Category Archives: Ruby

Cold, Wet Pateley Bridge


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 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.

Wales and Wirral

30th April

Moel Famau

Up there…. the steep bit..!

So… after a short 25 mile drive via a supermarket top-up we got back onto the ‘Wild’ Camping still within Wales. Once again the Search for Sites app in the hands of Michelle found us up in the hills at Moel Famau-between Ruthin and Mold. This was yet another gravel, sloping car park though this time with the joys of large gravel stones. The car park offers a panoramic view across the mountains of Snowdonia and a popular start point for walking. The long-established Offa’s Dyke walk can be joined here to enjoy a gentle stroll (!) along the hilly walkway which runs the whole length of Wales, north to south. We headed south on the first morning and almost wiped ourselves out “ are you sure this is the best route Glenn?”- “yup, looks fine” before taking a goat route straight up a treacherous hill rather than enjoying the gentle wander around the side. Will we ever learn.!

Anyway the area is great and if you like sheep … then this is the place for you.!  I have never really considered sheep to be entertaining… but when you watch them having a good ten minute scratch against one of the wooden benches it is quite the picture. The second morning we took a much easier 12k return walk north along Offa’s Dyke. This section is full of tourists in flip flops eating pies and talking loudly usually in Scouse accents. We have moved that bit closer to the Liverpool homeland and the accents are everywhere.. The destination was Jubilee Tower which was built to celebrate the jubilee of King George III in 1810. The view again was terrific with 270º views of mountains and 90º views of the Wirral peninsula and even as far as the Liver Building in that Liverpool. It gave us a good insight into the places we would be visiting in the week ahead. 

One of the difficulties challenges of wild camping is being able to get comfortable to sleep at night. There is no cosy barrier keeping cars away, no warden telling neighbours to keep the noise down and no idea of what you may be met with overnight. This does cause a little anxiety on arrival at any wild site as you may imagine. We have plenty of life experience though unfortunately we know more about the habits of the bad guys than we do the good guys- and we have had plenty of practice wild camping but we are always checking the area, evaluating the coming and goings of others and picking a spot we think is best. It is more of an art than a science. Well our first night here was disturbed slightly by a car with youffs in parking in an area behind us and a little too close… but they were fine and left about 10.30 so all good. – despite them leaving bags of food wrappers and empty cans for the wildlife to enjoy!- We were happy enough so stayed a second night. Likewise, but with three or four cars, a bit of loud chatter and laughter, but again they left about 10.30. So a third night was taken on as the location was so good. However the third night was another 3-4 cars who played loud music for too long, then decided to rev the pistons out of their engines and practice wheel spinning on the gravel- a little too close to relax by. “It’s ok, they sound like they are in the bottom car park”- Huh.. really. ! They left about 11pm but the ‘Caveman’ instinct keeps you awake for a while longer expecting them to return. Is it just us or are there more ‘boy racers’ around at the moment? Guess they cannot go clubbing and pub crawling because of Covid so they spend their time and money on their cars – (presumably on new tyres and repairing bodywork damage from doing doughnuts in car parks with large chunks of gravel. – ! )

Beluga transport aircraft

And this rather impressive Beluga aircraft (Airbus A300 – 600) flew over pretty damn low several times through the day. It is designed to carry aircraft parts including wings and even fuselages apparently…. sweet..>>>

We can’t have been put off as we keep doing wild camping although the Caveman radar is always on standby..!

We left here on the Friday morning in search of Calor Gas and water. Some people are interested in how we get our provisions so this is for them. [Those of you with better things to do can skip forward to the next heading…! ] Within two miles we had located Bryn Bowlio Caravan Park which proved to be a useful find. David, the owner was friendly and helpful. As with most sites they have Calor Gas available to buy and they always vary between £24-£26 for 6kg bottle replacement. And as we had now made a purchase  we felt empowered to ask “Do you mind if we fill our tank with water?”. “Yes, no problem”.- Readily supplied and filled whilst he chatted about the love of his life…- the campsite. We then managed to also fill our 20 ltr collapsible water carrier (5 gal in old money!). Our tank in Ruby holds 95 litres so if we carry an additional 20 ltr carrier and two standard 5 ltr bottles of water from your favourite supermarket we then have about … erm…… 125 ltrs. This will last 3 days or so – if (frugally) showering on-board. It is at this point that if necessary one asks about emptying the toilet cassette. It is, of course, much easier to get the add-ons if you have made a purchase however it appears that most sites will let you fill up with water for a small fee. 

Our water will last three days with care. Our electric, on the road, is provided by a large solar panel on the roof. This is a real bonus as we never have to worry about lighting or charging our watches/phones/iPads/laptops even in this country in the cloudy days. More importantly we can even watch the telly as this is 12v and provided by the solar panel..

Worst case scenario is the gas will last 3-4 days. This is when wild camping in the sub zero overnight temperatures, (of which there has been bloody loads this year) and using it for cooking, bbq-ing and heating the hot water for showers and washing up etc. The heating is easily the biggest gas consumer. We carry two of the 6kg bottles so can readily switch over. (This involves going outside to the gas locker and it is always dark and wet when the bottle runs out!) 

When parked up on-site with hookup electric, the gas has lasted over six weeks as the heating and hot water is provided by the electric.  Pretty neat set up really. 


By now it was St Georges day (23rd April) so we had to head back to England !…A short drive over the border saw us enter the historic and beautiful city of Chester. Having been here once before I knew it to be interesting and full of sights so we planned on stopping over. The combination of Search for Sites and Michelle found us yet another gem. Yes, it was a car park….Roodee Car Park. But this time there was no gravel..! Just tarmac and a healthy slope. It turned out to be a favourite and worthy of recommendations. It is right next to Chester Castle and alongside Chester racecourse. A walk to the river Dee is two minutes away and into the City centre is just 10 minutes. There is a parking charge of £8 for 24 hours so we basically had 2 1/2 days for £21. Now this may seem a little steep for ‘Wild’ (free) camping, but when you consider that if you visited Chester City centre for the day to go shopping, this car park (and most others) would cost £5 anyway, then this becomes pretty fair. We hopped in and out of the City and the riverbank several times through the glorious sunny weekend in the knowledge that Ruby was safe and we could have a tipple or two…!

Chester itself is lively (especially towards the end of Lockdown with youffs everywhere drinking outside the bars)- There is an impressive shopping area which we availed ourselves of too. This was the first opportunity to visit a ‘non-essential’ shop for several months and boy did we need some new pants..!  On our last evening we walked the length of the wall around the City which took around two hours as it got dark. There is so much to enjoy. The racecourse was a bit over-active as several police cars and vans arrived on the hurry-up when too many youffs gathered too close together and got a little too excited. But otherwise a delight. Three exciting things here- firstly we managed to get a Covid test done, in the car park, just walked in and stuffed a cotton bud in our mouth before sticking the same one up our nose.. !. (Negative result.. 🙂 !)- Secondly we did our first JustEat experience (yes I know, late starters..)- But it was dead easy, gave the car park post code and waited….. a short while later a phone call arrives “hi, I am parked at the entrance to the Chester University gates, where are you?”- Ooops. Well it nearly worked and it only took the driver a few minutes to hunt us down.. Tasty Chinese. Yum. 

Work in Progress

Thirdly.. Michelle had her hair done for the first time in over six months. Wahey. Big thrill, and very therapeutic. The full thing, cut and balayage (no idea… but it looked great. )…. see >>

The Wirral

Now who knew? Who has ever been there?  The Wirral. This strange bit of land jutting out between Wales and Liverpool looking like a wonky tooth was our next location. Never been there and never actually had any idea what was here. Well… we can tell you that this is a bit of a hidden jewel. Not quite a gem as there is nothing sparkling, dynamic or extraordinary here but maybe its a little slice of gold. It is a really great place. There are lots of unexpected things around such as Birkenhead,  great beaches and posh expensive houses on the West side and loads of interesting industry on the East side. You can look across the Mersey straight over into Liverpool with a clear view of the Liver Building close to the water front. There are dockyards a-go-go and ferries heading to and from other parts of the UK and Ireland.  We headed to New Brighton on the North East tip, as it has a marina and the famous Search for Sites app suggests there is free camping to be had here. Well it was amazing. There are old and dated amusement arcades facing onto the beach alongside some modern theatres and cinemas and wonderful traditional cafes rather than the tat that many seasides have. The marina car park has the sea on one side (the entrance to the Mersey) and a marina on the other ( yes, I know, you would expect to find a marina if you were in the marina car park..!) and you can park for free overnight. Trouble is that the Search for Sites review mentioned that on one occasion someone had daubed several motorhomes in tar which would be a nightmare to remove. Thankfully we did not have to worry about this as we had a site booked on the West coast at the Wirral Country Park site. This site overlooks the river Dee on a clifftop and was pleasant enough for us to add a second night. Nothing too outstanding but sufficient to recharge our personal batteries (Wild camping is a little tiring), and take our bikes out for a blast up and down the Wirral way (disused railway line). As often happens with us, we did not get much of a buzz from the official campsites. They serve a purpose and they are safe havens which we always look forward to staying at. But we quickly need to move on – probably there are too many people and they all want to keep talking…! Its great for the first day but how many times can you say “morning”, “morning” and “morning” whilst on the way to the loo…! – (At least the toilets were open here though not the showers or laundry). Close to this area is the very upmarket town of West Kirby with its wonderful long beach and expensive houses. We are later told by Michelle’s dad that he spent many happy days here in his basic square bashing RAF training. (Not sure that he actually mentioned the words ‘happy days’.. basic training has never been described as ‘happy’! )

As we have already had a taste of the New Brighton marina we were keen to go again with a view of possibly staying over. There is a huge area of greens on the way into New Brighton with a few open, side roads through them. There are motorhomes and camper vans parked all round here. Dozens of them. All free, no restrictions and clearly welcomed by the locals and authorities. Why other areas do not provide this space is a mystery.  We decided to spend the night at the marina car park (despite the tar scare) as it was more interesting watching the ships coming and going and the improved view. The only slight glitch was some clown of a ‘boy’ racer. He must have been in his late 30’s with his brand new 21 plate Ford Focus SRGTI OHC GBH thing with his ‘bird’. He arrived and parked between us and another motorhome and a few rows away from some normal, well-behaved, young boy/girl racers and put his BOOM BOOM MUSIC UP LOUD…. I MEAN LOUD.. and all the while stuffing pizza, burger AND kebab into his gob like he was entering the Wirral Speed Eating competition. Then after wiping his hands on his sexy leather steering wheel he turned the car round, to face the proper boy /girl racers and nudged up close to them as if challenging them. And again BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM-.Then he drove off…..Clown. Otherwise a very peaceful night. 

The next morning was quite fun. We were awoken at 6.30am by several cars arriving alongside where we were parked and on peeping through the blinds we saw 6/7 people getting out alongside the marina. All going to have an early morning swim, wild swimming.. in the freezing cold marina…..crazy dudes…. mad…… “That can’t be good for you” says Michelle. “Its not for me” says I before the chimp inside my head started to say “Are you sure?” and “it would be fun- Michelle can video you and you can put it on Faceache and it will be a great memory and a thing of wonder” I couldn’t resist it. I had to join them – After all I had the advantage of a motorhome (with the heater on full blast) alongside, a hot coffee ready to pour and a roll of kitchen foil to wrap around me if necessary…! Well it was actually not too bad. Cold of course, and I was only in for 1.5 minutes but I was fine. It did take me four hours to stop shivering afterwards though despite the plans. Stoppid idea. What was I thinking !!

Crazy Cold. Stoopid idea… !

Anyway our next move was around the Wirral peninsula again and through into the Mersey Tunnel which we were both quite excited about. Just £1.80 gets you to plunge below the Mersey River and trundle across straight into Liverpool City Centre. By now we were so entrenched in Scouse speaking folk that we knew how to properly pronounce Mersey.. It is just a case of starting off with a Mare and adding a zey. All done slow-time. !


This was yet another ‘Search for Sites’ beauty. Nearly… There was a listing for an area of layby’s and roadways with yet another view across from the Liverpool side of the Mersey over to the Wirral. Nice enough, with a large patch of grass leading onto a long promenade which ran for miles into the Liverpool City Centre. All seemed to be well and quiet along this dead end roadway so we figured that the few cars that occasionally passed by would thin out as the evening wore on. Wrong. IT got busier as it got darker. Not really boy/girl racers, no BOOM, BOOM, BOOM this time and no sporty cars, but lots of cars that just drove to the end, turned round and drove out again..! We did suspect that other things were going on involving lone mature males and maybe even couples looking for their dogs… (if you get what I mean.. !). It was a little distracting but as always we managed a decent sleep without hassle. Well at least no-one knocked on our door or queued up outside looking in.! 

Next day we knew we had to be on the road shortly after lunch so we decided to walk into Liverpool along the prom and then try again to get a go on the electric hire scooters. This time with the Voi ( as in Voilá ). There are several city’s in England which have these electric scooters available to hire on trial. There is no doubt that electric vehicles are taking over and it is important to evaluate the impact. It is illegal to use your own electric scooter on the road or path anywhere other than on private land (at the time of writing.) We had it all planned this time. Had added payment details, established the routine and even found a parking bay close by for us to use on our return. These scooters were a little more expensive at £1 to unlock and 20p per minute-(discounts are available for taking the ‘how to ride’ exam on line and for parking in a prescribed collection point.) We located a right nice café at the a marina Yacht Club for brunch before stepping outside to two electric scooters. The idea is you look on the map on the app to find the location of any scooters, you scan the one of your choice and then start the ride. That is….if you have your drivers licence with you.. Bugga. The first time you are required to scan a copy of your driving licence to prove you have one. This is checked ‘real-time’ before the scooter will unlock. Well one of us plums did not realise this and did not carry his licence with him..! Soooo we only got to hire one rather than two. “So one of us will have to walk for a while and then we can swap round”- says The Plum. Thankfully the non-plum agreed and then couldn’t bear to stop The Plum from spending way more than the 50% of the journey whizzing round like a schoolboy while she walked and walked the five miles back to Ruby…. Sorry Mrs Plum. 

This lady is just sooooo cooool…X

Pontefract-West Yorkshire

Once more back on the road and off to our next two night ‘Wild’ camping…. In the road, outside my parents house surrounded by houses in Pontefract, West Yorkshire. Again, it was not terrifically ‘Wild’ (!) but we did sleep and shower in Ruby in the comfort of suburbia..

This was about having a well overdue catch up and hug with my parents after many Covid related months of restrictions. It was great to spend a couple of days with them and other family whilst still remaining sensible with social distancing.

And on that subject… family and friends. One of the things that has hit us quite a bit on this trip in particular is the lack of contact with family and friends. Although we make phone calls, video calls and social media, we do miss the regular contact with everyone. We did presume that as all those contact visits were reduced due to Covid then we wouldn’t be too affected by hitting the road. In fact it is something that we both feel on a regular basis. Not home sick-as we are living in our home-but not having the opportunity to keep in touch with family. It does feel like we are somewhat remote and isolated and we do look forward to getting contact from people more often. Please remember, if we don’t get chance to call you, we are on the end of a phone and we don’t have work commitments getting in the way..

Then.. time to move on again. Gotta keep moving….

We are now off to the ancestral Blakeborough home of Pateley Bridge on the Yorkshire Moors for a whole month.

Did you know…

There are three Mersey Tunnels connecting Liverpool with the Wirral, under the River Mersey. The Mersey Railway Tunnel (opened 1886), and two road tunnels, the Queensway Tunnel (opened 1934) and the Kingsway Tunnel (opened 1971). 

The road tunnels have their own police force, the Mersey Tunnels Police. 

The Queensway Tunnel was used to film scenes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) and Fast & Furious 6 (2013). 

Escape to that Wales

22nd April 2021

Hi, this time I am writing this blog whilst sitting in my deckchair alongside Michelle and Ruby in the middle of North Wales. It is sunny and warm. At last. A family has just walked past smiling “You’ve got this right. You working from home?”! 

We have now been out of our enforced Lockdown restrictions for 7 days and loving the change of pace. As mentioned previously we did enjoy the time at Slimbridge. What’s not to like? A large campsite with no neighbours ,with the choice of 150 or so different pitches to park on. The toilet block was not ideal but then again we are currently having to use our own on-board toilet and shower. But hey, its great to be back on the road with stories to tell…

First we need to share the joys of the last few days in Slimbridge. The rather funny one was with me on my bike…. We decided to ride along to Frampton-on-Severn along the canal and ride around the horseshoe part of the River Severn. After some time I was struggling to maintain speed. “Tell you what Michelle, I am so impressed with you. You are now so fast on your bike”- “I can hardly keep up and you just keep powering on through” says I through heavy puffing and panting. “Oh, I didn’t think I was doing too bad to be fair, feeling pretty comfortable” She says. 

As time went on my thighs burned, my energy depleted and no amount of gear changes helped. -I am definitely struggling, is it my age catching up with me?- I think. I then started to consider  (whilst pedalling like hell..!) doing extra exercise to ensure I could catch up with the lively younger Michelle. Anyway… when we got back to the campsite I noticed the smell of burning rubber and found my rear wheel rim to be bloody hot. It turns out that I had ridden most of the way with my back brakes stuck on..! My rear mudguard attaches to the seat stem, and very slowly my seat had dropped down over the previous weeks and was now causing the mudguard to push down firmly onto my rear brake cable, putting the brakes on. Thank God. I am not as ancient as I thought I was. I could go back to lounging around eating bacon sarnies rather than upgrading a fitness programme.!

Michelle is still really fast on her bike but at least I can comfortably stay in touch now….. 

So.. OUR campsite was open to the rest of the world on 12th April after Lockdown. We were keen to get back on the road but wanted to avoid the mayhem of roads jammed with campers and caravans, plus we were interested in watching loads of new neighbours arrive on OUR pitches. We therefore decided to stop two more days before leaving. There was indeed a herd of campers, motorhomes and caravans arriving from lunchtime onwards and we enjoyed the classic entertainment of watching everyone setting up. Struggling with reversing, awnings and deckchairs we managed to critique (!) some of their endeavours. We were slightly dismayed that no-one asked for our advice. !

Drone image of populated campsite

Next morning whilst taking a long walk around the site, inspecting the newcomers layouts (being nosy!), I was startled by a female calling “Glenn, hi, What are you doing here?” and I see that our neighbours were Rachel and Dan that we have known for many years. “Christ. I can’t believe it, we were sat watching you guys set up yesterday and didn’t realise”. “Where are you living now?” asks Rachel, “there” says I, pointing at Ruby. “No….where are you actually living?” she says. “There, says I again“- “Oh my word” (or similar!)- says Rachel in shock. It had been some time since we had seen them but I had worked closely with Rachel for many years and knew Dan through her, before all drifting away. Incredible. We were a good 60 miles and two counties away from their home and the first people we met up with were old mates. Well… gotta have a drink (socially distanced-sitting out in the sun) to chew the fat about the old days and mutual friends. What a great surprise. 

Our next job was to say a cheery goodbye to two of the terrific site owners, drop our Mini off at Michelle’s auntie/uncles for safe keeping and there we were. Free at last. Wahoooooooo. !


The first place we stopped over night was Bedlam…. Literally. Bedlam Furnaces is a place just outside our first destination of Ironbridge, near Telford in Shropshire. Michelle had used her skills on the Search for Sites app and found a Wild Camping site in a gravel car park alongside the road just 200 metres from the amazing, historic, beautiful town of Ironbridge on the River Severn. For the purposes of this – and future- blogs Wild Camping is the term we use for Free Camping but it sounds more impressive.! There is often nothing Wild about it (though do keep reading!). 

Ironbridge was a great start. Yes, a gravel car park does not sound great however, when you think about it, most campsite pitches have hard standing on gravel, for which you pay loads of money. I am from Yorkshire so Free is good. There is, of course, no water, no showers, no toilets and no big patches of lush grass to look at.. However at the moment Covid restrictions mean that  we even have to use our own toilet and shower on a campsite AND they still charge £25+ per night ..!  Cheek. 

So Ironbridge was great, – wonderful fish and chip shop, nice and busy and great views across the river. This is a small village with historic housing, south facing across the river. Built in support of the Iron industry and they had built a pretty tidy iron bridge across the river which is the centre piece of the village and it is supported by the usual tourist shops and cafe’s but is actually a great visit. We grabbed a couple of cans of Carling (other brands are available) and sat on the step alongside the bridge people and car watching. Proper bars are not yet fully available at the time of writing so ‘Street Drinking’ is not as bad as it sounds. The village and camping was good so we readily decided to stay another night- alongside another chap in his self-converted camper van who told of his travels. “I went to Crete for the winter.. and got locked down.. for five months”- Ouch. He manages to get locked down in Crete whilst we get Gloucestershire. ! It appears that the island had very little Covid but they prevented most movement which included them allowing him to stay. Not too shabby. Ever so slightly jealous. We told him of our plans to visit Portugal and he readily passed over some handy advice for the future. 

Now the highlight of Ironbridge was when we took Derek the Drone out to take aerial photos of the historic, picturesque Iron-Bridge. No problem. Go into the quiet car park on the far side (as we are aware there is a lot of interest in drones and don’t want the distractions. Take off and fly over the bridge with sun behind, to take some images from a great height and location. Bearing in mind that this is my fourth drone and I have had them for over seven years. I have taken my full ‘pilots licence’, used drones commercially with estate agents and understand all the regulations. I am cautious and compliant…. Well… Mrs Angry comes storming over to us in the car park from the houses below -“Is that your drone?” – Tempted to deny it as she was so angry but it is quite difficult when holding onto the controller. “Yes, why”- “ Well get it down now, you are not allowed to fly over my house.” – “You are not permitted to fly over an English Heritage site” — “I am calling them now”- wow, calm down lady, breathe. “I am not breaking any laws, I am within the regulations and I am not over your house I am over the river”- So she turns purple and rants “ Right I am calling them now”- “Who are you calling?” says I. She wiggles her phone at me, muttering and stomps off shouting “I am fed up with you invading my privacy”- Oooh. Not very happy then. Over the years I have had many angry people complain about the drones and privacy. Not sure exactly what they think I am doing. Hovering near her house looking into her windows….! – It appears that her house is one of the ones alongside the river which is overlooked by hundreds of people who stand on the river bank taking photos of the bridge…and presumably invading her privacy…!  Very irritating for us to put up with (as we finished the shoot), but how we laughed as we wandered off. No sign of the English Heritage Security Services thank goodness…..

Moving on.

Panorama Walk

Michelle, as ever, identified a memorable location for our next stopover. We had the details of a lay-by alongside a mountain at Llangollen, Denbighshire in North Wales. The lay-by is at Trevor Quarry which is along the Panorama Walk, which runs along the ridge of the mountain. It looked terrific and was always looking to be a challenging journey at the final push to get up there. We Michelle had used the feedback reviews from the Search for Sites app to find the place and explain the difficulties of driving there. Comments such as ‘Well my motorhome is 8 metres long and we made it ok’ gave us the authority to carry on- really! . ( Ruby is 7.4m plus two bikes on the bike of 0.3 metres wide each!)  We were a bit nervous as we approached the small lane up the steep incline to the lay-by. Aware of the tight chicane near the top. We stopped in the pub car park before ascending, to check on the first corner which was already tight and needed us to pull the wing mirrors in just to get started. There was a young lass at the pub, getting it ready to re-open. “Whats the road like up there?”- “It’s fine, you will get that up there, no problem, tractors do it with big trailers on. You will be perfectly fine”- “As long as you don’t meet anything coming the other way” !! Well.. must be time to give it a go and pray for the lack of traffic. It did turn out fine, and the really tight hairpin at the top was manageable with a five point turn and the smell of a hot clutch. – Just hold that thought. We have to come down yet….

Well the lay-by was pretty full of cars owned by walkers, cyclists, rock climbers, runners and somewhat unusually five guys with radio controlled off-road cars taking on the long climbs across the rubble. (Bizarre). We had to wait a while-causing a minor blockage-whilst vehicles moved away and left us room to park the oversized Ruby. We soon settled in and at no point felt like we were in the way. Other vehicles came and went, all with chatty and friendly occupants willing to chat. I had the cheek to ask one of the blokes on snazzy electric mountain bikes “they must be quite expensive”- “About eight grand” says he. Gulp.! Mind you it had all the bells and whistles- actually no… bells are not a thing on bikes anymore are they? It had all the whistles then. They shot off up the gravel, rock strewn mountain pathway leaving us choking on gravel dust as they wheel span away. 

We lived here. Comfy as you like… Imagine the views breakfast, dinner and supper..

As for us… we went for a walk in the evening, a long (too) hilly mountain ride the next day and a long walk up to the spectacular Castell Dina Brân – a prominent Iron Age hill fort. This gives a view of 360º of nothing but mountains and the village of Llangollen below.

Castell Dina Brân

We stayed in this lay-by for two nights and were reluctant to leave as we both loved it so much. We could see across the valley below us out of the front windscreen and were constantly in awe of our neighbours. A group of 20 somethings spent two nights in a small tent further up at the top of the quarry having a party. Bearing in mind this was -2º  overnight and our heating was in overdrive. They were the kind of fun loving kids, partying as an eventual group of 12 or so who just kept sending someone down to the car for more beer, wine and eventually water and sunscreen. They were very friendly and kind enough to camp in an area we could see from Ruby (with binoculars) to make sure they were behaving (!).

We slept so well here and were so relaxed and with no concerns. However, we had decided to leave on Sunday afternoon, we walked down into the lovely town of Llangollen in the morning, had a bacon/sausage/egg roll then returned to Ruby. To find…… the whole area was rammed full with outdoor folk. The worlds supply of outdoor pursuitists had arrived with their cars. They were walking, cycling running, riding and driving on our bit of road that we would need to get down the mountain. Added to which a large transit van had acquired a very flat tyre just 50 meters along the narrow track from our lay-by. Cars could just squeeze past but 2.4m wide Ruby had no chance. After some deliberation we were ready to go, we were packed up, the transit van had dragged his vehicle clear and we were off. NOW the fun starts…

We have always said from the start that we would not want to spend much time on property sites, nor stick to normal conventions. We wanted to ‘wild camp’ often, hit the smaller roads and generally abuse Ruby on our travels. We wanted a Battle Bus and were not afraid of a few battle scars. Well this was our first one. Remember this tight chicane on the narrow steep mountain road.? Well we had to get down this. We had done the research and it was the only permissible way. We squeezed past the walkers and cyclist as they leapt out of the way onto the grass and approached THE bend. Dead easy, can do it in one turn rather than five as we have studied it closely on foot. Trouble is we missed the big dip on the inside of the bend and as the rear wheel dropped in, the rear corner of Ruby’s bodywork crashed into the tarmac and ripped the corner panel right off. – And we were making a video at the time so the verbal account is recorded…!  Ooops. Had to reverse back to clear the hole and made it the second time. Michelle popped back, picked up the damaged panel, and jumped back in before driving away, watched by the gathered adventurers…. ! And to make matters worse, there was a chap pedalling slowly up the hill towards us, hardly able to breath, but still managed to utter the words “There was a better way straight on..…”- Bugger. 

Sorry-3 minute video of descent..and damage. !
Review the damage at ground level..

Well we were now battle scarred and are in the process of buying the new tube of sealant and adhesive to (hopefully) effect a repair, thanks to those nice Bailey Motorhome folk. Moving on. ..

Bala Lake

With our slightly less good-looking Ruby we now had a proper campsite booked. We are able to manage about four days before running out of water, we needed to replenish this as we did not encounter other options. Our cassette toilet lasts probably three days (dependent on what we have been eating… )- enough said…

Anyway, I waffle on, again. We drove about another 40 miles to Bala Lake campsite which is in the historic county of Merionethshire, still in Wales. The site was almost empty being a Sunday afternoon during Covid despite hearing stories of ‘all campsites are completely full’ from many quarters. This site at £25 is a little steep for non-weekend, no access to showers/toilets/laundry (due to Covid restrictions)so basically we got hook-up electric and some water for this price. Still it was a necessity and it gave my ever wonderful Michelle the chance to wash mountains of clothing and bed linen in the lake ( no that’s not true, I made that bit up. ! It was actually by hand- in a basin and hung out on our bugger-to-set-up clothes line/triangle thing (not sure what its called …)

This site is huge with lots of flat open grassland with ready access directly onto Lake Bala by private (gravel) beach. If you are a water loving babe- into paddle boarding, wind surfing, canoeing etc then this is for you. Spend all day and walk back to your unit for hot coffee and supper. As we have no surfboard, no canoe and no SUP (and it was bloody freezing water) we skipped that bit. There is however the ability to hire some in the town of Bala a couple of miles away but we cowardly thought we would wait till Summer to hit the water of any lake. !

I did not consider the we would get much chance to use our bikes in these hilly areas but once again we grabbed them from the rear rack and headed off around Bala Lake. “What is the ride like into Bala” I ask of …. The site owner “ Do you like hills?” She says. “Not really, but we can cope with small ones”- “ You will be fine then” she says, “ giving us a circuitous route “there is a biggish one towards the end otherwise you will be fine”- Well let me just say.. never trust a campsite owner to tell the truth about the local area. Both of us had exploding, throbbing, worn out legs and permanent lung damage BEFORE we even got near the ‘biggish hill’. Ouch…! 

But we did have some fast jets powering along the lake a few times. Love it. – (Though probably important to keep Derek down a bit lower!)

Did you know… Bala Lake has it’s own Loch Ness monster …. called Teggie- and is said to resemble a crocodile or plesiosaur. Teggie sightings have been reported since the 1890s. Look closely at the image above and you may see it….!

How to endure the Winter..

31 March 2021

Still Slimbridge

So.. here I am.. writing this new blog whilst sitting on the fixed bed in the back of Ruby, nice and cosy. It is shocking rain outside and very, very windy. Bizarrely this is quite comforting and perhaps feels like sticking my middle finger up to the weather… ‘I am still here, warm and do your worst!’

 This is the first blog for over two months as, to be honest, due to the nasty Covid19 we have not done a lot. Certainly nothing exciting-so be prepared to be sleeping by the second paragraph!. 

Michelle commentates around a lap of the Campsite

We are still in the same place, same campsite, same county, same motorhome… though a different pitch. Wahey. Moving house is really easy when you have wheels. Occasionally we decided to start Ruby up and drive several times around the site (in different directions to stop getting dizzy)- total distance for one lap is about 400metres but it gets the engine oil warmed up, brakes polished slightly and tyres rotating (who needs square wheels!).

We decided in mid February that as the winter was moving on and the wind direction was forecast to change direction that we could move to another of the 80+ available pitches on-site. We moved from the the hedge protecting us from the prevailing South West winds and slid across (for those of you in need of detail…. from pitch 45 to pitch 40….). We now have a view across a field of sheep and at the time of writing we are expecting the pitter patter of tiny hoofs. We did sidle back to pitch 45 the other week for a few days as a storm made us scared and we needed to tuck back behind the hedge. We do love it here. Really.

We do appreciate that in future months and years we will look back fondly. Especially now that the spring weather is upon us. In reality this weather has not been too horrendous in the last month. 

How many times will you have a huge field – or two fields in this case- to yourself to share with nothing but birds and .. well just birds really? We even have the nice campsite owners turn up and cut the grass on our lawns every week which is kind. BUT we have been here for four months. ‘Help..! Let us out Boris..!’

As regular bored readers may recall we did have some neighbours on the site and we had to share one disabled toilet/shower wet room with about 10 others. The main toilet block was closed due to Covid restrictions so the site owners were ‘doing us a favour’ by giving us a key to this shower room!. It was however fraught with danger. You really don’t want to be going into a small room after someone else has showered and left potential Covid airborne moisture hanging around do you? We did have the option of using our on-board shower and toilet but the draw of a large wet room overcame the fears (just) of Covid. We were really obsessive in the early days with bottles of Dettol (other manufacturers are available) and spray guns everywhere. !

Over time however things improved, the vast majority of our neighbours have moved on. One lot bought a house, another was a temporary essential worker who has returned to his family home and a friendly Irish couple have returned to their home which was under renovation. This means we have only three or four other units on site. They are tucked away behind the office block and keep out of the way. We call them the ‘bottom feeders’ as they are in a bottom field and hardly seen or spoken to. Very occasionally we will see them using our shower room – but otherwise we are essentially the main users now. Just me and Michelle. Much better. And since we have had our vaccinations a couple of weeks ago we have lost our obsession with Dettol. 

This is so great. Biggest collection of frogs EVER…

Now don’t get me wrong…the winter has been soooooo long and dark and cold and wet and windy… It really makes you understand the winter and how long it lasts when you are right out in the middle of it. Every day we go out in all weathers, several times,  paddling to the loo/shower whereas normal people stay inside. We get to feel how bloody cold it is, which way the wind is blowing and where the big puddles are even in the pitch black. It does toughen you up a bit. We always go for our shower wearing shorts and flip flops whatever the weather (yes there is usually a shirt/jumper/coat as well- though to be fair, there is no-one around so we could go wearing a lot less!) This is about 150m away and can be challenging in the dark, wet and windy evenings but it is ‘character building’!

On the other side of the coin, we can feel every degree of warming weather, we see the first leaves on the trees and the first daffodils. We know where Orion’s belt, Polaris, Gemini, The Plough and many more stars are now and where to look to see the International Space Station flying over. We have spent many a clear (bloody cold) evening outside stargazing.

‘What do you do to keep entertained?’ I hear you ask..!

We spend most evenings playing cards, Yahtzee and board games…. well ‘No’ actually … what a romantic idea that is. Thank God for the TV. We have been tucked up watching telly most evenings though I admit to having been thrashed at Yahtzee and occasionally even at Scrabble ..! We never indulge in daytime TV during the week but the weekend sport gets a good look in. Thanks to a good TV aerial plus Apple TV, NOW TV, Amazon Prime etc we do not miss much. We do hope that when the better weather arrives we will be outside more into the evenings.

Though Leeds Utd on telly will always be a definite switch on.!

We have started to use the barbecue now too. We have a gas supply direct to our mighty Cadac bbq and we have an awning light so it is increasingly usable. Fry ups are pretty easy, paella, steaks and even an actual classic chicken, beef burger, sausage barbie works well. Once the bbq has cooled down, simply put the cover on and leave it outside. (Don’t tell Michelle but I often don’t even clean it between cooking..!)

BBQ in the sun. Increasingly an option.

During the daylight and almost every day we walk, cycle, run or workout. We have routines that we can do inside Ruby – though clearly not at the same time. (No… stop it… that is rude!). 

Being so confined within a motorhome we know we have to get loads of exercise that most people get just walking through the house and up and down the stairs. We counted over 350 km that we have walked since December and cycled a similar amount. The vast majority of our walks have been on the flat and level along the canal. We know every section between Sharpness and Gloucester Docks. Sharpness is dull and broken so most of our efforts have been towards Gloucester which is 20km away (16miles in old money ! ) As you may recall we still have our Mini with us so we have driven the short link to a bridge at another section by way of a change. A couple of weeks ago we caught a train from nearby Cam into Gloucester and walked the whole route back thereby joining up all the sections we had previously walked in bits. Quite exciting to be out and about on public transport as it has been months since we even went on a bus. Twasn’t too bad as it was not busy and Covid distancing was evident. 

There is a hole somewhere….. where are you?

We have more recently now completed a cycle ride into Gloucester along the canal as it has finally dried out enough to cycle on. Our purpose? For a terrific Hunter Toasty from a small take away directly alongside the picturesque docks. This is well worth a round trip of 40km for the best toasty you could ever taste. There was a slight drama when Michelle got a puncture half way into Gloucester. This was inevitable due to the terrain and it was not the first we have had. 

Normally we would just inflate and pedal like hell to get home but this was too far and too fast a leak. This inner tube was starting to look like a patchwork quilt now with all the repairs we have had to make in recent months. ! 

The biggest problem through the winter is mud, mud, mud.. which curtails much of what we would want to do. We have met up with all kinds and flavours of good old mud and always claggy and deep. Our poor walking boots have had a right kicking… Thankfully we have also been able to visit the nearby Cotswolds and do some slightly more hilly walks (though still retaining the joy of mud!.) Cycling has been a bit hit and miss. On one memorable occasion we cycled in 2º with a wind chill of about – 4º. It was bloody awful. Five layers of tops, woolly hat, three pairs of ‘trousers’ two pairs of socks and two pairs of gloves. I repeat..Bloody awful. We even had neck warmers wrapped around our mouths but we completely froze and couldn’t see much due to streaming eyes. Character Building?. No. Just Stoopid..!

Since the improving weather we have started doing circuit training outside. Thanks to the empty pitches we can use all the space we want and we do not feel embarrassed as there is no-one around to gawp at us and critique (!) our press-ups, star jumps and sit-ups. Win win. 

This was quite fun. Thanks to a shortage of neighbours this is a big opportunity that won’t be available normally.

One of my highlights of recent weeks was the arrival of my new drone. This is a replacement from my hard worked previous DJI Phantom models with the more high tech DJI Mavic Mini 2 which for some random reason we have called Derek. This is much smaller and therefore easier to transport when out and about. Not only is it tiny but it is faster, more manoeuvrable and can apparently travel much further (my confidence is not yet sufficient to let it go too far-don’t wanna watch him fly off into the distance, never to return!) but also has 4k video and improved camera. It is so much easier to get up and running which adds to the fun. 

Stoopid children..!

Now you may remember me pointing out there are very few other residents on this site…..well one of them has chosen to make a complaint to the site owners about me flying it around.! Bearing in mind that we are at least 200 metres away from her caravan and I have only ever flown over on the way to the canal once or twice, she somehow has been upset by this. It just reminds me that there are still many people out there afraid of what drones are capable of. It just means I have to be more sneaky..! But the fun goes on… 

As mentioned on the previous blog we have handed in our notice after working for far too many years. ( Well don’t we all work too many years?! ). We have been lucky enough to make the most of the opportunity and though we will be losing a lot of income, our quality of life is much improved. No more having to log onto a laptop and grind through the daily pressures. It was a cause for celebration returning to the office for the first time in almost a year to hand over our laptops, identity passes and other bits and pieces. Officially still on the payroll until 31st March but otherwise disconnected. Not sure if we pointed out before but we have had this date in mind for some considerable time and were working towards it steadily. Covid got in the way but I was then keen to continue working from ‘home’ whilst parked up in Portugal…It then became apparent that we would not be permitted to take the laptops out of the country so that helped confirm the retirement date. In addition…. as we had technically moved house in order to live in Ruby, we needed to update our security vetting certificate. Trouble is The Establishment say ‘You cannot live in your motorhome whilst working as we cannot check your address ’ Ha! We would have to get each campsite and roadside lay-by checked out every few days then….. Oh dear. How difficult was this.! Anyway it confirmed to us that it was time to really let go. Shame about working from Portugal but…..

The BIG goodbye. Last working day. Wahey. !

The team at work were very generous and supportive on our departure. Strange that we have not physically been in contact with them for a full year. ‘Thanks guys. We will still miss you.’ 

Of course the other side to this is that over Covid, Michelle and I have not earned a penny from photography. All the student graduations have been cancelled since March last year and all the other photography related jobs have hit the floor. For those of you that are aware, one of our photography incomes was working for a national company involved in taking graduation photographs from Uni’s and Colleges around the South West and Wales. Michelle running the event and me pressing the shutter button.! All this work has gone. There is hope that this will return later this year though in a very different way. This may determine some of the places we visit when in the UK.

Overall…we are genuinely enjoying living in Ruby despite the inability to travel where we would like. It has caused us to look inwards and see the limited world in more detail. From Ruby’s front skylight window we can see a couple of rooks as they struggle to build a nest.  (we have called the male Kevin!). Unbelievably they have taken the nest down several times themselves and other times they have had visits from neighbouring rooks who have stolen their nest bedding. They are bonkers. 

Two fat wood pigeons can be seen out of the side window nesting inside a bush nearby. 

Not sure why we have to give things these daft names? Ruby, the Motorhome, Kevin the Rook and Derek the Drone. Perhaps we need to get back to civilisation…!

So do we want to leave on 12th April when Boris opens the door? Hell Yes!  Despite the improving weather and the sheep and big empty campsite and no neighbours and the big shower room and the canal. Yup. We want to get back on the road. 

‘Would you do the same again next winter if Europe remains closed?’ …  Hell NO. The winter is soooooo very long, and soooo very dark, and soooo, cold and wet. Maybe the South East (Kent) would be better as it is always dryer and warmer but English winters are to be avoided.

‘Where do you go now I hear you ask..?‘  Well we have accepted that Europe is not going to happen this year as Covid is still rife and restrictions in place. We can only hope that come late Autumn we can head over and spend the winter away somewhere warm. In the meantime … we have some bookings in the Yorkshire Dales in Pateley Bridge in May for the month and we have a couple of weeks booked in Keswick in the Lake District in July but otherwise we have no firm plans. We will be ‘wild’ camping for several days a week hopefully and moving onto a small site otherwise in order to fill up with water and empty our ‘cloakroom’. Which direction? Probably north but we can start to get some kind of route sorted once we are confirmed as free to move in a couple of weeks. 


So when I started writing this a couple of days ago it was wet and cold and yucky weather. The last two days however have been a very tiny heat wave. Here’s hoping it turns out like last April/May… Wow.

The excitement from yesterday was being able to drive out onto the main roads….. we had an appointment to have a motorhome bike rack fitted, which had been postponed twice due to Covid. So a gentle drive to Sodding Chipbury and back was the height of dizziness. Thankfully the campsite staff were happy enough to let us out for the day ‘on licence’! 

Today’s big excitement was a trip a few miles up the Severn Estuary to watch the Severn Bore (see below). This was a three star (out of a possible five) and was pretty impressive and rather weird. This wave just appear from nowhere and ploughs up the river against the flow. Certainly the five star ones are popular with surfers and canoeists who try to ride it all the way into Gloucester. We took the opportunity to put Derek the Drone up to video it and share the excitement. I am still rather nervous of flying over water (due to a previous expensive drone drama!)  but we keep surviving and the video footage works ( though to be honest I need a bit more practice..!)

The 3-star Severn Bore drone footage. Curious slice of nature.
Hi. Defo Spring now.

Oh and…. We have lambs in the next field now. The gift that keeps on giving. !

Did you know…The Severn bore is seen on the tidal reaches of the River Severn. It is formed when the rising tide moves into the funnel-shaped Bristol Channel and the surging water forces its way upstream in a series of waves, as far as Gloucester and beyond. The bore behaves differently in different stretches of the river; in the lower, wider parts as a slight roller, while the water creeps across the sand and mudflats. In the narrower, upper reaches, the river occupies the whole area between its banks and advances in a series of waves that move upstream. 

Bores are present about 130 days a year, on the days immediately following the new and full moon. The size and timing depend on the time of high tide, the barometric pressure, the wind speed and direction and the amount of water coming down the river.