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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.

 

 

 

 

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”

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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 🙂

 

Hadrian’s Wall Country

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After the North York Moors we headed back inland to take a look at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.

By pure chance we stayed on a campsite, a few miles north of Corbridge and Hexham, that was right on the route of the wall – unfortunately there weren’t any sections of wall here, but it did mean that we weren’t too far from any of the main sights.  For us these were: Corbridge Roman Town, Chesters Bridge & Chesters Roman Fort, Housesteads Roman Fort and Heddon on the Wall.

Our first full day saw us visiting Corbridge Roman Town and also Hexham.  Corbridge itself is a very pretty little town which we drove through to find the old Roman town.  This is an English Heritage site (as many of them are along Hadrian’s Wall) and we were really surprised by just how engaging our visit was.

The 1st item of interest that you come to is a Roman road that you can actually still walk along – the bit that is left is believed to be from the 3rd century AD.  We had audio guides and along with the plentiful information boards this kept our interest all the way around the attraction.

Before heading back to the van we headed to Hexham for a little look around.  As usual we parked a little way out and walked back into town, where we were able to visit the abbey (free to enter), which was very interesting, but there was clearly an event being held that evening (and we were there quite late in the day).  This meant that we weren’t able to visit the crypt which seemed to be a very interesting area.

There is also a moot hall and an old gaol to visit, but we were too late for either!  The town is definitely worth a visit though, and not just for the fact that this is where you’ll find several supermarkets and takeaway options.

The following day we headed in the opposite direction and found Chesters; 1st the Roman bridge remains (at the end of a 3/4 mile long footpath).  It’s amazing to see how much is actually left and we could also see across the river to Chesters Roman Fort which is where the bridge led to.

So this was our next stop.  Again an English Heritage site with lots of information available.  Many of the Roman remains that we are able to see today in the area were saved due to the actions of 1 man, John Clayton, who inherited the land from his father and started excavations.  He also bought up neighbouring estates when they became available in order to save the ruins from being lost completely.

In the grounds of Chesters there is a museum, built by his son, that houses many of the objects that he excavated over the years.  We visited both at the beginning and end of our visit!

The stand out attraction on this site is the remains of the bath house which are quite extensive.  We were also able to look back over the river towards the bridge remains.

We still hadn’t seen any of the actual wall so we carried on along the road and after a short while we caught our 1st glimpse.  We parked up by the side of the road as soon as we were able and walked back along the Hadrian’s Wall path to see the wall.

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The following day we continued further along the same road to visit Housesteads Fort.  Once again we drove into and back out of the official car park (as it was run by the park authorities rather than English Heritage. NB: Corbridge Roman Town and Chesters car parks are run by English Heritage so these charges don’t apply).  They were charging £3 to park regardless of how long you were staying.

The lady at Corbridge Roman Town suggested that we parked a couple of miles away at Steel Riggs where she said the parking was cheaper – we looked but it was actually £4 there!  So we found a layby about a mile along the road from the fort and walked from there.

We made it difficult for ourselves, heading up the hill to join the main path (it wasn’t easy walking!) and when I saw 1 of the bulls at their feeding station staring us down I insisted on retracing our steps and going a slightly longer way around!  We came across a structure at the top of the hill that was probably a part of the wall (there were milecastles along the route, and smaller watchtowers) which we explored a little.

On the way to the fort we came across a short section of the wall that is actually part of the path (much of the actual wall is off limits to walk on), and shortly after this section you get to the fort itself.  This fort’s main attraction is the remains of the latrines where the flush system still works when it rains hard!  We were expecting to be getting bored of the Roman remains by this point, but it actually wasn’t the case – each of the sites has a different reason to visit.

We found a quicker way back to the car by following the tarmac road past the education centre (so no encounters with bulls this time 🙂 ).

Next stop was the town of Haltwhistle, apparently the centre of Britain.  There were a couple of points of interest, but unfortunately not an awful lot was made of these and overall the place was a little depressing.

Before returning back to the van we went off route and found a couple more sections of wall (and also more car parks where daft amounts were being asked to park – they were empty…)

At 1 section I was a little behind Calv in coming back down the hill, and spotted a cow keeping it’s beady eye on me (you have to be careful when they have calves with them).  I had to move fairly fast to get to the gate before the cow got to me!!

We also spotted ‘The Tree’ from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves!

We also saw another section of the wall at Heddon on the Wall; just a small section though and probably only worth seeking out if you’re actually heading that way.

In my next post I will tell you about the other things we did while staying here: Beamish Museum, the Angel of the North and Prudhoe Castle.

 

 

 

Goathland – aka Aidensfield or Hogwarts…

Our final day in the moors was reserved to visit Goathland, otherwise known as Aidensfield (Heartbeat’s location) or Hogwarts Station (the train station was used in the Harry Potter films).

We would have loved to have arrived in the village on the steam train (North York Moors Railway), but the cost was prohibitive unfortunately.  Even just to travel 1 stop between Grosmont and Goathland would have cost us £26 return….  There were plenty of trains running though so obviously plenty of people paying for this.  Apparently it wasn’t always this expensive – it appears that the Harry Potter effect has caused the increase in prices.

We saw the steam train for the 1st time at Grosmont – perfect timing actually as we were at the front of the queue when the level crossing gates closed!  We do love to see the trains in operation so this was an absolute treat.

Next it was a race to get to Goathland before the train! We managed it – just.. Parking by the road and running up to the bridge, which is where I took the main picture from 🙂  Another train was coming the other way so we saw both in the station.  Heading back to the car we spotted a waterfall which we tried to get a bit closer.  I had to give up as I picked a wrong spot to place my foot and nearly sank!

We then carried on in the car towards the village itself, starting with the train station which I had a quick look at – unfortunately it didn’t really mean much to me as I haven’t watched any Harry Potter film all the way through (I’ve maybe seen 15-20 minutes in total)….  See photos below 🙂 Continue reading “Goathland – aka Aidensfield or Hogwarts…”