Cotswolds in February

The first trip out in 2018 was to stay just outside Winchcombe at Hayles Fruit Farm. As you would expect at this time of year, there was plenty of choice as to where to pitch a campervan. The campsite was basic but it probably has the best showers that we’ve yet to experience on a campsite – loads of hot water and no button to keep pressing!! When you’ve just got back from a great walk and need to clean up and warm up, there’s nothing better.

The plan was to travel down on the Wednesday afternoon (check), walk on Thursday (check) and Friday (not really) and then set off home on Saturday (check).

Our walk on Thursday started from the centre of Winchcombe, a wonderful town, and climbed up to Belas Knap via the Winchcombe Way and Cotswold Way, and up on to Cleeve Common. Wow was it windy up there. The idea was to head towards Cleeve Cloud for the views before heading back picking up the Isbourne Way. Unfortunately we didn’t stay long on Cleeve Common due to the wind. As the day went on Sal’s bad knee started to give her some gip especially going downhill. When we got back to Winchcombe a cup of tea was definitely in order.

In the evening we ventured out to the Royal Oak at Gretton, a place we hadn’t been to for over 25 years. Really good food and atmosphere.

When we awoke the next day Sal’s knee was quite painful, so we ditched all ideas of going for another walk and headed to Cheltenham for a wander round and to explore old haunts.

Before we left on Saturday morning we went up to the Tea Room for breakfast. Whilst we were sat there, a woodpecker, who we’d heard earlier, came in to land on the bird feeder just outside of the window.

All in all though a good start to 2018.


Hope Valley – October 2017

This was supposed to be a three night trip staying at Laneside just outside of Hope. Due to Storm Brian we decided to make it two nights, as a day sat in the van whilst it piddles down outside is no fun!

The first stop was just north of Eyam where we parked up before setting off for a walk across Eyam Moor, down into Bretton Clough before climbing back up onto Eyam Moor for the walk back to Betty. Not the longest of walks at 4.5 miles, but definitely pretty wet going across Eyam Moor and then very muddy coming down to Bretton Brook and then as we walked parallel to Highlow Brook for a while. As a walk for a short afternoon it was ideal.

Off to Laneside. Due to poor planning on my behalf we booked late and therefore Laneside only had grass patches left. Not a problem unless Storm Brian has been through the day before! The wardens kindly found a couple of mats that we reversed over with the front wheels resting on. It was when they asked if we knew where the towing hitch was that set a few alarm bells ringing!

Up next morning and the weather forecast is saying mist and heavy rain. We can see the mist up on Lose Hill, but is there any rain coming? After a bit of discussion we set off, deciding that if it was going to rain then we’d have to deal with it!

Our route took us into Hope, and then a long climb to the top of Lose Hill. Along the way there was much swearing and grumpiness from Mrs M, but the smile when we reached the top was worth it. From here you pick up the Great Ridge – Lose Hill -> Black Tor -> Hollins Cross -> Mam Tor (the shivering mountain). It’s a really great walk but it’s also very popular. When we got to Mam Tor we dropped off via a grass path, down the side of the Tor onto the moraine at the bottom before picking up the former A road that was shut in 1979 due to subsidence. Finally across the (muddy) fields to Castleton and then back to Hope. Before we headed back to the campsite we stopped off for a well earned cup of tea at the Grasshopper Cafe in Hope, definitely a place to revisit. I also discovered that they do the best chocolate brownies.

From here a short walk back to the van and that feeling of satisfaction, before cleaning up after the day’s walk.

So did we need to be pulled off? Fortunately not as it had hardly rained since we arrived so the ground had firmed up and the mats did a great job.

Although it was a shortened trip this didn’t mean that it was any less enjoyable and definitely somewhere where we will go back, maybe at a time of year when there may be less rain.

Woodhall Spa – September 2017

There’s much of our home county to explore due to its size, and this weekend we ventured to Woodhall Spa. The main reason was that we wanted to be closeish to Lincoln and Woodhall Spa was somewhere where we haven’t been before.

The drive up was nice and easy, arriving jus under an hour after leaving home, without driving too hard. The basic plan for Friday evening was arrive, eat and then find a local pub for a beer or two. The first two were achieved quite easily, a really friendly welcome when we arrived at Petwood Caravan Park and we were quickly shown to our pitch. Sal cooked a Simply Foods meal and just as we were finishing off our Bang Bang Chicken  it started to rain. Oh well, 2 out of 3 successfully completed.

Up next morning, the now traditional breakfast burrito followed by a walk into Woodhall Spa. Its a nice little village/town with many buildings built in a Victorian/Edwardian style. As is also now becoming a tradition we have to find a coffee shop and settled for Kitchenetta.

We wandered back to the van, without too much of a plan for the rest of the day besides a trip to the Kinema in the woods later on. Not good planning really Richard!! Just as we were thinking about what to do we heard the noise of a Merlin aircraft engine, and swooping low over the campsite was a Lancaster bomber! It went by three times and on the last trip I managed to get myself sorted out to take a video.

After this brief piece of entertainment we decided to go for a walk, which turned into a sharpish 5 miler, round the lanes, back through the golf courses and past the Kinema where we picked up our pre-booked tickets. A peek inside revealed that it was a cinema foyer that I remember from 40 odd years ago.

When we walked up to Kinema a bit later it was clearly very popular as there were plenty of cars trying to find places to park. Quite quickly we were in and sat down. The auditorium is small, holding just over 200 people within the wooden building. I’m not going to do it justice, but the lighting is great, there is a curtain that rises when the film is about to start, and an intermission. During the intermission a Compton organ rises out of the stage complete with organist for intermission entertainment. img_0665Included in the entertainment is a self-playing piano and percussion. Absolutely fantastic. The film that we watched was OK, but the setting was something else.

Petwood Caravan Park has mixed reviews, but we thought that it was really good, friendly wardens, clean facilities, a good mix of tents, camper vans, motorhomes and caravans. It’s definitely somewhere where we’ll go again, if only to go an enjoy the Kinema again.


Wales – August 2017 – Hay-on-Wye

And so on to Hay for the final leg of our mini tour of mid and west Wales. Along the way we stopped off in Llandovery and Brecon for a coffee and food supplies respectively. We got to the Black Mountain View Campsite to be met by James, the owner. He had kindly reserved us an excellent spot that was at the higher end of the campsite. The featured image is a photograph of James’ map of the walking route to Hay and the local pub, The Baskervilles. At it clearly says it is not to scale, but it does not lack the necessary detail to be able to get to the various places. What’s really apparent is the effort that he has put in to make sure that there is an easy to follow path to Hay.

After setting up we set off to follow James’ route into Hay which takes about 40 minutes and is just short of a couple of miles to the bridge in Hay. After a quick mooch around we stopped off for a couple of beers in the Blue Boar before heading back.

Next morning we got up and set off for Llanthony Priory, the beginning of a walk in the Ewyas Valley. Many walks gently ease you in, this one smacks you between the eyes with a series of climbs virtually from the outset.

Once you’ve climbed up the side of the valley the path follows the contours before dropping down and returning via some very ancient paths.

On the way back we decided to go via Abergavenny and Crickhowell, mainly to find a replacement gas bottle as our existing one has run out in the middle of cooking breakfast earlier in the day. Webbs of Crickhowell not only supplied Calor but also the variety of Campingaz that we were after. What a wonderful shop.

After a shower we headed off to the Baskervilles but we took the lazy option and drove there. Enjoyed the beer and food.

Our final day would be spent walking to Hay, wandering around, enjoying tapas in Tomatitos and then walking back. A great way to end a really enjoyable trip to mid and west Wales. We will definitely be going back to the Black Mountain View campsite as there is so much more we would like to do in the area, and James is a fantastic host.

Wales – August 2017 – St Davids

We left Red Kite with a promise of some sunshine and less rain. The drive down to St Davids took in Aberystwyth and Aberaeron. As we approached Aberystwyth both the town and sea came into view which continued the great views that we had been enjoying from Llanidloes.

We stopped off in the town of Aberaeron where there is clearly a lot of effort going in to present this picturesque town in a fantastic light. img_0602We toyed with the idea of going for a walk along the coastal path but decided that could wait until later.

After buying some food and meat for a BBQ later we continued on to St Davids, continuing to enjoy the sea views along the way. We arrived at the Camping and Caravan Club’s site at St Davids to discover a site on a slope, with a great view over the bay. In addition there is no mobile phone and very little radio signal – bliss!!! There is wifi, but as many campsites provide patchy wifi (Thornbrook being an exception) it was too good an opportunity to not be connected to the digital world.

After setting up, mainly fiddling with where to put the levelling ramps, we decided to go off to walk down to Abereiddy and then pick up the coastal path round to Porthgain. The coastal views were superb, especially as the sun was slowly setting. Once we got to Porthgain the initial plan was to stop and have beer before wandering back. The menu though at The Sloop was far too good to miss the opportunity to have a bite to eat and another beer. The walk back was uneventful but for some reason we walked quicker and quicker, strange people!

The only drawback to the campsite was that there seemed to be a constant wind blowing, constantly changing direction. Other than that, it was an excellent campsite, spacious, great views, nice mix of tents, caravans, motorhomes, campervans and folks young and old. The facilities were kept spotless, with one of the best showers that I’ve had on a campsite for a long while.

The following day was spent having a wander round St Davids, nothing to particularly write home about and then back to the campsite to spend some time reading. To break things up we decided to have another go at putting up the windbreak – yet another fail with the wind defintely getting the better of us! 🙂

In the evening we enjoyed the sunset over the bay and BBQd the food that we had bought the day before in Aberaeron.

Time now to head inland for Hay and the Brecon Beacons.



Wales – August 2017 – Llanidloes

When Betty departed Lincolnshire the weather was OK, the sun may not have been shining brightly but at least it wasn’t raining. That was until we got to Llandiloes. Checking in at the Red Kite Touring Park was really easy, and we were soon shown to our pitch, pitch 40, a great view over the valley on the front row. On the way to our pitch we got the impressions that each of the pitches were close to each other as in many instances the distance between some caravans and their awnings was relatively small.

Once we were plugged in and we’d popped up the roof, we had this great idea that we would put up our recently purchased windbreak. After some bent pegs and lots of laughing we decided to abandon this attempt. Only a few inches below the surface there is plenty of what we presume to be rock, and we couldn’t get our pegs in deep enough to be sure that they would hold the windbreak in place.

Settling down with a cup of tea and a book, we both heard a strange noise coming from somewhere near to us. It sounded like a blower, but who would be out at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon with blower? It wasn’t a blower, but the people in the next caravan hoovering their awning! Surely we should have better things to do on a Saturday afternoon that hoover awnings?

We woke up the next day, used the facilities which by the way are top notch, and then set off to Hafren Forest. The weather forecast was for rain later in the day so we decided to walk to the Source of the Severn before the rain arrived. The drive out to Hafren Forest was full of great views and scenery. From the car park it’s quite easy to pick up the route as there are white posts all the way. The walk sets off on the level, climbs up to awaterfall. All the time it has been seducing you into thinking that it’s a gentle climb up to the top.


Fools!! At this point it becomes more strenuous with plenty of uphill. You then arrive at a forest track before setting off on a boggy track to finally get to the Source of the Severn. The best bit is another 100 yards further on, with fantastic views over the Cambrian mountains.

The one good bit about walking up for four miles is that the return is all downhill. As we got back to the car it started to rain, great timing.

Back to the campsite for a bite to eat and a well earned glass of wine. The rain didn’t let up for quite a while, in fact when we woke up it was still raining.

Soon though the sun came out and we decided to go and investigate Lllanidloes. A lovely town, with lots of locally owned shops. In the afternoon as the sun was still out we popped off to Llyn Clywedog, a man made reservoir suppling water to the west midlands. There Sal spied a board showing a short walk around a peninsular. Yes the walk was short at just under 3 1/2 miles, but it didn’t say anything about the amount of climbing! As ever though, the views are worth the effort, and the views from the top of our unnamed peninsular were very good indeed. We think that we saw some ospreys above the reservoir calling to each other.

Back at the campsite we ended up BBQing under the tailgate on our last night at Red Kite.  In the night we could hear owls chatting with each other.

Off to St Davids

Yorkshire Dales – July 2017

So we get to that time of year when teachers breathe sigh of relief as the school holidays come around, and the sun comes out (or not!). This year we have decided to do two one week trips rather than a single two week trip. This way we can go to completely different parts of the

img_0504country, hopefully have different weather and road conditions. Setting off on the first Saturday after schools broke up was a risk. It turned out that we had some of the easiest driving ever in the ‘van. Straight up the A1, pop onto the M1 before heading around Leeds on the way to see some friends in Horsforth. As ever, we needed to stop and have a coffee on the way.

After lunch it was off up through Otley and over towards Skipton to out first stop at
Howgill Lodge It’s a lovely campsite facing west, and is tiered to make the best use of space and to make it relatively easy to park up level.

Next morning we woke up to rain (it wouldn’t be the last time), so we headed off into Skipton for a wander round. Before leaving Skipton we popped in to Keelhams farm shop to buy some meat and various accompaniments for a BBQ. Getting back after lunch rain was still in the air, but the thought of sitting in the ‘van for the afternoon was not too appealing. We therefore decided to go for a walk along the Wharfe to Barden Bridge to get an ice cream. Unknowingly, we had now set the pattern for any day that it rained – get up, go to local town and have coffee/tea, buy food, sort out a walk for the afternoon, repeat.

After a couple of good nights at Howgill Lodge it was time to move on to Thornbrook Barn near to Ingleton. On the way we stopped off in Settle (you guessed it, for a coffee!) and then to Clapham. We had spied a great walk that took us from Clapham, up Thwaites Lane, across to Norber’s Erratics before dropping down to Austwick and then back to Clapham. The hardest bit was the climb out of Clapham itself.

We arrived at Thornbrook Barn, a very smart and well laid out campsite. Our conclusion was that this was the best campsite that we have stayed at so far for facilities. The weather was good enough to BBQ some of the food that we had bought from Keelhams.

The walk that everyone says that you must do if you are in the Ingleton area is the falls walk, especially if it has been raining – we definitely scored on this point! We set off from the campsite to walk down to Ingleton and find the start of the walk. It costs £6 per person, with the money going to maintain the paths along the way. As with many walks, it starts a bit slow with you wondering where are the waterfalls, have they been over-hyped, have we just missed them? Nope, be patient and as you climb up the valley alongside the river they begin to appear

When you get to the top, it’s a short walk across to the cafe, before starting the second leg of the walk alongside a different river. The route eventually drops you back into Ingleton – time for a cup of tea. We then headed back to the ‘van, had something to eat and then decided to have a drink in the local pub – Marton Arms for a drink.

Next morning we awoke to heavy rain (and a bit of work – eek!). Once the work was out of the way and the rain had abated a bit we decided to go and explore Kirkby Lonsdale, first stop – a cup of coffee!! Once we had had a good wander around we headed for Sedburgh, then on to Hawes (no coffee this time) and we picked up the road back to Ingleton. This took us past the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, where we pulled over to take some photographs; this time we had a cup of tea in the ‘van.  Our meal that night was in the Marton Arms; thoroughly enjoyed it except for I’m not one with the modern fad of serving a brioche bun with a burger, for me it’s far too sweet (rant over).

That night it rained again and continued to rain as we left Thornbrook (we will definitely go back) to head over to Barnard Castle. We stopped on the way in Richmond, a town that I’d always wanted to visit, but didn’t see too much as it was raining heavily.


On to the Camping and Caravan Club site at Barnard Castle and the sun was beginning to peek through and blue skies were appearing. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so we went for a walk in Deep Dale woods, a nice circular walk from the campsite. Sal had bought a fleece in Kirkby Lonsdale and wanted to see if she could blend into the background….

Hey, the next morning it wasn’t raining so up and in to Barnard Castle to explore, before getting some fantastic sandwiches from William Peat and then going for a walk along the Tees, and some exploration of the castle. We were too close to High Force, and as we were now on a ‘waterfall tour’ we felt that we had to go!!! It was well worth it, a nice easy walk out there and with the amount of rain there was a fair amount of water coming down the waterfall.

Finally back to the campsite for fish and chips from the van that comes around on a Friday night (well recommended).

This trip didn’t have any Owens who wouldn’t get up in the morning, or lads who wanted to sit around a campfire talking to the early hours. It did have loads of great views, some great campsites, enjoyable walks and lots of coffee!!

Lincolnshire Wolds – July 2017

This was a trip that I had been looking forward to for a long time, staying in the county, going to a ‘cool campsite’, and exploring somewhere new. We mostly achieved what we set out to experience, but….

We arrived on Friday evening at the Three Horseshoes in Goulceby and were soon exhibiting camper van smugness. Five minutes after arriving we had parked up, plugged in the electric, turned the gas on, popped the roof and were then in the bar having a pint!  There seemed to be a good mix of couples and families, tents, camper vans and caravans. The location was really good, all set for a great weekend!

Up early next morning to find somewhere to watch the final British and Irish Lions test. Our first choice was the local rugby club in Market Rasen, not too far away. We arrived to find an empty car park, clearly nothing on here. Now we headed to Louth hoping to find somewhere to watch the game and have breakfast. Finding somewhere to watch the game is clearly not our forte so we settled for a really good breakfast at the Auction House in Louth, whilst trying to follow the game on the BBC website. The food was excellent. Game drawn, breakfast finished, off to explore Louth.

Suffice to say it is somewhere we we will go and explore again. As we explored we came across some great places such as the Cheese Shop and Deli, Meridian Meats and Babbits. Now suitably stocked up for lunch we headed back to the campsite.

In the afternoon we went for a walk around the village, enjoying the gently rolling countryside and some sites along the way. Back at the van we sat and read for a while until getting ready to go and eat at the pub. We had noticed that the number of tents and groups was slowly increasing.

Not a bad meal at all, especially for the price and then back to the van. Various people had BBQs underway, and in some cases the smell of BBQ lighter fluid was pretty pungent, not sure how the burgers tasted!

Off to bed and fast asleep, woken just after 1am to the sound of 2-3 groups still chatting and listening to music. After half an hour it was clear that the group closest to us was still going strong, they weren’t loud but as there was less background noise their conversation and music was very clear. So, quickly throw some clothes on and go and ask them to be a bit quieter, especially considering the time of the night. Eventually they did go to bed but it was was probably closer to 3am than 1am by this time.

Enter Owen! A school group was camped the other side of the field and they were up at 7:30, except for Owen!! Various people were asking Owen to get up, with the voices getting louder and louder as he was trying to enjoy his Sunday lie in. They even managed to wake up the group who had been going until the early hours. Sod it! Sal and I agreed that the best thing to do was have a cup of tea, cook breakfast and then head off home.

The Lincolnshire Wolds is definitely an area that we will go back and visit, we may though chose a quieter campsite next time!

Highlands- Part Two


Today’s plan is nice and simple, get up, see if there are any dolphins down at Chanonry Point, and then head over to Clachtoll Beach on the west coast, stopping off along the way. The day could go one way or the other!

Once we’d packed up we left the site and headed for the car park down by the lighthouse at Chanonry Point. Today must be a good day for spotting dolphins as the car park was full and not many cars leaving. We eventually got a space and then set off for the beach. There, right in front of our eyes was a school of bottle nosed dolphins no more than 15m from the water’s edge.  Our biggest problem was finding a good spot to watch them as there were so many people on the shoreline.

When something like this happens you lose track of time, all you seem to be doing is taking more and more photographs, hoping that there will be a good photo in there somewhere! But what a sight and what a privilege!

After gorging ourselves on watching dolphins at play we went back to the van and pointed Betty in the direction of Clachtoll Beach, some 90 odd miles away on the other coast. Up through Bonar Bridge and then the A837, our first taste of an ‘A’ road with passing places. In 25 miles we probably met less than 10 vehicles and the narrowness of the road meant that we went at a pace to savour the scenery. By lunchtime we had got to Ardveck Castle on Loch Assynt and took our time reading the various information boards and wandering out the castle itself. One amusing incident involved a car that came roaring into the car park, the driver leapt out, engine still running, and ran over to the information boards whereupon he photographed each one. he then ran back to his car and was last seen heading towards Durness! Clearly taking his time to enjoy the sights or was this a game of treasure hunt?

Before arriving at the campsite we took some time to wander around Lochinver and to buy some beer and food. We also noted the Lochinver Larder for a visit the following day.

Now off to find the campsite. The distance from Lochinver to Clachtoll is only 5 miles but it seems to take a while to get there. It’s single track and pretty busy so progress is relatively slow, but we’re not here to race around. Once we had checked in to the campsite at Clachtoll Beach, we parked up and went for a walk out to the beach and rocks. It might have been a IMG_0394bit damp but the views were none the less fantastic over towards Suilven, Stac Pollaidh and Canisp.

The campsite itself has great facilities, is close to the beach and is run by people who really care for their customers.



We awoke on Tuesday morning to more rain. What to do? Not a good day for going for a long hike, so we headed out to the Stoer Lighthouse. There we found people with large binoculars and specialist scopes looking to Orcas, Minke Whales, Dolphins etc.. As the weather had abated slightly we decided to walk up to see the Old Man of Stoer. The guide says that the path is easy to spot, we’re a bit slow on the uptake and it took us a few minutes to find the IMG_0397actual path. As ever with these sort of situations the further we walked the heavier the rain. We eventually crested a ridge and there in front of us was the Old Man of Stoer. To complete the walk we should have continued to Stoer Point but decided that due to the weather it was prudent to head back. Upon arriving back at the car park we enjoyed a warm cup of tea from the food stall there and sat in the van hoping that there would be sighting of a whale or dolphin. Unfortunately not but earlier in the day a Minke Whale had been seen.

On the way back to the campsite we pulled over into a passing place to let an oncoming VW camper through. As they came closer we realised that it was the couple from Great Barr that we had been chatting to on the beach at Rosemarkie. Soon both vans had found somewhere to pull up and their owners had time to swap notes and stories from the respective trips so far. We now know them as Jon and Jennie. It’s a small world!

Now time for a pie from the Lochinver Larder (gorgeous) and a detour to see Achmelvich Beach. There it was a bit blustery, I failed in an attempt to take a photo of Sal having to lean into the wind to stay upright! It might have been damp but a good day was had by all.


Highlands – Part One


We set off with the intention of trying to get to the Carlisle area to stop over night. After various re-routings to try and avoid the holiday traffic we finally arrived at The Metal Bridge Inn. This is a Britstop and clearly used as a stopping point on the way to Scotland due to its close proximity to the M6/M74. The people were really friendly and helpful and are clearly working very hard to make their Inn successful. What we hadn’t planned for was the traffic through the night – hey ho, a few lessons learned here, one of which is don’t sleep in the pop-up if it’s potentially noisy outside.


After a quick cup of tea we were on the road again, heading north for Rosemarkie. Very similar to yesterday we were slowed down by roadworks. We arrived in the early afternoon at
Rosemarkie campsite and we’re shown to our pitch. Wow!!  Feet from the beach, great view across the Moray Firth, what more could we ask for? We were even told at what time the local bottle nosed dolphins would make an appearance at Chanonry  Point.
After a quimg_0303ick BBQ we went for a walk down to the village, and then headed down to Chanonry Point to hopefully see some dolphins. As we stood and waited for the dolphins to put in an appearance we got chatting to a couple from Great Barr (Birmingham) who also have a T5 based camper van. After waiting until 10pm we decided that tonight was a ‘no show’ and that the dolphins had clearly got a better offer elsewhere.


If it’s really soothing to go to sleep listening to the waves gently break on the shore, then it’s doubly good to wake up next to the sea (when it’s calm!).  After breakfast (breakfast burrito), we set off to explore the village and to find the Fairy Glen.

After lunch we headed off the site to explore the Great Glen. This was really scenic, heading down one side of Loch Ness and then return on the other side.

In the evening we wandered down to the Crofter’s Bistro in the village for a really enjoyable meal.