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

Floss

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

Stretch

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

Travel

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…..so 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…..to 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.

Going large… 3/04/2022

It has been a busy month or two with one thing or another taking up a fair bit of our time… I can’t believe that almost ten weeks have passed us by since my last post – poor administration on my part, just too much going on!!

So…. we start off by our second course of the year – very slightly different from the Bertinet Bread course back in January as this time it was to get our HGV Category C driving licenses…. just in case you don’t know what that means – it is so that we can drive any sized Truck/Lorry with a ‘fixed’ body… just not an Arctic Truck! We don’t need the license for the next motorhome but just felt that we wanted the additional knowledge and training as it has to make us better drivers of large vehicles.

Having completed the medical and theory last year we were finally let out on the road in 10.2m, 18 tonne trucks and are pleased to say that we have both passed…. I think the cheesy smiles say it all!!

We hadn’t been away in Hattie since being in Bath in January with everything else going on but we did manage to make the most of nine days down in the New Forest at the end of February, catching up with a few friends as well as exploring some new areas.

Our first stop – after a night on Chris and Annie’s driveway – was Southern Comfort CL, near Ringwood, Dorset (£20pn inc.) which came with three beautiful Alpacas, a brood of very inquisitive chickens and three very friendly dogs… not to mention the lovely owners!

The photos are deceptive, taken in between rain showers. The campsite was perfect for what we wanted as it wasn’t too far from Moors Valley Country Park which had loads of walking and cycling routes as well as cafes, a mini steam train and activities for kids should you want them! There was also a great farm shop and cafe a couple of miles away in the opposite direction with lots of lovely local produce enabling us to stock up on the necessities.

Despite the weather being a little intermittent we managed to do a fair bit of walking around the area in the four days we were there and will definately revisit again to explore further.

Moving all of 20 miles down the road to Green Pastures CL, Lymington, Hampshire (£17pn inc) – we found another beautifully sunny spot on the Sunday when we arrived.

I am particularly fond of holding on to the memories of the sunshine above as it was very warming. Not long after taking the photos, Keith and I went out for a walk to make the most of being right on the edge of the New Forest whilst also being aware of the rain which was forecast for the rest of our stay, arriving back at the motorhome and not being able to get in!

Having only one door to get in and out was a concern when we first got Hattie – especially having had the habitation door handle break on us in Mika, our previous motorhome – however, thankfully until this beautiful Sunday afternoon in the New Forest… it hadn’t been an issue!

After some initial jigging, banging and tousling, we were getting nowhere. The lock was stuck fast and the encasement for the door wasn’t being particularly helpful either…. this was going to take some time! Keith had the support of Andy Bottle, the Magic Motorhome Man, who talked him through what he needed to do get access… not bad for a Sunday afternoon at 4:30! It took about an hour and a half but he did get it sorted and I did get reunited with some warmth along with my gin and tonic as the sun went down….. I definately needed one by then! That said, I had been kept entertained by a neighbouring caravan putting up its awning and they did very kindly make me a cup of tea to keep me warm… so I can’t really complain!

The lock was all working fine until two weeks ago – a Sunday again weirdly – when it popped out again, this time doing exactly what Andy Bottle had thought it had done originally so we were actually able to apply his suggested fix…. fingers crossed it is all sorted now and its not just a Sunday thing!!

The rest of our three days just outside Lymington went smoothly with lots of lovely walking in the New Forest and we even managed to squeeze in a coffee with Tracey whilst Chris was studying, and explore their local seaside town of Milford on Sea.

After our 9 days away we headed back to base in Holyport to catch up with family and friends and as I am so poor in my admin and didn’t get a chance to finish the blog… we have actually been away and come back again now …. another little 9 day trip at three different sites, exploring a new area yet again.

As we only had 9 days again, we decided to venture not too far away from home…. our first stop on this little trip being Copse Side Farm CL – £15 per night inc. which is about half a mile from the village of Ansty, Salisbury, an amazingly peaceful place with lots of walking from the doorstep.

Ansty, and the CL we stayed on, sit just alongside Cranbourne Chase which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – completely new to us and very unspoilt. Our three days gave us enough time to explore footpaths in several directions taking in the stunning views, a visit to the local farm shop which had an abundance of Rhubarb grown on site (it is a seasonal farm and has PYO in a couple of months), as well as a walk to Tisbury which is the local village with a small co-op, boots pharmacy and several lovely looking cafes and deli’s …. right up our street. It looks like it has fully embraced COVID and is thriving on locally produced and home made goods – we will be back to sample some more!

Moving on from Ansty …. as I still didn’t get a chance to finish the blog – we headed North to Church Farm CL (£17 per night inc.) situated in a little village South West of Marlborough called Stanton St Bernard.

The campsite was on the edge of the Kennet and Avon Canal surrounded by fields with horses. Once again there were lots of footpaths and bridal ways to explore in both directions along the canal, up onto the ridge and into Tan Hill National Park as well as onto the Alton Barnes White Horse.

There was also a lovely little village with a nice pub and community shop a short walk away along the canal – a perfect little bit of tranquility for a short break.

As it was just another three night stop, there wasn’t enough time to do everything and we moved on again on Monday to our final stop which was a quick 31 miles up the road in the direction of base camp – Rhodeside CL in Curridge (£20 per night inc.) just north of Thatcham and Newbury.

Needing a bit of a restock, we popped into the Cobbs Farm shop which was en route where we managed to find ample fruit and veg to fill our stomachs over the next few days as well as some local beer.

We really lucked out on this trip as all three CLs we stayed at were chosen randomly based on the criteria of having hard standing and being in areas that looked like they would have decent walking….. and we were trying to do a little less travelling due to the stupidly high fuel prices. All of which though, have been lovely, tranquil sites – the last one being no exception despite the fact that it was closer to two larger towns and only just off of the M4 / A34. You wouldn’t have known where it was if you hadn’t looked at a map, as again it was surrounded by fields and horses in every direction, with loads of bridalways and footpaths heading up onto ridges, into the forest and uniting you with civilisation if you wanted it … but you had to be searching it out!!

All in all a lovely 9 days away and we were amazingly lucky with the weather, despite the last few days looking like they were going to be pretty bad. All of the sites are not too far from base and have lots of lovely areas to explore whether summer or winter so a good little rekkie but we will be back for more.

There has been a fair bit of cooking, experimenting and eating going on – no surprises there as it has been a while – some of the new delights that we have found and will be repeating include the following:-
Socca – a kind of pancake / wrap / flat bread which works really well with curries or sweet
Millionaires Biscuit– Vegan Style…. slightly healthier version as it uses dates in the caramel but pretty delicious, not going back to the original now!
Confit Garlic – we tried this at Bertinets Kitchen and its so simple and tasty I made some to use in salads and pizzas. So simple, literally put whole cloves of garlic in their skin in good quality oil and cook gently for about 45 minutes until soft. Leave to cool and take the skins off. Store in a sealed container in the oil in the fridge.
Salmon Crust and Miso Onions – a Nadiya Hussain recipe which works really well. Simple and tasty.
Greenhouse Couscous Salad – a Jamie Oliver recipe which is full of flavour and really simple. Great for lunch or a side for dinner
Aubergine and Blackbean Bowl – delicious, quick lunch or breakfast from Dr Rupy
Vegan Chocolate Tarte – shared by a fellow Gastrovanner, non cook simple but full of flavour dessert
Spinach and Mushroom Tart – A plant based quiche type dish which was full of flavour and deliciousness…. and we switched some of the ingredients on


Root Vegetable Salad with Teryaki crispy Tofu – Another Dr Rupy lunch recipe which is simple and delicious
Harissa Polenta with Vegetables – My first use of Polenta… despite my apprehension, I was impressed by the speed, consistency and flavour
Giant Oat, Raisin and Chocolate Chip Cookie – Can’t go wrong….. absolute deliciousness
Giant ginger nut cookie – Mary Berry definately knows how to make these as the recipe was delicious. It turned out a little cakey as it was a bit too thick in the Remoska but still delicious!
Nutty Bean Curry – Simple Quick and full of flavour…. another keeper


We have also been playing around with the bread a bit more – perfecting our sourdough rolls, making sourdough pizza, more sourdough Chicago Pizza Pie and breadsticks as well as trying out white dough, olive doughs and Rye with Focaccia, twirls, breadsticks and making a sweet dough to make some amazing brioche buns to go with Aubergine and Halloumi burgers….

Kicking off 2022 in style…. 24/1/2022

2021 ended in with lots of good food – as it should – and it is fair to say that 2022 has started in an equally good way!!

The Christmas festivities started with a trip out to ‘The Kitchen’ at Reading College for a Christmas lunch by their catering college students…. and to be fair to them, they did a pretty good job…. we will go back and try the restaurant again, although how they managed to make the Almond tart so flavourless – I have no idea!

We followed this by a couple of family gatherings and Christmas day in the motorhome…. Keith even managed to cook fruit cake in the Remoska on Christmas day just to get a bit of the Christmas spice going before we popped the ‘Christmas’ pie – containing everything from brussel sprouts to chestnuts – in the Remoska…. delicious!!

New Year was equally homely for us – just how we like it – and we celebrated in our traditional manner… good food, good wine, port and sloe gin and a few games of Settlers of Catan – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!! This year we opted for three completely new dishes that we hadn’t tried before – Red Onion Tarte Tatin, Cheesey Chou buns and Cheesey, Nutty Brussels… all of which tasted lovely, although the brussels sprouts didn’t quite come out as planned as the crust didn’t stick to the brussel sprout….. which kind of defeated the object. The first two are definite repeaters, the last will need some improvement if it is going to get back on the menu!! It was however a lovely way to bring the New Year in….

So here we are… 2022 – despite everyone complaining about not having done anything during Covid19 – it is incredible how quickly the time has gone and yet another year has passed us by. My mother would say that is what getting older does to you, blink and it is gone… thankfully we have enjoyed every moment and intend to do the same for the coming years as well!

Apart from Christmas festivities, meeting up with friends and family and cooking at home we did have a quick trip down to Bath to do a 5 day Bread making course @ Richard Bertinet’s cookery school…. such an amazing experience, although it is fair to say that we did eat our weight in bread type produce over the period of 10 days… breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between!

It took us just over a week to get through the rest of the bread that we brough home from the course – although we do still have a loaf of sourdough in Keith’s mum’s freezer – but we have started to bake again….. a la Richard Bertinet style.
Now, for someone who had been baking bread by hand for 8+ years in the motorhome – although I knew I had lots to learn and went into the course completely open minded – I hadn’t quite appreciated the difference in technique that could be applied to gain different results. It is fair to say that I have gone back to basics and thrown my ‘old style kneading’ out the window and welcomed in the ‘slapping’ and ‘folding’ approach, which introduces more air into the dough with what appears to be great results… even in the motorhome. We were initially apprehensive about how we would recreate the technique in the small space but we are now half way through our second attempt at rolls using the new technique accompanied with only ferment instead of yeast, and we have made two batches of indian yoghurt wholemeal flatbreads as well as lots of ferment crackers…. all of which have been delicious but still need a little bit of tweeking to improve….. look at the crumb on the rolls below!!

Just in case you want to see what he looks like….’Fergie’ the Ferment – which is what we are now using instead of Yeast – is the honeycombed beauty in the top left picture above.
As always we have been enjoying cooking both for ourselves and others… experimenting with recipes and what we can/can’t do in the motorhome!! New recipes over the last month or so include the following :-
Baked Potatoes in the Remoska – yes, its daft but we hadn’t ever done them before and …. they are great!!
Chicago Pizza Pie – Mark 2 – the process was the same as the cauliflower cheese pizza pie, although this time we made the nice thick spicy tomato sauce – which we use in our enchilladas – and used the vegan parmesan cheese recipe that I put in the moussaka – tasted great and didn’t feel quite as stodgy!
Onion Tarte Tatin – it was really simple and tasty and I reckon adding a bit of goats cheese or feta would work really well too.
Cheesey Chou Buns – very simple and tasty as a starter or nibbles to go with drinks
Pumpkin Rice – quick and easy Jamie Oliver recipe which worked really well
Indian Yoghurt Flatbreads – Richard Bertinet’s recipe from his Crumb book…. nice and tangy if using the ferment
Rum Soaked Prunes – a little treat that Richard Bertinet introduced to us whilst on his course…. put some prunes in a container, cover with rum and leave for at least 3 days…. delicious in an expresso coffee, as part of affogato dessert, or as we tried out on Bruce and Sarah – on top of my chocolate mouse cake…. what a lovely kick!!

It is fair to say that we still have alot to learn but that we are going to enjoy practising!! We just need to go back to basics and focus on one thing at a time as it is so easy to get distracted by the excitement of trying out something new…. ciabatta here we come !!