Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Life in a Northern Town

Well it's been a while, but as this blog is about life in Delores rather than my mundane every day life, that would explain things.  We've managed a couple of brief trips but these have been mainly related to house hunting leaving no time for blogging.  However that's all about to change!

On January 2nd 2011 we're moving north and, as we haven't found a 'proper' home to live in yet, we'll be living in Delores for a few months.  At least I hope it will only be a few months!  I start work on 4th Jan so we need to be up there and the only option is to head off in the trusty Delores.  We've found a fab site in Silverdale and, snow permitting, we'll be rocking up there sometime late on Sunday 2nd Jan.  I know there are plenty of people who 'full time' but this will be a first for us and it seems like we've chosen the perfect time of year and weather conditions in which to do it!  Mind you it seems the weather is the least of the problems up there today and I should be rather more concerned about the earthquakes!

Anyway, the bog will be bought back to life to track our adventures.  The plan as I write this today is to find a house near to Kendal, but who knows what 2011 will bring!  At the moment we're busy packing and bidding farewell to all our many friends, family and colleagues in Fleet & Wokingham and I'm very much looking forward to a new year of "Hellos" .

Here's hoping everyone has a fantastic Christmas and New Year and we'll 'see' you in 2011!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Are you mad?

Lovely Looe

This morning we swam in an unheated outdoor pool in England - in September!  Yes it was a trifle parky but it certainly woke us up and got the blood pumping!  It wasn't meant to be unheated but the boiler had blown.  I'm not surprised, it must be hard work trying to keep an outdoor pool heated in this country, even in the summer.  Unfortunately the showers were some distance from the pool so we both had to sprint across the entire campsite dripping wet and freezing cold, clad only in a swimsuits and a towel.  I think we scared a few of the natives along the way and I'm not sure it's the sort of thing that's usually encouraged on a CC site, but it was good fun and we were helpless with giggles by the time we reached the sanctity of the shower block.

After we'd thawed out with a hot shower and a few hot cups of tea it was time to sort out the Crazy Golf once and for all.  I have to report that out of 5 more games Steve won 4, although my honour remains in tact as I scored the lowest overall round on one of my wins.  His scores are always so much more consistent than mine - he regularly went round in 21 - 25 whilst I ranged from 19 - 29, I'm sure that says something deep and meaningful about us if only I could be bothered to figure out what that was.

Statue of Nelson, the one eyed seal
All that was left to do then was to pack up and head home.  Yes, over 200 miles for 2 nights is a long way and a bit of a daft thing to do, but it was fantastic fun!  We're planning several more adventure between now and Christmas, we're definitely NOT fairweather campers; a quick scan back over the blog pages reminds us how many fabulous things we've seen and done already this year and our plan to eventually tour the entire coast of the UK is still firmly on the cards.  But for now we're parked up, back in the house and trawling the internet for inspiration about where to go next.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Eden Project - simply stunning.

Driving over 200 miles for 2 nights away just to see the Eden Project may seem like a bonkers plan but it was definitely worth it.  Lured by the fact that there is a £4 per person discount for anyone who cycles or walks we parked up in a layby in nearby St Blazey and pedaled a mile or so to get there.  I'm sure they'd prefer you to cycle from further away but it was 18 miles from Looe and none of them were flat.  Interestingly they don't check when you buy your ticket, we said we'd cycled and they believed us - mind you we were dressed the part and my right leg was, as usual, covered in oil from my chain.

Daisies! (Big 'uns!)
Naively I thought the Eden Project was going to be rather like Kew Gardens except bigger and hillier, but I was very wrong.  The two indoor biomes are vast, the Rain Forest one especially so.  Wherever you looked there was information about the plants and their relevance to the world.  At one point we passed a small shrub which had pretty enough blue flowers but nothing out of the ordinary which, it turns out, produces a drug which has helped save thousands of lives treating childhood leukemia.

View from Rain Forest Walk
They've recently opened the Rain Forest Walk, a climb up 80 or so steps along a gently swaying gantry to a platform suspended high in the roof over the rainforest.  We took advantage of the £3 per person special opening offer (normal price will be £5)  and headed up. If we thought it was hot in the biome in general we were in for a shock up there.  Hot air has a nasty habit of rising and it was making no exceptions for us.  Up in the platform it was just over 36C, bad enough for us palid sun shy Brits but when coupled with the stifling humidity of the rainforest it was almost unbearable.  The only relief came from the fact that the platform was directly under the open windows in the roof which provided the occasional very welcome cooler breeze.   The experience was fantastic but not for the feint hearted.  The tough climb in a hot and very humid atmosphere meant we all arrived at the platform dripping with sweat.  The walkways and platform are made from industrial metal mesh so you can look down past your feet to the canopy of the rainforest and floor of the biome far below.  We got some fabulous shots and the guide was really friendly and helpful but none of us stayed longer than 15 mins. Your timed entry ticket allows you up to 30 mins provided you can stand the heat and humidity.

The Core
We then tackled the Core, the Theatre and the outdoor biome.  In each area great care and thought has gone into informing, educating and engaging people of all ages.  Outside plants are grouped - food plants, medicines, magical/ folklore etc.  There was no way we could see and read absolutely everything in a day.  Luckily if you're a UK taxpayer and giftaid your entry fee you get a pass for free entry for a year.  Brilliant idea!  We really want to come back in the spring and see how different things look at a different time of year.

Utterly exhausted we headed for Polperro  for a fish and chip supper on the seafront.  I've never been before and I know this will upset many people, but I didn't really like the place.  Firstly there is no choice but to park in one large carpark on the edge of town which, despite being vast, has zero provision for Motorhomes and informs you in large unfriendly letters on the Pay and Display machine that large vehicles must pay double.  How come Dorset has this all figured out but nowhere else does?  Polperro is pretty with its tiny winding streets but I found it rather claustrophobic and also rather irritating having to constantly dive into doorways or gardens to avoid being run over.  Nevertheless we found the obligatory chippie down on the harbour and enjoyed a lovely al fresco dinner on a gorgeous secluded bench near the top of the cliffs.  As we ate I wondered how many people at that precise moment were paying hundreds of pounds for posh dinners that didn't have half the view of our little bench. You can keep your haute cuisine and fine dining, a fish supper and a nice quiet bench by the sea will do me fine, thank you.

Tomorrow we have to head home again but not before we've taken a dip in the pool and played at least one more game of crazy golf.  Then we plan to pootle back taking in some sights along the way.  The whole world seems to be in such a rush these days and there's nothing I enjoy more than bucking the trend.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Just when you thought it was safe...

Question: what do you do when, having been away for over five weeks, you've finally got on top of all the washing and admin at home?  Answer:  you decide that the Eden Project looks fun and drive over 200 miles for 2 nights away.

Eden Project - Looking fun!
Yes, less than one week since our epic jaunt you find us parked up at the other end of the country at the CC site in Looe.  It's a bit of a homage for me because, as a child, when I heard that people had time off in lieu, this was genuinely where I thought they came.  It appears that we chose the wrong tome to come though as Cornwall appears to be closed at the weekend.  We checked bus times to the Eden Project for tomorrow on the handy leaflet from the tourist info place, but they all appear to run M-F only. I could be wrong of course as bus timetables with their many codes generally confuse me and this particular one is choc full of them: XX, SSH, WW, XXX, LOL and TTFN.  I may have made the last couple up.

The result of all these codes being that the first bus we tried to catch down into Looe didn't turn up - but it will at that exact time tomorrow.  Unless there's an R in the month.  I think. To fill in the time before the next possible bus sighting we took in a couple of rounds on the on-site Crazy Golf.  Not a bad little course and only £1 for the clubs which you can use as much as you like till 6pm. We only had time for two games but as honours are currently even at one game all I'm sure there will be more to come.

We eventually trundled down into Looe, a very pretty if somewhat steep sided fishing village with a gorgeous sandy beach.  We noticed the contrast with the Lake District right away, up there the mountains are huge but generally outside the towns, the large glacial valleys allowing plenty of room for towns to be built on the pleasingly flat areas between the high peaks.  As many of the glaciers never made it this far south (probably held up around Bristol, that M4/M5 interchange can be hell) the valleys down here have only had to deal with very pretty, though comparatively puny, little rivers resulting in steep narrow valleys everywhere.  Thus your average town in Devon and Cornwall requires you to have the skill and dexterity of a mountain goat if you want to escape to explore the interesting stuff around the edges.

One refreshing thing about Looe is that it seems to still be an active little fishing town with a busy and purpose built dockside and a harbour full of genuine fishing boats as opposed to those just running tourist trips.  We had a very pleasant few hours wandering around the town before catching the last bus back to the campsite.  Well I think it was the last bus.  They could still be running now for all I know.  I'm planning to call Bletchly Park in the morning to see if they can help me with the timetable for tomorrows trip to the Eden Project.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Great North Fun - The Finale!

Why must all good things come to an end?  Who decided that?  I'd like a pretty stern word with whoever it was.  Party pooper.  So here I sit back in my dining room having spent the day catching up on emails, post, lots of washing and clearing out Delores ready for next time.  This is not a return to work, it is simply a break inbetween trips.  If I manage to master the technology I'll even add a few pics today.  Oh and here's a small quiz for you.  The Lake District is so called because of it's many, many lakes, and yet only one of them has the name 'lake' in its title - all the others are meres, waters, tarns or reservoirs.  So which is the only one with 'lake' in its name?

And so as promised some reflections on the previous 5 weeks or so.  First of all the awards!

New England Bay.  Love at first "site".
Best Proper Campsite:  CC New England Bay - clear and easy winner.  Mindbogglingly fabulous location, lovely pitches, nice loos and showers and lovely wardens.  Oh and the fish and chip van.  And the fresh fish man.  I could go on and on and on.  I absolutely loved it here.  Honourable mentions go to Berwick CC site and Grange CC site next to Derwent.  Both were lovely sites were great in their own way, Berwick had great views and Grange had wonderfully secluded pitches.

Best CL/CS:  Another easy winner this - Moat Vale CS near Gretna.  It was quirky, fun and friendly.  There was hardstanding, a nice loo and shower and the owners were delightful.  I bought home grown lamb and veg and the prices were incredibly reasonable.  Honourable mentions go to Howslack Farm CL near Moffat and Annstead Farm CS near Seahouses - both lovely sites, tucked away and with pristine facilities.

Moat Vale CS nr Gretna
Best Road:  A tie between the A686 Haydon to Alston and the B6277 from Alston to High Force falls in Teesdale.  Wonderful roads to drive though dramatic scenery.  Not too tough on Delores and lots of passing opportunities to let people whiz past.

Best Mountain:  Helvellyn - by a gnats whisker from Great Gable.  The only reasons Helvellyn wins is because it's so perfectly geologically wonderful and we climbed it.  Great Gable is next on my list though - it's a great slab of a mountain just asking to be climbed.

Best Lake/ Loch:  I'm going to go for Coniston Water as although it suffered from the scourge of tourism it's actually a gorgeous place with lots of really interesting history.  Ullswater is very pretty but perhaps too predictably so in a George Clooney kind of a way so I'm plumping for something with a little more substance.  Close second is Loch Skeen at the top of Grey Mares Tail falls - big climb but well worth it, gorgeous loch and stunning views.

Coniston Water
There are so many fantastic places we've seen that it's hard to pick out a few but hopefully the rest of the blog has given you some flavour of them.  As for things we've learned along the way...

1.  If you're taking a cat then also take a vacuum cleaner, the litter gets everywhere!
2.  Don't pull the freezer door too hard or the hinge may snap...
3.  Always take your waterproof, I don't care if it's 30C and clear skies, that's just there to fool you.  You'll thank me for that one day.
4.  You won't need as many clothes or as much food as you think you will.  There's loads of stuff I haven't worn - but that could be down to the lack of summer.
5.  Just do it.  Don't make excuses.  Life is too short and we now have a full summer of wonderful memories and plan to add a whole lot more over the coming years.

So that's it, all done and no more blogging till the next trip adventure.  Hope I didn't bore you too much.  Tomorrow I'm back to work and believe me you don't want to hear all about that!  Did you get the answer to my little quiz question?  It's Bassenthwaite Lake.  Next time you're on Who Wants to be a Millionnaire and that question comes up I'll be expecting my cut of the winnings.  Just enough to see us on a few more nice long hols will do me...

Friday, 3 September 2010

Great North Fun Day 37

The end of the adventure.

Well it had to happen - the final full day.  Tomorrow we sadly travel home but for today there was much more fun to be had in Blackpool.  Owing to Blackpool being the least bicycle friendly place we've visited on our travels we drove to the sea front.  It's clear they're planning to launch a cycle hire scheme here very soon but they really need to sort out some cycle paths/ routes first.  Yesterday we spotted some unrestricted parking south of the Pleasure Beach where a number of motorhomes seemed to be overnighting so we figured we were safe enough there.

We started off with a stroll along the prom and a game of crazy golf which Steve obviously won.  Then we went in search of the elusive beer and chips.  I call them elusive because although it sounds simple enough, most pubs won't serve them because chips only count as a side order.  Sure enough the first pub failed as it refused to serve any food outside despite having lots of seating outside and being on the prom.  Thank goodness for the Toby Duck just along the road which came to our rescue.  Mind you sitting on the prom meant sitting right next to a busy 'A' road and washing down lungfuls of car fumes with each glug of beer.

Back in the Pleasure Beach we revisited most of the rides from yesterday plus a few others for good measure.  Top marks to the guy in charge of the dodgems who bucked the 'surly' trend and was happy, friendly and chatty with everyone. Having watched many of the staff there today I can't say I altogether blame them for their lack of smiles.  The public generally ignore them completely, no pleases or thank yous and leaving litter, or in one case throwing litter, around the ride.

We nipped back to Delores to check on Monty and I have to say he's behaved impeccably throughout the trip.  We've not been able to let him out nearly as much as we'd hoped but he's been brilliant.  To be honest I'm worried about taking him home now as there's a large black cat that lives nearby and beats up all the other local cats including Monty.  At the moment it's nice to see him without any battle scars.

Robbie Williams was somewhere in town performing & switching on the lights but as I've never been a massive Robbie fan and as pressing a large light-switch doesn't rate high on my "oooohhhh how did they do that" scale, we opted to give it a miss and grab some food.  As most people seemed to be distracted by the whole "famous guy pressing a button" routine the restaurants were refreshingly empty.

Once the lights were on we aimed for the prom with the intention of visiting an arcade before catching a tram back along the length of the lights.  Fat chance!  The arcade part worked out well but owing to the fact that a large number of people couldn't figure out that walking on the tracks in front of several hundred tons of moving metal wasn't a great plan for longevity, the trams weren't running properly.  In fact in our direction they weren't running at all so after 25 mins we gave up and walked back down to Delores.

The lights were pretty enough but are definitely suffering from too much corporate sponsorship. The section designed by Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen was a refreshing flashback to how things used to be.  The vintage trams also looked fabulous as they made their way very slowly through the crowds.  Other than that it was mainly flashing lights advertising burger bars, tv shows and jewellers.  Not that most people bothered with the lights south of the Pleasure Beach which is a shame because a) that's where the best display was, complete with music and fountains and b) that's where they were collecting funds towards the lights to hopefully reduce the dependance on corporate sponsorship and advertising and get back to how they used to be.

Very sadly tomorrow sees us head for home so it's unlikely I'll be around - too busy sobbing into my steering wheel the whole way back - but on Sunday I plan to do the Summer Tour Awards 2010, picking out the best sites and things we've done along the way. For any motorhomers reading this I'll also be jotting down the things we've learned along the way in case you're thinking of trying something similar. But until then I bid you farewell, my steering wheel and a box of hankies await me.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Great North Fun Day 36

Big Wheel
It seems strange that a few short weeks ago we were seeking out wild camping spots in the remote parts of Glen Trool to see the stars in the most un light polluted area of the UK, and now we're in Blackpool waiting for the illuminations to start on Friday.

I haven't been to Blackpool since I was a kid and it's every bit as tacky as I remember - perhaps more so - but that's a good thing.  I'm a great believer in doing something properly so if you're going to be a tacky seaside resort then go for it. And Blackpool "goes for it" in style.  From the novelty shops selling strange and unusual shell ornaments to the multitudinous rock shops and the arcades along the Golden Mile eager to relieve you of your hard earned cash.  Blackpool is indeed major league tacky and I love it!

We spent most of today at the Pleasure Beach getting hurled around and soaked on the various rides.  What the Pleasure Beach has that none of the other major theme parks do is history.  In amongst the modern giant rides like The Big One, Valhalla and Infusion you can still find The Grand National, The Big Dipper, The Steeplechase and many other of the old wooden rides.  Some of them are real rickety old bone shakers but that's part of their charm.  Each of the older rides has a plaque describing it's history with some rides dating back to 1904.  Even the more modern classics are fun - I defy anyone who lived through the era of Jim'll Fix It to board The Revolution without thinking of boy scouts eating their packed lunch.
Blackpool beach and Tower

"The Big One" could also describe the entrance fee which at £30 per person can easily give you more of a fright than the Ghost Train, but we had a full day in there so maybe not so bad when you compare it to similarly priced theatre tickets.  The queues were refreshingly short (probably due to the entry fee) and  we didn't wait longer than 20 mins for any of the rides.  Unfortunately the real weak point is the people who work there.  Where Disneyland has permanently happy staff the Pleasure Beach has staff who have modelled themselves on the three missing Dwarves - Surly, Miserable and Stroppy.  You could see them laughing and joking amongst themselves but as soon as it came to dealing with the public the smiles vanished instantly.  One exception was the guy manning the Sky Rocket ride who actually seemed happy to be there.

Once we'd ridden everything at least once and I'd scoffed the obligatory candy floss (an absolute must for me on any trip to a funfair) we wandered down to the beach for a stroll and a paddle in the sunset.  Even though Blackpool is jammed with people the beach is big enough to provide a bit of an escape from the sheer lunacy of it all.

Tomorrow is the big switch on, Robbie Williams apparently, not that we'll be anywhere near enough to tell.  We plan to head back to the Pleasure Beach to cheer up the staff (we got 2 day passes), then hopefully up the Tower before walking along the illuminations.  It's our last full day so may as well go out with a bang!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Great North Fun Day 35

Today was a trip along memory lane, well it was for Steve with many of the days conversations starting "When I were a lad...". For me it was a lovely introduction to the area around Grange-over-Sands on the northern edge of Morcombe Bay.  Grange is an old Edwardian town refreshingly free of the usual high street names and having gorgeous views out over the bay.  It also boasts "Britains Best Butcher" and a stunning bakery. We took a lovely stroll along the prom with it's well maintained and interesting gardens down to the sadly disused outdoor swimming pool.  After that we headed over to Kents Bank and had a wonderful lunch of Huntsmans Pie (from the butcher) and fresh coleslaw (from the bakery - long story) before moving on to Alithwaite and Steve's first school.  The whole area was green and lovely with many gorgeous views down over the bay, as a girl bought up in the city I was very envious of the environment Steve had around him as a child.  Thing is I don't think you appreciate stuff like that at the time and it's only when you look back you realise how lucky you were.

Ken'ts Bank Station
After all the wonderful reminiscing it was time to head towards Blackpool with one minor detour to the Ribblehead Viaduct along the way.  I have an inexplicable interest in large bridges and tunnels and am fascinated by the stories behind them.  This one didn't dissapoint and looked stunning amongst the Penine landscape.  We don't build bridges like that anymore, these days the focus on keeping costs down means we end up with endless ugly concrete constructions.  Imagine how architecture of the past would have suffered if they'd had the same mentality back then. "Don't bother faffing with the ceiling Michelangelo, a pot of emulsion will be quicker and cheaper."

Inside White Scar Caves
On the way back from Ribblehead we passed the White Scar Caves so nipped in to take a look.  An 80 minute tour cost £7.95 and although interesting and very 'cavey' was not that spectacular - but the guides were happy to answer all the questions we had.  Mine centred on the construction of the walkways through the caves which must have been a real challenge to build. Hmmmm...maybe I was Brunel in a previous life?

All done with Yorkshire we headed out of the countryside and into Blackpool. Today's CL has apparently won awards from the CC. The site is absolutely immaculate, has pristine toilets and a shower and the owners are incredibly friendly and helpful.  Whilst I can't really fault the site I much prefer something a little more quirky and isolated.  To be honest the site is so immaculate I'm almost scared to step outside Delores in case I mess anything up.  I'm also surprised that the site has regularly been described as "peaceful and tranquil" when it's next to Blackpool Airport and within barking distance of a kennels.  Maybe after so many weeks away from big towns I just need a period of readjustment.

Over the next few days we'll change pace completely and immerse ourselves in the tacky tourist culture of the Vegas of the North.  The big question is whether I'll brave The Big One.  I may just settle for a candy floss and a ride on the Ghost Train instead!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Great North Fund Days 32 - 34

Lovely Windermere

Here I sit enjoying a well earned rest in the sunshine at a “peaceful and relaxing” CC site.  I say “peaceful and relaxing” because one of the hazards of these green and lovely sites is that in order to keep them looking green and lovely something always needs to be mowed, chopped or strimmed.  I’m not complaining at all – the wardens all do a fantastic job keeping the sites looking so good – but it does mean an afternoon snooze is rather out of the question.

We’re finally back in the world of electricity so, assuming I manage to keep hold of a mobile signal, I’ll be back to doing these daily for the final few days.  Good job too as I get really confused working out the dates and day numbers.  Before we headed off into our muddy field, sans electricity, we charged everything up but tried not to use it to much in case we needed it in an emergency.  Five days later we find ourselves having had no emergencies and still with fully charged laptops and mobiles.  Shame on the family for not making use of our practical forward thinking by encountering some sort of urgent eventuality, but there we are, no consideration at all some folks.
Stickle Tarn

Having been beaten to a soggy pulp by the rain on Saturday the sun put in a very welcome appearance on Sunday so we headed back to the hills, but only the small ones this time.  Taking a break from driving we bought “all day rover” tickets for the buses and headed initially for Dungeon Ghyll.  Our plan was to take a poke around there for a while, then head to Windermere before finishing the day off in Coniston.  This all went wrong almost immediately when we got to Dungeon Ghyll and decided to climb up to Stickle Tarn.  Half way up we faced a decision – continue enjoying the climb in the glorious sunshine all the way up to the tarn but miss the bus back to Windermere, or scamper back down in time to catch the bus to a predictable touristy town crammed with tourists.  Hmmmm... tough call...  An hour or so later up at the beautiful if rather windy tarn we were quite happy with the decision as we watched the bus lurch back along the valley floor.  I don’t think there’s a bad view to be had in the Lake District and this one certainly didn’t let the side down, huge looming crags over the striking blue of the tarn.  Even the gale force wind helped by whipping up pleasing little white topped waves to add to the spectacle.

Coniston Water
We made it back down to the valley in time to get over to Coniston, a slightly bigger bus this time with a completely lunatic driver, I know you need to be assertive when driving a bus along these lanes but I’m very glad I didn’t meet this guy coming in the opposite direction.  After we screeched to a halt in Coniston we disembarked and made our way slowly through the tyre smoke to the lake front.  If you ever visit Coniston by bus allow plenty of time to get to the Lake – it’s about a 10 minute walk from the bus stop.  I was beginning to doubt its existence but the sudden appearance of outdoor goods shops and the “Bluebird Cafe” reassured me the lake was nearby.  The lake and the town of Coniston are steeped in history – Swallows and Amazons, John Ruskin, Donald Campbell – and there were a few little nooks and crannies where you could find more information about all of them.  I found it puzzling that the tourist tat shops and tea rooms were crammed but the little corners of the town set aside to explain some of its varied and interesting history were deserted.  I wonder how many of the tourists were aware of what had happened here in the past, or even cared.

Back in our now slightly less muddy field we made our plans for Monday – the big assault on Scafell Pike.  Our legs were feeling much better and the blisters were doing well.  Being in Delores we didn’t think the haul up to Wasdale Head was a great plan, it would have been around a 90 minute journey and not something I’d have enjoyed doing after a long days hiking.  Instead we opted to drive to Seatoller, cycle to Sathwaite and walk up via Stockley Bridge.  Whatever the plan an early night was in order.

Busy on top of Scafell Pike
On the drive over to Seatoller we followed a double-decker tourist bus which helped clear the traffic for us which was, as Steve put it, rather like having a Sherman Tank on point.  We got to Seatoller around 9:45am with only one minor mishap, we missed the signpost for the National Trust car park and very nearly ended up on the Honister Pass.  Luckily there was somewhere to turn around and the kindly bus driver pointed out the car park for us.  As it was a beautiful sunny bank holiday Monday there were plenty of people around and everyone seemed in a good mood as we headed up the mountain.  Many of the routes up Scafell Pike are pretty but the mountain top itself is quite brutal, a huge pile of jagged rocks which made me wonder where the actual mountain itself was and how they accurately measured the heights of things that seemed to be no more than a pile of scree.  The top was like Piccadilly Circus but at least everyone had made it up there safely. I would say that all we needed to do now was to get down, but once we get up into the mountains we like to stay there, so as well as visiting all the peaks along the ridge to Scafell Pike we also nipped over to Esk Pike, Bow Fell and Allen Crags before dropping back down.  I definitely want to return to climb up the Great Gable though, a wonderfully imposing mountain and fabulous to look at.

View from the top of Scafell Pike
Back at the campsite it was all I could do to hurl a pie in the oven as we sat drowsily supping the small bottle of celebratory champagne I’d bought.  I actually planned to drink it at the summit but once I was there I decided I’d like all my wits about me for the route down.  As it was I still fell over a couple of times and have some very pretty bruises to show for it.

Today we tried to have a lie in but the man in charge of mowing the grass had other ideas and was roaring around the field by 9am.  We thought we might as well get up and head for the CC site and some peace and quiet only to find when we got here that there was a man mowing the lawns here too.  I guess with the great British weather you have to take advantage of any sunny days you can to keep on top of the gardening.  While I’m on the subject of arriving at CC sites, are we the only people who are completely unable to make up their minds where to park up?  Even if it’s only for one night we circle the site a few times weighing up the available pitches before picking one and then debating whether or not it was the best choice.  We’ve also found we exert a strange magnetic attraction, especially when we’ve particularly sought out a distant and quiet pitch away from everyone else.  Invariably within 30 minutes someone will have parked right next to us, despite there being 20 or so other available pitches on the site.  We’re not antisocial we just like to be away from everyone else.  OK, maybe we are antisocial, but my job means I have to be very sociable so it’s nice when I’m away not to have to make small talk.

Another view from the summit.
I’ve also noticed what a sexist group caravanners are.  Invariably the man does the driving and the reversing onto the pitch while the women either stand around and chat or simply look on until it’s all ready for her to hop on and start cooking or cleaning.  Just now a man struggling with his van came to the van next to us and asked the woman sitting outside if her husband was around as he needed help levelling his van and was short of a tool.  How insulting?  Good job he didn’t try asking me as he may have received a rather curt reply.  I love driving Delores and am familiar with all the tools on board and their various functions and would find it deeply insulting if someone asked me where my husband was like that.  I’m chuckling though because I know the various members of my family reading this will be laughing and would tell the poor guy what a lucky escape he had – my stubbornness and acidic reaction to any form of sexism are well known...

And that pile of random ramblings just about brings us up to date.  We’re spending the rest of today relaxing and recovering from yesterday.  We’re staying near Grange-Over-Sands which is where Steve grew up so I’m looking forward to him showing me around the area tomorrow before we head down to Blackpool for our final three nights.  Can’t believe we’ll be home at the weekend, but I’ not going to worry about it.  Instead I plan to put my feet up, pour another drink and enjoy the rest of this long hot sunny afternoon.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Great North Fun Days 29 - 31

Pinned down by the weather for several days now.   All we can hear is a howling gale outside and rain lashing down.  “I’m just stepping outside” I said. “I may be some time.”  I retuned 45 minutes later laden down with croissant and fresh bread rolls this was, afterall, Ambleside and not the Antarctic.  But the weather has been pretty bad...

Striding Edge
We’re now firmly ensconced at the Ambleside Aire, a muddy field very central to Ambleside but in much need of some gravel or hardstanding to drive around in the field at the back.  The owner is lovely and the location and price are good, but the combination of British Bank Holiday weather, a large field and 20 or so motorhomes was never going to end well.  We’ve watched several MH’s get stuck already but there’s always someone on hand to help out, even if it is a small child on an impossibly small bike.

Yesterday we decided that if we’re going to ‘do’ the Lake District then we may as well ‘do’ it properly, so at the crack of dawn (well, maybe a little nearer to 9:30am) we set off for Glenridding and a hike up Helvellyn.  And we didn’t go the easy way either, oh no, we took the hard route via Striding Edge and just for good measure nipped along Swirral Edge to Catstye Cam while we were up there.  Then a long, long, looooong descent via Dollywaggon Pike and Grisedale Tarn before a nice long stroll along Grisedale Beck and back to Delores.  A grand total of 6 peaks and well over 15 miles of yomping, none of it flat.  We didn’t rush and were out there for over 9 hours, but it was worth it.  The views down over Ullswater were amazing, the rock climbing was fun and all that exercise meant I could scoff fish and chips in the evening with complete impunity.
Summit of Helvellyn

We’re not experts in the mountains but took plenty of sensible precautions which is more than I can say for many of the people we saw up there.  Luckily the weather was good, but there really is no excuse for tackling a peak like Helvellyn in flip flops (as we saw someone wearing).  If Mountain Rescue ever has to be called out for idiots like that I hope they send them a very large bill.  Mind you we saw plenty at the other end of the scale too, with some people well equipped enough to winter in the Antarctic.

Today we have spent the day nursing our aching muscles with a few gentle strolls around town in between rainshowers.  The Ambleside crowd is a curious one, a mix of proper mountain types, weekend walkers such as ourselves and confirmed townies with suspiciously clean walking boots hoping some of this outdoors stuff will rub off on them before they hop back into their 4x4 and return to the city.
The end of a long day.

The rain seems to have finally stopped now and the forecast is good for the next few days which is good news as we aim to tackle Scafell Pike on Monday.  We’ll give ourselves plenty of time again and take all the usual precautions plus a few more painkillers.  This evening we’ve discovered a marvellous sparkling wine & fresh strawberry drink which I’m sure will help our sore muscles no end but probably means I’d better end today’s blog here before I say anything I regret.  But you are all my beshtish friendssshhh in the whole world ever...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Great North Fun Days 26-28

In the past few days we've spent some wonderful time with family, driven along some improbably narrow roads, got soaked to the skin and arrived at a campsite the approach to which makes landing at the old Kytak Airport look simple.

We've spent the past couple of nights in a real bed in a huge house.  At least I think it's a huge house, it could just be that everywhere looks huge after several weeks living in a motorhome. However large it was it was lovely and, even better, it was full of family we don't see very often so it was great to catch up. While we were all together we headed down to Buttermere - a lovely place but not somewhere for the feint hearted MH driver.  It's not so much the narrow country lanes with overhanging rock faces that are the main challenge, it's mostly the other drivers out there, many of whom have little or no patience or understanding.  There were several occasions that made me wish I could convert the overcab bed to a gun turret. Even if it did't actually work I'm sure a motorhome/ Sherman tank hybrid would instill a little discipline on the roads and maybe improve people's manners.

Derwent Water from Catbells
If I thought the roads to Buttermere were fun they were simply the warm up for the approach to the CC site we're now on near Keswick.  Heaven knows how twin axle caravans make it down here.  A tight right hand bend into Grange and immediately over a narrow stone double hump bridge before squeezing along the road through the village lanes past badly parked tourists cars.  (I'm telling you - the Elddis Panzer would restore a little order.). Then a few more winding lanes before dropping down into a fabulous little woodland site.  No loo block but plenty of peaceful pitches.

After lunch we decided to walk around the lake but we got distracted half way round by Catbells fell so we climbed that instead. Not a big peak but in a perfect spot for panoramic views of Derwent, Keswick and the surrounding valleys.  We're hoping to tackle something rather more challenging when we're in Ambleside so this was a nice warm up.

Home for a cold beer - which always tastes so much better when it's been earned - and an evening spent making plans for the weekend.  We're off the infamous Ambleside Aire tomorrow which we're planning to use as a base for the bank holiday weekend.  Not sure I fancy tackling the traffic around Windermere over August bank holiday - at least not until I've got my rear gunner...

I don't know if I'll be able to update each day as we'll have no electric to recharge the batteries but if I can I will and I've no real idea how many people are following my mad ramblings but it's been a lovely way for us to keep track of what we've been doing.  Can't believe it's only just over a week till we head home - still, loads to do before then and probably much of it in the rain!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 25

Trust me, it's a shower.

I know, I know, I'm a little late with this one, but when you're in the wilds of the Lake District you're relying on the outcome of the battle between the mobile networks and the mountains, and the mountains usually win.

We left the lovely CL near Gretna today and it's a place I can't recommend highly enough.  The site was lovely, there was a shower and a loo and the owners were lovely.  The farm kept sheep and sold various cuts of lamb and mutton (apologies to any vegetarians reading this) and would happily provide any veg they had to go with it.  I bought a couple of huge leg steaks and was provided with a good selection of freshly dug or picked veg and all for an astoundingly cheap price.  We have farm shops back in Hampshire but with all their overheads and their captive 4x4 mums audience the prices tend to be astronomic.  So much nicer and fresher direct from the farmers wife - even if I did feel a little guilty as we drove past their field of sheep on the way out.

Ullswater from the diesel "steamer"
We headed straight for the CC site next to Ullswater, bagged a decent spot then headed for the lake.  Amazingly it's my first proper visit to the Lake District and as the weather was taking a brief lull from it's autumnal schedule I decided I wanted to make the most of it and head out on a boat. We got ourselves tickets for the Ullswater Steamer and 10 minutes later boarded a diesel powered boat - where are the trade descriptions lot when you need them?  We happily chugged up and down the lake for a couple of hours and even spotted a couple of houses we fancied buying one day if we maybe win the lottery. Twice.  The scenery was dramatic with Hellvelyn looming large over the head of the lake.  Once back ashore I took out a small mortgage to buy a loaf of bread and some milk before we headed off for Aira Falls.

The Aira Falls pay & display carpark was free for National Trust members - hallelujah!  That's another 70p saved thanks to our annual membership fee...  As the NT hadn't splashed out on too many signs we ended up on the wrong side of the river for High Force so Steve deftly & elegantly leapt across 3 boulders to the other side.  As  I have the sense of balance of your average Glaswegian after a night on the lash I rolled up my trousers and paddled across.  In the 20 mins it took me to slither and swear my way to the other side several families with young children had followed Steve's lead and were all now mocking me from the far bank.  Eventually we made it up to High Force for the obligatory photo of more gallons of water hurling themselves selflessly down a rockface for the amusement of tourists.
The bottom of Aria Falls.  Spot the penguin?

Returning to the campsite I set about cooking up the lamb and veg I bought earlier.  Luckily the stuff was so good that it gallantly rose above my attempts at incineration and turned our pleasingly eadible - which is more than can be said for the gravy which was so weak it couldn't even make it out of the pan.

Well I won't be around for a few days now as we're taking a break to immerse ourselves in family stuff.  All being well I'll be back on Thursday in Ambleside churning our more meaningless witterings from our travels.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 24

Today we visited an extraordinary thing. A cathedral that actually felt like a place of worship rather than a tourist attraction.  To be honest I really wasn't keen about heading into Carlisle, especially on a busy Saturday, and we very nearly gave up on a couple of occasions, but we found good parking for Delores in the first car park we tried so we thought we'd give the city a go.

Hadrian's Wall.  Well, a bit of it.
First off we headed for the castle.  Ever since we joined the National Trust so we could save money and get in to see lots of new places, all the new places have been owned by English Heritage.  Carlisle Castle was one such place and at £4.80 each to get in we thought we'd give it a miss.  Leaving the castle we went through a really interesting underpass - not a phrase I use often but this underpass led to the museum and was full of interesting things from the history of the area.  It also didn't stink of pee, another rarity in the underpass world.

After a quick visit to the Tuille House Museum/ art gallery we found ourselves a proper northern tea room for a rest and a bite to eat.  Steve was thrilled to find they served proper rhubarb crumble in a proper bowl with lots of proper custard.  Those of you who know my husband will know how important good custard is to him.  Rested and replete we set off for the cathedral.

Not only was there no entry fee, or list of rules concerning the taking of photographs, but when we entered we were greeted by a lovely and very helpful lady who gave us a leaflet about the cathedral and told us if we had any questions to ask one of the assistants who were around and about.  Well we didn't have to ask, the assistants popped up regularly explaining different aspects of the history of the place and very patiently answering any additional questions we had.  I'm afraid I have pretty strong views about places of worship turning into commercial ventures so it was very refreshing to find a place that still realised what it's main purpose of existence was.

A bit more of Hadrian's Wall
Leaving Carlisle behind we headed off to check out the western end of Hadrian's Wall noting that the whole thing appeared to be owned by the National Trust, so we set off with our National Trust Sticker in the windscreen ready to take full advantage of our free carparking only to find that Northumberland National Parks own the car parks and it was £3 a day. All for a good cause I suppose.  We stopped at Walltown Crags for an easy stroll around and promptly got lost and ended up scaling one of the lesser crags to get back to the footpath.  Well I say footpath, I'm not convinced that any of it's previous users had anything other than 4 legs and a big fleecy coat.  It's quite remarkable how much of the wall is left here - it's a good 10 feet high in places - I can't imagine there's much being built today that will survive as long.

We finally made it back to Delores and the campsite.  The site is really quirky and friendly and even has a shower and a loo.  There's lots of interesting things in the surrounding fields to explore including a 40 foot high solar powered shower and washing machine.  We never actually made it into Gretna Green, once we read the leaflet for the Blacksmiths and realised it had sold it's soul years ago we thought we'd give it a miss.  Tomorrow we're heading down into the Lake District for plenty of walking but probably not so much cycling - those hills are looking pretty steep to me!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 23

Rockcliffe - a beach made entirely of shells.

When we woke this morning we discovered that not only had the view gone but most of the sea had gone too.  We were enveloped in a thick sea mist and the gale was still howling all around us.  Rather than do battle with it all we reluctantly opted for a lazy morning and a very late start, practically having to force fresh bacon rolls down our throats while we waited for the storm to blow itself out. It's a tough job but somebody needed to do it.  Even Monty looked a little miffed by it all, peering forlornly out the window yet only able to see some strange white thing.  I'm sure somewhere deep in his feline brain he blamed us for it, as if we'd somehow transported Delores in the night without him noticing.

As we were filling and emptying the various water tanks on Delores a caravan nearby lost it's awning in the wind.  Well, nearly lost it.  It unpegged itself and was flapping and banging around over the roof of the van.  It took 7 grown adults and one small child to catch it and dismantle it.  I was worried that if the wind gusted too strongly it might pick up the small child and deposit him in Oz with nothing but his ruby red trainers to get him home again.

And I mean *entirely* shells.
Around lunchtime we finally set off with me managing to catch a few last glimpses of our stunning surroundings as we bumped along the track out of the site.  The New England Bay CC site is definitely top site so far - right on the beach, amazing views and lovely wardens.  Even the showers were great although I'm convinced they were installed by giants as the shower head was a good 7 feet high.

After a brief but very soggy stop for lunch the weather finally abated as we arrived at Rockcliffe.  In glorious sunshine we headed for the beach. Still remembering my lessons learned at High Force I took my waterproof just in case the weather realised it had foolishly slipped into summer mode and decided to make amends with another deluge.  Rockcliffe is another stunning bay on the southwest coast of Scotland a few miles south of Dumfries. The main bay is pretty enough but if you're ever there find and follow the little footpath to the beach near Rough Island.  There you will find gorgeous beaches made entirely from shells - spectacular to look at though a little sharp on the bum to sit on.  We wandered around for a while before walking along the causeway to Rough Island which is not, as you may think from the name, a dodgy council estate full of yobs wearing hoodies, but is in fact a green and pretty bird sanctuary about 500m off the coast.

Lots and lots of shells...
Returning to the main beach we sat, along with several others, watching the tide come in the same way we had at Lindisfarne. What is it about tidal islands that makes us want to see them cut off again as if we thought Mother Nature might pull a fast one if we weren't looking and forget to bring the tide in.  At least it had been fabulous sunshine all afternoon but now it was time to go in search of our campsite.

Along the way we stopped off to take in some more amazing views as well as stopping briefly at Sweetheart Abbey just as the sun was starting to set.  The reds of the brickwork against the emerald green of the grass was beautiful.  The odd story behind the name of the abbey concerns the Lady behind the building of it who, when her husband died, had his heart cut out and kept it in a jar with her at all times.  When she herself died she was buried in the abbey next to her husband holding the jar with his heart.  I guess "dotty old dear carrying around bits of her dead husband in a jar" abbey wouldn't have quite the same ring to it.

We finally found our CL tucked away about 10 miles east of Gretna. We've a couple of nights here before heading down to the Lake District so I'm sure we'll squeeze in a visit to the old Blacksmiths if we can still find it under all the tourist stuff.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 22

Well that's it, the view has gone.  No we haven't left the site but as I write this the rain is thundering down on the roof again and Delores is rocking gently in the wind.  Ahhhh, the sweet sounds of summer.  And they forcast clear skies tonight. Maybe there are somewhere, just not here.
Mull of Galloway. A long way on a bike.

It's not been like this all day though.  The rest of the day has been sunny, warm and blustery which made for a lovely bike ride down to the Mull of Galloway around 8 miles away.  We'd been warned it was a bit hilly but the first part along the coast was relatively flat and there were plenty of places to stop and admire the views.  Then we got to Drummore, "the most southerly town in Scotland" with each shop cashing in on the claim; "The first and last post office in Scotland" being situated directly opposite "The most southerly store in Scotland". You get the idea.  On leaving Drummore there's a one and a half mile climb (quite probably up the most southerly hill in Scotland) before things ease up for a very pleasant ride down to the mull.  On top of the mull is an old lighthouse which is only open a few days a week, none of those being today, but the RSPB visitors centre is interesting and has loads of info about what to look out for.
Pic from under the Foghorn

We had a very nice packed lunch on the cliff tops watching the seabirds swooping and diving and we even saw a grey seal catching it's fishy lunch.  Still quite tired from the ride over we decided to treat ourselves to tea and cakes in the cafe.  We both went for the cream scones, obviously a popular item as they only had three left. They were delicious and after devouring ours we thought we'd cheekily have the last one and share it between us only to discover we'd been beaten to it by a couple of pesky pensioners who thought ours had looked "lovely and squishy".  Haaarrruummmpppphhh!!  Had they pedalled their legs off to get there? I think not.  And don't give me any of that "I fought in the war" nonsense - this is a grade A cream cake we're talking about here and only achievements on the day in question count.  Thwarted we decided to head back, a journey that was very pleasantly downhill the whole way.

The weather started to close in pretty much as soon as we got back so we had a nice hot shower and settled down for an evening of reading and games. Tomorrow we begin our journey south and hopefully back into better weather.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 21

Port Logan.

Don't flush cotton buds down the loo.  That's what I learned today on our RSPB beachcomber walk and litter pick. First of all when they get to the sea the gulls pick them up and feed them to their young and secondly the stick part washes up on remote Scottish beaches.  We picked up dozens of them this morning on the litter pick.

I'm also going to need someone to send me a thesaurus as I'm rapidly running out of superlatives to describe this place.  We spent the morning on the RSPB walk to learn more about the local birds.  It was really interesting even though they didn't  talk much about birds - more about seaweed and shells which although interesting, rarely fly.

After a quick spot of lunch on the beach we pedaled over to Port Logan where they apparently filmed "2000 acres of sky".  Having never seen it I googled it and found out it was a BBC drama about the Isle of Skye although it wasn't filmed there.  Port Logan itself is an incredibly tiny but pretty little fishing village and it's easy to understand why a film crew was drawn to it.  Thank goodness it wasn't a massive international hit else the place may have been spoiled.

"I want that one"
This evening the campsite had a visit from the local fishman so it was freshly caught plaice for dinner, at least I'm assuming it was freshly caught, to a born and bred townie such as myself it could have come straight from the Findus factory and I'd never know. It was delicious, although it's enormous size made me wonder if it had been caught down the coast at Sellafield or whatever it's called these days.  Either way the two heads will come in handy for making fish stock.

Later in the evening we took advantage of the clear skies to do a bit of star spotting.  We may not be in the darkest darkness of Glen Trool but once down on the beach the number of stars was breathtaking.  Funny how looking at billions of stars can make you feel utterly insignificant.

Tomorrow we plan to cycle down to the Mull of Galloway although we have been warned it's a bit hilly.  After our escapades in Yorkshire I'm sure we'll be fine.  I feel confident that I'm fit enough to push my bike up any hill.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 20

Well that's it, I'm never leaving here.  I've found the place I want to be and I'm not coming home again. Sorry to Gillian and Kate if you're reading this but that's just the way it is.  Yes we baled out of Glen Trool but not without good reason, the main one of course being the midges. The problem is I've always over reacted to midge bites.  Not in an "aaarrrggghhhhh I've got a midge bite, someone dial 999 immediately" kind of a way but in a "my body can't be bothered to fight the poison, each bite swells up like a ping pong ball" kind of a way.  I can also verify that they are a genuine pain the backside and I can say that because one of them has bitten me there.  No idea how, but it's a tricky on to scratch in public.
Luce Bay. I may never leave.

The second reason we baled out was the weather, neither of us mind a bit of rain but we'd come here to appreciate the clear night skies with no light pollution.  Pretty tough to do through thick cloud.  So we decided to head for a remote part of the coast instead, but not before we'd taken a 6 mile yomp (uphill of course) to see one of Bruce's many stones.  This one was at the top of Loch Trool and the views were undeniably stunning.

And so to this glorious location.  We're on the CC New England Bay site which is pretty much on the beach 14 miles south of Stranraer. If you look for us on a map we're on the side of the peninsula that affords stunning views across to Glen Trool (still cloudy there, or maybe that's just swarms of midges), the Lake District and the Isle of Man - though I'm sure the views from the other side are non too shabby either, but we'll check them out later in the week just to be sure.  I've always had a magnetic attraction to the sea so maybe life on a narrow peninsula was always on the cards.

All we've managed to do so far is take a stroll along the beach and wolf down some fish and chips from a big red van that called into the site. The fish was gorgeous and actually tasted like it had been in the sea in the not too distant past.

We're planning to stay put here for 3 nights now to recharge our batteries and explore a little. I've already warned Steve that there'll be deep nail marks in the tarmac when the time comes to drag me away from here, but for now I'm just going to enjoy the amazing views.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 19

Do I look like dinner to you? Apparently I do to 50,000 midges.

Breakfast outdoors in Moffat was a lovely and relatively midge free experience.  We packed up and headed for the hills - quite literally.  Our aim was to find a suitable wildcamping spot near Glen Trool but to stop along the way and take in some sights.  If you want to 'take in some sights' in Scotland be prepared to walk uphill.  In a cunning move no doubt driven by a desire to keep them out of the way of the English the Scots have put all their good stuff high up and well out of harms way.  We stopped near Loch Ken for lunch and walked up to admire a couple of viewpoints before tackling the 'Raiders Road Forest Drive' - a toll road between the A762 and A712 just south of New Galloway.  It was a wonderful if somewhat bumpy drive with my pedometer racking up over 1000 steps without me leaving the driving seat - a quick and painfree way to fitness.

Delores tucked away.
Next stop was Murray's monument which was again at the top of a hill albeit a relatively small one.  Still not quite sure who Murray was but someone called James Stewart liked him enough to build him a huge monument on the top of a very pretty hill.

And so to Glen Trool.  We'd done our homework and had an idea of a couple of wild spots to try.  We eventually found a lovely little hideaway almost completely hidden from the tiny road next to it.  Comletely hidden from humans that is, every midge within a 10 mile radius seemed to know exactly where we were. Not that we wanted to go outside as the rain was thundering down again.  So I whipped up our romantic anniversary dinner to the sound of rain drumming on the roof and Steve cursing and swotting any midge that dared breach our defences.

We all gave up and had an early night, though I can't help feeling the midges will be munching on me till the early hours. Let's hope tomorrow brings better weather.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 18

Bit of a late start this morning. We got up early enough but by the time we'd queued for the showers and faffed around getting Delores ready for a few nights away from the main sites it was midday before we left Berwick. Our aim was to make it to a CL near Moffat before heading into the wilds of Dumfries & Galloway.

Loch Skeen
We initially headed north on thr A1 and straight into Scotland past a huge sign with a Scottish Flag welcoming us to Scotland. There was no big sign and flag going the other way - it seems our lack of national pride begins at the borders. After that we followed some lesser A roads through Dun and Galasheils before picking up the A708 to Moffat. Although the road is not the easiest to drive in a motorhome it is well worth the effort. The views start off as stunning and improve the whole way along. We had lunch and a stone skimming contest on the banks of St Mary's Loch (Steve won) before pulling up at Grey Mare's Falls for a bit of a walk.  Now when I say a 'bit of a walk' I mean a 1 hour vertical hike to Loch Skeen at the top, and this time instead of the rain beating down we were sweltering in hot sun. (10/10 to Scotland for fixing the weather!). The hard work was definitely worth it though as the views at the top were breathtaking (not that I had a lot of breath left to take at that point!). A gorgeous loch tucked high up in the hills with dramatic mountain tops behind.

Delores in the valley far below.
Once back at the van I was very keen to get to the site for a well earned cold beer or two.  The CL is about 3 miles outside Moffat in gorgeous countryside. My plan was to cool down outside next to the stream with a cold beer. Truly idyllic apart from one thing, or rather several million things. Midges. Do they only exist north of the border? The wee tartan terrors drove us back inside so that on the first truly warm and gorgeous evening we've had so far on this trip we were still stuck inside Delores, held captive by tiny insects.

The midges however held no fear for the intrepid Monty. So far this trip he has encountered his first sheep (not at all sure what to make of them) and his first big sandy beach which must have seemed to him like the world's biggest cat litter tray. Last night he was on his first farm and had a lot of fun checking out all the new smells around the farm yard. He was off his lead but never likes to be out of sight of us so he doesn't wander far and returns to Delores like an exorcet missile at the first sign of trouble.

Tomorrow is our 7th wedding anniversary and our first attempt at wildcamping.  At the moment we have no plans in place at all and aim to sort out a route over breakfast outdoors - but that all rather depends on what time the midges get up.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 17

Precariously Perched.

Today was brilliant sunshine all day.  Well it was on Lindisfarne, pity we were in Berwick.  At least it wasn't raining.  We spent today on the edge of a weather system and could see the edge of the clouds and the lovely sun all day about a mile or so out to sea. All we needed now was a boat...

I'd always fancied visiting Berwick and wandering around the old fort walls and today I got my wish.  We arrived at the campsite just after lunch - our last proper site and electricity for a week.  We nabbed a gorgeous spot overlooking the sea and town and headed off to explore.  First stop was for some excellent chips - we haven't had nearly enough of those on this holiday!  Then off around the fort walls.  Berwick has done an excellent job providing lots of information all the way around.  There's also lots of info about Lowry who apparently spent a lot of time here with Berwick providing the inspiration for many of his pictures.

Berwick upon Tweed
During our wanderings we spotted a poster advertising Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Company who were to perform 'A Comedy of Errors' in the shadow of the Elizabethan ramparts later that evening.  I've always wanted to watch outdoor theatre so we sorted out tickets and cobbled together a quick picnic in Safeway.  Not exactly a Fortnums Hamper, but a pack of picnic eggs, some Kettle Chips and a can of G&T and I was happy.

We were the first to arrive and nabbed a lovely bench under a tree and watched everyone else arrive.  Most had come very well prepared with huge hampers and comfy chairs.  So comfy in fact we were half expecting to spot someone wheeling in a sofa.  The performance was excellent - really funny and well acted and directed.  Another lovely end to another lovely day.

Tomorrow we head off into Scotland to try our hand at wildcamping for a few nights - or until we realise we're from Hampshire and not the Wild West and can no longer manage without electricity, so if I'm not around much over the next couple of days you'll know why.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 16

Lindisfarne Castle

As the saying goes "Tide and Time wait for no man".  Well today the tide was covering the Lindisfarne causeway and the time was 8am.  Not a time we're used to getting up on this trip but the causeway opened at 10am and we wanted to be there to make the most of the whole day on the island.  As we crossed and splashed through the remains of the retreating sea I made a strong mental note to leave plenty of time for the return journey, I've a healthy respect for Mother Nature and in a Tide -v- Delores battle I know who'd win.

First stop was the castle which I can strongly recommend and, as newly joined up members of the National Trust, it was free for us.  Each room had been well laid out and there were laminated sheets and National Trust staff around if you had any additional questions.  The even had a couple of different levels of treasure hunt style puzzles for the kids.

A rather camp Knight of Old...
After that it was off to The Priory and I have to say not such good value at all.  Due to there being a 'special event' which we had no interest in the entrance fee was higher - £11 for 2 adults. (English Heritage own the priory).  Once inside there were a number of display boards explaining a bit about the history of the place but that was it.  My advice would be to read up on the history before you go and not pay to go in.  Instead take the path to the right of the church next to the priory, this will lead you up onto a bank behind it and give you all the views you need.

After a spot of lunch we explored the island a little more and were already becoming mindful of the now incoming tide.  For every tourist there is of course the trip to sample some of the 'world famous' Lindisfarne mead.  Ever since Jesus turned water into wine there has been a close link between Christianity and alcohol with monks seemingly capable of fermenting just about anything. No wonder they all had so many visions.  Still it's left a useful legacy as all the wine is now being turned into profit.

The Causeway
We left the island in plenty of time and parked up somewhere very safe to watch the tide come in - definitely worth doing.  Nothing happened for an hour or so after the causeway has technically closed but then the tide suddenly arrived and covered it at a truly amazing speed.  You couldn't stand near the water for more than a few seconds before it was over your feet again.

Happily reassured that Lindisfarne was once again an island and now safe from marauding tourists for the next 6 hours we headed for the campsite.  This time a very nice CL just up the road from the CCC site. This place is cheaper, still has showers and loos but has the added advantage of EHU.  If you're in the area I'd certainly recommend staying here rather than at the main site.

As we were soaked to the skin we popped the heating on, made a couple of coffees with large doses of Irish cream liquer and curled up to watch some silly comedy on TV. Have to say that apart from the torrential rain, it's a day I'd struggle to find fault with.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 15

Today I got asked if I was an OAP.  Admittedly it was by an 8 year old child but still, it made me think that perhaps this trip isn't doing me as much good as I thought it was!  I felt a bit like an OAP though after cycling uphill into a headwind for an hour or so.

First stop today was Seahouses to catch a boat to the Farne Islands. The trip we wanted wasn't running due to bad weather (it is still August isn't it?) so we went to Inner Farne instead.  Along the way we were lucky enough to see Puffins, Seals and a whole variety of other sea birds.  I know people take motor homes on tours all over the world but I doubt there are many views to beat standing on Inner Farne on a blustery sunny day and looking back over towards Bamburgh castle. Spectacular.

After that we carried on up past Bamburgh on the bikes to get some more stunning pics before heading home.  This time down hill and with the wind behind us we made it in half the time, we were so fast in fact it got me wondering if you could fit a flux capacitor to a bike...  We then enjoyed our first blue bucket BBQ of the trip before a quick evening paddle and Steve beating me at TopTrumps again. Curses!

Excuse the short entry today but we still have no electric so I've no way to recharge my phone. Tomorrow night sees us back in the modern world so things should return to normal.  We're also hoping to get across to Lindisfarne tomorrow, but there's a gale brewing so we'll have to wait and see.
Bamburgh Castle