Sunday 11 September 2016

Windmill Inn then home

Saturday 10 September 2016
Nido's on a CL owned by the Windmill Inn in the village of Great Cressingham, not far from Thetford. It's very quiet in the middle of nowhere, but with a 4G signal far better than our close to town location at home.

The morning brought an overcast but warm start.  I made us a cuppa before popping into the village for some food.  I found Roys Supermarket (what else!) in the Food Hall building. It was like being inside a French one - lots of items I'd not seen before, pleasingly much of it local produce.  They also had a good wine selection and I bought a French rosé for tonight.  Breakfast done, everything stowed away, we drove through heavy rain to this CL.  

I checked in at the pub, which looked lovely, but we don't plan to use it as we have all we need in the van.  Our favourite 'en-France' lunch of baguette, rillette, cheese, salad and fruit were enjoyed and I caught up with the world of Twitter and read while Cathy had a snooze.  The showers continued on and off, but we were happy to chill out in the silence of the countryside.  Dinner tonight was grilled pork loin chops, new potatoes roasted in garlic and olive oil, and some tinned haricots verts from France.  The rosé complemented our meal.  The rest of the evening was spent reading, blogging and chatting about our future plans, before turning in, ready for the long drive home tomorrow.

Misty Autumn view from the van

Sunday 11 September 2016
The usual long drive home, clean the van inside and out and return him to his storage home.  We enjoyed parts of Norfolk - the peace and solitude of the salt marshes, sea swims, the big skies, catching up with family, paying a personal homage to Admiral Lord Nelson's home village.  But we felt Norfolk was a bit behind the times, a bit set in its ways. It caters well for the older pensioners but it's not an area we'd want to live.  We love the variety of coast - sand, rocks, cliffs, coves, and mountain. So we think our future lies in a different area.  We have something in mind and it's exciting us.  We need to do some research and see where this takes us, but our focus is now on a particular area.  It's too premature to say where, but we think it'll give us what we crave - easy access to the coast and mountains, good local produce, great countryside and the opportunity to develop another great garden to enjoy our outside lifestyle. 

Friday 9 September 2016

Who is Roy of Wroxham?

Friday 9 September 2016
Nido's parked up on what I would describe as a small aire, alongside the river at a marina in the heart of Wroxham.  We have a lovely spot to sit outside and watch the holidaymakers crash their hire boats!

A lovely still, warm morning saw us sat outside eating bacon and eggs.  Our plan today was to hire a rowing boat from Whispering Reeds, just around the corner from the pub, taking a picnic to enjoy on the water. But on arrival we were told it was too windy and I could see it probably was for a rowing boat; our breakfast spot was well sheltered.  So it was back to the van to consider options.  We thought of cutting the holiday short. The Broads were difficult to see without a boat (obvious really!) but there was also a severe shortage of footpaths in the area. Also we'd seen most of what we wanted to along the coast. But in the end we decided to carry on. So a replan saw us head to Blickling Hall NT property, for a look around the gardens and a walk by the lake - not too exciting but choices were a bit limited. 

After this visit we drove to the aire at Wroxham. It's a few minutes walk from the busy centre but very quiet, with space for up to five vans.  On arrival, the warden Cheryl - a lovely helpful lady - told us it had recently become a C&CC CS. We're not members but she let us stay. Settled in, we walked the short distance over the river bridge into town to do some food shopping.  If you've never been to Wroxham, 'Roy' seems to own everything. Almost every shop begins with 'Roys', even the toy shop.  There is a McDonalds with the usual sign and Golden Arches, but it's in a building owned by Roy - and his name appears above theirs on the building! I remember all of this from my visits here over 40 years ago. I wonder if Roy's still alive? I wonder if Roy ever existed, or it was just some mad marketing ploy dreamt up in a Norfolk pub. I imagine him to be a short, fat, bald ol' Norfolk boy, a little like Boss Hogg on the Dukes of Hazzard.  I'll need to Google 'who is Roy of Wroxham' when I have a signal!  [Roys was founded in 1895 when brothers Alfred and Arnold Roy opened their general store in the village of Coltishall. In 1899 a second store was opened in Hoveton. It remains a family business and uses the motto "The World's Largest Village Store"]. 

On the way to the small supermarket we saw a Thai restaurant. That's tonight's dinner sorted - a takeaway back at the van. Cathy showered in the van while I tried the marina facilities.  It was an experience - a porta cabin, three 20p coins for the meter and an uncontrollable shower that almost flooded the place out! Still, I emerged clean and managed to utilise my past Royal Navy damage control skills to remove the flood and prevent the porta cabin sinking. We sat outside watching the world go by with a drink, chatting to our neighbours, accompanied with two lovely little dogs who enjoyed the treats we keep in the van. I ordered our Thai meal - only an hour's wait - and sat outside with a drink until it was time to fetch our meal.  The restaurant was only a quarter full and there seemed to be more staff than customers - too many cooks...?  The meal was OK but I suspect any hint of chilli or garlic has been dumbed down for the local taste. We sat outside until quite late (for us!) in a warm breeze.

Good ol' Roy - keeping his name above McDonalds!

Thursday 8 September 2016

Chillin' in Pallin' and Hicklin'

Thursday 8 September
Nido's parked up between other motorhomes at a lovely Britstop pub on Hickling Broad.  I can hear the wetland birds in the background as they settle for the evening. 

We woke early to bright sunshine and a warm wind - yay! Breakfast of poached eggs on toast was enjoyed sat outside. As we were on EHU we charged up 'all the things' overnight and enjoyed another cuppa sat out in the sunshine before driving along the coastal road to Sea Palling.  We'd been here many years ago for a quick visit but never stopped any length of time.  We parked up in the large long stay parking field, along the base of the dunes - perfect for motorhomes - £7 for the day.  I've been able to pay for all car parks here using a card, rather than faffing about with a fistful of coins. I wish more councils would take note.

Bags packed, we walked the short distance to the very clean and white sandy beach.  It's a lovely spot and, once our beach shelter was up and everything zipped inside, we walked into the sea. The RNLI Lifeguard information board said the water temperature was 16'C, but it felt warmer, helped by the hot sunshine.  We enjoyed a good swim and chat before walking along the beach line - with the calm sea, white sand, blue sky and hot sunshine, we felt we were in Spain, not East Anglia.  We collected some seaglass and driftwood as we walked along the tide line to dry off.

Returning to our beach shelter I was surprised to see this guy had set up his chairs and table less than 2 feet from us, blocking the entrance to our shelter, despite the size and emptiness of the beach!  I told him so and was ignored, so after a few choice words of 'anglo-saxon' (I know a few East Anglian 'words' having grown up near here!) I moved our shelter away from this idiot and his partner. The rest of the day was spent sunbathing, reading, swimming and walking along the beach. Lunch was fruit and water, with tea and biscuits later. About 1600 we returned to the van; it was still hot and sunny and we sorted out our kit on the warm, dry grass while the water heated. We enjoyed lovely showers onboard Nido before I prepared and cooked dinner - Greek salad, boiled new potatoes in olive oil and garlic, pork sausages. We sat outside the van with linen napkins of course (standards) and nearly the whole field to ourselves.  It's a shame no overnight sleeping is allowed. The Council are missing out on a huge income stream and we'd have visited the beachside pub in the evening, so the local economy would have benefited.  

Instead I'd booked us a slot at Britstop #248, a lovely waterside pub by Hickling Broad - only 10 minutes drive from the beach. On arrival four vans were already parked up, but there was room for us too, parked alongside one of the cuts with small wooden sailing boats moored alongside.  I popped into the pub to check in, before we had a short walk to look at the water. From here, though, views are limited - it's a very large Broad but best (and in most cases only) accessed on the water.  Back in the pub we ordered a pint - Doom Bar for C and Nelson's Revenge for me (a pint I enjoyed in the Lord Nelson on Saturday night). Cathy also tucked away a lemon curd sponge and custard - I was good, just pork scratchings for me! By 2000 we were back in Nido, tired after a hard day's chillin'. Tomorrow we hope to explore some more of the area, hopefully on the water.

Our little beach hut!

Nice waterside pitch in Hickling Broad

Sunny breakfast stop

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Catching Up

Wednesday 7 September 2016
Nido's parked up in The Links caravan park in Mundesley-on-Sea. I have family who have lived here for decades - the last of 'the old guard' and we were looking forward to catching up with them. 

We enjoyed the EHU to have toast this morning - sad but an event for us after several days without electric and therefore no toaster! Tanks emptied, we left the campsite at Weybourne, heading further east along the coast road. We wanted some fresh bread; the Tesco at West Runton beat us due to small parking bays, so we continued on to Cromer, parking on the cliff top a short distance from the town centre.  Cromer was a popular seaside resort in its day - perhaps it still is - but it's looking rough around the edges. A typical English coastal town sadly.  We wandered up and down looking for a bakery and found one eventually up a side street.  Bread under-arm, we returned to Nido and continued to Overstrand, planning to spend some time on the beach. However, the weather had turned cloudy with sea mist coming in, so Plan B was initiated - Felbrigg Hall NT property. Twenty minutes later we were parked up in the peace and quiet.  I phone the 'aire' at Wroxham to book a spot for Friday night; now you need to be a C&CC member to stay there, but we were let off for our one night stay! I also rang the pub from the Britstop book for our stopover at Hickling Broad tomorrow night. Admin done, we spent a couple of hours wandering around the walled garden and walking around the estate. We didn't bother visiting the house, we seldom do. Back at the van we enjoyed a lunch sat outside, before driving on to Mundesley.

We were quickly and efficiently checked into this small but well kept campsite before walking the 10 minutes to Dot & Barry's house.  It was lovely to see them both again and we spent a few hours catching up and being well fed by Dot.  I spent much of my younger days visiting them when we had family holidays in Norfolk and they're the closest family I have left now.  After hugs all round, we left them and took a quick walk through the village to the sea, but it was getting dark and was still a bit chilly in the mist, so we quickened our pace and returned to the van to relax and digest the lovely meal we enjoyed at Dot and Barry's. Tomorrow the weather's promising hot sunshine, so the plan is to hit the beach for the day before heading for our overnight stop by Hickling Broad. 

I highly recommend The Links Caravan Park in Mundeseley. Large, immaculate pitches with electric, good clean facilities and free, unlimited wifi - all for £14 per night.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

Swim on Cley Beach

Tuesday 6 September 2016
We escaped! We were awake at 0600 and quietly dressed in our civvies, checked our forged papers, revved the engine and drove full pelt out of the main gate, crashing the barrier and dodging the guards' bullets as we fled.  Actually we did wake at 0600 but lay in bed reading until 0800! Only then did we get dressed, open up the blinds and prepare to leave.  A few other prisoners - I mean campers - were out and about, so I saved the great escape for another day. We drove a few miles down the road to the empty car park at Blakeney, reversing in at the far end.  Cathy prepared our bacon and egg buttie breakfast while I watched the various yachties arrive for a day on the water.  It was an hour and half until high tide. The water was still pouring into the creek and up the harbour at a rate of knots and, as it gradually crept up the edge of the sloping car park, I did get a bit twitchy. But with locals parking around us I felt reassured.  We walked into the village, first stopping at the Spar to buy a few victuals, then next door to the fish shop for a couple of dressed crabs for tonight's dinner. Back at Nido we made up some lunch, put water in our two flasks, packed our swimmers and a towel and started walking. The route took us along the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coastal Path, walking along a flood embankment with salt marsh either side.  It was already very hot and sunny - it was already 19'C when we escaped from Stalag 19 just after 0800. As well as seagulls we saw Egrets, Oystercatches, Terns and a Lapwing.  There was a herd of cows on the marsh and I was disappointed to see no sheep - saltmarsh lamb is delicious! The path horseshoed out towards the sea then back inland towards Cley. We could see Wiveton Hall (if you watched the series about the Hall, its eccentric owner and his attempts at increasing his income, you'll know what I mean). Once into Cley we walked past a great looking green grocers and deli before taking the path past Cley Windmill (offering exclusive B&B and self-catering accommodation)  before heading out towards the sea again. We soon reached the car park by the shingle beach, found our spot, changed and leapt into the sea - it was wonderfully refreshing our first swim in Norfolk. We swam and floated in the cool sea water and were surprised that we were the only ones. We even saw people in fleeces and coats!! We sat on the shingle drying off and eating our lunch, before changing, not easy with so many twitchers around carrying high-powered telescopes!  We reversed our route back to Cley and stopped at the Deli.  It's one of those dangerous places where I could easily spend a lot of money! But I restrained myself to some peaches, oranges, a lemon, chilli and dried pasta (to go with the crab) ...oh - and some baklava and a couple of Portugese tarts that also fell in my basket.  On the way around I tasted the various pickles, chutneys and tapenades available to try, so it was no wonder Cathy thought I'd got lost when I eventually emerged.

We continued our walk up the A149 and were soon turning into the entrance for the Wiveton Hall café and farm shop.  We'd seen the place on TV - the café and outside terrace had a great view over Cley marsh.  We only wanted a tea and coffee, but the lunch service was still going strong and space was at a premium, so we continued along the track towards Blakeney, passing the staff quarters - mainly old caravans! He has many foreign people over to help harvest the crops and work in the café and clearly he treats them well as many return for the season year after year - that and the fact that the locals don't seem much interested in crop-picking work.  I wonder what he'll do when we finally leave the EU? Back in Blakeney, Cathy made us a cuppa and we took our chairs (accompanied by my two Portugese tarts!) and sat by the creek, watching the bird life and the huge expanse of sky.  

Our stop tonight is at Foxhills Campsite in Weybourne.  It's next to the Mickleborough Collection which (I think - I need to check) is a military museum.  This is a lovely site - immaculately kept, lovely large pitches with EHU and great hot showers. And several pounds cheaper than Stalag 19. So out came the awning and chairs for a cuppa, followed by long showers and sat chilling in the sunshine with a G&T and beer.  On the way here I'd stopped at a roadside stall to buy some samphire, which was delicious with our crab, chilli and lemon pasta - all washed down with an excellent value bottle of chilled Muscadet from Spar.  The baklava was also good - I enjoyed mine with a good strong coffee.  This has been a very relaxing day, which included a sea swim and something North Norfolk excels at - crab and samphire. It's a lovely warm evening as the sun sets, the crows are roosting noisily in the trees and we feel very relaxed.  

Breakfast parking spot

Cley Windmill

Monday 5 September 2016

Seals and Stalag 19

Monday 5 September 2016
After a quick breakfast we drove to the NT car park at Morston Quay, ready for our trip with Beans Boats.  I'd booked the 0945 trip as it included half an hour landed on Blakeney Point. We piled in with about 22 other people and headed down the creek as the night tide turned. The two boatsmen gave a good commentary and some history of some of the boats (called pirate ships and arks for the sake of the children!) as well as the old lifeboat buildings on the end of Blakeney Point; we'd seen these on Countryfile and we're looking forward to a look around.  The weather was calm and sunny, a marked difference to yesterday's very strong westerly winds. The boat took us to see the common and grey seals on the pebble beach at the end of Blakeney Point, with some swimming and popping up around us.  We did 6 drive pasts so both sides of the boat had plenty of time to take photos, before turning back into the harbour and landing on the shingle beach for half an hour.  It was very warm as we walked in along the pathways, through the dunes and up over to view the open sea. We'd have loved to have spent the whole day here, watching the bird life and the sea.  It was a quirky area, with a few small huts where the NT Wardens live all year round in relative solitude, plus looking after the large blue old lifeboat station, which now houses the visitor centre.  They spend a lot of their time observing and counting the seals and birds - not a bad life.  The half hour soon passed and we returned in a different boat to Morston Quay.  I'd highly recommend the Beans Boats trips - good value for money and funny, informative boatsman.  

Back at the van we made our lunch and sat at one of the picnic tables with a cuppa to enjoy the sunshine, before heading off on a walk around the salt marshes to Blakeney Harbour. We had a walk around the narrow streets and found the Spar shop and seafood shop for tomorrow.  I also noticed the harbour car park is free to NT members - result!  We retraced the route back to Morston and drove to our stop for tonight - Highsand Creek campsite in the village of Stiffkey (pronounced 'Stewkey').  The Stiffkey cockle is famous for its dark blue shell and meaty mollusc. Unfortunately this was a poor choice of site.  At £23 without electric hookup, it was the most expensive place we have ever stayed in the van.  We were allocated a grass pitch, all of them laid out in a strict grid - ours was C4.  The campsite is large with tents on one side and motorhomes on the other.  The latter was quite empty but all the vans were allocated pitches next to each other, so we all huddled together in one area, while the rest of the campsite was empty.  All around were old-style hangars - it felt (and looked) like a WW2 military camp, hence me calling it Stalag 19!  I thought perhaps they'd be a 0500 roll-call, complete with searchlights and guard dogs, when we would be roused from our beds and made to stand to attention at the front of our vans and shout out our pitch number, just to make sure nobody had escaped in the night!  The facilities block were also a little tired and smelled of sewage.  Cathy braved the showers first and came back drenched - the shower was so strong the jet of water hit the back of the door where she had hung her dry, clean clothes.  The cubicles floors also seemed to slope the wrong way so that all the water escaped under the door - the only thing to escape that night!!  I had a similar experience, although managed to keep my clothes dry.    I prepared a Greek salad for dinner, while scooping a couple of strong G&Ts. We had this with some lamb steaks cooked on the Cadac and sat outside in the warm, humid air.  A bottle of vinho verde kept us the right side of sanity and once it was getting dark, and a gentle mizzle started to fall from the grey sky, we retired to our prison hut - I mean van bed! There was much whispered talk of digging tunnels and jumping the fence in the van, but in the end we just fell asleep.

Morston Quay

Old Lifeboat House at Blakeney Point

Sunday 4 September 2016

Camping in a Brickyard

Sunday 4 September 2016
Nido's parked on a large private pitch surrounded by blackberry bushes, fruit trees and deciduous woods. We're on the Norfolk Brickyard campsite, with several individual pitches tucked away. It's a quirky site, with a drop loo and an outside shower - the original was a bucket with holes in the bottom but the new one is gas fuelled, still partially outside and with a sign on rope to say it's in use - no door! The campsite was a brickyard from 1720, using local clay to make and fire bricks.  The owners have been here for 20 years and have gradually reclaimed areas of overgrown scrubland to create the private pitches. Cathy has already 'scrumped' some blackberries for pudding! 

After breakfast this morning we left the Lord Nelson, with the satnag taking up some dubious, unmade farm tracks, despite being set not to. Eventually we escaped on to the main road and soon turned off into the Holkham car park.  Being such a touristy area, all the car parks charge and they're not cheap - £6.50 for this one. But we were soon through the pine forest and looking across the dunes, salt marshes and small lagoons towards the sea. We turned right and walked along the water's edge as the tide started to fall, watching the various wading birds ready to hoover up any food they could find. It was quite blowy but we were sheltered, until we crested the dunes to walk along the main beach, when the full force of the westerly wind hit us, along with the sand being whipped up! We walked through the sand and shells, past the colourful beach huts and along the path towards Wells.  The North Norfolk Triathlon taking place in the town and areas were inaccessible, so we returned the way we came and stopped at the café by the beach for a cuppa and sausage roll. By now the tide had receded quite a way so we walked on the soft wet sand, although eventually the strong wind drove back over the dunes to walk along the other side in comparative shelter. Back at the van we had a cuppa and a chat while watching the crowds of walkers come and go. It seemed very busy to us but we've been spoiled by the quiet solitude of walking and swimming at Anglesey and on the Llyn. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling out at the campsite, sitting out (and in when the rain passed through). We both tried out the outdoor shower - you can't beat a hot shower while listening to the birdsong and with a cheeky breeze whistling around the crevices!  Dinner was chicken pad Thai and rice, followed by rice pudding and a fresh blackberry coulis - perfect. Later we took a walk around at dusk, listening to the birds.

Wells beach 

Great outdoor shower

Norfolk Brickyard campsite

Saturday 3 September 2016

The Immortal Memory

Saturday 3 September 2016

Nido's settled in the car park at the Lord Nelson pub in Burnham Thorpe, the village where Admiral Nelson was born and grew up.  He hosted a dinner here to celebrate taking command of HMS AGAMEMNON.  It's an unusual pub as it doesn't have a bar - drinks are ordered, poured in the separate tap room and bought to you.  But more about that later.

This week we're touring the North Norfolk coast and the Broads.  It's an area we visited many years ago when the children were young; we camped in West Runton near Cromer. But we wanted to return to take a look around and enjoy the empty space, salt marshes and huge skies.  We left home early and, apart from a half-way stop for a cuppa and leg stretch, kept going until we reached our first stop - Eric's fish and chips restaurant, a short way outside Hunstanton, close to the Titchwell RSPB Reserve. It had been recommend by someone I follow on Twitter - @monpetitcafe.  I ordered us some squid as a starter then haddock and chips each, all freshly cooked to order and enjoyed sat in the van.  The produce in the adjacent fruit and veg shop also looked good.  Completely full, the promised rain had started and was quite heavy, so we decided not to stop at the RSPB Reserve. A quick look at the OS map and I drove to the car park by the beach at Brancaster.  

Coats and flip flops donned, we walked through the gap in the dunes and on to a vast expanse of wet sand.  The tide was way out so reaching the sea today wasn't going to happen, particularly as I didn't know the tide times, but we still took a walk out to some of the small saltwater pools.  This beach stretches for miles in both directions, past Titchwell to the west and Scolt Head Island eastwards. A good way out the wreck of the steamship SS Vina can be seen at low tide.  Built in 1894, it was originally used for trade with Baltic ports. It was sunk on the sand flats by the military in 1944 for use as a bombing practice target. Eventually the heavy rain drove us back to the van, where we sat with a cuppa, reading and listening to the wild birds (plus the rain!).  The forecast talks of drier weather tomorrow, followed by every warmer days into the week, so I can forgive a drop of rain on our first travelling day. 

Back at the Lord Nelson, we sat in the small snug with wooden tables and benches. Drinks are ordered at a hatch as the beer is stored in kegs and poured direct - no pumps. We both had a Wherry beer plus a tot of Nelson's Blood - their own blend of rum and spices, the recipe being handed down between landlords. The rum was mixed certainly with cloves (perhaps a little too much) plus (we think) cinnamon and ginger.  We may try this at home but adding some black pepper for some additional kick. I stood and toasted 'The Immortal Memory' in great surroundings. Next Cathy tried Lady Hamilton's Nip - rum again but this time mixed with aniseed. The locals were very friendly and chatty and I stayed on once Cathy headed off to bed.  She missed a treat as some musicians came in after playing at the village fete opposite - violin, two guitars and a ukelele. They were also excellent singers and jammed and sang mostly folk and blue grass.  It was an excellent, unexpected impromptu night.  I tried a couple of pints of Nelson's Revenge which I think was tastier than the Wherry. It was a really enjoyable evening with friendly people and musicians who clearly love nothing better than to play and sing.

Monday 1 August 2016

Bitter Sweet

I hadn't planned to write a post for the weekend just gone - we were visiting a regular haunt and I didn't think there'd be much new to share.  But a few highlights and lowlights - Bitter Sweet moments - changed my mind.

I'd booked Friday afternoon off work and we drove to the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula to stop for a night or two at Porth Ysgaden, a small but very pretty cove with safe sea swimming and wonderful sunsets. We've been here before and enjoyed our stay.  This is wild camping, but we're respectful of our surroundings - we don't overstay our welcome - and we're grateful for the opportunity to enjoy such a beautiful spot.  So rather than a wordy narrative, I thought I'd list the Sweet and Bitter, with a (short) explanation where useful:


Swimming in the cove in the evening light - all alone (at least Cathy did!).

Several sea swims in different locations - refreshing, invigorating, smile-inducing.

Sat quietly watching the sun set into the sea.

The sight and calls of oyster catchers and other sea birds.

Meeting a local guy (sorry I didn't get your name) wild camping in his motorhome - friendly, interesting and knowledgeable about local birdlife and foraging for food, including fishing, picking wild thyme and rock samphire. He also taught me how to use the crab/fish trap, a birthday present from Nicola & Chris. What a pleasure to spend time talking to him.

Meeting Joy and Ian - a couple who were wild camping in a small VW with a pop-up roof. They had read my blog hence their visit to Porth Ysgaden.  It's nice to know someone reads my ramblings!  We hope you enjoyed the peace and quiet and cycling along the empty Llyn lanes.

Coastal walks in hot sunshine.

Lunch at the Ty Coch Inn - great beer and food - I couldn't finish my huge plateful!

Light rock fishing - nothing caught this time but fun watching the small wrasse and blennies chasing my sand eel lure in the gin-clear water!

Discovering new beaches and coves - we particularly liked Porth Nefyn.  A beach we'll definitely return to.

Collecting seaglass and 'lucky stones' - fast becoming an addictive compulsion.


Rubbish on the tidal line.  We always collect rubbish from the beach, taking it home to recycle or dispose of in our bin.  Most is plastic but there's also food and drinks litter left by day trippers. 

 A local man walking his dogs telling us the local council are clamping down on campervans parking overnight in such places.  He has a van himself and also likes to wild camp, but believes the local campsites have been complaining.  The fact is we don't want to pay over £20 to park in their field when we're self-sufficient and don't need to use any of their facilities. Nor do we want to book a pitch several weeks in advance, preferring the spontaneity of a last-minute trip.

A boat-owning lady stating rather loudly "no wonder they're stopping these 'caravanettes' from parking here" despite the fact that her 4-wheel drive vehicle and long trailer were taking up about 4 parking spaces. We'd happily pay a reasonable fee to park here overnight as I'm sure she'd happily pay a launching fee for her boat (it's currently free). 

So it looks like our occasional stop-overs at Porth Ysgaden may soon be at an end.  It's a shame as we love this spot and always leave it cleaner than we found it.  We respect the area, look after it and spend money in the local shops and pubs. My view is 'live and let live' and there's room for all to share this beautiful part of the peninsula - day-trippers, divers, fishermen, walkers, boat owners, campervanners.  All it takes is a sensible approach and some mutual respect.  But it looks like the campsite owners are unhappy that not everyone wants to stay on their noisy, over-priced fields.  Still, there are plenty more places to explore and stay on this beautiful peninsula. 

This is why we love this place.....

Not exactly packed is it?  Car park at about 5pm

Meditating sat on a rock looking at this......

Beauty is in the eye of the stone holder

Cathy swimming late in the evening - warm water all to herself

Breakfast cooked on the Cadac Safari Chef 2 I won in a competition

This is what we see time and again.....sad

All the way from Pachino, Italy

Hot sand, blue sky

Sunday 17 July 2016

Back home

Sunday 17 July 2016

We're back home after an early start and the usual long and boring drive north.  Nido's been unpacked, cleaned inside and out, tanks flushed and returned to his storage home.  We've started to sort out and put away stuff and had a Chinese takeaway - too tired to cook. Tomorrow I'm back at work - Cathy on Tuesday - and so the cycle begins again. 

For those interested in the statistics:

We spent 15 nights in Europe, visiting Belgium, Germany and France, driving a total of 1982 miles door to door.

We spent our 15 nights as follows:

Belgium: one free night in a café car park
Germany: two nights on free aires, two nights on paid aires and three nights on a campsite
France: three nights on free aires and four nights on paid aires.

We spent the following, door to door from home:

€257.47 - diesel
€94.00 - paid aires (including water and electricity costs)
€98.70 - campsites
€358.12 - groceries
€211.00 - eating out
€38.60 - trips
€6.00 - parking

So for 15 nights' holiday - all inclusive - a total of €1,063.89 or about £912

Saturday 16 July 2016

First sea swim on our last day

Saturday 16 July 2016

Nido's parked up at a private aire in Tardinghen, about 1.5km outside Wissant. We tried the latter but it's a busy Saturday, a French public holiday and the weather's good - a grand slam! But I think we lucked out, as this aire is great.  Basically it's a strip of grass around a farmer's field - of what looks like was wheat or barley - that's been recently harvested.  No facilities and €6 per night, but it's very quiet and there's loads of room to spread out, plus we sat in the sunshine this evening until 2145.  The farmer's just been to collect the fee, with a smile and a business card - and his dog, who earned one of our doggie treats, as did the two dogs in the Dutch van next door. Our last evening is usually spent in a hot, cramped aire but tonight has felt like a bonus extra night on holiday.

Before I go any further, Cathy has insisted I tell the tale of the shorts.  I hate shopping for clothes and see no point in wasting money to have them all festering in drawers and wardrobes.  So I employ the 'Lean' process of 'just enough, just in time'.  In other words, I wear my clothes until they wear out and then I replace them - makes sense (at least to me) and saves money.  This holiday, I've 'worn out' two pairs of shorts, both of which I've had for about 20 years (so I'm a little upset they haven't lasted very long!). The first pair blew on our walk around the mills in the Black Forest, as I bent over to step out of the waterfall stream. The second pair gradually split in a couple of places in the 'rear' and were confined to the bin today.  I have to confess to have noticed this a while ago, but as the split was hidden, I figured they'd do for a few more months - but the rip was spotted! Both pairs were very comfortable (as clothes should be) and will be sadly missed - RIP shorts 😔

We slept in late this morning, until about 0830. It was dull and cloudy but still warm. Breakfast done, I decided not to join the long queue of vans waiting for the service point - we had enough water and although the loo could do with an empty, we were bound to pass another Aire on the way to our next stop. I plugged in the co-ords for an Intermarche supermarket and off we went.  On arrival, although the supermarket was large, the parking area wasn't - something we've seen more of this time in France. So I just stopped to fill up with diesel and we plugged another into the satnag. At this one we managed to park OK, but the journey was painful, with traffic jams at roundabouts - I suppose it is a holiday weekend but it's something we've not experienced in France too often.  We had a shopping list of food items to take home, so purchases done and stowed away, we headed for the Aire at Wissant, where we normally stay on our last night as it's only 20 minutes drive to the tunnel. But, as I wrote above, it was toppers, although frustratingly a small French hatchback car was parked in one of the pitches.  So,we drove up to another aire at Escalles, to sit outside and eat lunch and look at other options.  That one is day time parking only, which finally led us to this Aire, which is a great find. 

We parked up on the grass and had a brew in the sunshine, before packing our rucksack and walking the 1km to the beach, a quiet spot between Wissant and Cape Nez Blanc, the French equivalent of Dorset's Golden Cap. The tide was a good way out, so we walked towards the sea, dumped our gear on the damp sand and enjoyed a swim in warm seawater - our first sea swim - on the last day of our holiday.  After the regulatory 15 minutes in the water (time to soak up the minerals), we walked back to the hot, dry sand.  Cathy had a snooze while I mooched around the beach, drying off and topping up my tan, while successfully searching for some sea glass for Cathy's collection.  Back at the van, another brew sat in the sunshine, before showers and a dinner of BBQ'd chicken and German sausage, with fried onions and a tin of tagine chick peas.  Washing up done, we sat in the stubble field with a tea and coffee to enjoy the last of the sunshine on the last day of our holiday.  Everything's packed away, passports have  been retrieved from the safe and alarm set for 0500 tomorrow morning, ready to catch the 0820 tunnel.  

We've made a key decision over the last couple of days - we're not returning to Europe until we retire, and then it'll be our first long over-winter trip into Spain and Portugal. All very exciting!  When that is depends on when we achieve our financial independence target...... So time for bed now - early start in the morning.

Drying our swimming gear on this quiet, remote aire

Soaking up the last of the sun

Friday 15 July 2016

I see the sea!

Friday 15 July 2016

Nido's parked up in a large aire in St Valery sur Somme, on the northern French coast. It's advertised as room for 100 vans and I'd say at least that many are here.  But it's quiet and only about 15 minutes walk from the town.

We slept well after a cooler night and woke just after 0800 to clear blue sky and sunshine. The boulangerie was only a few minutes walk away and I bought a 'traditional' baguette for lunch and four croissants for breakfast.  In the meantime Cathy opened up the van, kettle on, table and chairs out.  The croissants were probably the best we've had - in fact the first this holiday - crispy and with a lovely buttery crust on the bottom - enjoyed with salty Brittany butter and jam.  Add to this a big pot of tea, sat in the sunshine looking at the castle and it doesn't get much better.  Cleared up and secured, I moved over to the service point.  Cathy sorted out the grey water while I emptied the loo.  Now time to fill up with fresh water.  I connected my small hose and tapped in my PIN for water - without notice the water gushed out at a rate equivalent to a pusser's fire-fighting hose! I was quickly soaked as the hose snaked around and I eventually managed to grab it and direct it towards our filling point! The pressure was so high I had to turn it away and direct it under the van now and again, to allow the filling point to catch cup.  In between I topped up our 10L container and the loo cassette ready for a rinse.  I also topped up my shorts and sandals! Once our fresh water tank was full, there was no way to switch off the water, so until our allocated 10 minutes were up, Cathy happily wartered some of the nearby plants! Once the flow stopped and our little hose drooped and dropped to the ground, I looked like I'd been caught out in the monsoon!  

We hit the road, heading north-west.  Our route took us through the centre of Amiens as the satnag was off motorway and, out the other side, we found a place to pull over for lunch. Fed and watered, we continued on to park on the verge by the sand dunes at Cayeux-sur-Mer.  It was sunny with a brisk but warm sea breeze - the tide was out and this is a large estuary, so it was proper out.  We crossed the dunes and walked the tidal range out towards the sea.  The early stretches were deep, sticky, black mud - as Cathy found out! - but we were soon on fine, dry, white sand, feeling the heat bounce back off the surface.  We walked for about an hour and managed a quick paddle in the sea, before returning through the pebbles and sea kale.  On the way we came across a huge expanse of marsh samphire, which the locals were collecting with sharp knives.  I tried some - it was delicious raw - crisp, green and salty.

Back at the van we sat outside with a brew, exchanging a quick chat with an English couple parked up in the same area.  It was a short drive to the aire at St Valery and we were soon sat out in the sun with a beer. A quick change and we walked downhill into the town.  There are lots of quaint, narrow streets lined with what would have been fishermen's cottages - a bit like a French Polperro. We picked a restaurant and sat on the covered terrace with a pastis apero, people watching.  This is clearly the place to be on a Friday night, noting the Aston Martins and BMWs cruising by.  We enjoyed our moules, then Cathy had lemon meringue pie, cheese for me.  We took a walk along the promenade to digest our dinner as the bohemian market stalls were just packing up for the day. We walked back up the narrow streets with some unique cottages, and are now back in the van and ready for sleep. Tomorrow is our final full day with hopefully some more sea and sunshine (and I don't mind some more moules either!). 

Breakfast - best croissants ever

Muddy toes - soft feet. People would pay a fortune at a spa for this!

A German gun emplacement 

Snail hotel

Aire at St Valery

Great moules

Post-dinner walk