morning we woke at about 0830 and had a lazy breakfast; we've perfected making toast in a dry frying pan on the gas hob.  With everything stowed, we drove out of the village and on to the M6 heading north.  Our next stop was an 'Aire' on the seafront at Lytham St Annes.  This is an experiment by Fylde Council and it seems to be working out.  When we arrived three vans were already parked up in the seven spaces reserved for motorhomes, tucked behind the Toby Carvery on the seafront.  It costs £5 per night (or £8 for a day/night ticket) and you can stay for a maximum of three nights.  I reversed us into a space at the end, overlooking the cinema car park and we had a brew while watching the sea boil in front of us; the tide was in and with the increasingly strong wind blowing onshore, the seas were quite high.  I had planned to walk to a fish and chip shop, but with the strong winds and torrential rain I'd have been soaked very quickly (people walking around the corner into the car park were almost being blown over).  So we drove to a nearby pub car park with the chippy just across the road.  With our fish, chips and mushy peas back in the van, I drove us back to the aire and we enjoyed them sat in the van, with a bottle of cava!  It was clear the weather wasn't going to improve any time soon, in fact it was worsening, so we spent the afternoon in the van reading and watching the storm rather than going out for our planned walk along the beach or prom.  With the cinema adjacent we'd already decided to go and see 'The Lady in the Van', which seemed appropriate!  The tickets were only £3.50 each.  The cinema felt a bit like a portacabin inside, with small, flea-pit seating and screens.  Thankfully it was warm inside so we soon settled down, enjoying the film while listening to the howling wind outside and the rain beating against the flat roof!  Back in the van, it was rocking in the gusts, but luckily had sprung no leaks, nor lost any attachments or skylights! So we settled down for a game of Scrabble before crashing out with a good book.




Wet and windy view towards the beach

Fish, chips, mushy peas......and Cava!

Nido parked up on the Aire
Sunday 29 November 2015
It was very stormy in the night and we woke several times to torrential rain and very strong gusts of wind straight off the sea, but Nido did us proud, keeping us safe and toasty warm. After breakfast we wrapped ourselves up, hats, scarves and gloves on, hoods up (and wellies on for C) and braved the storm.  Luckily, we'd hit a weather window with no rain, although the winds were still storm force.  The tide was out so luckily we were able to walk along the beach, crunching across deep lines of mussel and very large razor clam shells. Turning into the wind with arms outstretched, we were able to lean right into it - great fun! We were out for about 45 minutes and really enjoyed being out in the extreme weather after a long period of enforced van time.  Faces glowing and hair a mess (Cathy's not mine!) we made a brew and had some lunch before braving the weather to drive down a very wet and blustery motorway.

Back home, Cathy sorted out the inside of the van, while I added some cleaning fluid to the grey and fresh water tanks, emptied and cleaned the loo cassette and washed the sea salt from the outside of the van.  I then emptied all the water tanks and Truma holding tank in case we didn't get to use the van through the winter, although we plan to get away over New Year if the weather's not icy.  Nido is heading off to A&E in the morning to have the awning replaced, then he'll be back into storage for our New Year trip.  A short but enjoyable trip.

A brief spell of sunshine during our walk

Leaning into the storm-force winds!


Saturday, 10 October 2015

Flagg - Peak District

Nido's parked up on a CL in the village of Flagg in the Peak District.  We slept well last night on our new mattress topper (highlight of our week!) and after breakfast left the Britstop and drove back to the Sainsbury's we visited last night to get a few food items.

It only took about half an hour to drive here.  There were already four caravans on site, using up all the hard standings.  I pulled over and went to the cottage to check in with the owner.  She seemed surprised that we were in a campervan (it is the Caravan Club after all!).  With all four hard standing pitches taken, she suggested we 'pitched' on the track that encircles the site, in case we messed up the grass.  I thought to myself why not just add one more hard standing, after all CLs are meant to be a maximum of five pitches anyway.  But I bit my tongue, nodded, thanked her and drove around to reverse onto the grass in a flattish area so I could reach the EHU point.  I had no wish to block the driveway for other CL users and hadn't paid £12 to park there with little outside space or easy access to hook up!

Cathy sorted out our picnic and made a flask for our tea, while I hooked us up to electric and grabbed rucksacks and walking boots from the back of the van.  We were soon heading off on a 6 mile walk via the villages of Taddington and Chelmorton.  It took us through fields and over stiles built into the dry stone walls.  It was a bit misty when we left but gradually brightened and warmed up.  We had our lunch in Chelmorton before walking back in a cooler and fresher wind.  Back at the van I unpacked while Cathy soaked her muddy feet in the purple bucket filled with hot water - she'd worn walking sandals.  I set up the iBoost which worked well for an hour or so before losing contact - I think it might be that the BT Wifi with Fon kicks us out after a certain period of time - and no amount of coercing would make it reconnect. 

We could hear the unusual sound of an owl in the afternoon sun - maybe it's an owl who's afraid of the dark - that would be a great title for a children's book! Once Cathy was done sitting outside (ie she had cleaned her dirty feed in the purple bucket!), we shut the door and popped on the heating for a quiet night in, just chilling out.  I cooked a southern pepper chicken curry from a curry kit Nicola and Chris bought for my birthday - very tasty and easy to cook in Oska. The rest of our evening was spent reading and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Nice pitch on the CL - until the sap from the trees descended

Small farming enclosures - several hundred years old




Friday, 9 October 2015

Britstop 607

We're parked up in the car park of Britstop 607 - pub - between Macclesfield and Leek.  In line with the Britstop rules, we only give the number to ensure only members know where it is - if you want to know more you'll need to buy the book!  It took us about an hour from picking up El Nido to arriving. I rang the pub earlier in the day and was reassured that they knew about Britstops (the last one we tried said they didn't even though they were in the book!) and had space.  I parked up in the far corner and we walked in ready for something to eat.   The welcome from both staff and the few locals at the bar was warm, but we then found out they didn't yet have a working PDQ machine due to a very recent change in landlord, so we could only pay in cash. We didn't have enough so we had to drive off again to the Sainsbury's superstore a few miles down the road, grab some money from the ATM and return to our old parking spot.

Money in hand I ordered some drinks while we looked at the menu - Cathy had a steak and I went for the house burger, which was homemade and delicious.  After a chat, a couple of drinks and well fed, we said our goodnights and returned to the van.  We'd bought a duvalay memory foam mattress topper for our double bed and we're looking forward to a warmer and more comfortable night's sleep - rock and roll lifestyle!



Sunday, 27 September 2015

Back in Ellesmere



We're taking as many short weekends as we can before the winter starts in anger although, even then, so long as it's not snowing or icy, we plan to use the van throughout.

This weekend was spent on a CL in Shropshire - Birch Hill - about a mile outside the market town of Ellesmere.  After picking up El Nido from storage on Friday evening, we drove down the A49 and arrived at about sunset; the owner was cutting the grass on a sit-on mower as we drove up the long drive and pointed out the pitches.  The CL is spread across 2 acres but they stick to the 5-pitch rule, so there's plenty of room. We chose to park up near the farmhouse, on top of the hill and with 360' views, including the hills of the Welsh borders. Electric plugged in, we enjoyed a glass of red wine as the stew Cathy had made earlier in the day warmed up in Oska (our Remoska oven).  The site was very quiet and after dinner and a long day we were soon nodding off.

Next morning after breakfast we made a packed lunch and headed out for a 10 mile walk; the day was surprisingly warm for the time of the year, with unbroken sunshine and no wind. The walk started from the Mere at Ellesmere (makes sense how the town got its name now I re-read this!), but we had a mile to walk to the start point.  It started with walking around the western edge of the Mere through a park and gardens.  It was at this point that Cathy had a bit of flash back to her childhood.  She always remembered visiting some old aunties who lived in three small adjacent cottages and walking down to some water to feed the waterbirds and paddle in the shallows.  But in her mind she thought this was Ellesmere Port. Now all became clear as she recalled the exact spot where she paddled around 45 years previously.  

The walk continued to the top of the Mere before heading off across rolling fields - lovely countryside with soft green hills, rarely used footpaths and, thankfully no angry cows (or 'bovins' as we've now nicknamed them after seeing a sign by a field in France).  Eventually we joined a narrow, hedge-lined country lane and followed this into the village of Welshampton.  Passing through the village, we crossed over the main road to walk out of the village before reaching a bridge over the Shropshire Union canal, where we dropped down to follow this all the way back to Ellesmere.  It was extremely peaceful and very warm in the sunshine and we stopped off along the way to eat our lunch.  After a few miles we were back in the town and had a wander around; a typical small market town with a few independent shops including a nice looking deli (we resisted!).  We walked back up the main road out of town and to the CL, arriving as a couple in a caravan were setting us.  We sat outside in the sunshine, enjoying a brew and the peace.  Chatting to the couple, they had just sold their house in Northwich and had bought a new house in Ellesmere, which was currently being finished off.  They planned to stay on the campsite for about 4 weeks, which would allow them time to fit carpets and so on before moving into their new house, close to their son and his family in a local village.  They'd over-wintered in Spain over several years to it was interesting to hear where they stayed and the best winter weather spots.


Later, as the sun started to set, we enjoyed a G&T before spotting a hot air balloon as it rose above the trees and slowly flew over - the air was very still, no breeze at all. The CL owner joined us and said they see them quite often as they're made in Oswestry, a few miles up the road.  Dinner eaten, we played a word game (I won!) and read for a while before heading off to bed.

The next morning was again clear, warm and sunny. After a lazy breakfast Cathy secured inside the van while I emptied waste then we drove off, heading for the Llangollen area but with nowhere in particular in mind to stop.  On the way through the town we spotted the sign for Horseshoe Falls, so followed the road up and managed to get a space in the free car park.  The view from there, down to the falls was lovely.  We had a walk around then followed the canal towpath towards Llangollen.  On the way we took some metal steps down to the rocks alongside the river and watched some kayakers shooting the rapids - looked fun!  Back on the towpath we eventually arrived at the marina and dropped down into the town, which was really busy.  We'd made the basic error of not taking our lunch with us, so ended up buying a couple of oggies, one of which we ate at down by the river on the way back.  Back at the van, we made a brew and chilled out for a while before driving back to storage and home.




Thursday, 17 September 2015

Campervan Glossary of Terms

We've met quite a few motorhomers and hope to meet many more on our travels.  They all have various motorhoming terms for different things, problems, jobs and so on.  I follow the Our Tour blog and recently read an old post of theirs called The Dave Motorhoming Glossary.  It made me realise that we also have our own Campervan Glossary of Terms, which I've shared below for anyone interested.  A couple are cloned unashamedly from Our Tour (ie 'Go Nido Go!) - thanks for the inspiration guys! - but the rest of the terms have grown in direct proportion to our own campervan trip experiences.  I'll no doubt add to this as we go along, but for now:


“Fire and carbon monoxide alarms are about to be tested, no action is to be taken” - Royal Naval-type ‘pipe’ before testing both alarms.


“Fire and carbon monoxide alarms test complete, obey all further alarms” - when the alarm tests are done.


Secure for Sea State 7 - preparations to drive off, named after the need to secure for SS7 when a warship proceeds to sea.  EHU unhooked, all external lockers locked, step in, all skylights and habitation area windows closed, all lockers and cupboards closed, all items stowed away, main control panel off, Fridge to battery.


Go Nido Go! - when we need to get a quick move on when on the road - normally when joining a dual carriageway or motorway or when pulling out of a junction.  Could also be used when climbing a particularly steep road or starting a trip.


No Nido No! - when we need to stop rather suddenly and unexpectedly, such as traffic jams, roadworks, speed bumps or the road’s not clear to pull out.


Interweb juice - wifi (preferably free) or remaining data usage on a SIM card.


Moving juice - diesel.  The game is to find the cheapest in the area.


Cooking juice - LPG.  Same game as diesel.  Also used for heating (ie cooking us!).


Loo juice - the contents of the toilet cassette.  It’s Paul’s job to empty the Loo juice “I’m about to empty the Loo juice - all users log off!”


Anker juice - not another naval term!  This is the charging unit for powering up phones, tablets and kindles when wild camping. “My phone needs some Anker juice.”

Laughing juice - the liquid served at 'Beer o'clock' (see below) that can lead to much laughing or unprompted giggling! This is a 'guest' term suggested by Martin Dorey (@campervanliving and author of The Campervan Cookbook)


Dump the Grey - not a reference to divorcing Cathy!  It’s about emptying the grey waste tank (shower and washing up waste water).  


Fridge to battery - ready for running it off the engine alternator when driving.


Fridge to electric - when on electric hook up (normally campsites)


Fridge to gas - when no electric hook up (normally aires and wild camping)


Is it me or is it hot in here? - open some doors, windows or skylights (depending on whether driving or stationary).


Is it me or is it cold in here? - close some doors, windows or skylights (depending on whether driving or stationary).  Could also result in putting on more clothes or (last resort!) putting on the heating.


Beer o’clock (aka wine o’clock, gin o’clock etc) - the sun is over the yardarm (somewhere) so time to relax with some alcohol - always and only when stationary on a campsite or aire though!


Nagivator - the Garmin GPS or, on occasion, the person sat in the passenger cab seat!


Oska - the Remoska electric ‘oven’, used when on EHU.


Flo - a large pot that combines pressure cooker, casserole pot, steamer etc.  Named as such because it belonged to Cathy’s Mum - Flo.


Purple Bucket - a purple ‘trug’ bucket with two handles, normally used for gardening.  This has a multitude of uses including washing up, washing clothes, emptying grey water, storing muddy boots & wellies, soaking sore feet.


Paddie - the iPad.  Could also be used to refer to the Nexus 7 tablet.


Fire up the Safari - connect up and light the Cadac Safari gas BBQ.  


Brew view - the view from any of the windows or the opening sliding door while enjoying a mug of tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Welsh Weekend

We like to get away in Nido at least twice a month, even if only for a short weekend away.  It gives us something to look forward to and acts like a mini-holiday.  We keep an eye on the weather forecast but if we made a ‘Go/No Go’ decision based on that, we’d never go anywhere!  Besides, we need to give the storage site a couple of days’ notice when we take the van away, so we normally just go for it.  In the past 6 weeks we’ve only had one weekend at home and then we weren’t too sure what to do with our time.  Next weekend we have a list of outside jobs to do, but this weekend we planned a trip to Anglesey, via a visit to a friend in Prestatyn.

Friday 11 September 2015
On our last trip away in Yorkshire, we had a couple of water leaks - one on the sliding door (felt covering overlapping the rubber seal) and one in the bathroom (dodgy tap).  Nido was booked into A&E (the name of the company that built him, not a hospital for campervans!) for last Monday to fix both; the former was done but they had to order a new tap, so he went back in on Friday to have the new tap fitted.  Cathy managed the A&E visits and brought the van home later in the morning, packing clothes, dry food and filling up with fresh water.  We have space to keep Nido across our drive for the odd night, but couldn’t keep him there permanently unless we made some changes to our drive and got rid of a car, not an option right now.

I returned from work at about 1730 and, after a quick turnaround and loading up the fridge, we hit the road.  Our first night was going to be spent ‘wild-camping’ at Prestatyn Golf Club.  Our friend - Julia - runs the Yew Tree Restaurant at the club, which is open to members of the public.  She’s been there a few months but is already getting good reviews for her food.  It was a warm evening and the traffic wasn’t too bad, so we made good time and arrived just over an hour later.  Coincidentally, Cathy’s sister - Maggie - was spending the weekend with Julia, so it was lovely to see her too.  On arrival we called them to find out where best to park - the answer was outside Julia’s flat, which would provide maximum protection from rogue golf balls!  Once we’d settled in Julia took us all off in her car for fish and chips, which we ate sat on the concrete wall on Prestatyn beach.  It was still warm although a bit windy and we could see a lot of dark cloud building to the west (ie in the direction we were heading tomorrow!) but we didn’t get rained on and Cathy & Maggie enjoyed their barefoot walk on the sands, with the tide out.  

Back at the golf club, we sat in Nido for a brew and a chat before moving to Julia’s flat; she wanted some help with restoring an iPad to factory settings - it’s very rare I’m asked to help with anything technical and some of my work colleagues would laugh reading this, given my ‘technical dyslexia’!.  I also had the chance to have a look around her galley (naval speak for kitchen).  It’s quite small for such a large operation but she’s planning to replace some of the equipment soon which will really help her.  All of us were feeling weary so it wasn’t a late night and we soon retired to Nido.


Our 'wild camping' spot at Prestatyn Golf Club
Saturday 12 September 2015
It was a wet and windy night outside.  The sliding door didn’t leak, but we were in quite a protected spot, so we need to test this properly in the wilds - shouldn’t take too long for the opportunity in this country!  After breakfast in the van, I filled up fresh water then Julia invited us up for a bacon buttie and a brew - how could we refuse a second breakfast!  She was gearing up for what would be a busy day; we had no idea that a wedding party would be arriving at 1800 that evening and had we known we’d have left her early to focus on that.  She seemed very calm about it all whereas I would have been in panic mode by then!  Still, she seems to be enjoying the challenge and we have no doubt she’ll be successful.  Eating our butty, the rain lashed down outside but eventually started to tail off, so we took the opportunity to say our goodbyes to Julia and Maggie and continue our journey to Anglesey.

Our first stop on Anglesey was the Halen Mon sea salt centre.  They have recently opened a new store and visitor centre and increased their opening days, which meant we could visit on a Saturday. It’s in a lovely spot in the south east of the island, just across the road from the straits. They do tours of the manufacturing process for £6 per adult, but we only wanted to look around the shop.  We bought a variety of lovely sea salt; they also sell other related products and it’s well worth a visit.  Leaving Halen Mon, we drove through the middle of the island, along some fairly narrow country lanes, but with plenty of passing places, before arriving at Lligwy Bay.  The car park is large and a bit bumpy in places, but there was space overlooking the beach.  We parked up next to a coachbuilt motorhome; there were about 4 motorhomes already there and looking like they stayed overnight.  I went into the cafe to pay for our overnight stop - £10 - quite expensive for a basic car park with no facilities but the view is great and, hey, UK isn’t cheap for motorhome stopovers.  Once settled in we enjoyed the handmade pasties Julia gave us - delicious - with a brew, looking out over the beach and the sea.  The tide was out, so we decided to take a walk along the coastal path, heading towards the village of Moelfre.  The weather was good and we were soon down to t-shirts and shorts, stopping occasionally to take a look at the rock formations and out to sea, before passing the RNLI lifeboat station and walking into the village.  Moelfre is quite a large village, with a small waterfront with a pub, cafe and a restaurant - Ann’s Pantry - which we ate at a few years ago, very good it was too.  After a loo stop we reversed our route and returned to Lligwy for a brew.  Later in the afternoon we took our seats down to the beach, with a G&T (Cathy) and a beer (me) to enjoy the sunshine.  But soon the clouds were building so we returned to the van, making it in time to avoid the heavy rain.  But we enjoyed the view, sat in the cab seats overlooking the sea, including some a great rainbow later, which fell on the beach and gradually moved out to sea.  Despite the heavy rain the sliding door didn’t leak, so hopefully that’s now fixed.  I cooked dinner in the van - lamb chops with a greek salad made by Cathy earlier.  We shared a bottle of Portugese Rose and then, perhaps foolishly, opened a bottle of red.  Washed up and everything put away, we watched the sunset over the cliffs before heading down to the beach in the dark, with a little light left in the sky, for a walk and a giggle!  Then back to the van for some hot chocolate before sleep.


Halen Mon sea salt visitor centre and shop

Brew view

On the coastal path towards Moelfre

Fisherman's cottages in Moelfre

Sundowners on the beach!
  

Sunday 13 September 2015
We woke to grey skies but it felt quite warm out.  I made a brew; Cathy had hers in bed and I stepped out to drink mine looking out over the beach.  Breakfast was bacon and egg muffins, cooked on the Cadac Safari BBQ outside, and enjoyed sat at a table and chairs on the grass in front of the van.  We took a morning walk along the beach, with a paddle in the ebbing tide, as the cloud gradually broke to give us warm (occasionally hot) sunshine, with hardly any breeze.  Families were arriving to enjoy the beach time and it felt like mid-summer, not mid-September.  We took our chairs down and I later made lunch (more pasties - thanks Julia!) which we enjoyed out in the fresh air.  After a bit of a wander along the beach and a read, it was time to pack up and head home.  We enjoyed our short weekend in Wales, somewhere we always seem to return to.


Great breakfast spot



Sunday, 6 September 2015

Blue skies

Sunday 6 September 2015

This morning it's blue sky, hot sunshine and no breeze - must be home time!  It was cold in the night so Cathy flicked on the heating for half an hour before I made a brew.  I took my mug outside, enjoying the peace and quiet.  While Cathy sorted out the inside of the van, I set up for breakfast outside - toast (using our new dry frying pan method - I think I had it too hot as Cathy's was better!), fried chorizo and baked beans.  We're just about out of fresh food and little milk, so it was a last day improvised breakfast, eaten outside in the sunshine with huge views - this truly is an amazing place.

We'll be making our way home in a couple of hours, back to clean the van inside and out, put everything away and prepare for back to work.  Nido's booked in to A&E tomorrow to sort out the water leaks.  We've had a really good week in Yorkshire, mainly good weather for this part of the country and time of the year, just a couple of days rain.  We've stayed in some lovely places, had some great, sometimes challenging walks and I cycled some of the Tour route I rode with Ray last week.  Again, it feels like we've been away much longer than a week, we've really relaxed and enjoyed our last holiday before our next holiday in July next year.







Saturday, 5 September 2015

Peaceful Gordale

Saturday 5 September 2015

We slept well last night, no doubt due to the inky darkness and quietness.  Cathy went off to walk up to the end of the gorge to take some photos, while I put the kettle on.  We tried a new trick for breakfast - making toast in a dry frying pan on the gas ring.  This worked out fine so if we want toast in the future when not on EHU, we have the option.

We left for our walk at about 1000, turning left out of the campsite and up a steep road - got the blood flowing!  At the top we crossed the hillside, passing the site of a Roman marching camp, although there was nothing remaining to see.  We eventually met the road we walked on yesterday, not far from Malham Tarn, this time taking a slightly different route than yesterday to bypass Malham Cove. We stopped on the way for lunch, sat on the limestone pavement.  We reached the road and walked down into Malham village, which was busy with walkers and others eating and drinking outside the two pubs.  This morning we did the equivalent of searching down the back of the sofa and cobbled together about £12 in change - this meant we could do some shopping, not that Malham has much!  But we found a bottle of Italian red in the gift shop cum cafĂ©, so bought this plus a packet of crisps each - last of the big spenders!  We followed the road back to Gordale Scar and the campsite.

It was much busier on the campsite, but mainly with what appeared to be day trippers in their cars - bit strange for a campsite. El Nido was closely surrounded by about 6 cars - a large group of Middle Eastern people - men sat on a rug making tea on an open fire and the women separately, behind a windbreak, with lots of children running about, clearly enjoying the freedom and adventure of the countryside.  We sat outside with a brew, but these families were very noisy, also playing loud music, making it hard to enjoy the peace and quiet of the campsite and the surroundings, so we sat in the van to read and try and get some quiet time.  The clearly enjoyed their BBQs and it was good to see families out enjoying themselves, but a little more respect for those around them would have been nice.

Dinner tonight was vegetable fried rice, cooked outside but eaten inside due to the cold, although clear evening.  Once we'd washed up and it was getting dark, we took a walk to the end of the gorge to see and hear the waterfall in the fading light.   Our noisy neighbours left at about 2230 and we stepped out into the cold and very dark night to look at the stars - amazing with no light pollution.

No better bath than a Radox bath in the sunshine!

*snigger....*












Friday, 4 September 2015

Gordale Scar - Amazing!

Friday 4 September 2015

My buddy Dave Bonas reminded me this morning that it's 36 years to the day that we joined the Royal Navy at HMS RALEIGH at the tender age of 16 as Junior Assistant Writers (2nd Class) - you couldn't get any lower than that!  Where has the time (and our hair and six-packs!) gone?

El Nido is parked at the campsite at Gordale Scar.  This is an amazing place, a deep, steep-sided limestone gorge with several waterfalls.    We woke quite early this morning and were up and about by 0800.  I'd not slept well - ill in the night - so I felt a little out of sorts.  All packed away, waste dumped and topped up with fresh water, I paid for our stay - we'll definitely return to Kettlewell.  The drive took us over the hill tops, along narrow, winding and very steep roads.  Luckily there were plenty of passing places so that made it less stressful on the driver - me!  We drove straight to Gordale Scar but I forgot to stop at the Farm Shop to get some Yorkshire Chorizo, chicken and wine - my bad.  I thought we'd be able to get some groceries in Malham during our walk - another poor assumption!

The campsite is very informal - no pitches - just go where you want.  The owner is a bit......eccentric is probably the kindest word.  The entrance is full of junk, bags of old newspapers and hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of empty disposable BBQ trays.  I eventually tracked him down to what I thought was an abandoned caravan; I think he lives in it.  At £10 per night this is a bargain, even with very basic facilities.  So we drove down, found a level pitch, close to the beck and surrounded by sheep and prepared for our walk.

Leaving the van with our rucksacks we walked up the gorge to the waterfall at the end.  The guide said we could scramble up the left side of the waterfall to climb up to meet the path at the top.  Maybe 20 years ago!, although Cathy was keen.  There was an alternative route, back out of the campsite and climbing around the spur of the gorge side, to meet the waterfall path at the top.  We stopped at the summit for lunch, overlooking the campsite, with Nido a tiny toy van down below by the stream, surrounded by sheep.
End of Gordale Scar
On we walked, at a high level with great views all around, before dropping down to Malham Tarn, a large lake.  We walked alongside this for a while before rejoining the Pennine Way and walking through a dry river bed up to the top of Malham Cove.  The view from here was amazing and we enjoyed walking across the deeply-creviced limestone pavements.  We stopped here for a brew before descending via the steep steps to the bottom of the cove.  We walked to the end, with the stream water coming up from an underground spring at the base of the cliffs.  Above us a few madsters were rock climbing.  We followed the path out into Malham village, hoping to buy a few groceries - no joy, just a couple of pubs, tea-shops and a little shop selling not much except for ice cream and frisbees!  So we'll need to make our victuals last for two days.

Top of Malham Cove - great place for a brew and a chill

Cathy's always wanted to walk the limestone pavement
Cooling feet but what she *really* wants to do is wild swim!
On the way back we stopped at Janet's Foss, a waterfall surrounded by trees and with a great swimming pool at its base.  Cathy had a paddle but really wanted to swim.  In the ash trees were about a dozen bee houses made out of books about bees - all a bit beezarre ;-)

Back at the van we sat outside with a brew until the sun disappeared behind the gorge, before preparing dinner outside (pork & Apple cheeseburgers, salad, sautĂ© potatoes) and eating it inside to avoid the midges.  Washed up and locked away, we sat in the van as night quickly descended.  With no artificial light here at all it is proper dark by 2030.  We finished off with some hot chocolate before crashing after another enjoyably physical day.






Boots recovering as the sun sets

Not a bad dining room view is it?

To those free-climbing up Gordale Scar, this is much, much harder! ;-)

Great lunch spot on top of Gordale Scar - can you see Nido on the campsite below?


Thursday, 3 September 2015

Hooray - I rode the Cray!

Thursday 3 September 2015

We both slept well after our huge meal last night.  It was a bit chilly in the van (the wind had increased overnight and it was fresher outside), so I put the heating on and snoozed for a bit longer.  I made a brew and also my breakfast - toast and peanut butter, yum! - while Cathy stayed in bed with her tea.  It had been dry overnight but started to spit with rain, but I really wanted to get out on my bike today.  So I changed into my kit, unlocked the bike from the rack and filled my jacket pocket with all the usual cycling stuff - pump, phone, cash, inhaler, banana! 

I turned left out of the campsite and then left again after crossing the river.  This took me on a quiet backroad out of the village and towards Kilsney.  It was fairly quiet with only the odd car, postvan driven by Stirling Moss (they all drive like that!) and one horse, but no other cyclists.  I had intended to cycle over to Kilsney then back along the main road, but realised this minor one would take me all the way to Grassington, so carried on for a few more miles.  I recognised the middle of Grassington from last year and rode out to the main road, back towards Kilsney.  This took me past the Wharfedale Caravan Club site and I was soon approaching Kilsney, with the marquees from this week's show still up in the Velofest fields where Ray and I camped last year.  Opposite is the Kilsney Park Estate, which includes trout fishing where you can catch own.  I stopped to watch some fly fishermen and witnessed one land a lovely trout of about 3 pounds.  Carrying on, I passed the spot Ray and I stood for four hours waiting for the Tour riders and was soon back in Kettlewell.  I carried on, riding up the road through Starbotton and Buckden, where we had a fine sausage buttie and cup of tea in the church hall on our bike ride last year.  From here the road starts to wind up the hillside, getting gradually steeper and windier closer to the summit.  I was starting to feel the effects of the climb, breathing hard and trying to stay in a nice cycling rhythm.  I reached the last big twist and climb, a real kick needed to get over onto the top of Col de Cray again!  I took a photo, sent Ray a quick text then spent a while catching my breath, eating the banana and drinking water.  By now it was getting a bit chilly in the wind, so I turned around for the steep descent.  Unlike Ray, I'm a descent chicken so took my time, particularly those sections of the road that were both wet and covered in cow shit!  But past this I enjoyed the fast, winding descent and was soon back at the campsite, having really enjoyed my 25 miles riding.

Bike and kit put away, I used the campsite shower then sat in the van (out of the rain) with a pot of coffee.  Cathy had done her usual clean and tidy up so all was in good order.  I set up the iBoost to piggy-back on the BT Fon wifi signal and we had an hour catching up, particularly with our friends who are on a long trip in Spain and were watching some of the Vuelta stages - looked lovely and warm there! I also had an email from Steve at Britstops.  He'd checked with the landlady of the pub we tried and failed to stay at.  It appears they're still involved but perhaps the man I spoke to knew nothing about it.  Lesson learned - always ask for the named contact at any Britstop when enquiring about staying over.

Although it was spitting with rain on and off, we went for a stroll around the village, mainly to stretch Cathy's aching legs!  We wondered around, down narrow streets and lanes, looking at the lovely stone -clad cottages to find a small one with parking for Nido!  We stopped off at the village shop for some milk, marmalade and some Yorkshire curd tart for Cathy; they also had some funny birthday cards that will suit some unsuspecting friends! Back at the van, with it still raining, we had a brew (and Cathy her tart), then I started on this post while Cathy spread out on the cab seats to read.  A little later a small Murvi campervan turned up, doubling the van numbers against the tuggers on the site.  

Dinner tonight is cassoulet, including some Phil's sausages, smoked sausage, chickpeas, puy lentils, passata, onions and garlic.  As we're on EHU it'll be cooked in 'Oska'. We also have the red wine I bought yesterday.  With all those beans, we could be in for a windy night!  We move on tomorrow.  The plan is to try and stay at the campsite at Gordale Scar, but I was unable to book; I phoned and left a message but the owner never got back to me.  So if that doesn't work out I'll do some research later on to come up with a Plan B - maybe a Britstop close by - there is one near there which is a farm shop where they make 'Yorkshire Chorizo'.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Kippered in Kettlewell


Tuesday 2 September 2015

El Nido's at Causeway Croft Caravan Park, Kettlewell, in the depths of Wharfedale.  Ray and I cycled through here (at speed!) last year at the Tour de France.  We camped at Kilnsey Crag and cycled up the first real climb of the Tour - Col de Cray - which took us through this village.

We woke to warm sunshine and had our breakfast sat outside at the CL by Jervaulx Abbey.  All packed up, we drove out, stopping on the way at Berry's Farm Shop, where I bought some large field mushrooms, red onions, local goat's cheese, pork scratchings and brandy snaps - what a mixture - and I only went in for bread which they didn't have because it hadn't yet been delivered!  We started to climb a 25% hill with some 'Go Nido Go' encouragement, pulling over regularly for oncoming traffic. We eventually reached the top of Cray and descended through Buckden and Starbotton to Kettlewell, all very familiar from last year.  We pulled into the campsite and the very friendly owners pointed out the available pitches, electric and facilities and left us to it.  While Cathy sorted out I walked to the village shop for some bread and red wine.  

We'd already prepared our packed lunch and were soon heading out, very quickly climbing the steep hill towards Middlesmoor Pasture.  With a bit of a scramble through the rocks we reached the first ledge and stopped for lunch.  Fortified, we continued to climb, stopping now and again to admire the view (and get our breath back!).  We reached the top and started to descend into the next valley.  Reaching some trees, we faced some serious downhill scrambling over rocks, before stopping in bright sunshine for a brew and flapjack.  As we approached Arncliffe the rain started and stayed with us, on and off for the rest of the day.  Leaving Arncliffe, we followed the path along the River Skirfare and at the hamlet of Hawkswick, started to climb again.  We topped out at Knipe Scar, with a view over the fields in Kilsney where Ray and I camped last year, following the shoulder of the hill around before starting a slippery descent into Kettlewell.  By now the sun was out again and we were drying off.  As we approached the village the heavens opened again though, and we arrived back at the van in heavy rain.  We got the heating on, hung up our wet clothes wherever we could and had a quick beer while the water heated up.  

 Both showered, clean and changed, with the inside of Nido looking like Widow Twanky's Laundry, we left the heating on and walked the short distance to the Bluebell Inn.  This is a typical, local and friendly pub, with an old dog who clearly owns the place! The woodburner was lit and it was very cosy.  We had a beer then ordered our food - shared potted shrimps, then Cathy had the speciality - homecooked meat and potato pie, which was enormous and delicious.  I had a pork chop from 'Colin' - I have no idea if Colin was the pig or the breeder!  It came on a bed of mash with mustard sauce and was both huge and very tasty, very much like the 1/4 of free-range pig we bought a few years ago.  We shared a bowl of veg and at the end were stuffed.  We wobbled back both tired from our long walk and full from great food, back to a bit of a steamy van - it'll be dry in the morning!  I'm hoping for a dry spell tomorrow so I can finally get out on my bike and repeat some of the riding I did with my wingman last year.  Until then, I need to rest this food-filled belly.  I think we'll both sleep well tonight in this dark and silent corner of Yorkshire.



We've got to climb up there!?

Great lunch stop view

I think we're gonna get wet!

Brew stop - overlooking Arncliffe


Grouse Moors

Heeeelp!

Now that's what you call a meat and potato pie

Colin's pork....or is it Colin the pig?

Still signs of last year's Tour de France celebrations