Category Archives: Travel

European Travelling

Work Stops Play

28th Sept 2021

So… it has been a while since our last blog and for good reason. Our travels have slowed down over the last 6-7 weeks partly due to long term planning and partly with late changes. 

It was time to catch up with connecting with the Somerset/Gloucestershire area families following a brilliant and exciting spring and summer. 

We were sad to leave the Lake District after what was our favourite location so far and having enjoyed some of the best weather anyone could hope for in that part of the country. 

1st August and we were hammering (65mph!) down the M6 and M5 into north Devon with a coffee and cake stop at Michelle folks along the way. We had a booking for daughters x2, sons-in-law x2, granddaughters x2 and grandsons x3 at the Riverside Campsite, South Molton for four nights. A joint effort of accommodation with the gang in an eight person tent, me and Michelle in Ruby joined by a motley collection of grandkids (switched each night). The joys of spending two nights with twin boys -11 months old-overnight in a large cot in a tiny motorhome was officially ‘exciting’ ! 

And I tell you what.. it was totally brilliant. The weather was kind, plenty to do, and fun evenings sitting outside playing cards (Uno!) till midnight trying not to disturb the neighbours too much. It was a great way to spend quality time with the gang in a relaxed environment. A trip out to the Milky Way theme park was also fun and gave us the chance to babysit the twins whilst everyone else went on the rides…! Ha! The site itself was very disappointing, dirty and untidy but we pushed through it and had a memorable time. 

5th August and we pitched up at a pop-up site for three nights at the football club at beautiful Bourton-on-the-Water.

Rose Tree lunch

The weather was less good but the site was close into the town so we had a good chance to look round. Had a terrific lunch at the Rose Tree restaurant on the Sunday which was a real treat. Don’t know about you but often times cafes and restaurants are only average at best and often disappoint. This place was worthy of recommendation. 

Then we decided to head to the hills.. well not very high to be honest, but we wanted to wild camp again so we headed over to Rodborough Common and stayed a couple of nights nestled into one of the many car parks on the hilltop overlooking Stroud and surrounding valleys.  Actually a great place to stay over as long as you don’t mind the risk of a Highland bull or two rubbing against the motorhome at any time of night or day trying to scratch an itch….This gave us the chance to do what we enjoy the most…. walking up and down hills! 

One of the things that irritate both of us whilst out walking is the dog owners’ habit of allowing their dog to jump up at you and put muddy paws and saliva all over your clothing. Well, as we arrived back at Ruby following a long walk we discovered a camper van parked next to us. Fine. No probs. But her dog then ran right up to us slavering, growling, barking and generally being aggressive. As we stepped back and protested the owner said ‘sorry, I assumed you were dog lovers’…  Why? !Why would she assume we were dog lovers ? And if we were, would we really enjoy her snarling Fido trying to eat us..?! 

A few words were had including ‘If I loved dogs I would have one rather than sharing yours..’ however we made up later on as we were going to be spending the night on adjoining bits of gravel. We often feel that we are obliged to have a dog because we have a motorhome..! 

We then had a couple of days to spare so we revisited Portishead and tried successfully to park up for a night or two at the recreational Lake Grounds. Lots of grass nearby, view of the sea and the shipping lanes plus a public toilet through the daytime nearby. Turns out that we would be spending many nights at this location over coming weeks. Very convenient as it is close to Trina and ready access to the storage at the garage at our (rented out) house. 

Portishead Lake Grounds

It was transpiring that a large chunk of photography work was becoming available in the weeks ahead. I had offered to take on some Police award ceremony photos in Portishead plus we had been offered many University graduation photo events in the area. Me taking snaps and Michelle as Sales Manager. This seemed ideal as the summer weather was coming to a close and we could make a bit of money to keep us on the road. So we decided to book quite a busy schedule of work for September and October. Thought we were supposed to be retired.! Most ‘road trip’ travellers take on fruit/veg picking to keep the finances coming in but we are too old for all that bending down stuff..!  But hey, we both love photography work so why not.. This meant we would have to plan to stay round the South West for a couple of months and hold back on the travels. What a perfect combination though. Suits us – though we do very quickly get itchy feet again. 

First off though we had an appointment to house-sit for a few weeks. Wow. A real bed. Big shower. Peace and quiet and loads of space. Now don’t get me wrong, we love our lifestyle. Three Year Road Trip. Freedom. Fresh air. But it was sooo nice to just stretch out for a while. Mind you we were still busy. Hosting family members, mowing lawns, feeding birds/fish and giving Ruby a good wash and polish etc but it was a nice change.

This was unfortunately shorter than planned due to the knock on effect of Covid restrictions on others so we stepped away from BIG and back into COSY with Ruby. Once again we headed off to the Lake Grounds at Portishead on 24th August with photography jobs in the forefront of our next several weeks.  

27th August we trundled over to the Gower Peninsula in South Wales to the Pitton Cross camp site alongside some of the best beaches on the country including Three Cliffs and Rhosilli. 

Weirdly.. as we pulled into the site Michelle and I suddenly realised that we had been there before… Four years earlier we visited with our tent…  spent one night then scuttled back home.! There was torrential rain and stormy winds which had no intention of reducing. Thankfully we had chance to enjoy the site this time.  Lots of places to walk and more importantly lots of places to swim in the sea.. Trina joined us for our five nights here with the first three being terrific weather for lounging on the beach and playing in the sea. Can’t beat it. We did have some slightly troublesome neighbours on a nearby pitch. Large group of Swansea’s finest 20+ year olds partying loudly. Thankfully that had sufficient respect to fall asleep by 11 p.m. (having being drinking since 11 a.m.- bless them.!) 

The next bit of camping/work was pretty awesome. We had been booked for eight days of graduation photography at a well know university campus near Bath. So I contacted the nice Estates Manager on site saying ‘we are photographers and we are travelling in a motorhome, will there be any problems parking? It’s quite big’. She then says ‘that won’t be a problem, do you just want to park or do you want to camp overnight..?’ Wow.. sounds interesting. Anyway she tells us we can park in a remote tarmac car park for the whole period though there will be a £10 daily charge via the automated Justpay system. No electric and no facilities but hey. Looked good. We turned up on 2nd September having collected my photography kit and spoke with security on site. ‘Yes, there is no problem with the car park. And there are toilets and showers alongside that you can use’ and they directed us there.  Bigger Wow. Anyway it then turns out that this car park overlooked the green hills and fields for miles around, was next to a walled garden with picnic tables and sun brollies and the toilet block was new, clean and with lovely hot water.   AND….. the car parking charges were suspended as it was Graduation Week. Blimey. How bloody brilliant. ! Don’t want to get over excited but.. the grounds of the Uni contain beautiful gardens and a lake with herons, kingfishers, cormorants and more. An absolute gem of a week was had. We both loved it.

Obviously. We had a day off on the Sunday so took the opportunity to take the bus straight from the campus into Bath city centre for the day and Sunday lunch at Browns restaurant just alongside the cathedral. 

Browns at Bath. Lovely Sunday Roast.

Oh! we had to take some photos of the graduates too but that was also relaxed and enjoyable. Win win. As you can tell, we had a good time. 

Following weekend involved another couple of days at one of the University of West of England (UWE) campuses which involved us parking once again in Portishead for a few great days. Not much of a road trip here then! 

15th September we booked four nights at West End camp site in Weston super Mare for our next gig at the Winter Gardens over the weekend. Don’t bother with West End site. It’s a shocker. And still cost £21 per night.  Ancient, untidy, dirty… yukky. The toilet cleaner was at least 75 years old and carried out his duties wearing his old brogue shoes, ‘Sunday best’ trousers and dirty Arran jumper. There is no way he could even bend below the waist let alone scrub toilets.! ‘I live on site and I only pay half the rent in exchange for cleaning up once a day’ he tells me. Eeergh.  But we did spend a few fun hours  grand-parenting one evening. 

Look Away now..Sorry.!

Thankfully we moved on to Home Farm In Burnham on Sea which cost £22 per night, was very clean, modern, good surroundings, bar and restaurant..AND free use of the indoor pool.. A much better site for three nights. Mind you all was not perfect.. I managed to crack my head into the poolside wall whilst doing the front crawl. Forgot to look up..! Very nearly knocked myself out and left a huge bump and pulled a large slice of scalp off. Gawd did that hurt..! Ruined my good looks.!

This also gave us the opportunity to meet up with some family and friends and treat ourselves to a well overdue date-night Indian  meal in Burnham. It was strange for me to be back into an area I knew so well, having lived in Burnham for 23 years or so and having been away for over 13 years. We certainly bumped into several ‘old’ friends and acquaintances in this short visit. Even managed to show Michelle the delights of climbing up Brent Knoll. What a great place to get superb views all the way from South Wales, Minehead, Glastonbury and a whole lot more round the 360º viewpoint.

Due to another Police photography job we spent yet another couple of nights at the Lake Grounds in Portishead. People must think we are permanent fixtures with the amount of time we spend there. It works a treat and does not get in anyones way (we hope) and we manage to sleep really well mostly. 

By the 24th September we were tired out from all this work….!  so decided to go abroad (!) and headed off for a break to Brecon in Wales for five nights booked at the Brecon Beacons Camping and Motorhome site. Another good site with clean modern facilities and surprisingly busy for late September. Our planning was not that brilliant however – it looked on the map as if we were camped directly below Pen-y-Fan mountain so we could step out of the site and climb the hills. Ooops. Turns out we would have to walk 3.5 miles just to get to the bottom of the mountain….! [Did I mention before how poor my map reading skills were……] This was quite a big problem as we were not keen on taking Ruby out to fight for space in rough car parks on a busy weekend. We decided to take a long walk along the nearby canal instead. Not nearly as interesting or challenging so we took the decision to take a ‘long-cut’ back across some hills. Far too challenging this time. Exhausted by the time I had accidentally directed us up and down several hills unnecessarily. Still… it was a day out. 

It was a bit of a surprise on arriving into Wales. So far behind England being released from Covid restrictions. Got told off loads of times for not using masks. ! Makes you appreciate how much we have moved on at home.

As forecast, the weather then took a turn after a couple of days. Autumn has now fully arrived and I am writing this (28th Sept) whilst it is raining and raining and raining some more outside. To be fair, this is the first long bout of rain we have met since May so we are not complaining. It therefore makes this the ideal time to publish this blog and finish off for now. We are off to another chapter tomorrow morning which involves more work…. we are taking Ruby back into our storage site in Weston super Mare area for the first time in ten months whilst we spend time in a hotel …(unfortunately only a scruffy Travelodge (other hotel groups are available)) whilst we spend a week taking photos of University graduates in Cirencester.  Then Southampton followed by Plymouth and then Bournemouth. They say never work with children and animals…. well we would like to add students to that list…! 

Mind you…. this is supposed to be a Road Trip… !

Did you know…. The Brecon Beacons are a mountain range in South Wales In a narrow sense, the name refers to the range of Old Red Sandstone peaks which lie to the south of Brecon. Sometimes referred to as “the central Beacons” they include South Wales’ highest mountain, Pen Y Fan. The range forms the central section of the Brecon Beacons National Park, a designation which also encompasses ranges both to the east and the west of “the central Beacons”. This much wider area is also commonly referred to as “the Brecon Beacons”, and it includes the Black Mountains to the east. 

Holiday in the Lake District

12th July 2021

So… we had a 18 day ‘holiday’ pre-booked at a campsite near Keswick but entered the Lake District for a couple of days wild camping in advance. Well, what an interesting and exciting welcome to the area with the roads immediately becoming small and narrow. Mich had located a car park alongside mountains and between Lake’s Buttermere and Crummock which looked ideal. Always keen to put Ruby to the test, we followed the route provided by our (size appropriate) Satnav but found life a little tricky. Came to a stretch of road where it was impossible for a motorhome and car to pass each other, and as Sods Law dictates we were met at this point by 8-9 cars towards us. This area was overgrown with trees with rocks on both sides and a steep uphill for us. So, it turns out that we could actually fit a motorhome and car through the gap !…took 15 minutes and many sweating car drivers scraping down the sides of rocks and eventually squeezing through. Damn that was nervy. So nervy that we stopped at the next opportunity to assess the route. There was still four miles to go, which is a long way on these roads. Oh, I forgot to mention that when we entered this stretch of road we passed a sign saying ‘6ft 6 width limit- 4 miles ahead’ .. mmmm and we are 7ft 8in wide…! We didn’t want to get totally stuck so we spoke to a couple of walkers ‘Do you know this area? Is it big enough to take our motorhome?’ – ‘Oh I would think so as it is the bus route ! ‘ was the reply..- Ok then. So we pressed on and survived more stretches of busy roads before finding our car park slot. This was against a gentle stream with a few trees to protect us from any breeze and with incredible views of mountains all around. We had to park with our rear-end out over the stream due to the size of the car park which left us having to sleep two nights directly over the running babbling brook. Quite fun. 

The next couple of days found us walking up and down hills as usual. Terrific, incredible views in all directions which would compete with anywhere in the world. We took a walk along the road up through the famous Honister Pass, grabbed a coffee at the Slate Mine cafe and then climbed some more up onto the mountain top at Fleetwith Pike. Beautiful. Steep but beautiful. And a great excuse to visit the cafe again on the way down for some soup for lunch. Nice butternut squash soup, with a big bread roll and a large fly for Mich…! Yes, the classic, ‘Waiter there is a fly in my soup’ sketch. Quite a big bugger which put us both right off, so I returned to the cafe to complain and request a refund. ‘Well you are sitting outside-it must have got in out there-we don’t have any flies in here-I am even going to each some of this soup now myself.!’ says the unhelpful manageress. ’Not quite the response I was expecting to be honest’ says I. But they gave a reluctant refund anyhow. At least they didn’t charge us extra for the meat content…! 

So we had a couple of excellent days here with the additional joy of a few military jets flying low over the lakes to make us smile. 

14th July and we headed off to our booking near Keswick driving this time up and through the Honister Pass and over the 6ft 6 wide bridge.! Having struggled with narrow roads and oncoming traffic to get here we decided to leave at 7am in order to avoid too much traffic. The road up and through the pass is amazing winding its way straight up through the valley and over into the next valley. The roads eventually widened out ten miles later as we approached Keswick – and would you believe it…. some dopey woman driving a transit van dashed towards us through one tight section and smashed her wing mirror into mine, breaking the plastic casing. Bugga! It was probably 50-50 as we were both on our own side of the road, but had she slowed as much as I did, we would have been able to avoid it, but she never even slowed down. Muppet.!

Ooops. Damn it…!

So this is the second bit of damage on Ruby. Nothing too huge with just a crack down the bottom of the mirror casing but rather irritating after driving so many miles on really tiny, tight roads without damage. 

Our booking was the Braithwaite Village Camping and Caravan site which is just 3 miles from Keswick. A terrific location at the bottom of the valley surrounded by mountains 360º round and close to Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake. It is much pricier than we like to pay at £31 per night, but this is July, school holidays and in the beautiful Lake District. And more importantly this was our Summer Holiday….!  There is a cycle, walking route straight into Keswick and a bus stop right outside the site with routes into Keswick and around the Lakes. Perfect-which meant we could leave Ruby parked up and still get around. After all our travels it was nice to be able to have some grass alongside our gravel pitch, to have high quality showers and a laundry room. (And…. the payment machine for the washing machines was broken so all the washing and drying were free…- Michelle was in heaven..!). We could put or groundsheet out, plonk the camping chairs out, put up the canopy and enjoy the sunshine… Yes, sunshine. From the moment we arrived and for the next full two weeks we had the most incredible hot, heat wave 30º bright blue sky sunshine. Absolutely cracking and very timely. 

So what did we do with our time here? Well, of course, we climbed up mountains, several of them, we swam in both Crummock Water and Derwent Water and we visited many of the Lake District hotspots. Firstly though we had an appointment on 16th July to have an upgraded gas system fitted to Ruby. Up to this point we had two 6kg Calor gas bottles fitted from new. This was fine however there are issues. Firstly, swapping empty bottles each time is an expensive way to pay for gas compared with LPG that can be pumped in at petrol stations, perhaps 3 times more. Secondly, it has become increasingly difficult to get hold of refill bottles (which is apparently down to the number of new caravans and motorhomes being built during Covid times). And finally, Calor Gas is not available in Europe so we had no choice but to upgrade.

Trying hard to fill up with LPG..

The day was spent having a Gaslow system fitted at a company near Penrith at a cost of £600. (I include some of these prices as I know this is the kind of information I want to know about when reading other peoples blogs..:-)

  • Due to the amazing weather we were determined to spend time swimming and lazing round a lakeside beach. There are so many areas that may provide ready access it was not clear where to head for. So we did the obvious thing- as we were tourists and wanted information we visited the Tourist Information Centre in Keswick…. Well this is how that went when speaking to the nice (older) lady in there;-
  • Glenn ‘What is the best place to go nearby where we can swim in a lake?’ 
  • Helpful Lady ‘You can’t swim in the lakes due to blue algae’
  • Glenn ‘ Aaah, ok, is there anywhere we can swim without blue algae?’
  • Helpful Lady ‘No, the blue algae arrives every summer’
  • Glenn ‘Well if it wasn’t for the blue algae are there any areas where anyone can swim in the lakes’
  • Helpful Lady ‘ No, it is all over, everywhere’
  • Michelle (frustrated )’say if there wasn’t any blue algae where could we get down to the lakeside?’
  • Helpful Lady ‘Oh you can go to the swimming pool or to the other side of the Lake District’  – (25 miles away!)
  • Glenn (angry) ‘What about here in Keswick, near here, where we can access and paddle in the lake’
  • Helpful Lady ‘There is blue algae all round the lake, you can’t go swimming’
  • Glenn ‘ENOUGH WITH THE SODDING BLUE ALGAE- WHICH WAY IS THE LAKE’

At which point Helpful Lady says ‘well if you are going to be aggressive I can’t help you anymore’- Ha!, she hadn’t helped at all. What an irritating snooty woman she was. God I was livid…! . She was obsessed with blue algae. Mich told me off for being rude and a chap in the Tourist (lack-of) Information centre invited me to leave (whilst pointing towards the lake!). 

Anyway we swam in Lake Derwent the next day and the following two days we swam in Crummock Water a total of about 12 times alongside hundreds of other people and didn’t get any blue algae poisoning- We don’t even glow in the dark! The weather was absolutely perfect with cloudless skies and a gentle breeze along the lake to take out the intense heat. I always believed that the water in a lake was always cold-all the time. We expected freezing cold water but with only a slight intake of breath on the way in, it was mighty fine. Ok the ‘beach’ was stoney and untidy and had no ice cream kiosk or toilets or crappy souvenir shops nearby but we coped..And on our second day on this beach on Crummock Water an RAF Hawk kindly arrived straight ahead of us and screamed above the water towards and directly over us at a very low height. Thank you. 

Tuesday 20th was quite exciting as we had arranged for a posh Afternoon Tea at the nearby Armathwaite Hotel in Bassenthwaite. This was from a Virgin Gift Voucher (other providers are available..) from daughter Kelly and family, gifted to us over 18 months earlier and put on hold due to Covid. We just had to get there. It was only seven miles but we did not want to drive Ruby over there as a drink was expected. The local bus was the obvious answer but rather technically tricky with a change from the X5 to the X4 half way. Well it kinda worked well but we were so lucky as it turned out..because the nearest bus stop to the Armathwaite hotel was outside the local distillery so we arrived early and had an hours tour of the gin, vodka and whisky distillery. By the time we walked across to the Armathwaite hotel we were somewhat ‘hazy’ due to the tasting element of the tour. Anyway the Afternoon Tea was terrific despite it being bloody hot sitting facing across the lawn towards Bassenthwaite Lake. Loads of sugary, creamy, unhealthy sandwiches and cakes and cups of Darjeeling and Rooibos tea. Of course we could not leave it there so we ordered a glass of Prosecco. Well a bottle to be honest… Now this bit was interesting.. We asked the waiter for the bill for the Prosecco after our first glass full because we wanted to take it out from the patio area onto the lawn. He said ‘Don’t worry, it is all sorted out at reception’ Oh, that was a great surprise. We were not excepting the drink to be included but we were delighted. Sat outside supping too many bubbles and watched a happy wedding ceremony on the lawn before staggering off to get the bus back to the campsite. Fat chance of getting that right, but somehow we coped nicely and returned in one piece. Lovely day out. Thank you Kel and Co..

Anyway next day I had a phone call…. ‘Is that Mr Blakeborough? This is reception at the Armathwaite Hotel clearing up some details from yesterday’ Oh dear…. ‘Yes, what can I do for you?’ Says I. Anyway it turns out that we had run off without paying for the Prosecco. ! However once I explained to her what had happened with the waiter she said ‘Aaah, Ok then. In that case we will sort that out this end’ and that was it. We paid nowt. – Hopefully the waiter didn’t have it taken from his wages..!!

After enjoying walking, swimming in lakes and cycling round pathways we decided that we had to take on one of the highest mountains in our back yard as the weather had cooled slightly. Grisedale Pike at 791 metres (2600ft) was a formidable climb, particularly scrambling up narrow rocky outcrops near the top. – best not to look down. ! Once at the top we looked over to another sexy looking mountain nearby which Michelle said ‘We could do that one’.. Hopegill Head –Really..!. Followed by Crag Hill, before finishing off with Scar Crags and Causey Pike. And the worst bit was going downhill afterwards which was however compensated for with a pint in the local village. Wow, were we knackered.

Please note however that we did not climb each mountain one at a time from ground level. We simply stayed pretty high up, dropping part way down then back up again throughout, but it was still a very daunting, tiring and exciting day out. We well deserved the pint after this seven hour marathon hike. 

26th July and we deserved a rest so we jumped on a bus for a visit to Grasmere and Ambleside and a treat of a lunch alongside Lake Windermere. It was nice enough. 

After this the hot sunny weather took a turn for the worse and the blue sky turned grey with low, heavy clouds on the last 4-5 days. Can’t complain though. The first two weeks were beyond our expectations and surprisingly hot and sunny. One of our motorhome neighbours had unfortunately relied on the strength of his wind-out canopy awning during a windy period. A huge gust of wind grabbed a hold onto his canopy, picked it up and threw it over the top of the motorhome wrecking the canopy framework and ripping holes in the side of his motorhome. Ooops. A bit of a reminder of the power of the wind.      

Wind Damage

So the end of our holiday went out with a squelch. We had managed to avoid big downpours and still climbed and walked but our movements were a little restricted…until our last full day when we were determined to climb to the top of Skiddaw Mountain. One of the tallest mountains in England at 931 metres (3,000 ft). We could normally see the top of Skiddaw from our pitch on the campsite but the previous couple of days it was stuck in cloud so we knew this would be daunting. Well…. It was. It is a very steep climb although on relatively easy terrain, but as we neared the top the cloud moved in, along with an increasingly painful wind and a drop in temperature of several degrees. It was breathtakingly wild at the top which meant our picnic lunch was put on hold until we were half way down again. It was a most satisfying climb and a good end to our holiday in the mountains. The next day, the first of August was leaving day and a soggy departure saw us heading 350 miles south to Devon and a site at South Moulton for a family camping trip and the chance to share Ruby with a gang of grandchildren…! Ooooo-er…. 

Did you know.. Bassenthwaite Lake is one of the largest water bodies in the English Lake District. It is long and narrow, approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) long and 0.75 miles (1 km) wide, but is also extremely shallow, with a maximum depth of about 70 ft (21 m).

It is the only true lake in the Lake District, all the others being “waters” (for example, Derwentwater), “meres” (for example, Windermere) or “tarns” (for example, Dock Tarn). It is fed by, and drains into, the River Derwent. The lake lies at the foot of Skiddaw, near the town of Keswick. 

Yorkshire hills once more

1st July 2021

So. Here we are once again. Into July in England and with the country drowning in summer rain and thunderstorms. !

On leaving the cosy overnight stops of suburban Pontefract we headed slightly north for a wild camping site on Ilkley Moor. But first we thought we should pop into Thorpe Arch near Wetherby to watch the Leeds United players at their training ground on their first day back at work. For some reason we thought there would be a patch of grass with a fence around so we could overlook the training pitch. Bit naive really..!

Leeds Utd Training Ground

When we arrived at the location given on the post code we found  ‘The Grange‘ and ignored the ‘Private’ sign and headed in to a huge secure complex with modern large stadium-shaped buildings and a smiling security chap or two on the gate. ‘Oops sorry, didn’t realise it was private, we will just have to come in and turn around’ – hoping to get a better view. ‘That’s ok just pull into that area and turn, you can see a bit before you leave’. Brilliant. Top man. However before I could dump the clutch and drive in, a big artic truck headed our way from the site. ‘Oh sorry, you will have to turn round here now instead-there is a lot of building work going on so we cannot get past now’ says Mr Security. Bugga. Well at least we can visual where it is and the size of the operation. ‘Come on mighty Leeds….’ 

The night of 1st July and we parked up at a car park in Ilkley just below the famous Ilkley Moor. Flatish tarmac location in a great out-of-the-way from much traffic, protected by trees from the bit of wind and with an easy walk up onto the moor or down into the village. Both of which we did. We always check for signs of anything that may disturb our sleep on a camp plot and all looked well. There is a cattle grid alongside (but we are used to cars thundering over them now) and apart from a couple of rats prowling round (yuk) we considered this to be a cracking site. Quite quickly we walked up onto the moor and headed over to the Cow and Calf outcrop of rocks giving a stunning view across the area on all sides plus a view of just one aircraft heading into Leeds and Bradford airport in the distance. This really brought back memories for me from when I was a little kid at the same spot. One slightly less stunning part was the abandoned pizza boxes and McDonald wrappings (other outlets are available) left sitting on top of the rock by lazy tourists. Selfish gits. 

Next morning and a walk into Ilkley provided a pleasant experience. Bit like a mini Harrogate, with a Betty’s Tea shop and all things posh. Right nice. – We went to a cheaper place along the road…! and grabbed a couple of smoothies… (no, not a pair of 70s rock stars!).

2nd July and we pitched up at a Caravan and Camping temporary pop-up site at Settle further up in North Yorkshire. We had booked two nights at just £9 per night- and later extended to four nights. As previously mentioned these sites only provide drinking water and toilet disposal points for that money, however you also get a nice big patch of grass alongside the Settle Football club pitch. More importantly you are made very welcome and there is an element of security from the organisers and stewards. Must tell you about the steward that met us on arrival though. Gawd, what a clown. His name was Dave but we called him the Wing Commander. When checking in he demanded to see both of our C&C membership cards for some reason. ‘I have a photo of mine on my phone only, I don’t carry mine,’ says I. ‘Well you should ‘says the Wing Commander. Oh, he sounds a bit full of his own self importance we think. ’I don’t carry my drivers licence everywhere either officer’ says I, calmly. He then requests ‘step from your vehicle so I can talk you through the site ‘- so I oblige – reluctantly. He pointed out the water tap and then the chemical toilet disposal point ‘It is behind that building but the walkway is blocked by bags of sand to prevent flooding, you will have to walk right round the site and along the path by the river and back along the long way’- As I looked I noted another camper guy walking straight toward the building with his toilet cassette. ‘Well what about him?’ says I.  To which the Wing Commander replies ‘He is going to climb over the bags of sand, but if you do you can’t blame me if you trip over’ Talking to us like kids- And unbelievably, we saw him a few days later clambering over the sand bags himself. ! What a WingCo. ! 

Anyway we had a decent couple of days here. The weather was consistently average as it has been this summer to date. We did take a ride on the train from Settle into Carlisle along some beautiful views on the hour and half trip. It made serious attempts to drown us in rain again so we decided it was time to visit another castle, with a roof, that we could walk round during the downpours. Carlisle castle is pretty fair and part of English Heritage so a free couple of hours. As you may know we have not had electric hookup for quite a little while during our wild camping and pop-up sites in Ruby. The main downside is Michelle cannot straighten her hair as she does not have 12v straighteners (leaving her looking like Crystal Tips..!). So the cheeky lass took her straighteners into Carlisle and whilst inside the derelict kitchen larder in the castle I turned to see her tucked away in a corner with her straighteners plugged into a 230v socket and calmly straightening her hair…and giggling…!  Gawd, King Richard III must have been spinning in his grave.

Cheeky ..!

Next day we took a long walk up a big hill (nothing new there then) across into Fiezor in much better weather and luckily found Elaine’s Tea shop for a well earned coffee and cake. 

Whilst on the campsite we accepted some advice from some other aged motorhomers called Derek and Joan that walk several miles up and down these same moors ‘Guess you have been walking for some time then?’ – ‘yes indeed’ says Joan, ‘he is 90 and I am 87’ -!!  And still pretty nifty on their feet. This incredible couple made us realise we had to keep doing this stuff for another 30 years or so..!

5th July was a sad occasion, Steve Robbins, a good friend of mine, had died suddenly in his sleep on 9th June and his funeral service at the crematorium was being streamed live online. I had served with Steve for several years at Bristol Airport, played golf with him hundreds of times and done three golf tours to Spain with him so it was a great loss and an emotional morning. ‘Cheers Steve, you will be sorely missed. ‘

Once again on the road we had identified (well Mich had), a great place to stay in the car park of the Station Inn at Ribbleshead. The car park was the usual sloping gravel affair that we are used to but with plenty of space. 

On visiting the bar and asking the young bar gals there, ‘Are we okay to stay overnight in the car park?’- ‘ yes, no problem, stay as long as you like and park where you want’ then ‘it would be ideal if you come in and have a meal or drink though’  and that was it. ‘ oh, and there is a drinking water tap and a toilet disposal point out there’. Free and wild right in the middle of the North Yorkshire moors and just a couple of hundred metres from the famous Ribbleshead railway viaduct with 24 arches running across the valley. This railway bridge is a major feat of engineering from 150 years ago and a great thing to see. An ideal opportunity to give Derek the Drone several outings (particularly as there were no trees to crash into!). I entertained myself for many hours flying round taking photos and videos of the trains.

Carlisle – Leeds

Of course the moment we went out without Derek a steam train arrived, looking glorious and blowing out heaps of black smoke and steam. Thankfully Mich took great footage on her phone whilst I grabbed photos. 

Hogwarts Express

On the first morning we decided to make a picnic and go for a walk along one of the nearby hills. It turns out we accidentally (due to my poor map reading) walked up Whernside, the tallest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Christ, no wonder we were so knackered when we got back. !

Thankfully we could grab a slap up meal in the Station Inn. This car park was one of those parking spots where we could just sit in Ruby at any time just watching the world go by. The pub on one side, the trains going over the famous viaduct in front and views across the moors on the other side. Very fine location and memorable pitch with friendly, welcoming hosts. 

9th July and we arrived at another pre-planned three nights at a pop-up site in Kendal. A huge field with the bonus of hills on the side and Morrisons on the other.. ! We were in need of stocking up our food and beverage supplies and the availability of this site just outside Kendal town centre was pretty fine. Not the best, but it worked for us to have yet another walk and a visit to the town. First however we had to head into the Westmorland General hospital in Kendal as I had developed a tooth ache which was becoming more painful by the day. So the dentist had a good long, deep look, cold air, warm water, tapping, biting down and x rays but could not find the problem. Well… £28 less and no work done on my teeth. Mind you at one stage he said ‘well we can give it a go but I would hate to drill the wrong tooth..’ ! what. Too true mate. I will just see how it goes for the next few days. It still pains me a bit several days later but maybe it will just go away…!

We also had the delight/fear of watching England in the Euro finals against Italy. We were initially intent on heading into Kendal town centre to join the revellers but the weather was wet and cold so we decided on a cosy, noisy, joyful night in to watch it together. Worryingly however was this… we were watching the match on our dependable 12v TV. Full time was fine, extra time was fine but just before they penalty shoot-out the warning message came on the screen ‘ Low Power Supply, this TV will shut down very shortly’ . Nooooooo!… not now, …to be fair we had struggled a bit for the first time in 7 months with the solar power. The lack of sunshine and the water covering the solar panel was not helpful, but we had not been onto electric hook-up for several weeks and it was finally giving up…. But not now….nooooo. A mad scramble to get out one of the laptops, log in, and get back on line meant we got to see England….. ….lose…… Damn it. ! . 

From here we had a healthy drive to the Lake District proper but for now I will leave you with this message….

Did you know…The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a walking route of 24 miles (38.6km), and includes 1585m (5200ft) of ascent.

It takes on the peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, usually in this order, and in under 12 hours!. These peaks form part of the Pennine range, and encircle the head of the valley of the River Ribble, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Pen-y-Ghent (694 metres)

Whernside (736 metres)

Ingleborough (723 metres)

Scotland Plus

15th June 2021

After spending a big chunk of time in England and Wales it was time for a change of country again. We had planned on trekking all the way up into the Scottish Highlands for many weeks and to do the famous NC500 (North Coast 500 miles). However with a little bit of persuasion I carried out some research into midges and discovered that they were in fact monsters, horrors, devils and would most likely destroy a Scottish visit way before any bad weather puts it at risk. Begrudgingly I accepted that this would have to be done another time, and probably Apr/May next year-but who knows. We did decide to have a little trek into the country though and being happy that the little bleeders do not have any jurisdiction on the Lowlands of the East of Scotland. 

First stop was the rather scenic and industrious Eyemouth, a small fishing village just a few miles over the border. Once again the Search for Sites app had identified a parking spot overlooking the small harbour. Not really a parking bay and kind of potentially in the way but it seemed fine and after watching enormous seals swimming just feet away in the harbour and clambering onto the rocks, we decided that we must stay the night. We spent many an hour just sitting in the front seats watching them come and go. And to see fishing boats arriving back into the harbour with what appeared to be big catches- tracked in by dozens of gulls. A short walk round and an ok meal in the Contented Sole restaurant and we were set for the night in the knowledge that we may be in someones way in the morning. However at 7am we looked out of the window and noted a very bright 40 foot trailer reversed right up to our bumper followed by two large tractors towing water bowsers on trailers. ! Ooops. Sorry. Well we never want to leave a bad impression about campers/motorhomers so I stepped out to speak with the very Scottish, very young truck driver. “No problem, no you are not in the way” and he insisted we did not need to move. He did spend the next 20 minutes telling us about his job whilst he filled up the 12 enormous lobster tubs in the trailer. He uses a wide hose via a pump room and fills these tubs, each of  which are about the size of a family jacuzzi, with sea water. He will then travel across to the Isle of Skye to collect lobster or crab and then take them across Europe to the Balkans. Apparently Brexit has not affected the opportunities in Europe despite horrendous paperwork. Once we had managed to peel ourselves out between the truck and tractors we headed north again. 

Eyemouth disaster heroes

Next location was probably our favourite of the trip so far. North Berwick. We ended up spending two wild nights here along with another 7 or 8 motorhomes/camper vans. Parked on the sea front with the beach immediately to the front we had a view right along the sand towards the pretty town centre about a km away. This part of the beach is a bit rocky in parts but easily accessible. We sat at 10pm the first evening watching the beautiful sunset – the longest daylight day being close and being further north meant that the sun only went down from 10pm-4.30am and even then it doesn’t really get dark.

We decided it would be easy to set the alarm for 4.15 and have a look for a sunrise of equal quality. Unfortunately there was no great sunrise. Fortunately however we were amazed to watch a pod of dolphins playing around ahead of us, about 200metres offshore. About 7-8 of them going back and forth for several minutes before moving away.

Dolphin surprise

Amusingly… we noted a group of three teenage lads out on the rocks who presumably were there for the sunrise (though clearly didn’t notice the dolphins). As we got back into bed and settling back to sleep we heard the three lads walking past our vans, banging each one on the back panel and shouting “Gypsy” before marching off.!!  This so really made us laugh, us two, getting called Gypsy’s…. cool…!  Maybe not so funny for the other occupiers sleeping in the other units. 

Later that day we climbed up the strange North Berwick Law which is a conical hill sprouting out over 200metres high against an otherwise flat area. In the evening we were invited by a newly arrived couple in the motorhome parked next to us, to join them on the beach to watch the sunset. We gratefully accepted, after…… going for a swim in the sea. ! It was damn cold but not the gripping icy cold of the North Sea. – This is the entrance to the Forth River and surprisingly warmer..just. It was about 8pm but we managed a proper full-on swim for a good 20 minutes or so and survived. Barely shivering at all. Actually that’s a lie, it took me a couple of hours to get warm, partly due to us sitting on a camp chair on the beach with the neighbours. Nice folk but with no idea how to keep a fire pit burning…! And incidentally…. their average sized motorhome had a full sized domestic washing machine and separate dryer plumbed into the boot. ! 

North Berwick

The next morning we had another rude awakening at 5.30am. loud tapping on the door. “OMG..! What’s going on”- nothing there. More tapping. “It must be the side window”- No. We checked everywhere, heart rate bouncing but could see nothing. Somewhat shocked we could not work it out, until later in the day, it happened again. This time I noticed a sea gull outside at the front. He was catching sight of himself (herself) in the reflection of the black bodywork of the front bumper and was tapping on it trying to get a reaction..! Who would have known it. Funnnnnneeee..

So what with the great weather, good walk, amazing view and a swim in the sea this was a terrific find.

18th June and we had a planned three nights at a temporary pop-up Camping and Caravanning site at the grandly named Drum Estate at Danderhall just south of Edinburgh (£8.50 per night with water supply and toilet disposal). As always happens, we had a huge 50 acre field to park in. “Park anywhere you like” says Jim the steward – damn….That makes it so hard…we must have driven round the field a dozen times checking the slope, the sun position, the wind direction and the correct door position. Much prefer it when they say “Park there and don’t move”- Of course, we still got it wrong and missed out on the brilliant evening sunshine… doh. !

The next day we caught a bus from just outside the site and into Edinburgh. The weather however had taken a turn for the worse and we only had chance to grab a coffee, visit a few shops and look at a few views before the rain came. We managed to duck into the Booking Office Wetherspoons before the deluge arrived..and remained for a long while. “Ok, so we will have to take the opportunity of celebrating Father’s Day a day early.” say Michelle. Had a couple of drinks with dinner and posted a picture on Facebook. My daughter Angela saw this within minutes and texted “what table are you on?” – “19” we replied. Within ten minutes we had a collection of shots, shorts and cocktails appeared on the table that she had ordered through the app from back home in Somerset..! Wow, what a brilliant idea. Never thought of doing that. Thank you Ang and Luke.

Once the rain had stopped we staggered out and for some crazy reason decided to walk up and around the Arthurs Seat hill 250 metres high overlooking Edinburgh City. Panoramic views of the whole city and across the Forth river made it a worthwhile trip. Once back at ground level it was getting late so we just had time to grab some tea and another pint….. back at the same Wetherspoons before catching the late bus back. Heathens. We missed all the historic, artistic, tourist highlights of the nations capital by sitting in Spoons most of the day. Ho hum. As we were packing up to leave the site I decided to give Derek the Drone a short flight to take pics of the mansion house aware that this was an organised event and probably frowned upon. Within seconds of taking off near our pitch the steward Andrew suddenly appeared on the footpath alongside walking his dog. He decided this was a good time for a chat but hadn’t seen Derek. Well he was a bit dull and kept talking whilst Derek was hovering in the field behind 30 metres up awaiting Andrews departure. However after getting bored for a full five minutes I gently moved Derek forward and closer to Andrew…just hovering slowly out of his view and eventually got lower and lower until he heard it and looked around like searching for a manic mosquito. He suddenly saw it and said “Is that a drone?” “Who’s is that ?” “Hope it’s no one on site as drones are banned on these events” and kept looking round the field whilst I stood two feet in front of him quietly pushing the controls and lifting Derek away and out of site. Michelle was watching this from inside Ruby and we both burst out laughing when Andrew scampered away hunting down the offending drone pilot… Doh. !

Shhhhh… behind you!

21st June found us arriving at The Kelpies at Helix Park at Falkirk. The Kelpies are huge 30 metre high sculptures of horses heads rising alongside the canal. Most impressive bits of artwork which are worth a visit through the day or into the evening when they are lit up. Car parking is pretty impressive but for us, more importantly they are motorhome friendly. To park through the day is essentially £5 but overnight another £10. Looks kinda expensive initially but there are toilets, security fences and gates and a great place to spend two days.

Whilst walking round the site we kept seeing signs for the Falkirk Wheel and a small picture below it. “I can’t believe that they have a big wheel and yet they cannot even put the picture of the wheel on the sign”- says I. More than once. I had it in mind that this was just one of those pop-up big wheels to give tourists a ride above the Falkirk skyline. Then a short while later whilst walking alongside the canal I had this big flash back to something I had read a few years ago. Oh my God….that Falkirk Wheel. A massive marvel of engineering on the canal where a whole canal barge or two are lifted 50 metres up to meet the next section of canal. The barge, the water, the whole lot just scooped up and released at the other end. Wow. Must see. So we jumped onto the trusty bikes for a 5km ride to see it. An easy ride along the canal (though a bit ropey on the scenery front) and our timing was bang on, being able to watch narrow boats being taken both up and down. A true marvel of engineering.  

Falkirk Wheel time lapse

Next day, after a leisurely start we headed off back into England and into Kielder Water, a reservoir in Kielder Forest, Northumberland. I had wanted to really check out that the story of midges being horrors was true and I knew they were infamous in this area. Oh, and the location is also terrific and scenic too.

22nd June- Kielder Water has several areas for parking. Large parts are a bit confusing and we initially thought that the whole reservoir was inaccessible however we eventually arrived at what amounts to be the reception area (Kielder Waterside) where all things are managed. Unfortunately overnight parking here was not permitted but there are two or three other locations where there is a £10 overnight fee. Toilets of high quality are available but little else. Strangely we did not realise you can drive over the dam and neither did our Satnav which also chose to ignore the size limits we have added to prevent us going on tiny roads. The satnav took us past the dam, down a small road, then down a smaller road and then onto a smaller road. ! Through a field of sheep and past a farm gate that we had to open and drive through. As I have faith in the satnav I stupidly kept going whilst Michelle kept her head down…Eventually we came to a narrow humpback bridge which would likely have caused Ruby to lose some panels so it was agreed that turning around in the sheep field was the only option. Not great, but quite entertaining… “I am surprised you drove on so far” says the good wife…. “so am I” – says the dopey driver..! After some backtracking the £10 site was found and pretty fine. A good view of the reservoir and tucked into the trees out of the wind. This did mean however that the little bleeders – midges- could attack, attack, attack… Now, we do have fly screens all round Ruby so we were not too badly off… until… the nice chap from the Kielder Water security team, comes over to check we have a ticket and stands talking with the door wide open. ! The midges all dived in through the door and filled every corner of the interior. Bugga !

How to deal with midges..

After some time we decided to resolve this by going for a twenty minute walk after dishing out a generous amount of fly spray inside Ruby. And of course crazy Mich had to walk round outside randomly squirting fly spray at groups of innocent midges along the route..! Thankfully it worked and we slept soundly and safely. The next day we drove back round to the prettier location of the Kielder Waterside before offloading the bikes and riding the terrific footpath/cycle track round the reservoir on Lakeside Way. Now, we knew it was a long ride, 40km but we didn’t realise that long parts of the track were through the Forest, up hill and down hill for many miles. We discovered that we gained sufficient elevation (545 m)  to have ridden half way up Mount Snowdon in addition to the 40km around the track…! You beauty. God that was hard work. But most satisfying. 

That evening we returned to the same car park for the second overnight stay.  About 10pm we had a visit from a different Kielder Water security chap and despite him being a nice guy we left him totally outside “Sorry to leave the door closed but…” – “yes, I am being bitten to hell out here” he replies laughing and pulling his hood up and face mask on.. ! He then tells us we have to leave as we are not allowed to stay overnight. “What! we have a ticket, look” We say- “You can’t stop overnight, there are two other car parks you can use, but not here”. “No, no, no, no – we slept here last night, and Carol in the office told us to park here- and your mate said it was ok last night when he checked us out”. Anyway our parting comment was something like “well put it this way, we are not moving so you will have to tow us away”- at which point he decided that it will be probably be fine for us to stay. He then moved across to the only other motorhome in the car park and made him move.. !  Ooops. But, another good nights sleep for us. Next morning Mich took the wheel and we left the midges to suck someone else’s blood and we headed south again…

We spent two nights at the Nurseries Caravan Park to utilise some electric ready for a busy week ahead. This site was pleasant enough and was selected due to its proximity and ready access into York by bus. However the weather had taken a turn for the worse so we put York onto the back burner until another day/week/month/year as we saw no value in paddling through the water and gloom around the city and spending the day in another Wetherspoons! We would rather do it justice another time. 

The next day, the 26th June was a bit more exciting…brother Jez was having an early birthday drink with a couple of mates in Garforth so we made plans, with a little help, to surprise him and turn up. Firstly we had to find somewhere to spend the night nearby and thanks to our wonderful Search for Sites app we discovered that the Gascoigne pub would allow us to park Ruby at the bottom of the car park. So on the day we pulled in, quietly reversed into the bottom corner of their huge car park and went to see the duty manager Mel who was most welcoming “yup, no problem, park where you want”- We did say we would eat in the bar (Hungry Horse) but she wasn’t really worried either way. Great stuff. We were surprising well hidden for such a big motorhome. And yes, we did have dinner in the bar..

Tucked away at the Lord Gascoigne pub Garforth

I have to say it wasn’t the best car park we have ever slept in but as I know Garforth so well from my many years of childhood I knew it to be safe. Trouble was Michelle would be left there for the afternoon/evening whilst I engaged in a pub crawl with Jez and Co. We did manage to have a walk through the Main Street for a while, grab a coffee and show Mich my grandads old house nearby in the morning. Thanks to inside information I knew that Jez was sitting outside the Blakes bar at 3pm so I wandered over asking “Is anyone using this chair?” He looked up, said “no, that’s fine, take it” and continued his chat. Then did an amazing double take as it suddenly clicked. “What are you doing here? You are supposed to be in Scotland…” Brilliant, big hug to my little bro followed by far too many pints in far too many pubs with Paul and Nig who I have also known and got drunk with several times in the past. I think it was a mighty great night……. ! Mich suggested I was a tad unsteady when I wobbled back down the large car park to Ruby around midnight. I think she actually quite enjoyed some peace and quiet tucked up in Ruby without me chattering and getting in the way. We had further surprise plans to get involved with on a few days later so in the meantime we headed off (No I wasn’t driving..!) to a parking spot at a place called Barnby Dun, just north of Doncaster for a couple of wild camping nights. Unfortunately again this was not one of the best. The actual parking spot was good, immediately alongside the River Don and canal but our attempts at a long walk were disappointingly tricky and disjointed and the area was a bit scruffy. Never mind. Can’t win ‘em all. 

Barnby Dun canal bridge

Next day we headed back towards my parents home in Pontefract and parked in the street opposite their house. Proper wild camping this..! Two nights here meant we could celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary with a tasty lunch at the Kyte restaurant nearby.

Happy Anniversary

And the following day we hit Jez with another surprise with a secret Hawaiian (Tiki) themed birthday party at his house. Poor guy came home from work, midweek and had to put up with noisy drunken dudes taking over his bbq and eating all his food. ! He seemed to cope all right though..! Twas an extremely good night with epic organisation by Vikki. 

So here endeth the second half of June and we were running head-on into July… Its been a pretty busy kinda month. 

Did you know.. Midge season in Scotland is typically May until September.

Midges begin to emerge usually mid-late May. These are typically the non-biting boys. When the biting females arrive in early June the season truly kicks off. They mate, the female lays gazillion eggs and the males die off..!  Seven days later the eggs mature after thriving on blood…often human. So the biting midges are the females and they need your blood after literally sawing into your skin with their tiny gnashers. Buggers. 

There is indeed a Midge Forecast…. https://www.smidgeup.com/midge-forecast/