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….