Tuesday 31 May 2016

First swim of the year

Friday 27 May 2016
I'd booked this CL at Pwllgoed, just outside the village of Tudweiliog, a few weeks ago.  It's a lovely spot, about a mile outside the village down a single track road.  It's on a working farm - sheep and cows - and is very quiet and peaceful. From the site we had views of both the sea and the hills in the distance, with animals in the adjacent fields. After a meal we walked back down the lane towards the village.  The hedgerows and verges were green and full of life and a warm sunset relaxed us after our drive from home.  Back in the van, we had a cuppa before crashing out early to read.  My ears were ringing in the silence and we were both soon asleep.

Saturday 28 May 2016
We slept well; Cathy woke earlier and had a read, but I slept through until 0900! Breakfast was fruit and yoghurt and Cathy prepped our packed lunch.  I'd sorted out a walk before hand, that would take us along the coastal path and back down a small lane. We stopped off at the village shop to buy some water (as I forgot to put ours in the rucksacks) then walked past a caravan park, down to the beach at Porth Towyn. Here we joined the path and headed south west with the sea on our right. The sun was shining and the air warm, promising a good day.  There were several small coves and beaches on the walk and not far along we came across some old shacks at what must have been a fishermen's cove, complete with a small cottage on the headland, built into the hillside.  Just after this we reached a lovely, calm cove with a small car park above. It's a popular spot for dive boats to launch and one was already in the water, waiting for its passengers.  Some people were taking a swim - no doubt chilly from their screams! The water was very clear with the sand and seaweed covered rocks very easy to spot.  We continued to walk in the warm sunshine, past more coves and small caravan parks.  This part of the coast really is a well kept secret, a hidden gem of unspoilt countryside and beaches, teeming with flowers, wildlife and seabirds. Eventually we reached Traeth Pennlech and dropped down to the beach for our lunch stop. The sand flies were a pain, so we ended up eating our butties while paddling in the sea, which our feet really welcomed. Back on the coastal path, we stopped again at Porth Colmon for a brew, sat on a bench overlooking the sea. Our return journey was along a narrow lane, lined with hedgerows. We passed some lovely old cottages, with great views and plenty of room for Nido! It was a sun-trap and we were both flagging by the time we turned off the road by the White Lion Inn, to return to the van.  After a cuppa, I prepared dinner while Cathy had a shower. We cooked and ate outside, before moving into the van to read, occasionally checking the sun's progress as it slowly dipped down, throwing a golden light on the distant sea and reflecting off the side of Nido. With no wind, the birds singing and feeling warm from the sun and food, I have no doubt we'll sleep well again tonight. 

Sunday 29 May 2016
I'd set my alarm for 0730 as I wanted to get out for a bike ride before too much traffic was on the road. It was warm already and after breakfast, kitted up and ready, I unhooked the bike from the rack and turned left out of the campsite. Not far along I had to stop a couple of times to adjust the gears - where's my wingman when I need him!?  Before I left I'd scribbled a rough route on some paper and the early part of the ride was spot on.  However it was only rough and about half an hour in I took the wrong route, turning left instead of right.  I carried on for a while, aiming to reach the sea and follow the coastal road.  Eventually I saw loads of tents on my left and what looked like a long, sandy beach - not one I recognised, so I knew I was on a bit of an adventure! Starting to climb around the steep hill, I saw a car park on my left, so pulled over to take a look at the information board.  I was by a National Trust property at the western end of Hell's Mouth, a well known surfing beach between Aberdaron and Abersoch - how the hell did I end up here!?  Now I had my bearings I knew I could follow the road to Aberdaron, then pick up the coastal route.  Turning left out of the NT car park, the road climbed up and up and up.  Down into the granny gear I managed to get about 100m before the road turned and kicked up again, only steeper.  That was me done; I had to stop a couple of times for a breather, some water and a puff on my asthma inhaler! The road seemed to climb forever but eventually I topped out, riding along the narrow lane before starting the steep descent into a very busy Aberdaron.  We all know what goes down must go up (again), only this time it was a bit more manageable and I was able to stay clipped in.   The narrow lanes were great for cycling - smooth and no potholes, but they were quite busy with bank holiday beach seekers.  I knew there was a café at Porthor - aka Whistling Sands beach.  I turned in and walked down with all the beach goers. I had to cross some of the soft white sand in my cycling shoes to get to the café, but was soon recovering sat outside with a latte and a twix,overlooking the beach.  We came to this beach about this time last year on Cathy's birthday, an equally warm and sunny day. Back on the road, I soon reached Morfa and was cycling along the lane we walked yesterday, before returning to the main road into Tudweiliog and back to the campsite.  A great ride although twice as long as I planned!

Cathy had been busy, having a good clean and re-organise of the van, plus she'd prepared lunch. After  sorting out my bike gear, we loaded up our rucksacks and walked back down the lane to the village, taking the footpath alongside the pub and across a couple of fields, to a track taking us back to a lovely beach we found yesterday.  It was quite busy and the only way to reach the small, sandy cove was to wade through the sea.  It was a hot sun-trap, but a little spoiled by some noisy jet-skis and powerboats.  We dumped our gear and slowly entered the water for our first sea swim of the year.  It was cold but not unbearable and we were soon swimming out, with rocks and cliffs either side of us.  We swam around to a small inlet, where we sat on the warm rocks and in the shallows before braving the colder water to return to our picnic blanket and towels.  We enjoyed our lunch sat in the warm sunshine. We went for another swim later - it felt a lot colder the second time around! Unfortunately those around us were still noisy and the men had gone off to fetch beer, so it wasn't going to become peaceful any time soon.  We packed up and reversed our route back to the van. Unpacked and washed up, we had a cuppa outside, before I enjoyed a hot shower.  The breeze was a bit cooler this evening, so we sat in the van with a G&T and some snacks.  It was another lovely sunset and there was still some light until about 2200.  It's been a really relaxing day - plenty of exercise and sunshine, so we'll sleep well again.  Tomorrow we head for home but we'll make the most of the day, starting with a lovely cooked breakfast, enjoyed outside in the sunshine hopefully.

Monday 30 May 2016
We woke with the sun and were up and sat outside in the warm sunshine with a cuppa by 0800.  It promised to be another hot, sunny day, but unfortunately we had to return home.  I cooked us a breakfast outside and after doing our inside and outside tasks, we left the site to visit the National Trust property - Plas yn Rhiw - at the far end of Hell's Mouth beach, the one I came across on my bike ride yesterday.  The satnag took us down some interestingly narrow lanes but we eventually pulled into the car park at about 1100, to find the house and garden don't open until midday!  So instead we turned right and walked down, past a basic campsite, to take a land-slipped footpath down to the beach.  The tide was out so we enjoyed a bare foot walk along the surf line.  The beach is long but only accessible from each end and only at low tide.  With high, crumbly cliffs, it had clearly suffered some storm erosion and there wasn't much sea glass for Cathy to pick up, so we didn't stay long! Instead we picked up the main road heading to the north coast to look for a lunch stop. One beach had a "campervans not wanted here" sign, so we moved on and ended up at a large car park right by the beach at Dinas Dinlle, not far from Caernarfon airport.  We took our lunch and chairs down to the beach and chilled out for an hour - a nice break in our journey. Then it was back on the road and home to unpack before I took Nido back to his storage place.  

The weather was outstanding all weekend and, on returning home, we realised we'd had it a good deal better than some places, particularly the east and mainland Europe - flash floods in the Black Forest so we hope that's finished before we visit in July!  We'll definitely be back to the Llyn Peninsular soon; it's so beautifully unspoilt with quiet lanes, great walks and remote coves perfect for swimming.

Lovely, quiet CL with great views

Nice Tacky Shack!

Sunset reflection

That was one hell of a climb on the bike!

A welcome coffee stop on my bike ride

Lovely swimming cove

Hell's Mouth beach

Monday 23 May 2016

Tour Map

The guys on the Our Tour website mentioned they'd updated their Tour map to use Google My Maps.  I'd been looking for a simple solution to show our campervan stopovers during each year, so had a play around and even I was able to create a simple map!

You can click on any icon to give a brief overnight stop title, plus a link to the relevant blog post.  In time I may add more information, such as photos or videos, but for now it provides a neat way of showing our annual tours on a map.

You can access the Tour Map page by clicking on this link:  Tour Map

Monday 16 May 2016

Sea Salt and Beaches

Friday 13 May 2016
I finished work at the normal time and we hit the road around 1730. Our destination was the Isle of Anglesey.  The traffic wasn't too bad and at about 1930 we arrived at our wild camping spot, a small car park right on the Menai Straits, facing east and overlooking Snowdon. Caernarfon and the castle was over the water to our right.  Another Motorhome was also parked up, plus a couple more just up the road. The tide was receding and as it did, flocked of sea birds arrived to peck over the recently sea-covered rocks and sand. Cathy warmed up our dinner and we sat in the cab seats enjoying the food and the view. After a full day at work, then a long drive, my eyes and ears started to adjust to the peace and quiet.  Although sunny there was a stiff northerly wind, which was quickly bringing down the temperature; the past week had been very warm but it was going to turn a lot cooler overnight and into tomorrow.  We wrapped up and took a walk along the shoreline. The remnants of a wooden and concrete pier were now exposed and we walked out on this. Large numbers of small mussels were available for gleaning, washed twice daily by the fierce tidal Straits - they would have made fine moules!  As we turned to walk back, the sun was setting over the fields at the back. We made some tea and sat watching the light fade over the mountains as the lights of Caernarfon twinkled across the water. There was still some light in the sky as we turned in for the night.

Saturday 14 May 2016
Our plan today is to visit a few of Anglesey's many beaches.  We've tended to visit the same places and had ignored the west coast, home to some of the best sandy beaches.  We slept well and woke to clear blue skies and sunshine, albeit still with a stiff, cool wind.  A cuppa and healthy breakfast of blueberries, pineapple, granola, dried fruit & nuts plus Greek yogurt set us up and once packed up we drove the 200m to the entrance of the Halen Môn sea salt place.  They make some of the best sea salt we've tasted.  We particularly like the plain white flakes and needed to top up.  We were there before opening time, so Cathy sat on the van bench in the sun, while I walked back to the road to take some photos.  We topped up with sea salt and also bought some crackers and pork scratchings to add to our lunch.  I set the satnag and we drove north along the coastal road to the small car park above Porth Trecastell, aka Cable Bay.  We parked alongside an old Adria Twin on a German number plate. The owners said hello and I helped them push their van back off the dune so he could tinker under the bonnet! We walked down the short dune to the beach, with soft sand at the bottom, sheltering us from the offshore wind.  A few families were already camped for the day, plus some surfing dudes in older 'selfie' van conversions, who were out on the water on stand up paddle boards; I'd like to try that one day. The tide was out and we walked down to the water's edge for a paddle - yes, it was mighty cold!  Cathy christened her litter grabber, filling a rubbish bag with mainly plastic. This is a nice beach although I suspect it's crowded in the summer. 

On the way there we passed through Aberffraw, with a car park by the estuary and dunes, so we decided to backtrack and take a look.  Once parked up next to a large Motorhome, Cathy prepared lunch, then we crossed a small stone bridge to walk by the right side of the estuary, along the coastal path.  We  passed a few small coves - mainly sand/shingle with lots of rocks and half an hour later reached Porth Cwyfan, an expanse of sand, shingle and rocks.  It was a bit noisy with motorbikes racing around the Anglesey Circuit on the other side of the bay, but they occasionally stopped and peace returned. Within the bay is the small Cribinau Island, which can only be reached on foot at low tide and, sitting on top of this walled island was the equally small, white-washed church of St Cwyfan, which has stood there since the thirteenth century.  The church was locked but we took a nosy throug the small windows! Back on the beach we found a sheltered, sunny spot on the soft sand and enjoyed our lunch. We returned via a small lane, passing several lovely cottages, before reaching the car park.  It felt chilly in the strong northerly wind, much colder than the past few days, but the strong sunshine and blue skies compensated. 

Our next stop was Porth Trwyn. I'd seen this on Google Maps but what interested me was a small campsite right next to the beach.  The approaching road was narrow with passing spaces and, although the beach looked lovely, there was nowhere to park.  But the small campsite with EHU looked interesting so I'll need to investigate that further.  I punched in the coordinates for Cemlyn Bay, which is quite close to the power station on the north of the island.  This is a stony shingle beach, not unlike Chesil Beach, including a similar brine lagoon cut off from the sea by the shingle bank. The parking was good and free and we took a short walk along the beach, before returning to the van, where Cathy had a snooze and I sat on the van bench with the side door open in full sun, but protected from the chilly wind - lovely.

And so on to our final destination today - Lligwy Bay.  We've stayed here a few times before. There's a large car park that belongs to the café owners.  They allow vans to pitch overnight for £10.  But the view from there is lovely and it's peaceful once all the day trippers have left. When we arrived there were already several campervans and motorhomes parked up. We found a spot on the front next to another van conversion. Our chairs and table were soon out and we sat in the sun with an apero and a snack. Cathy prepared the veg and lentils while I cooked a couple of pork chops, some green pepper and tomatoes on the BBQ, all enjoyed sat outside in the sun with a bottle of red wine.  Mind you, by the time we'd eaten it was starting to get chilly.  Cathy washed and dried up, while I packed everything away. She then shot off for a beach walk - I was wiser and stayed in the warm!  She soon returned shivering - shall I let her come in?  To be fair she made a cuppa on her return.  It's still a clear blue sky as the sun sets and the wind has completely dropped, but I think it'll be quite cold tonight. We're all warm and cozy in the van though. Early night to read then snore I think! 

Sunday 15 May 2016
It was quite chilly in the night and I didn't sleep well with neck ache and the van on a bit of a wonk, so I eventually got up and made us a cuppa.  We had a short walk on the beach before breakfast. Cathy did some litter cleaning around the overflowing bins and got chatting to the café owner, who told her the council wanted to remove the bins - how mad is that? She repaid the favour by only charging us parking fees for the night and not today. We'd just finished clearing up when a lady popped over to say hello.  Her and her husband were in the Autosleeper PVC next to us and she was interested  in comparing notes, particularly as they'd only had their van one week.  It was a nice van with plenty of galley prep space and rear benches that make up into 2 singles or a double bed.  It seems their only compromise was storage space, so they're looking at ideas for maximising what space they have.  It was good to compare notes, especially about travelling in France. 

We still had plenty of sunshine, although with a lot more high cloud today, and the annoyingly fresh breeze was still with us. So we took a jacket for our walk north along the coastal path towards Dulas.  We eventually came across another beach, so had a mooch around searching for sea glass and other 'treasure', before clambering over the rocky headland to walk back along the tide line.  The water felt warmer than yesterday, but it's all relative in mid-May!  Cathy made us a brew while I set up our chairs on the grass and we enjoyed our last hour of sunshine before packing up and driving home, for a couple of hours' van cleaning before I returned him to storage.

Although a short weekend, we made the most of the sunshine and beaches.  We found some new places to chill out and will soon be back to one of our favourite places. 

Great view from our night stop by the Menai Straits

Loads of potential moules!

Our new LED mood lighting thanks to our friend Ian

Time to top up with more excellent sea salt

Cable Bay - lovely sand and a surfing dudes' paradise

Collecting plastic rubbish 

#2 Minute Beach Clean

St Cwyfan church

Great parking spot at Cemlyn Bay

Saturday night at Lligwy Bay

First BBQ of the season!

Can't beat eggs for breakfast!

Lligwy Bay

The water was definitely warmer than yesterday!

Monday 2 May 2016

Seaglass in Seaham

For a while Cathy had wanted to visit Seaham Beach in County Durham.  There was a Victorian glassworks here and, when it closed down, most of the glass was dumped in the sea.  Over the years the action of the sea and the tides had slowly turned the glass into pebbles of various sizes.  The hope was to find some multi-coloured pieces that Cathy can use in the future for some art projects.  I'd booked a CL just outside the village of Witton Gilbert, about half an hour's drive from Seaham.

A little history: Until 1921, Seaham was the location of the largest glass-bottle works in Britain.  Founded by John Candlish in 1853, under the patronage of the 4th Marquess of Londonderry, the Londonerry Bottleworks turned out up to 20,000 hand-blown bottles a day. Every week the "bottleboat" left Seaham harbour to deliver its cargo to warehouses in Rotherhithe, returning via Antwerp with silver sand.  Candlish had a reputation as a benevolent employer, providing a school and library for his 500-strong workforce, but eventually the company had been driven out of business by competition from continental moulded bottle makers.  Little evidence of the industry remains, except for wave-worn bricks on the beach with the Londonderry stamp and the sea glass that's washed ashore with every tide.  Almost a century after the bottleworks closed, the sea still returns the waste glass that was routinely dumped in the sea, now transformed into sand-polished green, ultramarine and yellow beads that provide raw materials for a local cottage industry in sea glass jewellery.

Friday 29 April 2016
I finished work at midday and we drove up to storage to load up and start the journey north. It was a long, boring schlep up the M62 (with the usual traffic jams) with snow on the moors, then M1 and A1. Four hours later we turned off and dropped into Durham to fill up with diesel before driving to the CL. On arrival I pulled over and the owner came out with 4 lovely free range eggs from the hens pecking around our feet.  The grass was very sodden but there were a couple of hardstanding pitches. We were soon up on the levellers, electric plugged in and silverscreens over the cab windows.  We had the remains of a box of wine onboard already so I had some of that, Cathy opened a bottle of Doom Bar, her new favourite beer. After a pasta dinner cooked in Oska, we chilled out for the rest of the night before turning in.

Cold drive along the M62

Saturday 30 April 2016
A sunny morning, so we packed up and drove to the car park above Seaham beach, with a great view over the sea, for breakfast.  Cathy grabbed a bag and we walked down to the beach, turning left to walk along the high tide line.  We were soon finding the sea glass and Cathy was already topping up her wellies in the surf!  I also found some sea-seasoned aluminium of various shapes and sizes.  After a couple of hours we soon had a decent collection of mainly small pieces of seaglass, with a few larger pebbles.  Back at the van Cathy had a snooze while I walked into Seaham.  It's a town that has clearly felt the economic downturn, particularly as it was a mining community - all very sad.  They had a poignant WW1 memorial on the promenade - a British Tommy sat, head down leaning on his rifle.  It's made of iron that has weathered by the sea air into a burnished, rusty epitaph. I found an Asda and bought us some lunch.  After this we popped down to the beach again but were driven back to the van by rain, before driving back to the CL.

Searching for Seaham seaglass - wellies already topped up in the surf!

Great free parking spot for the day - breakfast with a view

Poignant - visit it and you'll agree

Back at the CL it was quite sunny but too chilly to sit out.  However, the van's sliding door was facing West and I was able to sit on the bench inside the van but in direct sunlight - lovely.  With a glass of red wine and my eyes closed soaking up the rays, it almost felt like Spring!  I cooked a Thai chicken red curry and warmed the shop bought naan on Oska's lid. The rest of the evening we read before bedtime.

Sunday 1 May 2016
It rained steadily through the night.  We had a long lie in before enjoying a brunch of the CL's eggs, poached with toast. I did the outside fluid emptying jobs while Cathy washed up, then we de-camped and drove to Seaton Carew beach, just outside Hartlepool.
Seaton Carew beach
This was a long sandy beach but the seaglass pickings were in short supply, so we didn't stay too long, before driving back to Seaham - we liked the views from the car park. After a quick brew it was back down to find some more seaglass, aided by a couple of people who stopped to ask what we were looking for, then gave us the glass they'd found - it's very addictive!  Although the rain stopped when we left the CL, it started again when we returned. Cathy prepared a lovely sausage, potato and veg bake in Oska, enjoyed with a bottle of red wine.  Despite the rain, we were warm and cosy with the heating on in the van.  Weary from another day of fresh sea air, we soon crashed for our last night.  Tomorrow we'll reverse the boring drive home before the start of another, albeit short, working week.