Showing posts with label northumberland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label northumberland. Show all posts

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

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.

Tuesday 6 June 2017

Retirement Trip

Thursday 1 June 2017
We're sat in a large field of grasses and wild flowers, surrounded by dry-stone walls and with far-reaching views over the hills.  This is a temporary holiday site (THS), run by the Camping and Caravanning Club.  These are set up all over the country at different times of the year and are great value for money; in this case £5.75 per night, with fresh water, rubbish disposal and somewhere to empty the loo. There are social events organised if you want them, but absolutely no pressure to join in. This THS is just outside the village of Shap, a few miles from the M6 in Cumbria.

Van packed, we had an easy drive up, arriving about midday.  We parked in a corner, facing the views and walked down to Shap Abbey, in the valley below. The Abbey has been around since the 12th Century, with later additions up until the 1600s. It still has atmosphere and it was easy to imagine the monastic life of the canons who lived there.  The rest of the afternoon we spent sat outside reading and relaxing.  Some RAF typhoons broke the silence occasionally but, once they'd returned to base, peace and quiet descended.  We heard the curlews before we saw them, then a pair flew across, returning 10 minutes later to roost - a rare sight. Dinner eaten with the van door open (and thanks Graham for the lovely soda bread leaving gift!) we enjoyed the peace and quiet of this lovely spot - not a bad way to spend our first day of full-time retirement.

Lovely view

Shap Abbey

Friday 2 June 2017
This retirement lark is bad for the memory - I was already struggling to work out what day it is! It rained quite hard in the night and I was a little concerned about reversing off the grass pitch, but all was well. We stopped off at a supermarket in Penrith before driving across some serious hills and up the A1.

Nido's sat in another field of grasses and wild flowers; another C&CC THS, this time in Beadnell Bay, Northumberland. It's right next to their main site but about a 3rd of the price. Again we were warmly welcomed on arrival, given a run down of the local amenities (mainly pubs!) and invited to park up wherever we liked. I'm a convert to these pop up campsites where we can just turn up and pay a few pounds. In this case  we were just over the road from the beach so, after a quick brew sat outside in the sunshine, we walked along the beach towards Beadnell; the tide was out with some interesting rocks exposed. There were good sea glass pickings and Cathy soon had full pockets, both jacket and rucksack! We walked past the old harbour and along the sandy bay, enjoying a refreshing paddle in the North Sea, before stopping off by the harbour lime kilns to sit in the warm sunshine.

The air cooled considerably on our return trip and the warmth of the van was welcome. Dinner was lamb chops with a Greek salad. After washing up, a read and a snooze, the clouds disappeared and we sat in the warm van watching a lovely sunset, with light in the sky way past 10pm. We're here for a couple of nights so tomorrow we'll walk north along the beach to Seahouses where, just over 5 years ago, we enjoyed fish and chips sat on a wall by the beach. I wonder if they'll be as good this time? 

Red hot pokers growing by the sea

Beautiful, large poppies

Beadnell Harbour

Saturday 3 June 2017
It was warm enough to cook and eat breakfast outside this morning. With another night here we didn't need to rush. We walked across the road and along the beach towards Seahouses, having a paddle along the way. The footpath took us across the golf course and we had a wander around a busy Seahouses, not surprising given it's a half-term weekend. We bought a few groceries and walked back along the road to the van. By now a sea mist had come in but, weirdly, despite this, it was hotter. Normally it's the opposite but it was like the mist was magnifying the sun's rays. Back on the beach, we had a wander along, watching the seabirds and collecting more sea glass before returning to the campsite. By now it had started to rain a little but we chanced it to walk back into Seahouses for fish and chips; it rained very heavily on the way there. And we're they as good as last time? I'd say they were better; this time we bought them from Pinnacles, the fish & chip restaurant visited by the Hairy Bikers on one of their UK tours. Later the sky cleared and we enjoyed sitting outside in the evening sun, reading and chilling.  We're both shattered after a day of walking so an early night, then off to Bamburgh tomorrow. 

Sea mist rolling in
I spotted a housesit in Cornwall in the daily email listing; an old farmhouse with veg gardens and a couple of lovely dogs to look after, a Patterdale and a Jack Russell. I contacted the owner, who quickly replied and we're now set up for a 10 day sit in Cornwall in July. We'll take the van so we can have an extended journey there and back, plus add on a few days if we want to.  It's close to Eden and Heligan, two of our favourite places, so this is a great way to revisit them. Retirement's turning out to be very busy! 

Sunday 4 June 2017
Morning saw us reluctantly leave the THS at Beadnell. They really are great VFM and our current campsite at £20 per night emphasised the point, some £12 more than the THS, with the only extra being electricity. So we're charging 'all the things' but even we can't use £12 of electricity in one night!  

We drove north, through Seahouses and out the other side, pulling over soon after alongside the road and opposite St Aidan's Dunes. A sandy stomp over the dunes and it was sandals off and in for a quick, refreshing paddle. There were a few more people (and their dogs) out today, enjoying the warm sunshine when it appeared from behind the scurrying clouds; it definitely felt fresher today. After a couple of miles Bamburgh castle came into view. As we walked across the dunes towards the road in order to find the loos, the heavens opened and we were soon wet through. Once the storm was through we bought a couple of 'Northumberland Pasties' to scoff on the walk back to the van. By the time we returned we'd dried off, although Cathy was complaining of a wet dog smell (and it wasn't me!). A quick check of the map showed our next campsite only a mile away, inland at Westfield Paddock Caravan Site, an adult only site comprising 10 pitches. There were only 3 caravans and one Motorhome here so we picked a nice pitch, but then saw we'd been 'allocated' pitch 8, so reluctantly moved.  It's a quiet site away from the main road, but with plenty of birdlife (including some enthusiastic cockerels!) and sheep in the adjacent field. It was a bit too chilly to sit out so the rest of the day was spent snoozing, reading and eating dinner.  The forecast for the next couple of days doesn't look great, so we'll see how it goes. One thing we've learned in this part of the world is if you don't like the weather, hang around for half an hour as it'll soon change!

Bamburgh Castle....just before the rain started!
Monday 5 June 2017
Regular readers will remember us staying on a campsite in Norfolk known as Stalag 19. Well, we're now at staying at Stalag 20!  I'd say this one is more like a Russian Gulag - multiple signs telling us we cannot do.  Toilets and showers out of the 1950s, everything painted in totalitarian dark green.  I'd booked a pitch without electricity - £18 - but then found that we have to pay another 10p to use the shower.  10p! - what is the point? It must cost more to install and empty the 10p machines than it does to just suck it up in the price. There were a few more inmates pitched around. We didn't see them - perhaps they're only allowed out during roll call in the morning.  It's difficult to judge campsites unless visited before; in this case it was some research and reviews and they were, in the main, quite positive.  I can only suggest we have different 'tastes' to other inmates campers.  

We woke to a breezy grey day (no sirens or searchlights during the night so clearly they'd been no escapes) and moved on down the road to a car park at Low Newton on Sea. Despite the wind and rain, we walked down toward the large sandy beach.  At the bottom we came across a horseshoe of cottages and, in the top right-hand corner, saw the Ship Inn.  We'd seen no signs for it on the way down, so wasn't sure if it was still a functioning pub, but a quick Google search shows that it is. It even has it's own micro-brewery on site. It was morning so we didn't get the chance to go in, but it looks well worth a visit.  We walked along the quiet, sandy beach with Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance. It was Monday morning - normally a busy motorway commuting day - and we enjoyed the solitude, with a sharp wind and occasional showers, with the waves pounding on the beach.

Our busy Monday morning commute!

After checking in at Stalag 20, we walked down to the village of Craster.  We'd been here on our first motorhome trip, buying some great produce from Robson & Sons, the smokehouse near the harbour.  We bought some bread from the local cafe, then enjoyed an excellent crab sandwich and a pint at the Jolly Fisherman pub, with views out to sea.  Back at the van, we spent the rest of the day reading as the rain pounded on the roof.

Tuesday 6 June 2017
It rained long and hard all night and the forecast was for more, so we decided to cut our trip short by a day.  It meant we missed a visit to Vindolanda, but we'll return in the future.  The journey home in rain and strong winds was interesting, but we have another day to prepare for our housesit on Anglesey in a couple of days' time.