Saturday 26 May 2012

The last day of Campie Tour 2012

Saturday 26 May

Our final morning and we awoke to clear blue skies and very hot sunshine, even at 0730 as we sat outside having breakfast. We could easily be in France on a summer’s day; we’ve been very fortunate with the weather this week. This has been our favourite site so far, just 5 pitches hidden away through a wild grass meadow and amongst the trees, but still with the motorhome servicing facilities, and half the price of the others. Now packing and cleaning, we'll soon be heading south and home. We've already talked about next year’s trip, visiting some of the wild swimming sites in inland France. It's also spurred us on to visit the Motorhome show at the NEC again this year, as we now have a much better idea of the sort of layout we want. And we'll be saving hard to increase the ”Campie Fund”, ready for when we can buy our own. In a few days I’ll add some photos to each of our daily blogs and will also think about a separate piece on what we’ve learnt from our first motorhome trip. It’s been a very relaxing week and this life is definitely for us.

Friday 25 May 2012

A visit to Vindolanda Roman Fort, Hadrian's Wall and last night in the Lakes

Friday 25 May
Having left Haltwhistle we drove to Vindolanda. We passed the turn off as it said it was a single track road with no parking for caravans, so we continued 1/2 mile to the Visitor Centre and parked up. Having walked for about 40 minutes we found that Vindolanda had three or four parking spaces for motorhomes! This was an exceptional Roman Fort with lots of finds - certainly worth a visit. We spent at least 2 hours there and then returned to Campie and drove up to Hadrian's Wall proper. Paul liked it as it marked the demarcation point to keep the Scottish on their side of the border ”they don't like it up 'em Mr Mainwaring!". We then had a 2 hour drive along the A69 and M6 before turning off for our next stop in the South Lake District. The local Council, in their wisdom, had decided to cone off over 8 miles of the very busy A590 with no sign of works on a hot & busy weekend - one hour's delay later we turned off, ignored the idiots behind us in cars trying to overtake on a windy, narrow road, and arrived at our last camp site of our first tour. This was a small, adult only site with only 5 pitches. It had full motorhome servicing and electric hook-up in a very quiet & peaceful site at the very southern tip of Lake Windermere. (Cathy thought it much better than any of the Camping and Caravanning sites.)

Having quickly set up, Cathy found a place to snooze in the sun as I prepared our last supper. Looking in the fridge & cupboards I cobbled together a bacon, sausage, onion & garlic pasta sauce with linguine, enjoyed with some wine. Our final meal was enjoyed sat outside, listening to the bird song.

As I type this blog from our last full day, and as Cathy washes up, we both look back and realise how easily we dropped into this nomadic life of motorhoming and how we look forward to further adventures. It will be hard tomorrow to hand Campie back to its rightful owners but, for us, this is very much the end of the beginning. It's been a fun and life-changing week.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Meditating on Holy Island, Bamburgh Bangers and Cathy's first Campie Drive

Thursday 24 May
Having left Waren Mill we headed up the A1 to Holy Island. There was quite a lot of sea mist and this continued to roll in on and off throughout the day. Crossing the causeway from the mainland was surreal, a bit like stepping back in time. Again motorhome parking was well catered for with plenty of room to park and manoeuvre. Another good point to note is that the parking tickets are valid in all the main tourist stops along the coast, so a day's parking for one site (£4.40) can be used if you move to somewhere else that day. On Holy Island we visited the Priory Museum and the Priory and then walked up the road towards the castle. Again, it looked quite spooky as the island appeared and disappeared as the mist rolled in and out. We didn't visit the castle but did walk up to the Gertrude Jekyll walled garden, which was a disappointment - perhaps we were too early in the season. But Paul did manage to 'obtain'a couple of sprigs of rosemary for our lamb tonight! Cathy also gathered 5 different sized flat stones to build a Holy Island cairn in our garden - it's a white witch thing! Leaving the island we headed for Bamburgh and parked easily in the large car park opposite the very impressive castle. We walked into the village and visited the RNLI Grace Darling museum - well worth a visit and it’s free although they welcome donations (I support the RNLI). Walking back we bought some famous Bamburgh Bangers from the butchers, plus some fruit & peppers from the green grocer. Bamburgh also has a number of lovely cafes, pubs and gift shops - well worth a visit. Returning to Campie it was time for Cathy to drive for the first time; it was a 2 hour journey along a busy A1 & A69, then a narrow and steep approach to the site at Haltwhistle. She did REALLY well and it's good to have a co-driver to share the load. The site is very peaceful, nestled in a valley amongst trees on National Trust land, and alongside the river Tyne. I’m sat in a very warm sun as I type; the brew has gone down well and Cathy is now giving me the "is it G&T time?" look, so I’ll sort that out then prepare dinner. Smoked salmon starter for me, smoked kipper pâté for Cathy, then BBQ’d lamb chops & Bamburgh Bangers, with a salad, no doubt followed by some birthday cake. Tomorrow we're visiting Hadrian’s Wall, starting at Vindolanda Roman fort (or, as I call it, Vindaloo), before our final night at a small site at the very southern tip of Lake Windermere.

Holy Island

Bamburgh Castle

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Cathy's Birthday Boat Trip to the Farne Islands

Wednesday 23 May - Cathy's Birthday!

I was woken at about 0230 by a flashing light. It was the fridge light and I noticed we had lost mains power. The fridge kicked over to gas and as it was too dark to check if there was a site-wide power cut, I went back to sleep. First thing in the morning power was still off; as we'd had fuse trouble earlier in the trip I checked those in the garage - all OK. I then noticed that the fuse box at the pitch supply had tripped so I reset this and power was restored! The moral of the tale is don't panic, carry out the basic checks and 9 times out of 10 you’ll be able to fix the fault, even a technical dyslexic like me! I made Cathy a breakfast brew which she had in bed (of course) and passed her the presents and cards she’d been eyeing up for days. Then followed her choice of breakfast - bacon, toast and duck egg, with another strong brew. Fully secured for sea and shore power disconnected, we set off for Seahouses.

The main car park caters well for motorhomes - drive straight through past the cars, coach parking and into the overflow area - there’s plenty of space to park on the grass. Seahouses caters well for the tourist with all the usual grockle (gift) shops, cafes, pubs etc. We filled up with provisions first, staples from the large Co-op, lovely fresh bread from the Bakers and lamb chops & sirloin steak from the friendly village butchers. Having stowed this all away we booked our boat trip to the Farne Islands. This was good value for a 3 hour trip, helped by mirror calm, clear, dark blue seas and unbroken sunshine. There were lots of photo opportunities, including one hour walking around one island full of birds - lots of noise, lots of birds and lots of sh... Guano! We particularly enjoyed the Puffins, who seemed to find flying such hard work! On the return journey we stopped to photograph lots of seals at play - they were having great fun. On return to the mainland we were hungry so bought fish & chips from Neptunes - highly recommended - which we ate perched on the harbour wall.

Then it was time to move on to our next site - Waren Mill, between Bamburgh and Holy Island. This is a very large site that caters both for both static caravans and tourers; the touring end was very quiet with only a few motorhomes and caravans. So we took the opportunity to have much longer showers and are both cleaner for it (well the cloud of flies following us have now gone!). With her birthday cards on the dashboard for all to see, I'm on cooking duty again tonight (same every night) and Cathy can choose from either barbecued lamb or sirloin steak, with a salad. And of course we have jelly and a Birthday cake with one candle (health & safety!). Before that we're enjoying a large G&T from the enamel mugs we brought with us - cheers! Tomorrow we’re off to Holy Island first thing, then over to Bamburgh - I want to visit the Grace Darling museum as the RNLI is one of the charities I support. Then we'll be heading inland to Haltwhistle and some time exploring Hadrian’s Wall - built to keep the Scots in - sadly it failed!

Great fish & chips in Seahouses

Birthday Cards!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Smokin' Craster, Chillin' at Beadnell Bay and Seafood Fest

Tuesday 22 May
An early start today! Cathy was up at 0445 - couldn't sleep, so she made a brew and I had mine laid in bed looking out over the fields. We had a very tasty cooked breakfast, cooked outside on our little gas stove with local sausages & bacon. The sun was shining with not a cloud in the sky. We were packed up and on the road by 0830, first stop Craster. We had the advantage of being the first vehicle in the car park, which meant not only could we chose our spot, but manoeuvring was very easy - top tip: get to your car park early to reduce driver stress! Craster is a small fishing harbour, but it's famous for its smokehouse & kippers in particular. We bought a dressed crab, smoked salmon, kipper pâté and, of course, one kipper to enjoy tonight. The great thing about the MH was that we were able to take these back and put them in the fridge before returning to the harbour. We stopped for a tea & coffee in the Shoreline Cafe. The Jolly Fisherman pub, opposite the smokehouse looked very nice with a fishy menu, but we wanted to move on.

Our next stop was Beadnell, to our next campsite. This appears to be a new C&C site; it's currently quite open but lots of trees have been planted and the site has some lovely views. However the staff knew nothing about the Privilege Scheme. But it is directly opposite the sea and Beadnell Bay has a beautiful, long sandy beach where we spent the rest of the day snoozing. Unfortunately the one shop in the village is only open 3 days a week and then only until midday, so we were unable to stock up. Luckily we bought our basics when topping up with fuel in Embleton; garages are another scarcity in this part of the world. But we forgave Beadnell this (and for hiding its one and only pub!) as the scenery is so lovely - add to that unbroken sunshine & clear blue (but very cold!) sea - and a very relaxing time was had. On our walk back we stopped to visit Ebb's Nook, a small outcrop pushing out to sea,on which once stood a Medieval chapel dating back to the 13th Century, and associated with St Ebba, a 7th Century Anglo-Saxon princess. Cathy's interested in archaeology and we recently watched Time Team dig in this very spot to uncover the chapel and several graves. Now back at the site, Cathy is soaking up the sun while I prepare dinner - all the lovely seafood we bought today, with a homemade garlic & lemon mayonnaise and some tomatoes, onion & aubergine roasting in the oven. I also 'found' a chilled bottle of sparkling Touraine in the bottom of the fridge which will accompany it perfectly! Following that we have some iced fruit cake with a strong brew to finish off the day. It's been hot but relaxing today, no doubt we'll be asleep early again.

Tomorrow is Cathy's birthday so she can finally open the presents & cards stowed away and her treat is a stop in Seahouses and a boat trip to the Farne Islands. Tomorrow night we stop at Waren Mill, near Bamburgh, with views over Holy Island. Right, must go, I can smell the roasted veg is nearly ready!

Monday 21 May 2012

Poisonous Plants at Alnwick Gardens and a moody Dunstanburgh Castle

Monday 21 May

We woke to a cooler, cloudier morning. After breakfast we prepared to move on. As this was our first journey after an overnight stop we made doubly sure that everything was safely packed away. Paul's seagoing experience came in handy as we "Secured for Sea State 7", so basically anything that could move was either strapped down, wedged in or put away. This worked well as we had no losses or spillages. Our first stop was at Alnwick Gardens.  Alnwick is unique as the long stay car park in Greenwell Road (NE66 1YU) had 4 spaces just for motorhomes. We enjoyed the gardens, in particular the Poison Garden - Paul wasn't surprised that Cathy knew more about the poisonous plants than the guide - as she is a white witch after all. We had lunch at Treetops Restaurant by the Gardens, an enchanting wooden castle-like structure built into the trees - the food and ambience is highly recommended, with rustic wooden furniture, an open firepit and lots of fairy lights. We had a walk around Alnwick and bought some cheese, bacon, sausages and a short extension lead to resolve the iPod dock problem. We continued on to tonight's stop at Dunstan Hill.  After parking up and having a quick brew, we walked down to the sea; it has a lovely sandy beach with views along the coast to Dunstanburgh Castle. Returning to Campie we opened a bottle of St Emilion red, switched on the iPod and are now chilling before eating. Tomorrow is a visit to Craster and then overnight in Beadnell Bay; an area we recently saw the Time Team digging at. Time to find some seafood and enjoy the sea views!

Sunday 20 May 2012

A walk to Hareshaw Linn on our first full day

Sunday 20 May

We woke at about 0530 to birdsong and we were a bit chilly so I put the heating on, which soon warmed up the MH - too warm in fact so next time I'll pick a lower setting. We slept until 0800 then I got up to put the kettle on - blue sky and sunshine. Breakfast was the remainder of yesterday's bread toasted - with the door open, birds singing and sheep sheeping! The site is very peaceful. We're quite tidy any way but we're fast learning that items need to be used then put away again, as it's too easy to fill up all the seats and surfaces. Cathy made the picnic lunch for our walk while I caught up with this blog. We walked from the site to Hareshaw Linn, a lovely, secluded waterfall. It has been a relaxing day and we're now sat outside in warm sunshine looking forward to a Chinese takeaway tonight - I've even downloaded a Chinese Restaurant Music playlist on Spotify! Tomorrow will be our first stop at the coast, at Dunstan Hill near Craster. But first we're going to visit Alnwick Gardens & the town.