“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.
We still weren’t finished with Northumberland. Our remaining days there before we headed into Scotland took in beaches and castles. We headed slightly inland to visit Ford & Etal and we even had a daytrip into Scotland, visiting Eyemouth as well as a couple of hidden coves. We were busy!
We weren’t experiencing wonderful weather; we had some extremely windy conditions – but the sun was out too at times 🙂
From Holy Island we had spotted, what looked like, some rather lovely beaches across the channel, so we headed a couple of miles back down the A1 and took a left. The 1st turn took us to a dead end. We did get out to have a look, but there were bird hides and this wasn’t on the agenda for us so we carried on and took the next left!
After a while we found a lay-by from where we could access the shoreline, so we stopped and headed out for a walk along the shore.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the most pleasant experience as the tide was coming in and we had to negotiate the muddy shoreline around the bay. However we eventually came across the sand which very nearly made the challenging walk to find it worth it! Rather than tackle the shoreline, with the tide even further in, we left the beach via a footpath that took us out to a lane, past a caravan site and finally back to the main road. Although there was no pavement there was room on the verge to walk on when cars went past so it was fine.
Not necessarily my favourite afternoon out, but we did get a fair bit of exercise 🙂
So the last time I wrote about my running progress I was still staying near Holy Island (and hoping to get out for a run the next day before we left for Scotland…) Needless to say I didn’t get out for that run.
In fact I only managed 2 more runs in our final month away – one when we were staying just north of Blackpool and one when we were staying in Lauder in Scotland, although I did scope out possible routes everywhere we stayed!
However, I had made a promise to my sister Debbie that I would do a parkrun the 2nd Saturday after we returned. I sort of stuck to this in that I was expecting to come back a little later than we did (the weather defeated us in the end..) so I did the parkrun on the date I originally had in mind – which was the middle of November.
Unfortunately, although I did try, the weather was against me again during my training time – I couldn’t bear the thought of going out for a run when it was so cold. So I only managed a few short runs before attempting my first parkrun. (Yes – I need to train to do a parkrun – not treat it as part of my training!!)
The morning dawned bright but fairly cold (it could definitely have been worse!) and my friend arrived to walk down with me (a nice warm-up at 1 3/4 miles). Calv (who had also said he would do it) stayed in bed hiding under the covers until I’d left….
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to run all, or much to be honest, of the course but resolved just to do my best and not come in last with the ‘back marker monitor’ immediately behind me!
I was a little nervous to start with (it had been a long time since I’d even attempted to cover 3 miles in any way other than walking), but once I’d got going it was fine. I knew it didn’t matter if I walked – it was really just about getting to the end in my own way and my own time.
Which I did. I was unsurprised to see runners heading back towards me before I’d got anywhere near the halfway point but was very pleasantly surprised to receive lots of encouragement from many of those doing so (it has to be said – not the 1st dozen or so (all men) and also it was mostly women who were seeking to lift my flagging spirits). This did have an effect in that if I had been thinking of stopping to walk I had to keep going until that person who had just spurred me on was out of sight!!
I’m not going to lie – I didn’t particularly enjoy my first experience but, with the help of my friend Emma (who came back for me after she’d finished and got bored waiting for me!) I finished in a time of 46mins 1sec (which was far better than the 50 minutes I was expecting 🙂
Of course now I had to walk back home (I live halfway up a fairly steep hill)… I can honestly say it took me about 10 days before I could walk properly again!
However, I am now planning to have another go. When the weather’s a bit warmer!
To this end I can confirm that my fitness levels are improving as I’m going to the gym 2-3 times a week, playing netball (back to netball) every Wednesday and taking 2 classes (LBT and Sh’bam).
I’ve also started including a bit of interval training on the treadmill which is helping with my speed (still slow, but faster than I was) AND on Monday I covered a mile in 12 mins 35 secs (with a walk at 7 1/2 mins for a minute and a half). My next target is to run without walking for 10 minutes.. Then to run for the full mile etc.
I am now aware that running outside really is easier than running on a treadmill. I say this as, years ago (when I could run – I once (emphasis on the once) ran 5 miles in 45 minutes) I never ran outside and refused to believe it would be easier than using the treadmill… I now know different which gives me great encouragement that I will be able to run for a whole parkrun before we leave on our travels again at the beginning of April.
I also have to admit to being inspired by my family and friends. I have 2, really very good, running sisters, 2, really rather good, running friends as well as 1, really very good, running brother-in-law and 2 more brothers-in-law who aren’t bad at all (1 of whom has just started entering 10ks at the grand old age of 55 – well done Mark 🙂 ), and a brother who has decided that he should also get involved and has signed up for parkrun.
My main inspiration though is my oldest sister who has been doing parkrun for over a year now, but in recent months has been steadily improving her personal best. Like me it doesn’t come naturally anymore (she was a wonderful sprinter as a teenager until she suffered injuries) but she has kept at it, and has just signed up for a beginners course at her local running club. I wouldn’t have the confidence to do this and I am really proud of you Alison. Well done!
I look forward to us beating our personal bests as we aim to beat each other in the coming months at Parkrun 🙂 (me at Fareham and you at Lee on Solent).
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 🙂 )
Berwick train bridge
Bridges at Berwick
River Tweed at Berwick
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 to 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 electric 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 (there is a path but it’s a longer walk!) 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!
Our closest view of Lindisfarne Castle
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 very 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 at that 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.
Iron Bridge linking the gardens with the house at Cragside
A water wheel at Cragside
The grounds at Cragside
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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,