Tuesday 17 August 2021

Valais Caravan Park, Colebatch, Shropshire

We've spent a few nights at the Valais Caravan Park CL in the hamlet of Colebatch, about a mile from the small market town of Bishop's Castle in Shropshire.  It's close to the Welsh border and we came here because we wanted to get away from the normal tourist hotspots and enjoy some peace and quiet - we certainly found it!

The CL has only been running for about eighteen months, but it already has some excellent reviews online. The owners - Bruce and Anne - are very welcoming and they have created one of the best CLs we've stayed on.  It's in a lovely spot with excellent views all round and, although close to the A488, we've heard nothing except sheep, horses, birds and the occasional passing tractor.  The CL has the usual five pitches, but each is very spacious, more than double the size of most we've stayed on.  Each pitch has electric hook-up and there's a well-maintained and very clean loo dump, bins and fresh water point area at one end of the CL.  All the pitches are grass, but they're well drained and level.

There are sheep and goats in enclosures on the site, with chickens, ducks and quail by the owner's house. Eggs are for sale at the entrance and, when the goats produce enough milk, Anne makes her own goat's cheese. Unfortunately we hit a dry patch so none was available, but it'll give us an excuse to return and try it!  But we did buy some duck eggs which were very tasty.

The area is agricultural, with rolling green hills, woodlands and fields of sheep and arable crops.  It's a great place to walk and the footpaths are well signposted and marked, although a few of the stiles were a bit wobbly! Bruce and Anne provided lots of local walk leaflets, as well as places to eat in the local area. There are plenty of great walks and places to visit in the area, but we chose to stay put and walk from the site.  

We arrived on Sunday and were met by Bruce, who provided the leaflets and talked a bit more about the area, which was really helpful.  We were soon pitched up and after a cup of tea, took a walk to the local market town of Bishop's Castle, via part of the Shropshire Way.  It's only about a mile or so (20 minutes) and the town is lovely; lots of independent shops and six pubs, including two that have their own brewery.  There's also plenty of other options for eating - cafe's and restaurants.  It looks like they have a great community going, with plenty of music and other events throughout the year.  Back at the van I cooked some burgers and made a salad and the weather was kind enough to sit outside.

The next day we took on one of the walks in the leaflets; about six miles of fields, quiet lanes and forest tracks.  It was really peaceful and we enjoyed the distant views across the hills.  The rest of the day we chilled out by the van, reading and just listening to the birds and wildlife.  Dinner was a chicken curry I'd made some time ago and we brought with us.  

Today I cycled around some of the local towns and villages, about 20 miles.  The roads were fairly quiet and the traffic gave me plenty of room.  Turning off the main routes, the lanes became much more hilly and I was soon puffing!  I stopped off in Bishop's Castle to buy some wine for tonight; I reckon I could carry up to three bottles in the pockets of my cycling top!  Back at the van, Cathy had cleaned and tidied up and was sat outside with Salty enjoying the sunshine, although it's been a bit windier today. We repeated Sunday's walk into Bishop's Castle, before returning to sit outside the van with a brew.  Tonight's dinner was bit of an experiment!  I recently bought a Ridge Monkey to use on the gas hob and I've cooked a few things in it, but mainly simple toasties or part-baked baguettes and crumpets.  I'd seen someone make a pie on YouTube, so I'd brought some pastry and a tin of stewing steak and combined this with some grated cheese to make a steak and cheese pie.  It turned out well, although I could have done with more pastry to seal in all the ingredients. But it ate well!

Tonight is our last night here and we'll be off home tomorrow, hopefully stopping off somewhere en-route for lunch.  I've bookmarked a couple of other CLs close to the Montgomery Canal, so might go past those to check them out, ready for a future trip.  This was a short trip away, but it was really relaxing and it's definitely an area we'll return to......if only to sample Anne's goat's cheese!

The rain's coming in...

A very colourful Bishop's Castle

Return route from BC

Very spacious pitches

I'm saying nothing!

Great views

Thirsty and covered in grass seeds



Stage 1 - not looking too appetising

Stage 2 - it's a wrap

Stage 3 - coming along

Mae'n blasus iawn! (It's very tasty!)

Wednesday 11 August 2021


Sunday 18 July 2021

Our intention had been to spend several more days exploring the Northumberland coast, but we decided to change our plans due to the circumstances below.  So this and the last post have been published some time after the event....mainly because I forgot to do them!

We left the THS at Coldstream having enjoyed a quiet day and evening with the Edinburgh DA Group, all very welcoming.  We were aiming to visit Lindisfarne (or Holy Island) today, but had to wait for the tide to recede to expose the causeway road, as this is the only way to cross and is completed flooded at high tide.  Various websites gave the safe crossing times for today so, as we were early, we found a pull over just outside Waren Mill on the coast and had an early lunch.  The layby is on the coastal road and, being a Sunday, was very busy.  The noise was freaking Salty out a bit, so he stayed in the van, although we kept the side door open to enjoy the view, including Lindisfarne castle in the distance, which looked a little like Mont St Michel from this range.  

It took half an hour to drive to the causeway and by the time we reached the large car park on the island, it was already starting to fill up.  Overnight stops are not allowed unless staying in one of the hotels or guest houses, so all were day visitors like us.  It was quite busy and the walk down towards the main village in the direction of the Abbey and Castle is quite narrow, so social distancing was difficult, but we walked on the other side of the road which surprisingly nobody else did!  We've visited here before, during our first ever motorhome trip in 2012.  On that occasion it was quite misty - and our camera was on the blink so some of the photos we took were a bit blurred - but today was warm and sunny.  We didn't bother visiting the ruined Abbey again, but just walked around some of the coastal path to take in the views.  By the end the crowds were getting to us a bit, so we returned to the van for a cuppa before heading off to what was supposed to be a four night stay...

I'd tried to book a CL or campsite in this area in advance of this trip, but all were fully booked.  One CL owner mentioned he was setting up a pop-up campsite - a bit like a THS - for £10 per night.  This included fresh water and waste dump and would allow us to be based in one place for a few nights to explore the coast before moving further inland and finding a couple of pub stops on the way home.  However, a few days before he'd emailed to say the pop-up site wouldn't be ready as they'd not had time to mow it!  He offered another pitching spot on the same farm as his CL.  It was in a field with views over Lindisfarne and we could use the CL facilities.  This sounded fine and he provided directions which took us down to dead-end to a row of cottages.  But on arrival it was clear the 'pitch' was of no use.  The field was extremely uneven and covered in fresh cow pats.  Moreover, it backed on to a holiday cottage and we would have blocked the view for the people who no doubt had spent a lot of money to hire the place; we weren't comfortable with doing that.  So I emailed him to say it was unsuitable and we looked around for somewhere else to stay.  There was a pop-up campsite nearby but they wanted £20 per night, with very limited facilities.  I checked out a couple of the nearby pub stops but they weren't really suitable.  So we had a decision to make.  Should we try to keep finding a place for tonight and the rest of the week, or do we cut the trip short and head home?  It was getting quite late in the afternoon by then and the disappointment of the 'pitch' had sort of taken the wind out of our sails.  So we made the decision to drive home.  This was over 300 miles though and would take several hours.  We took a bit of break, had something to eat and hit the road, reaching home at about half past midnight.

This wasn't an ideal end to our trip, but finding places to stay at short notice in the UK, even pub stops or overnight car parks, isn't easy any more.  We enjoy this type of spontaneous travel in mainland Europe, where Aires/Stellplatz are plentiful, but it's much less enjoyable in the UK, is quite stressful and something we prefer to avoid.  Having said all that, we enjoyed our time away and look forward to seeing more of Scotland in particular.  For now, I think the rest of our trips this year will be shorts stops not too far from home.  We can't wait for the time when we can return to France and enjoy travelling in a country that embraces Van Life.

Nice lunch view

Is that Mont St Michel?  If only!

Lindisfarne Castle

These boats, now used for storage, were sometimes dwellings too

This road on Lindisfarne reminded me of Normandy or Brittany

Coldstream THS

 Saturday 17 July 2021

Nido's on a THS (Temporary Holiday Site) in Coldstream, right on the English/Scottish border.  The THS are part of the Camping and Caravanning Club and are run by local groups.  They're dotted all over the country and tend to be set up around the usual holiday times - Easter, Summer, Public Holidays.  The beauty of them is there's no need to book; just turn up and pay the nightly fee.  In this case it was only £8 per night, which includes access to fresh water and somewhere to dump waste.  Some of the THS meets organise events and meals, or you can just keep to yourself.

It was only about an hour's drive from last night's stopover, with a break to top up with food in Kelso on the way.  The THS was in the grounds of The Hirsel Estate Country Park, well off the main road and surrounded by trees, fields and streams.  Next to the THS were a few craft shops and a cafe.   I checked us in and the Stewards offered us space anywhere we liked in an adjacent field, which was already occupied with quite a few vans.  This was the last night for the THS; it was packing up tomorrow after a couple of weeks on this site, so I think quite a few vans had already left.  It was a very hot day, but with a strong breeze blowing.  I put the awning out and used the storm straps to peg it down.

We spent the day relaxing, walking around the grounds (well-marked routes), eating and enjoying an evening walk around the adjacent lake.  Tomorrow our plan was to head for the Northumberland coast to spend several days exploring the beaches.  

A nice pitch on the Temporary Holiday Site in Coldstream