Saturday 26 March 2022

Southwold and Metfield - Suffolk

Thursday 24 March 2022

Nido's in a CL called Brook Cottage in the village of Metfield, just over the border in Norfolk.  We're here for a couple of nights before heading home tomorrow.  It's a lovely quiet little site, a bit quirky with a lovely, friendly elderly couple living in a caravan on site who look after the CL for an old chap (91) who lives in the house.  But it's a nice spot surrounded by trees and, for £10 including EHU, is good value. The phone signal is almost non-existent though, first world problem I know and the fault of our mobile provider (GiffGaff - O2), but we all have things to do and organise on-line these days and without a signal it's difficult.  I managed to check online for O2 coverage and the CL is the middle of an island of no signal surrounded by a sea of 4G - how is that even possible!?  Also, Suffolk is full of fields with those very loud and annoying bird scarers firing off every 10 minutes or so. Salty is absolutely terrified of loud bangs (we think he had a traumatic experience with shotguns on the farm before he came to us) and is left shaking like a leaf and hiding under the cab seat.  I guess you'd get used to them if you lived here.  

We spent most of yesterday in Southwold, a very popular tourist attraction on the coast.  We avoided the area around the town and pier and instead headed for the Harbour, parking close to the harbour entrance and sandy beach. It was hot and sunny with hardly any breeze, although there was the threat of a chill from occasional hazy sea mist.  After a pleasant beach walk we wandered along the harbour road. This is a working port with small fishing boats and a number of boat-repairers and chandlers.  There's also quite a few small sheds that would have once been owned by the local fishermen, but are no doubt now second homes and changing hands for a small fortune. Having walked to the end of the track and a little way along a levee by the marshes, we reversed our route and stopped off at Mrs T's Fish and Chips for lunch.  I ordered inside and we sat outside in the hot sunshine waiting for our order number to be called - Number 2!  The food was delicious and the portions huge. On the way out I popped into the Sole Bay Fish Company and bought a dressed Cromer crab (the best crab in the world!) to have for supper.  This went well with some salad, a part-baked baguette cooked in the Ridge Monkey and a bottle of Muscadet.  The bird scaring artillery stopped about 5pm and Salty emerged from his den on the cab floor, but was not keen to go out for his evening walk and showed little interest in his food, although he did eat some cod and a few chips earlier!  Posting the blog will probably have to wait until we get home, as I can't upload the content, nor any photos. 

This morning Cathy was due her online weekly Welsh lesson on MS Teams, but the lack of signal, even from the Mifi with a plug-in booster aerial on the CL made it impossible.  So first thing we drove back to the same car park in Southwold, where we knew there was a decent 4G signal.  Weirdly, the Mifi would only pick up 3G, whilst our phones were on 4G; it's normally the other around.  So I finally turned her phone into a hotspot and she used that to get on line for 1.5 hours of Welsh language learning.  I scooted out of her way, taking Salty for a good walk along the beach. It was a clear sky, sunny day although with a chilly sea mist.  I dropped him off at the van at about midday and wandered over to the cafe for a coffee and a chill-out in the sunshine.  We all had another walk in the afternoon and an ice cream before driving the half an hour back to the CL.  We sat outside reading in the warm sunshine, Salty hunkered inside under the cab seat and away from the bangs!  Later I cooked a Chicken Madras which we ate inside as the temperature dropped with the sun.

We've enjoyed our few days away.  It was lovely to meet up with old friends; I haven't laughed so hard and long for ages.  And the countryside and coast of Suffolk were lovely and somewhere we'll return to in the future.

Southwold Harbour - £4 for all day parking

Walking towards Southwold town and pier

Huge portions at Mrs T's Fish and Chips, Southwold Harbour

Brook Cottage CL, Metfield.  All alone again - is it something we said!?

Friday 25 March 2022

Eastbridge, Dunwich and Butley - Suffolk

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Nido's parked up behind the Village Hall in Butley.  They offer aire-like pitches with EHU if needed.  It's also possible to service your van for a small donation. It can be booked through their website or by calling a mobile number, answered by a very helpful lady.  This is such a great facility for campervans and motorhomes and the income helps keep the village hall maintained; other villages please take note!

We left Hemingford Abbots yesterday morning after a very cold and frosty night (but warm in the van with the heating ticking over) and travelled a couple of hours further down the A14, only getting lost once!  The roads around where I grew up have changed so much in recent years that neither me nor the satnav could fathom out which road to take, but we got there in the end!

Our stop last night was a C&CC CS (Certified Site) in the tiny village of Eastbridge. It was a basic grass field on a working farm and we had it all to ourselves. It's a small place of only about 220 occupants, as the CS owners told us (they also manage the farm).  We had a good chat with the farmer, who is a leading light in the campaign against the building of Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station.  Sizewell is only a few miles away right on the coast.  They'd been campaigning for 10 years and a Yes/No decision is expected this May.  The disruption to the surrounding countryside and their village looks horrendous during the 10-12 years it would take to build the power station.  He was very interested to hear our views of how Wylfa Nuclear Power Station is viewed on Anglesey, particularly now there's a chance that a second one might be built next door to the one currently being decommissioned.  He had heard that the people of Anglesey were for the build; we were able to tell him that many of us certainly are not!  I hope they win, but suspect the views of the local people will be ignored.

We walked from the CS along a footpath that runs east through the Minsmere Nature Reserve to the large shingle beach.  It's a beautiful place and we saw a large variety of birdlife, plus a large herd of deer. This morning, when taking Salty for his walk, I also heard the booming of a Bittern in the reeds.  There's a pub in the village just a couple of minutes walk from the CS - The Eels Foot Inn - an Adnams pub, but we didn't use it, although it's also a C&MC CL.  The night was very dark and full of stars and it turned cold as we turned in.

Even Salty was cold first thing this morning and jumped on the bed to snuggle up until I got up to switch on the van heating.  Breakfast done, setting off was delayed as the SIM card in the Mifi died as the 12Gb had been used up, much faster than I expected.  It was a 3 'Internet with Legs' Data only SIM and I thought we had more data left.  With Cathy needing internet for a Welsh lesson on Thursday, I had to swap one of our phone SIMs into the Mifi, which works but the GiffGaff (O2) coverage doesn't seem as good as 3.  The phone signal in this area (at least for us) has been very poor.

About 15 minutes up the road we pulled into Dunwich Forest car park, which is free.  With a flask and some food packed, we walked through the forest (more of a pine plantation really), following the footpath down to the village of Dunwich, which is right on the coast.  It's a typically lovely Suffolk village but, looking at the signs on the houses and cottages, like most seaside places, most of the properties are now holiday homes.  But it has a pub and museum and a car park right at the beach, with toilets and a cafe.  The car park is 'free' but a donation (honesty box) is encouraged.  As with most places now, there was a plethora of 'No overnight camping' signs.

Back at the van we sat out in the warm sunshine with a cup of tea and chatted to a passing couple staying in a camper van, before making our way to Butley.  Now fed and watered, it's pitch black outside and very, very quiet!  With EHU, we're charging up all the gadgets and will no doubt put the heating on later. Although the day's are warm and sunny, it gets very chilly once the sun sets.

Sizewell over the marshes and in the sea mist


Ruins of Minsmere Chapel

Ponies on Minsmere Nature Reserve

Just us on Eastbridge CL

On the clifftop by Dunwich

Dunwich Forest

Quiet park-up at Butley Village Hall

Sunday 20 March 2022

Up Homers

Sunday 20 March 2022 

Nido's parked up at the Ridgeway Farm CL in the village of Hemingford Abbots, in Cambridgeshire. This is our first van trip this year and it coincided with my best friend turning 60. I have been taking the p*ss out of him for hitting the big Six O, but he quickly reminded me it's my turn next year! 

Hemingford Abbots is next to the village of Hemingford Grey, which is the village where I was born and grew up, leaving at the tender age of 16 to join the Royal Navy. It's where I spent my youth with Chris Turner - affectionally known as 'Mr T'. We (mostly) stayed out of trouble by spending all of our spare time fishing. We had a clinker-built crabbing boat called Fuga and spent many happy hours rowing up and down the Great Ouse, fishing and laughing. Sadly Fuga sprang a leak one trip and we had to abandon ship...she was never recovered. He was my Best Man when Cathy and I married in 1983 in the beautiful St James Church next to the river and our son is named after him. Anyway, the plan for this trip was to meet up with Mr T and then head off to Suffolk for a few days before returning to Anglesey. 

We left home yesterday in warm sunshine and a very strong wind and pushed 5 hours East. On arrival, I stopped to have a chat with the CL owner - John - he also knows Mr T well. The site is a couple of acres I would guess, with plenty of room to spread out, with EHU and the usual facilities. It's not far off the new A1307, which used to be the A14, which used to be the A604 - they like changing the roads around here! Mr T still lives in Hemingford Grey and drove over for a long-awaited reunion, catch-up and a cuppa. I'd pre-booked a table in the village pub just down the road - the Axe and Compass - and Mr T picked us up later to drive us down (Salty had the van all to himself). It was strange to be in a pub and even stranger to see so many people not wearing masks, which are still being worn at least in our part of Wales. We had a good meal and chat and later in the evening another old friend and his partner turned up for a drink. Rather than being in our 60s or close to it, we were back to being 18 years old least in our heads! A lovely evening with lots of laughter, before returning to the van to sleep off the food and, in my case, a few pints of Doom Bar. 

This morning was bright and sunny, but with a bit of frost still around when I took Salty out for a walk. We'd kept the heating on low all night and that helped to avoid the worst of the chill, but it soon warmed up. After breakfast, Mr T drove over and we all jumped in the van to head for Grafham Water. This is a man-made reservoir built in 1965. I remember first visiting there from Primary School, where we went sailing with one of the teachers. There are three different car parks, all suitable for motorhomes, and the parking fees are charged on exit, depending on how long you stay. There's a couple of visitor centres, cafes and a bike hire place. It's just under 10 miles all the way around, with a path shared by cyclists and pedestrians, so keep your wits about you! It was fairly busy, as was the road, which freaked Salty out a bit, especially the very noisy motorbikes and boy racers. But we had a decent walk before sitting outside the van with a cuppa and some Welsh cakes. We returned to the CL and spent the rest of the afternoon sat in the sunshine, sheltering from a chilly wind and chatting. 

It was lovely to meet up with Mr T, Graham and Lyn and we promise not to leave it so long next time. But they also have a standing invitation to come and visit us on Anglesey. Tomorrow we head for the Suffolk coast. The weather is looking good for the whole week - sunny but with a cool, easterly onshore breeze.

Plenty of space on the Ridgeway Farm CL

Mr T at the Bar and with his wallet open, so I needed photographic proof!!

Watching out for those pesky rabbits!

Grafham Water

Spot the Patterdale