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.