Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Great North Fund Days 32 - 34


Lovely Windermere

Here I sit enjoying a well earned rest in the sunshine at a “peaceful and relaxing” CC site.  I say “peaceful and relaxing” because one of the hazards of these green and lovely sites is that in order to keep them looking green and lovely something always needs to be mowed, chopped or strimmed.  I’m not complaining at all – the wardens all do a fantastic job keeping the sites looking so good – but it does mean an afternoon snooze is rather out of the question.

We’re finally back in the world of electricity so, assuming I manage to keep hold of a mobile signal, I’ll be back to doing these daily for the final few days.  Good job too as I get really confused working out the dates and day numbers.  Before we headed off into our muddy field, sans electricity, we charged everything up but tried not to use it to much in case we needed it in an emergency.  Five days later we find ourselves having had no emergencies and still with fully charged laptops and mobiles.  Shame on the family for not making use of our practical forward thinking by encountering some sort of urgent eventuality, but there we are, no consideration at all some folks.
Stickle Tarn

Having been beaten to a soggy pulp by the rain on Saturday the sun put in a very welcome appearance on Sunday so we headed back to the hills, but only the small ones this time.  Taking a break from driving we bought “all day rover” tickets for the buses and headed initially for Dungeon Ghyll.  Our plan was to take a poke around there for a while, then head to Windermere before finishing the day off in Coniston.  This all went wrong almost immediately when we got to Dungeon Ghyll and decided to climb up to Stickle Tarn.  Half way up we faced a decision – continue enjoying the climb in the glorious sunshine all the way up to the tarn but miss the bus back to Windermere, or scamper back down in time to catch the bus to a predictable touristy town crammed with tourists.  Hmmmm... tough call...  An hour or so later up at the beautiful if rather windy tarn we were quite happy with the decision as we watched the bus lurch back along the valley floor.  I don’t think there’s a bad view to be had in the Lake District and this one certainly didn’t let the side down, huge looming crags over the striking blue of the tarn.  Even the gale force wind helped by whipping up pleasing little white topped waves to add to the spectacle.

Coniston Water
We made it back down to the valley in time to get over to Coniston, a slightly bigger bus this time with a completely lunatic driver, I know you need to be assertive when driving a bus along these lanes but I’m very glad I didn’t meet this guy coming in the opposite direction.  After we screeched to a halt in Coniston we disembarked and made our way slowly through the tyre smoke to the lake front.  If you ever visit Coniston by bus allow plenty of time to get to the Lake – it’s about a 10 minute walk from the bus stop.  I was beginning to doubt its existence but the sudden appearance of outdoor goods shops and the “Bluebird Cafe” reassured me the lake was nearby.  The lake and the town of Coniston are steeped in history – Swallows and Amazons, John Ruskin, Donald Campbell – and there were a few little nooks and crannies where you could find more information about all of them.  I found it puzzling that the tourist tat shops and tea rooms were crammed but the little corners of the town set aside to explain some of its varied and interesting history were deserted.  I wonder how many of the tourists were aware of what had happened here in the past, or even cared.

Back in our now slightly less muddy field we made our plans for Monday – the big assault on Scafell Pike.  Our legs were feeling much better and the blisters were doing well.  Being in Delores we didn’t think the haul up to Wasdale Head was a great plan, it would have been around a 90 minute journey and not something I’d have enjoyed doing after a long days hiking.  Instead we opted to drive to Seatoller, cycle to Sathwaite and walk up via Stockley Bridge.  Whatever the plan an early night was in order.

Busy on top of Scafell Pike
On the drive over to Seatoller we followed a double-decker tourist bus which helped clear the traffic for us which was, as Steve put it, rather like having a Sherman Tank on point.  We got to Seatoller around 9:45am with only one minor mishap, we missed the signpost for the National Trust car park and very nearly ended up on the Honister Pass.  Luckily there was somewhere to turn around and the kindly bus driver pointed out the car park for us.  As it was a beautiful sunny bank holiday Monday there were plenty of people around and everyone seemed in a good mood as we headed up the mountain.  Many of the routes up Scafell Pike are pretty but the mountain top itself is quite brutal, a huge pile of jagged rocks which made me wonder where the actual mountain itself was and how they accurately measured the heights of things that seemed to be no more than a pile of scree.  The top was like Piccadilly Circus but at least everyone had made it up there safely. I would say that all we needed to do now was to get down, but once we get up into the mountains we like to stay there, so as well as visiting all the peaks along the ridge to Scafell Pike we also nipped over to Esk Pike, Bow Fell and Allen Crags before dropping back down.  I definitely want to return to climb up the Great Gable though, a wonderfully imposing mountain and fabulous to look at.

View from the top of Scafell Pike
Back at the campsite it was all I could do to hurl a pie in the oven as we sat drowsily supping the small bottle of celebratory champagne I’d bought.  I actually planned to drink it at the summit but once I was there I decided I’d like all my wits about me for the route down.  As it was I still fell over a couple of times and have some very pretty bruises to show for it.

Today we tried to have a lie in but the man in charge of mowing the grass had other ideas and was roaring around the field by 9am.  We thought we might as well get up and head for the CC site and some peace and quiet only to find when we got here that there was a man mowing the lawns here too.  I guess with the great British weather you have to take advantage of any sunny days you can to keep on top of the gardening.  While I’m on the subject of arriving at CC sites, are we the only people who are completely unable to make up their minds where to park up?  Even if it’s only for one night we circle the site a few times weighing up the available pitches before picking one and then debating whether or not it was the best choice.  We’ve also found we exert a strange magnetic attraction, especially when we’ve particularly sought out a distant and quiet pitch away from everyone else.  Invariably within 30 minutes someone will have parked right next to us, despite there being 20 or so other available pitches on the site.  We’re not antisocial we just like to be away from everyone else.  OK, maybe we are antisocial, but my job means I have to be very sociable so it’s nice when I’m away not to have to make small talk.

Another view from the summit.
I’ve also noticed what a sexist group caravanners are.  Invariably the man does the driving and the reversing onto the pitch while the women either stand around and chat or simply look on until it’s all ready for her to hop on and start cooking or cleaning.  Just now a man struggling with his van came to the van next to us and asked the woman sitting outside if her husband was around as he needed help levelling his van and was short of a tool.  How insulting?  Good job he didn’t try asking me as he may have received a rather curt reply.  I love driving Delores and am familiar with all the tools on board and their various functions and would find it deeply insulting if someone asked me where my husband was like that.  I’m chuckling though because I know the various members of my family reading this will be laughing and would tell the poor guy what a lucky escape he had – my stubbornness and acidic reaction to any form of sexism are well known...

And that pile of random ramblings just about brings us up to date.  We’re spending the rest of today relaxing and recovering from yesterday.  We’re staying near Grange-Over-Sands which is where Steve grew up so I’m looking forward to him showing me around the area tomorrow before we head down to Blackpool for our final three nights.  Can’t believe we’ll be home at the weekend, but I’ not going to worry about it.  Instead I plan to put my feet up, pour another drink and enjoy the rest of this long hot sunny afternoon.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Great North Fun Days 29 - 31


Pinned down by the weather for several days now.   All we can hear is a howling gale outside and rain lashing down.  “I’m just stepping outside” I said. “I may be some time.”  I retuned 45 minutes later laden down with croissant and fresh bread rolls this was, afterall, Ambleside and not the Antarctic.  But the weather has been pretty bad...

Striding Edge
We’re now firmly ensconced at the Ambleside Aire, a muddy field very central to Ambleside but in much need of some gravel or hardstanding to drive around in the field at the back.  The owner is lovely and the location and price are good, but the combination of British Bank Holiday weather, a large field and 20 or so motorhomes was never going to end well.  We’ve watched several MH’s get stuck already but there’s always someone on hand to help out, even if it is a small child on an impossibly small bike.

Yesterday we decided that if we’re going to ‘do’ the Lake District then we may as well ‘do’ it properly, so at the crack of dawn (well, maybe a little nearer to 9:30am) we set off for Glenridding and a hike up Helvellyn.  And we didn’t go the easy way either, oh no, we took the hard route via Striding Edge and just for good measure nipped along Swirral Edge to Catstye Cam while we were up there.  Then a long, long, looooong descent via Dollywaggon Pike and Grisedale Tarn before a nice long stroll along Grisedale Beck and back to Delores.  A grand total of 6 peaks and well over 15 miles of yomping, none of it flat.  We didn’t rush and were out there for over 9 hours, but it was worth it.  The views down over Ullswater were amazing, the rock climbing was fun and all that exercise meant I could scoff fish and chips in the evening with complete impunity.
Summit of Helvellyn

We’re not experts in the mountains but took plenty of sensible precautions which is more than I can say for many of the people we saw up there.  Luckily the weather was good, but there really is no excuse for tackling a peak like Helvellyn in flip flops (as we saw someone wearing).  If Mountain Rescue ever has to be called out for idiots like that I hope they send them a very large bill.  Mind you we saw plenty at the other end of the scale too, with some people well equipped enough to winter in the Antarctic.

Today we have spent the day nursing our aching muscles with a few gentle strolls around town in between rainshowers.  The Ambleside crowd is a curious one, a mix of proper mountain types, weekend walkers such as ourselves and confirmed townies with suspiciously clean walking boots hoping some of this outdoors stuff will rub off on them before they hop back into their 4x4 and return to the city.
The end of a long day.

The rain seems to have finally stopped now and the forecast is good for the next few days which is good news as we aim to tackle Scafell Pike on Monday.  We’ll give ourselves plenty of time again and take all the usual precautions plus a few more painkillers.  This evening we’ve discovered a marvellous sparkling wine & fresh strawberry drink which I’m sure will help our sore muscles no end but probably means I’d better end today’s blog here before I say anything I regret.  But you are all my beshtish friendssshhh in the whole world ever...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Great North Fun Days 26-28


In the past few days we've spent some wonderful time with family, driven along some improbably narrow roads, got soaked to the skin and arrived at a campsite the approach to which makes landing at the old Kytak Airport look simple.

We've spent the past couple of nights in a real bed in a huge house.  At least I think it's a huge house, it could just be that everywhere looks huge after several weeks living in a motorhome. However large it was it was lovely and, even better, it was full of family we don't see very often so it was great to catch up. While we were all together we headed down to Buttermere - a lovely place but not somewhere for the feint hearted MH driver.  It's not so much the narrow country lanes with overhanging rock faces that are the main challenge, it's mostly the other drivers out there, many of whom have little or no patience or understanding.  There were several occasions that made me wish I could convert the overcab bed to a gun turret. Even if it did't actually work I'm sure a motorhome/ Sherman tank hybrid would instill a little discipline on the roads and maybe improve people's manners.

Derwent Water from Catbells
If I thought the roads to Buttermere were fun they were simply the warm up for the approach to the CC site we're now on near Keswick.  Heaven knows how twin axle caravans make it down here.  A tight right hand bend into Grange and immediately over a narrow stone double hump bridge before squeezing along the road through the village lanes past badly parked tourists cars.  (I'm telling you - the Elddis Panzer would restore a little order.). Then a few more winding lanes before dropping down into a fabulous little woodland site.  No loo block but plenty of peaceful pitches.

After lunch we decided to walk around the lake but we got distracted half way round by Catbells fell so we climbed that instead. Not a big peak but in a perfect spot for panoramic views of Derwent, Keswick and the surrounding valleys.  We're hoping to tackle something rather more challenging when we're in Ambleside so this was a nice warm up.

Home for a cold beer - which always tastes so much better when it's been earned - and an evening spent making plans for the weekend.  We're off the infamous Ambleside Aire tomorrow which we're planning to use as a base for the bank holiday weekend.  Not sure I fancy tackling the traffic around Windermere over August bank holiday - at least not until I've got my rear gunner...

I don't know if I'll be able to update each day as we'll have no electric to recharge the batteries but if I can I will and I've no real idea how many people are following my mad ramblings but it's been a lovely way for us to keep track of what we've been doing.  Can't believe it's only just over a week till we head home - still, loads to do before then and probably much of it in the rain!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 25


Trust me, it's a shower.

I know, I know, I'm a little late with this one, but when you're in the wilds of the Lake District you're relying on the outcome of the battle between the mobile networks and the mountains, and the mountains usually win.

We left the lovely CL near Gretna today and it's a place I can't recommend highly enough.  The site was lovely, there was a shower and a loo and the owners were lovely.  The farm kept sheep and sold various cuts of lamb and mutton (apologies to any vegetarians reading this) and would happily provide any veg they had to go with it.  I bought a couple of huge leg steaks and was provided with a good selection of freshly dug or picked veg and all for an astoundingly cheap price.  We have farm shops back in Hampshire but with all their overheads and their captive 4x4 mums audience the prices tend to be astronomic.  So much nicer and fresher direct from the farmers wife - even if I did feel a little guilty as we drove past their field of sheep on the way out.

Ullswater from the diesel "steamer"
We headed straight for the CC site next to Ullswater, bagged a decent spot then headed for the lake.  Amazingly it's my first proper visit to the Lake District and as the weather was taking a brief lull from it's autumnal schedule I decided I wanted to make the most of it and head out on a boat. We got ourselves tickets for the Ullswater Steamer and 10 minutes later boarded a diesel powered boat - where are the trade descriptions lot when you need them?  We happily chugged up and down the lake for a couple of hours and even spotted a couple of houses we fancied buying one day if we maybe win the lottery. Twice.  The scenery was dramatic with Hellvelyn looming large over the head of the lake.  Once back ashore I took out a small mortgage to buy a loaf of bread and some milk before we headed off for Aira Falls.

The Aira Falls pay & display carpark was free for National Trust members - hallelujah!  That's another 70p saved thanks to our annual membership fee...  As the NT hadn't splashed out on too many signs we ended up on the wrong side of the river for High Force so Steve deftly & elegantly leapt across 3 boulders to the other side.  As  I have the sense of balance of your average Glaswegian after a night on the lash I rolled up my trousers and paddled across.  In the 20 mins it took me to slither and swear my way to the other side several families with young children had followed Steve's lead and were all now mocking me from the far bank.  Eventually we made it up to High Force for the obligatory photo of more gallons of water hurling themselves selflessly down a rockface for the amusement of tourists.
The bottom of Aria Falls.  Spot the penguin?

Returning to the campsite I set about cooking up the lamb and veg I bought earlier.  Luckily the stuff was so good that it gallantly rose above my attempts at incineration and turned our pleasingly eadible - which is more than can be said for the gravy which was so weak it couldn't even make it out of the pan.

Well I won't be around for a few days now as we're taking a break to immerse ourselves in family stuff.  All being well I'll be back on Thursday in Ambleside churning our more meaningless witterings from our travels.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 24


Today we visited an extraordinary thing. A cathedral that actually felt like a place of worship rather than a tourist attraction.  To be honest I really wasn't keen about heading into Carlisle, especially on a busy Saturday, and we very nearly gave up on a couple of occasions, but we found good parking for Delores in the first car park we tried so we thought we'd give the city a go.

Hadrian's Wall.  Well, a bit of it.
First off we headed for the castle.  Ever since we joined the National Trust so we could save money and get in to see lots of new places, all the new places have been owned by English Heritage.  Carlisle Castle was one such place and at £4.80 each to get in we thought we'd give it a miss.  Leaving the castle we went through a really interesting underpass - not a phrase I use often but this underpass led to the museum and was full of interesting things from the history of the area.  It also didn't stink of pee, another rarity in the underpass world.

After a quick visit to the Tuille House Museum/ art gallery we found ourselves a proper northern tea room for a rest and a bite to eat.  Steve was thrilled to find they served proper rhubarb crumble in a proper bowl with lots of proper custard.  Those of you who know my husband will know how important good custard is to him.  Rested and replete we set off for the cathedral.

Not only was there no entry fee, or list of rules concerning the taking of photographs, but when we entered we were greeted by a lovely and very helpful lady who gave us a leaflet about the cathedral and told us if we had any questions to ask one of the assistants who were around and about.  Well we didn't have to ask, the assistants popped up regularly explaining different aspects of the history of the place and very patiently answering any additional questions we had.  I'm afraid I have pretty strong views about places of worship turning into commercial ventures so it was very refreshing to find a place that still realised what it's main purpose of existence was.

A bit more of Hadrian's Wall
Leaving Carlisle behind we headed off to check out the western end of Hadrian's Wall noting that the whole thing appeared to be owned by the National Trust, so we set off with our National Trust Sticker in the windscreen ready to take full advantage of our free carparking only to find that Northumberland National Parks own the car parks and it was £3 a day. All for a good cause I suppose.  We stopped at Walltown Crags for an easy stroll around and promptly got lost and ended up scaling one of the lesser crags to get back to the footpath.  Well I say footpath, I'm not convinced that any of it's previous users had anything other than 4 legs and a big fleecy coat.  It's quite remarkable how much of the wall is left here - it's a good 10 feet high in places - I can't imagine there's much being built today that will survive as long.

We finally made it back to Delores and the campsite.  The site is really quirky and friendly and even has a shower and a loo.  There's lots of interesting things in the surrounding fields to explore including a 40 foot high solar powered shower and washing machine.  We never actually made it into Gretna Green, once we read the leaflet for the Blacksmiths and realised it had sold it's soul years ago we thought we'd give it a miss.  Tomorrow we're heading down into the Lake District for plenty of walking but probably not so much cycling - those hills are looking pretty steep to me!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 23


Rockcliffe - a beach made entirely of shells.

When we woke this morning we discovered that not only had the view gone but most of the sea had gone too.  We were enveloped in a thick sea mist and the gale was still howling all around us.  Rather than do battle with it all we reluctantly opted for a lazy morning and a very late start, practically having to force fresh bacon rolls down our throats while we waited for the storm to blow itself out. It's a tough job but somebody needed to do it.  Even Monty looked a little miffed by it all, peering forlornly out the window yet only able to see some strange white thing.  I'm sure somewhere deep in his feline brain he blamed us for it, as if we'd somehow transported Delores in the night without him noticing.

As we were filling and emptying the various water tanks on Delores a caravan nearby lost it's awning in the wind.  Well, nearly lost it.  It unpegged itself and was flapping and banging around over the roof of the van.  It took 7 grown adults and one small child to catch it and dismantle it.  I was worried that if the wind gusted too strongly it might pick up the small child and deposit him in Oz with nothing but his ruby red trainers to get him home again.

And I mean *entirely* shells.
Around lunchtime we finally set off with me managing to catch a few last glimpses of our stunning surroundings as we bumped along the track out of the site.  The New England Bay CC site is definitely top site so far - right on the beach, amazing views and lovely wardens.  Even the showers were great although I'm convinced they were installed by giants as the shower head was a good 7 feet high.

After a brief but very soggy stop for lunch the weather finally abated as we arrived at Rockcliffe.  In glorious sunshine we headed for the beach. Still remembering my lessons learned at High Force I took my waterproof just in case the weather realised it had foolishly slipped into summer mode and decided to make amends with another deluge.  Rockcliffe is another stunning bay on the southwest coast of Scotland a few miles south of Dumfries. The main bay is pretty enough but if you're ever there find and follow the little footpath to the beach near Rough Island.  There you will find gorgeous beaches made entirely from shells - spectacular to look at though a little sharp on the bum to sit on.  We wandered around for a while before walking along the causeway to Rough Island which is not, as you may think from the name, a dodgy council estate full of yobs wearing hoodies, but is in fact a green and pretty bird sanctuary about 500m off the coast.

Lots and lots of shells...
Returning to the main beach we sat, along with several others, watching the tide come in the same way we had at Lindisfarne. What is it about tidal islands that makes us want to see them cut off again as if we thought Mother Nature might pull a fast one if we weren't looking and forget to bring the tide in.  At least it had been fabulous sunshine all afternoon but now it was time to go in search of our campsite.

Along the way we stopped off to take in some more amazing views as well as stopping briefly at Sweetheart Abbey just as the sun was starting to set.  The reds of the brickwork against the emerald green of the grass was beautiful.  The odd story behind the name of the abbey concerns the Lady behind the building of it who, when her husband died, had his heart cut out and kept it in a jar with her at all times.  When she herself died she was buried in the abbey next to her husband holding the jar with his heart.  I guess "dotty old dear carrying around bits of her dead husband in a jar" abbey wouldn't have quite the same ring to it.

We finally found our CL tucked away about 10 miles east of Gretna. We've a couple of nights here before heading down to the Lake District so I'm sure we'll squeeze in a visit to the old Blacksmiths if we can still find it under all the tourist stuff.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 22


Well that's it, the view has gone.  No we haven't left the site but as I write this the rain is thundering down on the roof again and Delores is rocking gently in the wind.  Ahhhh, the sweet sounds of summer.  And they forcast clear skies tonight. Maybe there are somewhere, just not here.
Mull of Galloway. A long way on a bike.

It's not been like this all day though.  The rest of the day has been sunny, warm and blustery which made for a lovely bike ride down to the Mull of Galloway around 8 miles away.  We'd been warned it was a bit hilly but the first part along the coast was relatively flat and there were plenty of places to stop and admire the views.  Then we got to Drummore, "the most southerly town in Scotland" with each shop cashing in on the claim; "The first and last post office in Scotland" being situated directly opposite "The most southerly store in Scotland". You get the idea.  On leaving Drummore there's a one and a half mile climb (quite probably up the most southerly hill in Scotland) before things ease up for a very pleasant ride down to the mull.  On top of the mull is an old lighthouse which is only open a few days a week, none of those being today, but the RSPB visitors centre is interesting and has loads of info about what to look out for.
Pic from under the Foghorn

We had a very nice packed lunch on the cliff tops watching the seabirds swooping and diving and we even saw a grey seal catching it's fishy lunch.  Still quite tired from the ride over we decided to treat ourselves to tea and cakes in the cafe.  We both went for the cream scones, obviously a popular item as they only had three left. They were delicious and after devouring ours we thought we'd cheekily have the last one and share it between us only to discover we'd been beaten to it by a couple of pesky pensioners who thought ours had looked "lovely and squishy".  Haaarrruummmpppphhh!!  Had they pedalled their legs off to get there? I think not.  And don't give me any of that "I fought in the war" nonsense - this is a grade A cream cake we're talking about here and only achievements on the day in question count.  Thwarted we decided to head back, a journey that was very pleasantly downhill the whole way.

The weather started to close in pretty much as soon as we got back so we had a nice hot shower and settled down for an evening of reading and games. Tomorrow we begin our journey south and hopefully back into better weather.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 21


Port Logan.

Don't flush cotton buds down the loo.  That's what I learned today on our RSPB beachcomber walk and litter pick. First of all when they get to the sea the gulls pick them up and feed them to their young and secondly the stick part washes up on remote Scottish beaches.  We picked up dozens of them this morning on the litter pick.

I'm also going to need someone to send me a thesaurus as I'm rapidly running out of superlatives to describe this place.  We spent the morning on the RSPB walk to learn more about the local birds.  It was really interesting even though they didn't  talk much about birds - more about seaweed and shells which although interesting, rarely fly.

After a quick spot of lunch on the beach we pedaled over to Port Logan where they apparently filmed "2000 acres of sky".  Having never seen it I googled it and found out it was a BBC drama about the Isle of Skye although it wasn't filmed there.  Port Logan itself is an incredibly tiny but pretty little fishing village and it's easy to understand why a film crew was drawn to it.  Thank goodness it wasn't a massive international hit else the place may have been spoiled.

"I want that one"
This evening the campsite had a visit from the local fishman so it was freshly caught plaice for dinner, at least I'm assuming it was freshly caught, to a born and bred townie such as myself it could have come straight from the Findus factory and I'd never know. It was delicious, although it's enormous size made me wonder if it had been caught down the coast at Sellafield or whatever it's called these days.  Either way the two heads will come in handy for making fish stock.

Later in the evening we took advantage of the clear skies to do a bit of star spotting.  We may not be in the darkest darkness of Glen Trool but once down on the beach the number of stars was breathtaking.  Funny how looking at billions of stars can make you feel utterly insignificant.

Tomorrow we plan to cycle down to the Mull of Galloway although we have been warned it's a bit hilly.  After our escapades in Yorkshire I'm sure we'll be fine.  I feel confident that I'm fit enough to push my bike up any hill.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 20


Well that's it, I'm never leaving here.  I've found the place I want to be and I'm not coming home again. Sorry to Gillian and Kate if you're reading this but that's just the way it is.  Yes we baled out of Glen Trool but not without good reason, the main one of course being the midges. The problem is I've always over reacted to midge bites.  Not in an "aaarrrggghhhhh I've got a midge bite, someone dial 999 immediately" kind of a way but in a "my body can't be bothered to fight the poison, each bite swells up like a ping pong ball" kind of a way.  I can also verify that they are a genuine pain the backside and I can say that because one of them has bitten me there.  No idea how, but it's a tricky on to scratch in public.
Luce Bay. I may never leave.

The second reason we baled out was the weather, neither of us mind a bit of rain but we'd come here to appreciate the clear night skies with no light pollution.  Pretty tough to do through thick cloud.  So we decided to head for a remote part of the coast instead, but not before we'd taken a 6 mile yomp (uphill of course) to see one of Bruce's many stones.  This one was at the top of Loch Trool and the views were undeniably stunning.

And so to this glorious location.  We're on the CC New England Bay site which is pretty much on the beach 14 miles south of Stranraer. If you look for us on a map we're on the side of the peninsula that affords stunning views across to Glen Trool (still cloudy there, or maybe that's just swarms of midges), the Lake District and the Isle of Man - though I'm sure the views from the other side are non too shabby either, but we'll check them out later in the week just to be sure.  I've always had a magnetic attraction to the sea so maybe life on a narrow peninsula was always on the cards.

All we've managed to do so far is take a stroll along the beach and wolf down some fish and chips from a big red van that called into the site. The fish was gorgeous and actually tasted like it had been in the sea in the not too distant past.

We're planning to stay put here for 3 nights now to recharge our batteries and explore a little. I've already warned Steve that there'll be deep nail marks in the tarmac when the time comes to drag me away from here, but for now I'm just going to enjoy the amazing views.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 19


Do I look like dinner to you? Apparently I do to 50,000 midges.

Breakfast outdoors in Moffat was a lovely and relatively midge free experience.  We packed up and headed for the hills - quite literally.  Our aim was to find a suitable wildcamping spot near Glen Trool but to stop along the way and take in some sights.  If you want to 'take in some sights' in Scotland be prepared to walk uphill.  In a cunning move no doubt driven by a desire to keep them out of the way of the English the Scots have put all their good stuff high up and well out of harms way.  We stopped near Loch Ken for lunch and walked up to admire a couple of viewpoints before tackling the 'Raiders Road Forest Drive' - a toll road between the A762 and A712 just south of New Galloway.  It was a wonderful if somewhat bumpy drive with my pedometer racking up over 1000 steps without me leaving the driving seat - a quick and painfree way to fitness.

Delores tucked away.
Next stop was Murray's monument which was again at the top of a hill albeit a relatively small one.  Still not quite sure who Murray was but someone called James Stewart liked him enough to build him a huge monument on the top of a very pretty hill.

And so to Glen Trool.  We'd done our homework and had an idea of a couple of wild spots to try.  We eventually found a lovely little hideaway almost completely hidden from the tiny road next to it.  Comletely hidden from humans that is, every midge within a 10 mile radius seemed to know exactly where we were. Not that we wanted to go outside as the rain was thundering down again.  So I whipped up our romantic anniversary dinner to the sound of rain drumming on the roof and Steve cursing and swotting any midge that dared breach our defences.

We all gave up and had an early night, though I can't help feeling the midges will be munching on me till the early hours. Let's hope tomorrow brings better weather.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 18


Bit of a late start this morning. We got up early enough but by the time we'd queued for the showers and faffed around getting Delores ready for a few nights away from the main sites it was midday before we left Berwick. Our aim was to make it to a CL near Moffat before heading into the wilds of Dumfries & Galloway.

Loch Skeen
We initially headed north on thr A1 and straight into Scotland past a huge sign with a Scottish Flag welcoming us to Scotland. There was no big sign and flag going the other way - it seems our lack of national pride begins at the borders. After that we followed some lesser A roads through Dun and Galasheils before picking up the A708 to Moffat. Although the road is not the easiest to drive in a motorhome it is well worth the effort. The views start off as stunning and improve the whole way along. We had lunch and a stone skimming contest on the banks of St Mary's Loch (Steve won) before pulling up at Grey Mare's Falls for a bit of a walk.  Now when I say a 'bit of a walk' I mean a 1 hour vertical hike to Loch Skeen at the top, and this time instead of the rain beating down we were sweltering in hot sun. (10/10 to Scotland for fixing the weather!). The hard work was definitely worth it though as the views at the top were breathtaking (not that I had a lot of breath left to take at that point!). A gorgeous loch tucked high up in the hills with dramatic mountain tops behind.

Delores in the valley far below.
Once back at the van I was very keen to get to the site for a well earned cold beer or two.  The CL is about 3 miles outside Moffat in gorgeous countryside. My plan was to cool down outside next to the stream with a cold beer. Truly idyllic apart from one thing, or rather several million things. Midges. Do they only exist north of the border? The wee tartan terrors drove us back inside so that on the first truly warm and gorgeous evening we've had so far on this trip we were still stuck inside Delores, held captive by tiny insects.

The midges however held no fear for the intrepid Monty. So far this trip he has encountered his first sheep (not at all sure what to make of them) and his first big sandy beach which must have seemed to him like the world's biggest cat litter tray. Last night he was on his first farm and had a lot of fun checking out all the new smells around the farm yard. He was off his lead but never likes to be out of sight of us so he doesn't wander far and returns to Delores like an exorcet missile at the first sign of trouble.

Tomorrow is our 7th wedding anniversary and our first attempt at wildcamping.  At the moment we have no plans in place at all and aim to sort out a route over breakfast outdoors - but that all rather depends on what time the midges get up.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 17


Precariously Perched.

Today was brilliant sunshine all day.  Well it was on Lindisfarne, pity we were in Berwick.  At least it wasn't raining.  We spent today on the edge of a weather system and could see the edge of the clouds and the lovely sun all day about a mile or so out to sea. All we needed now was a boat...

I'd always fancied visiting Berwick and wandering around the old fort walls and today I got my wish.  We arrived at the campsite just after lunch - our last proper site and electricity for a week.  We nabbed a gorgeous spot overlooking the sea and town and headed off to explore.  First stop was for some excellent chips - we haven't had nearly enough of those on this holiday!  Then off around the fort walls.  Berwick has done an excellent job providing lots of information all the way around.  There's also lots of info about Lowry who apparently spent a lot of time here with Berwick providing the inspiration for many of his pictures.

Berwick upon Tweed
During our wanderings we spotted a poster advertising Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Company who were to perform 'A Comedy of Errors' in the shadow of the Elizabethan ramparts later that evening.  I've always wanted to watch outdoor theatre so we sorted out tickets and cobbled together a quick picnic in Safeway.  Not exactly a Fortnums Hamper, but a pack of picnic eggs, some Kettle Chips and a can of G&T and I was happy.

We were the first to arrive and nabbed a lovely bench under a tree and watched everyone else arrive.  Most had come very well prepared with huge hampers and comfy chairs.  So comfy in fact we were half expecting to spot someone wheeling in a sofa.  The performance was excellent - really funny and well acted and directed.  Another lovely end to another lovely day.

Tomorrow we head off into Scotland to try our hand at wildcamping for a few nights - or until we realise we're from Hampshire and not the Wild West and can no longer manage without electricity, so if I'm not around much over the next couple of days you'll know why.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 16


Lindisfarne Castle

As the saying goes "Tide and Time wait for no man".  Well today the tide was covering the Lindisfarne causeway and the time was 8am.  Not a time we're used to getting up on this trip but the causeway opened at 10am and we wanted to be there to make the most of the whole day on the island.  As we crossed and splashed through the remains of the retreating sea I made a strong mental note to leave plenty of time for the return journey, I've a healthy respect for Mother Nature and in a Tide -v- Delores battle I know who'd win.

First stop was the castle which I can strongly recommend and, as newly joined up members of the National Trust, it was free for us.  Each room had been well laid out and there were laminated sheets and National Trust staff around if you had any additional questions.  The even had a couple of different levels of treasure hunt style puzzles for the kids.

A rather camp Knight of Old...
After that it was off to The Priory and I have to say not such good value at all.  Due to there being a 'special event' which we had no interest in the entrance fee was higher - £11 for 2 adults. (English Heritage own the priory).  Once inside there were a number of display boards explaining a bit about the history of the place but that was it.  My advice would be to read up on the history before you go and not pay to go in.  Instead take the path to the right of the church next to the priory, this will lead you up onto a bank behind it and give you all the views you need.

After a spot of lunch we explored the island a little more and were already becoming mindful of the now incoming tide.  For every tourist there is of course the trip to sample some of the 'world famous' Lindisfarne mead.  Ever since Jesus turned water into wine there has been a close link between Christianity and alcohol with monks seemingly capable of fermenting just about anything. No wonder they all had so many visions.  Still it's left a useful legacy as all the wine is now being turned into profit.

The Causeway
We left the island in plenty of time and parked up somewhere very safe to watch the tide come in - definitely worth doing.  Nothing happened for an hour or so after the causeway has technically closed but then the tide suddenly arrived and covered it at a truly amazing speed.  You couldn't stand near the water for more than a few seconds before it was over your feet again.

Happily reassured that Lindisfarne was once again an island and now safe from marauding tourists for the next 6 hours we headed for the campsite.  This time a very nice CL just up the road from the CCC site. This place is cheaper, still has showers and loos but has the added advantage of EHU.  If you're in the area I'd certainly recommend staying here rather than at the main site.

As we were soaked to the skin we popped the heating on, made a couple of coffees with large doses of Irish cream liquer and curled up to watch some silly comedy on TV. Have to say that apart from the torrential rain, it's a day I'd struggle to find fault with.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 15


Today I got asked if I was an OAP.  Admittedly it was by an 8 year old child but still, it made me think that perhaps this trip isn't doing me as much good as I thought it was!  I felt a bit like an OAP though after cycling uphill into a headwind for an hour or so.

First stop today was Seahouses to catch a boat to the Farne Islands. The trip we wanted wasn't running due to bad weather (it is still August isn't it?) so we went to Inner Farne instead.  Along the way we were lucky enough to see Puffins, Seals and a whole variety of other sea birds.  I know people take motor homes on tours all over the world but I doubt there are many views to beat standing on Inner Farne on a blustery sunny day and looking back over towards Bamburgh castle. Spectacular.

After that we carried on up past Bamburgh on the bikes to get some more stunning pics before heading home.  This time down hill and with the wind behind us we made it in half the time, we were so fast in fact it got me wondering if you could fit a flux capacitor to a bike...  We then enjoyed our first blue bucket BBQ of the trip before a quick evening paddle and Steve beating me at TopTrumps again. Curses!

Excuse the short entry today but we still have no electric so I've no way to recharge my phone. Tomorrow night sees us back in the modern world so things should return to normal.  We're also hoping to get across to Lindisfarne tomorrow, but there's a gale brewing so we'll have to wait and see.
Bamburgh Castle


Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 14


14 days already?!! It just doesn't seem possible and yet here I am after 2 weeks on the road sitting in Delores opposite the most stunning views...but more of that later.

Craster Kipper
With not a vast amount of reluctance we bid farewell to our backyard CL. Not picturesque but practical in many ways. Today our mission was to break free of the gravitational pull of Newcastle, not an easy task at the best of timess but one that is made ten times harder when your satnav appears to be in cahoots with Newcastle's magnetic masters.  After several laps of Gateshead we finally made it to the open road.  Keen to embrace the impulsiveness of life in Delores we followed signs to Earth Balance only to find it had closed down some time ago.  Not sure how the Earth has been managing without it.  After that we continued on stopping for one of our most fabulous lunches yet in a car park next to the beach at Alnmouth. A stunning location which you should definitely seek out when you're in the area.

Next stop on our list was Craster for a kipper.  The main problems here were that the car park needed £2 and we arrived in the middle of a deluge. We found a parking spot and I left Steve in charge of the van while I went in search of change.  By the time I'd established that the only thing in Craster was a smokery  I was utterly soaked - but I'd got me a kipper so it was mission accomplished and off to the campsite.
Beadnell Bay

The site itself is stunning if a little close to a main road and completely lacking EHU.  Not sure how the CCC justify over £15 per night for no electricity but there we go. We needed at site in the area and this was the only one with spaces.  When we arrived we were ticked off for not both having our membership cards and after showing us to our pitch the warden said "I think you're the last tonight, thank goodness.". The sign outside said 'Non Members Welcome'.  Maybe that was our problem. If we'd been non-members we'd have been welcome but as members we were clearly an inconvenience.

No electricity meant digging our the games box and after jointly winning a game of patience Steve wiped the floor with me at Top Trumps - who says romance is dead?  Tomorrow we plan to take a boat trip to the Farne Islands if the weather allows. At the moment it's blowing a gale and chucking it down, still, what else do you expect from a British summer?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 13


Today I decided for certain that there really must be a God.  Not because I had some amazing 'Saul on the way to Damascus (or in this case Whitley Bay) blinding flash of light' experience but because who else could be up there using their immaculate sense of timing to switch on the rain each time we stepped outside a building and then switching the sun back on as soon as we'd got ourselves a coffee. Oh yes, He's up there alright and I'm not sure I like his sense of humour.

St Mary's Lighthouse
The rhythm of today went something like this - drive, walk, rain, run, café, sun, walk, rain, run, amusements, sun, walk, rain, run, drive, sun, walk, rain, run, café, sun, walk, rain, run, drive, sit in car taking pictures of lightening over St Mary's lighthouse, drive back. In the sun. At least we'd taken our waterproofs.

To be honest that was pretty much it for the day. The coffee was delicious and at lunchtime we found a wonderful old seafront cafe that hadn't changed in 30 years or more. We had proper old fashioned milkshakes and Club biscuits - though they weren't quite as chocolatey as we remembered them. I wish there were more places like this around with a bit more character. So much better than the bland franchised coffee emporiums we see everywhere these days.

In the evening we treated ourselves to our first meal out this trip - I'm not counting the chips in Stockton. We found a spectacular little Italian restaurant and although the staff were clearly more familiar with Newcastle than Naples we could not fault the food of the service and my wonderfully garlicky chicken has ensured full protection from vampires for the remainder of the trip.

Tomorrow we continue north and plan to head up through Craster to Beadnell Bay just south of Bambrugh. Oh, and in case you were worried, most of the washing dried beautifully.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 12


Today was all about laziness and long lunches. Well we can't run around all the time and sadly even the fun and freedom of life on the road has to be interrupted for washing. I can't quite believe how many clothes we got through in our first 10 days. As Steve said, maybe I just need to be smellier. We took full advantage of having good facilities nearby and tackled the bedlinen - it's not at all easy changing bedlinen in a motorhome, the 'duvet sandwich' bedding system is indeed a wonderful thing but it does double the number of duvets to be changed.  Still, amid much childish giggling, crashing, banging and cursing the mission was accomplished - though there's a curious cat shaped lump in the top duvet...

While the washing was drying we nipped off for a spot of lunch. Who am I kidding?  "While the washing was drying..." given the weather we've had over the last few days that's a process that could take a week or more and even the Sex in the City gals couldn't make lunch last that long.  We did try though. We found an excellent pub nearby and as we only fancied something light we ordered the "roast of the day" sandwich.  I was curious when they asked if we wanted ketchup until I saw the 'sandwich'. An enormous flat bread wrapped around half a cow with a pile of chips. In such a situation ketchup is not only needed but may actually be a legal requirement.  Pub lunches are such a hit and miss affair with many just churning out microwaved pies and lasagnes, but this place was truly exceptional.  The food was excellent and the waiting staff friendly and helpful.

Following lunch we did a little spot of local sightseeing but nothing particularly earth shattering.  Our main mission for the rest of the day was to book more sites for the rest of the trip especially as we plan to be in the Lake District over August Bank Holiday and then Blackpool for the start of the illuminations.  We'd happly take more chances over accommodation and not book till a day or so ahead but the problem is that everyone else does book so we either have to join in or risk being... Or risk being what exactly?  Can't be homeless as we're in our home.  I guess it's risking being stuck in a layby next to a dual carriageway, one of the few places we can 'wildcamp' in England.  But we are planning to 'wildcamp' when we hit Scotland. Only for 4 or 5 nights but it will be a new experience for us.  At the moment we're still in the 'back yard' CL and it's very wierd opening our door to come face to face with the back door of the house.

Anyway, tomorrow brings more local sightseeing (city stuff) and an update on the progress of our drying washing. Life in the fastlane eh?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 11


I learned three very important lessons today:

1. The best way to ensure glorious sunny weather all day is to carry your waterproof with you at all times.
2.  When you're running worryingly low on fuel and stop at the first place you see, rest assured that just 2 miles further down the road the fuel will be 2p per litre cheaper.
3.  No matter how hard you beat and shake the doormat outside, the moment you bring it inside and accidentally tap it, very gently, against something a fresh shower of bits will fall onto your nice clean carpet.

Low Force
As promised, today we returned to Low Force and walked back along the river to High Force.  It's something I'd definitely recommend. The walk is nice and easy with only one short climb up a set of stone steps, and it follows the river the whole way.  Once at the top of High Force we found a lovely spot right next to the falls to devour our packed lunch. Close up you can see how red/brown the water is making the whole thing look like someone emptied in a giant tanker of cokacola upstream.

After that we wandered off to find Gibson's cave.  I'm not 100% sure who Gibson was and what he did in his cave but it was jolly pretty.  I'm always amazed (and rather pleased) at how relatively deserted these places are. It was 5pm on a warm sunny Sunday in August and we were the only people there. Beats me why identikit city centres all over the country are crammed with thousands of people while the stunning countryside around is practically empty. Like I say, I'm quite pleased about it too as I like the peace and quiet but I still don't quite understand it.
Gibson's Cave

On our way to tonight's campsite we started to run low on fuel and so had our eyes open for a petrol station.  We drove over 30 miles along an 'A' road before we found one. I was beginning to wonder how they powered their cars up here and thought perhaps the fair people of the north had cracked the mystery of perpetual motion and just not told anyone.

The campsite is not far from the A1 and is one of those odd CLs where you're camped in someone's back garden about 30 feet from the house. Still it's a nice enough spot and tomorrow we plan to be very domesticated and get some washing done and then maybe track down "the chippy to beat all chippies" - if we manage to find it I'll let you know how they are.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 10


Stunning Limestone Pavement

Today's blog should be sponsored by the Boy Scouts because the motto is "be prepared." I failed on 2 counts to be prepared for the weather today. Firstly I failed by leaving a roof-light open overnight during a downpour. The funny noise that I though was coming from Monty was in fact water dripping onto the carpet. But did I learn my lesson? Oh no!

Later in the day we visited "High Force" - a pretty impressive waterfall in Teesdale. All the way there we drove through glorious sun with a little broken cloud. Along the way we stopped off at a gorgeous bridge and wandered down to the river which tumbled down a series of limestone pavements allowing you to walk right out into the middle.

High Force
High Force itself is one of those bits of nature that someone has fenced off and now charges you to visit. And park next to. Not something that pleases me though I have to say in this instance the charges were fair (£2 to park and £1.50 per person to visit the falls), the facilities were excellent and the people were lovely. We had a spot of lunch out in the sun then headed off to the falls having first made sure Delores was ventilated and protected from the sun for Monty.  And this is precisely the point where I forgot to 'be prepared' again.  This is summer in England afterall and it's no good assuming that just because it's brilliant sunshine when you head off that it will remain that way for the next hour.  Once we were safely down at the falls and at the farthest point away from Delores the heavens opened.  We tried sheltering under trees but this was proper northern rain and it had no intention of letting a few measly Oaks get in its way as it pounded towards the ground.  Steve did the chivalrous thing and ran all the way back to Delores for our waterproofs - something I'll not leave behind again.

The drive there and back was truly spectacular and the roads refreshingly empty.  It seems that here, like many other places in the world, most tourists follow each other like sheep from place to place along the exact same routes. If you take the time to deviate a little and find your own way you'll usually be rewarded with some excellent views and far fewer queues.

We liked the drive and the area so much that tomorrow we're heading back to Low Force to walk back along the river and view High Force from the top. And this time I'll remember the waterproofs. Sods law says it won't rain this time though.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 9


Sycamore Gap

It was built to keep the Scottish out. Sorry Scots.  It was apparently 15 feet high when it was built and it stretches for a blooming long way (an ancient archaeological standard of measurement.).  Pretty impressive that parts of it still remain along with some forts etc.  It's a shame the Romans didn't leave more behind when they went like clear instructions as to how to make a proper pizza and legislation controlling the excessive use cream in carbonaras. Have you ever tried a proper Italian carbonara? A million times nicer than the stodgy creamy thing us Brits have turned it into.  Anyway, back to Hadrian's Wall. We parked up at the visitor's centre in the wonderfully named "Once Brewed" and took a stroll along the wall to Sycamore Gap. This is a rather picturesque spot where a single sycamore tree has grown in a sharp dip next to the wall.  It was used in Robin Hood (the Kevin Costner one) and was depicted as a spot where he saved a young boy from a pack of dogs.  Interestingly it was supposed to be on his route from the south coast to Nottinghamshire so I can only assume he was using the same standard of maps as we were yesterday.

Monty seems to be settling into life on Delores.  He spends much of his time curled up asleep in various nooks he's found and is always quick to explore new and exciting areas like the saucepan storage area under the cooker.  We've struggled to persuade him to use his scratch pad though. Having tried various tricks and techniques he finally used it yesterday so we showered him with praise and treats. 5 minutes later he used the sofa again. I know you can't win them all but it would nice to win one occasionally.

We arrived at the site in the early evening - Seldom Seen - another great place name.  It's nice enough and the owner seems lovely but it's situated right next to a railway line and the freight trains come through every half hour or so. Not sure what they're taking where but whatever it is someone needs a lot of it!

Tomorrow we're off to see more of Hadrian's Wall, well we will if there are any more free bits. At around £5 per person for entry into most sections it can quickly become an expensive day out. It does make me wonder again about why it was built. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with keeping the Scots out. Maybe it was actually put there by a forward thinking Roman general who realised that several hundred years hence this part of the world might be glad of something to attract the tourists?  Whatever the reason and whatever we do tomorrow I think we'll be doing it in wellies - we've been lucky with the weather so far but it's definitely looking like rain is on the way.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 8


I take back what I said yesterday about the fabulous cycle route maps.  The one we used to navigate into Durham today was so woefully out of date that I thought we'd picked up an old archaeological map instead.  On the plus side the many new roads built since the map was printed all had excellent cycle paths.  The route to Durham was hillier than I expected but not as tough as Whitby.  Along the way we passed a memorial bench dedicated to a much loved father but the inscription concerned me a little; "Stay and rest a while with me". Sounds nice enough but as this poor chap is no longer with us I'd rather not rest 'with' him just now thank you very much.

Durham itself was lovely and we did the obligatory tour of the cathedral. We had a lot of problems finding the castle though. We could see it from a distance we just couldn't seem to find the entrance. Having wandered around Durham armed with our tourist map for an hour or so we resorted to using the GPRS on my phone only to discover when we got there that it was closed for a wedding.  I'm not surprised the monks decided this was a safe final resting place for St Cuthbert as I'm fairly certain the Vikings would not have been armed with Tomtoms.

We spent a few hours wandering around away from the city centre and out along the river. Neither of us are city types and these days one city centre is pretty much like the next. We did stop off at the indoor market though so I could buy some homemade pease pudding and some faggots.

Back to Delores and I had to have a mojor cook up.  I'm still trying to master the controls on the fridge as it only seems to have 2 settings; freeze everything or complete thaw. A bunch of chicken and pork in the freezer had defrosted so I needed to batch cook the lot and then I could refreeze it again. And I needed to clean out the freezer. Who said motorhome holidays were relaxing?!

Tomorrow we head off in search of Hadrian's Wall where hopefully I can discover whether it was built to keep the Scottish in or the English out.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 7


Well she did it! Delores made it up a 25% hill (1:4 in old money) including a hairpin!  She screamed her way out of Sandsend bay at 4500 revs but she made it, probably burning through half a tank of fuel in 300m, but nevertheless we made it to the top in one piece and can now relax safe in the knowledge that she has overcome the toughest thing a UK road can throw at her.

Durham Cathedral
Today I also learned a new definition for the word 'close'. When the camping guide book described the site as being "close to the castle and cathedral" I thought it meant within evening strolling distance. Turns out 'close' also means '5 miles away and halfway up a hill'. I wonder if there's a legal definition of 'close'? I doubt it, it's just one of those nice wooly words people can use allowing them to charge more for campsites etc. Much better when they give actual distances in miles so I can make my own mind up if it's 'close' or not.

Today we chugged up to Durham and had a pretty lazy old day if I'm honest. After finding the campsite (close to a busy main road but lovely views over the valley) we nipped out to Tesco to restock.  The site owner gave us directions and it turned out to be a Tesco Extra which is basically a town with a roof. The place is so big they should issue you with a satnav (or at the very least a sherpa) at the door. We needed a couple of household bits - I'd been forward thinking enough to pack some tins in case we couldn't get fresh veg etc. but not forward thinking enough to pack a tin opener.). Luckily there were plenty of shop assistants lurking around like good old fashioned town bobbies so people could ask directions.

We finally made it out again in one piece and headed back to the site to put our feet up and plan our day in Durham. We've decided to cycle after all because there's an excellent network of cyclepaths. We've found this in most places we've visited, if you pop into the local tourist info office you can pick up a set of local cycle route maps. I'd try it when I get home but fear the tourist info place in Fleet closed 4 years ago.  If you're interested in cycling I'd also recommend the Sustrans website as a good starting point.

Anyway, after a late dinner we nipped outside to admire the view out over the valley and the best part for me is that it looked reassuringly flat. Just hope I'm not too saddlesore from my Whitby exploits!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 6


Robin Hood's Bay

The sea is really starting to annoy me.  I've always loved the sea but now I've realised it has this really annoying habit of remaining resolutely at sea level.  This means that any bike ride taken with the express desire of enjoying the sea at close quarters will inevitably involve a hill and often a steep one.  Today we headed off to Robin Hood's Bay which is blessed with a very long 17% hill leading down to the old village at the bottom.  It's a hill that causes enough problems for cars, so you can imagine what it's like on a bike.  Or off one because, truth be told, I pushed my bike a fair way up that hill.  It had been excellent fun on the way down though!  Just near the top of the hill is an old church which we stopped to visit on our way back up, mainly because we enjoy looking around old churches but also to silently pray for the strength to get to the top of the pesky incline.  Mind you I can well imagine God's reaction “It's your own fault!  What were you thinking bringing bikes to Yorkshire?”  This is “God's own country” after all and I don't think he had cyclists in mind when he created it.

We had a picnic lunch on the beach and here's the thing about cycling up and down stupid hills that I really enjoy – I can eat a cheese filled lunch with absolute impunity knowing I will burn off all the calories (and more) on my way 'home'.  Today I tucked into a piece of sweet gorgonzola so divine it could make you weep.  Forget the 'Dolcelatte' branded version, this was the real macoy carved from an enormous block by Manuela in Wokingham.  If you're anywhere near Wokingham it would be a sin not to go in and get yourself a chunk.

As we strolled along the beach after lunch I noticed a very strange sensation creeping up on me.  It took me a while to realise it was relaxation.  It's been a hectic year and I'd completely forgotten what it felt like.  We poked around for fossils in the cliffs and for sea life in the many rockpools along the bay but came up empty handed on both counts, but I really didn't care.  The only problem was I knew my Zen like state of tranquillity was going to be ruined by the 17% gradient on the way back.

We had a relaxing evening with me updating the scrapbook and the noticeboard with bits and pieces from the last few days, hard to believe it's been nearly a week already.  Tomorrow we're off to Durham for a few nights and hopefully a few days with no cycling to let my legs (and bum!) recover.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 5


We left Stockton behind and headed for the hills. Quite literally. As you head south through Middlesbrough the Yorkshire Dales begin to loom large and you become very aware that you're driving a 3.5tonne brick.

En route to our campsite we stopped off for lunch overlooking a beautiful bay, our first views of the sea this trip. It's not easy finding parking for a motorhome but we spied a couple of MHs at the far end of the bay in an off road area clearly signposted "No Admittance. No Parking" but as there were also 'no gates' we figured maybe they weren't really all that serious. (See, only 5 days and already we're turning into hippies with scant regard for 'the man' and his rules!).

View from the campsite
After several attempts we finally found the campsite. This time we're in a field on a hill just outside Whitby with the most stunning views of the bay and the Abbey. Not so much "Far From the Madding Crowd" as "Quite Some Distance From the Madding Crowd and Rather a Long Way Uphill Too".  It took us 30 mins to cycle into Whitby and 90 mins to get back - a journey which wasn't helped by me losing half my gears!

Whitby itself was heaving though it was a little quieter up around the Abbey with the 199 steps leading up there clearly sorting the men from the boys.  After that we took a 25 minute sea cruise which was basically a trip in a boat 12.5 minutes out to sea followed by a rather predictable 12.5 minute return journey. It was enlivened rather by the incoming tide making things a bit choppy but Steve spoiled my fun by suggesting that me balancing on the prow of the boat and belting out "My Heart Will Go On" might make the rest of the passengers feel rather more sea sick than they already were. After landing and getting my land legs back all that stood between me and a toasted teacake were 89 steps up to the top of a lighthouse and the obligatory paddle in the sea.
Compulsory paddling

We're very fond of a pot of tea and a toasted teacake and are thinking of awarding points in a variety of categories to find the best in the UK. Today it was "Terrys" on the seafront. Top marks for price, location and quantity of tea. The teacake was tasty but a little light on currants and the plate wasn't quite big enough - but a good one to start with and a score that will be tough to beat.

Once we dragged our weary bodies back to Delores we crashed out with dinner and some silly Trivial Pursuit" type game. We ended the day curled up in bed with tea and Jaffa Cakes gazing out of our rear window at the views down over Whitby and the Abbey. This is definitely a good way to live and something I could get very used to.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Great North Fun Day 4


Last day of the Stockton Festival and it definitely went out with a bang!

Being the lazy so an so's that we are we didn't wander down there till 1pm sadly missing most of an excellent band performing some classic rock covers - G'n'R etc. We did however see some genuinely very funny comedy. We got to the comedy tent early, mainly because it was raining, and were in time to see the 'Family Friendly' acts. To be honest we thought they'd be a bit rubbish but I laughed till I cried, especially at a guy called Sam Wills, an Aussie lunatic and ex busker. He had the audience reduced to utter hysterics for his entire set - the first time we've seen that in 3 days!  Maybe it's because they can't fall back on crude shock jokes or excessive swearing that makes them more inventive. Whatever it was if you get the chance to see him then do it, but take a hanky!

Justin Currie
Next was the highlight of the three days for me - Justin Currie on the main stage.  I won't bore you with how fantastic he is and how brilliant it was to see him on the big stage again - but he is and it was!  The funniest moment was during a quiet moment between two songs when me and a few other stalkers in the front row were trying to get his attention and I bellowed out "Oi! Over here!" just as it went particularly quiet. He heard that and remonstrated with me that he was "Justin Currie and Mr Currie to you." but he was laughing while he said it and Steve got the pics to prove it! One day maybe I'll learn to keep quiet... Naaaah!!

The it was time for some amazing northern chips (how can chippies in the south get something as simple as frying potatoes so wrong?!) only £2:20 for two huge portions. I'm deffinitely warming to the North East.

The evening ended with the most spectacular music and fireworks display I've ever seen.  5 men in industrial suits drumming and creating a colossal fireworks show. 30 minutes of beautiful deafening madness. I hate crowds and loud noises but forgot both of those things as I watched the breathtaking display.

It's been my first trip to Stockton and although the town clearly has it's issues the majority of people we've met have been incredibly friendly and helpful. Being Southerners we're obviously not used to chatting to random strangers but it's not such a bad thing once you get used to it. And hats off to Stockton Council for putting on three brilliant and completely free days of entertainment.

Change of pace tomorrow as we're heading for a CL in the middle of nowhere just outside Whitby, where rumour has it the chips are even better than in Stockton!