What we learnt about the UK in 2017 – Part 1

We spent less time travelling around the UK than originally expected, and didn’t get anywhere near as far around the country as we thought we would.

We set off at the beginning of April and the weather finally beat us at the end of October.  We arrived home on 23rd October, a few weeks before we were hoping.

Instead of making our way around the whole of the UK and spending a couple of months in Scotland, we explored the east coast fully, and just made it into Scotland (the furthest north we got was Dunbar, just east of Edinburgh) before we started making our way home via the Lake District and Blackpool.  In this time we also had a week in Ibiza for a family wedding (and what a wonderful week it was too!),  and a couple of weeks, in total, staying near home to catch up with family and friends.  Meaning that our actual time on the road in the UK was 25 weeks (including a diversion to Cornwall).

Obviously we already knew rather more about the UK than about France, Spain or Portugal, but we did learn new things on our way around the country 🙂

So here goes! Continue reading “What we learnt about the UK in 2017 – Part 1”

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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.

 

 

 

The Yorkshire Dales – Paradise Found :) Day 1

I know I’m out of sync (I’ve not yet written about Bolsover and York, Harrogate and Knaresborough), but this can’t wait!

We arrived in the Dales on Tuesday and as we drove towards our campsite near Aysgarth my breath was quite simply taken away by the beauty all around us.  I could have cried 🙂  This was even though it was raining when we arrived!

Once settled in we set off further along the B road (and deeper into the countryside) to explore a little.  We were just completely blown away by what we were seeing – water rushing along beside the road, falling over rocks and dropping from height – all around us!  We had to keep stopping to wonder at it all and, of course, take photos 🙂

Eventually we found ourselves stopping just past the White Lion Inn at Cray, alongside part of Buckden Pike (712m).  There were stepping stones across the water and a National Trust public footpath signposted up the pike, so, naturally, we decided to follow it.

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I had it in mind to follow a shorter path towards Cray Bridge (1/2 mile) but Calv had other ideas, went the other way and kept on walking…!  We almost made it to the top of what we could see, but were scuppered by a drystone wall (as we had veered dramatically off the path – and didn’t we know it!)  This was quite hard walking (for me anyway!) and I was really proud to have got so far.  Coming back down was at least as hard as going up.

We had come out without a drink (not expecting to go for a long walk of course) so decided to have a drink in the pub.  Naively I was expecting a pub in the heart of the Dales to be a little cheaper.  Right….!!  We’ll take our own drinks out with us in future!!

There was an interesting game on the wall here though, called Bull Ook, which involved swinging a ring to be caught on the hook of the bull’s nose.  It was very difficult – in fact we found it impossible!

From here we carried on along the main road for just a short while before we saw a single track lane on the right pointing towards a pub, JB Priestley’s favourite watering hole according to a sign.  So we headed this way, which brought us to the tiny village of Hubberholme, the main features of which are an unusual church, a lovely stone bridge over the fast running river and a pub (that doesn’t really look like a pub) with a history.

They call it the Hubberholme Parliament and, so my Rough Guide tells me, this relates to the practice of local farmers bidding to use 16 acres of church land for the year, the proceeds of which are used for the poor of the parish.  A candle is lit and the auction overseen by the vicar in the dining room (The House of Lords), the farmers place their bids in the bar (The House of Commons) and the highest bid when the candle goes out is the winner!  The auction is still held today – on the 1st Monday of the New Year.

The fact that the pub, having started life as a farm, was at one point the vicarage might explain why some church furniture had to be rescued from the pub where it was being used as a bar.

We continued along this back road, with no idea where we were heading!  We ended up driving up and up, over cattle grids and finding ourselves in a completely empty landscape.  By which I mean very few properties!

What we did see though were numerous birds of prey; sparrow hawks, kestrels and owls!  Yes owls, 3 of them, in daylight!  And the views!!  Unfortunately we just couldn’t get any usable photos 😦

This road eventually brought us back to civilisation via Gayle, a village with some history as a mill area – there is a restored mill here which is open to the public.  The road brought us out to Hawes, with a couple of museums – Dales Countryside Museum and Ropemakers as well as the Wensleydale Creamery where you can watch the cheese being made.

Tired now we headed back to the van, exhausted by taking in all the views along the way.  But we couldn’t wait to get back out into the countryside the next day when we’d already decided to visit Aysgarth Falls themselves.

On the way back we found an excellent shop by Aysgarth Garage (although the fuel itself was very expensive), and also a shortcut back to the van through Thoralby village.

On the way up this lane we were held up by a herd of cattle being moved from the farmyard out to the field, at the back of which was one that clearly had a very bad hoof.  I felt so sorry for her 😦

We’re also now back to feeding ourselves properly in the van, which saw me making a chicken, leek and bacon pie for tea 🙂

All in all ready for our bed!  Day 2 will see me tell you about our walk to Aysgarth Falls 🙂

 

 

 

Clifftop Walks at Flamborough Head – we spotted a few puffins too :)

We are staying on the clifftop at Flamborough and the views are amazing!  We have direct access to the cliffs and the many terraces full of seabirds, including guillemots, razorbills, gannets, shags, herring gulls and puffins.

On evening 1 we went out for a walk, taking our neighbour’s dog, Henry, with us.  We ended up walking about 4 miles in the mud (it had been raining for a couple of days before we arrived).  To get to the clifftop we have to walk through a field full of sheep belonging to the farm we’re staying on.

I’m not kidding you, I have never heard such noises from sheep!  Ranging from normal baa’s to sounds like they’re barking and saying ‘no’ & ‘hear hear’.  They’re clearly talking to each other as they’re quiet until people turn up 🙂

The following day we went out for a walk along the cliffs again.  This time we turned left and walked about 3 miles to the RSPB centre.  Along the cliffs here there are several platforms built for viewing the birds.  It was a really nice walk, and even stayed dry for the majority of the time we were out!  Calv enjoyed his cream tea at the café 🙂

We did find that, in contrast to everyone that we’ve encountered so far in Yorkshire, most of the serious bird-watchers we saw were actually quite unfriendly.  They wouldn’t make eye contact at all, just kept their heads down and walked on past.  We were pretty surprised by this.  There were, of course, a couple of exceptions – like the guy we met on the clifftop on the 1st night who pointed out the puffins and lent us his scope to look through (I pretended I could see something, but I’m useless at looking through binoculars – and now I know, scopes as well!)

We did see puffins!  They were at a distance in the crevices in the cliffs – but we could see them 🙂

We were trying to avoid using the car for a couple of days and so the next day, Saturday, we went out for another walk.  This time we were aiming for the lighthouse that we can clearly see from the campsite.  The owner told us that it’s a 4.8 mile walk along the clifftop.

So we headed the other way via Flamborough itself and along Lighthouse Road.  It took forever – we never seemed to be getting any closer to the lighthouse!  Along the way we passed the original lighthouse, which is now sited on the golf course and we couldn’t access it.  There’s doubts about whether the flame was ever lit at the top, partly because passing ships refused to pay the toll to help pay for it.

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The original Lighthouse Tower at Flamborough

We eventually made it to the new lighthouse on the head.  There is a very nice café here, The Headland, an ice cream kiosk and public toilets.  The lighthouse is still operational, but is fully automated.  We took the tour, £4.40 per adult, which allowed us to go to the top and see the views from there.

We went down to the beach, all the way down!  There were people in the water, clambering over the rocks and kayaking from the beach.

From here we took the cliff path, which afforded us some spectacular views on our walk back to the campsite.

On the way we found North Landing where we stopped for a drink in the bar at the Haven centre.  On the beach there were tractors ready to pull the boats that were out on pleasure trips back out of the water, people kayaking; on the steep slipway up from the beach was a lifeboat house which you can visit as well as a boathouse.  It was really busy here as well!

A little further along the cliff was Thornwick Bay, where there is a café and limited access to the beach.

You have to be careful on these beaches as it would be really easy to get cut off as the tide comes in – from the safety of the clifftop we did see a number of people scrambling back around the base of the cliffs to beat the incoming water.  It concerned us a little, but they seemed to know what they were doing…

So we’d had 3 days of lots of walking and lots of fresh air!  Very enjoyable, but now our feet were hurting.

Therefore the car came back into use on Sunday with a dribble along the coast as far as Withernsea – read about in my next post 🙂

A long walk in Lincolnshire. Discovering Louth & Woodhall Spa

We knew that there was a large reservoir, Covenham Reservoir, close by so decided to walk on Saturday to find it.  We took the canal path from about 200m away from the campsite, past the old mill – the possibilities of what could be done with that place!

We quickly came across several cows grazing alongside the canal and then went through a gate to a section where cows clearly hadn’t been grazing for some time (they were on the other side of the canal here), which made for a lot of concentration; making sure that we didn’t step in cow pats, brush past nettles and thistles or fall off the bank!

We stumbled across the correct route completely by accident; coming to a narrow bridge across the river and finding a public bridleway crossing diagonally across the fields.  From here we found a farmyard equipment graveyard lining the track down past a farm.

Again, completely by chance, we looked right at the right spot to see steps leading up the side of the reservoir and a stile to a footpath across the field.  It was quite a steep climb and at the top we sat on the wall overlooking the water (quite a feat for me trying to get up onto the wall with my short legs and lack of agility these days!) and ate our lunch, before walking all the way around the reservoir.

We were surprised at how quiet it was on a sunny Saturday in the school holidays, but guess it was due to it being the 1st weekend of the holidays with people perhaps disappearing away on holiday.  We chatted to a lad who was there with his jetski who told us it’s normally really busy.  He and his mate had the water to themselves! Continue reading “A long walk in Lincolnshire. Discovering Louth & Woodhall Spa”

Walk to the top of Cruz de Juanar

It’s Sunday now and I’ve just realised how far behind I am on the blog.  Mind you, apart from our walk up the mountain, we haven’t done an awful lot except sit on the beach or sit in the van (it’s been raining for the last couple of days 😦 )

So on Tuesday it turned out to be a lovely day and we finally made it down to the beach.  There was enough wind for the waves to be rolling in quite nicely, but we positioned ourselves beside the breakwater and had a patch of calm water to paddle in (I got in up to my waist – it was rather cold…)

We popped down the shop in the afternoon, forgetting that it was still a bank holiday and most were shut.  But we found a Supercor express open and got a few essentials (San Miguel, an Oreo cheesecake….)

On Wednesday we headed back to do our mountain walk.  It was another beautiful day and we made sure we had plenty of liquids and snacks.  I even remembered my hat!  Continue reading “Walk to the top of Cruz de Juanar”