Sunday 19 June 2016

Where is the map?

For a few years Cathy's wanted to see the wildflower meadows of Swaledale in full bloom. So I booked a campsite between Muker and Reeth.

Friday 17 June 2016
I finished work at lunchtime and after preparing the van we drove north up the M6. The traffic was kind to us, although once on the minor roads, the satnag decided to take us over the top of the hills along ever narrowing lanes. We were in this part of the world last August, when we stayed on the Usha Gap campsite in Muker and many years ago we'd enjoyed some great holidays in a cottage in Grinton with our children and our old friend, Chris.  The Scabba Wath campsite was poorly signposted but we eventually found it, pulling into a slightly sloping pitch that needed levellers.  There was already a group with a caravan and tent and a couple of crazy dogs. Cathy cooked some pizza this morning and we had this with some salad and a glass or two of red wine. After dinner we had a short walk across the road and over the bridge, walking down to the river Swale and a little up the road towards Grinton. There were hundreds of rabbits hopping about, including some very flat ones on the road! Back at the van we sat with the sliding door open, watching the sheep settle down for the night, but the rain closed us down and we had an early night to read.  It was a quiet night and we both slept well.

Saturday 18 June 2016
We didn't wake until 0830 - almost 12 hours in bed! That's what a week at work does to us. After breakfast Cathy went to pay and ditch rubbish, while I packed everything away. We drove down to Reeth. We wanted to visit the bakery where in previous holidays we'd stocked up on lovely food for our walks in the hills ("two of them, three of them, four of them!"). With a couple of pasties, some fruit cake and shortbread, we drove back passed last night's campsite towards Muker and the Usha Gap campsite. I popped in to the farmhouse to pay for a night and we pitched up in the small area next to the river.  With our rucksacks packed with lunch, flask and water the last thing was the map.  "Where is the map?" I asked.  Cathy didn't remember packing it, so I must have left it somewhere at home - my bad!  But I remembered our route from last year, which started with walking through the famous wildflower meadows of Muker.  The sun was out and so we managed to take some great photos as well as stand to soak up the colour. The route took us along the river before climbing towards the remains of Crackpot Hall. We stopped further along, by a waterfall, for our lunch.  The Reeth bakery food and our tuna rolls went down very well and with renewed energy we walked up to the small hamlet of Keld.  There's a small, basic campsite here, quite high up and with great views.  I'll think we'll give it a try next time.  Dropping down we joined the old corpse road, where in the past they carried coffins over the hill to Muker, soon climbing with great views all around.  As we reached the top and started our descent, we stopped and sat on the grassy hill for a cuppa.  The Farmers Arms in Muker provided a well deserved pint before the short walk back to the van.  Cathy had a lie down while I used the campsite's clean, hot and very welcome showers. Back over the road I wound out our awning - the first time we'd used it since it was fitted last November - then prepared and cooked our meal of chicken pad Thai, washed down with a bottle of chilled Leffe. We ate outside but the midges were starting to give us some grief, so I washed up across the road while Cathy sorted out the van.  We spent the rest of the evening sat in the van, enjoying the occasional sunny spell while reading.  I think we'll soon be asleep!

Sunday 19 June 2016
A grey morning and the midges were still battering at the windows and skylights to come in! After breakfast we drove up over the Buttertubs Pass and stopped in the village of Ingleton. There's a good walk to the waterfalls but at £6 per adult, we thought this was a bit steep. After all, it's not as if it costs a huge amount to maintain!  So instead we returned to the van, grabbed a picnic and walked back to sit at a picnic table by the river.  There's a small, heated outdoor swimming pool in the village which looked lovely - next time.  Back home we gave Nido a good clean inside and out and I emptied his garage ready for his habitation service tomorrow.

River Swale - looks low

Wildflower meadows - Muker, Swaledale

Sunday 12 June 2016

House sit in Glyn Ceiriog

We'd planned a quiet weekend at home after two weeks away, plus another month of trips already planned in the van. But on Tuesday an email from Trusted Housesitters popped up, with an urgent request to help someone this weekend. I replied and the owner was soon in touch.  We talked through the gig and agreed to help out. This was to look after a country cottage in a beautiful valley in North Wales, with two elderly terriers, four chickens, a feisty cockerel and six ducklings who think Ted the terrier is their Dad!

After work, we drove from home into torrential rain - I mean like monsoon rain! It was very warm and we drove into Wales, heading steeply uphill out of Llangollen, before dropping down through several steep hairpins into the Ceiriog valley. We dropped down a narrow, fern-lined track down to the cottage. There were crumbling out buildings on our left. I pulled up at the gate and the owner met us, let us through and I parked overlooking the misty valley with sheep in the field.  Engine off and we were enveloped by ear-ringing silence. The dogs - Ted and Tom - met us at the door, excited to see new faces and we all got on well. We had a good chat over a cuppa and some lovely homecured ham and did the usual house sitting handover - pet feeding, keys, electrics. The owner had some work to finish so in the meantime Cathy made us all a lovely dinner of homemade pizza, salad and new potatoes, enjoyed with a bottle of white wine.  Tidied up, we headed for bed, opening the window to listen to heavy rain and some very unhappy sheep! 

We woke early to a cockerel's crow and so were sat at the kitchen table, drinking tea and watching the bird life by 0630. Once the owner had left for her weekend we had breakfast and fed the animals.  We cleared some overgrown tree and shrub growth then took the dogs for a walk, through the fields, along the river and into the village.  Actually, if truth be known, we didn't know the way so the dogs walked us! Back at the cottage we sat outside in the hot, humid sunshine with a brew before I tied up the tomato plants in the greenhouse, while Cathy tidied up. As we worked there was the odd rumble of thunder and heavy rain started to fall. 

I drove into Chirk to buy some food plus fish and chips for our supper - we were hungry! With the ducklings and dogs fed, Cathy had a snooze while I watched cycling on TV, with Ted laying next to me with his chin on my leg.  We have a few jobs lined up for tomorrow so, until then, it's time to listen to the silence of the deep countryside.

The next morning it was still cloudy with mist on the tops of the valley, but warm enough for shorts. The hens had laid a couple of eggs, which we enjoyed with bacon and toast for breakfast. Outside jobs today were weather dependent.  However we noticed Tom was holding his rear left leg off the ground.  We took a look and couldn't see anything apart from a little blood on the paw. So I rang the vet in Llangollen and booked an appointment for later. Tom travelled well in the car and he was soon examined by the vet, who thought something had pierced the skin but was not still in there and there was some swelling. A quick injection and some anti-inflammatory tablets to hide in his food and we were soon back at the cottage. The rest of the day was on and off torrential rain, so outside jobs had to be fitted around. But we did manage to sort out the compost heaps. Resting on pallets and with plastic in the bottom, there was no way for the worms to reach the composting material, which explained the slow progress and smelly stuff. We forked one full bin into the empty one, cleared the bottom and then forked it back, so with a double turning it should really take off now. We also tidied up around the allotment and checked on the greenhouse. I had planned to replace the topping stones on the dry stone wall, but it was too wet to safely handle them.

The rest of the day was spent reading and fussing over Tom and Ted. I cooked a very tasty lamb biryani and there was plenty left for the owner's return, so she doesn't have to cook after a long journey.  We watched some TV in the evening before heading off to bed. 

More rain in the night and more forecast today! Spike the cockerel had a Sunday lie-in until 0730 so after that I was up to feed and water all the animals. This is our last day, so we tidied and cleaned up after ourselves, spending time looking out on the views of the hills and sheep and watching the many birds feeding in the garden during the rain and pottering in the garden in between. 

Spike the cockerel

Six little Aylesbury ducklings

Lovely views - wildflower meadows, sheep, hills

Walking Tom and Ted through the wild meadows

Cathy seems to be their favourite perch today!

Lovely view from the dining table

Misty morning

Monday 6 June 2016

Back to Llŷn

Friday 3 June 2016
We had such a great time in Llŷn last weekend, we decided to return. On our coastal walk we'd come across a lovely swimming cove where boat owners could also launch.  There was a car park above, so we hoped there would be somewhere there to wildcamp for the weekend.  The traffic was good to us and, although I made a few wrong turns at the end, we eventually arrived about an hour before sunset. There was one old blue VW campervan already parked up and I managed to pull up next to it, shuffling back and forth until we were reasonably level. We were in a great spot, pointing west and facing the mouth of the cove and the open sea. Cathy had already cooked our meal at home, so it just needed warming up and we ate sat outside watching the sun gradually sink towards the sea. It was a cloudless evening and the sunset was spectacular - aside from the Caribbean probably the best we've seen. We were tired after work and the drive so after a brew, headed off to bed to read, falling asleep to the gentle sound of the sea. As we were nodding off an old VW campervan turned up, with two guys and two collies; they pitched a small tent next to their van and soon all was quiet again.

Saturday 4 June 2016
We slept well and I was up at 0800, making us a brew - Cathy had hers in bed and I poured mine into my travel mug. Time for some fishing!  I'd brought some basic sea fishing gear - not perfect for light rock fishing but good enough. The rocks were pretty rugged and sharp so I took my time getting to the waterline. The tide was on its way out but I was still able to spend a good hour or so spinning, watching the wildlife, including sea birds and an inquisitive seal that kept popping up to have a look around. A local fishing boat was checking its crab and lobster pots.  The sea was calm and soon the hot sun was beating down on my back.  Although I caught nothing I enjoyed fishing again and need to get some suitable LRF tackle.  

Back at the van Cathy was cooking breakfast - scrambled eggs with crispy bacon and toast. I had a packet of filter coffee - just add hot water - and we ate our breakfast in the sunshine, watching the tide ebb. It started to get busy later as the day trippers and boat owners arrived, carefully reversing their trailers down the narrow, steep slipway to the beach.  We enjoyed sitting in the sun reading and chilling. Mid-afternoon we headed down to the beach for a swim.  The sea felt cold on first entering (I certainly felt it more than Cathy!), but we were soon swimming together in the calm sea, with the rocks above and the kelp around our feet. We noticed our breath steaming as we swam - really strange! There must have been some cold sea air coming in - it looked like we were swimming in Winter. After a good half hour swim we wandered around the beach searching out sea glass as we dried. All showered, we enjoyed a beer before I prepared and cooked dinner on the Cadac BBQ. I headed off for some more rock fishing (no luck again but I enjoyed the peace and solitude). We sat outside with a cuppa, watching the two guys in the VW catch plenty of dogfish. It was quite cloudy by now but, at the last minute, the sun popped out under the clouds and provided a stunning finale as it sank into the sea - perfect end to a chilled out, relaxing day.  

Sunday 5 June 2016
It was warm when we woke - already 27'C in the bedroom area of the van, so skylights were opened to another clear blue sky day.  I was 'up and at 'em', heading out for another hour of so of splashing a fishing lure into the sea without success!  But, hey, the view was amazing, the sun warm and the sea flat calm - I was completely chilled out.  The local seal was again popping up near the rocks to take a look around and the fishing boat was out checking their pots - just another day in this lovely place. 

It was my turn to cook breakfast - this time mushrooms, bacon, fried bread and eggs.  Not exactly healthy but it set us up for the day. We took a wander over to the other cove with the sheds and winching gear.  This was a suntrap and the heat was bouncing off the pebbled beach as we mooched around and I skimmed the odd stone or two across the flat water.  It was very clear and looked perfect for swimming, so we returned to Nido to get changed ready for a cove swim.  The tide had only recently turned and we had to wade waist-deep to reach the small sandy beach, so it made sense to just dump our gear and carry on with our swim!  It was cold but we were soon used to it and swam along by the rocks until we reached a larger inlet I'd seen on my earlier fishing trip.  It was quite rocky and slippery underfoot, but we were wearing swimming shoes so this helped. It was great to float around in the water, completely enclosed by high granite rocks.  Back on the beach we read and sunbathed before finishing off with a quick final swim - it felt a lot colder so we didn't stay in long. 

At the van we sat outside to enjoy our lunch, watching the comings and goings of cove visitors.  Our campervan neighbours (I'd say they were late 60s) had been out on their fishing boat a couple of times and I chatted to them. They spent winters in Spain in their van and had been 26 times so far.  He was also a keen road cyclist and always followed a mountain stage of the Tour de France, arriving several days early to find somewhere to park.  Sounds like the perfect life! I gave them the rest of our fresh water (a valuable commodity when wild camping) and we reluctantly packed up the van ready to hit the road - we really didn't want to leave.  On the way out we drove down a small road in a lovely lane to do a 'drive-by' of a cottage we'd seen for sale - with a large garden and room for several Nido's it would have been perfect if we'd been ready to locate.  The drive home was lengthy and hot, with numerous traffic jams and some crazy overtaking from the orange-skinned 'Abersoch Mafia' in their audis and chelsea-tractors!

Another great wild-camping visit on the Llŷn, where a weekend's relaxation feels like a whole week off work.  We love this part of Wales, with beautiful, unspoilt countryside and its own micro-climate.  We'll be back soon!

Nido's wild camping spot

Sunset watching

Checking the crab and lobster pots

Breakfast time


A cheeky last-minute sunset

Our neighbours off fishing