How time flies when you have a big silver bus…. 1/3/23

If you had asked me six weeks ago when Fawks was actually delivered, I probably would have said otherwise but actually, it has all happened far more quickly than we expected and Fawks is now all dressed up and ready to get moving, registration in hand.

He’s quite proud of his new number plates…. and looking forward to showing you some new places as we venture out and about to explore over the coming weeks and months!

Although we haven’t been able to move the motorhome we have been keeping ourselves busy sorting out Hattie and getting Fawks kitted out with all the bits to minimilise movement and rattles when we are on the road…. I am sure that there will be tweaks required as we get to our first destination and open cupboards to find Kimchee, Kefir and bottles of wine having a bit more of a party than we planned for!!

As we have been local for a while we have taken advantage of some of the eateries on our doorstep and one we had been meaning to try for a while had a sudden appearance after an opertune cancellation of needing to go up into London…. The Crown in Bray. Bray is pretty much Michelin star village as it has 3 of Heston’s restaurants – of which The Crown is one, Alain Roux’s flagship and then also Gianluca Caldesi’s campagna restaurant. We tried Caldesi a few weeks ago and it was very good, but this time we opted for the Set Lunch menu at The Crown which was very reasonable at £23.50 for 3 courses. The options are fairly limited – although meat eaters and vegetarians alike are catered for – but all three courses were very tasty and the setting is cosy and friendly.

But as the focus has been on trying out every part of Fawks we have had no excuse not to be cooking, enjoying the huge flexibility of the increased kitchen size… it is bizarre, I am not going to say we weren’t able to do everything we wanted to in Hattie but I can say that it is far easier in Fawks!!

From left to right above we have
Greens Shakshuka – adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe, quick, easy and tasty
Malaysian Laksa Moules – I would add fatter noodles next time as they were hard to extract from the shells, or just chunky bread but delicious all the same
– Christmas Pudding and Eggs for Breakfast – An experiment …. Keith liked it anyway and that was the most important thing – Fried Christmas pudding with Chilli flakes and fried eggs!!

Then below we have our curry menu that we have been elaborating on…. as follows:
Chard Saag Aloo – really tasty mix of spinach, beans and potato
Parsnip Dhal – deliciously flavoursom Dhal with a lovely consistency
Masala Baked Cauliflower – really simple and full of flavour especially when accompanied by a bit of Saag and naan bread
Speedy Saag – tasty and quick and full of green stuff!!
Aloo Gobi – another fantastic addition to our repertoire, really flavoursom and full of goodness
Winter Parsnip, Chickpea and Cauliflower Korma – a good alternative to our traditional Korma
Shredded Greens Dhal – another fantastic dhal full of goodness.

…. and finally a couple of other dishes
Tomato, Kale, Parsnip and Celariac cobbler – a lovely variation on the creamy cobbler that I make, full of tasty winter warming veg
Potato and Lentil Bake – Another really simple winter warming Riverford recipe

We are looking forward to getting on the road next week and will update you as we progress.

2023 – here we come….

Although we are still awaiting the arrival of Fawks I can whet your appetite a little as we did pop over to Belgium just before Christmas to have a good look around, measure up and sort out a few final pieces…. and if we don’t say so ourselves, he is pretty smart!

Still a little while longer though as he hasn’t quite made it into the country yet… so watch this space for more in the coming weeks!

Apart from a very brief trip over to Belgium we have been pretty static, enjoying the natural beauty around us… despite the temperature dropping down to -9 at points the light at this time of year just gives such a beautiful colour spectrum both in the UK…

and in Belgium….

We didn’t manage to make it to any of the Belgium Christmas markets unfortunately but there will always be another year.
In the meantime – whilst we have had to distract ourselves from getting too carried away with the imminent arrival – we have been focussing on food… no change there then!

Apart from the normal – fantastic – every day repeaters we have cooked up quite a few experimental dishes and we both agree that these ones are keepers should you wish to partake in a bit of Veganuary… or possibly just enjoy at any point of the year!!

Rainbow Lentil Fried Rice – lovely combination of lentils, rice, and vegetables
Beetroot Biryiani – a baked version and full of flavour
Happy Pear Biryiani – if you fancy a quicker dish this certainly gives all the flavour and nutritional value
Dahl with Split Peas and Spinach – This was part of our New Years Eve Curry fest incorporating Onion Bhajis, Mushroom Bhaji and Vegan Madras/Vindaloo
Creamy plant based Potato topped Pie with Celeriac, Squash, Brocolli, Leek, Kale – I used the original Creamy Brocolly Pie recipe and switched out some of the vegetables and simply overlapped sliced potato on top… deliciously simple!
Chocolate, Ginger and Pecan Brioche
Veggie Snake
Yorkshire Pudding/ Veg in the Hole – non vegan variety this time …but worked well in the Remoska

Lost in Autumnal beauty… or is it now winter? 21/11/2022

As appears to be a bit of a trend recently things have taken over and the days turn into weeks and suddenly weeks have turned into just over two months since my last blog… shameful. I have let life take over my time which is not on – especially as so much has happened, and that is without mentioning Fawkes’ chassis turning up as we have been trying (unsuccessfully) to put it to the back of our mind….. and no, its not the big green one!!

So, where were we before we got distracted!! …. oh yes, Wurzburg back on 11th September and what a beautiful place it was too! It was slightly calmer on the Monday than it was over the weekend with the music festival but still a very pretty and interesting place.

However wanting to explore more of this beautiful area we moved on from Wurzburg, deciding that realistically we didn’t have time to do the Romantic Road justice – so instead headed to Martketbreit where we stayed at a lovely Stellenplatz on the river with huge spaces which was 7.50 euro a night.

As it was forecast to be raining heavily for the next couple of days we had simply looked for somewhere which wasn’t too far but that had hardstanding so we didn’t sink…. our requirements were pretty basic and we knew nothing about the town at all but amazingly we fell on our feet as Martketbreit is a quaint little town away from the tourist route with beautiful architecture and known for its food, wine and randomly – Alzheimers. Marketbreit was the birth place of Alois Alzheimer who researched and published his findings surrounding Alzheimers disease in 1906.

We walked both sides of the river but there are definately a lot of areas left unexplored, quite obviously just so we can come back to try out some of the restaurants as the ones we tried to book were either closed on the days we were there or full at such short notice.

After a couple of days and with the rain starting to clear, we moved a little further on along the river Main finding our next Stellenplatz in a little town called Sommerach (12 euros per night).

Unbeknown to us, Sommerach sits in one of the top wine producing regions of Germany, we hadn’t appreciated how many vineyards were in this area and the quality of the wine that they produced. Before visiting, all I could think of when someone mentioned German wine was Blue Nun or Liebfraumilch…. I couldn’t have been further from the truth with the current wine selection as I would honestly say that the white wines we tried were as good as New Zealand wines…. if not better (and possibly a little bit cheaper! )

Before settling into the tasting, we headed out for a walk up into the hills surrounding the town and ended up at the panoramic point where all you could see in every direction was a mass of vine set out in neatly formed lines. It was lovely to meander our way through the vines and see the luscious grapes that were awaiting to be picked…. that time of year that always brings a smile to my face!

Unfortunately for us – or perhaps not – we had to walk through the town to get back to the motorhome, so felt it would have been rude not to stop at a few of the little producers to try some of their wares!!

There are reasons why we don’t stop in vineyards too often as we end up buying too much wine… lesson to self – you can’t keep going in to taste wine and come out with 2+ bottles… we just don’t have space in the motorhome especially if there are 20+ producers! We did however draw our limit to a couple of producers this time.

The following day we walked to Schwarzach am main which is where the Munsterschwarzach Abbey and Benedictine Monastery resides – a very impressive building that dominated the village – quite obviously a successful business though as they have a bakery, deli, bookshop and giftshop, coffee shop and also produce their own wine!!

Leaving Sommerach and the monastery behind us we moved a hop and a jump further along the Main river to Nordheim am Main where we found a nice – albeit slightly soggy under the foot – Aire right on the river. Nordheim am Main is another of the main wine producing towns in the area and although not quite as pretty as Sommerach, it had its fair share of tasting rooms and even had an amazing stall selling a huge variety of wonderful gourds!!

We walked up into the vineyards again and as we were coming back through the town we bumped into the logistics manager from Phoenix who was visiting her parents whilst they were on holiday – very random, although very impressed that she recognised us!

Possibly due to the fact that the opening hours were reduced on a Sunday – and we had restrained ourselves from visiting them on the Saturday – we managed to only increase our wine collection by a couple of Bio bottles this time – very controlled!

Another short hop along the river and we arrived at Volkach which is a slightly bigger town with beautiful architecture which appears to be quite typical of the area – I would imagine that it is the kind of place that feels very Christmassy come December!!

The Aire didn’t have services but was a lovely large, quiet carpark set up for motorhomes (10 euros/24hrs) right on the river and only ten minutes walk into town, an excellent supermarket and lots of lovely walking and cycling again along the river.

From Volkach we got to our target destination of the whole trip…. the Phoenix factory in Aschbach. It was a bit of a long detour to get there but it was lovely to explore a bit more of Belgium and Germany en route as we have still done so little travelling in this area to date and the more we see, the more we like it.

We had been invited to do a factory tour by Phoenix when we paid the deposit last year and it was something we were really keen to do as we figured it would be interesting to understand a bit more about the construction process. When we set off for Germany from the UK, we had hoped that we would be seeing our motorhome on the production line however unfortunately, when we got to Dusseldorf we were told that there had been more delays and the chassis was still with the company who strengthen and add some specific components to the chassis before build starts… the tour however, was fascinating all the same.

We weren’t allowed to take any photos but effectively there are two buildings, each with approximately 5 motorhomes in them at different stages of production taking the chassis from what you can see above under the tarpaulin, through to the final fully tested vehicle. The end to end process is currently taking between 8-10 weeks and as you walk through each building and see the different motorhomes at each stage you can really appreciate the craftmanship that goes into each and every one. We were lucky enough to have the owner and Managing Director of Phoenix and his daughter doing the tour and they were very detailed in their explanation as well as incredibly proud of the way they construct each and every motorhome – as they should be!

We left the factory feeling very happy with our decision to buy a Phoenix and with the news that our chassis was due to arrive the following day and that the space at the beginning of the production line which was currently empty, was waiting for it. We didn’t think that we would actually see it as we were leaving at 10/10:30, but just before we hit the road I ran up the road and there she was, sitting on the back of a large green truck!

With enormous smiles on our faces we set off from Aschbach, to a town called Asbach where we parked up in an Aire by the side of a small lake and park. A very tranquil location and when we ventured out to stretch the legs we noticed that there were miles and miles of trails to walk and cycle in the surrounding area so another place to come visit to explore more. We were only using it as quick stop over this time though, so after a fantastic run through the woods and up into the hills we set off to Maaseik just over the border in Belgium.

Maaseik had been recommended to us by Jurgen our Phoenix contact from Belgium who had been there on holiday with his family previously and wanted to re-visit as he thought it was beautiful. The whole area is made up of a mixture of rivers and lakes offering a huge amount of watersports as well as cycling and walking. It is fairly flat but that would be the only downside – along with the mosquitos – as the rest made up for it, even the town or Maaseik itself was beautiful.

We stayed at Camping de Boomgard which wasn’t cheap at 26 euros a night but you can see why they are constantly full with such a beautiful, tranquil loaction and everything on their doorstop to enjoy. We had views out over the river and spent three days exploring the area – which incidently included a vineyard – as well as randomly benefitting from a Romanesque festival that only occurs every 25 years in Aldeneik which was very colourful.

Not being great planners but conscious that we had a couple of days before we caught the Eurotunnel back to the UK, we booked to go to Ypres as it had been on our list of places to visit for a while and we still hadn’t made it. It’s obviously fated as unfortunately, no sooner had we booked the campsite, the following day we woke to find that the boiler had stopped working, so adaptable as we are – and Keith having done some trouble shooting to establish whether he could fix it or not and although he identified the possible issue, the emphasis was on the ‘not’ – we figured we would set off in the direction of Jurgen as we knew he was an Aldi engineer and worst case scenario, hoped he could fix/replace it for us.

Jurgen was away working at the RAF when we arrived but popped past to pick up some documentation in the evening and noticed that we were camped out on his driveway so poked his head in the door and assured us that he would fix it in the morning!

A man to his word, although unfortunately it required a replacement circuit board (which thankfully he had one in stock), and it was all done by late morning and we were on the road again just after lunch heading back to the UK with hot water and heating.

We have been back in the UK now for nearly two months and time has just flown by with a few trips away, catching up with some friends, sorting out the final bits on Hattie to make sure she is all fit and ready for sale, lots of amazing food and another scar added to the face. We even managed to squeeze in the all important MacMillan Coffee morning with my mum…. this time raising an amazing £500.

Cake aside, we have been cooking lots as well as always. Some of our new recipes include the following….

Fennel, Marrow and Tomato Casserole – wouldn’t have chosen it but the Oddbox delivered Marrow and Fennel and to be fair it was delicious!
Texan Casserole with Black Beans – full of flavour and a nice winter warmer
Malaysian Laksa – Quick and Easy and fully of deliciousness
– Breakfast Rolls – using our Sourdough starter along with a mix of wholemeal and white flour, sour cherries and walnuts
Sag Aloo Fish Pie – an interesting and flavoursom alternative if you don’t fancy the fish and like a bit of spice!

I’ve also been experimenting a little with different flours in our bread rolls just to see how it effects the taste and texture. I have decided Spelt works really well but going 100% Rye is quite hard work although it still tasted pretty good.

And finally …. the map – I did say that we have been all over the place recently. Going forwards I am going to change my approach so Blogs aren’t so long and…. late!!

Venturing abroard…. 11/09/2022

It feels like a long time since we have taken the tunnel and come over to Europe and to be fair it is… 12 months to be precise. Just over 12 months ago we did a very last minute 5 day trip to Dusseldorf in Germany and we are back again but this time to take a little more time to get to know Belgium and Germany a bit better…… and find out a bit more about the new motorhome….. she’s a beauty isn’t she?

Haha… only joking – although, yes – she is a beauty, she isn’t ours!

The purpose of this trip was to visit Jurgen in Belgium, whom we are buying the new motorhome from, visit the motorhome show in Dusseldorf again to have a look at a little bit more than just three motorhome vendors as we did last year, visit Phoenix to do a factory tour if possible and take in a few of the sights…… and so far the trip hasn’t disappointed!

We caught a lunchtime eurotunnel and stayed our first night in Hondshoote which is in France but right on the border with Belgium. It is a small town with a little Carrefour, Aldi and an interesting little refill/ bio shop that has opened in the last year – enough for us to stock up as we can’t take any dairy or fresh fruit or vegetables over to europe any more. It has been our first/last stop for a while now if we are travelling East as it is far enough away from Calais to not attract anyone trying to get into the vehicle, yet close enough for a short hop at the end/beginning of the day to get to/from the train…. and it has a good aire…but its not somewhere you’d stay much longer than a night.

After a reasonably peaceful night, fully stocked we set off in the morning to find Jurgen – our Belgium Phoenix contact and service point – who has his workshop in a little town called Rotselaar which is about 12km north of Leuven (East of Brussels) in Belgium. We had only planned to stay a couple of nights, giving us enough time to go through some of the outstanding questions we had for the new motorhome but ended up staying four nights as the surrounding area is so interesting and beautiful…. despite the influx of mosquitos.

Jurgen lives and works in an area that is full of walking/cycle paths along rivers, canals and through woodland. So there are a multitude of options for walking, cycling and running… no matter which direction you went. Although the end of the summer holidays and several restaurants were taking holidays, Jurgen recommended a cafe/bistro in a park not too far away where we could get some good Moules (mussles) – and you can’t visit Belgium without eating Moules and drinking beer – and we weren’t disappointed, although we now expect all of our moules to come in an amazingly delicious curry sauce with caramalised onions and enormous prawns …..and I am going to be looking for a Kreik (Belgium Cherry Beer) on the side!!

We decided to move on on Saturday, although we could have stayed much longer we figured that we will have plenty of time to explore the area further in the future. Switching provincial Belgium for Dutch city life we arrived at CamperPlatz Papillon (20 euros a night) on the River Meuese 2.5km North of Maastricht and just over the Belgium border.

The Camperplaatz has 100 spots and it was full. Despite being so close to the city it was very quiet both during the day and overnight – the only downside was that the pitches were reasonably narrow and as we had been lucky enough to find a corner spot, it was narrower than most… but the views were nicer… and it meant we only had one neighbour – we are so anti-social aren’t we!

We walked into Maastricht on the Sunday and although we have both been before, it was a long time ago, seperately with work… and neither of us got to see much of the city itself which has probably changed alot, but is very pretty. – especially the cultural district. There is a huge amount of history and unbeknown to us there are 14km of underground tunnels and caves…. which we didn’t explore but gives opportunity to come visit again.

With a date in the diary to meet Pete and Liz and tea bags to deliver, we hot footed it over to Dusseldorf where we had booked the same pitches as last year on the river bank at Rhein Camping.

The campsite isn’t anything special but it is perfectly located to get to the Dusseldorf show by bike and it is owned and run by a lovely couple and we have been lucky enough – thanks to Pete and Liz’s co-ordination last year – to get what I would say are the best pitches on site two years running… the Tea Bags are key in this story!!

We had four days of fantastic company whilst making the most of the great weather and tranquil location. We also managed to see a little more of the Dusseldorf show and meet up with Jurgen and the Phoenix team again to go through some final pieces…. unfortunately, one of those pieces was the news of a delay on the delivery of the motorhome as the chassis is still not with Phoenix…but it is in Germany!

Despite planning a day to go into Dusseldorf and explore, we have still not managed it and therefore will just have to come back again next year as it is supposed to be a beautiful city, we did however manage to go out for a lovely meal with Pete and Liz @ Riva on the waterfront in Dusseldorf on our last night care of American Express… fantastic food but perhaps we weren’t quite equipped with enough plastic of the cosmetic form to do the place justice.

It was time to go our seperate ways on Saturday – Liz and Pete were heading back to Belgium to explore Brugge and Ypres and we were heading South …. although to where no-one knows as it appears to change on a daily basis but first stop was a Stellenplatz in Urmitz just outside Koblenz on the river (10 euros a night).

As we had already visited Koblenz a couple of years ago, the stop was just for one night to do some shopping, stretch the legs and decide where we wanted to go. The supermarket close by was stocked with lots of fresh fruit and veg and the walk along the river was lovely and the added bonus was a) we got back to the motorhome before the torrential rain came … by roughly 5 minutes and b) The oompah loompahs had set up a beer / folk festival just 100m away so we had a lovely German brass band playing to us all evening – can’t really complain!

We had thought that we would head down to explore a little bit of the Romantic Road – something we have heard so much about but are yet to make it to – however, whilst we were in Dusseldorf, Jurgen and one of the ladies who works at Phoenix mentioned a few places on the River Main to visit en route to the Phoenix factory so although we are touching the tip, the Romantic Road is going to have to wait to next time!

First stop therefore was Wertheim am Main (5 euros a night)… not a bad little town to start off in!

The Stellplatz we had chosen had another folk/beer festival going on – those oompah loompahs are following us – apparently it’s the season, this time unfortunately they had taken over the whole of the stellplatz so we couldn’t stay but we managed to eventually find another Stellplatz on the opposite side of ther river following an argument with our satnav which wanted us to take a leap off of the flyover to get to it. The second Stellplatz was actually closer to the town – just not quite as pretty as it was underneath the flyover – although to be fair it was actually pretty quiet both during the day and overnight and it also had river frontage.

Wertheim am Main is a pretty little town with the re-constructed walls of the castle looking down over it and lots of lovely / normal looking cafes/restaurants and shops. As always appears to be the way with German rivers from our little experience to date, there are cycle paths going in both directions on both sides of the river – the set up for walkers and cyclists is incredible. We stayed two nights to explore the surrounding area more and each night we were accompanied by 8-10 other motorhomes on the Stellplatz. All in all, a lovely little area to explore with a fantastic supermarket close by.

It was time to move on though and explore new territory so a short hop, skip and a jump and we arrived at Lohr am Main where we had found a little campsite, Campingplatz Mainufer (24 euros per night). I had emailed ahead to confirm availability and asked if we could arrive before lunch as German campsites generally shut from 12/12:30 – 3pm and I was glad we did as although no-one was there, Keith called and was told we could park up but that there was only one pitch with river frontage…. what a corker! Snuck in just before anyone else arrived…. although a German guy did come over and ask if he could squeeze in alongside us… Keith politely said ‘no’, there wasn’t another space there…. once he grasped what he was trying to ask!!

Lohr am Main is another pretty little town with a very relaxed feel about it. Weirdly legend has it that Snow White lived here… at the castle above – although I couldn’t see any mention of the seven dwarfs and wonder whether they were an English addition… needless to say I steered well clear of red apples whilst we were in the vicinity!

The campsite was fairly basic – which didn’t bother us as we don’t use the facilities – but the pitch was huge, we had water on our pitch and our views were excellent, enabling us to watch all the boats and wildlife pass on by…. and visit us! I am not sure what the swans made of Keith’s meditation but I was wetting myself with laughter as they approached him slowly out of the water. Don’t worry, I am not that mean – I did actually get up and move them away when they tried to have a little nibble, quite a mean feat when you have tears rolling down your face!!

The weather was so good – despite forecast on rain both days – we not only ate every meal outside but also managed to get all our washing done… a bit of a bonus we weren’t expecting. Although we didn’t get a chance to explore too far, we found out that there is a huge network of cycling and walking routes up into the forest and hills from Lohr am Main. Definately an area to explore further on foot in the future and there appears to be a real mix of ‘serious’ routes for those who want a bit of a challenge and those looking to find a dwarf or seven in the forest.

Moving a little further around the river Main we had chosen Karlstadt am Main as our next stop where there was a fantastic Stellplatz (10 euros per night), once again on the river front and with its obligatory cycle path and just 500m from the town center over the bridge.

We pulled in as a Concorde was leaving and happily took his spot alongside a baby Morello, by lunchtime the place was full again. The backdrop is the Karlsburg Castle which was destroyed in 1525 by the townsmen during the Peasants War, made even more picturesque by the turning colours of the trees.

Karlstadt am Main is full of history and beautiful architecture as well as being surrounded by vinyards and apparently having a bit of a reputation for its Culinary excellence. Unfortunately for us we had missed the wine festival by a few days so may just need to plan another visit next year!

We decided to stay three nights and took advantage of the breaks in between the torrential rain to venture along the cycle paths alongside the River Main where the Vines line the hills and the colours are just breaking into autumnal beauty….

Having taken our rest day yesterday due to the weather forecast, I went for a lovely run this morning which reminded me of how much quieter Sunday mornings are (as Sunday is normally our rest day), enabling me to take in the beautiful surroundings along the river in complete tranquility…. may just switch days permanently!

Showered, breakfasted and all things sorted in the motorhome we set off again this morning another 20km further along the river to Wurzberg. As Wurzberg is a larger city known for its beautiful Barroque architecture and is at the top of the aforementioned ‘Romantic Road’, we were a little concerned as to whether we would get a space on the Stellplatz. We were right to be concerned, as there were probably 40+ motorhomes in the parking area when we arrived, however some of the official parking spots had been freed up as a number of motorhomes had left early, enabling us to park up in one of the larger spots alongside another Morello … albeit this one was slightly larger!

It’s not the most salubrious place that we have stayed in but once again we are right on the river – and cycle path – and close to the town center – perfect for a couple of nights to explore the area more…. and we have a bonus surprise as there is a music and street theatre festival this weekend with about 15 different stages of talent placed around town, several with food, beer and wine stalls – a lovely athmosphere.

We had a lovely little walk along the river and through the old town this afternoon and plan to do a bit more exploring tomorrow but very much like what we have seen so far and can see why Wurzberg attracts so many people.

Impossible to believe that we have been away for nearly three weeks as it feels like so much longer with all the places we have visited and sights we have seen. Hopefully the next two and a half weeks will be as interesting, although if there is one thing for sure it’s that I am embarrassed by my lack of German language skill… something that needs to be addressed!

If you are interested in the route so far …. our little map is below

A bit more of Yorkshire – 3/08/2022

After a quick two nights’ stop in Beverley to help Keith’s brother and Carly, his wife move some bits to their new house we did a hop, skip and a jump further North, arriving in Leyburn, North Yorkshire…. our first time to this part of the country.

We had booked the Hilltop Farm CS (£10 per night, no elec) for just 2 nights – having extended our stay in Beverley – and despite being a fair way up and a beautiful place, it’s worth mentioning that as a runner who went further up….Hilltop Farm is actually only half way up the hill… false advertising!

Leyburn is a proper little market town and all the shops, cafes and restaurants are located around the market square and although Hilltop Farm is only 500m walk from the center, it was incredibly quiet and the views from the site were lovely.

We didn’t get a chance to explore too far afield but the walking that we did do was stunning with views out along the valley. Once again, we will be back to explore the area further and if nothing else to try out The Sandpiper Inn – which is supposed to be an excellent eatery.

So, after a couple of nights we moved on again and its fair to say that the next stop wasn’t too shabby either. A bit of a cross country wiggle through firing ranges – its all military country round here – and we arrived at Scar Close CL just outside Richmond, North Yorkshire (£18 per night inc).

The weather had started to warm up and although we thought we would have escaped the heatwave being this far North…. even Yorkshire got hit and temperatures rose to the high 30’s for a few days!

We were luckily enough that the campsite was located just next to a National Trust Woodland area that lead down to the River Swale providing beautiful walks in the shade and freshness from the water when there was a breeze. It is fair to say however that when we made it into Richmond everyone and their dog was bathing in the waterfalls….unfortunately, I am fairly confident that they won’t have taken all the bottles and cans they were drinking from with them when they left.

Despite the hot weather we managed to get some lovely walking in and it is a stunning area – just a huge amount of hills if you want to go anywhere! I did have the benefit for once however of my morning run being a slow incline for the first half and then all downhill on the way back… not something that happens often – but a blessing in the heat as there wasn’t any shade!!

On the hottest day we stuck to our side of the valley – which was in the shade all day – for a walk which took us further west of Richmond along the River Swale and then climbing back up the side of the river valley through the forest on the return. We often come accross skittish sheep or curious baby bullocks that think they want to play but this time we found a Ewe on a narrow stretch of pathway who decided to just charge at us with her lambs – thankfully we both managed to get out of the way in time as those horns looked painful and with the momentum she had, she’d have broken limbs…..ours!

An absolutely lovely area with fantastic walking, however it was once again time to move on again after 3 days. So we set off South again, this time into the Yorkshire Dales to a Club Site (Wharfedale Club Campsite, £38.40 p/n inc of elec.) just outside Grassington. It is peak season and the site was expensive but all the same, we are glad we came as it is a beautiful area and all other sites were full.

As you know, we aren’t great fans of big campsites but this one yet again was really well laid out and spacious. Possibly because of its location, it was also incredibly tranquil despite being the beginning of school holidays – evidently they don’t get too many young families as there isn’t a huge amount to do if you don’t like walking and eating. Thankfully we are into both but partook in far more walking than eating out this time… although the local eateries did look good.

No matter which direction we ventured in we stumbled across beautiful views – whether the town of Grassington itself – which is stunningly quaint, the never ending rolling hills or pastureland alongside the river Wharfe scattered with its beautiful cattle… its definately a beautiful area.

As always, three nights pass very quickly, especially when you are surrounded by beauty and it was once again time to move on. This time to a very different location – to meet up with a friend and park up in a big farmers field – full of sheep sh*t – with alot of other campers just outside Skipton to go to the Yorkshire Food Festival.

We had been to the festival four years ago and it was a pretty good weekend with a good variety of stalls selling local produce to buy and naturally, eat and drink. Last time the campsite was pretty full, comprising of two large fields…… this year however, the festival fields were probably twice as big and the campsite three times the size – they must have been raking it in.

Friday night saw a fair few more eatery stalls open than previously along with live tribute bands. Then, from Saturday morning the other two fields opened up – a pretty good turn out and variety of food and music. It was just a shame that the weather was a little ‘showery’ although we were lucky enough to find a tables and chairs both on Friday and Saturday later in the day in a sheltered area to use as a base.

Having not done any of the workshops previously, Keith and I opted for a ‘cook-off’ between a michelin star chef and a local chef and a curry masterclass on the Sunday…. not convinced that we will book in again but that said it’ll be another 4-5 years before we come back! Skipton, as always is a lovely market town on a canal and although this time we only had a quick walk in on the Saturday morning, it still has a certain appeal to it and worth a stop if passing close by.

On Monday morning with the Food Festival over we did a quick pit stop at the local farm shop to restock the cupboards, then moved slightly further west to Drake House CL at the top of a hill – no thats a lie too as it was also only half way up the hill – just outside Clitheroe, Lancashire (£25 per night inc.).

Another lovely small campsite with beautiful views and miles and miles of walking and cycling from the door…. you just need to be prepared to do alot of ascent and descent to go with the beauty.

We walked into Clitheroe on the first afternoon which is roughly 2.5 miles away, then took advantage of exploring the beautiful countryside over the next couple of days – all of which was lovely and very tranquil apart from the odd sheep bleating.

The hill I mentioned previously, of which the CL was roughly half way up, was 1km from the slightly more ‘main’ road to the end of the drive way … then another 600m to get to the CL with 100m ascent …. definately a good warm up in the morning at the end of my 5km run but i’m not conviced I would be able to do it much more than the three days in a row without a break!

Thursday morning and it was time to move on again … so setting off on our way to Staffordshire we got to the end of the drive and about 200m down the hill to come to a halt… one of the downsides of finding CLs in the middle of nowhere, up very narrow roads… we had to wait for a static home to be delivered to the site next door – there was no way we would come off better in a fight with that, we were just impressed that the driver managed to get it all the way up the road although he was literally inching it along.

30 minutes or so later and we were on our way again…. heading south now to a lovely little village we found last year ‘The White Lodge Campsite’ in Great Haywood, Staffordshire (£25 per night inc.). The campsite has a CL attached to it which always appears to be full, although the campsite itself is a small family run site and a pleasure to stay on. In so far as location, it is easy to access and on the junction of two canals, right by a farm shop/cafe, couple of pubs and Shugborough Hall National Trust park…. so lots of lovely walking.

It’s a lovely tranquil place that we could easily see as home, although apparently this part of the country gets pretty cold over the winter and as the latest we have been here is October – when there was a plethora of Pumpkins at the farm shop and it was around 5 degrees in the morning – we may yet change our mind!

As this was originally our meeting point with Kevin and Petra – who have the canal boat but couldn’t make it last year and unfortunately couldn’t cruise over this year either – they very kindly drove over to find us on the Saturday and we found a great pub just along the canal in Hixon to have lunch… proper home cooked food and I am pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint on any level… and the fish and chips was definately in my top 5!

Moving on from eating out – which we have done a fair bit of recently – we do have a couple of new dishes again this month… We have been cooking lots of lovely food if we don’t say so ourselves – not to mention the huge amount of pesto we have been making from random green leaves to go with pittas and BBQ veg!

Spicy Nutty Brocolli and Chickpea Salad
Brinjal Casserole Curry

It was a lovely little trip, exploring both new areas as well revisiting old ones and we have been pretty lucky with most places not being too busy despite the school holidays and the warm weather.

Food for thought….

With the temperatures rising and a heatwave upon us I just wanted to share something with you to raise a little awareness. It’s not something I have told many people about but there is no reason for me not to …It’s just not something you talk about unless the right moment comes up I guess.

As most of you know, I am 47 years old… or young as the case could be, pretty fit and healthy and I try to make the most of every minute we have. I am not a sunworshipper, in fact I don’t like it too warm and can’t stand sitting out in the sun – beach holidays are my worst nightmare! I generally wear suncream when the sun is shining…but maybe that was the problem, obviously over the years being the outdoorsy type person than I am, possibly when I was younger, or possibly simply cumalitive of being exposed whilst out walking or running without wearing suncream – I have what is called Basel Cell Carcinoma, a non-melanoma skin cancer.

We had thought it was possibility as I had two small growths that had appeared over the period of about 12 months and wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t gone to the doctor to have a look and he thought it was nothing, he referred me to a dermatologist who confirmed the case…. worst still, it was only having agreed to do a full body check when they asked me to take off my mask – sign of the times – and the dermatologist gasped deeply and said ‘that however, is a problem’…. still Basel Cell Carcinoma but that ‘spot’ that had been on my upper lip for about 8 years and I had given up on, apparently wasn’t a spot!

It’s all good, I am fine and the treatment I have had through the NHS has been second to none. I have now had all the treatment and plan to make alot more use out of my hat going forwards… I think its rather attractive, although it does squash the hair a bit… but I wanted to share my story and try and start to raise awareness as if it isn’t caught early, it can spread… please check yourselves, and if there is anything abnormal – go see a doctor.

Now alot of you will have never heard of this…. but it makes me smile every time I think of it – read it through and go have a listen to it as its great! It came out in 1997 and is written by Baz Luhrmann…. please – wear sunscreen!

Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; or never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing
Bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
Never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday

Do one thing every day that scares you

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts; don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours


Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself

Remember the compliments you receive; forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t

Get plenty of calcium

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40
Maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance; so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them

Do not read beauty magazines; they will only make you feel ugly
Brother and sister
Together, we’ll make it through
Someday our spirits
Will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting
But I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out
Whenever I can

Get to know your parents; you never know when they’ll be gone for good

Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the
People most likely to stick with you in the future

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you
Should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft


Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old– and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders

Respect your elders

Don’t expect anyone else to support you

Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth

But trust me on the sunscreen

Brother and sister
Together, we’ll make it through
Someday our spirits
Will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting
But I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out
Whenever I can

Everybody’s free
Everybody’s free
Oh, yeah
Don’t you fear

A bit more of beautiful british contryside… 11/7/2022

Not sure where all this talk of the June heatwave came from as we didn’t see it up where we were. Newcastle hit about 18 degrees max… although, I am sure that in the sun it was definately warmer – not going to complain though as we had a couple of days of wearing shorts and t-shirts…. and we were also able to get out and about and most importantly SLEEP without the heat getting in the way….

We moved on again from Powburn to our next stop which was Bolam West Houses Farm CL, Middleton near Morpeth which was £20 per night inc. A lovely large field with uninterrupted views out over the rolling hills for miles and miles.

The CL is in proper walker and cyclist heaven. It is about half a mile from Shaftoe Crags – a historic settlement as well as Bolam Lake Country Park – a really pretty little wooded park and that is without mentioning all the footpaths and lanes that went off in all directions further than the eye could see. Bolam Lake Country Park was quite an interesting little place as it used to be a swamp but one wealthy landowner decided to design and landscape the area in 1816 to provide the locals with work during the economic decline…. a true community project!! It is a lovely area set in the middle of an enormous expanse of rolling fields and countryside.

As always with the way we plan our trips – if they are being planned – three days of exploring and it was time to move on again to find another area to discover. This time though we were venturing slightly closer to a larger population of people to sheep… something we have avoided recently – to visit Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Not being city lovers anymore, we had searched out a place to stay that was far enough outside Newcastle to give us some tranquility, yet close enough to have easy access and fell upon a corker of a location – Stephensons Arms CS, Wylam, Northumberland £20 per night without electricity.

The camping and caravan site was just a big field but it was right on the edge of the river Tyne as well as the Hadrians Wall cycle and walking path. The walking route is 84 miles coast to coast and the part where we were staying in Wylam was off road, traffic free, tranquil and beautiful. The route was called the Wylam Waggonway and just 500m towards Newcastle was George Stephensons birth place and dotted along the path in both directions are numerous reminders of the engineering history of the area. The village of Wylam had several pubs and restaurants – all of which had pretty good reviews but we didn’t try them ourselves – a wonderful greengrocer, a couple of convenience stores and a train station to get into Newcastle or to places such as Hexham further along Hadrains Wall. It is worth staying in the village just for the beautiful walks even if you don’t go into Newcastle for a visit.

We however did take a day trip into Newcastle for a taste of what it had to offer both architectually and for our stomachs… and we were not disappointed!

Keith had done some research a while back however, as we had been out to eat a fair bit at the time I didn’t have the appetite for going out and left the decision and booking until just a couple of days before we arrived at Wylam.

After all the Northumberland walking and fresh air I had obviously built up enough of an appetite – but not too much, as we all know how difficult it is to choose when you are really hungry – and finally selected Peace and Loaf in Jesmond, thankfully it still had space!

The menu we selected was a tasting menu – of which there were two options and believe it or not we went for the smaller one. As I am now pescatarian, the chef ensured that when there were dishes that contained fish on the main menu, he adapted them so I could also have the fish, rather than just giving me the vegetarian option. I know that should be a simple switch but the fish dishes actually had meat in them too … so it was a nice touch.

All the plates were perfectly formed – smaller at the beginning and end, then larger for the mains. I was concerned at the beginning that we may be leaving hungry but can confirm that by the time we got towards the desserts I was quite glad that we had opted for the smaller menu – not too rich but full of flavour and texture, possibly one of the best tasting menus we have had and the service was excellent – we will be back again if we have the opportunity, a unique and delicious flavour experience.

Newcastle itself was interesting too, especially the quayside which has been / is still being regenerated – providing a lovely space for walking, cycling, running as well as people watching both during the day and evening…. we were also very lucky with the weather!

All good things must come to an end and although we would like to explore Wylam and the area a little more we will have to do it next time as we once again moved on on the Friday to a completely different setting – this time it was Longview CS, Shotley Bridge, County Durham (£15 per night without elec.) perched at the top of a hill looking out over the valley…. amazing views and even better sunsets!

Another tranquil location right by the side of a cycle track which was a dissused railway … probably the only flat route in the area as each time we ventured away from the cycle path there was a lot – and I do mean a lot – of ascent and descent….

The area was historically mining – coal, steel and Iron and you can see some of the history dotted along the cycle path and incorporated into the new housing estates and parks that have been built more recently as part of the regeneration of the area since the last of the mines shut down in the 1980’s.

Shotley Bridge was the last of the little campsites for this trip as after another three glorious days exploring the area, we set off further south having booked Hattie into SAP to have her Jacks and suspension serviced. SAP is based North of Doncaster on a small industrial estate opposite a couple of ‘Adventure Off Road’ Motorhome conversion workshops which is always an interesting viewing, although this time we didn’t really get much chance as it was a 7am start and the service was all done and we were on the road by 8:30am…. that is what you call service (if you don’t mind an early start I guess!!)

Surprised by the early start we had another hop, skip and a jump en route home and arrived at our pub stop over ‘The Norman Knight Pub’, Ascott Road, Whichford, CV36 5PE just before lunch. Giving us enough time to get out and explore the area a little before a quick catch up with Pete and Liz later in the afternoon/evening.

The pub is in a beautiful area just a stones throw from the Cotswold Distillery with lots of small lanes and footpaths over the rolling hills to explore. It has two spaces for motorhomes and five ‘glamping’ pods out the back which looked lovely. The food was good and the owners and staff were incredibly accomodating. We were lucky with the weather and sat in the garden until just before 11pm – surprisingly busy for a Tuesday evening … so adviseable to book ahead if you plan to visit.

We will have to come back to explore further – oh and possibly catch up with Pete and Liz again too!

We have now been back at the farm for a couple of weeks and over the last weekend in June we finally managed to make it to a local restaurant called ‘Seasonality’ for one of their supper clubs. We found Seasonality during first COVID lockdown just after it had opened and at that point it was only a deli and doing home delivery, then it opened up on the last Friday / Saturday of the month to do supper clubs however, each time we thought about trying it we were away – this time we struck gold !

The food was excellent and as the name suggests, all dishes were seasonal and where possible, locally sourced too. The Chef also did his best to accomodate the difficult pescatarian and although the lamb ravioli was apparently superb, I think my Cornish Seabass with Shellfish Lasagne was possibly one of the best food combinations I have ever tasted. The restaurant is small with roughly 20 covers and was full. Each dish was served accompained by the chef with an explanation of what it was and where the produce came from, we will be making some time to come back and visit again!

The time has just flown by over the past few weeks with one thing and another and with the temperature soaring this past week we have been getting the BBQ out a bit more both to cook pizzas and otherwise…. breakfast lunch and dinner are currently eaten al fresco!!

We have been cooking alot as always but only one new dish – which, although it sounds odd was really tasty
Vegan Chilli with Dumplings – a deliciously spicy and creamy chilli using Coconut milk topped off with cobblers!

And as we are heading off again tomorrow to explore more of our beautiful countryside …. the map below shows the route we took on the last tranche of our trip through Northumberland and back to Holyport.

Midges and Beyond….. 12/6/2022

It feels like a long time since I started writing this… time just seems to run away with us!

After leaving Portpatrick we headed inland…. something that I had always been a little bit nervous about at this time of year due to those clouds of little nasty black things that appear to like my blood…… I was unfortunately proven to be right about having concerns!

Our next stop was Glentrool National Forest – recommended by Steve, like the previous places we visited in Dumfries & Galloway and apart from the midges, it didn’t disappoint!

We had booked five nights at the Glentrool Camping and Caravan Site (£23 per night without electricity), which is a proper campsite for ‘outdoorsy people’ – even had a bothy to go hug your bovril in – in the middle of the National Forest Park, famous for its Dark Skies…. Well, there isn’t anything else up here apart from Sheep, cows and midges… not really a surprise that the skies are so dark!!

It is fair to say it was beautiful, incredibly peaceful but pretty wet too. It rained every day but mostly overnight and first thing in the morning, so by about 10am the clouds cleared and the midges were in their element…. apparently they love a bit of warm, moist weather… oh, and my blood!

The campsite was located on a quiet road with walking in every direction – whether on trails, quiet roads or across cow pitted fields which reminded me of the cross country, ankle breaking running when I was at secondary school… that combined with the tufty marshland made it very difficult to walk on so we opted for a detour on the way back. You didn’t have to go far on a road as there were trails from the campsite taking you in one direction roughly 500m to a very good pub – which we did eat in on the Thursday night and is highly recommended – and the other direction up to the forest park and Information Center and onto numerous trails whether you were mountain biking or walking.

We had ample time to explore all of the above, taking in the blankets of bluebells and the beautiful rolling hills that just went on, uninterrupted forever … leaving alot more unexplored for the next time, when we will return before the midges take up residence… although to be fair, it was just the boys – the lady midges hadn’t quite made an appearance yet…. thankfully… this was the very beginning of the midge season!

Despite thinking about leaving the area area due to our pesky little unwanted friends, I am glad we didn’t as the meal in the House O’Hill Pub on Thursday night was pretty exceptional… Keith even had local Dover Sole – that is just to make my mum and Margaret jealous!!… but the whole meal was almost worth the itching that followed for the next two weeks…

We move on, leaving Dumfries and Galloway behind us on the Friday to catch up with friends who have been staying just outside Edinburgh. I know possibly a shock to most people, but we didn’t actually end up going into Edinburgh this time as it was more about being with friends. We did however manage to take in the ‘Capital view walk’ which passes by the top of the dry ski slope that looks out over Edinburgh and beyond… quite beautiful!

Three short days later and it was time to move on again…. time goes so quickly! Despite not having been into the city itself you do notice the difference of just 20 miles round the coast and away from the ‘hubbubb’ of a large city…. especially when the next stop was St Abbs – a complete haven of peace and tranquility!

If someone was to ask me what views I would want from my ‘forever’ home… it would probably be these – rolling vibrant green hills, rugged cliff edges, rough sea lashing in over the beaches and beautiful red/pink heather… not to mention the blue skies obviously!! …. ok, so we possibly found the only three days this year when St Abbs had this weather… but oh my, we are so happy about that – It was stunning!!!

We had booked three nights at Starney Bay CL (£25 per night inc.) and when I spoke to the lady who runs it she was up to her ears in lambs…. literally. The CL is really well set up, on the corner of a lambing farm… when I originally booked she had 1000 ewes giving birth…. apparently giving fruition to about 1500 lambs… and several sleepless nights!!

We ran and walked in every possible direction over the three days and it was possible one of the most beautiful places we have visited… but don’t tell the locals that it did remind us of being in Cornwall but without the crowds!!

All good things must come to an end however and we moved on to Berwick-on-Tweed for the Jubilee weekend….crossing back over the border into England.

Finding somewhere to stay was complicated unfortunately due to the majority of campsites being fully booked for the couple of weeks around the Jubilee days. We ended up at Ord House Country Park (£32 weekday, £37 Weekend per night inc.) which is part touring and part residential static homes. Not our favourite kind of location to stay at but it was a reasonable, well spaced out site and fairly quiet considering the number of people and children out enjoying the Jubilee celebrations. They had set up bands and events for the Friday and Saturday – just a shame that the weather wasn’t as good as they had hoped… but it was dry which is the most important thing!

We set out to explore a little further along the coastal path in both directions, around the town itself and then also up the river Tweed…. I am a bit of a sucker for beautiful structures and buildings and as far as viaducts or bridges go… this wasn’t to be ignored!!

We had gone into Berwick on Tweed to check out the market but as there were only two stalls that weren’t selling tack – one of which had only one local cheese out of all its wares .. such a shame when there are some wonderful locally produced cheeses available – the other was fruit and veg that looked like it had been in the sun too long – however, it gave us the opportunity to explore the walk along the river, especially considering the skies were so blue which made everything look incredible!

In fact, almost all of the walks that we did in the area were beautiful (apart from the coastal path going north) – just a little exposed and therefore windy!

Pretty much every other caravan and motorhome left on Sunday morning and the campsite returned to a tranquil, deserted static caravan site. We stayed until the Monday to miss the rush and then moved all of the 10 miles further down the coast to Link House Farm CL in Newton by the Sea (£20 per night inc.)

You couldn’t have had two more different places to stay, as this one was down the end of a country lane, surrounded by rolling hills with fields full of horses, cows, sheep, ducks, chickens, turkeys and even the odd peacock. It was 500m from the rough and rugged coastline and noisy waves and 1km from the nearest pub…. of which there were two – definately a place to sit with a glass of wine and admire the views after a long days walking.

We had unfortunately only been able to book two nights at Link House Farm CL so the time went even quicker than normal, but it was a place to return to and explore further… and I did notice that there was a dairy farm with Ice Cream not too far away as well!!

So with the grey skies and drizzle we set off to our next destination which was Low Hedgeley Farm Campsite, Powburn (£23 per night Inc.) Possibly one of the best campsites we have been to for both set up, peace and tranquilty and beautiful surroundings for walking and cycling…. and that is saying something!

It was still grey and overcast but we headed out for a walk after lunch to check out the Northumberland National Park and Ingram Valley which is stunningly beautiful and has a huge amount of history which dates back to the Bronze Age settlements.

We didn’t get much further than the base of the burial mounds and settlements on Wednesday as it was late in the day and it had started to rain, but it is an area to come back and explore further as it goes on for miles with lots of interesting looking routes, either by foot or bike.

We used the following couple of days to explore in different directions – all of which were equally as beautiful…. and a little dryer too!

The area is absolutely beautiful and there is so much more to explore round here in the National Park and Alnwick – which we ended up only passing through (and using its Sainsburys) unfortunately, although have been told that it is worth a visit. You always think that three or four nights should be enough but the time soon goes quickly especially if you have so much beautiy on your doorstep to explore!

We have been cooking a little more new stuff again over the last few weeks…. experimenting with new flavours and textures which has given some pretty good results… not that we are biaised!

New Recipes include the following:-
Thai Green Curry – a delicious combination of flavours that give a little hug from the inside when you eat it…. and its plant based!
Celeriac and Chimichurri Salad – Lovely combination full of flavour for a change at lunch
Mushy Peas – Marrowfat style – they take a little longer to make as you need to soak them over night…. but oh my they are worth it!
Keralan Thoran Curry – A flavoursome, dry curry which isn’t too spicy but carries lots of subtle flavours with it… Keith describes it as an ‘Indian Stirfry’
Cinnaman Knots – One of the recipes we made whilst on the Bertinet course back in January but hadn’t quite got round to making at home… work a treat and are pretty simple!

It has been a bit of a hop skip and a jump around the coast of Scotland, we had said we were only visiting a very small part of it – but what we saw in Dumfries and Galloway and the East Coast below Edinburgh was beautiful.

This is our first time in Northumberland with the motorhome too and every place we visit is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills …. so far we haven’t been disappointed so I am sure we will be back to explore some more.

Venturing North…. 21/5/22

Well we have wanted to get back up to Scotland ever since we came up here in Spring 2017 to do the NC500 …. far too quickly! Three weeks is just not enough to take in the beauty of the West coast of Scotland, let alone try and squeeze in Skye and the East coast too!

This time however we have been quiet focussed in our planning. We have 6 weeks and are only looking to take in Dumfries and Galloway and Northumberland… stopping briefly in Leek en route as I read something about it being an interesting market town a few months ago so felt it appropriate to do a little diversion as we were passing close by!

We had found a CL just outside Leek,(Roche House Farm CL £10 without electricity) which had stunning views out across the rolling hills. The Farm was a livery so we also benefitted from having lots of horses looking on curiously, although we were the only motorhome for two out of the three nights. We managed to get out into the fields and do a lovely circular walk taking in the beautiful countryside as well as make a visit to the Wednesday market in the pouring rain which stocked us up for the next few days. An interesting place but I wouldn’t go out of our way to revisit it despite finding a couple of very interesting looking eateries!

Leaving Leek we stop started all the way back towards the motorway as traffic was heavy and as we were passing a Morrisons we thought we may as well fill up as we had half a tank of diesel, probably wouldn’t get much cheaper en route and it was a long drive to Scotland… possibly a mistake considering what happened next.

We continued our journey and as we got two thirds of the way round the roundabout from the A500 joining the M6, Hattie flashed her EDC warning light and then came to a slow stop in the middle lane just over the traffic lights…. and wouldn’t start again. Not knowing what the issue was as there hard been no warning of a problem, I gave her a couple of minutes and tried again – nothing…. although I could smell Diesel. With Arctic trucks coming at us from behind at great speed and swerving at the last minute, Keith noticed some marks appearing on the road in front of us – that coupled with the guy in the van making hand signals as we were trying to start Hattie again made us realise that it may be us that was gently coating the road surface with diesel…..

I could think of better places to break down but to be fair to the police and the road traffic officers, it took them about 30 minutes to get us off the road and into a safe place and they were great…. we apologise to anyone who was in the area and had issues with heavy traffic on Friday lunchtime / early afternoon as it is fair to say it was our fault as they had to shut most of the roundabout to clear up the diesel spillage – thankfully it hadn’t spread too much further as there were talks of having to shut the M6. I’m dreading the clear up bill when it comes through…. although hopefully it will be covered by the Insurance. The RAC wouldn’t even log the call until we were in a ‘safe place’…. and then took 2.5 hours to get someone to us, although when he did come – the guy was great and we were fixed and on the road again within 20 minutes – absolutely amazing!

Somehow the fuel pipe from the ignition had come loose and all it required was re-attaching and we were good to go…. we lost about 1/5 of the tank…. it could have been a lot worse!!

Although it was mid afternoon by the time we set off, we did actually make it to our chosen location for the night – SilverCraigs Campsite, Kirkcudbright which is Dumfries and Galloway (£24 per night inc. elect.). The last 30 minutes of the drive made the long day worth it as the scenery was stunning…. beautiful rolling hills in every direction we looked.

We arrived just after 7pm and the site was full, but parked up and admired the views out to the estuary and the hills beyond as we prepared dinner which thankfully was simple and very tasty consisting of Halloumi and Aubergine, Onion and pepper harissa relish, Slaw and sourdough flatbreads…. just what we needed! Although sleep wasn’t great after a bit of an odd day it was incredibly quiet and we felt like we were interfering with the peace by doing our exercise in the morning … very laid back and tranquil.

Kirkcudbright is an artists town and you can see where they get their inspiration from as no matter where you walk – it is beautiful. It is an area to come back and explore further as three nights just wasnt enough to do it justice.

After amazingly beautiful weather it was unfortunate that it chose to break on the day that we should have been able to see the eclipse…. whether we would have been up in time to take advantage of it is another thing but as it was forecast to be grey and raining for 24 hours we shifted our ‘rest’ day to Monday morning and took advantage of an extra hour in bed!!

So, after a quick re-stock at the local Co-op, we moved further around the coast to Isle of Whithorn, stopping off briefly en route to have a walk around Wigtown which is Scotlands ‘Book’ capital. Wigtown is a small town where every third building is a bookshop / coffeeshop with a bookshop in it… very quirky, mostly second hand books although there were a few shops that stocked new ones as well…oddly in comparison to the other towns we have visited there weren’t many pubs – maybe there is some wierd Scottish rule of not selling alcohol and books under the same roof!

We had chosen to visit the Isle of Whithorn as you should be able to see the ‘Five Kingdoms’ from the point – England, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man and of course Scotland – just a shame that the weather was a little overcast as the only Kingdom we could see was Scotland, not that we are complaining as it is a mightily beautiful kingdom!!

We had seen that ‘The Steam Packet Inn’ – the only pub on the Isle of Whithorn – offered motorhomes a first come, first served parking spot so arrived just after lunch to give us a good chance of getting a space – It was surisingly busy for a Monday….obviously a popular place. Once parked up, we headed out Westwards along the coast through the fields with lots of curious calves and onto the cliffs.

As we walked the sun came out and the skies brightened up, giving us a beautifully warm afternoon with amazing, rugged views … but still no other land mass! Although Keith’s phone did switch to Isle of Man and then Guernsey briefly which caused a bit of concern as that is considered as ‘Roaming’ with Vodafone!

We had booked ourselves in to the Steam Packet Inn for dinner on Monday night as not only is it the ‘Five Kingdoms Brewery’, it also had fantastic reviews for the food. We were not disappointed – good beer and wine and excellent food (Curried Sweet Potato Soup and Sundried Tomato rolls as an ‘amuse bouche’, Seafood platter and Pannetone with roasted tomatoes as starters, Fish and Chips x 2 as mains and Cheesecake for dessert) with the prize for the best course going to the exceptional Raspberry Marscapone Cheesecake…. dare I say it – even better than my own!

After a very peaceful night listening to the waves, we woke to another overcast morning unfortunately … but it was dry! No views but after our morning exercise, shower and breakfast we battled against the wind and walked around the lighthouse and up the coast a little to the trig point… still beautiful no matter what weather you throw at it!!

We then hit the road again to search out a local cheese producer ‘Galloway Farmhouse Cheese’ which was en route to our next stop – which I saw on the menu the night before but was too full to try! The farm was just a couple of miles detour from our route and they produce unpasturised organic cheese – Cow and Ewe Cheddar, as well as selling Goat Cheddar, a Cow blue, using their cows milk but produced up the road and a brie which is also produced just round the corner. We tasted – and bought – both the Cow and Ewe cheddar as the flavour was incredible and you can’t beat zero miles for keeping the carbon footprint down!!

We normally try to stay three nights in each spot but if we are wild camping or for some reason the site can’t accomodate us for longer, we have to be flexible and when I was planning this trip, this next CL looked exceptional but I had to switch the dates around to even get two nights as they were full…. Greenloch CL, £20 per night Inc. and it was exceptional!

Despite the forecast of torrential rain on Tuesday afternoon we parked up, had lunch and then set off for a little walk to stretch our legs round the loch – it was just under 4km, a little wet underfoot, a few curious calves, an angry swan nesting, some skitty lambs and four little piglets… one of which was being licked by a dog – I think just checking it out for flavour… but all the same very cute!

By Wednesday morning the sun had come out so we got some washing done, made some bread and then set off over the hills into Stranraer to explore and do some shopping.

Stranraer is in a bay but still quite exposed to the North Irish Sea. It isn’t a pretty town as it is quite industrial and also has the ferry going to Belfast – its certainly not a place I would go out of my way to visit to take in the scenery as …. I guess you’d say it is a little run down. However the surrounding area is well worth exploring as the rolling hills and rugged coastline are second to none… whether the sun shines or not!

After a couple of nights with the piglets on their beautiful CL, we delayed our departure by an hour or so and cheakily got some more washing done as the forecast was good and we figured we could hang it out when we got all of the 10 miles down the road!

The next stop was just outside Portpartrick at South Port o’Spittal CL (£20 first night, then £15 thereafter inc. elec) and the decision to do the washing was a good one as to say it was windy was an understatement…. the jeans were dry within an hour!

Another beautifully maintained CL with absolutely amazing surroundings. It is a farm and obviously being lambing season we are surrounded by Ewes and their lambs in all different shapes, sizes and colours… including a couple that look like they have stepped in white paint and dragged their tails in too, angorra lambs and a devilled lamb with teeny little horns that look like someone has just stuck them on as a joke!!

Conscious that the weather was about to break we took advantage and headed along …and up and down… the coastal path into Portpatrick – a beautiful walk taking in the rugged coastline and the abandoned Dunskey castle just as the cloud started to come in. The village of Portpatrick is situated in a pretty little bay which is mostly made up of rental properties and a few cafes, restaurants and pubs but not much more unfortunately – one of those places that has unfortunately been a victim of its own sucess… which is a shame.

We chose to walk back to the motorhome cross country via the tiny winding single track road which was equally as beautiful, giving us good views of the fantastic rolling hills which were covered in lambs and calves in every direction we looked…. definately farming country!

By shear coincidence, after booking the campsite I found that less than a mile down the road (literally – down) is Knockinaam Lodge which evidently has a pretty good chef who has managed to get them 3 rosettes… so we thought it rude not to try it for lunch!

Not only was the location and setting amazing, the food was incredible. It is a five course tasting menu which is set although they will adapt it should you have any dietary requirements… so mine was pescatarian but Keith got the beautifully pink duck. There weren’t many differences between what we both ate as they tried to overlap the menu as much as possible but every course was exceptional, full of flavour and not too rich… they even gave the option of having cheese rather than dessert…. although Keith would have happily consumed both!! We will be back…. but we will be staying in our own accomodation up the road as I think £600+ a night is pushing it a little for our budget – the food however at £42 for the set lunch was exceptional value!

I assure you that we have, as always, been cooking alot as well but mostly the deliciousness that we have already shared with you… we have however weirdly made two different pestos in the last two weeks – one with nettles and cashew nuts to go with BBQ veg and pittas and the other with wild garlic and hazlenuts which we will be eating next week!

Blown away by Norfolk 8/5/2022

…..and yet another month has passed us by without us knowing where it has gone! The sun has been shining and there have definately been at least two good spells of amazing weather where we have happily been out and about without jackets – I just wonder what havoc this weather is going to play on the crops in the long term as the fields are so dry. We aren’t going to complain though as it has made life more pleasant for walking and exploring further afield.

We have been venturing out a little more enjoying food cooked by others rather than just ourselves and were particularly spoilt by trying another amazing restaurant in London courtesy (well we did pay…but it had added benefits) of American Express… Fallow. An incredible tasting menu that introduced us to new flavours and combinations, locally sourced and sustainable…. It was a bit of sharing plates menu – although made more complicated by Keith eating meat and me not – so consisted of the following…. Corn ribs with lime, Pork Croquette, Mushroom Croquette, Tunworth Cheese and Caramalised Onion Flatbread and Black Garlic and Blue Cheese Flatbread, Mushroom Parfait, Cornish Crudo Pork with Turnip, Confit Leeks, Dairy Cow Fillet of Beef with Boulangere potatoes, Chelsea Tart with Caramalised Whey and finally Guiness and Dark Chocolate Soft Serve… not bad at all. The favourites of the evening were weirdly the corn ribs and probably the Black Garlic and Blue Cheese Flatbread – just really unusual, although quite rich!

With a new trip on the horizon and excited about exploring a new area and trying out some of the local produce – most specifically Cromer Crab – we headed off on the long haul up to Cromer the Tuesday after Easter, only to come to a halt after an hour or so just before Waltham Abbey on the M25… a spot that we now know pretty well considering we then didn’t move for 7.5 hours!

After alot of consideration – it’s certainly not our favourite location – views were mostly made up of cars and trucks with the odd police car or fire engine going past, i’d definately say that we would pass on the opportunity next time if given the chance! It doesn’t sound like anyone was hurt but apparently a vehicle collided with a food oil tanker which then spread its load across all carriageways on our side. If the sunflower oil shortage wasn’t bad enough beforehand… it’s certainly got worse in the last couple of weeks!

Our afternoon was lit up however by a tap on the drivers window after a couple of hours – it is quite high up so the walking stick was necessary – by a 92 year old lady, who needed the toilet…. our good deed was done…we were just grateful that there weren’t hundreds of people to follow suite! She obviously quite liked the motorhome as she came back a second time too!!

Joking aside though, the lovely lady was well and we did check that she had ample food and water to keep her (and her 72 year old daughter) going and we were all pleased when we were finally able to get moving a couple of hours earlier than expected as the travel news had said it would be after 9pm, instead it was only 6:30pm.

As it was late in the day and we still had a good 3+ hours ahead of us to get to our planned destination for the night, I had called around to try and find somewhere more local to stay and thankfully the Theobalds Park (£32.10 per night), Camping and Caravan Club site manager at Waltham Abbey came to the rescue. The site was tranquil and actually quite pretty despite being literally a stones throw from the M25 and where we were parked up just ten minutes beforehand!

So… after a morning run – the M25 was still shut – we headed on our way up the M11 and into Norfolk…. a lovely, easy journey arriving at Antonia Villa CL (£14 inc) in Cromer at lunchtime. A lovely little CL despite being grass only and mostly quite slopey – so you definately wouldn’t want to be here if it was very wet – we found a nice flattish spot to park up on and relax in the sunshine, eating our lunch and listening to the birdsong around us.

We had booked ourselves in for three nights but obviously with our little delay on the M25, missed the first night and although we had kept the owners updated and had said that we were happy to pay for the night missed, they were having none of it – very kind…. we rounded up the two nights and bought some of their duck and hen eggs though to help support the local producers – although would have done that anyway!!

Cromer was a lovely little town from what we managed to see of it with a good selection of boutique type shops, master bakers, butchers, wine-makers (not candlestick makers!!) and deli’s. The beach went on for miles and was lined with rusty old tractors ready to pull the fishing/crabbing boats in and out of the water each day… most definately an area to explore some more.

We walked up into Overstrand and back along the beach into Cromer and were suprised by the quantity of award winning foodie type places – pubs and restaurants galore with ‘AA Rosettes’ and ‘Michelin recommended’… so as we had passed The Grove on the first day, we thought it rude not to try it and were blown away by the sustainability and ‘local-ness’ of all things served from Gin, wine and beer to squid ink, fish and asparagus… it is a lovely elegant family run hotel and restaurant but not as good as the next one we tried – it just whet the appetite for a return visit to the area!!

Leaving Cromer keen to return, we moved all of 10 miles along the coast to Blakeney where we had booked to stay at Villeroche CL (£22 per night inc.). Another lovely site just on the edge of open fields as you enter into Blakeney, looking out onto the nature reserve and sea in the distance… say it was exposed was an understatement – the high winds certainly helped freshen things up in the morning!!

We were really impressed by Blakeney and the area around it and although we only had three nights there we managed to get a good taster by walking in different directions to explore. On the first afternoon we walked – or should I say were blown – along the path through the nature reserve and along to ‘Cley next the Sea’ where there is an amazing delicatessen stocking all things local from wine, gin, cider and beer through to cheese and home made pies and pastries… somewhere not to visit when you are hungry!!

Then on the second day we did a short walk through the nature reserve in the opposite direction along the coast in the morning, then headed over to a farm shop to stock up in the afternoon. Although the Courgette and Lime cake was delicious we were actually less impressed by the cafe and shops’ support for local producers… they prioritised Organic over local. It was a lovely walk though.

The third day was the biggest success though as after a lovely walk in the morning through Wiveton, Newgate and the other part of Cley next the Sea, we had lunch at the Wiverton Bell…. a truly spectacular feast!

We both had cod cheaks with curry sauce for starters, Keith had a full Roast with Pork Belly for main, I fell back to my favourite of Haddock and Chips, all followed by Ginger and Stout Pudding with Clotted Cream Ice Cream…. The whole area is stunningly beautiful – we will be back but to be fair would have returned for the food and drink alone!

Blown away by the food… not just the wind, we had unfortunately booked to move on again on the Monday otherwise we would have gone back to the pub…..ah well guess it will have to be another time!

We made the last hop of the trip down to The Old Sun Inn CS, Bungay (£16 without elec.) which is right on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk. Another lovely site, although this one takes more people there were still only 4 of us for 3 nights and then 5 for the last night… not exactly busy!

We had booked for 4 nights as Bungay is a market town and with Thursday being market day I got excited by the prospect of a nice local food market…. unfortunately the market was made up of 1 fruit and veg stall, some local preserves and a hot dog stand…. thankfully they had a lovely deli and greengrocers to make up for it otherwise I would have felt very sorry for the locals.

We had time to explore the area though and find a local farm shop that had goats and two of the nanny goats had just given birth… one to twins and one to triplets – very, very cute….although it appeared that two of the triplets were thicker than theives and the other was a bit of a mummies boy as the three didn’t seem to play together!! We sat and watched them cause huge amounts of mishief whilst we ate our sandwiches and put the world to rights…. not bad really!

Despite being very different to the North coast of Norfolk, there was alot of walking through forests and fields. The area is full of rape seed and obviously at this time of year it is just coming into its own, so as we were exploring we managed to benefit from some of the natural outstanding beauty…

Despite the eating out, there has still been lots of cooking and a reasonable amount of experimenting over the last month… and you know how much we love our food!

Kimchi – taking less time than saurkraut to ferment, looks very authentic and tastes great!
Dhansak – courtesy of Stevie B with a few vegetarian adaptions!
Pea Hummus – looks a bit odd – i.e. very green – but tastes great
Orange Chocolate and Pistachio Brioche Buns – amazingly delicious breakfast treat. Not too sweet and perfectly light
Brioche Aubergine and Halloumi Burgers with Harissa Relish – delicious combination of flavours and so quick and simple
Sourdough Pittas – first try at using Fergie on pittas and it worked brilliantly with our roasted spicy cauliflower and romesca sauce.