June – the first half

1st June 2021

Well, after that limited blog in May you are lucky enough to have lots of lovely content for the first half of June. Sorry if it is a big long but it is also a record of our activities for our own use when reading this in 20 years time!

So, we spent a rather wet month in Pateley Bridge during May and thankfully the sunshine turned up in the last 5-6 days to show a lot of promise. In many ways it was handy to be parked up on a site when the weather was bad. Imagine parking in soggy, cold, gravel car parks in the rain, day after day. 

Our first day away from the Riverside Campsite was planned on being further up the Yorkshire Dales, however we decided to travel the challenging distance of just five miles.! We had visited the Stump Cross caves and café several times over the month and discovered that you can park overnight for just £5 with a view across the whole of the moors atop café site. Campers are also encouraged to spend some money in the café by asking for an additional £5 which would be deducted when eating or drinking inside. It was a great location, unfortunately slightly windy (as it tends to be on hills of course), and we were secured inside and left all alone all night. The owners both came over to meet us and have a chat and praising of our bbq effort. There was a road alongside which was really quiet for most of the night so it was really comfy and safe. It was a pleasant start to our ‘wild’ camping and certainly good value for money as we took a rare opportunity of having a large fry up for breakfast. In reality it is quite pricey if you add-in the cost of the food but hey….. we are on holiday and it was a worthy start. If you look at the drone image below you may see the Oyster Catcher bird trying to attack the drone..!

Next up was our planned stop-over alongside the Tan Hill Inn . This is a classic Yorkshire Dales location surrounded by little more than hills, valleys, sheep and walkers. There are lots of cars, motorbikes, cyclists and walkers covering the Pennine Way walk. There is a lot of activity and plenty of outdoor seating for drinking and eating. Now, here is the thing…. when we visited last year we were charged £10 each as a voluntary contribution to charity (apparently) to park outside on the gravel immediately next to the pub. Across the road, it turns out, you can park for nothing as this is public land. Doh.. wish we would have known that before paying.! So this time we confirmed this to be the case. We parked 2 metres further away than last year and paid nothing for an overnight stay. Result! We did however spend the evening having drinks outside – which again cost us a few £’s. It seems a lot fairer option. Don’t mind paying into the local businesses. We were mightily lucky with the weather as we had bright sunshine and once out of the wind it was a great trip. The fun of driving back and forth to the pub from the A66 was as ‘exciting’ as the last time along those narrow winding, bumpy, sheep-hugging roads. 

Our research over recent weeks has pointed out some Camping & Caravan Club temporary sites across the country. They are set up by local District Associations and are basically just a big field in a useful location. They charge a small fee for which you have access to drinking water and toilet disposal points, both of which are crucial when on the road. We found one at Corbridge (Northumberland) which is just West of Newcastle and alongside the river Tyne.. A quick phone call… “yes you are fine, come on over” says the organisers Paul and Angela. “We have space at £9 per night”- bargain. The joy of this place was mainly that it was right next to the railway station with a direct run into Newcastle City Centre. We booked two nights but later paid for a third as it was so useful, the weather was good and it was just plain relaxing. There is ten times more space in this field than you would have on a normal campsite, everyone looks after each other and importantly you are made welcome. This one was on the Tynedale Rugby Club field in Corbridge and we simply park anywhere on, or alongside ,the rugby pitch. Can’t complain at that price. That was the 4th-6th June taken care of. 

We jumped onto the excellent, efficient train into Newcastle the first morning and again with fair weather we enjoyed the delights of a Wetherspoons coffee before exploring the City. We were most impressed by large parts of it apart from the bit where we tried to find any remnants of the old Roman city walls. After probably an hour and a half of roaming the side streets, ancient buildings and alleyways we decided “Shall we just give this up and go eat”- “Damn right”. Our pizza dinner, outside in the Pizza Punks restaurant was absolutely roasting hot (weather and food). First time we have been actively looking for shade this year. An enjoyable trip out and reasonable train ride back to the campsite. 

A couple of exciting moments on the next couple of days. Firstly, we decided to take a walk from the site into the village of Hexham some five miles away and grabbed a coffee at a pavement café in the centre. It felt like we were sitting in a Mediterranean village rather than in England which was probably partly to do with the glorious weather. Anyhow, for fun, we considered  “why don’t we take the train back to Corbridge?” – “We know how the train operates, and it is dead easy and probably cheap”- we decided. Well I then thought “…there were two carriages on the train from Newcastle yesterday and the guard walks from the back to the front checking tickets… and it is only one stop this time….. and ”. Well anyway we sat near the front of the front carriage and planned on being in position to pay the guard on the train, if he reached us in time. However he was real quick and got to the table prior to ours, as we neared our station. “Bugga” we thought. “We will have to pay”. He approached as the train slowing. – Can’t believe we were so close to not paying. Then he started to punch the details into his paying machine as we pulled onto the platform- “Sorry I’ve got to go” he says, and walks away to do whatever a guard has to do at the station…. We looked at each other and stepped off, still ready to pay the nice man. But he had to walk further from us along the platform. “Unlucky” we said as we skipped and giggled through the exit like school kids after saving probably £2.50 each in the train fare. Shhhhhh….don’t tell anyone..! But how we laughed….. !

The second thing of note was when I made the classic mistake when barbecuing ..”always make sure that if the gas blows out, you turn it off, clear all the gas from the bbq and then start again”- not as in my case, just go back to pressing the ignition button and blowing the lid clean off…! And nearly my own head…. Managed to singe the hairs on both my hands and I think my eyebrows were thoroughly warmed. The bang was loud enough to excite our neighbour 5 metres away who said “That even shook my van windows” and it also made Michelles heart level double. – Made me a little excitable for some time afterwards. The gas had obviously been blown out for some time and the lid managed to hold onto a large quantity of the stuff. Its basically a bomb…and went off like one. ! Lesson learned.

The town of Corbridge is impressive enough on its own and an easy walk across the bridge across the Tyne river. 

Moving on, the 6th June we headed off across the Tyne, through Newcastle and parked up in the fishing village of Tynemouth. This is a small place where they catch fish and it is at the mouth of the river Tyne (surprisingly!). It was one of those ‘wild’ camping places where you are never too sure what to expect. There was a popular car park near to a side road that we parked on. It was a little scruffy but it had a view of the huge trawlers and ferries from the Netherlands entering and leaving the estuary. Most entertaining to watch and with a patch of grass alongside we thought we should be ok. We usually spend these types of locations just sitting looking out of the windows, watching the world go by into the night. We were delighted to see a couple of foxes wandering round just outside Ruby on the grass, looking for scraps of food left lying around. We expected to be disturbed by early o’clock as the fish markets were immediately next to us. However what we didn’t expect was that at 1am a forklift truck would drive up and down the road we were parked on, every half hour, carrying boxes of fish to a nearby fishmongers. We are talking about a loud forklift truck with the forks bouncing loudly up and down on this bumpy road, just one metre from our bed…. Aaaargh. bad idea. “Who decided to park here?”. 

Watch the video footage

So after little more than a couple of hours sleep overnight we were ready to move off in the morning. Not before we had visited one of the fishmongers and stocked up with fresh crab and prawns though.. Oh and the town of Tynemouth is pretty impressive too. It has a big castle ruin overlooking a secluded beach and well worth a visit. 

The next night was the least exciting ‘wild’ camping location we have done. For some reason we really struggled to find locations to spend the night. Search for Sites had nothing of note, Google failed , and driving around was not producing anything. We did have a reportedly good location in mind, near Cresswell in Northumberland right along the coast with views across the North Sea. Unfortunately we arrived to find several older caravans, campers, horses and lots of families wandering round and rubbish dumped in all corners…. erm….. no good for us. These are not your average wild campers that we like to spend time with…! The type of people to be avoided… and for several miles to come. So eventually we used the Britstops book and located the Trap Inn in Broomhill which had overnight parking for free if we had food or drink in the pub. We were thoroughly worn out and rather irritable by late afternoon so gave it a go. – This was our first time usage of this Britstops option. Well we ended up parking next to a large construction lorry with trailer that had clearly been out tarring the roads all its life. Rather smelly and unsightly. We did have a quick pint before an early night as our previous ‘forklift truck’ night was not great. We were most surprised the next morning to note that the truck had moved off in the early hours and we had heard nothing. We must have been totally wiped out. 

We still took a while to get back on track the next morning and headed to the lovely little fishing resort of Amble. Firstly though I decided to park up overlooking the Aln estuary for a coffee and breakfast, right outside the locked gates of the Coquet Canoe Club. “You are not going to park here are you?” says Michelle. “Well yes, the gates are locked and it is unlikely that anyone will come here at 9.30 on a Tuesday morning”. And I put the kettle on. Well, the whole world of cars pulled up within ten minutes, drivers rolling their eyes at us and glaring in our direction for being in the way. Oooops. However it turned out well…. I approached the staff, apologised and asked for advice about sites etc and they all became our new best friends…. Even invited us to take Ruby into the compound to fill up with water before leaving with useful lists of information and words of support. It always pays to ask for help…Incidentally we bumped into a nice chap called Michael in the main car park here. He was runs Northumberland Adventures business which provide canoeing, sailing, climbing and coasteering experiences. “What precisely does one do in Coasteering?” says I. “Well we jump off cliffs into the freezing North Sea, swim through channels, dive through underwater caves…..” “Wot..! Really…. No way” says Michelle. Anyway we signed up to do it three days later. Ha!

Amble- Sorry this was the only photo we took..

The village of Amble is almost as nice as it sounds. A small tourist spot with occasional fishing activity and scenic walks but not enough to keep us there for long. We did however have an enjoyable blast from the past… When we saw a restaurant with the unlikely menu containing bratwurst and currywurst we both dived into the Bratty and chips. As we have both lived in Germany for many years this was one of the first we had tasted for a long time. – Not the healthiest of meals but hey ho! 

From Amble we took a gentle amble… to the next town of Warkworth which Michelle took great delight in calling Farkworth due to a mind block moment. This variation of the name kept us childish couple entertained far too long.! Warkworth turned out to be a favoured spot with castle ruins sitting overlooking the town. This walk also gave us chance to check out another Search for Sites location just outside the town. This spot has been described on the App as being in dispute between the neighbouring farmer and the local authority and campers had been recently challenged and reports of tyres being let down by the farmer. However it had recently been tarmaced by the local authority and camping was accepted. With no sign of any angry farmer we ambled back to collect Ruby and returned to park up for an enjoyable two nights. Nice flat tarmac with a view across a field of bright yellow rapeseed flowers and a golf course (no they didn’t play golf in the rapeseed!). It is a short ten minute walk into the town and 15 minutes into the North Sea in the other direction. Most impressive. We were joined by two other motorhomes on the first night and were totally alone on the second, in an area where 30 units could easily have parked. This was a start of a wonderful site for the future. Some local authorities take all steps possible to keep out wild campers where occasionally others understand that campers spend money in the town and add to the local economy. 

Ruby across the Rapeseed flowers

We took the opportunity of having a damn cold swim in the North Sea and rather surprisingly Michelle was the first to fully engage with the chilly water. “Its alright once you are in”….Mind you it was bloody cold. The kind of cold that grips your ankles tight and does untold damage to the rest of your body.! Reckon we probably stayed in only about two and half minutes. We did have Bobby our bright orange spongy ball with us to keep us (and the cowardly beach-only dwellers) entertained for a while. Directly from this camping spot there is a long paved foot/cycle track into the quiet village of Alnmouth. Had a coffee and ate our picnic alongside the oldest 9 hole golf course in the UK – apparently.

We also signed up as English Heritage members (thus confirming our status as old folk) and had a couple of enjoyable hours in Warkworth Castle. It is evident you will find more castles per square mile than McDonalds..! Clearly the disputes between the Scots and English were pretty serious. 

10th June and it was about time that we hooked up into some electricity in order to get civilised and Michelle could properly wash her hair (need proper electric for the straighteners !) so we booked a couple of nights – then extended to three- at the Waren Campsite at Bamburgh. Unusually we enjoyed this ‘paid’ site. It was nice to have grass around rather than gravel, there were kids around over the weekend, which is better than a load of old folk (like us..) just sitting in rocking chairs reading and the site was neat and tidy without being dull. There were a few things we wanted to do, the first of which was the previously mentioned Coasteering. Well, what a joy that was. Michael the owner was good at providing ideal locations on a rocky beach area at Howick and despite the rather low tide he put us through our paces. Now, remember how Michelle was not keen (understatement), but once we had on thick wetsuits, bouyancy jacket, helmets and training shoes, we were feeling much more excited. The water was definitely damn cold in the North Sea but we were soon warmed up jumping, diving, somersaulting into the waves, dragging ourselves through narrow gaps in, and under the water, sliding down small ravines and leaping into bore holes trying to pick up rocks. It was a right blast. We both loved it. Sea water was still pouring out of our noses for hours to come. (Sorry, you didn’t need to know that!). We were joined by a young couple, Amy and Ryan who were on their honeymoon and were great fun- though they were both sporting a zany pair of Bermuda shorts over their wetsuits which looked erm…classy(!). They helped to keep the pressure on us old guys to throw ourselves fully into it. Coasteering. Try it. 

Bamburgh castle is within a couple of miles of the campsite and is probably the most impressive I have ever seen. It is intact and in use with accommodation inside and has been renovated to a terrific standard. It sits upon a large rock outcrop against the beach and dominates the landscape for miles around. It is genuinely awesome. We were unable to visit too closely as they were just finishing filming a Harrison Ford ‘Indiana Jones’ movie so access denied… However just sitting on the grass nearby in the brilliant sunshine was equally as good. We had been told about the delights of nearby fishing village of Seahouse ( No Michelle it is Seahouses…not Seahorses!). Unfortunately we had not planned this bit too well and took a long march along the gravel footpath in the wrong footwear, wrong clothing, no water…… oops. We had to break a habit of a lifetime and jump on a bus to get us back into Bamburgh. Sometimes things do not work as well as expected. 

And as if that isn’t enough excitement…. we drove over to Holy Island- (Lindisfarne Island) the next day which was a memorable day out. The roadway in, is across a causeway which is under water when the tide comes in, so planning is rather crucial. Once on the island there is huge car park near to the lovely village, good pubs – The Ship Inn provided an impressive lunch menu- and cafés and yet another castle…! We had been spoiled somewhat by Bamburgh Castle but this was worthy of a walk-by. We then took a 6km walk half way around the island during which we met up very closely with a red deer with a fawn of only a few days old that just stood nearby for several minutes before we had to leave. It just seems that this whole area has a constant round of things to see and do. Obviously the warm, sunny weather helped. Though regularly a bit too windy to fully enjoy.

The 15th June and we had to head off to Scotland. Stopping on the way at Berwich on Tweed as you must…This was surprisingly welcoming for motorhomes as the far end of the large car park was open to large vehicle and for free…. all day…. delight. We managed a walk round almost all of the walled town and stood looking at the awesome Royal Border Bridge. I mean… this bridge has 28 arches, high above the river Tweed and carries the main railway lines through into Scotland. Most impressive. Derek the Drone was sent out to take some pretty special photos. 

Berwick on Tweed – Royal Border Bridge
Here’s Ruby

Then at last… on into Bonny Scotland. See you there soon. 

Did you know…

Berwick-upon-Tweed sometimes known as Berwick-on-Tweed or just Berwick, is a town and civil parish in the County of Northumberland. It is the northernmost town in England. It is located at the mouth of the River Tweed on the east coast, just 2 miles south of the Scottish border.

The area was for more than 400 years central to historic border wars between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, and several times possession of Berwick changed hands between the two kingdoms. The last time it changed hands was when Richard of Gloucester retook it for England in 1482. To this day many Berwickers feel a close affinity to Scotland. Surprisingly the vast majority of the folk in Berwick on Tweed speak very broad Scottish we found.

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