First Timer – Let’s get started

This is the post excerpt.

Today I updated my Facebook status:-

Sat here with a glass of cider, in the beautiful sunshine getting excited, and ready, for our upcoming trip – might start work on the blog tonight…!”

So I thought I’d better make a start.

The main reason for starting a blog is our year off travelling around the UK (mostly) in our motorhome in 2017.  Before that (30th May 2016 to be precise) we’re off to France for 5 1/2 weeks.

So I thought I’d get a bit of practice in before next year (bearing in mind I have no idea what I’m doing…)

Currently we’re making sure that everything is in place before we leave.  We’ve spend the past couple of months starting every weekend agreeing that we must get some ‘stuff’ done.  So, here we are with just over 3 weeks to go, and we’ve finally got started!

Okay, so we’ve done a few bits and pieces.  Mainly buying in extra provisions – such as rice and high juice.  Yes, I KNOW they have shops in France but last time we were there we found that it was impossible to find certain items, or when we did they were insanely expensive (for instance, I got a hankering for chocolate spread – no, I don’t know why either – and although we found it, it cost about £4)

Today, Calvin has made a space in the back cupboard to hang a couple of storage containers in – we can keep shoes, loo rolls and other provisions in there.  He’s also modified the bike rack so that we can fit our new bikes on without scratching them.  He really is very useful!

Oh yes, of course, we bought new bikes a few weeks back.  Electric bikes… meaning we can go a little further on them (rather than me always wanting to turn back before Calvin does).  I’d taken a couple of months to finally make the decision to buy.  Calvin decided in 2 minutes flat while I was making a final decision on which bike to buy.  So, we’re looking forward to making good use of them on all those cycle paths & routes in France (particularly in the Pyrenees).

So far we love them (went out for a short 6 mile ride this morning actually before coming over to the van).

Tomorrow we’ll carry on emptying out the cupboards and getting rid of anything that really isn’t needed.  I’ve already filled up 1 cupboard with books, and another with DVDs.

Next week we’ll give the van a good clean, and finalise the modifications to the bike rack.  We will also check if we can get the NOW TV box to work as long as we’ve got WIFI – if anyone knows if this is likely please feel free to share 🙂

Finally I have just 3 weeks left to lose all that weight that I promised I would lose some months ago.  I’ve failed miserably so far, so must try harder!

In my next post I’ll share our route through France.





A new perspective for a New Year

Continue reading “A new perspective for a New Year”


Holy Island and Berwick upon Tweed

After a couple of months home (back living in a house!) and a busy run-up to Christmas, we’re now approaching the end of 2017 and I’m thinking back to our last few weeks on the road.  Which means it’s time to tell you all about it!

Also the blog is just 112 views away from 10,000 views!  I can’t believe it – thank you so much to everyone who’s ever read any of my ramblings 🙂

So back to the next part of our trip.

Our next stop was still in Northumberland (it’s a huge county), and we had found a small site just a short hop from the causeway that takes you over to Holy Island.  There was a site slightly closer, but it was also a lot more expensive!

One of the 1st things we did after arriving was to go down in the car to take a look.  There’s a small (very small) parking area just before the causeway so we stopped in here and walked to the edge of the water.  The tide was completely in at this point, but you could clearly see where the road went; there was an information board (with sound – you had to wind it up) telling us about the wildlife in the area.  There is another board with very clear information on the tide times and when it is safe to cross.

We could also see that there was a walk that would bring us out to this point from the campsite, so decided there and then to use our bikes when we visited the island itself.

We were just a few miles from Berwick upon Tweed, the last town in England, so this was our next stop for the afternoon.  The parking was free and we parked in the long stay area in the shadow of the town walls (you needed a disc for the short stay area, but it didn’t cost anything, it was just a way of ensuring the short stay car park didn’t get clogged up)

We were rather taken with Berwick, which was a bit of a surprise (we didn’t know what to expect), but we discovered it’s history of being a true border town and changing hands between Scotland and England 13 times over the course of a few hundred years.

We first headed down through the park to the banks of the River Tweed, where we walked up towards the castle walls (what’s left of them) and then back up through the park into town.  We were impressed by the bridges, the remains of the castle walls snaking steeply up the hill and a boat built of wood on the edge of the river bank (where we were joined by a rather boisterous dog 🙂 )


We then took an alley near the car park and found ourselves at the old barracks now run by English Heritage.  We had a nice chat with the guy in the ticket office who gave us a little background on the history of the town and then we had a wander around the barracks.  Unfortunately this wasn’t one of the better attractions that we visited during the year, but there were a couple of interesting parts.  For us there was far too much too read (and that’s coming from me – I love to read!!)

From here we walked along the top of the town walls and when we came down from them we found this delightful little building.


I was delighted to discovered that it was one of the 1st ladies public loos to be opened.  It would appear that it was far easier to build gents conveniences than ladies, so this was quite an event!  I seem to remember reading that it’s now a little sandwich bar 🙂

It made my day finding it anyway.

We had pretty much run out of day by this point but, as ever, resolved to return and see the rest of the town – we didn’t of course, just the Asda on the each of town…

The following day was when we were to visit Holy Island (Lindisfarne).  We took the cycle path which alternates between on and off road until you get to the parking area, at which point you are on the road ready to cross the causeway.  As you get to the centre you have to be careful to stay on the road as you’ll be in the water otherwise!  It’s also very windy out in the middle – it was surprisingly hard going, even on our bikes!

From the site to the village was about 4 miles.  Once we had locked the bikes up our first visit was to the priory and the church. (English Heritage).  There was very little left of the priory and my abiding memory was of the beautiful pinkish colour of the stone.  From here we wandered down to the shore where we found 1 of the 4 lifeboat houses that have served the island over the years.


We could also hear a sort of barking sound which we couldn’t quite place.  It turned out to be a number of seals basking on the other side of a small sandbank a little way offshore.

Scrambling up a rocky hillside we were able to overlook the priory ruins and also climb a tower that has been repurposed to give information about the island, and provide amazing views.  Following the path we found ourselves in the natural harbour from where we could see the remains of an old fort.  We also noted the upturned boats along the shore that provided shelter and storage.  They even had doors built into the end!

A new use for an old boat on Lindisfarne

We collected our bikes to cycle down to the castle, which was unfortunately not open as it is undergoing extensive repairs this year.  We’ll have to return to see this National Trust property.  By now it had started to rain and we were rewarded with a rainbow 🙂  We could see the limekilns across the other side of the peninsula and there was a garden there that you could visit (but that’s not really for us).

On the way back we visited 1 of the 3 pubs in the village, which was part coffee shop and part bar.  We picked up some bread in the village shop and then it was back to the van.  It was actually quite windy by now and so it was head down and go for it… We found it interesting to see groups of people walking across the sands – there seemed to be a waymarked path that they were following.  I’m not sure that I’d have been too happy having a go on our own though.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day out on the island and, once again, resolved to return to walk amongst the dunes and see the wildlife.  Of course, we never quite made it.  There was too much else to do!

Of which I will tell you more in my next post.  This will include visiting several of the beaches close by (including Bambrugh), a trip inland to Ford and Etal and a short trip into Scotland with a visit to Eyemouth.

Cragside – an exceptional estate

I picked up a leaflet for Cragside and kept it as I thought it looked interesting.  Then Calv started talking about an ‘electricity’ house.  We eventually determined it was one and the same place (as Cragside was the first house in the world to be powered by hydro-electricity).

Cragside is situated near the village of Rothbury.  It’s a huge estate comprising 1000 acres, 5 lakes (created by William Armstrong to help create the hydro-electricity to power the house). There are 14 waymarked walks (both long, short and interchangeable), a boathouse, ‘trim trail’ and a circular drive around the whole estate (with several car parks to stop off in and pick up 1 of the trails).

With so much to do it’s not cheap (£18.80 for the house and estate) although it is cheaper from the beginning of November until 18th December) and, trust me, it IS worth it 🙂 Continue reading “Cragside – an exceptional estate”

The Northumberland Coast – and fog!

Moving back to the coast we found ourselves staying near Ashington, just east of Morpeth.  This is colliery country, a heritage which is clear everywhere with reminders often in the form of sculptures in towns and on roundabouts.

On our first day we headed down the coast towards Tynemouth.  Unfortunately the fog was relentless and would not budge all day on the coast!  We could barely see anything, not even the sea when we were standing on the end of the jetty at Cullercoats!

We did try though, getting out and having a wander; up close we could see that the beach was sandy, but the resort was perhaps a little more tired than in it’s heyday when numerous artists frequented it, often to paint the fishermen and their wives.

From here we headed north to see if the fog would have lifted by the time we got to St Marys Lighthouse.  It hadn’t!  At which point we gave in and headed back to the van, where the sun was out…  We were told that this wasn’t unusual for the area.

The next day we visited Cragside (for which I have done a separate post as it merits it).

So I’ll pick up with our last day here which saw us head to the nearest seaside resort to us and venture a little further north up the coast to Amble.

Our neighbours at the site actually came from Newbiggin on Sea, just about 5 miles from where we were staying.  So this is where we started.  And what a pleasant surprise it was.  We ended up spending a good hour or so wandering around the bay, which was a lovely sweep of sand.  Out in the bay is an offshore sculpture, ‘The Couple’, which is either loved or hated it would appear.  I quite liked it!  There is also a smaller version on the promenade.

There’s quite a lot of interest here, including the fact that the 1st kayak team to circumnavigate Great Britain, Land on the Left,  left from here, and returned to here, in 2012.

Whilst the promenade along the bay is lovely the town itself isn’t quite so much.  A little tired perhaps.

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We continued along the coast to Amble, stopping on the way at Druridge Country Park.  This consists of a large lake, meadows and woods as well as the star of the show, the sweeping bay of golden sand.  There is, of course, a café but it’s only open at weekends outside of the school holidays.  The main car-park is free and it is an easy walk down to the spectacular beach.

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As the sun was still shining we continued on towards Amble, which turned out to have a certain charm (and free parking..!)  We went south of the harbour first (where all the holiday parks are located) before heading back up into town.

We made our way to the harbour, where we could hear the rich dialect of the area.  I often would hear someone talking, and it would take several seconds before I realised that they were actually speaking English!  (I have always had trouble understanding the wonderful Geordie accent – I love it, but my brain takes it’s own sweet time to register exactly what is being said!)

We stopped at Spurreli’s Ice Cream Parlour, voted the UK’s best in 2014.  And it was very nice – although unfortunately the more elaborate sundaes were very pricey!  Then a wander including taking in the 2 war memorials of the town; it’s own Clock Tower and the memorial from neighbouring town of Radcliffe which was demolished in the 1970s.  Read more about this lost settlement here.

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All in all a lovely last day in Southern Northumberland before we moved up to stay near Holy Island, where we visited Berwick on Tweed, Ford & Etal and Bambrugh as well as making a brief foray into Scotland to visit Eyemouth 🙂


Southsea, Old Portsmouth, Gunwharf and Fort Nelson – all ‘Right on our Doorstep’

Before I catch up with posts for the last month or so of our travels I have to re-iterate how we often miss out on what’s right on our doorstep.

We are going to try to make sure we put this right over the coming months (whilst we’re at home), and we started last week when our fellow campers, Steve and Denise, stopped with us in Nutbourne before heading off to Spain for the winter (just a bit jealous..)

Anyway, we decided to take them to Portsmouth on the Monday, well Southsea.  We drove in from the Eastney end so they got the full view of the sea – all the way from Farlington Marshes and down the Eastern Road.  It’s an aspect of Portsmouth that I believe is sadly neglected, unless you  happen to live up that end of course!

We passed the old military barracks – now residential but housing the Royal Marines Museum as well, the beach huts, canoe lake, the putting green (and the Tenth Hole where we intended to eat cake, but sadly ran out of time) and the model village.

Moving on we passed the bowling green, D-Day museum (which seems to be in the process of being refurbished), the Pyramids centre (swimming and nightlife) and, of course, Southsea Castle (free to visit from March to October), the castle field and the bandstand.  This is such an amazing area and holds so many fantastic memories for me.  I used to take my boys to the castle regularly (as well as Fort Nelson ‘up on the hill’).

Castle Field stretches my memory further back in time to when Radio 1 Roadshows were all the rage,

Continue reading “Southsea, Old Portsmouth, Gunwharf and Fort Nelson – all ‘Right on our Doorstep’”

Home again….

So I’ve been very lax lately in keeping the blog up-to-date – I’m sorry!

We are actually home now, and have been for a whole week.  We did stay in the van for a few days, but moved into the house last Thursday.  We’re slowly getting everything together – we actually managed to finish emptying the storage unit this afternoon (after about 10 trips using a Golf estate and the little white car towing the little trailer!)

Anyway the reason for this post is just to let you know that I will be posting about the last month or so of our adventure as soon as I can, but at the moment it’s all a bit hectic.

People keep asking how it feels to be back in a house after 9 1/2 months on the road.  Surprisingly I just feel very relaxed about it (although I didn’t on our 1st afternoon back when we went to the house and realised just how much work we have ahead of us!)  Calv is a little less relaxed than me – he keeps saying to me ‘Let’s just get on a ferry and go..!’

What I have left to tell you about includes the north coast of Northumbria, Holy Island, straying into Scotland, a few days in the lakes, a short trip to Blackpool and a quick return to the Dales (to see Malham Cove and the limestone pavement).

I’ll also put together posts on our favourite spots to visit, best beaches etc. and finish off my campsite reviews.  Hopefully by the time I’ve finished these we’ll be off again.  The aim is to return to Scotland to explore the Highlands and Islands around April time.

Keep travelling 🙂

Beamish Museum and the Angel of the North

First off, my apologies for most of the photos appearing here at the start – I’m having a spot of bother again getting them where I want them!

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Apart from visiting Hadrian’s Wall sites when in inland Northumberland we also went a little further afield, visiting the Angel of the North, Beamish Museum and a Sunday afternoon in Newcastle.

Beamish museum was somewhere that I was aware of and keen to visit.  I love ‘living’ museums like this where the exhibits represent how we used to live, often with buildings saved from different areas and rebuilt in the museum.  Similar museums around the country include the Weald and Downland near Chichester, St Fagans Folk Museum in Cardiff, Blists Hill Victorian Town near Telford and the Black Country Museum in Dudley.  I have been to each of these museums (except the Black Country Museum) at least twice, and as a result often shout excitedly at the telly when I see a location I recognise (as they’re often used for filming!)

We actually visited Beamish twice.  There were 2 reasons for this, the 1st being that they are one of these, really pretty annoying, attractions where your entry fee allows you to visit for a full year.  This is all very well if you live in the area and are likely to visit more than once – but how about a cheaper price for those of us who are just visiting?  We missed out on Leeds Castle because of this policy (and saw many others turning round and leaving), and need to visit Chatham Docks again before May in order to use our tickets again before they run out…

Anyway, the main reason we had to return was that a couple of days after our first visit there was a big classic car show being held.  So that was reason enough to go back….

Beamish is a living history museum located in the village of Beamish, near to Consett.  There is an awful lot of walking available as you make your way around the site, between the pit village (and a quick tour down a real pit shaft – not far but very interesting), the town, the hall and the farm.

Don’t despair however there are plenty of transport options; old trams and buses run frequently and there is no extra charge for these.  There are several houses that have been rebuilt and dressed in the style of the day, both in the pit village, the town and also the hall.  Don’t miss the tower as you exit the hall – this is the most interesting part of the building!

Over the 2 visits that we made we managed to see every part of the museum and were suitably impressed (at £19 each though that’s a good thing!)

On the way to the museum we had visited the Angel of the North  , the iconic sculpture designed by Anthony Gormley which you cannot miss as you drive by!  There is free parking and an information board at the bottom of the hill that the angel is sited on, and she is really an awesome sight!

We returned to the van via Consett as we needed to get fuel.

After our 2nd visit on the Sunday we headed in to Newcastle to have a look.  We ended up having some lunch – I found out that Weatherspoons now operate a system where you’re able to order online, including your drinks!  Brilliant!  (However, I also think this is old news, just like when I got all excited about the automatic ordering in McDonalds…)

After lunch we headed off to have a look around Newcastle.  I’m not sure how far we walked, but it was a far way.  We were impressed with the city – it wasn’t what we were expecting at all.  Added to the grand old buildings there was a definite vibe about the place even on a Sunday afternoon in September.

Finally in this area, on the Saturday between these 2 visits to the museum we decided to have a lazy day but ended up heading out for a drive, visiting Heddon on the Wall and then Prudhoe Castle.  We also found where the British Masters was being held (we’d seen signs for parking as we’d been driving around the area for the previous week) at Close House, which was busy preparing for the tournament that was being held the following week.

Prudhoe Castle is an English Heritage property, but whilst a pleasant enough way to spend, maybe, half an hour, it wasn’t one of the better properties we’d visited.  Put it this way, it’s one of the properties that we would have been fed up to have paid out £12 between us if we hadn’t been members….  However, if you do go make sure to visit the room above the gatehouse 🙂


So our time in Hadrian’s Wall country came to an end, but not our time in Northumberland.  We had 11 more nights and 2 more sites on the coast to visit before moving on to Scotland!

Keep travelling 🙂