Category Archives: Ruby

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/

June – the first half

1st June 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the video footage

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruby across the Rapeseed flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Berwick on Tweed – Royal Border Bridge
Here’s Ruby

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

Did you know…

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

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

Cold, Wet Pateley Bridge

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So… where did we leave off..?

After a couple of weeks with Wild Camping we spent the entire month of May at Riverside Campsite in Pateley Bridge. 

This was pre-booked several months prior as we wanted to ensure a good stretch of time at this favoured location. A monthly special rate of just £415 to include two bank holiday weekends was also too good to miss. 

Much as we are not overly keen on spending too much time on formal campsites this turned out to have the additional benefits of being a safe haven during the wettest, rainiest, yuckiest, muddiest May since records began…! 

We were delighted that we, by chance, got our favoured corner area, alongside the recreation ground and footpath and, as tradition dictates, cracked open a beer.

This will not be the usual lengthy mind-numbing blog as, in short, we spent a delightful month walking and cycling round this terrific location. Pateley Bridge is well worth a visit even without any family connections. A five minute walk from the campsite along the River Nidd brings you into the high street which has not changed in over 100 years. There are two butchers, a bakery and fishmonger in this one street plus the Oldest Sweet Shop in the world. Both butchers shops have the freshest, fullest display counters that I have seen in this country with enough meat and pies to feed the whole of Yorkshire (so God knows how they manage to shift it all each day). I know that it is fresh as the large butchers truck parks outside with whole pigs swinging from hooks out the back. And pies to die for. The fishmongers have daily fresh fish that we forgot existed- a far cry from the supermarket deli counter. There was real enjoyment in walking up into the high street in a morning to collect fresh fish or meat and a loaf of bread for the meals that day. Have never done this before and only really expected to do this kind of thing on the Continent so it was a delight. Mind you it was damn expensive. ! We quickly learned not to look at the price….. just make the transaction and leave..!

Apparently sausages come in these packages..!

And as for the sweet shop. Every sucker, chewer, gummy, slurpy, crunchy sweet you have ever had are there. Jars around the walls with sights from the past and they can be bought by the 1/4 lb rather than grammes. Joy. Couldn’t stop buying the chocolate covered peanuts and raisins and then a bag of American Cream Soda with liquorice stick. Michelle was also a liquorice fan with those Catherine wheel things…

As I say, the weather had a big impact on activities through the month. It did rain on just about everyday and we got proper soaking wet on several occasions but still managed to walk the hills and valleys in all directions to a total of over 165km in the month – We also managed to cycle on several days adding up to 82km. It was a surprise to use the bike at all. I thought that due to the hilly area, it would be too much for us aged chaps on heavy mountain bikes but it turns out there are several routes with only limited hills around the valleys rather than up all of them..(though still bloody hard) on quiet roads. Interestingly we managed to get both our bikes cleaned and serviced and new chain/cables etc provided by the government under the fixyourbikevoucherscheme.est.org.uk which periodically allows you £50 worth of repairs to any bike in order to induce people to get their bikes out of the shed and use them. This was certainly timely for our bikes and most welcome. The bike shop was just a few miles away and Dave collected our bikes from the site and returned them back to us three days later. Bargain…

The views and peace and quiet around the hills in this area are phenomenal and they are exactly what we both love. We regularly just stop and listen… to silence… and you can walk for hours without meeting anyone at all on the footpaths. 

We decided that we did occasionally need to go further afield so we took Ruby out for a day trip. Grassington-where parts of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ is filmed (another thunderstorm). It was here that I took a photo of some impressive looking thunderstorm clouds and sent it to the BBC Weather Watchers site and amazingly shortly after arriving back into Ruby….there it was…. my photo on the actual BBC six o’clock news weather forecast. Wow. 

Mr Ruby,,,,,That’s me…

So onwards now towards Malham. Our satnav app (Co-Pilot) has Ruby’s dimensions added so we knew the route was safe… but…there was barely room to fit along the width of the road, pulling wing mirrors in over narrow bridges and taking tight bends through valleys. The views from the top were awesome and breathtaking and the fun of watching the faces of the occasional walkers and cyclists was a delight.

Lengthy video of an interesting drive to Malham

As a matter of interest…. I have managed to repair the damage to the back bumper that I described in the previous blog. Took quite a while because I had to wait for it to stop raining and get warm enough to ensure the sealant would work. I am delighted with the result which almost looks as good as new. To be honest when you look closely the original finish was not too brilliant. A bit of a let-down by Bailey..

Fixed. Can you see the join?

Trina drove up from Portishead on 17th May to join us once the Covid rules had changed. She was unfortunately to suffer with the bad weather – thankfully the whole country was suffering too, which is always less frustrating. (Selfish I know!). As we also had the advantage of having her car available so we had a memorable drive up to Aysgarth Falls. This is a place not to be missed, within the Dales, with three impressive … water falls (weirs) on the River Nidd. The rain made the river run much fuller and more interesting however it also meant we got, horribly, thoroughly wet through despite waterproof everything being worn. We thought it would be handy to visit the cafe afterwards as this meant we could deposit several gallons of rainwater onto their floor and not into Trina’s car. ! It was the wettest we have been in many a year. We think Trina had a memorable visit despite the weather. 

My mum and dad came over to visit for the day on a couple of occasions which was a good trip out for them too. They managed to bring the good weather with them on both visits enabling us to sit outside Ruby most of the day. It was particularly good to use the opportunity to update some details about the Blakeborough family history and thanks to my mum and dad plus the sterling research from Mich’s mum and dad we put together a lot of pieces of the houses and workplaces of many of my Blakeborough and Newbould ancestors which were probably a scourge of the village! There are some interesting items of interest in the excellent little museum in Pateley Bridge. One notable comment in the occurrence book about one Mary Blakeborough who resided in the Work House (in that actual building where the museum is)- ‘Cutting off 2 inches off the top of her stockings’—Sept 22nd 1877- The punishment being ‘1lb of cooked rice instead of her regular diet’. Bad girl..! 

We also managed to find the actual house- Rose Cottage where my grandad was born in 1903, which was a wonderfully emotional thing. A visit by Jez and Vikki rounded off a great socially distanced catch up month.

Long walks to Stump caves, Brimham rocks and long cycle rides to Middlesmoor and Scar House reservoir combined to make this a terrific trip despite the weather. 

Did I mention Harrogate.? Well, the number 24 bus goes into Harrogate several times a day, through the small villages and narrow roads. Peaceful and interesting journey which we did twice taking the opportunity to visit Specsavers and have the joy of eating/drinking out for the first time in many many months. Plus a mammoth clothes shopping trip enabling us to ram even more stuff into the already overcrowded Ruby. 

June has brought the good weather for us and we are making the most of it and hitting the road again. Further Up North. See ya soon.

Did you know… The Yorkshire Dales is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are 35 AONBs in England, four in Wales, one (Wye Valley) that is in both England and Wales and nine in Northern Ireland. The first AONB was awarded in 1956 to the Gower Peninsula, south Wales. The most recently confirmed is the Tamar Valley AONB in 1994. The AONBs of England and Wales together cover around 18% of the countryside in the two countries.