March- April 2022

So….For some- Life Goes on

At the last blog we had rushed home from southern Spain in time to see my mum Corinne before she sadly died of cancer on 24th February. Very bad, sad days for all of us. 

The next two months were therefore in turmoil for us and many family members. We were blessed with the generosity of the neighbours of Mum and Dads who let us park Ruby outside their homes and even more generously let us plug our electrics in to keep the winter chill out. Thank you.

Mum had ,managed to hold on for four days after we arrived there before dying peacefully in her own bed. RIP mom.

Afterwards we stayed very close to support Dad for several days before moving away for a few days to give him space and time to gather his thoughts and continue his grieving without us helping (nagging !). There were also plans for the funeral and the painful paperwork to sort out. 

We spent three nights at the Beechwood Caravan site near York which gave us the chance to spend a few days in this wonderful, interesting and buzzing city. One visit by bus and and the second day with a five km walk each way into the city. We loved it for the famous Walls, unusual attractions and the huge history.

We then headed for a couple of wild (free) camping nights at the attractive (not) Rodley area alongside the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. To be fair the joy of this place was somewhat hidden behind heavy grey clouds and huge puddles of standing water everywhere. It would be difficult to ‘sex’ up anywhere in that weather.

We did also manage a couple of hours at the Temple of Elland Road. Home of the awesome Leeds Utd. Always room to fit another Leeds shirt in our wardrobe in Ruby !

We then went back to parking outside Dads house again for a few more nights to give our support.  

7th March arrived and once again we took time away whilst awaiting the funeral. We planned on visiting the west coast with Blackpool in mind and the surrounding area. Trouble is that we found ourselves driving through Ilkley alongside the moors on the way…‘Remember when we stayed here last year?’ Says I ‘ Yes, what a great place it was. Why don’t we just pitch up here instead’, says Mrs B.  So (because we can) we pulled over into the quiet, level, tarmac car park below Ilkley Moor and stayed for two nights. Michelle even took the plunge and booked an appointment to have her hair cut/coloured/dried/girl-hair-stuff at a local salon. Thus giving us an excuse to return again a few days later. Win Win. Turns out it was the best salon ever.. and bloody cheap too. Defo a favourite place of ours to stay for nowt. 

We then headed to the east coast and via the delights of the SearchforSites app found another cold, wet, grey and ugly place to wild camp at Carnforth in Lancaster.

Rather desolate in Carnforth

So after just one unexciting night we headed into Morecambe and plonked ourselves on the sea front through the day and into the night. A recommended site directly alongside the sea wall with views across the bay. Trouble is…the road was far too busy, for far too many hours, and with cars and buses passing far too close. Don’t think we slept an hour all night. ! Time to move on again. To be honest I don’t think our hearts were in it, for wild camping. Wrong time of year and wrong circumstances really. 

We therefore pitched up at a proper site at Pot Haw farm near Malham for two paid nights. This turned out to be a brilliant stopover. This is a working farm with half a dozen pitches (all empty this week) and it was in the first week of lambing season. The farmer and family were amazing and so welcoming. ‘Yes, come on over, you can watch the lambing any time’- So there I was spending several hours on each day in the lambing shed. The farm has 600+ acres of land and 500+ sheepses. I was up close and involved with a sheep giving birth and seeing how the whole process worked, from ewe to field. There I was sitting in with the nice farmer chap, taking the ewes and fresh lambs out into the field in their buggy/trailer (The farmers buggy NOT the lambs buggy…!)  Really enjoyed it. Well worth the £30 per night for the pitch including electric. There were plenty of places to walk nearby on quiet country lanes and with a splendid farm shop and cafe to provide sustenance it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. 

13th March and we got back to Ilkley for two more nights. Michelle got the hairdressing sorted and we enjoyed a tasty posh evening meal at the Bistro Pierre restaurant. We may have to move to Ilkley as we Likley (sic..!) it so much. 

We then returned to park outside Dads house for several more days as we were now approaching the date of Mums funeral and we were able to assist with some planning and support. We did manage however to skip along to Elland Road with brother Jez to watch Leeds United under 23s give Man Utd under 23s a thrashing… ( Shame the first team can’t follow suit ! ).

We moved into the Pontefract Premier Inn at Xscape on Thursday 17th for a couple of nights. The extended family were all arriving in preparation of the funeral and mostly stopping there too, along with dad. So, of course, a Wetherspoon’s posh dinner and a few drinks was entirely necessary. 

Despite the sadness of the occasion it was great to catch up with the family.

The 18th March was the sad day of the funeral. I will not share the details on this blog but it went well and Mum had a good send off. She would have loved it..! Followed by a buffet/ drinks then an impromptu, raucous family celebration of Mums life at the hotel late into the morning. Emotional and fun at the same time. Goodbye Mom….

Now you may not be surprised to learn that many of us then got struck down with Covid.! All that hugging and kissing in close proximity was bound to have an impact. Thankfully it was mainly little more than heavy colds/flu symptoms. 

So after a few more days hanging around and getting in the way… we headed back off onto the road. We had some photography work to do back in Bristol so needed to head back down country…slowly….

21st March and we visited a site previously recommended in Anglesey. A paid site called Shoreside is also alongside RAF Valley and right at the end of the runway. We had RAF training Texans and Hawk jets looping round every day, starting at 9am (can’t get out of bed too early those RAF types !). Due to decent weather we were able to just sit outside Ruby and watch them taking off / landing and giving them marks out of ten for their skill level..!  Add to this a beach very close by and some walking areas and all was good.

Apart from the actual site facilities. Once again they charge the earth and provide very little. £30 per night and a scabby pitch, unheated shower block with a shower that dribbles water gently onto your back. ! 

Thankfully the following few days didn’t have that problem. On the 24th we upgraded to a nicer camp site at Llanberis – in the foothills of Mount Snowdon. We had some work to do now… a mountain to climb. The Llanberis Touring Park is a vast improvement on the Shoreside site we had just left. Much cleaner, warmer, welcoming and £1 a night cheaper. It was also within 5 minutes walk of the town centre and 20 mins walk from the footpath up that big mountain. We wanted to have another go at walking up it but hadn’t done much exercise at all over recent weeks so we were expecting it to be a challenge. It was..its a bloody long way… and its uphill… quite a lot…But we made it (blisters and all) up the Pyg Track route. Which is a bit of a cheat to be fair as you catch the bus to the start of this footpath gaining 360m of the 1085m before you start.! The top was probably the best weather we have seen up there and in fact the best of any mountain top we could remember. We were able to sit and enjoy warm sunshine with a gentle breeze for our picnic rather than the usual hiding behind rocks, stuffing our food in quickly because of the cold, wind and wet. It was a most pleasant break before heading back down the long Llanberis track and back to the camp site. Simples… Well, perhaps not… but we did it and it only took us three days to recover! So we then spent four days at the Llanberis Touring Park. Hobbling round..!

We were then into a stretch of ‘Wild’ camping. Having been excited by the sight and sound of RAF jets at Valley we were keen to get back to one of our previous haunts. The infamous MACH loop. Just outside of Machynlleth in mid Wales, (still within the Snowdon National Park) is where the RAF and foreign air forces test their skills at low level flying. Once seated precariously on the hillsides we can watch Hawks/F15s/Hercules/Typhoons and helicopters flying BELOW you through the valley and down towards the lake and turn in a loop, returning a few minutes later to get lower again. Absolutely awesome, exciting, breathtaking and frankly unbelievable. There is a large lay-by just below the favoured hillside where we parked up and stayed overnight. We trudged the 15 minute hike up the hill on the first afternoon and sat in the warm sunshine, picnic to hand and waited, and waited and waited. Well we have been before and know that sometimes nothing happens, people sit there all day with nothing more than a passing buzzard or two. Though in the warm weather it is pleasant enough. But later in the afternoon we had the arrival of an Osprey. Not the dickie bird of prey but the twin propellor-ed military vertical-take-off aircraft. This is a bit of a rare sight anywhere but a real joy to see one pass below us. After a thoroughly peaceful sleep in the lay-by the next morning we returned back up the hill with a serious lunch pack picnic.

Sat and waited, and waited from about 9am until just after 2pm when our first visitor arrived. A lonely black hawk trainer (from RAF Valley) came fizzing through. (Now this is always an interesting moment. When one of the occupiers of the hillside suddenly notices signs of an approaching aircraft, they leap into the air shouting ‘Incoming’ in an excited voice. At this point every one of the 30-40+ folk on the hillside spit out their sandwiches, knock over their coffee flasks and eagerly grab a camera/binoculars/mobile phone and turn towards the incoming aircraft. Cannot miss one moment of its passing on film. None of us actually watch it passing through…We have to catch it on our camera then replay the footage in order to enjoy the moment afterwards. ! We all do it and we all regret it and wish we could just sit there and enjoy the moment. But no…. Gotta capture it on the camera to share with others..! )

Top Gun. Superb…!

 Followed shortly after by two F15 Eagles thundering through, alongside our level before tanking down the valley and turning left by the lake.. Wow. Incredible. They returned again about 6 minutes later having completed a circuit of the MACH Loop. This time being chased energetically by the little black hawk trainer. Peddling like hell to try catch his bigger sisters..!

29th March and we headed south again and towards Abergavenny. We had located a free camp area in the car park near the town centre. Lots of signs saying ‘No Vehicles over 2 Tonnes’ at the entrance, but this was ignored by many campers and motorhomes. We had ‘permission’ from another camper van owner who said ‘its ok, I have stayed here for weeks now’ – So that made it OK…!

On the way to this spot we did have a bit of bother and yet more damage to Ruby. A passing white van (again) smacked his wing mirror into ours and completely smashed the previously cracked mirror casing on the right hand side. Bugga! Fault was maybe 50/50 because of the narrow roads (and to be fair our motorhome wing mirrors do stick out a long way (bit like my ears really ! )). So it was probably more of a 60/40 blame-wise. But either way this decided us to buy some bullet-proof, armour plated, carbon-fibre covers to prevent too much further damage in the future. Watch this space!

Anyway a quiet night (apart from the road sweeper at 6am!) in the Abergavenny car park and then off to Totnes in Devon. Gawd do we get about a lot…! We had yet another visit to Alan Kerr Motorhomes who we bought Ruby from, in order to have another go at repairing the mischievous electric control panel. So the night before we stayed in one of our old haunts of the Totnes Longmarsh car park alongside the River Dart. Nothing exciting but a comfortable, dark, cosy nights sleep for £10. No facilities but we are at least welcome and safe. 

Next morning we dropped Ruby off at Alan Kerr’s in Paignton and with the use of the courtesy car spent a night in the Premier Inn at Goodrington Bay. Not too shabby to be fair. 

Anyway in short…. We didn’t get the control panel repaired (again!) but with grim resolution we collected Ruby and headed up back to the homelands of Portishead as we now entered April. As you may recall our reliable red Mini was left parked up over the winter in the motorhome storage park near Weston super Mare. And yes, of course, she wouldn’t start as the battery was flatter than my wallet….. And of course, it is at this point that it starts to rain heavily as we grab jump leads and strain every Amp/Ohm to eventually get her started. Joy. Shame that Michelle then stalled it 50 metres down the road..!

So, it seems that the Mini is now out of MOT – by several weeks (but keep that to yourselves!) We had no chance of getting it booked in for several more weeks either but as we all know….there are no police officers out there so it was pretty low risk..!

Now this was an interesting thing.. on one of the nights parking in Portishead by the Lake Grounds we noticed a car drive past us and around the lake, quite noisy, about 10.30pm. Not totally unusual however this same car went round again, and again, and again….probably over 30 times, the clown driving it just drove in circles. Think he was unhappy about motorhomes/campervans parking around his lake. He was absolutely bonkers. He didn’t honk/toot/wheelspin/blast-music but just kept driving round. WTF was he on…! I went from curious to laughing, to irritated, to angry, to gettingmypantson and stepping out to challenge him on this next circuit. Trouble is, by chance, this was his very last lap and he disappeared out of sight on the other side of the lake. Dammit…! But this was by now almost midnight. Hate him…!

6th April and it was time to prepare for a few weeks of graduation photography. We had both been booked for ceremonies at the Students Union of Bristol University and then a week at Ashton Gate- home of Bristol City Football Club..(clowns!) This amounted to 12 days working in April wrapped around two big family events and included the arrival of Kelly, Alana & Scarlett from Australia for a month. Never a dull moment. 

In short we booked Ruby into the Brook Lodge Farm site in Redhill near to Bristol Airport for two sets of nine nights (18 in total for those of you needing help!). Despite the fact that we spent most of the working week leaving Ruby at 7am and returning at 9.30pm at least she was in a safe environment and there were good quality showers on site. And as we had the weekends off we could at least get the camp chairs out and chill. 

The family events comprised firstly of the brilliant wedding of daughter Nicola to Paul at the Walton Park Hotel in Clevedon. The location was good (it is where we got married) the weather was perfect (sitting outside beyond midnight) and the company was terrific (no actual fisticuffs!). Result. A really, really good weekend. Thanks Mr & Mrs Cocking. 

The Monday morning was our second family event which saw us up and running over to Trecco Bay near Swansea in that-there Wales for four nights with the Oz kids, staying in a caravan at the seemingly Chav infested holiday park. Well… this was in fact an extremely good and surprisingly entertaining spot. Walking on the beach, climbing rope-walks and visiting Dan Yr Ogof Caves added to the fun. Worked out well and gave us the chance to catch up on the overdue Oz bonding. Top Gig. 

Our second period of photography work at Ashton Gate (tossers!) had the added bonus of being joined by an old (ish..!) friend – Di. She has joined us as part of the graduation photography team on a trial period and she fits right in. Gave us the chance to work again with my previous ‘work-wife’ from a couple of years ago. 

So, all in all, March and April was busy with a chunk of working hard and playing hard. It gave us chance to earn some money to put fuel into Ruby and pay for some more camp sites. We did eventually get the mini through its MOT (seven weeks late!) And we had a dental check up (two years late..). See, its never tooooo late..!

And what better way to end the month than for me and Mich to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. A very pleasant romantic lunch at the Inn at Yanleigh (near Bristol) followed by watching Leeds United on TV – getting their asses kicked (AGAIN). Oh well. Happy Anniversary Michelle. I love you. 

Did you know….Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, at an elevation of 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level, and the second highest point in the British Isles. It is located in Snowdonia National Park. The Snowdon Mountain Railway is a narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway running to the top from Llanberis during tourist periods topping out at the Summit Cafe which is also open during peak seasons.

There are six recommended paths to reach the summit. They are all classed as ‘hard, strenuous walks’ and you should allow at least 6 – 8 hours to get there and back, even if you’re pretty fit. 

1- Llanberis Path (9 miles/14.5 km) is a popular ‘first time’ path. It’s the longest route but provides a gradual climb up to the summit. 

2-The Miners’ Track (8 miles/13 km)starts from Pen y Pass car park. It starts off gradually until you get to Llyn Llydaw. Then it’s a steep climb pretty much all the way to the top. 

3-Pyg Track (7 miles/11 km) also starts from Pen y Pass. It’s a steep start but the views are worth it. It joins the Miners’ Track before the final ascent to the summit. A popular circular route is to go up one and come down the other.

4-Rhyd Ddu Path (8.5 miles/12km) starts at Rhyd Ddu car park. It’s one of the quieter routes, but you’ll need a head for heights and sure feet as you’ll be following a narrow ridge near the top.

5-Watkin Path (8 miles/13km) takes you from Nant Gwynant to the summit. Starting from Pont Bethania car park, you can see some of the old copper mine workings along the way.

6-Snowdon Ranger Path (8 miles/13km) winds up the side of Snowdon from Llyn Cwellyn car park, giving you views of the many lakes in the area.