Friday 16 July 2021

A great view in Scotland

Friday 16 July 2021

Nido's parked up in the Upper Cheviot parking area just over the border in Scotland, with a fantastic view over the Cheviot hills.  This park up is one of many in a trial being run by Forestry and Lands Scotland.  They allow motorhomes and camper vans to park up overnight for one night only (no return within 24 hours).  Some of the parking areas charge but this one doesn't.  It's a great initiative so long as everyone follows the simple rules and details can be found on the Forestry and Lands website.

We left The Twice Brewed Inn yesterday and drove for about an hour to Kielder Water, the largest man-made lake in Europe.  On the way we stopped in Haltwhistle to do some food shopping in what must be the smallest Sainsburys in England! It was a beautiful, still, sunny day with clear blue skies.  The roads were extremely quiet and with the abundant greenery, trees and the blue lake, we could easily have been in France or Germany.  We parked up at the Tower Knowe visitor centre.  The first car park is by the toilets, shops and restaurant, but we took the left fork to the overflow car park, which only had one other van parked.  It's £5 for the day and the ticket is valid in all of the official car parks around the lake.  Cathy made a picnic and we followed the path along the lake, soon finding a route to the water side, where we sat on some stones to enjoy our food and allow Salty to cool off in the water.  Swimming is banned, which is a shame as it looked quite safe; if it was France there would be a dedicated 'beach' area for swimming, separated off from any water traffic.  We continued along the main path around the lake, before turning off down a side track to again reach the lake, passing some sad looking, abandoned chalets that I think were part of the Outdoor Education Centre.  The main path is also used by cyclists and sometimes runs alongside the road that follows the lake perimeter, so at times we lost complete sight of the lake, which was a shame.

We moved on to our overnight stop, which was a CL at Haining Head Farm, near Bellingham. It's a working farm and there were sheep, lots of birds (including noisy guinea fowl and pea hens!) and a few wild children living on the farm!  It had good views over the hills and some passing traffic on the road, which reduced into the evening.  There were two caravans on site and I think the owners were either shepherds or sheep shearers, as they had their working dogs with them and were away during the day, returning later in their work clothes.  We had a quiet evening and ate outside in the warm sunshine.

Tower Knowe Visitor Centre - overflow car park

Heading over the border into Scotland this morning, we first stopped at
Hell's Hole, Wauchope Forest.  This is another of the free Forestry and Land stopovers.  We parked up in the shade and had a cup of tea, before taking Salty for a walk around the forest trail, which included a cooling swim in a stream for him.  A short distance away we turned off and drove up a steep and winding track to reach this current stopover.  The drive up was relatively easy for us in a 6m campervan, but anything too long might struggle with the hairpin bends.  But the views up here are amazing and its very quiet and peaceful.  When we parked up I could see a Forestry and Land van parked up and later the Warden came over to have a chat.  He was very helpful and welcoming, explaining all about the trial to allow motorhomes to park in their car parks and how the Scottish Government were encouraging such schemes.  He gently explained the simple rules (no fires, no litter etc), then wished us a pleasant stay.  This is an excellent scheme and we felt very welcome.  I hope the trial becomes a permanent feature and we can return to use many of the others around Scotland.

We had lunch on arrival here, so supper was 'tapa' of potatas bravas and sausage, with a San Miguel.  Well, when in Spanish!  The views and peaceful quiet here are amazing and I highly recommend anyone to try them out and send them a positive review if you enjoyed it (QR code on their sign on each site).

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Twice Brewed by Hadrian's Wall

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Nido's parked up with four other vans in an area reserved exclusively for motorhomes and campervans at The Twice Brewed Inn, within view of Hadrian's Wall and close to Vindolanda Roman Fort.  This pub allows overnight stops for a fee, although some of this is reimbursed if you eat here.  I called them yesterday and bagged the last parking spot and also a table for 6.30pm.  

Yesterday we drove from Worston up to Alston, in the North Pennines.  On the way up we stopped off  at Hartside Summit (1903 ft) for lunch.  Onwards, we arrived at our overnight stop, which was the Nook Farm Shop and Cafe just north of Alston. They charge £5 to stay (no facilities although the shop toilets are available when it's open) and have space for about five vans; two were already parked up when we arrived.  The shop is also the parking area for visiting Epiacum Roman Fort.  It's a short stomp up the hill and needs a bit of imagination to envisage what it would have looked like. The views from the fort were all around and even Salty enjoyed the vista and sense of history!

Epiacum was built in the AD 120s at about the same as Hadrian's Wall.  It's suspected the Romans built the fort to control mining of the lead-rich mineral veins of the North Pennines.  Around 500 soldiers were stationed there and a bustling civilian settlement grew up around the fort.  

The shop closed at 5pm and, apart from passing traffic, we had a quiet evening sat outside in the sunshine.  Taking Salty for his final walk of the evening, there were curlews and lapwings flying low over the moor.

Lunch at Hartside Summit

After breakfast we drove the short distance to Vindolanda Roman Fort.  We visited here in 2012 - on our first ever motorhome trip - and a lot of excavation has been completed since then.  We left Salty in the van and paid the £8.50 per person admission charge.  The site has grown a lot since we last visited and archaeologists were excavating new areas.  They and volunteer guides were very generous with their time, talking about the history of Vindolanda and what's been found over the years.  Although this time we didn't visit the indoor museum, which is on a different site, it would be well worth a visit to view some of the thousands of items dug up over the years.

The Twice Brewed Inn was only a few minutes drive away.  I parked up next to a motorhome and popped in to let them know we'd arrived and that we'd be in at 6.30pm to eat. I was given a parking permit along with the entry code for onsite showers and toilets in a self-contained unit just behind the parking area.  They are really trying to embrace and encourage van life and it's great to see.  We walked across the road and up a lane to join the footpath that runs alongside Hadrian's Wall.  To the east, the wall runs across the top of steep cliff escarpments towards Housesteads, said to be the most complete and best preserved Roman Fort in the UK.  The temperature had increased markedly during the day and the sun was out, so we took the western path, with gentle climbs up to a Trig Point overlooking the moors and looking down towards the pub.  Sections of Hadrian's Wall have survived and we stood and marvelled at their construction.  We'd taken a flask of tea with us and sat with a cuppa, enjoying the view.  It was a bit hot for Salty (who's wearing a thick black coat!) and he had to stop a few times to 'sploot' in the long, cool grass on the way down.  The blue bucket was therefore deployed for its 102nd use, acting as a cooling pool and he looked crossly at us once soaked and disappeared into the darkness of the van cabin footwell to sulk!

Showered and changed, we left Salty in the van and wandered over to the pub. Although it's dog-friendly, Salty is a rescue Patterdale Terrier and we're not sure if he's pub-friendly!  So the easiest option was to leave him in peace in the van. It's the first time we've eaten out since visiting our daughter and S-I-L in America in 2019, so we were a bit nervous, but it was well organised and felt safe.  Although the menu was standard 'pub grub' the food was very good.  They also have their own Brew House so we tried some different ales - all very tasty - and bought a box of three to take back to our neighbour, who's keeping our greenhouse watered.  As we were staying over in the van they knocked £5 off the bill, so another good reason to stay here.

Hadrian's Wall

Nido parked up at The Twice Brewed Inn

Back at the van, Salty was fine and pleased to see us.  The breeze has got up, cooling everything down pleasantly and we're sat in the van with the door open, listening to a lively game of metal quoits being played in the pub garden - the North East England version of French Petanque.

Monday 12 July 2021

Worston, near Pendle Hill

Sunday 11 July 2021 
Nido's nestled in a very quiet and scenic meadow between Clitheroe and Pendle Hill. We're on the CL at Angram Green, a site we visited almost 6 years ago to the day. It was such a lovely, peaceful stop last time, we vowed to return one day. As it's on the way to Northumberland, it provided an ideal stopover for a couple of nights. Last time we stayed we had it all to ourselves, but today there's another campervan and two caravans, although the field is large enough to give us all plenty of room and private space. There's no EHU to connect to, so we can all pitch where we fancy. 

This is the longest trip we've made since we spent a month in France in 2019. Our other trips since then have been only for a couple of nights, with the exception of 6 nights in Pembrokeshire. It's taken some thought to get back into the swing of a slightly longer trip. For just a few nights away, I'd either cook or take all the food we needed, noting we'd normally stay on one site for the whole time, usually in some remote location. But this trip. we'll be travelling around, so they'll be opportunity to buy food as we go, hopefully making use of roadside fruit and veg stalls plus small, independent shops to support the local community. 

When planning this trip, my initial thought was to just head off and rely on the opportunity to wildcamp, use pub stops or book into CLs at the last minute. But over the past weeks, reading about other's trips and checking various forums, it became obvious there would be little opportunity for impromptu stopovers. All of the club main sites I checked were fully booked for several weeks. Even some of the CLs I called were booked solid through to the middle of September. So this trip - as is now the norm in the UK - needed some research, planning and advance bookings. This CL was therefore booked in advance, plus one close to Hadrian's Wall and a pop-up campsite not too far from the Northumberland coast. Aside from that, I've planned a couple of stops found on the Search for Sites website, including a free parking spot courtesy of Scottish Forestry, pub stops and a couple of C&CC Temporary Holiday Sites. This should give us a mix of certainty and flexibility on where we end up staying. It's not the same as just turning up at a French aire, but it does mean we don't have to worry too much about upsetting people by wild camping at a time when campervans and motorhomes are being ostracised for all sorts of reasons. 

The journey here was relatively painless - mainly motorway - and we arrived at 1pm. We decompressed with a cup of tea sat outside under cloudy but warm skies. Salty was a bit stressed by the journey, although we'd moved his safety line to allow him to lie on our bed for the trip, which seemed to help. But a walk of a couple of miles through fields and quiet lanes, with new smells and sights calmed him down and he's now snoozing next to me, having eaten his tea, plus some of ours! 

All's quiet now - a very still evening with only the birdsong and lambs breaking the silence. 

Monday 12 July 2021 

It's a still afternoon, raining steadily but it's warm. I'm sat outside under the awning, watching the rain and listening to a blackbird in the large tree next to us, competing with the sounds (and lovely garlicky smells) of Cathy cooking dinner behind me in the van. After a good walk and lunch, Salty is snoozing on the driving seat. I have a glass of Portuguese red wine from the Doura region. I'm enjoying my day! 

I'm a bit set in my ways. Normally, if it's raining I wouldn't chance putting the awning out and would close the door and stay in the van. But I decided to try it, mainly to see if it stopped the rain coming into the van with the side door open...and it does! So I'm enjoying the al-fresco experience and we'll do it again. 

It rained throughout the night but the site here is flat and drains well, so I'm not worried about getting away tomorrow. The other campervan left as we were having breakfast, so it's us and a couple of caravans now. I chatted to the couple in the smaller caravan yesterday - an old but well loved caravan about the size of an Eriba. They come here about three times a year as they love the peace and quiet. Normally, they'd be in France from May for a couple of months but there's no chance of that right now. Like us, they're not a fan of the Club main sites, preferring these small, tucked-away CLs. They have a basic, open awning up and lots of fairy lights and seem very content with their lot; I reckon they have it right. 

The last time we stayed here we completed a 10 mile walk. Six years on, we're not so fit so I planned one half of the loop for today, taking us along the foot of Pendle Hill, back towards the village of Downham (where we walked yesterday), along the base of Worsaw Hill and down to Worston village before walking back up the lane to the campsite. We lucked out with the weather; thankfully the rain held off, although it was a bit misty over the hills. Salty enjoyed the new smells and took the opportunity for a paddle and a drink when we came across streams. Back at base, we sat under the awning with a pot of tea and coffee, reading or catching up with what everyone else is doing today. I watched a couple of YouTube videos from The Urban Motorhome and Camper-Vibe. 

The rain's getting heavier, but we can still sit outside in the shelter of the awning and dinner is almost done, so that's it for today. We move on tomorrow, heading to the North Pennines.

Misty on Pendle Hill