Post Covid Lockdown

So… let’s take a step back… after being unceremoniously dumped due to Covid19 we eventually managed to get Ruby out on 2nd June, gave her a big hug, then took her for a spin in the countryside..wahey ..!

Local

Still not able to stay out overnight due to restrictions we parked on the Common alongside the A38 near Bristol Airport. We opened everything up, aired all the bits and checked her out whilst enjoying a sneaky picnic. Then back off into the prison for Ruby for another while as we returned to our own Lockdown.

On 9th June we hit the road for a couple of day visits though spent the nights at home. Visited the Cotswold Country Park for the excitement of trying our new Cadac bbq.. lovely gas set-up which plugs directly into Ruby’s system. BBQ was great, Cotswold Country Park was far from it. Overgrown, untidy, expensive and dull (maybe we can blame Covid19 for this if we are being generous!).

This was followed by a picnic on the Quantock Hills near Bridgwater. Now this was a bit of a test for the inexperienced Ruby. Very tight roads, overhanging trees, steep hills, horses, cattle, sheep….gawd…. what a task. It was real fun and all went well despite oncoming vans making small roads ‘challenging’.

I took the bold decision to make an even more difficult excursion over very rough ground, up a hill to get a view across to Wales to eat our caviar canapés..! That’s when we had to push the wild ponies away from using Ruby as a scratching post…! This trip proved to be a good test of man and machine and we seemed to get on well…

Gloucestershire

Our next trip during an improving Covid picture was a terrific two nights (July 23/24th) in a pub car park.. not as exciting as you think as, of course, the pub was closed. It was amazing though. We thought it would be ideal to try visit overnight at The Farmers Arms pub, right next door to Michelle’s Mum and Dads place. Means we can stay isolated but spent a couple of separate days with them. So…we messaged the pub a week earlier saying ‘is there any chance we could stay overnight in the car park, we will be good and we are happy to pay’. 

Well, the proprietor Robert replies ‘of course, no problem, there is a water supply at the side of the pub and there is electric you can plug into..AND you don’t have to pay anything’. Wow. Amazing. How brilliant. 

Anyway being a Yorkshireman I messaged back saying ‘Can we stay two nights then!’  Ha…He says ‘of course, no problem, it will be a pleasure..’(we did actually leave some £ when we left…)

We spent a really good and beneficial couple of nights there. Caught up with Mum and Dad and cheered them up 🙃🙃. And had a super camping trip with views across the fields of Gloucestershire, the most incredible starlit nights warm enough to sit outside till midnight and an additional joy of chickens, ducks and goats giving us an early morning call.(Cock a bleeding doo.!! ). We really enjoyed this ‘site’ and are most grateful for Robert’s hospitality and generosity.

Malvern

Always keen to stay on the road when we can…we decided to pop straight along to the Malvern Hills the next day and walked along both sides over two days.. bloody long way..! Again we had another amazing overnight camp. Probably our first proper wild (free) camping night. We had noticed a large piece of Common land below the Malvern at Castlemorton. Turns out to be a great place to spend the night. As we turned up in the afternoon, the Common was packed with some campers picnicking, families playing, boy racers screaming up and down and loads of sheep….hanging around. A little anxious at first, about the prospect of sleeping overnight we just sat in the sun, had another bbq and soaked up the place. We soon relaxed and agreed we would be happy to stay over. Well…we were the only ones on The Common apart from the sheep and it was soooooo relaxing. No-one anywhere. Bliss..zzzzzzzz

Next day we were joined on the Common by hundreds of big, mahoosive cattle in addition to the sheep. With the hot sunny weather this brought an end to another trip. Surprisingly we weren’t yet bored with Ruby Time. We were learning that most places seemed slightly scary on arrival…but just sitting tight for a couple of hours meant we relaxed and slept soundly. Wild camping starts here…! 

Proper Trip- Two weeks + holiday

At last we have been let out officially and we have basically the whole of July off work. In addition we are taking our work laptops so we are completely free to stay out or return home at any time… This is what we signed up to. Unfortunately the weather has failed to read the script..!

7th July and Michelle is the driver of the day. We drag a car full of ‘stuff’ to the storage site to collect Ruby (it’s incredible how a car full of equipment and food easily tucks away in cupboards drawers, boxes and pockets in Ruby).

Yorkshire Dales

We do not have an itinerary or even a finish date but we know we want to visit the open expanses of the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors and coast. We had booked the first two nights at Craken House at Leyburn.. We had spoken with proprietor Richard by phone in advance. He likes to talk..very well spoken in Posh Yorkshire..(!).  On arrival he says ‘I won’t keep you long as you will want to get settled in. I will just show you around’. 20 minutes later….. ‘righty ho’ (that’s how posh Yorkshiremen speak!) ‘I will leave you to it. I then make the mistake of asking him about local walks. Doh! Another 20 mins and we slide away from him and set up. (Well…I say ‘set up’ we opened a beer and got the deck chairs out. ! ) Nice place, very well groomed and tidy with a view across the valley. As we knew, there was no access to communal areas such as showers or toilets due to Covid19 so we were on our own. (Did they reduce the price? Ha! Fat chance). We stayed two nights and did a few decent walks. The most impressive was a 8+ miles across the valleys with great views and a short visit to Richmond. Nothing too exciting though so we will move on..

Our favourite bit to date follows… Michelle’s skilful research had identified a wild (free) camping area deep on the moors at Garsdale in the railway station car park. Wow. Parked looking across a valley over the moors with no one around. The gravel of the car park was a bit tatty (fussy?…me?..!) but otherwise we loved it so much we stayed two nights. Not only this view but four trains a day passing from Settle to Leeds and back (including a goods train thundering through at 4.15am the first morning which genuinely made us smile.) The railway station itself is an immaculately painted and maintained set of buildings with a traditional signal box from early 19 century. Trains entering the station cross an amazing long multi arched stone viaduct just 200  metres away.

We then had the joy of a Hercules flying through at 400 feet and a Tucano training ‘jet’ low level flying through. Bloody lovely place, so peaceful (other than the aircraft, trains and sheep yes..). Oh, and a red squirrel. Nice.

Michelle took the helm again and met up with some extremely demanding roads which were not only narrow, winding, hilly and rough but it was now a Saturday and every cyclist, motorcyclist, car, motorhome, caravan, delivery driver and tractor were joining us. Much to Michelle’s indignation some clown on a motorbike yelled some aggressive indecipherable comment through her open window in the middle of all this. No idea why other than perhaps he believed we were too big for these roads and should stay home so he can ride in peace… rude. ! We swapped around then so that I could enjoy driving more of the same on the last leg into our favoured Pateley Bridge. A quick ice cream at Stump Cross Caves is not to be missed with views across the moorland whilst chatting with friendly staff. 

The weather throughout all this has been a mixed bag, mainly of wind, cloud and the occasional visit by the sun. We know this is the Dales and that is the expected norm, but ‘come on…it’s July..more sun please, lots more’.

Some of you may know that Pateley Bridge is kinda our Blakeborough ancestral home. The majority of my paternal family tree worked, lived and died in the town and at one time seemed to own, occupy, numerous houses and farms in the area. There is a great museum in the centre (surprisingly big for the size of the town) which contains many references to Blakeborough’s. My dad even has some personal items that he has leant to the museum. I recall one Anne Blakeborough being mentioned in one of the criminal records being fined 3 shillings for showing the her stocking top. ! Typical Blakeborough…

We had pre booked two nights in the popular Riverside campsite as it was the weekend. We have stayed before when we were poor and only had a tent..(ha!),so we knew it was ideal. We had planned on being joined by Mum and Dad, brothers, Simon and Jez with Helen and Vikki for a socially distanced bbq. For those of you reading this in the late 21st century….the Coronavirus pandemic meant that now we were all allowed outside and pubs, restaurants, campsites and more can now open, we must all stay 2 metres apart from everyone except those in your family bubble. You can get closer if you need to..! (Don’t ask!). Anyway the impact of that meant we were not allowed to be joined by anyone else on the campsite. Makes a family bbq tricky. ….Wait.

So..on arrival on the Saturday evening we wandered over the bridge into the tiny centre of Pateley Bridge and scared ourselves to death. There were hundreds of people on very narrow footpaths, cars and lorries up and down the steep hill and nowhere to hide. 2 metres was not an option, 20 centimetres at best. It was not fun. Nobody’s fault, everyone wanted to enjoy the area but it was not possible to relax. So back to Ruby for dinner. 

Next day we decided to set up a ‘Palace’ on the grass of the park immediately over the 2 foot wall, next to our pitch. If guests couldn’t visit us on site, then we would visit them in the park..! Unfortunately Mum and Dad couldn’t join us but t’others did. We cooked on the barbie attached to Ruby then hopped over the wall to serve and eat, pour and drink in the Palace ( 6 deckchairs, 1 table, 1 long windbreak and one ‘Home Sweet Home’ doormat..)

The Pateley Bridge Palace at feeding time…
Blakeborough’s New and Old….!

In addition to the obvious delight of meeting family after a long time, there was the arrival of a long sunny hot clear blue sky AND a Leeds United match on the radio where Swansea were beaten by a last minute goal leaving Leeds closer to the final push to leap up to the Premiership. So…a great day. Finished off with photos of us Blakeborough boys standing next to the memorial to those brave men of Pateley Bridge that served in World War 1. Three Blakeborough’s are named on the plaque as returning home and two of losing their lives…..

North Yorkshire Moors   13/7/20

A move East across the Pennines and the A1 saw us heading onto the North Yorkshire Moors and the Coast. Our drive took us up the challenging route of Sutton Bank. Ooh… a steep uphill 25% (1 in 4 in old money). Caravans are not permitted to try (as they are lesser mortals!) and all was just plain exciting… until I looked out of the left hand window half way up and saw the next section of road… huge tight switch back that has to be taken at a reasonable speed otherwise you will not get started again. Ruby took it well. No problems despite crockery whizzing around in the overhead cupboards behind me resulting from tight bends at speed. EZEE.

We were keen (tight!) to do some wild camping again so after a bit of research found a superb place on the steep hill overlooking Robin Hoods Bay. A flat-ish tarmac car park with views across the bay worked out so well that we stopped three nights. There were other campers/motorhomes as neighbours which always helps to make you feel safe for some reason. From here we visited Robin Hoods Bay itself on day one, then took a long hike into Whitby on day two. We then enjoyed one of our favourite pastimes of a long hilly coast walk with great views and lotsa fresh air. Trouble is that due to the Covid19 social distancing we were discovering that all popular tourist areas are very difficult and pretty nerve wracking. We are not too precious about fully conforming but all roads/paths/shops/cafes in Whitby were rammed with all the extra holidaymakers that are furloughed and the kids on extended holidays. We so much of our time trying to avoid getting surrounded by the masses that we were unable to fully enjoy the sights and sounds of the seaside. Whitby Abbey was understandably tricky to negotiate and costs money to see it. It was free last time I was there, however that was in the days of black and white..! 

We did however have the compulsory glorious Whitby fish and chips. (It does appear that every fish and chip shop in Whitby serves up the best fish and chips in the county/country/Europe/world…! After the long 7 mile march across the clifftops we planned on catching the bus back..however…we did not have any face masks with us and this was a requirement now so….. a long march back along the alternative Cinder Track was necessary. To be fair it was a billy bonus as there was a pub half way along which allowed us to have our first pub pint since lockdown. AND outside in the sunshine.

On the third day we were approached in our ‘Wild Camping’ site by an important looking guy who parked alongside us saying ‘ Don’t worry I come as friend not foe’ then ‘I am a local councillor and there have been emails complaining about the mess being left around here by campers’. Well thankfully he was indeed friendly forces and he was asking for our side of why we camped there and what we did about waste and water etc. Despite his huge swollen ‘drinkers’ nose he was a nice chap! There was no rubbish left around and no damage anywhere.

And on the subject of wild camping, we have established that we can manage for three nights without much problem. Water is surprisingly difficult to obtain but we carry an extra water carrier and added to our on-board tank this means we can cook, drink, wash up and (short) shower. We then look to visit a paid site for at least one night to refill. The toilet has additional difficulties as once again the Covid19 restrictions mean many public toilets are closed so we have to use ours all the time. Anyhow we can still manage three nights despite these challenges… We carry two 6kg gas bottles and with the solar panels we can cope very well off grid. 

Yorkshire Dales..again

At this stage I suddenly realised that I had always wanted to visit the highest public house in the UK, The Tan Hill Inn. It was one of those things that when it sprang into my mind I was excited by the prospect of sleeping outside there overnight. Right on top of the moors surrounded by sheep in the wild and windy hills. Trouble is…… The Tan Hill Inn is in the Yorkshire Dales where we were last week and NOT in the North Yorkshire Moors where we were today. Damn foolish boy. Michelle was very understanding (thanks to my ever present qualities of ‘stupid’ ) and we agreed to just crack on and drive 90miles across to the Yorkshire Dales again to do this. In reality it was probably the most fun driving of the trip. Very busy tight roads on the weekend surrounded by bikes, campers, delivery vans and motorbikes everywhere. This, followed by the glorious A66 for several miles and the grand finalé of even tighter open moorland with sheep lounging on the road and no passing places. Bliss….

Tip…The surprising thing about The Tan Hill Inn is they charge £10 per person (they will pass to a charity) to park on the verge outside the Inn. There are absolutely no facilities for camping but there are toilets and showers for any customers. If you were to park on the verge 5 yards opposite the pub verge, it does not cost anything. It is public land. Save your £££££. 

We also enjoyed our first meal in a pub for dinner and breakfast, albeit socially distanced with screens between tables. This was a great place to walk and a terrific place to wake up in the morning. Well worth the 2 hour drive…. Oh and then a 2 hour drive back to the East Coast next morning. I am a clown….

North Yorkshire Moors and Coast…again

If any of you are still awake… we now arrive at Cayton Bay which is midway between Filey and Scarborough. We (Michelle!) use ‘Search for Sites’ online to find suitable camping spots recommended by other motorhome users. Some are fully paid sites, some are ‘wild’ camping and some are pub car parks. This spot in Cayton Bay is the Old Filey Road which now makes wonderful parking spots for many many campers/motorhomes. It is very handy, and is unlikely to upset any local councillors. It was busy in some place but lots of good spots available. We spent two nights parked half on the verge , half on what used to be a busy trunk road, overlooking the sea and the bay. On arrival we headed down onto the beach for our one and only swim in the North Sea. Bloody freezing…. Very bloody freezing… but we did it, for a short while, before heading back up to Ruby to watch another Leeds United match via mobile Wifi. Whats not to like. 

Day 1 and we walked along the Cliff top walk into Scarborough and back along the other bit of the Old Filey Road and the second day took a look at Filey. Much better than other seaside towns as it was less busy with lots of miles of good quality sand to avoid people being too close. A real nice place and worthy of another visit. 

Our next location was Flamborough Head. These are all places that I visited regularly as a kid for day trips, b&b’s and camping so it was really good to re-visit and refresh my memory of wonderful childhood holidays. I always fondly remember Flamborough and it did not disappoint again. We stayed in a ‘proper’ paid site right next to the coast and with a view from Ruby of the lighthouse. Part of the enjoyment of this section was the birdlife and sealife. Now, we are not twitchers nor keen ornithologists but have recently acquired a good pair of bino’s which has increased our enjoyment of birds and small stuff that is a long way away. Well… straight out of our campsite turn left on the coast cliff and there are hundreds of puffins, close enough to get decent photos too. 

Follow this with guillemots, gannets, barn owls and kestrels all within a few hundred metres makes this a bit of a treasure chest. 

AND the next day, right alongside Flamborough lighthouse there were hundreds of big grey seals lounging around on the rocks below the cliffs. Brilliant. Wasn’t expecting that. 

Bridlington was the next port of call. Just a walk round really, again due to COVID fears we could not relax at this time of year but it was a reminder of the area. 

We did determine at this stage that we have visited lots of places but never spent enough time really getting to look around much. A bit of a ‘tick in the box’ exercise in many ways. Note to selves….. Slow Down….

This was coming to the end of our trip (thank God you say as you can’t bear to read anymore of this..!).

A slow road to home involves a night stop over (Wild camping) alongside a beautiful renovated canal in Pocklington. This is a small area with no restrictions and we joined a couple (no not in the same van!) in the clean, tidy, car park directly alongside the canal lock. Very nice and quiet and again, very relaxed and easy to sleep. It is amazing how well we sleep in new places with no real idea of our wider surroundings. As we are in the same bed each night, tucked into our little cave of a room in Ruby it fills us with confidence despite what is outside. Every night that we are not murdered in our beds increases our confidence in doing ‘wild’ camping…! We are not however complacent. We know enough about the realities of the existence of ‘baddies’ that we are willing to move on if something does not feel safe. It sometimes takes a couple of hours for us to fully accept our location (means a delay taking an early drink though!).

The plans for the next day were to spend the day with Mum and Dad as we missed out on seeing them the previous week. We drove to their home in Pontefract and they were standing outside with sunhats on and big smiles, waiting to be whisked off for a picnic. They were a picture. The location for our visit for the day was left up to them and they did not disappoint. At their direction we headed off to visit the home of Leeds United, Elland Road. Joy. And what a great idea at this historic time of them gaining promotion to the Premiership.. 

We then visited my Mums old stomping ground when she was a child, before dropping off the picnickers and heading further south towards home. 

Shropshire

Our very last overnight stop was a paid site which enabled us to clean Ruby out fully, give her a wash, sort the toilet and water etc and get kinda packed. We pre-booked a site in Shropshire as we wanted to drive through the area to see what the there was for future visits. The site was a bit too neat and definitely too expensive at £32 per night. Its not just that we are tight and don’t want to spend money…. but we find that many of these sites are too neat, too tidy, all lined up with the caravans and motorhomes all pointed the same way with a little pond and…… mmm… bit too twee for us. We call these kind of places Geraldine.. This comes from a site in the town of the same name in New Zealand that we stayed in with Maureen our hired motorhome a couple of years ago. The site in Geraldine was very trim, immaculate, neat, quiet, DULL, DULL, DULL…. And the town of Geraldine nearby was DEAD, DEAD, DEAD. So any similar ones now are named Geraldine sites….

Anyway here endeth this long epilogue of a trip that was only two weeks but reads much longer……

Catch up again soon. 

Cheers

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