Wales and Wirral

30th April

Moel Famau

Up there…. the steep bit..!

So… after a short 25 mile drive via a supermarket top-up we got back onto the ‘Wild’ Camping still within Wales. Once again the Search for Sites app in the hands of Michelle found us up in the hills at Moel Famau-between Ruthin and Mold. This was yet another gravel, sloping car park though this time with the joys of large gravel stones. The car park offers a panoramic view across the mountains of Snowdonia and a popular start point for walking. The long-established Offa’s Dyke walk can be joined here to enjoy a gentle stroll (!) along the hilly walkway which runs the whole length of Wales, north to south. We headed south on the first morning and almost wiped ourselves out “ are you sure this is the best route Glenn?”- “yup, looks fine” before taking a goat route straight up a treacherous hill rather than enjoying the gentle wander around the side. Will we ever learn.!

Anyway the area is great and if you like sheep … then this is the place for you.!  I have never really considered sheep to be entertaining… but when you watch them having a good ten minute scratch against one of the wooden benches it is quite the picture. The second morning we took a much easier 12k return walk north along Offa’s Dyke. This section is full of tourists in flip flops eating pies and talking loudly usually in Scouse accents. We have moved that bit closer to the Liverpool homeland and the accents are everywhere.. The destination was Jubilee Tower which was built to celebrate the jubilee of King George III in 1810. The view again was terrific with 270º views of mountains and 90º views of the Wirral peninsula and even as far as the Liver Building in that Liverpool. It gave us a good insight into the places we would be visiting in the week ahead. 

One of the difficulties challenges of wild camping is being able to get comfortable to sleep at night. There is no cosy barrier keeping cars away, no warden telling neighbours to keep the noise down and no idea of what you may be met with overnight. This does cause a little anxiety on arrival at any wild site as you may imagine. We have plenty of life experience though unfortunately we know more about the habits of the bad guys than we do the good guys- and we have had plenty of practice wild camping but we are always checking the area, evaluating the coming and goings of others and picking a spot we think is best. It is more of an art than a science. Well our first night here was disturbed slightly by a car with youffs in parking in an area behind us and a little too close… but they were fine and left about 10.30 so all good. – despite them leaving bags of food wrappers and empty cans for the wildlife to enjoy!- We were happy enough so stayed a second night. Likewise, but with three or four cars, a bit of loud chatter and laughter, but again they left about 10.30. So a third night was taken on as the location was so good. However the third night was another 3-4 cars who played loud music for too long, then decided to rev the pistons out of their engines and practice wheel spinning on the gravel- a little too close to relax by. “It’s ok, they sound like they are in the bottom car park”- Huh.. really. ! They left about 11pm but the ‘Caveman’ instinct keeps you awake for a while longer expecting them to return. Is it just us or are there more ‘boy racers’ around at the moment? Guess they cannot go clubbing and pub crawling because of Covid so they spend their time and money on their cars – (presumably on new tyres and repairing bodywork damage from doing doughnuts in car parks with large chunks of gravel. – ! )

Beluga transport aircraft

And this rather impressive Beluga aircraft (Airbus A300 – 600) flew over pretty damn low several times through the day. It is designed to carry aircraft parts including wings and even fuselages apparently…. sweet..>>>

We can’t have been put off as we keep doing wild camping although the Caveman radar is always on standby..!

We left here on the Friday morning in search of Calor Gas and water. Some people are interested in how we get our provisions so this is for them. [Those of you with better things to do can skip forward to the next heading…! ] Within two miles we had located Bryn Bowlio Caravan Park which proved to be a useful find. David, the owner was friendly and helpful. As with most sites they have Calor Gas available to buy and they always vary between £24-£26 for 6kg bottle replacement. And as we had now made a purchase  we felt empowered to ask “Do you mind if we fill our tank with water?”. “Yes, no problem”.- Readily supplied and filled whilst he chatted about the love of his life…- the campsite. We then managed to also fill our 20 ltr collapsible water carrier (5 gal in old money!). Our tank in Ruby holds 95 litres so if we carry an additional 20 ltr carrier and two standard 5 ltr bottles of water from your favourite supermarket we then have about … erm…… 125 ltrs. This will last 3 days or so – if (frugally) showering on-board. It is at this point that if necessary one asks about emptying the toilet cassette. It is, of course, much easier to get the add-ons if you have made a purchase however it appears that most sites will let you fill up with water for a small fee. 

Our water will last three days with care. Our electric, on the road, is provided by a large solar panel on the roof. This is a real bonus as we never have to worry about lighting or charging our watches/phones/iPads/laptops even in this country in the cloudy days. More importantly we can even watch the telly as this is 12v and provided by the solar panel..

Worst case scenario is the gas will last 3-4 days. This is when wild camping in the sub zero overnight temperatures, (of which there has been bloody loads this year) and using it for cooking, bbq-ing and heating the hot water for showers and washing up etc. The heating is easily the biggest gas consumer. We carry two of the 6kg bottles so can readily switch over. (This involves going outside to the gas locker and it is always dark and wet when the bottle runs out!) 

When parked up on-site with hookup electric, the gas has lasted over six weeks as the heating and hot water is provided by the electric.  Pretty neat set up really. 

Chester

By now it was St Georges day (23rd April) so we had to head back to England !…A short drive over the border saw us enter the historic and beautiful city of Chester. Having been here once before I knew it to be interesting and full of sights so we planned on stopping over. The combination of Search for Sites and Michelle found us yet another gem. Yes, it was a car park….Roodee Car Park. But this time there was no gravel..! Just tarmac and a healthy slope. It turned out to be a favourite and worthy of recommendations. It is right next to Chester Castle and alongside Chester racecourse. A walk to the river Dee is two minutes away and into the City centre is just 10 minutes. There is a parking charge of £8 for 24 hours so we basically had 2 1/2 days for £21. Now this may seem a little steep for ‘Wild’ (free) camping, but when you consider that if you visited Chester City centre for the day to go shopping, this car park (and most others) would cost £5 anyway, then this becomes pretty fair. We hopped in and out of the City and the riverbank several times through the glorious sunny weekend in the knowledge that Ruby was safe and we could have a tipple or two…!

Chester itself is lively (especially towards the end of Lockdown with youffs everywhere drinking outside the bars)- There is an impressive shopping area which we availed ourselves of too. This was the first opportunity to visit a ‘non-essential’ shop for several months and boy did we need some new pants..!  On our last evening we walked the length of the wall around the City which took around two hours as it got dark. There is so much to enjoy. The racecourse was a bit over-active as several police cars and vans arrived on the hurry-up when too many youffs gathered too close together and got a little too excited. But otherwise a delight. Three exciting things here- firstly we managed to get a Covid test done, in the car park, just walked in and stuffed a cotton bud in our mouth before sticking the same one up our nose.. !. (Negative result.. 🙂 !)- Secondly we did our first JustEat experience (yes I know, late starters..)- But it was dead easy, gave the car park post code and waited….. a short while later a phone call arrives “hi, I am parked at the entrance to the Chester University gates, where are you?”- Ooops. Well it nearly worked and it only took the driver a few minutes to hunt us down.. Tasty Chinese. Yum. 

Work in Progress

Thirdly.. Michelle had her hair done for the first time in over six months. Wahey. Big thrill, and very therapeutic. The full thing, cut and balayage (no idea… but it looked great. )…. see >>

The Wirral

Now who knew? Who has ever been there?  The Wirral. This strange bit of land jutting out between Wales and Liverpool looking like a wonky tooth was our next location. Never been there and never actually had any idea what was here. Well… we can tell you that this is a bit of a hidden jewel. Not quite a gem as there is nothing sparkling, dynamic or extraordinary here but maybe its a little slice of gold. It is a really great place. There are lots of unexpected things around such as Birkenhead,  great beaches and posh expensive houses on the West side and loads of interesting industry on the East side. You can look across the Mersey straight over into Liverpool with a clear view of the Liver Building close to the water front. There are dockyards a-go-go and ferries heading to and from other parts of the UK and Ireland.  We headed to New Brighton on the North East tip, as it has a marina and the famous Search for Sites app suggests there is free camping to be had here. Well it was amazing. There are old and dated amusement arcades facing onto the beach alongside some modern theatres and cinemas and wonderful traditional cafes rather than the tat that many seasides have. The marina car park has the sea on one side (the entrance to the Mersey) and a marina on the other ( yes, I know, you would expect to find a marina if you were in the marina car park..!) and you can park for free overnight. Trouble is that the Search for Sites review mentioned that on one occasion someone had daubed several motorhomes in tar which would be a nightmare to remove. Thankfully we did not have to worry about this as we had a site booked on the West coast at the Wirral Country Park site. This site overlooks the river Dee on a clifftop and was pleasant enough for us to add a second night. Nothing too outstanding but sufficient to recharge our personal batteries (Wild camping is a little tiring), and take our bikes out for a blast up and down the Wirral way (disused railway line). As often happens with us, we did not get much of a buzz from the official campsites. They serve a purpose and they are safe havens which we always look forward to staying at. But we quickly need to move on – probably there are too many people and they all want to keep talking…! Its great for the first day but how many times can you say “morning”, “morning” and “morning” whilst on the way to the loo…! – (At least the toilets were open here though not the showers or laundry). Close to this area is the very upmarket town of West Kirby with its wonderful long beach and expensive houses. We are later told by Michelle’s dad that he spent many happy days here in his basic square bashing RAF training. (Not sure that he actually mentioned the words ‘happy days’.. basic training has never been described as ‘happy’! )

As we have already had a taste of the New Brighton marina we were keen to go again with a view of possibly staying over. There is a huge area of greens on the way into New Brighton with a few open, side roads through them. There are motorhomes and camper vans parked all round here. Dozens of them. All free, no restrictions and clearly welcomed by the locals and authorities. Why other areas do not provide this space is a mystery.  We decided to spend the night at the marina car park (despite the tar scare) as it was more interesting watching the ships coming and going and the improved view. The only slight glitch was some clown of a ‘boy’ racer. He must have been in his late 30’s with his brand new 21 plate Ford Focus SRGTI OHC GBH thing with his ‘bird’. He arrived and parked between us and another motorhome and a few rows away from some normal, well-behaved, young boy/girl racers and put his BOOM BOOM MUSIC UP LOUD…. I MEAN LOUD.. and all the while stuffing pizza, burger AND kebab into his gob like he was entering the Wirral Speed Eating competition. Then after wiping his hands on his sexy leather steering wheel he turned the car round, to face the proper boy /girl racers and nudged up close to them as if challenging them. And again BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM-.Then he drove off…..Clown. Otherwise a very peaceful night. 

The next morning was quite fun. We were awoken at 6.30am by several cars arriving alongside where we were parked and on peeping through the blinds we saw 6/7 people getting out alongside the marina. All going to have an early morning swim, wild swimming.. in the freezing cold marina…..crazy dudes…. mad…… “That can’t be good for you” says Michelle. “Its not for me” says I before the chimp inside my head started to say “Are you sure?” and “it would be fun- Michelle can video you and you can put it on Faceache and it will be a great memory and a thing of wonder” ..so I couldn’t resist it. I had to join them – After all I had the advantage of a motorhome (with the heater on full blast) alongside, a hot coffee ready to pour and a roll of kitchen foil to wrap around me if necessary…! Well it was actually not too bad. Cold of course, and I was only in for 1.5 minutes but I was fine. It did take me four hours to stop shivering afterwards though despite the plans. Stoppid idea. What was I thinking !!

Crazy Cold. Stoopid idea… !

Anyway our next move was around the Wirral peninsula again and through into the Mersey Tunnel which we were both quite excited about. Just £1.80 gets you to plunge below the Mersey River and trundle across straight into Liverpool City Centre. By now we were so entrenched in Scouse speaking folk that we knew how to properly pronounce Mersey.. It is just a case of starting off with a Mare and adding a zey. All done slow-time. !

OtterspoolLiverpool

This was yet another ‘Search for Sites’ beauty. Nearly… There was a listing for an area of layby’s and roadways with yet another view across from the Liverpool side of the Mersey over to the Wirral. Nice enough, with a large patch of grass leading onto a long promenade which ran for miles into the Liverpool City Centre. All seemed to be well and quiet along this dead end roadway so we figured that the few cars that occasionally passed by would thin out as the evening wore on. Wrong. IT got busier as it got darker. Not really boy/girl racers, no BOOM, BOOM, BOOM this time and no sporty cars, but lots of cars that just drove to the end, turned round and drove out again..! We did suspect that other things were going on involving lone mature males and maybe even couples looking for their dogs… (if you get what I mean.. !). It was a little distracting but as always we managed a decent sleep without hassle. Well at least no-one knocked on our door or queued up outside looking in.! 

Next day we knew we had to be on the road shortly after lunch so we decided to walk into Liverpool along the prom and then try again to get a go on the electric hire scooters. This time with the Voi ( as in Voilá ). There are several city’s in England which have these electric scooters available to hire on trial. There is no doubt that electric vehicles are taking over and it is important to evaluate the impact. It is illegal to use your own electric scooter on the road or path anywhere other than on private land (at the time of writing.) We had it all planned this time. Had added payment details, established the routine and even found a parking bay close by for us to use on our return. These scooters were a little more expensive at £1 to unlock and 20p per minute-(discounts are available for taking the ‘how to ride’ exam on line and for parking in a prescribed collection point.) We located a right nice café at the a marina Yacht Club for brunch before stepping outside to two electric scooters. The idea is you look on the map on the app to find the location of any scooters, you scan the one of your choice and then start the ride. That is….if you have your drivers licence with you.. Bugga. The first time you are required to scan a copy of your driving licence to prove you have one. This is checked ‘real-time’ before the scooter will unlock. Well one of us plums did not realise this and did not carry his licence with him..! Soooo we only got to hire one rather than two. “So one of us will have to walk for a while and then we can swap round”- says The Plum. Thankfully the non-plum agreed and then couldn’t bear to stop The Plum from spending way more than the 50% of the journey whizzing round like a schoolboy while she walked and walked the five miles back to Ruby…. Sorry Mrs Plum. 

This lady is just sooooo cooool…X

Pontefract-West Yorkshire

Once more back on the road and off to our next two night ‘Wild’ camping…. In the road, outside my parents house surrounded by houses in Pontefract, West Yorkshire. Again, it was not terrifically ‘Wild’ (!) but we did sleep and shower in Ruby in the comfort of suburbia..

This was about having a well overdue catch up and hug with my parents after many Covid related months of restrictions. It was great to spend a couple of days with them and other family whilst still remaining sensible with social distancing.

And on that subject… family and friends. One of the things that has hit us quite a bit on this trip in particular is the lack of contact with family and friends. Although we make phone calls, video calls and social media, we do miss the regular contact with everyone. We did presume that as all those contact visits were reduced due to Covid then we wouldn’t be too affected by hitting the road. In fact it is something that we both feel on a regular basis. Not home sick-as we are living in our home-but not having the opportunity to keep in touch with family. It does feel like we are somewhat remote and isolated and we do look forward to getting contact from people more often. Please remember, if we don’t get chance to call you, we are on the end of a phone and we don’t have work commitments getting in the way..

Then.. time to move on again. Gotta keep moving….

We are now off to the ancestral Blakeborough home of Pateley Bridge on the Yorkshire Moors for a whole month.

Did you know…

There are three Mersey Tunnels connecting Liverpool with the Wirral, under the River Mersey. The Mersey Railway Tunnel (opened 1886), and two road tunnels, the Queensway Tunnel (opened 1934) and the Kingsway Tunnel (opened 1971). 

The road tunnels have their own police force, the Mersey Tunnels Police. 

The Queensway Tunnel was used to film scenes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) and Fast & Furious 6 (2013). 

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