Category Archives: Ruby

Europe at Last

7th December 2021

Well… at the end of the last blog we were in the throes of putting Ruby into the motorhome dealership in Paignton for the week in order to get the service and some warranty work done. As planned we visited the Big Yellow Storage company in Torquay and stuffed everything from Ruby into a store cupboard in a secure warehouse. This actually worked incredibly well despite having to pile everything onto a trolley, up a lift and into the small lockup. Surprisingly the eight days only cost us about £24… bargain. 

We spent the week in the Premier Inn in Torquay. One of our favourite hotels in our favoured resort. Mind you it is somewhat unsavoury in many areas with several beggars, drunks and yobs around…There are also great views, a lovely beach, harbour, cafés and places to visit. We had our tiny little Fiat Punto courtesy car which was as nippy as you like to get us around the local area and back and forth from Paignton to Torquay. 

So Ruby came out of her spa week all shiny and upgraded and once we had collected all the contents from the Big Yellow we were now BACK ON OUR ROADTRIP.- 12th Nov. 

We had left several extra days in case of delays so we had five days to get to Folkestone for our Eurotunnel ride to Calais. Now this part of the journey has numerous overnight pitches and we do not want to spend this blog just listing places in detail. So in the interest of brevity (unlike me!) we drove along the south coast in small steps, stopping at Bridport, Goodwood, Arundel, Bexhill on Sea and Folkestone (close to the Eurotunnel Terminal).

Goodwood Racecourse next door

Probably the highest excitement was our ‘wild’ camping night at Goodwood.

We were on a large car park immediately alongside the Goodwood racecourse overlooking the valleys and hillsides. There was a busy road nearby but we are pretty good at ignoring those now. However the bit we couldn’t sleep through was the battle going on around us. There were three or four of us camping in the car park and a late arriving VW Campervan parked closer to us than was necessary as the car park is large. No problem though. However at 1am we were aware of a car engine running somewhere behind us and it turns out that some Youth was sitting in his car (watching a movie?) with his engine running to keep warm. Well Mr VW camper got upset with this and eventually could be heard getting out, approaching the car and shouting ‘Well why the f**k do you need to sit there for hours with your engine running at one in the morning? We are trying to sleep‘- This clearly angered said Youth who responded with angry words of his own… started his car, did a large noisy wheel spin on the gravel, yelled his compliments out of the window to Mr VW including calling him a ‘C**t’ and speeding off, up and down the road several times. Our concern was that Youth may not have known which vehicle Mr VW had got out from and that we could now be the target of Youth returning with a gang of knife and gun wielding mates..!  And to make matters worse… Mr & Mrs VW had decided that they were now at risk so they packed up all their stuff and drove off by 2am…. ’Thanks guys-poke the bear and then drive off !’ – Thankfully the gang of knife and gun wielding mates did not turn up but our sleep was in short supply. The excitement of wild camping eh..!

These extra days gave us the chance to do some laundry, sort some admin, and discuss some plans about our trip into Europe. 

17th Nov and we left our quiet little site six miles from the Eurotunnel terminal and got proper excited about the next big step on our travels. We always get holiday fever in these moments. Bit of excitement, bit of anxiety. Lots of big smiles. 

Despite thoughts of being turned back at the Eurotunnel it was dead easy. Check-in, grab a coffee, wait a while, drive through to English passport control, drive forward to French passport control, get checked to make sure our gas bottles were turned off, explosives (bomb) test samples were taken and then after another short wait, drive straight onto the train. Well I say straight on, you have to come in at an angle and then squeeze along  10 or 11 carriages to park up for the 20 minute trip to La Belle France… Just sitting there in Ruby. Nothing to see. Thought it would be an ideal time to take some lunch. So there we were 115 metres below the English Channel making cheese and pickle sandwiches to eat before France. (Perhaps tuna may have been more appropriate!).

Speedy Bording..

We were so surprised how easy the process was. The whole Eurotunnel terminal area was very quiet and stress free. We had already completed an online Advanced Passenger Information form and added our NHS Covid vaccination scans so all was good. We were never even checked for dairy or meat products that we were not supposed to carry… Oooops!

And before you know it, there we were, driving on the right and into Europe…at last…

We had no sites booked at all in France but had some ideas from our ever-present ‘SearchforSites’ app. All we knew was that we planned on being at Le Chateau owned by Michelles bro and sis-in-law, close to Toulouse, by Sat 20th Nov. First night then was a perfect, safe start at the Aire Sainte Claire. This was a small site just within the town of Neufchátel en Bray in Normandie and cost just €12 (about £10) for the night. You simply drive up to the barrier, pull out a ticket and squeeze into a pitch along with the other dozen or so motorhomes/camper vans. There are toilets, showers (extra €2), washing machines, electric hookup and a pay machine. The next morning you pay at the machine and drive off. No humans to speak with. We were surprised at the lack of Brits on this site, consisting mainly of French, Belgians and Dutch. It was dead easy, but of course we had to struggle at first so as not to mess up. Parking outside on the road first and walking around the site before eventually taking the plunge. Our first night on foreign soil with Ruby and a great sleep was had plus a nearby supermarket to test our skills. 

We have both lived in Germany for a few years many moons ago and have visited Europe many times so are comfortable with Europe in general. However, with a motorhome, Brexit and Covid, things got a lot more complicated. Can’t even speak any kind of French or Spanish so its all fun and games!

Next day (16th) Michelle took to the wheel and we pressed on heading south as we would do for many days to come.  This time we took the plunge and found a free Aire alongside a lake at a place called Luant. Nothing exciting in itself but the location was safe, quiet and lacking in any boy racers, passing traffic or yobs. The site even provide a tap for drinking water, a drain for ‘grey waste’ and facilities to clean our toilet cassette. Why can’t the Brits look after travellers better.?

Anyway another step in a southerly direction with the added anticipation of having to top up our LPG gas. You may recall (if you have been paying attention!) that we had a new LPG gas system (Gaslow) fitted in Ruby which was easier and cheaper. Well we now had to fill this up using a different adaptor to the one in the UK. This was fun. No idea how the garages worked let alone filling this up. Wisely we decided to pull into a quiet motorway (autoroute) services as the staff would likely be more used to idiot foreigners and we would have more time to mess about. Just as well really. We had to go into the shop, pay ‘an amount’ of our choice (we elected for €5) then return to the pump and using the new adapter fill up the tanks. This almost worked however the adapter wasn’t tight enough and the gas sprayed out the side…. Oooooh. Eventually the top-up was completed and I had to return to the shop to get €1.30 change. Wow. This is sooooooo cheap. 

Oh.. and they don’t call It LPG in France … it is GPL (and later GLP in Spain…!)

Moving on, we later arrived halfway down France at a beautiful site at Collonges la Rouge. This was supposed to cost €10 per night as it sits alongside a big tourist hotspot – the village itself. Built hundreds of years ago in red stone and overlooking a  luscious green valley. Absolutely typical French scene. However, this is the point when we began to appreciate how much of the tourist industry completely shuts down both in France and later in Spain, after November. Not one bar, cafe, shop, museum or building was open in the whole village. Mightily disappointing as the location was so good. However every cloud has a silver lining….. there was no charge for camping in the large car park!. So another quiet, very dark night and a great sleep nestled alongside some woodland (no… not actually lying on the ground-we were sleeping in Ruby alongside some woodland…!)

20th Nov and another 200 miles or so towards Mich’s brothers home. Our research had shown that the French also provide motorhome facilities for free in some autoroute services so we decided to give it a go. It is incredible. A dedicated area providing toilet cleaning facilities, drains and drinking water supply… all for free. Amazing. – Mind you…the drinking water was bloody awful tasting and had to be replaced the next day. But hey. It would not kill you… probably..!

Free at Autoroute

We then arrived for a four night stay with bro and sis-in-law giving us the chance to catch up after too many years apart. We were hosted extremely well but we still elected to sleep in Ruby outside in the driveway. After all, our bedding, clothing and all our needs were in there. It was however brilliant to be able to use a real toilet and shower for a few days and for Michelle to do another load or two of laundry. (Always a challenge whilst on the road). One exciting point during this stop over… we had the use of the household electric supply running 50 metres and more from the house into Ruby. We fashioned an adaptor to convert the UK plug into the French socket. Trouble is….. this was an indoor adaptor and we were outdoors. In addition the weather took a downward turn and the weather plummeted to -2 º. The hot electric cable and cold damp air clashed somewhat and the adaptor melted and started to burn….. right next to the side of Ruby. Really lucky not to have a burnt out wreck me thinks. ! Lesson learned and rectified two days later. 

The highpoint of the visit (apart from spending family time of course) was the discovery of a 5 litre box of reasonable supermarket red wine for just €10…. When I say ‘decent’, I mean that it didn’t make your teeth turn black..!

So after a few relaxing days, and before the forecast heavy rain arrived, we set off south once again towards the Spanish border. Our plans at this stage were solely based on the weather forecast. Spain looked much the better option compared to southern France or Northern Italy. So it was simply a case of popping around the mountains of the Pyrenees and heading towards the sun. Simples.

Family Chateau in Sales

Well the trip that day was horrendous as we failed to outrun the serious heavy rain all day but thankfully the quiet roads helped us survive. We had been aware that the roads in France were much quieter (away from the big cities) than the UK and this proved to be the case all the way. We tested the options of paid toll roads (Peage) versus the main road ‘free’ routes which was quite interesting. The tolls are not massively expensive, and the ‘free’ routes are not massively slower however, so far we feel that paying the tolls generally makes sense over long distances. It is not only the speedier journey but the added benefit of less gear changes, less tyre, brake wear and cheaper mpg costs that balance this out. (Other opinions are available..!). It is nice to occasionally drop along onto the small French tree lined avenues and quaint villages to see the wonderful countryside however. 

We ended up on the night of 24th Nov pulling up into a free Aire alongside an Olive Farm with shop. There is an expectation that one makes a purchase in the shop however it was a pretty poor shop. And furthermore the promised toilet and shower block was awful. The kind of thing you would expect in a third world country really. But it was free… so we did the right thing and bought a small packet of croutons in the shop at about €2. This was little more than an overnight stopover so we started up to drive the few miles into Spain- The rain having completely stopped. Exciting. Well the excitement was immediate. As we set off along the driveway out of the Olive Farm we looked right and saw what we thought were big clouds in the distance. This was a real ‘double-take’ moment as we looked again to note that this was in fact the snow capped peaks of the Pyrenees just 50 miles or so away. Awesome. Absolutely breathtaking against the clear blue sky. Had to stop for photos and to suck up the view.

Pyrenees from afar. Wow..

Thankfully we did not have to drive up on those mountains and could just tiptoe past on the eastern side of the Pyrenees on the scenic D914 below Perpignan. A twisting turning, scenic journey with a straight forward drive across the unmanned border point. Spain. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode…

Did you know? The Channel Tunnel (also referred to as the Chunnel) is a 50km (35 mile) railway tunnel that connects Folkestone in Kent with Calais beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. Construction began in 1988 and it opened in 1994. At its lowest point, it is 75 metres (250 ft) deep below the sea bed and 115 metres (380 ft) below sea level. At 38 kilometres (23.5 mile), the tunnel has the longest underwater section of any tunnel in the world, and is the third longest railway tunnel in the world. The speed limit for trains through the tunnel is 160 kph (100 mph). The Channel Tunnel is owned and operated by the company Getlink. The tunnel carries high-speed Eurostar passenger trains, the Eurotunnel Shuttle for road vehicles and international freight trains.

6 Hotels, 22 nights, 5 Counties

7th Nov 2021

Yes, we know. We are supposed to be ‘on the road’ – lapping up the freedom and travelling the world. However we have spent the last 6 weeks staying mainly in hotels in several places throughout Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Devon and Somerset. 

Well an opportunity came up to earn some dosh and catch up with old acquaintances. As many of you know (especially as I mentioned it briefly in the previous blog!), Michelle and I have both worked freelance for a national photography company for many years. (In my case, many, many years!). I take loads of photography gear-(cameras, tripods, studio lights, posing tubs etc )-and spend my days taking photos of university students (graduants)  while they are holding onto a piece of plastic tube with a ribbon on, standing against a fancy background. The company provide the backgrounds, the laptops, and the camera memory cards and such like and at the end of the day I hand the memory card back ….. Michelle welcomes the graduates and families and get them into the studio either as pre-paid customers or selling packages on the day. She is often a Sales Manager and looks after a team of Sales Staff at the events…and get paid.. £ . We are offered ceremonies at many locations round the country and we accept or decline the offer dependent on times/places. It turns out that due to the Covid backlog we had the chance to do many events, over several weeks so it wouldn’t impact on our travels for too long….. The beauty of this is that we can accept offers of places we have not been to before, get put into a hotel and get fed and watered throughout the days/week at the company expense. We do have to find our way to the photography venue often in unfamiliar locations, which can be tricky, but on arrival we meet up with many other photographers and sales staff that we have known for many years.- Some we consider as friends and some are a pain in the ass, but always interesting and entertaining. We then set up the photo studios using the exact same layout and settings as we do every single time. Home from Home. Whats not to like.!  It can be really busy on occasion but often it is pretty quiet and sociable.

As you can imagine, we regularly eat dinner out together as a group and sometimes when things get out of hand, we are grateful that the camera has ‘auto focus’ the next morning as the students photos would likely be very blurry.. !

Some of the crew..

Anyway this is meant to be a travel blog so I will just add that we have worked in Bath, Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Cirencester, Southampton , High Wycombe and Plymouth over the last six weeks so we still enjoyed our travels albeit not in Ruby. Those of you that are paying attention will note that Bournemouth was mentioned in the previous blog. We did however opt out of that ceremony as it had the look of being far too busy and full of intimidating , ungrateful graduants with large family groups. Yuk..!

So we will step out of our travel blog for a few pages and share some of our photography moments just to keep you entertained. (Bored!) …

The two months went a bit like this- 

2nd Sep- Bath for ten days (the best venue of them all)- this is mentioned in detail on our previous blog.

28th Sep Cirencester – Travelodge for two nights while working for two days. We are not fans of Travelodges mainly because they don’t tend to have anywhere to eat. Fortunately there is a Greggs immediately alongside meaning we could grab a sausage roll at 6.30am before work….. I am only slightly joking…!

The Finished Products above

3rd Sep and we moved on to Southampton and we were provided thankfully with a Premier Inn, close to the city centre. We really enjoyed this as we could spend our evenings after work trying out one of the dozens of eating establishments within five minutes walk. Trouble is that the Premier Inn for some reason could only produce Curry/Vegan Curry/Chilli for evening meals for the whole week due to supply problems. Strangely they could manage to obtain the fullest of breakfast menus every day.! One evening we decided to order a Chinese meal via JustEat which was delivered to the hotel reception. We sat on the side of the spare bed in our room eating Chinese from the top of the ironing board, washed down with a bottle of cheap plonk from Tesco Express… Classy. !

Chow Mein- Ironing Board Style

As we had several spare days after working, we booked an additional three nights at the same hotel (despite the limited menu) so we could have a good look around this most interesting of cities.

We really enjoyed doing the tourist bit which included a trip to the Isle of Wight which was very exciting. We simply walked the short distance from the hotel to the Red Funnel terminal and caught the ferry as foot passengers. ‘Would you like the concession rate of £14 return’ says the nice lady on reception. ‘What do you mean? concession? What is that for?’ – ‘For the over 60s’ she says. Cheeky mare. ‘OK then..Course we do!’– I quickly replied anyhow – (she never even asked for proof of age…!).

The Isle of Wight trip consisted of three ferries and six buses all within an eight hour visit. It was an interesting trip which showed us around half the island but it was not enough to get a true picture of the place. But enough to be impressed by the bus company…! It was really pleasant and particularly enjoyable sailing back into Southampton alongside a beautiful sunset. 

11th Sep we returned to collect Ruby from storage for a few days and stayed local at our favoured Home Farm in Burnham on Sea again. Managed to avoid smashing my head into the wall of the swimming pool this time! Got the laundry done..

14th Sep saw us having a brilliant trip, popping down to Yeovil to visit family for the day. This was well overdue and great to catch up. 

The evening afterwards we parked up at The Haymaker pub near to Chard in Somerset. This is one of those ‘free’ nights that cost a fortune. We get the details from a book called Britstops which is supplied for a £10 annual payment. You then call or visit the pub/restaurant/vineyard and the like. ‘Can we stay in the car park overnight for free?’  we ask- ‘yes indeed, but we would hope you would eat/drink in the bar’ – good stuff, however we end up paying £45 for dinner and drinks in the restaurant. We keep falling for this ..doh ! 

Free overnight parking… £45..!

15th Sep was pretty exciting for me. I met up for breakfast with a gang of eight mates that I used to work closely with about 300 years ago. We spent a terrific couple of hours chatting over a full breakfast at the Monks Yard restaurant in Somerset catching up and comparing retirement notes. -(Its strange how none of us looks any older…..until the menus arrive. Then there is the clamour by everyone reaching down to grab their specs in an attempt to read the print. I also noted lots of hearing aids hanging around..! It was really good to catch up with a group that spent many years working closely together through often challenging incidents. 

Michelle meanwhile sat in Ruby munching a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes in the gravel car park !

Later that evening we booked into a rather dull site further into North Somerset called Withy Water. The excitement came however when we took a long walk alongside the Huntspill river. We were sat on the banking trying to catch a good look at the many kingfishers swooshing by when suddenly, right in front of us we both saw an otter…..yes… your actual otter.. quite a large one too. Just one quick view of the back of it splashing down into the water…but wow! never seen one in the wild before. 

So, after returning Ruby back to storage we got back to work for the next ceremony. 

17th Sep in High Wycombe for the New Bucks Uni graduations. We managed to get back into a Premier Inn for the week and they had a full evening menu in this one… Yet again we were working with a bunch of freelance photography buddies (different ones this time) to spend our time with. The work was somewhat busier on occasion added to which both Michelle and I managed to get hold of a heavy cold through the week but we pushed through..!

22nd Sep and we arrived early in Plymouth with two days to spare prior to our next gig. We decided therefore to splash out and pay for a couple of nights in the slightly posher Crowne Plaza hotel in the city, overlooking Plymouth Hoe. This was a most relaxing couple of days and the chance to shake off our colds and see another slice of Plymouth. And for those of you that are curious about these things.. we took the chance of using a proper launderette (rather than on a camp site) to wash our rather large pile of dirty laundry. We did our first actual Service Wash, (bit like on East Enders!)  which was actually pretty efficient and good value to be fair. Might do it again one day.. We really are Living the Dream.. lol…!

Now this bit was quite fun… the Crowne Plaza is home to a Marco Pierre White posh restaurant upstairs with great decor, fittings and views. Our hotel package included breakfast, dinner and a complimentary bottle of wine in our room. We enjoyed our first breakfast in the Marco Pierre White restaurant and after a busy day walking round the city we later returned to the restaurant after booking our evening meal. We were very early in order to have a few drinks and enjoyed a cheeky little cocktail and started on a bottle of expensive red wine. (After all we were now wearing shiny, clean clothes so could dine out with confidence!) On starting to drink the wine I realised that we had not had the complimentary wine in our room. I reached for my mobile and checked on my hotel booking email to confirm what it said – and yes our bottle of wine was part of the offer. I also noticed with horror that it said ‘DINNER ON ONE EVENING IN DRAKES BAR AND RESTAURANT AND A BOTTLE OF WINE IN THE ROOM ON ARRIVAL’. Hang on. Drakes bar aaaargh!. Not  the posh Marco Pierre White restaurant. – Oops. So we quickly finished our drink, tiptoed away from the Marco Pierre White waitresses and took the stairs down to the ground floor for our cheap and cheerful supper. Damn.. Well Glenn.. ‘always read the f****** instructions.’ 

Anyway it resolved to bring us back down to earth as the next day we were back into the Travelodge down the hill into Plymouth city centre for four nights (provided by the company). Not too shabby to be honest, but again, no restaurant so we had to enjoy the delights of Plymouth’s varied dining establishments. Tell you what though… people suggest that we are in a recession. We got turned away from three restaurants on a cold and windy Tuesday night because they were fully booked. The place was buzzing and there was plenty of money splashing around. Plymouth was Ok. 

28th Sep we voluntarily visited a surprisingly nice Premier Inn alongside the M5 at Bridgwater. Brand new and with great helpful staff. We had arranged to join family members for breakfast here before grabbing a separate family breakfast in Weston two days later. Gawd have we managed to stuff our faces with hotel food over the last two months. 

To finish the month off we took Ruby out of storage again and spent two nights in a tatty campsite in Weston super Mare. That was kind of ok as it suited our purposes but we did have an exciting time escaping. Three days and two nights of heavy rain meant that our wheel-spinning episode across the sodden grass was a rather tricky affair. Just survived. 

You may recall that we spent the entire winter from Dec 2020 to mid April 2021 at the Tudor Park campsite in Slimbridge- due to Lockdown. We decided to re-visit for a couple of days whilst in Gloucestershire and we were welcomed back in a big way. We felt like we were part of the family when the owners realised we were there and dropped everything to spend time chatting. Very nice of them to remember us fondly.  Speaking of family, we had yet another lovely family meal at the Tudor Arms restaurant next door to complete a lovely few days.

This then was the end of the photographic work period for some time. We both really enjoy the work (despite being retired…!) and it gave us the opportunity to gather some funds to pay for fuel and campsites for our European tour. Many of our nights in Ruby over this period have mainly been to fill the gaps between working. A little frustrating at times as we are increasingly keen to get back on the road. However we are being patient and taking the opportunity to catch up with family and lotsa friends in the meantime. 

The next steps are in preparation for our travels into Europe on 17th November. We have the Eurotunnel booked (exciting. !) and some basic idea of where we might go. We have left the Somerset area and are currently in Devon. One night in a gravel car park in Haldon, near Newton Abbot, one night in a noisy pub car park in Kingsteignton and two nights in the Twelve Oaks campsite in the same area. Bit of a holding pattern really whilst awaiting a week in Paignton. 

Ruby is getting some well deserved servicing done, warranty work and some checks on the gas/electric/water/heating etc (Habitation Checks) in Paignton for a week. We are therefore once more in a hotel….! Premier Inn, (again) in Torquay. Why Paignton? Well this is where we bought Ruby from and since we have great confidence in the company we bought her from, we are sticking with them for after sales work.

Next question. Where do we put all our stuff whilst the work is being carried on on Ruby? Well we have booked a small storeroom within the Big Yellow Storage company in Torquay. Cost about £20 to keep all our bits crammed in for the week. Result.

Next stop >> Europe. Yay…....>>

 Did you know…The Isle of Wight is a few miles off the coast of Hampshire, close to Portsmouth and Southampton and separated by the Solent. It is around 24 miles wide and 12 miles from the North to the South. The main public ferries are accessed from Lymington, Southampton and Portsmouth via the Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel services.

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’

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.