On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells


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Wareham Forest with the kids 22 – 26th August

It’s been a while before I have found time to do this, and I’m really thankful that I keep daily notes to jog my memory. I’ll be relying on those pretty heavily this time.

THURSDAY 22ND AUG

It’s a sign that these little’uns – our niece and nephew, Evie (13) and Lenny(8) aren’t so little any more, as for the very first time they arrived from London under their own steam (or perhaps their own diesel?) . Hitherto, we have met their parents half way, in Guildford, and carried out the swap-over. But this time, they came by train. It’s a pretty easy journey – they get on the train at East Croydon and get off at Portchester – no changes required, just a straightforward trip. And so it was that I trotted off to the station to greet them on that sunny Thursday. The trip had gone very smoothly and our first priority was to feed them.

Fed and watered, we set about the final tasks that needed to be done before we set off and then off we went. It was an uneventful journey and we arrived on site just before 4 pm. It was our second stay here at the Hunters Moon site within a couple of months, so we felt quite at home. We had a good choice of pitches and were soon settled in. The kids and Paul took the dogs for a quick walk and comfort break, while I did a bit more stowing of things. It was going to be a tight squeeze with 2 dogs, 2 kids and 2 adults but we actually managed very well.

Lenny doing the corner steadies
Making themselves at home

When the walkers returned, we decided we would pop into the nearest town – Wareham – and have an explore. We made for the Quay and by sheer luck, managed to find a parking space. We crossed the bridge over the river and set off for a walk along the towpath. It was a beautiful evening and lots of people were taking advantage of the early evening sunshine at this very pretty spot.

We were all getting a bit peckish, though, and decided to have dinner at the Quay Inn. They have a roof deck and we found ourselves a table there. It was very pleasant watching the sun as it started to set. Almost like being on holiday – oh – wait………

Bridge over the R Frome
The view from the bridge
Stunning Garden room
People watching
Waiting for our grub
Hello gulls!

Then it was home, a few games, ablutions and bed. A lovely first day.

FRIDAY 23RD AUG

We all had a good night and awoke refreshed and raring to go. The first job, however, was stowing all the bedding and getting the van into a state where we could actually move around. No mean feat!

Breakfast devoured and snacks and drinks packed, we set off about 10 am. Our first stop was Norden, where there is a mining museum which we thought the kids might enjoy. We parked and set off for the Museum only to find that it only opened at weekends. Foiled!

We walked up to the platform, where we bought drinks and a snack and then walked up to the view of Corfe Castle, which was an obvious photo opportunity, especially as a steam train chose that moment to depart for Swanage.

Lenny had a good bit of exercise playing on the very nicely designed climbing frames while we sat and watched, wishing we had as much energy as him!

As we were near Corfe Castle, we decided we’d pop and have a look at the castle, as it’s pretty impressive. Corfe was heaving but again, we struck lucky. It was very hot indeed by now and also nearly lunchtime, so we decided to have our lunch there at the charming National Trust Tea Room, which has a garden that affords stunning views of the castle. The sun was beating down mercilessly by now and we were lucky enough to get a table in the shade.

Lunch was very pleasant – although we were set upon by a marauding wasp! As has already been said, it was blisteringly hot, so we decided to leave actually visiting the castle itself until another day, when we would rock up up in the cool of the early morning. So we decided to go back to Wareham and see if we could hire a boat for a couple of hours.

Parking in Wareham was not easy, so Paul dropped us at the hire place and went off while we did the business of hiring a small motor boat. Larks! It was much cooler and very pleasant indeed on the water. We had a couple of hours and went up river first, admiring and slightly envious of the properties whose gardens had river frontage. Lucky people. The dogs were flakers and required regular water, bless them.

We turned round and went downstream and witnessed a very amusing (to us) and embarrassing (to her) SUP incident. She seemed to fall off in slow motion and completely disappeared under water, briefly, before re-emerging, coughing and spluttering. We had the good grace to hide our mirth. The good lord only knows how (or indeed if!) she got back on.

The “beach” area by the Quay was thronged with kids and dogs cooling off in the river. It was lovely to see everyone having such simple fun. The downstream area was much busier with lots of boats, but all too soon it was time to hand back the boat.

After we had handed back the boat, it was definitely time for an ice-cream. Sadly, everybody else had the same idea – a visit to The Quayside Barn Ice Cream Parlour. But it was well worth queuing and – once again – we managed to bag a table in the shade. Ice creams all round – even the dogs, and boy they went down well!

Even dogs like an ice-cream on holiday!

We walked back to the car and drove back to site for tea. The kids went to the play area while I cooked. We ate our tea and then decided that, as it was a nice evening we’d pop down to Poole Harbour wall to do a spot of crabbing. We didn’t catch any crabs but did catch a small spiny fish which went straight back.

It had been an action packed day, but there was still some life left in the kids so they went to the play area before bed. A lot of the kids were cycling around the site, as is often the case. We felt the lack of bikes quite keenly but there was nothing to be done about it. Bed beckoned and we were all soon in the land of nod.

SATURDAY 24th AUGUST

We decided to make it a beach day and set off for Weymouth. We felt the fear – Weymouth? On a Bank Holiday Weekend?? – but did it anyway. We were right to be a bit nervous about our decision! The beach looked not to have one square inch that wasn’t covered in people! Far too peopley for my liking, but a dip in the sea was very tempting (although guess who ended up minding the wet dogs?). We managed to find a parking space, walked to the beach and found a space just big enough for us and spread out our towels. The kids and Paul were off! There were loads of dogs on the beach and everyone had food so – after they had had a swim, I had the “joy” of trying to keep them under some sort of control. I and my towel ended up covered in wet sand! But we had a nice time. We went up to the quay to have our lunch. Stupidly we had run out of cash (easily done!) so Lenny only got to a go on the Waltzer at the nearby fair. He was in a carriage on his own and I was praying that the chaps wouldn’t spin it too much and scare him to death. They were very kind though and spun it just enough for it to be fun and he eventually got off quite happy, so no harm done.

Lunch break

We decided to walk into town and found a pet shop on the way, where we bought the boys a new collar each, their current ones being a little snug. They are growing up fast! We found a cafe that was selling smoothies so took advantage of them. We had a nice shady table and took it in turns to go shopping (Lenny and I) and in search of a cashpoint (Paul and Evie). Lenny ended up with a nice new T-shirt from surf/skateboard shop Saltrock.

Red for Ted, Bill wears Blue.

Shopping done, we went back to the car and started the drive home. We stopped off in Wareham for another ice cream (we’re on holiday,right?!), the kids had a swim in the chilly River Frome (see the amusing video of Lenny entering the water, here) and then we went back to the site. The kids went off to the play area and Paul and I relaxed with the boys for a while.

When dinner beckoned, we decided we’d pop down to our local to eat. The pub rejoices under the moniker “The Silent Woman” and has a charming image of a headless woman as a pub sign, the implication being that is the only way a woman could be silenced?

We had a nice meal and then returned to site where it was showers all round, games and bed after another action packed day!

Sunday 25th August

We had a slow start today. I think we were all a bit tired after our exertions the last couple of day so I made blueberry pancakes for breakfast, which went down well and the kids enjoyed helping to cook them on the Cadac.

There was cycle hire just up the road in Wareham Forest and Paul took the kids off to hire bikes and go for a ride along the Sika Trail, which they all thoroughly enjoyed. I stayed at home with the boys, took them for a stroll, relaxed, read and prepared lunch for the ravening hordes. They returned as hungry as expected! Luckily I was ready for them.

Uncle Paul enjoying himself!

After lunch it was time for a little more relaxation, a quick dash to Sainsers for provisions and then a late afternoon trip to Lulworth Cove, for a dip. There was – as ever – quite a queue to get to the car park and then it took a while to find a space as it was heaving.

Evie catching some rays.

When we had left Wareham, it had been a sunny, warm afternoon. By the time we hit the beach a sea haar had descended and Lulworth looked less like the limpid turquoise pool in all the publicity blurb and more like a grey Thursday in Dungeness. Frankly, I was pretty disappointed in Lulworth. The beach is very rocky so getting comfy is not easy, the walk into the sea is very rocky and I actually found it all a bit unnecessary! The kids didn’t think much of it either! But we’ve been. We shall never go again.

The dream
The reality!
Spooky pic of Evie!

Back from Lulworth, the kids went off to the play area while I cooked dinner, we ate, we washed up, we played dominoes, we did a little packing and thence bed.

Monday 26th August

The weather forecast was good, so we decided to pack up early and beat for home and a nice swim in the pool. This turned out to be a good plan! We swam and lazed most of the day and then ordered in a Chinese. Uncle D came round to help us eat it it and then games and bed. Paul and Lenny slept in the house while Evie and I slept in the caravan. We both slept very soundly and were rudely awoken by the flipping dustbin men!

Tuesday 27th August

We packed up all their stuff neatly and suddenly it was time time to stick them back on the train for home. We had a great time and, as always, wish we saw more of them. There may not be a next time (in the caravan) as we just might be on the boat by next year. Time will tell. There may be a long hiatus now as we are busy packing up and downsizing. The house is sold and we move out in just over a month. WATCH THIS SPACE


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PART 3 Moving on…..

Part 3 – Windermere based

Fri 28th

It was about an hour from our base on the excellent Borrowdale site, South to our home for the next week or so. We’d done most of our packing up the night before and it was an easy going morning. We slipped off site at just after 11 and once we’d retraced our steps along that windy, windy road and got onto the B5289 to Keswick, I was happy. Although we’d really loved it here, it was exciting to be moving to pastures new. And it was such a pleasant drive along the A591 to Windermere, driving alongside Thirlmere, Grasmere, Rydal Water and passing through Ambleside, Windermere and Bowness. It genuinely must be one of the most scenic A-roads in the country.

We were in no hurry and eventually arrived at our destination not far from the Southern tip of Lake Windermere  – Hill of Oaks – around 12:30. The access to the site is pretty hairy with a caravan and the site is vast – and yet you never really feel overlooked?

It was pretty quiet on site,  so we had lunch and set up – this pitch is fully serviced. Bliss. There is a launderette on site and, as it was so fine, I did a quick wash in one of their amazing Speed Queen washing machines. We rigged up a line and within 30 minutes, it was pegged out. Result!

We popped out at about 18:00 to do a shop in Booths in Windermere. We had hoped to get food out, but there were queues everywhere and parking was difficult with a Bill on board, so we went back to the site and cooked pizza, from scratch (OK – the dough was frozen) on the Cadac. You can’t get much fresher than that!

We relaxed and watched all the people rolling on to site for the weekend, still steaming from the M6 and felt a little smug. We really have the bedtime routine weighed off now, too. Bill is doing very well. So far, so good.

Saturday 29 June V 🥵

A lovely quiet night saw us refreshed and hungry. The blueberry pancakes had been such a success I decided to use up some bananas and make banana ones. Also delicious!

We had decided that we would take the Windermere Ferry, which runs from Ferry Nab on the eastern shore to Ferry House on the Western shore. It’s a chain ferry and can take up to up to 18 cars and over 100 passengers and takes less than 10 minutes. And it looked like fun! So off we set. It was a shortish queue when we arrived – we imagine it might be a different story at the height of the season! But we were soon on board and rattling across the lake.

Our first lake(let) was Esthwaite Water, a very pretty little lake. and then we passed through the very pretty little village of Near Sawrey, famous for its links with Beatrix Potter. What a lovely place to live! No wonder she was so inspired to write (23 children’s stories and still popular with kids today. No mean feat.).

We stopped in Hawkshead, equally famous for its links with William Wordsworth, who was educated at the Hawkshead Grammar School and went on to write one of the most famous English poems “Daffodils” – said to be set near Ullswater, which we visited earlier in this holiday (see Part 2). We needed some cold drinks and some lunch supplies and I also wanted to get a “Get Well” card for my dear friend Steve Reading , whom we had just heard had been taken ill and hospitalised with a burst appendix, poor chap. I found a very nice bakery with a Russian baker who cooked some really interesting breads, plus the usual bakery fare. This met our lunch needs perfectly.

But the main lake of interest today was Coniston Water (the 3rd largest lake after Windermere and Ullswater). Coniston Water was made particularly famous by Sir Malcolm Campbell, in 1939, when he set the world water speed record (a stonking 141.740 mph!) in his craft Blue Bird K4. He also set various land speed records. Somewhat amazingly, he died aged 63 of natural causes –  unlike many of his speedy contemporaries. His equally thrill-seeking son was killed on Coniston in 1966,  during one of his attempts to exceed 300 mph. I remember it quite clearly.

We stopped alongside the east side of Coniston Water to stretch our legs with the boys. Poor Bill was only allowed down for a pee break but Ted had a nice paddle in the lake. There were lots of families making the most of the weather and the lake. At this point we realised we had forgotten the camera. I say we. All I will say is I’m not in charge of the camera. 🙂

As we were going back to the car we heard quite a loud noise but couldn’t work out what it was. As we approached our car we got chatting to the family (Mum, Dad and 6 year old boy – very cute). Dad had just been getting their kayak off the roof and somehow it had slipped and ripped his electric wing mirror off. Loud noise mystery solved. We commiserated greatly and hoped their luck improved sand that they enjoyed the rest of their day.

We spent the remainder of the day up on the moors, getting the occasional glimpse of sea as we did so. It was beautiful up there and I have only one  picture to share, sadly. A ford with the clearest water ever! We later made our way back again ferry and were lucky enough to be about 8th in the queue , so we knew we’d get on the very next ferry. The Ferry Nab is very near our campsite, so we returned to the van for a cuppa and a relax, until early evening.

 

As we were so near the coast at this point, we decided to have an evening ride out to Grange-over Sands, which is – I guess you might say – an interesting place. It’s like a seaside town, complete with promenade but no discernible beach! It has (or rather had) an impressive Lido, which closed in 1993. There are plans to restore it and I hope they come to fruition. Great views over the incredible estuary and Morecambe Bay. The railway journey along this coast looks pretty amazing and we wished we had time to do it. Maybe one day?

But our thoughts were turning to food. Being in the North, I reckoned we’d probably be able to get a decent steak and kidney pudding at the local chippy. I was not disappointed! We called into the cleverly-named “Fish over Chips” and were rewarded with a delicious evening meal. It’s been a long time since I tasted such a delight. We ate it in the car overlooking the estuary and then returned to the van for a quiet remainder of the evening, of telly and bed.

Sheep grazing on the salt-marshes.

The Promenade at Grange over Sands

Sun 30th

We woke up to a very much fresher day and decided that we would use today to join up with the trip we had done along Ullswater to Patterdale. After our traditional Sunday eggs we set off. We hit really bad traffic on the outskirts of Bowness. It was rammed. In common with pretty much everyone else, we set about looking for an alternative route.

We went to Troutbeck and then decided to take the Kirkstone Pass which – drum roll! – is the highest pass in the Lake District that is open to motor vehicles. I say open – I think it must close in the winter as it’s so high. We loved it. Once we had reached Patterdale we turned round and made our way back but we had spotted an interesting road called “The Struggle. That sounded our sort of road, so off we went. There is a good account here, of what the descent to Ambleside is like, using this road. We really enjoyed it.

We had our lunch by a river, where we were joined by a very cute robin and had entertainment from a group of kayakers, who had to scramble over the rocks and then back in their kayaks. It looked like good fun. It was really very noticeably colder today – as you can see by the photo of Paul, below, sporting the dog towel to keep warm while we had lunch!

We spent the afternoon  up on the moors, visiting Elter Water and then returned to the van for a cuppa. Incidentally – whilst up near Troutbeck, we saw a pub sign for The Mortal Man which we thought was worth a photo. It bears the legend

“Oh mortal man that lives by bread, what is it makes thy nose so red? Thou silly fool that looks so pale, ‘Tis drinking Sally Burkett’s ale.”

It was a lovely evening so we went for a drive up to Cartmel Fell, and – on the way back, stopped for some lovely views over Windermere. As you can see – Paul will go to some lengths to get the best shot – especially if he has remembered the camera!

I should mention that we have a holiday romance. Ted seems utterly besotted with a very pretty chocolate lab who was pitched opposite us. He was beside himself every time he met her and spent time watching her from afar. It was a very difficult moment when they packed up and went home on Sunday evening. Poor Ted. It ended the way so many holiday romances do, with a broken heart.

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Mon 1st Jul

Another lovely day and we were heading South (along with many other things in my experience!). We set off – avoiding main roads as much as possible and soon, we spotted a sign for Tewitfield Locks – a name I recalled from conversations with my Dad. It is the current terminus of the Lancaster Canal. Many of the other miles to Kendal are currently un-navigable but there are ambitious plans to restore the canal from Tewitfield to Kendal – including the Tewitfield locks – a flight of 8 –  which are currently in a very poor state of repair . We had to go and have a look, of course.

The path to the locks runs side by side with the M6 – I think it’s the closest to a motorway that  I’ve ever walked! We met a party of ramblers walking the towpath and Bill & Ted were much admired an coo-ed over.

We called in to Booths in Carnforth, as is now traditional, for coffee and a few bits for lunch and then pressed on to Bolton le Sands – where there was more canal to be viewed and lunch to be eaten overlooking the estuary. And thence to Morecambe – a fairly “typical ” seaside town. And of COURSE we went in search of (and found) the famous statue of Eric Morecambe.

Our Bolton le Sands lunch stop

After Morecambe, we pressed on to Lancaster and went looking for the canal. Lancaster is a big University town and we found student halls of residence actually on the canal basin! Lucky students – although I bet they don’t really appreciate it.

Student Accommodation – Lancaster Canal

Lancaster has a really impressive castle but – being pretty much car-bound – we could not explore it. We also saw a really prominent memorial/folly, known as the Ashton Memorial. It was built by one James Williamson, 1st Baron Ashton, in memory of his 2nd wife. It is also nicknamed the Taj Mahal of the North and he obviously loved and missed her a very great deal, it’s so impressive. And when I mention that he spent a cool £87 grand – the equivalent of well over 2 million pounds today – you’ll fully understand!  Worth a visit for its views over Lancaster and Morecambe Bay.

Leaving Lancaster, we picked up the M6 to get us home quickly and, instead of going out by car tonight, we went for a stroll, on site, to the lake’s edge, where we sat and soaked up the early evening rays and Ted tried to catch some ducks.

Tuesday 2nd

Today, we decided to head to Ulverston – for no other reason than we just fancied it! And it gave us a chance to sing Ulverston to the tune of Glen Campbell’s “Galveston”. Great song. As we approached, we were intrigued to see what looked like a lighthouse. We took quite a few pictures – each time thinking we had the “money shot”. On researching, we found it was the “Hoad Monument” – actually built to look like a lighthouse and commemorating local big-wig, Sir John Barrow. 

We called into Booths for our customary late morning coffee and then as we were driving through town we saw signs for “Canal Foot” – well that had to be investigated, didn’t it?

So glad we went and found it. It was the terminus of the Ulverston Canal – a very short waterway, not connected to the main network and used for transporting slate and coal onto bigger boats in Morecambe Bay (via the River Leven) , until the railways took over. The area has been very nicely landscaped by the local authority, who should be very proud of their handiwork. We chatted to a rather odd couple, who were magnet fishing by the top gates of the sea-lock. They were very proud to tell us about their haul, which had included, on one memorable occasion, they said  – a handgun!

The sea-lock at the end of the Ulverston Canal.

 

The River Leven estuary at Ulverston

As we drove out of town, we noticed a pub called “The Stan Laurel”. This immediately piqued my curiosity and, upon researching, it transpired that Ulverston is the birthplace of Stan Laurel. It made you wonder how a guy from a quiet Cumbrian town could have ended up as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. We also saw that an enterprising florist had called their shop “Floral & Hardy” – nice!

The Stan Laurel Inn, Ulverston

We decided that we would go over Bank House Moor towards the estuary of the River Dudden and Kirkby in Furness. It was a great drive and we were amazed to see – across the fells, in the mist in the distance – the Isle of Man! I immediately contacted my friend Heidi – who is Manx – to tell her that I was waving to her. My phone actually picked up a Manx mobile phone company, too.

The outline of the Isle of Man

We drove on up the coast to pretty little Ravenglass, which has Roman connections dating back to at least the 2nd Century. Indeed, the Romans were in occupation for over 300 years. There is very little evidence today of their presence, other than the remains of a Bath House.

On the way we had caught a glimpse of the privately owned Muncaster Castle, which has been in the hands of the Pennington family for over 800 years. I found that interesting as it is the name of the wealthy land-owner in The Hired Man. Nowadays, many events are held at the castle, to help pay for its upkeep. We stopped to grab a picture on our return journey.

Muncaster Castle

We returned home to the van and had our dinner and a relaxing evening.

Wed 3rd

Today was our penultimate day before we started the long journey South. I didn’t want to leave the area without a quick visit to Kendal. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed our visit, which wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to Booths – I have a loyalty card now! I also popped into B&Q to buy the boys a new toy-box as their old one had become too small.

A couple of views of Kendal

We returned to the van for lunch and then set off for Bowness, where we had booked a boat for the afternoon (well, 2 hours of it, at least!).

Parking was pretty tricky so Paul ended up dropping me, Bill and his crate near the jetty, going off to park and then returning with Ted. It was another sweaty logistical pain, but we were soon off. This boat was supplied by Bowness Bay Marina and was electric – very much quieter than our previous boat on Derwent Water!

It was a memorable afternoon, with perfect weather and perfect scenery. We had time to cruise up to Ambleside, where we got glimpses of Wray Castle and the mountains beyond and then all the back, past Bowness to Ferry Nab, where we watched the chain ferry from the water. Even Bill was able to have some time out of his crate. We all really loved it and were sad to have to hand the boat back. They very kindly said we could bring the car down on to the jetty when we left, which made life a great deal easier. An ice-cream was the finishing touch to a really lovely afternoon.

Ted – ahoy there!

Bill – enjoying his boat trip

A very small selection of the many pictures we took

 

Thurs 4th

We decided to just relax and potter on our last day instead of haring around. We had a very leisurely breakfast, put on a load of washing, did some cleaning and a bit of packing and suchlike, in preparation for commencing our journey home. We also did a fair bit of relaxing and reading and made a last trip to Booths (Windermere) for provisions for the journey and evening meals. We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the Lakes. It hasn’t been the holiday we planned, but I think we have made the best of a bad job. We would both have been so desperately disappointed to have had to postpone or cancel. We can’t believe our luck, either. 2 weeks in the Lakes and only one night of rain and one properly gray and overcast day.

To be continued/……………


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Jun 20th to July 7th – The Lake District Part 2 – The First Week (23/6 to 27/6)

Part 2 – Derwent Water based

Sunday 23rd

After a lovely, peaceful night, we set off late morning, having a quick look at Bassenthwaite (gorgeous) and then on to Cockermouth – birthplace of Fletcher Christian. Indeed, there is a pub named after him. This town also had literary connections for us, being mentioned in Howard Goodall’s “The Hired Man” – another of my favourite shows. We rather liked Cockermouth, which claims to be the first town in Britain to have piloted electric lighting – although they soon went back to gas, apparently! Many people remember Cockermouth’s name because of the dreadful flooding in 2015.

Cockermouth High Street

Maryport was our next port of call – again mentioned in The Hired Man. Maryport was very nice indeed, with a small fishing fleet in a cute harbour. Ted and I spent some time on the beach, paddling and messing about in rock-pools, whilst Paul  cuddled Bill, who was jst gald to be out of his crate, poor chap.

The harbour at Maryport

View across to Scotland

The Prom

Me and Ted rock-pooling

Yesterday, we had discovered that Paul had no pants. I had got them out and put them ready to pack. He had carefully put them all away in his drawer, thinking he was doing “a good thing”. He did try and blame his lack of nether-garments on me, but I was having no truck with that! Our next port of call was Workington, and a large ASDA for pants and some lunch bits and pieces.

Workington is much more “industrial” than Cockermouth. It is (or sadly was) an iron and steel town and Henry Bessemer constructed his first “converter” here, an invention which revolutionised the steel-making industry.

We ate our rather late lunch overlooking the water at Derwent Howe – a suburb of Workington – and then pressed on along the coast to Whitehaven (another Hired Man place name). You can see where the coal mine that went out “under the sea” used to be. The “Candlestick Chimney” is a fine sight and and is on the site of the former Wellington pit, where there was a dreadful accident in 1910. A plaque on the wall below the chimney commemorates all the “Men, Women and Children” of the Whitehaven District Collieries who lost their lives in the local pits. There is a lightning rod at the top and the chimney is supposed to vent methane from the pit. A flash ignited the gases in 1984 which burnt for 5 hours! The pit was eventually closed in 1932, by the way.

Whilst there Paul spotted a gathering of Puch and other similar vintage mopeds and went over to have chat with the gents who were proudly displaying them. Paul’s first “motorbike” was a Puch Maxi. Such nostalgia.

En passant -we were also rather taken with this fetching little Citroen 3 wheeler.

Our final call that day, was St. Bees, where we got the chairs out and sat by the beach for a while, watching the world enjoying their Sunday, and eating ice-cream. We loved St Bees. It’s easy to see why it’s a popular holiday spot.

We’d enjoyed our coastal day but it was time to go back to our lovey forest spot for dinner and – eventually – bed. As we drove home, it was getting grey and misty and we knew rain was probably on its way.

Still beautiful.

Monday 24th

It had been a noisy night – it actually rained quite hard and we must all have had a disturbed night because we had all overslept. It was 09:15 when the boys let us know they were ready to start the day – unusually late for them!

We had a morning of tidying and showering and such like and then set off to meet an old friend, Cath Marcangelo. I used to work with Cath many years ago and this was to the first time I’d seen her for perhaps 30 years. We agreed to meet for lunch at the picturesquely located Cafe at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. We had such a great time and talked and reminisced for ages. She already knew Paul but it was the first time I had met her musician husband, John,  too. A very enjoyable lunch, which stretched on into the afternoon and was only cut shorter by our respective parking tickets running out. John was very helpful as both Bill and his crate had to be carried to and from the car park.

Cath runs a choir called “Committed to Rock” and invited me to go along to their rehearsal on Tuesday night, in Keswick. Larks! How could I not go?

 

After we’d said our goodbyes we picked up a couple of fresh items from Booths – which is my new discovery! It is known as the “Waitrose of the North” although I think they prefer Waitrose to be known as the “Booths of the South”! Either way, it is a fab supermarket , and once discovered, we did all our shopping at one or another of their branches. They can be found all over the North-West.

As there was still some day left, we decided it was time for another lake – this time Buttermere. It was yet another beautiful lake and I love that they are all beautiful and all slightly different. As it was so near, we decided to press on to Crummock Water, where we strapped Bill into his baby sling (donated by Beth’s sister) and went for a short walk. He is pretty heavy now so anything more than a short walk would be too much for Paul, but it was really nice to stretch our legs.

We had passed a farmhouse doing home made ice-creams on the way to the lakes and dropped in there on the way back. The hazelnut flavour was memorable.  And then it was back to Keswick and thence home via the impressive Honister Pass, which we absolutely loved. Beautiful scenery.

Tuesday 25th

Today was the turn of Ullswater – another beautiful lake. We are both so glad we came. I had very hazy memories from when I was only 8 years old and this was a first ever visit to the area for Paul. We are loving it.

Pooley Bridge, at the Northern tip of Ullswater was a pretty and bustling little village and we thought we might stop off there on the way back, but pressed on along the shore. We eventually stopped for coffee in Glenridding – and we are on holiday so it was accompanied by a piece of cake, naturally. The cafe was called Let It Brew and was just to our taste – great coffee and yummy cake. We rounded off our trip round this area of the lakes by a visit to Patterdale, beloved of walkers and also the valley from which the cute Patterdale Terrier gets its name.

We stopped and took a look at the OS map and decided our next visit would be to Thurlmere, where there was a nice circular drive around the lake. Instead of going back the way we had came (and on to Pooley Bridge) we set off across country. We were absolutely delighted to have a sighting of a couple of Hares. Paul managed to get a couple of good pics. The road we had chosen gave us good views of Helvellyn and then dropped down onto the A591. As we started our tour, we noticed that Thurlmere was very low. We were aghast to find that the road we wanted to take to complete our tour round the lake was closed UFN. Very disappointing.

We set off back to Keswick, and as the food had been nice the day before and to save the bother of cooking tonight, we went back the the Cafe at the Theatre by the Lake. Fish and Chips. Delish!

Paul, tucking in

 

Afterwards we went back to the van, where we all had a little beepy before getting ready to go and see a rehearsal of Cath’s choir at Keswick Conservative Club, which is dog friendly. We had a great evening singing along – they really make a great sound and Cath is an absolute marvel with them. SO proud of her. Gutted I didn’t take any photos.

By the time we finished there we were both hungry again, so we grabbed a quick takeaway pizza to fill us up and then home to bed.

Wednesday 26th

As we were so near the Border, we thought we couldn’t miss an opportunity to visit Scotland and so we set off, joined the M6 and hurtled North towards Carlisle. We left the M6 briefly for a quick tour round Carlisle. The Castle is very impressive and we saw the McVities factory. Now – here’s a statistic for you that will blow your mind! Every 24 hours, McVities produces over 6.5 million Custard Creams! There!! Feel free to use that any time. Carlisle was also the only UK city through which the Olympic Flame passed, twice, in 2012. It’s also the home of Eddie Stobart. I’m going to leave you wanting more! Suffice to say we really liked Carlisle.

We were also quite taken with the more modern Shaddon Mill (sadly no pics but follow the links) and its towering chimney. In its heyday, Shaddon was the biggest mill in England and had the 8th tallest chimney (Dixon’s Chimney) in the world. See? I’ve been reading up. And it was built very tall so as not to pollute the streets of Carlisle. Originally it was 305 ft tall, but in 1950 it was shortened to 290 ft. What a sight that must have been before it was truncated. It’s pretty amazing now. Having then, accidentally,  gone down a bus lane, we decided it was time to leave Carlisle and press on to Scotland. We are waiting to see if a fine will materialise.

We skipped back onto the M6 and finally crossed the border near Gretna Green. I had visited as a child (in the early 60s) and it was very different to my recollections. Back then it was a quaint tourist attraction. Today – it ‘s a BIG BUSINESS! Outlet shops, food concessions. No longer quaint that’s for sure. I bought one or two Scottish delicacies to take home including some Abernethy biscuits (one of my favourites) and some Scottish Macaroons for my friend and ex-pat Scot Steve. They are very different to English Macaroons, being more like mallow snowballs, coated in coconutty chocolate. I also bought a couple of bits for our lunch, including – reader I kid you not – a Macaroni Cheese Pie. Whatever next?!

 

The “LOVE” padlock wall at Gretna Green

 

We didn’t stay long at Gretna and decided to visit Annan. Annan is an ex boat building town and it was interesting to drive down to the old harbour/docks. So sad that industry here has collapsed.

A few views of the town

And the port/harbour

As it was nearly lunch-time, we drove down to Annan Beach, which overlooks the Solway Firth. It was a lovely afternoon so we got the chairs out and had our lunch there. We saw one chap walk out onto the sand with a strange net thing over his shoulder, and then another and yet another. Paul got talking to one of them and he told him all about it. It’s called Haaf Netting and is only practiced in a few places now, Annan being one of them. It may date back to Viking times. Haaf is Norse for “Channel”. And it’s quite hazardous – the men really have to know the tides. Fascinating stuff – the sort of thing that you see on Country File. Its strangely beautiful – considering that it’s mostly mud-flats.

As we drove back towards the M6, we saw a sign for “The Devil’s Porridge Museum” Intrigued, I looked it up. It seems that HM Factory Gretna was the largest producer of cordite in WW1. Cordite is very volatile and the stuff they made resembled porridge – hence the name. And it was actually dubbed that by Sir Arhur Conan Doyle who, after visiting wrote “The nitroglycerin on the one side and the gun-cotton on the other are kneaded into a sort of a devil’s porridge; which is the next stage of manufacture…those smiling khaki-clad girls who are swirling the stuff round in their hands would be blown to atoms in an instant if certain small changes occurred”. Wow!

We headed back down the M6 to keswick, did a quick flick round Booths and then home to relax. I got Paul some Ilkley Brewery Bitter (very drinkable. Quite hoppy and refreshing. Might be nice served chilled). Dinner, movie, bed.

Thursday 27th

It was a sort of “pottering morning” and – for a change – I made some blueberry pancakes which, served with a little Maple Syrup, really hit the spot, in combination with a strong hot coffee. I love holidays!

Freshly made blueberry pancakes

Today’s destination was the Castlerigg Stone Circle, just outside Keswick. It’s probably walkable but not with poor Bill in his current condition. We popped into Booths to grab another coffee and some picnic food and then drove to the site. It was a perfect day and the awesome view that met us brought a tear to my eye. It is PERFECT – actually more impressive than Stonehenge in my opinion. There is a certain atmosphere to the place and we loved it. If you’ve never been you’ve really missed a treat for your eyes and – somehow – your soul. It sounds odd but that’s how I felt. Uplifted! Sadly, the photos just not do it justice, but if you follow this link, there’s a cracker

We had decided that today would be the perfect day for a trip round Derwentwater. It was a quite a complex process logistically – getting us, the dogs, the crate and a few provisions – drink mainly – from the car park to the boat. It was also very sweaty!! And – to be honest – the organisation was a bit of a shambles. We rocked up, then another couple, then a gaggle of lads, then a family and then guy handing out life jackets and doing the briefings just up and disappeared, leaving us all standing in the glare of the sun. For – like – a quarter of an hour! I was a tad grumpy by the time he showed up again, but we were soon ensconced on the boat and off we went, to cries of “Rock! Rock Neville! Neville – ROCK!”.  It was a lovely – the lap takes about an hour and was very relaxing – apart from the noisy little outboard, sputtering away behind us!

We did the return to the car slightly more simply, as Paul drove the car down to the lake’s edge – bit cheeky, but we had a pretty good excuse! We then set off for home and Paul asked if it was OK if we popped up the road we had seen a couple of time on the way to the campsite. It did look interesting! And boy! Was it steep!  And then some. The road leads to Watendlath Tarn  and was so worth the trip up – even all the hairy passing manouevres! And there were quite a few of those. It’s a bonkers road! Just our cup of tea! We stopped for a photo opportunity on the way back down. Just stunning.

Watendlath Tarn

Surprise View – Derwentwater

So glad we stopped to do this, as this was our last day here. We had absolutely loved it and really did not want to leave. I was worried that our next site wouldn’t be as nice. So it was back to the site to eat and do some tidying and packing, ready for the off tomorrow.

To be continued…………

 

 


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Jun 20th to July 7th – The Lake District Part 1 – the arrival

Is our holiday ACTUALLY a go-er?

In our last post, we arrived home on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday evening, disaster struck! Paul was out walking the boys just as he has always done and the boys were playing, just as they have always done. He heard a loud yelp and Bill emerged from the bushes limping and unable to bear weight on his left back leg. He carried him home. We thoroughly examined his leg and could find no place from where any pain emanated. We cuddled him and then put him to bed for the night, resolving to take him the vet if things had not improved. By morning he really was no better so it was off to our vet (Portchester Vets). After a very thorough examination, the vet diagnosed that he had fractured his “tibial tuberosity” – effectively a broken leg. It is apparently a very common injury in puppies and is more often caused by jumping off a bed or sofa. As Bill had eaten that morning, he could not be X-Rayed and so we arranged one for the following day. He advised to keep Bill in his crate. Thank goodness we crate-trained them from the start!

The next morning (Tuesday) , the X-Ray was taken and he was proved right. We were offered a choice of veterinary hospitals and chose Anderson Moores in Winchester. They set up an appointment for us for that afternoon and we drove over with Bill, still drowsy from his X-Ray sedation. We had a consultation with the lovely and talented surgeon James Grierson, who explained everything in full detail and said that they would be keeping Bill in overnight and operating the next morning. He explained that Bill would need to be kept in a crate for 6-10 weeks after the op. That was a bit of a shock.

We said goodbye to Bill and – reassured by James saying he thought that Bill would be a big hit with the team and would not be lonely – we drove home. I think we both had a bit of a lump in our throats as we drove away. Poor Bill.

Before we left, we sought James’s advice as to whether he thought we should cancel our holiday or go – either way Bill would need to be kept in his crate. He said that if we were prepared to follow his instructions and only let Bill out for pee times, that he was quite happy for us to go. We had planned a walking/cycling/boating holiday and would have to modify our plans, but we could still go. That was a relief.

The op went well and Bill was kept in on Wednesday night too. We arranged to pick him up and be shown what needed to be done with regard to his recovery at 1 pm on Thursday. We decided to take the caravan to our appointment and continue our journey North from there.

Thursday 20th June

We spent the morning finishing our packing and set off for the hospital to pick up Bill. He was still a bit woozy and we were given instructions as to how to cope with the wound and the physio showed us what we needed to do, 3 x daily – to aid his recuperation. We popped him in his home for the next 6 weeks – aka his crate – and hit the road, bound for Woodstock.

Our destination for the first night was one of our oft-visited sites – Bladon Chains – just off the A34 at Woodstock. It was a smooth journey until the last leg, off the A34 – which was very heavily queued. Just before the turn-off to the site, on the verge was a couple of proper bow-topped Romany caravans and horses – they seemed to be producing wood carvings (by chain-saw) for sale. It was very picturesque, and I’d love to have taken a picture as it’s a rare sight, but it seemed a bit rude to do so.

When we checked in, the lady told us that there would be fireworks at 23:00 as Gladys Knight was appearing at Blenheim Palace (in the grounds thereof, which adjoin the campsite). Great! But at least we now knew what the queue was all about! We use a very basic set-up for one night stops which comprises a 5 litre water container for drinking water and a bucket for our grey waste, so set-up was pretty quick.

We needed to go and get a few bits for Bill – such as a “cone of shame” and some natural calming tablets so we set off for Oxford. It was rush hour and took longer than we had hoped, but we did see some bits of Oxford that we had never seen before. We got all we needed and made our way back – through the queue – again. Then it was supper and an early night as we were all tired. The fireworks were very loud indeed so we didn’t get to sleep early! That one night cost us £24.30 by the way.

Friday 21st June

Up and at it. We had about 180 miles to do today, so we wanted to get on the road as early as possible and breakfast en route. With such a basic set-up it doesn’t take long to get ready and soon we were off, heading further North.  Our destination was The Old Barn in Heskin, near Chorley, Lancs. – very near Charnock Richard services, for those of you accustomed to travelling the M6.

As we left we noted very heavy traffic heading for another event at Blenheim Palace. We were very glad we were heading in the opposite direction!

We stopped at the first services to get breakfast and then continued our journey, stopping as and when we felt the need for coffee/pees etc. We arrived at our destination at around 14:30. The access was very narrow indeed and my heart was in my mouth for the last 10 minutes or so.

The site was very basic – although it had hard-standings and everything we needed and even a shower if required. The farmer helped us with a longer lead for the hook-up and then set off on his mower to mow a path round the field to act as a dog walk! How lovely it was.

Our view from the van

Poor old Bill

Ted chillaxing

As it was a lovely sunny afternoon we relaxed and read. There was just one other van on site and they had some very yappy dogs. As I walked to the path the farmer had so kindly mowed, I was assailed by 5 very noisy and aggressive seeming chihuahuas. I quickly scooped Ted up, and in the ensuing kerfuffle my favourite necklace got broken. I tried to tell the lady who had, by now, come to gather up her unruly pack. She didn’t hear me, it seemed, so I said it again a little louder. “Your dogs have broken my necklace” quoth I. All I was met with was the lady rapidly beetling off with her little yappers in tow. I was NOT amused. But her husband was very burly and – even though they were right across the field from us, e could hear him effing and jeffing non-stop. The flipping dogs should have been on a lead, as ours were. But I wasn’t going to tell him, coward that I am.

A cuppa soon assuaged my temper and then, when the sun had waned a little, we decided to go out and explore the surrounding area. We set off for Parbold, through which the Leeds and Liverpool canal runs and were rewarded by the sight of a very quaint old ex-Windmill. And then it was on to Chorley, home of the famous Chorley cake and of course, this being Lancashire, cotton mills. It’s quite a pretty town. We then pressed for home, stopping at the local shop where I found some fabulous delicacies, made by the famous (locally) Handley’s Bakery, of which more tomorrow. I also bought a couple of beers – an American Shipyard IPA (smooth and not too hoppy) and a  Buster IPA from Clitheroe-based Bowland Brewery (refreshing clean taste). Some food, a bit more reading and bed. It was going to be a lovely quiet one, with virtually no noise from the M6.

The Old Mill at Parbold

Leeds & Liverpool Canal – Parbold

Chorley – in its summer finery

Sat 22 Jun

After a good night’s sleep, we were raring to go and decided, as we only had just over 100 miles to do today, we’d have a pleasant breakfast in the “garden”. Mr Burly of Burly’s Chihuahuas walked by and I went to smile at him. No dice. No eye-contact. No pleasantries. We were quite glad when they left. And then, just before 11:00, it was time for us to go. And we had found another, rather less scary way of leaving the site with easy access back on to the M6, so we were soon under way. First stop was at the Lancaster Services, with it’s rather space-age tower.known as the Pennine Tower. Some fascinating facts about it here.  Coffee time and a Handley’s “Courting Ring” each. Yum. Courting Cake is a Lancashire tradition and you can find a recipe here. But they seem to vary between a slightly firmer Victoria Sandwich to being made of Shortbread – or a combination of both. Ours was rather less elaborate and very definitely shortbread based – more like a Scottish Empire Biscuit (one of my favourites).

The Pennine Tower – Lancaster Services M6

We rolled further North and were soon getting glimpses of hills as our destination loomed ever nearer. For lunch, we had a Handley’s Beef Pie – very similar to a Pork Pie, but made with Beef. Delicious! Soon we were nearing Keswick – at the opposite end of Derwentwater to where our campsite is. As luck would have it, we couldn’t get a decent signal so could not check the the instructions provided for very rural sites. And typically, our sat-nav took us down what looked like a reasonable route, initially, but soon looked a bit foolhardy. We stopped a taxi driver who told us that the route was madness with a caravan, so the ever cool, calm and unflappable Mr Sumpner found a place to unhitch and turn the caravan round. We went the way the taxi driver advised and once in Keswick we got enough signal to follow the prescribed instructions. A salutary tale – I should have loaded the page earlier, while I had some signal. Lesson learned!!

Even following the proper route, It was pretty hairy in places and – just as we turned into the site we met a Dutch couple who really weren’t sure what to do so they passed on the wrong side! No problem though. But it was good to be at the site. We found a lovely spot, right at the end of one of the roads with a clearing that was very much “ours”! We were very pleased. We thought we’d like it here.

Rough location of our pitch

It was very peaceful. I had been too stressed to look at the Lake on the very narrow approach to the site. I was actually dry mouthed!! So, after we had done a “full” set up, we decided to go for a circumnavigation . I was excited to see some of the islands, such as Rampsholme, which feature heavily in one of my favourite plays “Neville’s Island” by Tim Firth.  We stopped in Keswick for beer for Paul –  Keswick Bitter (a little too bitter). We then made our way back to the site and had a barbecue. I really think I might be over barbecue? Both of us felt the same. And then it was time for SHOWERS! Reader – we had not showered since Thursday morning – although we had washed of course. It was utter bliss. The site has no facilities, as it’s a forest site, so we used our own, which I prefer anyway.

Our glade pitch

Derwent Water

Little Rampsholme on the right

And then we watched a little telly, after which we started the new bedtime routine which, with Bill’s injury to be attended to, is rather lengthy! We have ice for as long as he will stand it (between 10 and 20 minutes) and then do some simple physio, the boys both have to be taken out to pee and then (and only then) we can settle down for the night. It was so quiet – and yes – there was an owl or too. My favourite. And the holiday stretching out for days and days to enjoy. Happy dreams…………

 

to be continued………..

 


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Jun 14 to16 – Dorset with Bob and Barb

Friday 14th

The time had come round again for our annual trip with lovely Bob & Barb Shorter. As we met RV-ing in Canada it always seems apt that we have an annual camp; them in their trusty Hymer and us in our Caravan. We had an exciting day planned for Saturday, but the weather wasn’t looking too good. Only time would tell.

It is a reasonably short journey to the Hunter’s Moon  caravan site, near Wareham, where we had planned to meet, but traffic was quite heavy. The site is just on the edge of Wareham Forest, near (of course!) Wareham. The Shorters had arrived not long before us and the site was already busy. We could not find a pitch together so we settled for one nearby. Our pitch was actually ideal as there was plenty of room for the pups to play.

As soon as we were settled, Bob and Barb came over for a drink and a few nibbles, while I put the dinner on. This was the first time B&B had met our boys, who very quickly made their presence known! I had made a lasagne earlier and we were soon tucking in with some salad and garlic bread. We spent the evening catching up on our respective families, and our plans and it was soon time for bed. We arranged to convene at 9:00 in the morning, as we needed to be in Poole by 09:30.

Saturday 15th

The weather had worsened overnight and it was blowing an absolute hooley. We had a trip booked on a boat, with Poole City Cruises,  to view the Jurassic Coastline – including the Old Harry Rocks, ending up in Swanage, where we would be dropped off and would make the return journey by steam train.

We set off – clad for bad weather  – and arrived to find that Poole had been overrun by Pirates! It was the 600th Anniversary of the death of one Harry Paye – a notorious pirate from the 14th Century. A fun day is held every June on Poole Harbour to commemorate Harry’s life and we had rocked up as they were preparing for the celebrations.

We reported to the City Cruises booth and were not surprised to hear that – as a result of the inclement weather – the trip would be curtailed. It would sail slightly later and do an “out and back”, not calling at Swanage. Disappoinitng but not unexpected. As we had a while to wait, we went and got a coffee and watched the Pirate preparations.

We felt very sorry for the organisers and participants as a lot of work clearly goes in to the event. We watched them trying to put up bunting and decorations, battling the heavy winds. Poor things. After coffee, we went for a quick look round the shops and then it was time to board. The skies were very grey and rain was spitting in the wind as we set off.

But we are British! We don’t let a little cyclone get in the way of us enjoying ourselves! Admittedly, it was a bit lumpy at sea but we saw the sights and the commentary was very good – fun and informative. The Old Harry Rocks, which we’ve seen from the land, are very impressive from the sea. They are Chalk “stacks” – formed by erosion and some say they are named after the devil, who once slept there and others say they were named to commemorate the Pirate ” Old Harry” Paye, who used to hide there and ambush the French trading ships. As you can see, they are much like the Needles, off the Isle of Wight.

We arrived back just as the Fun Day was kicked off by a canon shot. It was very LOUD! It doesn’t sound it in the video below but it really was!

As the train tickets were still valid, we decided to drive to Swanage via the chain ferry at Sandbanks. On the way, we phoned for advice about parking and were advised that it would be best to pick up the train at Norden, which is the best station for parking for the Swanage Railway, so we headed there.

By now, the weather was brightening and the sun was showing its face at last. We had a bit of time to kill until the next train and bought sandwiches and coffees from the very good little cafe on the platform. After lunch, I looked after the dogs while the others went to visit the Mining Museum. The dogs were dropping off – it had been a long morning – and all of a sudden a flurry of wings and a little fledgling landed on my arm. I was so surprised and so,I think, was he or she. It may even have been a maiden flight! I could not believe it and inched very carefully to get my phone to take a picture of my little visitor. Just then someone walked by and it startled the bird. He flew to the spot where I finally managed to take a picture.

He didn’t stay long and the others missed it. They arrived back shortly after my encounter and we all got on the train which arrived just after them. They tell me the museum was well worth a visit. We chugged off and very soon arrived at Corfe Castle, where the trains halt for a while (I think they maybe turn round?). We used it for a photo opportunity – or two.

And then we were off again in the now bright sunshine. We arrived at Swanage station and went for a leisurely walk around the town and along the prom. There was some sort of rowing race on and it was all very busy. We walked down to a pier and had an ice-cream and watched people crabbing, before walking back up to town to catch the train back to Norden. We’d had a lovely day despite the weather and a change of plan.

We went back to our respective abodes to spruce up and rest for a while, before heading back to the very pretty village of Corfe Castle for our evening meal at the dog-friendly Greyhound Inn, where Barb and the boys sampled some nice beers. The food was very nice and we spent a very pleasant evening there, before returning to our van for coffee and bed.

 

Sunday 16th

Bob and Barb were up with the lark as they had to get back to their home near Worthing. We were still in bed when they knocked the door to say goodbye. We took things a little more “Sunday morning easy” style, but were still home with plenty of time to tidy up and enjoy some time at home too. Another lovely weekend with our mates. And next – our 2 week holiday in the Lakes – just 4 sleeps before we were off! Can’t wait!

Bill and Ted - not phased by the rough passage

 


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Forest of Dean/Wye Valley – May 23-27th

Thursday 23
We had a very pleasant and trouble-free journey to the site, arriving about 13:50. Our allotted pitch on this small, charming and peaceful site was right next to the forest. It was very sunny and all we could hear was birdsong. The site was called Hawthorne Cottage and is just our kind of site. Mainly that means quiet, with no clubhouse!

On the A34

We did all the chores associated with setting up, staked the boys out on the grass to play, got the kettle on and relaxed. We already felt very much at home here and knew we could reckon on a quiet night too. The guy who showed us our pitch told us that we would fall asleep to the sound of the owl hooting. Bliss.

As we had arrived quite early, we decided to pop and explore one of the sights on our to-do list – Lydney Harbour. The Lydney Canal passes out into the vast River Severn at this point. It was built in the early 1800s to transport iron and coal from the Forest of Dean mines/works onto larger boats bound for Avonmouth.

We had a lovely walk round and marvelled at the thick, gloopy mud that was there in abundance. You could see across to the old Berkeley nuclear power station. It was de-commissioned in 1989 but is not actually scheduled to be fully cleared of nuclear waste until 2070 or thereabouts. You could also see the exit of the Gloucester & Sharpness canal into the Severn. We had boated to the terminus there and also cycled there and it was good to see it from another angle.

Glorious Mud!

Leaky Gate

The G&S Canal Terminus

 Power Station 

The Lydney Canal

Paul & Ted

Berkeley Nuclear Power Station

I popped into a shop to pick up a couple of bits after we had visited the Harbour and, while he waited, Paul was tasked with finding a riverside pub for a drink before we returned home. He hadn’t been able to find the exact postcode and had selected a nearby one. Big mistake! He did not reveal this fact until we rocked up at the location of the postcode to find – no pub. Nowhere to be found!

We had passed through Clearwell on the way. We had visited there before when an old friend got married at the beautiful Castle. But back to the pub – the actual postcode of the pub was in Wales and on our Satnav the transition between the two countries is not as seamless as it should be. You actually have to change country and once we’d done that, the postcode could be found and off we set. It transpired that the pub Paul had selected was on the Wales side of the river and so we had to go up river until there was a crossing (near Monmouth) and then all the way back. Later research showed that we should have parked roughly where the original postcode had taken us and gone on foot across the bridge. Lesson learnt!

The pub was called The Boat Inn in a village called Penallt (opposite Redbrook on the English side of the river). We had originally planned just a quick drink before going back to the van to cook dinner, but the faffing outlined above meant that it was rather later than anticipated and so we decided to eat there. We both chose “Pan Haggerty ” – a delicious potato, onion and cheese concoction. Paul also had a pint of Butty Bach – a Wye Valley Brewery beer, which he pronounced to be rather fine. We drove home and I tidied up and got ready for bed whilst Paul took the boys for their last walk/pee opportunity. An early night all round.

The Footbridge from Redbrook

The Boat Inn, Penallt

Friday 24th May
We had planned a bike ride today from Cannop Cycle Centre. There is a lovely 9 mile circular ride, with a really good surface and all very clearly way-marked. You pass a couple of the disused Forest of Dean coal mines and we absolutely loved doing it.  They advise you to go clockwise but – as we had e-bikes – we decided we’d be able to tackle anything they could throw at us and went anticlockwise. There is one steep (to me!) but short climb section which was hard work but otherwise it was AOK. The boys loved being off lead and running alongside the bikes – a skill they need to learn for canal towpaths, which they’ll hopefully see a lot of in their lives. They weren’t quite so keen being in their backpacks, but they’ll get used to them. It was such a beautiful ride and I would recommend it to anyone – especially those with kids. You can hire bikes too, including a some rather gnarly e-Mountain bikes! These, and baby/dog carriages/tandems etc. are all available from Pedal A Bike  Away. You can even hire an off-road electric wheelchair/mobility vehicle (called a Tramper) from Walking with Wheels. They work closely with the Gloucestershire Wheels for All Project It’s very inclusive, and rightly so. A link to a map of our ride appears here.

Paul and a pair of pups!

Foxes Bridge Colliery

Refreshed after a flapjack

Thirsty Boys

All too soon, we arrived back at the Cycle shop having completed the circumnavigation. There is a very nice cafe at the shop and we treated ourselves to a coffee and a yummy flapjack. Rather enterprisingly, they also sell individual Bonios, so the boys had a treat as well. Happiness all round.

As you can see from the map, there is short stretch to Mallards Pike Lake, which we had not bothered with on our ride. We decided to visit it by car before lunch. It was lovely and I haven’t seen so many tadpoles in years! They have a section of the lake called a “doggy dip” and the boys enjoyed playing with a lab, in and out of the water, fetching sticks – or not…… It was a lovely stroll round the lake and we liked the look of the very smart new cafe, but lunch was waiting for us back at the van so we noted it for, perhaps, (hopefully?) another visit.

The new cafe – sensitively designed

So many tadpoles! All round the lake edge.

We had lunch (quite a late one) and it seemed we were all tired from our morning’s exertions so we all had a little beepy. We woke up refreshed and fancied an ice-cream. Looking online, we found just the thing in Monmouth – an Italian gelateria! We didn’t hesitate and set off for Monmouth, with our mouths watering. Monmouth is a lovely little town with lots of interesting-looking shops. But our minds were on just one thing! We located the gelateria, which was sited on Agincourt Square (after Henry V who was born in Monmouth) and Paul parked, while I went to get the treats. And boy – what a treat! We had a very naughty three scoops! Yummy. I urge you to visit Green & Jenks if ever in Monmouth and fancy an ice-cream. You won’t be disappointed. In fact they are so good they featured in June’s Country Living magazine – as did an article on visiting the Wye Valley.

It was rush hour in Monmouth so not the best time to visit. We did manage to get a snap of the famous and ancient Monnow Bridge (named after the River on which Monmouth stands – just before it empties into the Wye).

Monnow Bridge – Monmouth

After we had queued to get out of Monmouth we returned to the van, where we sat out in the early evening sun, while the boys played and squabbled. I love this area and will inevitably return to Monmouth to explore it further. It warrants it.

Saturday 25th
The boys were real early birds this morning so our day started a tad earlier than we might have wished but we had a plan, so cracked on with the day. We planned to ride the Dean Forest steam railway the short trip from Norchard to Parkend, passing through Whitecroft station. The boys are quite happy on steam trains, as you may recall, and we always love to support the preservation by taking a ride. It was a very pleasant – if short – trip through the Forest and we were glad we had done it. Parkend is the current terminus – although there are plans to extend further.  There were some interesting industrial remains – possibly mines – or even iron works, both of which were prominent in the Forest. This article about the Forest of Dean Coal field is an interesting read.

As the journey was quite short, we were done and dusted by mid-morning and decided that our next port of call would be Tintern Abbey. But as we were returning to the car we spotted this rather attractive outfall – the signage tells that the “Norchard Drain” is an outfall from old colliery workings The outfall enters the River Lyd at a rate of 20,000 litres per minute, winter and summer. The red colour is caused by iron oxide as the water leaches through layers of ironstone.

We pressed on to Tintern, which is located in a beautiful location, right on the Wye. It is the best-preserved medieval abbey in Wales and rather beimpressive. It is administered by CADW, an organisation which safeguards Wales’ heritage. It means “keep/protect”, by the way. Tintern is dog friendly, so we paid our entry fee and explored the site. There was something very peaceful about it. That may seem fanciful, but you’d see what I mean if you visited.

By now, lunch was calling. LOUDLY! We decided not to hang around Tintern as – being a Bank Holiday weekend – tourists were thronging. A quick search on Trip Advisor revealed somewhere called “Toast” in Tutshill that sounded rather good. It was a pleasant drive, but when we arrived in Tutshill we could not find anywhere to park for Toast. We eventually did but – as we walked in – they told us that the kitchen had just that minute closed. It was 13.47 and the kitchen closed at 13.45. Very disappointing indeed. We won’t be back, which is a shame as it looks great.

As we were so close to Chepstow by now, we decided to try and eat there, as there would definitely be more opportunities. We happened upon the Riverside Wine Bar – located right on the river. Perfect. And so was the food. We ordered a selection of Tapas and each one was delicious. A special mention for the Brown Sugar Glazed steak which was lush!

Chepstow Castle

On the way back home, we stopped off at Tidenham Chase (which gives access to Offa’s Dyke and the Devil’s Pulpit) to give the boys a run and then continued our journey through St Briavels, which had spectacular views over the Wye Valley and then called in at Lydney to get some ice-cream for our dessert. 

Bill on an OS Trig Point

View – St Briavels

Finally,  it was home and another quiet evening – with a broken TV, which I forgot to mention earlier. Annoying! We played Doble to pass the time. Although we had had an early start, had packed a lot in and so were yawning and ready for bed -almost before it was dark!

Sunday 26th

Our destination today – after a nice eggy breakfast – was Symonds Yat Rock. It had been quite a while since we had visited (with our friends Sue & Paul Rogers) and we found it to be quite changed or, at least, it wasn’t quite how we had remembered it. 

It’s a very popular beauty spot with a stunning viewpoint over the Wye. It’s renowned for its Peregine Falcons and they have RSPB volunteers to answer any questions you might have. There was a long list of all the birds that had been spotted there – including Goshawks and Buzzards. It really is a special place. 

We made a traditional visit to Symonds Yat East, down at river level for a drink. Last time we were here it was raining. This time there was a spot of drizzle but otherwise fine. It was heaving so we didn’t stay too long. We popped back to the van for lunch and then decide we would go back to Cannop to cycle the trail again, but this time take the path down to Mallards Pike Lake. It was a lovely ride and we rewarded ourselves at the half way point by having a slice of cake and a cuppa at the very smart cafe. There is a Go Ape here as well and we later found out that my cousin Alice was “going ape” there around the same time that we were there. What a coincidence! The boys were, by now, getting used to their backpacks and were, in fact, quite eager to get in! They were clearly tired.


We cycled the return leg and arrived back at the car park. The trail is such a great resource and very popular with families. We could do with something like it nearer home. We’d be out every weekend!

Back to the van for dinner and to start the packing up process ready for the off in the morning. It had all gone too quickly. Not enough time visit all that the area has to offer – such as Puzzlewood, Goodrich Castle, Clearwell Caves, and so on. It looks like we will be back.

Monday  27th

We were up and at it, packed up and home after another stress-free journey, by around 13:30. Our next trip is in June when we are off down to Dorset with our pals Bob and Barb. We loved our time at Hawthorne Cottage and do plan to make a return visit. In the pic below, we are the blue dot. 

 


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Bucks Early May BH

Friday 3rd May
We left – later than planned as usual – and had a pretty good trip up, stopping once for a comfort break for all concerned  and arrived at our destination at about 1:30 in a short but sharp shower. Within the hour, though, it was bright sunny again. Our destination was Laurel Cottage – a CL in Ivinghoe Aston, not far from Leighton Buzzard. And what a delightful site it was! We had a warm welcome from the owner who suggested that we might prefer a grass pitch in the upper field rather than the hard-standing we had booked. He was right. We did. For most of the remainder of the day we had that upper field to ourselves.

We whistled through the set up work and soon had the kettle on and the boys pegged out to play so that we could relax. It was lovely. Nothing but birdsong. Utter bliss.

“Our” field

One of the hard-standing pitches

The info hut and produce stall

It showered on and off all afternoon but we needed to get some provisions for an impromptu boat trip tomorrow. Well it would have been churlish to be so very close to the Grand Union and not spend some time afloat, wouldn’t it? It was a bit on the dear side, but as I said to Paul – we’ll be a long time dead, so we went for it. We also managed to persuade some pals to come along. I do love a spur of the moment plan!

The rain was torrential by the time we reached Waitrose in Leighton Buzzard and so Paul’s plans of walking the boys whilst I shopped were scuppered. But it didn’t take too long and soon we were off. As we were near Linslade (Leighton and Linslade are interlinked, being a parish currently and formerly an Urban District) we thought we’d pop in to The Globe, an old canal-side pub haunt of ours from the late 80’s early 90’s. Also known – by us – as “The Globule”. It hasn’t changed much and we stayed for ” a swift half” as my Dad used to say. Happy memories of my Dad, in his cups, singing from atop the bridge parapet. He used his Cavan O’Connor Irish tenor voice, although he was actually a bass. Always a delight! His favourite song was “I’m only a Strolling Vagabond“. How we laughed, how we loved him.

By the way – it’s a good job we went when we did as I now note it is closed for renovation (for spiffing-up and grooming– spot the musical reference here! Click the link for the answer.)

Paul also had his interview (c 1995) for his MD job at C-Map, aboard my dad’s half-fitted-out narrow-boat “Sam Gunter”. Unconventional, but it worked – he got the job! The C-Map “Boss” and his lady friend then came to a dinner cooked by my step-mother “Nanny” Lynne, where they both sampled rhubarb crumble for the first time. And loved it! It may have been the crumble that swung it? 🙂

This was a trip full of nostalgia. My Dad and step-mum used to manage a boatyard – Willowbridge Marina – on the Grand Union, between Stoke Hammond and Fenny Stratford and we had such happy times there. We announced our engagement there, and then our pregnancy there, my brother got married there (first time round)  and George spent many happy times there during school hols as a little lad. He enjoyed helping lovely Charlie, the gardener, and I have such sweet memories of him toddling off, “to work”,  holding Charlie’s hand . We loved Willowbridge days, where they stayed until they retired, before moving aboard their narrow-boat Sam Gunter, to be live-aboards.

We meandered home to our van via the Three Locks at Soulbury – another pub that we occasionally frequented and also Great Brickhill where our favourite pub, “The Duncombe Arms”, was located. Many great evenings there. Alas it is a pub no longer.Some of the famous code breakers who worked at the famous Bletchley Park were billeted there during WW2. The billiard room apparently became a social club of Bletchley Park.

The Three Locks

The former Duncombe Arms

Then we had a drive along the “new road” where our friend, Michelle,  did a ton in her new Porsche.  We saw the very much unchanged and quite notorious (in those days, anyway) “Lakes Estate“. We also got a glimpse of Willowbridge and then the lay-by, known as “Randy Mandy’s” lay-by (long story!) where Paul fell in. The last thing we saw as he submerged was his fag-packet! He was utterly determined that he wasn’t going to waste them. It was a bit like the sword in the lake but with 20 Red Band instead! We noticed that the roads round here have changed a lot, though!!

It rained heavily in and off during the evening and through the night. We had an early night as we were all tired and we always get a pretty early start with these pesky pups!

Saturday May the 4th (be with you)
We all slept well – especially the pups and we actually had to wake them up at 6:45. As I was getting breakfast I noticed that the car door had been left open all night! Paul had omitted to close it on his last trip to fetch a puppy crate. Oops! No real harm done though.

We set off at 08:30 for Tring and Cowroast Marina. The origin of the name Cowroast is not actually as tasty as it might sound. It is widely thought that it is a corruption of the name Cow Rest – a place where cows rested on the way to market – and nothing to do with what you might eat on a Sunday.

They (Anne and Gray Robertson) were already there and we were soon loaded up, briefed and off towards Marsworth. It was a bright day, very warm in the sun but with a biting and very chilly when the clouds masked the sun. But we were on the canal! Who cared? 🙂

Paul started the morning walking the pups on the towpath and – predictably – “Terrible” Ted was the first to fall in! Grass grows over the edge of the canal bank but Ted didn’t yet know this. He walked boldly out, only to find that his legs were suddenly walking on air! A rather damp learning experience but he was unscathed by it all. As he was walking along, Paul managed to take a great shot of a Kingfisher – usually just a flash of blue. Zoom in – it’s really sharp.

We soon arrived at Marsworth Top Lock where the short Wendover Arm branches off the main line. It’s a very pretty canal, quite rural and currently under restoration. We turned at the current terminus and headed back, arriving back at the Junction in a heavy hail storm! Short lived and quite entertaining!

Wendover Arm finger-post

Evidence of hail

More evidence of hail

It was a good job it cleared up as as it was time to tackle the Marsworth flight. We set off, with Gray at the helm and Paul and I doing the locks. Big, heavy Grand Union locks – it’s been a while –  but well maintained so no big deal.

As we approached the third lock we noticed a poor heron with a badly broken wing.  Heron’s are normally pretty shy but he was unable to fly. All he could do was shuffle a bit further away. Poor thing. I wondered what his chances of survival were and whether the volunteer lock-keepers might be able to help him out.

It was nearing the time we needed to be thinking about turning round so we stopped and had our lunch by the reservoir. It’s one of a string of four, collectively known as the “Tring Reservoirs“. They are all teeming with wildlife (they are an SSSI) and much used, recreationally, by the locals. Their raison d’etre is to feed the Grand Union.

Lunch over, we turned (or winded) the boat. No need for a winding hole as the GU is wide and our vessel was a  mere 38 feet. We set off back up the locks, this time with me at the helm, Paul and Gray on lock duties and Anne on dog-sitting.

We had soon cracked them and were on our way back to the yard – past the beautiful Bulbourne Yard. It is the site of a former lock-gate building workshop (still in use as late as 2003), but sadly now disused. It’s future looks almost certain to be a residential redevelopment, hopefully retaining as much of the character of the Victorian buildings as possible. I find it rather sad, but what can you do? Interestingly, an episode of Call the Midwife was filmed there.

Bulbourne Yard – now disused

As we were going back up the flight, we saw a chap carrying the poorly Heron. Obviously taking him to a place of safety where he might hopefully be healed.

We stopped after a while for our sweet treat – Victoria Sandwich cake with fresh strawberries and cream. A match made in heaven. And British strawberries, to boot – the first of the year. Lush.

All too soon, we arrived back at the yard, said goodbye to Anne & Gray and set off. The boat had had to be returned by 4.30 and we’d had such a lovely day, we felt very sad to say goodbye. But there was quite a lot of day left. We decided we’d have a walk on Ivinghoe Beacon, which is the highest point of the beautiful and vast (5,000 acres) Ashridge estate.

The bluebells were spectacular and we and the boys both enjoyed our early evening walk.

We drove further through the Ashridge Estate to nearby Berkhamstead to pick up a few things I had forgotten. We saw a deer on the way. I was left with the impression of the woods being so full of bluebells it was like they were clad with a blue haze or mist. It was a really memorable sight and photos just don’t do it justice.

Sunday May 5th

A nice leisurely, Sunday morning kind of a start today. We had a plan – cycling! Another first for the boys. We popped in to Tring for a coffee and spotted what looked like a Banksy.  I suspect it is more likely an attempt to clone a Banksy, but pretty nonetheless.

We took a look at Wendover Woods, but decided it might be a little hilly for for our first foray. Thus – change of plan – we decided to do one of the many “red ways” in Milton Keynes. When the new town was designed (in the early 70s) they really looked to the future and built – alongside the town – a network of dedicated traffic free (thus safe) cycle/footpaths to enable easy non-motorised transit around town.

On the way, we popped in to Willowbridge to see what it was like after so many years had elapsed. Well – it’s not the place it was. Dad and Lynne kept it very smart but it looks less – hmm. Don’t want to offend the current owners but I guess I’d say less cared for. Messy. Past its best. Sad.

We also had a quick drive through Bletchley noting that one of our less favoured pubs – The Plough – had been turned into a mosque. In researching for this article, I note that it was not the most popular decision. For my money, it was a not-very appealing modern pub – as you can see in the pics here – and as it had failed as a pub, I don’t have a problem with it. Bletchley High Street – never the most attractive place – seemed little changed. As we drove through towards Central MK, we both felt that the area had “grown into itself”. More greenery and just generally more established.

We plumped for Great Linford, a pretty little spot on the GU through MK that still retains the pre-MK development village look and feel. We parked and saddled up, with the boys in their back-packs.

We were cycling back towards Bletchley, parallel with the towpath. Now we have been through this stretch on a boat many times but we had never noticed the Brick Kilns that are canal-side (although screened by trees). Beautiful structures. Bricks were formerly big business in the Bucks/Beds area and the famous London Brick Company was a big presence just over the border in Bedfordshire.

Sadly, after having been restored in the 80’s they are now in need of more repair. We cycled a couple of miles, trying the boys running alongside the bikes, which is something they need to get used to doing. Varying degrees of success! As we cycled along, we noted an increase in fairly permanent looking moored boats along the canal.

After a few miles, we stopped and had our picnic lunch and the boys had theirs and then we retraced our steps. It had been a bit stressful but, as another first for them, it had not been a complete disaster!

We set off in the car again and decided we would return home via the Ashridge Estate once more and to make a visit to the rather wonderful  Bridgewater Monument in the Park. It seemed that most of the people in the surrounding area had the same idea! We eventually found a parking place though. The boys met loads of dogs and people (as usual). Paul climbed the 172 steps while I waited with the dogs. It’s very pleasant here, with a cafe, and an NT shop, too. Also an ice-cream van. I’ll leave you to guess the outcome of that?

The visit seemed appropriate as our weekend had had a very canal-based theme to it, so far,  and Bridgewater is one of THE big names in canal building. He once owned the house and 6,000 acres of the Ashridge Estate. From the top of the monument you get a view of the splendid neo-Gothic Ashridge House, commissioned by the Earl in the early 1800s and now a conference and wedding venue.  It’s also reckoned that, on a good day, you can see to Canary Wharf. Today was not that good day.

Then it was back to the van, with two tired boys, for supper and a movie and a good night’s rest.

Monday 6th May
Today was a day for visiting our other less canal-orientated old haunts.  We set off for Dunstable Downs. I though it worth a mention here that Buckinghamshire – in common with some other counties – has a tradition of decorative village signs. This one in Dagnall is a fine example and shows the Whipsnade chalk lion plus a Red Kite,  the rather striking All Saints Church and – of course – the pub.

We arrived at the Downs – only to find that it was pay parking, and since we only really wanted to “poke our nose in” we turned in and then right back out again. We had called in here as this was where we had taken Dad for his 60th birthday. He had always wanted to fly in a glider, so we got him a flight at the London Gliding Club. he loved it and we all had a great day out. Kind of odd to think that I am now older than he was when he took his flight.

We popped in to Luton town centre in search of a coffee but came away empty handed. It was a bit grim, to be honest. We finally found one (Costa) inside a Next at a nearby retail park.

Next port of call was Toddington, in search of the Sow and Pigs pub. Alas, another casualty of cheap beer and wine from the supermarket.

Next stop was Woburn – a beautiful Bedfordshire village. It was caught up with protesters as we went through. They were campaigning for an end to trophy hunting and we tooted our support as we passed. We decided we’d pay for entry to the Gardens at Woburn Abbey but sadly dogs were not allowed entry, so we had to find something else to do. We got a glimpse of some deer in the Deer Park as we drove away.

Next stop was Aspley Guise – smaller than I remembered and I can’t actually recall why the name stuck in my head.  But it did! Must ask Lynne. We then pressed on to the nearby woods, where we had a really nice walk with the boys, meeting lots of other dogs again, including a really lovely young Border Terrier. All good for their socialisation and people were very kind in letting a couple of over-exuberant pups mingle with their beloved dogs.


We gave the boys their lunch after their walk and then set off to find some for ourselves. We came across the Flying Fox and it looked quite popular so we thought we’d give it a go. It may have been an off day but our Fish Finger sandwich was distinctly lacklustre. Shame. I threw most of mine away. The boys enjoyed their Dog Beer – called Bottom Sniffer. Yes really!

We set off for home, stopping for an ice cream to make up for the disappointing lunch. Most people were back to work tomorrow and we had “our” field to ourselves, so we had fun cycling round with boys off lead.

We spent the rest of our late afternoon/early evening  doing a bit of packing in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning, watched a bit of television and then had another early night.

Tuesday 7th May
We were up and having breakfast by 07:30 and left the site by 09:00 to sound of a woodpecker. A delightful site – we may well be back!

Our next trip is at the end of May, when we are off to the Forest of Dean for a few days.