On tour at home and abroad with the Sumpners

The view below is Toad Rock, Tunbridge Wells

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France – Summer 2018 Days Part 2 Days 4-7

Monday 2nd July

We awoke, breakfasted and over breakfast, had a quick discussion about possible contenders for our next day out and eventually plumped for the “Gorges de Fier” near  Lovagny, which is about 10 km from Annecy.  It was another lovely day and we were pleased to see that one of the routing options was via the Col de Forclaz again, so off we set. Somehow, we had a much better appreciation of the road and views today!! Whilst we had enjoyed it all the day before, it had been slightly overshadowed by fear of the unknown.

It was a hot day, and the gorges were actually a great place to visit on a hot day as they were cool and shady. The Fier is actually a River – short (just under 72 km) but very powerful, which has channelled a deep chasm through the rocks, forming the Gorges.

They were turned into a tourist attraction by an enterprising Victorian chap who created a series of suspended footbridges in 1869. The men who built it were transported inside barrels moved via a system of pulleys to fix the path to the rock face, we were told. Having walked on it, I can’t quite envisage how that worked, as it is suspended some 20 to 30 metres above the current path of the river. The path is around 250 metres long, so was quite a feat of engineering.

It’s a long way down



The Fier (pronounce Fee) is a tricky old river and can rise from its normal, placid state to a raging torrent in minutes, during heavy rainfall. There was a graphic which showed the height of the river during flood conditions. You would not want to be caught on the path at such times as it is clearly totally submerged!

The main Albertville to Annecy SNCF line runs next to and indeed crosses the gorge. It is so close you could almost reach out and touch it! Quite exciting when a train whipped past!

Entry to the Gorge was very reasonably priced, so that was a bonus. We stopped at the cafe on the way back and had a very nice ice-cream. We considered – briefly – popping into nearby Montrottier Castle but it was so flipping hot, we decided to run for home and our lovely cooling lake. Sadly, though, we needed a few provs for tonight’s meal so we popped into a supermarket on the way home. Not that I mind – I love a foreign supermarket!

Montrottier Castle

Back at the site we were delighted to see that we had been joined by an English couple we had met on our last visit. It was so nice to see them again.

We spent the remainder of the day relaxing, reading, swimming and boating. Blissful. We were also entertained by the local schoolkids showing off their newly acquired musical talents on the land next to the site. Some were very good, others were enthusiastic, let’s say.

We cooked a pizza on the Cadac – enough for lunch tomorrow too. Delicious. And – in attempt to work this off – we went out for another cycle ride – this time around the nearby town of Doussard. And very pleasant it was too, on a lovely sunny evening, with the sting of the sun cooling off. Another lovely day. Gotta love holidays!

Tuesday 3rd July

Today we had decided to visit the ski resort of La Sambuy.  I had read about it and sounded just the sort of place we might like. We arrived at about 10:45 and jumped straight onto the chair lift. We were the only 2 people on it (I think the operating assistants were quite glad to see us!)  and when we reached the top, we were the only two people there too! We had the place to ourselves to explore. To be honest, there’s not that much – other than breathtaking views – to see, so we walked around, read all the info boards and then made our way back down. There were more people on the lift by now and we were glad to have got there early.

One of the other things there is a summer luge. We have been on one before and loved it. We had thus bought tickets to enable us to have five goes each. What larks! You get dragged up the slope on a rack & pinion and then you come down – this ride had 9 big bends and 3 “jumps”. You do have brakes – but they’re for sissies, right? We had such fun. And then Paul spotted – The Devil Buggies! These are 4 wheeled buggies which are dragged up the mountain by a modified ski-lift contraption, which hooks onto the front of the buggy. Once you’ve been dragged up, you make your own way down a marked path at whatever speed suits you. I think you can guess! There was a slight hitch while they found a helmet to fit my beloved’s rather large bonce and then he was off! He absolutely loved it. But it took up two of his luge tickets so he only had two more goes left on the luge, whereas I had FOUR!! We stopped for a coffee and some luscious caramel “pain perdu” – aka eggy bread. More cycling required!

The Devil Buggy

The Devil Buggy lift – Paul disappearing in to the distance!

Going up on the luge

A section of track on the ascent

Kay – on a roll!


Once all our tickets had been used up, we went back to the site for more RRBS – Reading, Relaxing, Boating and swimming. The lake was quite choppy today and we bounced around a fair bit. All good fun.

Tonight was the England game versus Columbia, so Paul went off to the bar to watch the game. There followed an evening of cleaning and – yes – a bit of boredom for me. And it went on. And on. Extra time, penalties. The lot. But we won so I had a happy hubby. And so to bed.

Weds 4th July

We spent the morning RRBSing and then went out in the early afternoon. We had a cycle ride into Annecy planned but we wanted to do it later in the day, once the heat had died down a bit. Obviously we weren’t going to drive straight to Annecy. Far too predictable. We went up to the Crêt du Chatillon on Mount Semnoz, high above the western shore of the lake. It’s quite a famous climb for serious cyclists and was, indeed, the penultimate stage of the 2013 Tour de France. From what I can gather, a “crêt” is cliff or edge of the mountain.

There are some fantastic views from the summit – Mont Blanc can be seen. We saw snow capped big mountains but were never sure exactly which was the great white mountain!

Eventually, we made our way back down the mountain and found some parking with no height restrictions in Sevrier – roughly half way along the west shore. The path is so brilliant and very heavily used. Rightly so. We had a very pleasant 5km cycle into the town. We chained our bikes to the railings and had a gentle wander, stopping for a drink next to the very famous and much-photographed Palais de L’Isle. Then it was home, supper and bed – but not before sitting outside to witness the thunder and lighting we could see over Annecy. We had a proper grandstand view. It was brilliant. Literally! Eventually it started to rain so we nipped indoors and retired.

Thursday 5th July

The thunder had rolled around all night but the next morning dawned clear again. We had a proper lie-in – the first of the holiday.  It must have been gone 9!  We had a lazy day planned in preparation for our departure tomorrow.  A bit of RRBS interspersed with tidying stuff away. Nothing too strenuous!

Around lunchtime, we popped to Doussard for stamps. Just too late! The sacred lunch-break of France had struck. We were, however, just in time to pick up a lovely Reblochon and Lardons quiche. As we had an hour to kill, we went up in the mountains. We spotted a “Dangerous Road” sign, so of course – we took it. We drove as far as we could before the road petered out and then, on the way back, Paul had a hankering to paddle in a mountain stream, so we stopped and ate our quiches and did a bit of paddling (him,not me).


Sumps having a paddle


Getting boulder


These mossy trees were amazing. Took a real fancy to them.

We passed the remainder of the afternoon alternating between relaxing and packing the boat away and generally tidying up.

In the early evening, we cycled to Duingt – about 10km each way. We went to the Spinnaker pub/bar restaurant. Fab location. Regrettably we left not having had anything to eat or drink. Paul’s review here will explain why. Very disappointing. But their loss. We took the photos we wanted, had a rest. They could have made money from us but they chose not to. And I really fancied a Pina Colada!!

We bought some drinks in the local Tabac and sat and gazed at the lake for a while and then we heard a rumble or two. We decided to make a run for home. It was not to be. Half way back the deluge began. It was actually really funny and quite refreshing! But we were pretty soaked. All credit to the team at the Auberge Du Boucanier (which I had re-dubbed Pirate Pete’s) for allowing us in. Nice meal and then home and eventually – bed.





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Lady Heyes Caravan Park, Frodsham, Cheshire 24th – 27th May Plus Crick Boat Show 27th- 29th May

Thursday 24th May

I had booked this site (Lady Heyes)  so very long ago (early 2017) as demand for pitches, complete with their own hot tub is – not unsurprisingly – high! And it was in a part of the world that neither one of us has explored,  so we were really looking forward to it. Although perhaps not to the journey but time would tell. As it was a bank holiday weekend, I think we made the right choice to set off on Thursday. We rolled off the drive just after 09:00 and arrived at our destination at around 15:00 – including a couple of stretch and comfort breaks, for us and Arch, so not too bad, really. The M6 was – by and large – pretty reasonable traffic-wise. We do wonder what the cows make of all the traffic, though!


It was a really beautiful day and we were excited to finally see our pitch with its really quite private hot tub. Larks! We had to sign forms and get a lesson on operating it but it wasn’t too complex.


We had a quick cuppa and then set off on an orientation trip. On the way to the site we had spotted the River Weaver (or the Weaver Navigation), so we popped for a quick look round Frodsham ( whose famous residents include Gary Barlow (who was born there ) and Daniel Craig (who lived there at the Ring o’ Bells pub as a child), before heading off to the waterway. It was BIG. A really big boat (trip boat The Daniel Anderson) and high bridges – maybe one day we’ll give it a go, who knows?

As it was such a lovely evening, we thought we’d pop and have a quick look at the nearby  Anderton Boat Lift – a marvel of Victorian engineering which lifts boats down from the Trent and Mersey Canal to the River Weaver below (and vice-versa). Archie (our elderly Border Terrier) had a great time. It was out of commission for quite a while in the 80’s and I have never been up or down it. That’s definitely one for the Canal bucket list.


We were peckish by the time we had finished looking round and so we made our way to the pub where we had dinner booked – The Tigers Head in Norley, just south of Frodsham.  Thursday night is Steak Night so, of course that’s what we had, with all the trimmings. It was pretty good. Then it was home to our hot tub and fire pit. What fun!

After this, we retired quite early, as it had been an early start.

Friday 25th May

Lovely peaceful night and I awoke early. I didn’t want to disturb the boys, so I grabbed my towel and shower accoutrements and went off to check out the shower block – of which I had heard good things (award-winning). Had a lovely shower and then settled down for a read until the boys were ready to get up and carpe that diem. Arch always used to be eager to get out and start enjoying himself, but these days he prefers to snuggle in bed as long as he can. Sad to see him getting old.

After such a beautiful day yesterday, the forecast was not so good for today. I had always fancied a visit to Alderley Edge and so we set off in a light drizzle towards “the golden triangle”. This is an area of Cheshire, much loved by WAGs and made famous by the awful “Real Housewives of Cheshire”. The Beckhams, the Rooneys and even Ronaldo have all lived within the area. It is bounded by Wilmslow at the apex and Alderley Edge and Prestbury in the lower two corners.

Wilmslow was actually the first placed we reached. It’s a pretty town – also known as the home of Umbro sportswear. We weren’t tempted to stop though. As we drove through the lush Cheshire countryside, I recalled from my geography lessons that Cheshire was famous for dairy-farming (Mr Bradley would be proud to know) and one can see why. You may be interested to know that Cheshire cheese was once the nation’s favourite, before being taken over by Cheddar.

We arrived in Alderley Edge (average house price just under £700,000 compared with Fareham at £320,000 and nationally around £230,000) and parked in the Waitrose car park. Well we did need a few bits – as usual! We then had a walk round and I had a good poke around the charity shops. My best find was a Coccinelle  – an upmarket (ish) Italian brand – handbag for £50. Even though I love a designer handbag, I didn’t buy it. They’re not really my style.

We have noticed – on our travels – that there are many fine and imposing churches in the area and the one in Alderley Edge is no exception. After the Edge, we pressed on to Knutsford – named after King Canute, he of the failure to stop the tide coming in story, that every kid knows (or maybe not these days?). His bones apparently are in Winchester, by the way. Nowadays, it’s allegedly home to comedian Sarah Millican. We didn’t see her.

It’s another pretty market town with some lovely buildings and looked very festive as we drove through. The weather was not conducive to much exploration, although it did look to be improving. We thus decided to press on towards finding the Trent and Mersey canal – location of many a happy holiday. We passed one of the imposing gates to Tatton Hall on the way. We’ll save a visit until next time.


One of the other things Cheshire is famous for is salt. Very handy for that salty, tangy cheese! In fact over-zealous salt-mining (since Roman times)  has been the cause of much subsidence in the area. As you pass along the T&M you can still see piles of salt on the bank and one of the most famous old workings (Lion Salt Works)  has now been turned into a museum.  And Northwich has – even in this century been given aid to stabilise the old workings.

Anyway – it was to the “The Salt Barge” just opposite the museum that we repaired for our (late) lunch. Which was – OK. We passed some flashes – small lakes/meres caused by salt or lime workings – on the way there. They are now a fantastic resource for wildlife and recreation. Much like the canals, their industrial beginnings are now to our advantage.

Next we stopped at a couple of marinas to get some idea of how easy casual moorings are to come by and the costs thereof – for a “future project”. One of them  – Venetian – we have visited quite a few times by boat, but the other is relatively new, we think? Venetian is on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal – which is currently the victim of a serious breach and which must surely have had a bad impact on their trade.

A hot-tub, cuppa and perhaps a gentle snooze beckoned, but not before we had popped to have a quick look at the famous Bunbury Locks – a staircase lock, which causes a few puzzled frowns and scratched heads when people first encounter it. The signs are very useful for first-timers!



As you can see – it was still a bit grey and overcast but that didn’t stop us having a lovely warm, bubbly soak! Which we repeated after dark, just because we could . The rules dictate that you are out of it by 10.45, which I think entirely reasonable.  It’s very pretty at night,  with a variety of colours to choose.


Saturday 26th May

Another grey day, so we decided we’d go and have a look at the mighty Mersey before a cycle ride round the Delamere Forest.  But first – a full English, cooked on the CADAC. De-flipping-lish – and plenty left over for our sandwiches for tomorrows trip down South. Note the omnipresent and ever-hopeful canine!

Suitably fortified (OK – well stuffed!) we set off for the Mersey. Well one thing led to another and we eventually ended up in Birkenhead, where the ferries across the Mersey ply their trade. It’s quite an exciting waterfront and we took plenty of pics – of which a selection below.


The Liver Building






Birkenhead Priory

We made our way back up the estuary and stopped at Eastham – site of one of the earliest crossings of the Mersey (since the Middle Ages) for a coffee. There is a cafe in the former ticket office and a very friendly and knowledgeable chap runs it.  He is obviously –  and justifiably – very proud of his heritage. Eastham was, by all accounts, quite the place to go in Victorian times, with pleasure gardens and even a zoo! Apparently the bear pit can still be seen. Sadly it’s heyday was many years ago, now. But it’s pleasant spot and has been designated a Country Park.

Our next stop (for this was turning into a full on expedition!) was Ellesmere Port  – not to be confused with pretty, sleepy Ellesmere in Shropshire. We had visited Ellesmere Port by boat so it was interesting to see it from a different perspective. It was very much as I remembered, being the terminus of the Shropshire Union Canal and also the site of the tail end of the Manchester Ship Canal, before it merges with the Mersey. It’s quite an exciting place to come by boat as it is also also the site of the National Waterways Museum, which we have explored in the past.

Time was ticking away now, and if we were going to do that bike ride in the forest, it was time to press on. We were still quite full from our breakfast, so had not bothered with lunch. It was a bit late to do the planned 7 mile Whitemore trail route, so we chose the shorter 4 mile Hunger Hill trail. Maybe it would help us work up an appetite for an ice-cream?

It was such a lovely ride. Once again we found ourselves wishing we lived closer to such a great resource. Archie had a great time although his enthusiasm and stamina have sadly decreased quite sharply in the last year. He still enjoys it but flags quite soon. In his youth he’d just run and run all day.

By the time we had finished our circuit, the ice-cream booth had closed. And we were SO up for it! Shame. Still – we stopped at the Delamere Station House Cafe Tea Rooms (very mixed bunch of reviews on Trip Advisor) and had a cream tea instead. Naughty but very nice! It’s a real working station on the main Chester to Manchester line. Feels odd sitting there in some ways – you’d expect to see a steam train but it’s a modern diesel that comes thundering through.

We made our way home and had a relax before starting some packing for leaving the next day. Later, I cooked a Chicken and Mushroom Risotto in my new Paella dish on the Cadac – delicious it was too. Although it was a bit beige – hardly a surprise, as all the ingredients actually are beige, but I usually put some peas in it at home – to cheer it up a bit.  And then it was a bit of telly and a hot tub  and shower before bed.

Sunday 27th May 

Thanks largely to our packing efforts last night, and a simple breakfast, we left the site by 09:45 – even after taking time to make sandwiches for the trip. Egg mayonnaise with sausage and bacon. Yum!! We will miss our hot tub and I’d definitely visit again – still plenty to see in the area. And it was such a contrast to the site where we had spent the early May bank holiday. We didn’t feel at all over crowded or hemmed in – even though trade was clearly brisk.

The journey down to our next site was not quite so smooth. For some reason, the M6 was shut near Coventry and we had to make a lengthy and slow detour on alternative roads. But we arrived by about 1.30 pm and got set up. Our new site was a small one – with no hook-up – in the village of Kilsby, situated between Rugby (Warks) and Daventry (Northants), but more importantly, just a stone’s throw from Crick, where we were attending an event the next day. It is called Shire View and my goodness, you could see why. It was approached by means of a bumpy and steep-ish track and surrounded by fields. Our nearest neighbours were sheep  and chickens and there was a beautiful panoramic view our over the lush countryside. Delightful.

I had been a little worried that it might be a bit noisy, as it was sandwiched between the M1 and M45 and also right on the West Coast Main Line, but there was only a little road roar and Kilsby is the site of KIlsby Tunnel (2,400 yds) and thus we were also protected from train noise. You pass one of the tunnel’s recently renovated ventilation shaft on the track up to the site. We were very pleased to be there.

We were not alone – there was another seasonally sited caravan (not occupied) and a camper van (occupied) on 2 of the 5 pitches. But it still felt roomy. Set up was achieved and then we went out for a quick explore, as there would not be time the next day. As neither of us had ever been,  we decided to aim for Rugby, home to the famous Rugby school and – of course, the birthplace of Rugby Football.

Rugby School

A Rugby pitch – in Rugby

Rugby School motto

I had not realised how central the school is, imagining it on the outskirts of town or even in countryside. It has some fine buildings, but the beautiful main building is not easy to photograph. We went for a walk round and found – to our intense joy – a proper Italian gelato shop. This called for a stop. Maia Gelato is a fairly new addition to Rugby town centre, which in common with many other town centres today, looks a little tired. We sat outside and enjoyed our delicious ice-creams – although the experience was a just slightly marred by a strong smell of urine from the alleyway just nearby. Shame.

Yum! Salted Caramel.

That stinky alleyway!


On the way back, we popped to Crick to check out the location of the Boat Show we were scheduled to attend the next day. There had been a lot of rain, locally, and it looked a bit muddy, so we resolved to wear walking boots.

The air was quite sultry and as we arrived back at the van, we could hear the vague rumble of thunder and thus followed and hour or so of constant rumbling as the storm approached (as demonstrated in the video above). I have never known anything like it. As it drew nearer, one crack of thunder was so loud the caravan actually shook! Luckily, Archie is now a little deaf or else he would have been terrified. There was rain of biblical proportions, and it later transpired that Birmingham, in particular, had experienced flash floods. This did not bode well for conditions under foot for tomorrow.


The storm eventually passed and we had supper and retired early (no TV!) ready for the next day. Missed the hot tub. Such a great relaxer.

Monday 28th May

This day would have been by dear old Mum’s 86th birthday and I sent her some happy birthday wishes, wherever she is.

The day had dawned warm and we decided to take risks by not wearing – or even carrying – waterproof gear. The thought of wearing it (too hot) or carting it around (too heavy) all day was too much. So we set off in our boots with a pair of umbrellas (our trusty Fulton Tornados)  which we hoped would see us right. If they’re good enough for HRH they’ll certainly do for us!

We set off for Crick, site of the Inland Waterways Boat Show for the last 18 years. We arrived very shortly, parked and set off across the vaguely muddy fields. Luckily the organisers had laid walkways everywhere so conditions under foot in the show itself were better than anticipated. We had a good look round before meeting with our boat builder. Reader – it can now be told. We have decided a life on the canal is our future goal and we hope to be happily ensconced on our new-build boat within the next year or so! Exciting times. After much research over the winter, we chose Ortomarine to build for us. They were showing their most recent build at the Show and we had an appointment to view and meet with them again. Them being Caroline and Rob, a very nice couple, with whom we feel we can work. Their latest boat had some innovations which were were very interested to see and we came away from our meeting feeling very happy and with the sense of having chosen well re-confirmed. It had been worth attending the show for that feeling alone.

It was NOT worth attending for the food however. We had a very lacklustre and overpriced lunch before exploring the rest of the show. By mid-afternoon it was HOT! We had definitely made the right decision about coats, too. Archie had had enough of being dragged about and so we left and went back to the van for a snooze. Dinner tonight was home-made pizza on the Cadac. Versatile piece of kit, eh? And it was delish – despite forgetting the pizza peel, which made moving it (from work surface to pizza stone) a bit of challenge! We overcame. We ate. We enjoyed.

We read for a while  and then went to bed, tired, happy and relaxed. Nice feeling.

Tuesday 29th May 

Home time. We set off early and Paul was back at his desk by lunchtime. A lovely break. Looking ahead, we have our annual “Bob & Barb” weekend – on the canal again , this year. On the Oxford again, but this time near Banbury and – at the end of June – France beckons. Can’t wait. And exciting, sometimes stressful times ahead too, as we put our house on the market and find a new, smaller shore base. Watch this space!!