Tag Archives: microadventure

Adventures Down Under… But where’s the Camper?

LOOK OUT! Adventures Coming Down Under

OK, guys, I know this is a campervan blog, but campervanning is all about getting out there into the big wide world and having a few adventures, right?

So I thought some of you might be interested to know about Steve & my travels in Australia back in October – even if they weren’t in a campervan!

Last summer, we decided it was about time we took a decent bit of time off. We’d uhmed and ahhed over the past few years about going to Oz to visit friends & family there, so now it was time to get our act together and book a flight.

We went for a month, all told, and if you want to see some of what we got up to, here’s a snap I took of  Steve feeding the camels on my sister’s farm (I’ve left out the spider pix for now!)

DSCF1207

The minute we hit the airport, I began scribbling in my notebook and, by the end of our time in Australia, it was full to bursting with adventures & reflections from our travels. So it won’t surprise you that all this gadding about has inspired a new book which is planned for release some time this year.

Here’s the cover and a link to find out more. If you wish, you can also sign up to get New Release news so that you’ll hear when the book is released…

Up a Creek Down Under - book cover

UP A CREEK DOWN UNDER
Adventures in an Australian Homeland

Fun & quirky travel tales from the pen of Alannah Foley…

CLICK HERE for more on UP A CREEK DOWN UNDER


The Jacaranda Trail - ebook & paperback cover

My earlier travel book set in Australia is called The Jacaranda Trail. In a nutshell, it’s the story of a journey I made to my Australian birthplace back when I was in my twenties.

I stayed Down Under for five years & got much more than I bargained for, that’s for sure!

Discovering I had another sister… Living on a camel farm… Picnicking with kookaburras… And City Farming, to name a few things. I also found my long-lost grandmother who had left my mother in an orphanage from an early age.

Click below if you’d like to find out more about The Jacaranda Trail – it’s available in print as well as in digital

CLICK HERE for more on The Jacaranda Trail

I’m now about half way through a first draft of Up a Creek Down Under, so look out for more news on that as we near completion.

Meantime, I hope if you live in England, you’re not letting the weather get you down too much… Storms, wind, rain – and snow in some areas (chance for a bit of ‘Arctic campervanning’ for you tough nuts out there!)… In amongst it all, though, we usually get the odd sunny day, even if it is a bit nippy.

If you enjoyed reading the blog today, why not comment to say so below. Or maybe it’s sparked off some travel memories of your own Down Under!?

Anyway, take care, and I’ll be in touch again when I have more news.

All the best!

Alannah

BIO PIC CIRCLE PNG2

Alannah Foley
aka The Pyjama Writer
www.thePyjamaWriter.com

 

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CAMPER LOVE… VW Book Review

CAMPER LOVE by Jamie Tinney - click to preview it on AmazonFEAST YOUR EYES ON THIS!
This is just ONE of the luscious photos
in the recently-released photo-book…

CAMPER LOVE by Jamie Tinney

Published by Summersdale, this hardback is “a celebration of the coolest van on earth” – the VW camper, that is!!!

Rather than being full of lengthy prose, Camper Love has a delightfully simplistic beauty, blending high quality photography with inspirational quotes.

CAMPER LOVE by Jamie Tinney - click to preview it on Amazon
Photos of VW campers range from pristine Dubs overlooking refreshing ocean views, to ‘vans seeking an exquisite escape to the countryside, right on down to a neglected rust-bucket rig that a VW enthusiast would still look upon with rose-tinted specs. I have to say, I was drooling with envy at how clean some of the ‘vans were – put mine to shame! But then I got to wondering whether the owners were fastidious, or just good at Photoshopping out all the dirt!  Hmm…

Another inspiring VW pic… The only downside of its pristine beauty is that it puts some of us to shame that our campers aren’t quite as clean!

In my view, Camper Love is best browsed at your leisure on a road trip with a hot cuppa, when you can kick back and open it at random to be greeted by an inspiring photo and thought-provoking quote to ponder. I think my favourite quote was by Lovelle Drachman: “Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures”.

CAMPER LOVE by Jamie Tinney - click to preview it on Amazon

Camper Love would make a great gift book for any VW campervan lover.  If your appetite has been whetted by the pix in this blog (which were loaned to me by Summersdale for this blog – so please respect the copyright!), why not preview & purchase it on Amazon?  Full details are also below.

Now then, after looking at that little lot, I think I’d better go and give the old camper a bit of a wash-down and vacuum!

 

CAMPER LOVE by Jamie Tinney
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Camper-Love-Jamie-Tinney/dp/1849535922

Published in hardback from 2 June 2014
£12.99
ISBN 978-1-84953-592-2
Summersdale publishers
Dimensions: 180 x 240
Pages: 124

COMING NEXT on the blog…

Tales from Corny Cove - due for release 6 July 2014
Beastly Encounters - Free eBook - Tale #1 from Tales from Corny Cove
News on my forthcoming book,
Tales from Corny Cove,
and the first tale from the book
released as a free ebook!

 

HAPPY DUBBING!
I hope you’ll enjoy checking out Jamie’s new VW camper book!

Alannah
Alannah Foley

 

 

 

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Steve’s Cycle Shorts 7 – Tour of Flanders


Well, it’s been a while  since we went Bimblin’ Round Belgium in our campervan, and after writing the last post about our visit to the national cycling museum in Roeselare, Alannah has had trouble pinning me down to make my contribution towards another post.  Such is the Cycling Widow’s lot in the height of the cycling season!

In any case, this will be a long-awaited blog for many, and this time we’re checking out the Tour of Flanders cycle race, known in Dutch as the Ronde van Vlaanderen and in French as the Tour de Flandres.  (We hope it’ll be worth the wait, as there’s a little treat for readers a bit further on…)

SPEEDY SPORT SPOTTING

The Tour begins in Bruges and ends in Oudenaarde.  We heard that one of the Flemish ‘hobbies’ is to see how many times you can see the Tour riders along the route…  Hence, many pick a spot from which to watch the race, then once they’ve seen the riders go by, they speed off in their cars to another spot and do it all over again.

Whilst this might be fun for ‘youngsters’, the older folk amongst us might consider this a bit hazardous.  So it’s possible that this has influenced the new & controversial decision to change the course this year.  Now Tour riders  do the same loop three times at the end of the race, which means spectators are more likely to stay in the same spot.  These loops also include some of the most gruelling, steep & bumpy cobbled streets (called pavés).

IN THE WRONG LANE

Thinking Oudenaarde would be the best and most exciting spot to view the Sunday race, we headed there on the Friday.   After all, if we got there a few days early, surely we could recce the course before things got too busy and find a decent spot to camp out, right?  How wrong could we be!?

Turning up on the outskirts of Oudenaarde, we were amazed to see how many cyclists were already out on their bikes, eagerly pedalling along the route that would soon be covered by their cycling heroes.  Motorhomes had already begun to take up spots on the side of the fast-moving main road…  And as we turned into a side street, hoping to make our way to the Kwaremont – one of the famous pavés – our plans were scuppered as cyclists gradually swamped our campervan, and cars began coming along the narrow lane in the opposite direction.

TWILIGHT ZONE PARKING

Eventually we managed to reverse through the mire of cyclists and followed a sign for parking down another side street.  Now, most municipal parking signs point to car parks that are only a stone’s throw away.  Not here!  We ended up driving for a good few miles down what turned into a bumpy dirt track.  Had we entered the Twilight Zone of Belgium???

An hour or so later, our suspension was thankfully still intact, but we’d had enough and decided the ‘vibe’ at Oudenaarde was a bit too frenetic anyway.  We stayed overnight in an ‘aire’ (municipal parking place with facilities) in Harelbeke hoping to get some rest, and only managed to do so once our ‘noisy neighbours’ had quietened down.  Unfortunately, the aire was situated right next to the local football ground and they had a night-time game scheduled, with loud music & floodlights to boot.

WHEEL HEROES

The next day, we drove to Roeselare.  This is not only the home of the Wielermuseum (the topic of the last Steve’s Cycle Shorts) but one of the towns through which the Tour passes.  From our visit to the museum, it was clear just how important cycling has been to the Belgian culture.  The first Tour was held in 1913, and in the last ten years, 7 in 10 winners have been Belgian.

One of the staff members at the museum told us about the old French term Flandrien, used to describe riders (Flemish or not!) who are able to put up with all manner of hardship on the bike.  So, are you a Flandrien?

After checking out the museum, we recced the town with a view to finding a decent vantage point from which to watch the race the following day, plus parking place close by.

Now, for the rest of the story, we’ve got a little treat for you… a Tour of Flanders video which we’ve put on YouTube – with words, pictures & music.  So click on the link and enjoy!

PHOTO FINISH

As the barriers were being cleared away after the race, a photographer from the local newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad, came round taking photos of the spectators…  These are viewable online on their website, so if you like, click to view ours.

In conclusion, I thought the whole event was well organised & efficiently run.  At the end of the Tour, we understand there are beer-fuelled celebrations in the enormous marquees we saw in Oudenaarde, but somehow, we didn’t feel like we’d missed out on anything by watching the race in the lovely little town of Roeselare.

We hope you enjoyed the above video presentation, and there are a couple of other Campervan Capers videos on Alannah’s new Foley’s Forum Videos YouTube channel for you to check out if you haven’t already seen them.

COMING SOON…

At some point when Alannah can pin me down again, we’ll be putting together another  Steve’s Cycle Shorts story based in Cirencester, where I recently did a 100-mile time trial.  So stay tuned or subscribe to the blog if you don’t want to miss my two-wheeled escapades.

And there’s more…

If you’ve been following Steve’s Cycle Shorts for a while, you’ll probably already know that Alannah has written a book called Cycling Widows, but did you know she’s now released her Campervan Capers book?  It’s a light-hearted yet practical travel tale about our first year in the campervan.

Why not check them out, along with the other books on her website?

CLICK HERE to see what's on my shelf!

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Bimblin’ Round Belgium

Destination: Belgium
Date: Mid March – Start April 2012

When you think of Belgium, what comes to mind?
Blond beer, fine chocolates, Hercules Poirot?

Well, in contrast to most folk, I’m no beer or chocolate lover, and Agatha Christie’s detective is a fiction, so when Steve & I took a trip to Belgium recently, it seemed we’d have to discover what else the little country had to offer.

The first part of our holiday was spent in the French-speaking south (aka Wallonia) and in the second part, we looped back up to the Flemish-speaking north to check out the Tour of Flanders cycle race.

As we went away for a few weeks, the blog would be pretty long if we mentioned everything.  So instead, I’ve distilled the experiences of our first campervan jaunt of the year somewhat…

ARRIVING A DAY EARLY for the ferry to Calais, we had time to kill…

So we biked up to South Foreland Lighthouse at Dover.

The lighthouse has protected many (but by no means all) ships from being sucked into the sand banks around the bay.  From the lighthouse, you can see a white house in a distant cove – apparently it used to be owned by Ian Fleming of James Bond fame.

Our tour guide reckoned the local bus Ian Fleming used to take was the number 007!  Hmm…  Can’t see it myself…  Wouldn’t he have had his own car?  An Aston Martin per chance?

MAP CRAZY

Only as we journeyed down to the south of Belgium did we realise our map of Europe was wholly ‘unfit for purpose’.  We got pretty dizzy (not to mention stressed) circling the town of Mons several times, but finally managed to escape and find an ‘aire’ to stay on overnight.

In essence, aires are municipal parking places for tourists.  Some have facilities for motorhomes such as water, toilets, waste emptying, etc.  They are apparently abundant in France, but there are fewer elsewhere on the continent.

From here on in, we did lots of bimblin’ about, so rather than give you a blow-by-blow account of our hols, here are a few photo collages to give you a flavour and show you the highlights:

CAVE VISITS

The forested region of south Belgium known as the Ardennes is rich in limestone caves.  Prior research revealed that many are closed, or have limited opening times, out of the main holiday season, so we ‘only’ managed to visit a handful.

No picture can really do justice to the impressive formations which have been created over thousands upon thousands of years.  Still, to illustrate what you might find underground, here are some photos taken in several of the caves…

Caves visited: Han-sur-Lesse, Remouchamps, Hotton, Neptune, Dinant and Folx-les-Caves (the latter is a manmade cave with no limestone formations).

RELAXED PITCH

Normally, we move from place to place when we’re travelling.  But after a busy few months prior to our holiday, we were up for some R’n’R.  So when we found the Chateau Dieupart site at Remouchamps (near Liege), we decided to book in for a week…

Our pitch was right alongside the river and there was also plenty of scope for bike riding and walking.

NINGLINSPO

A short drive away was Ninglinspo.  Sounds like a made-up tongue-twister or a song by the Goons, but it is in fact the name of a river.  The surrounding area is a mix of evergreen and deciduous forest with cycling and walking trails running through it…

LOCAL FARE

… And of course, it was only polite to check out the Belgian fare at the local market and shops.  The Aywaille market near Remouchamps may not have been that big, but we found plenty of interest: cheeses with names like ‘dent du chat’ (cat’s tooth…?), breads of a size fit for a giant, and rows of potted flowers that looked pristine enough to rate in the Chelsea Flower Show.

HEALTH & SAFETY GONE MAD…?

Sad as it sounds, we got quite excited with the supermarket’s bread-slicing machine.  You just select a bread you fancy, place it lovingly into the machine, and out comes a freshly-sliced loaf baked that morning.

Couldn’t imagine having anything like it in England, what with the ‘Health & Safety gone mad’ theme running…  I did get some curious looks from the staff as I took a photo of the machine – nearly backing into an electricity socket poking up from the middle of the floor as I did so.  A rather laissez-faire attitude if you ask me!  😉

We also loved the fresh bread “vending machines” dotted round, the fact that they sell frozen veg in boxes and not plastic bags, and  obviously, we had to try out some of the patisserie delights

Bread “vending machines”. Am I the only one who thinks this looks a bit like a Tardis?

Well, that just about covers the first part of our trip in south Belgium…  and Steve’s Cycle Shorts will be back on the blog shortly to cover the second part of our holiday in the north.  So stay tuned for the low-down on Belgian cycling at large, the Tour of Flanders and the infamous cycling museum, the Wieler Museum, in Roeselare.

If you prefer to receive the blog automatically whenever we post, see the panel to the right of the blog & sign up to receive Campervan Capers in your email inbox…

 

You can also read about our adventures in my book Campervan Capers. Available at all major outlets online. Click here for more info.

CAMPERVAN CAPERS

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Wheals of Clay

 WHEAL MARTYN
China Clay Country Park
St
Austell, Cornwall

Daytrip – Mid-October 2011

Ever wondered who made the ‘pyramids of Cornwall’?  Or what Cornish commodity could possibly be more lucrative than the pasty?  Stay tuned to find out…

For two days in October, members of the local Friends of Luxulyan Valley (like ourselves), were granted free entry to Wheal Martyn, just a few miles from St Austell in mid-Cornwall.  Thanks to them, I can pass on these insights into this China Clay site which is a combination of museum, showcase of past & present clay working, and nature park.

IT’S MINE – ALL MINE!

Barely had Steve & I crossed the threshold into the visitor centre than we were greeted by a kindly volunteer guide who told us a bit about Wheal Martyn – ‘wheal’ being a Cornish word meaning ‘mine’ or ‘pit’.  We were surprised to discover that the slopes surrounding the site are the result of waste materials being piled up over the years.

Just in case you weren’t sure… This is a dummy, not Steve! (Steve hasn’t got a moustache.)

After walking through the gift shop reception, we were led through a series of inventive displays relating the story of Cornwall’s China Clay heritage…  A ‘talking portrait’ of William Cookworthy telling you how he first found local clay in 1746…  A Victorian ‘Kettle Boy’ at the door of a work shed painting a picture of his working day…  Videos showing how the clay was (and still is) taken from the opencast mines and processed before it heads off to various countries around the world…  And much, much more…

Spot the tiny Tonka truck! (Clue: it’s yellow & it’s somewhere in the bottom left-hand corner.)

WHAT A SITE!


As we left the centre, we looked around.  It was quite something to get your head round the fact that all these hills were the result of years of clay mining.  Wherever there is Cornish clay mining, you’ll also see the huge ‘sky tips’.  These ‘pyramids of Cornwall’, made of waste from the mining process, no doubt gave the Egyptian tourist board something to worry about when they first appeared!

The Eden Project (also near St Austell), has turned another of the county’s legacies – an old quarry – into a thriving tourist attraction with its famous, iconic biomes housing tropical and Mediterranean plants.  And a whole network of Clay Trail routes has been created in the area – you can even walk or cycle from Wheal Martyn to St Austell and the Eden Project after your lunch if you fancy it.

Cluey readers among you will probably have noticed how shockingly long it’s taken me to post this blog.  All I can do is apologise to my faithful subscribers, who have no doubt been pulling their hair out waiting for it (not!).  Unfortunately, my blog entries have had to take a backseat to other things on my list lately…

 

COOKING THE BOOKS

I’m still plugging away at the Campervan Capers book as well as getting sets of photos ready to accompany it.  And as I’ve also been spending time publicising my other recently-released eBooks (click links for more info), I’ve put back the release date to around springtime next year.

LATER POSTSCRIPT…

My book is now finished, so you can now read about our adventures in Campervan Capers. Available at all major outlets online. Click here for more info.

CAMPERVAN CAPERS

COMING SOON…?

I’ll keep you all informed as things progress…  We’re still popping out in our camper occasionally, but nothing significant enough to write about at the moment.  In the meantime, have a fantastic Christmas break and we look forward to more CC blogging in the new year!

PS  Do you remember our Underground, Overground trip where Castle Drogo needed a decent wedge of money to fix its leaky roof?  Well, the good news, according to the National Trust, is that they’ve had a cash injection now of just over half a million.  The bad news?  They are still a few million down.  Luckily, lottery funding may able to help to ‘plug the gap’ – err… both literally and metaphorically!  Click for more info about the appeal.

 

 

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The Land of Arthurian Legend

Journey Date

Daytrip – 30th Sept 2011

Destination

Tintagel, Cornwall

When it comes to holidaying, people are renowned for neglecting their own locale in favour of somewhere farther afield.  Over more recent times, however, we’ve been making a point of sucking the marrow out of the local tourist destinations (as it were).  And, as we had a visitor over from Down Under who was keen to visit Tintagel Castle, we fired up the campervan for another daytrip.

MONEY FOR MYTH…?

The site of Tintagel Castle, set on Cornwall’s north coast, is now owned by English Heritage and, as most of you will know, it’s the birthplace of King Arthur – or, should I say, the legendary King Arthur…?

Having paid our entrance fee, we were treated to a short video about the site, which made it clear that the story of King Arthur is not necessarily fact, but may actually fall into the realm of myth.

Hmm…, I thought, we fork out good money to see King Arthur’s birthplace, and then we find out the guy might never have existed!?  Well, we were here now, so I guess we’d have to make the most of our day – King Arthur or no King Arthur.

ARTHURIAN ATMOSPHERE

Now, I could have regaled you with tales about having visited a bleak, windswept coastline and it might have sounded quite atmospheric, what with romantic monarchic legends haunting the landscape.  Unfortunately, it was a beautiful day which showed off the last of the summer sunshine, so much so that our Ozzie visitor probably thought he was back home.  I apologised for the good weather, promising that it actually was normally much more overcast and gloomy here in England.  Better luck next time, eh?

Apparently, Tintagel Castle was built about 500 years ago (some time after the not-sure-he-even-existed King Arthur was supposed to have lived).  However, before we were to see any of the ruins, we would have to scale a heckuva lot of steps.  And I don’t use the word ‘scale’ here lightly.  The steps were so steep that one lady had to lift her dog up them.  And don’t get me started on wheelchair access – which would have been impossible unless you had a winch.

At the top of the first flight of steps were the remains of a fortification, now home to a solitary seagull.  Looking over the walls, it was clear that the sheer cliffs and lashing seas would have afforded strong protection against marauders – and, if nothing else, the steep incline would have wheedled out the unfit ones.

DOORWAY TO THE PAST

Descending the steps was almost as hairy as the ascent, and we moved on to another set of slightly-less-steep steps which led, through a medieval-looking doorway, to the main headland.  Here were the ruins of a stronghold built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in the early 13th Century.

Over the years, the headland has apparently seen many constructions come and go; and outlines of old buildings can be seen dotted about.  Thousands of pieces of pottery have been found in the area, which have led archaeologists to believe that Tintagel was the centre of a luxury goods trade, the likes of which are unknown in the rest of Cornwall.

On such a sunny day, the views from the cliffs were glorious; and I had to wonder what it must have been like living on the headland all those years ago, especially when it was cold, wet and windy.  Squalling winter days might make an atmospheric backdrop to films and TV shows about King Arthur and the (also legendary) wizard, Merlin (whose dwelling cave is said to have been somewhere down below the cliffs), but they can’t have been that pleasant to endure.

Can YOU spot the clot?

CLOTTED CORNISH…?

After we’d had enough exploration, it was time to head off to town so our friend from Down Under could experience a traditional Cornish Cream Tea.  Now, some say that Cornish folk aren’t that bright, but Steve & I have always thought that anyone who can charge a fiver for a bit of hot water, a couple of teabags plus scones, cream & jam – all of which are pretty cheap and left to the customer to look after – has got to be pretty canny!

Fully refreshed, we made our way home and our Ozzie friend spotted a sign for ‘Arthur’s Stone’, so we turned off to investigate.  No doubt, he was keen to see if this would lead us to the stone from which King Arthur pulled out his legendary (and possibly non-existent) sword, Excalibur.

Unfortunately, time was getting on and the entrance gates were locked.  We turned round and drove off.  My friend might not have shown it, but deep down I think he was disappointed at not having had a chance at trying to pull the sword from the stone.  Oh, well…  At least he’d been to see Tintagel Castle… even if Arthur was the stuff of legends and might not even have existed in the first place!

TIPS & CONCLUSIONS

  • Since there is no parking at Tintagel Castle, you need to find alternative parking.  We found a spot just before the town which was cheap at only £1.50 a day.  The Pay & Displays in town would probably cost a bit more.
  • Rather than take extended holidays, why not go for shorter local breaks and learn something about your area.  The money you’d normally spend on fuel can either be saved or spent on a treat and you avoid the hassle of having to load up the campervan.

For the foreseeable future, we’ll be taking our own advice and getting the most out of the campervan by making daytrips.  It’s a great way of exploring the local area whilst letting the van stretch its wheels every now and then.

COMING SOON…

We recently made a short trip out in the camper to undertake what would no doubt have looked to some like ‘strange goings-on’ off the A30 – all of which will be the focal point of another Steve’s Cycle Shorts soon.

Advice to Cycling Widows: To avoid disappointment, never ask your fanatical cycling spouse if he loves you more than his bike! You may not like the answer you get.

If you enjoy reading the Campervan Capers blog but don’t want to be bothered checking for new posts, then why not become a subscriber and get it sent to you by email?  Just enter your details under ‘Subscribe Here’ (in the right-hand panel) and let our ‘virtual secretary’ post one out to you automatically.

WHAT?…  THERE’S MORE?…

If you noticed the date of our trip to Tintagel, you’ll probably be wondering why it’s taken me so long to post.  What have I been doing all this time?…  Sitting on my backside?  Err…  Well, the answer is YES, actually, I have!

As it happens, I’ve been beavering away on my other writing projects so I can finally get round to working up a first draft for my Campervan Capers book.

LATER POSTSCRIPT…

My book is now finished, so you can now read about our adventures in Campervan Capers. Available at all major outlets online. Click here for more info.

CAMPERVAN CAPERS

 

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Trusting the Locals

Journey Date

Two-nighter – Late September 2011

Destination

South West Cornwall

The saying goes that too much work can make Jack a dull boy – and it’s no different for Jill…  Having worked hard on my writing projects (as well as catching up on long-overdue household jobs) over the past months, a break in the camper was well overdue for Jack & Jill (ie Steve & me), so we booked a pitch down in West Cornwall for a few nights and headed off.

There was no let-up in the rain as we made our way down west, but rather than drive straight to our site, we decided to do a spot of sight-seeing instead.  After all, our blog readers don’t want to hear about two campervanners huddling inside their van doing nothing all afternoon, do they?  They want to read about a couple of adventuring souls unafraid of battling with the elements and getting soaked to the bone!

JURASSIC PARK & NOAH’S ARK…?

The remit for our break away was to make the most of our soon-to-expire National Trust membership, and a visit to Trengwainton Gardens near Penzance was first on our list.

Covering 25 acres, the Gardens were filled with magnolias, an amazing variety of rhododendrons, banana plants and ferns; and some sections would certainly have made a good background in a Jurassic Park-type film.

At this time of year, we’d missed seeing the place in its full glory.  Still, there was a large, walled kitchen garden to draw the interest.  For some reason, this was built to the dimensions of Noah’s Ark and, given the relentless rain, it looked like we might just need some kind of ark to see us through the afternoon.

One highlight of the kitchen garden was a stunning array of lettuces (looking enviably pristine and snail-free) plus several varieties of squash.  It was heartening to see that a few veggie beds had been cultivated by local school children, despite the fact that everything was now going to seed.

After a few hours wandering about the gardens, we were drenched, and headed off to St Buryan, just a few miles away.  Our site was the same one we stayed on for our Coast & Carn blog back in May.  A pitch in a farmer’s field, it had basic amenities and was away from the hustle & bustle.

A HILL LIKE NO OTHER

The next morning, we awoke to a completely different weather picture of glorious sunshine, which dried all our clothes before we headed off to the coast on another adventure.  Our destination was the Levant Mine & Beam Engine site not far from St Just, but on the way, we made an impromptu stop for a walk up what appeared to be ‘just another hill’.

In fact, it turned out to be the most westerly hill in Britain, with a Bronze Age summit cairn of a sort only found in Scilly and West Cornwall.  Over the centuries, it has had many uses: a site for burials, a hermitage and chapel (hence the hill’s name, Chapel Carn Brea), a beacon for fishermen, and a military observation post.  Pretty amazing!

IN ORE OF THE PAST

Levant Mine and Beam Engine is not only owned by the National Trust but is also a World Heritage Site; and an informative film sets the scene before you wander about the site.  Along this coast, whole networks of old mines exist; and you not only get to look down a few mine shafts but there are still remains of buildings and other installations along the coastline which once played a part in the mining process in one way or another – from getting the people down into the mines, to extracting water (many mines went far out to sea) to bringing ores ‘up top’ and finally to processing them.

Unfortunately, I missed out on seeing the beam engine (used to bring up ore) in operation; and the engine house itself was so chock-a-block with tourists, that I couldn’t see who was doing the talk inside.  The speaker, however, turned out to be the only surviving member of the original ‘Greasy Gang’ who restored the engine after 60 years sitting idle (the engine, that is, not the Greasy Gang).

Walking along the stunning coastline, with the aged buildings looking out to sea in their retirement years, I couldn’t help thinking about the vast differences between past and present…

For those working outdoors in the mining era, days would have been long and hard; and, having lived in this area years ago, I know the coast can have more than its fair share of dreary, wet and windswept days.  Working in the mines meant a long working day, let alone possible dangers such as flooding, arsenic poisoning and pit collapse.

As a tourist visiting Levant today, I had the luxury of basking in the beautiful weather; and the only toiling I did was to lift my camera to take pictures.

A MOUNT OF MONKS & MYTHS

The following day was another sunny delight and we were all set to go home – but not before visiting the third and final National Trust property on our list.

Still home to the St Aubyn family, St Michael’s Mount is set opposite the village of Marazion near Penzance, and is an iconic rocky island reachable via causeway at low tide, and boat at high tide.  Subtropical gardens frill the island at its base and a steep, cobbled incline leads to a medieval church and castle at the summit.

Somewhere along the line, I had got it into my head that the island was once used by pilgrim monks as a stop-off point before heading to the ‘partner island’ of Mont St Michel across the Channel and beyond.  However, the over-riding impression was that the Mount had been used over the years as a battlement – evidenced by the castle’s paintings of soldiers in various eras, numerous weapons on display, and a remaining army defence ‘pillbox’ in the lower grounds.

MAKE NO BONES ABOUT IT!

Now, although it turns out that the Mount was indeed a major pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages, all manner of myth seems to surround the Mount, so you do have to be careful what you believe…  For example, there’s the legend of Jack the Giant Killer, who is said to have slain a giant living on the island.  Apparently his bones were found in the 14th Century, but conveniently, I saw none on our visit!

After descending from the stunning views and wind sweeping the summit, we had lunch and made our way home.  We might have had only a few days away, but we’d thoroughly enjoyed our break and made good use of our National Trust membership.

CONCLUSIONS & TIPS

  • It might seem obvious to say it, but take a trip away even if it’s only for a day or two.  Being out of your everyday environment can be most revitalising.
  • Plan ahead with meals.  I made up some nutritious, tasty grub before we went away (soup & pasta sauce) and put it in tubs so we didn’t have to do much food preparation in the evening.  That way, we could make the most of the day and chill out a bit when we were tired later on.
  • Take extra wet-weather gear.  If it’s rainy one day, you can be wearing a dry mac the next day while the other one dries.  Window racks or similar (plus pegs) are also invaluable for drying clothes on!
  • If it’s in your line of interest join an organisation like the National Trust or English Heritage.  Planning your trips around their destinations will give your trips direction and interest.  Since we’d visited most of the NT properties in our area, we decided not to renew our membership, but even if you join for a year, you’re supporting a good cause whilst getting good value for money.

 

COMING SOON…

Look out for another Steve’s Cycle Shorts which will be in the virtual post soon.  But, answer me this: how can it be that Steve’s doing another one of his Cycle Shorts when he hasn’t even been doing any cycling while we’ve been away?  Solve the enigma in our next blog spot.

This year, we packed in most of our travelling in the early season, to spend some quality time at home over the busy summer.  But we may just manage to fit in a few more trips before the weather closes in on us and we ‘shut up shop’ on our campervan capering for a while.

In the meantime, we have another mini adventure about The Land of Arthurian Legend which will be posted soon.  So stayed tuned if you don’t want to miss it…

 

You can also read about our adventures in my book Campervan Capers. Available at all major outlets online. Click here for more info.

CAMPERVAN CAPERS

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Underground, Overground

Journey Date

3-Nighter – Early June 2011

Destination

Exeter– Beer – Buckfastleigh

 …WOMBLING FREE

“Great!  A blog about the Wombles!” I hear you cry.  Well, with such a title, you’d be forgiven for thinking so…  But I’m afraid this blog is “wombling free”.  However, although there is no mention of furry litter-pickers, we will be going underground on our travels – as well as overground.  [Apologies to readers who are too young to know what I’m on about!]

COSTLY CASTLE

Having set off in good time, we took a detour off the A30 and had lunch at Spinster’s Rock and visited nearby Castle Drogo.  This National Trust property is an early 1900s structure designed by the famous Lutyens.  Drewe, the original owner, wanted to recreate the look of a castle, but unfortunately rejected advice to have a pitched roof which would drain off rainwater.  Years on, this has become a bit of an expensive problem to fix, so if you know anyone who has a spare £11.5 million…?

Despite its rather austere exterior, Castle Drogo is rather homely inside.  Drewe seemed ahead of his time with a few nifty gadgets about the place, including candlesticks that were ingeniously rigged up to work on electricity; and his daughter’s dolls’ house, which had working lights and running water – no thirsty dolls there!

Our first night’s stay was a little shy of Exeter.  Another basic Caravan Club CL site, it was quiet, took in views over Dartmoor, and was frequented by woodpeckers as well as blackbirds playing tug-of-war with the worms after the evening rain.

HALLOW THERE!

Next day, we went on one of Exeter’s free Red Coat tours entitled Churches, Cemeteries & the Catacomb.  (Warning to very squeamish readers: skip down to ‘a happier place’ further on in the blog.)

Intermittent rain accompanied us on the tour and, although I’m no historian, some of the info did actually sink in.  For example, the Romans originally occupied the area; and where Exeter Cathedral now stands there used to be an almighty burial site, with bodies laid to rest with their feet facing east – towards Jerusalem.

SLIGHTLY OVERSUBSCRIBED

Personally, I found the catacombs more interesting than the churches.  And, it seems, I’m not alone.  The first ever Red Coat tour to the catacombs had thousands of folk lining up for it.  Unfortunately, the tour guide is only supposed to take a maximum of fifteen tourists!

SLIGHTLY UNDERSUBSCRIBED

Grave-robbing was once rife (doctors needed fresh bodies to examine for medical purposes) and it was hoped the catacombs, consecrated in 1837, would be immune to this problem and thereby attract many ‘clients’.  However, the fees were considered too high and only fifteen bodies ever ended up being interred there.

Still, one body was stolen from there and the authorities got it back by letting it be known that it was diseased with cholera.  The robbers returned the body and, hoping to lessen their punishment, said they’d looked after it really well – even going to the trouble of cleaning its teeth…  Hmm!

‘A HAPPIER PLACE’

By morning, the rainy uncertainty of the previous day had cleared, leaving only fluffy cotton-clouds and hopeful blue skies.  Bit of a shame, though, as our itinerary meant that we’d be underground for most of the day!

ALCOHOL-FREE

We headed off to do a tour of the Beer Quarry Caves near Seaton.  Now, in this case, ‘Beer’ is a place not an alcoholic beverage.  The caves were prized for their creamy-coloured, chalk rock which is soft to work when first quarried and later hardens off; and they were worked by the Romans, Saxons and Normans (but not at the same time!)

Lowly-paid quarry-folk worked long, hard hours beneath the light of tallow-fat candles which they had to buy themselves.  As well as being used for local buildings, the renowned Beer stone has gone to build churches as far afield as Westminster Abbey, where Prince William just got hitched, and America.

LEAKY PASSAGES

If Beer Caves were some of the largest underground spaces we’ve ever visited, surely Exeter’s Underground Passages must be on the list of the smallest.

The medieval passages were created by digging a ditch, lining it with cut stone, covering it with a large stone to create a roof and backfilling with soil.  They were then lined with lead pipes(!) and this allowed clean water to be channelled into town for use by two main parties: Exeter residents and the clergy.  Water for the locals came from the river and helped prevent further cholera outbreaks; and water from Sidwell’s Well was fed directly to the cathedral, so they could have holy water on tap!

Pipe leaks were frequent and tallow-soaked cloths were used to repair them.  However, the rats took a fancy to the cloths (or was it the tallow? – or both?) and workers had to continually check on repairs.

During the Blitz, about 300 people used the passages as shelters; and I can only imagine how horribly claustrophobic it must have been.

A ROSIE BY ANY OTHER NAME

The glorious evening sunset had transformed into heavy rain by morning and it was obvious that Steve wouldn’t be doing his planned cycle racing, all such events being cancelled in bad weather.

We usually stay on the same site near Buckfastleigh when Steve does his time trials; and if you read our last blog, you might remember the site owner’s dog who we decided to name ‘Bostik’ because of her ‘friendly’ nature.  Well, it turns out she’s called ‘Rosie’ – and, despite the weather, she was still eager to come and hover round the van.  We wondered how long she would hang about, given the bucketing rain and lack of attention.

WET WASH-OUT = DRY SIT-IN

As we sat there in the warmth of the van drinking our tea, we reflected on Steve’s washout of a day race-wise.  There’s one thing about having a campervan, we thought: you can pretty much do what you like.  We had nowhere else to be and no‑one else to please…  So we made another cuppa, chilled out as we watched the rain pouring down, and slowly made our way home in time to cook up a lovely roast meal.

TIPS & CONCLUSIONS

  • Watch out for height restrictions on town car parks.  The Exeter Park & Ride we went to had no parking for motorhomes.  In the end, we drove into town and chanced upon an appropriate car park.  Contacting the Tourist Information Centre before travelling might have been wiser.
  • Make sure you have plenty of change to pay for your parking ticket beforehand.
  • To avoid disappointment, book tours in advance if you have your heart set on them.  The Exeter Underground Passages were fully booked up with school tours on the Friday, but we managed to secure a place the following day.

As you have probably guessed, there won’t be a Steve’s Cycle Shorts entry for this trip, so fans will have to wait till another time, I’m afraid.

‘WATCH THIS SPACE’…

Having done quite a few trips lately, it’s time for us to go over our diaries again and plan the next batch of mini campervan adventures.  So it’s just a case of ‘watch this space’ or, if you haven’t yet subscribed to the blog, why not let the blog come to you by popping your email address in the box to the right of the blog and click on “I’m keen!  Sign me up!”  It’ll then be emailed to you by a digital postal worker.

In the meantime…

As we haven’t any immediate trips planned, there’ll be a bit of a gap till the next blog.  So if any readers are interested in me posting a collection of photographs from previous trips, let me know.  Otherwise, I’ll see you again whenever our next travel tale is posted…

 

You can also read about our adventures in my book Campervan Capers. Available at all major outlets online. Click here for more info.

CAMPERVAN CAPERS

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Pirates of the English Riviera

Journey Date

Mid May 2011

Destination

TORQUAY & Outskirts of DARTMOOR

A LUCKY DAY

Fortunately, our day of departure, Friday 13th, passed without any noticeable bad luck or malevolent goings‑on.  Arriving ahead of schedule in Torquay, we headed out of town and took the opportunity to go walking.  We parked overlooking a slope frilled with trees and a view over a mini island called Thatcher Rock not far out to sea.

Our route followed part of the South West Coast Path which goes right round the headland, and this would normally be a quiet neighbourhood, contrasting with Torquay’s town centre.  However, like most places these days, there were new constructions going up next to where we’d parked, so the air was occasionally punctuated by a chattering digger.

After our walk, we headed out of Torquay, taking the road towards our site, and were overtaken by a cyclist in regulation hi‑viz vest.  Stammering through the afternoon traffic, we were surprised when the same cyclist overtook us again a mile later, even though he had had to negotiate a hill in the meantime.  So much for motor vehicles having the edge!

‘STABLE’ FACILITIES?

Eventually, we found our countryside site at Ipplepen.  Again, we were on another one of the Caravan Club’s CL sites – a field which we would be sharing with two other motorhomers.  Almost at once, one of our new neighbours came over and gave us the site low-down.  As well as the usual water & toilet disposal facilities, this time we had a WC, albeit a rather rickety, ‘countryside basics’ one.  Made from what looked like an old horse trailer, using it was quite an adventure in itself, given that it didn’t feel that solid when the wind blew.

Again, no electricity at this site – just a pure, unadulterated countryside retreat.  There were not as many swallows here, but it was lovely and peaceful, with distant views over Dartmoor.  And, as the farm had livery stables, we again had horses in the neighbouring fields, which were covered in buttercups and daisies (the fields, not the horses!)  One horse in particular seemed to have a bad case of teething trouble, what with his penchant for nibbling vigorously on the wooden fences – so much so that the fence-line had even broken away in places!

FORGET THE TREADMILL!

The next day, only a few miles away, we were plumped firmly back into the hustle & bustle of Torquay, trying to navigate our way round its one-way system to find a particular parking spot close to the quay.  In the end, we took pot luck and parked up in the nearest Pay & Display we could find.  Judging by the time it took us to walk into town, I’m guessing we’d managed to locate the furthest possible parking spot from where we wanted to go.  Never mind!  At least we’d get some exercise – and we still had to look forward to the nice, long uphill walk to get back there at the end of the day as well.

PIRATES OF THE ENGLISH RIVIERA

Making our way to Princess Pier, we’d hoped to do a ‘Geo-Tour’ with Greenway Ferries.  At the ticket office, we were greeted with a story about the tour guide having a bad back, and were kindly offered a return trip to Brixham at a reduced rate instead, so we took the offer, even though our parking ticket wouldn’t allow us the time to stop off at Brixham for a shufty round.

The boat apparently passed by the same coastline as the Geo‑Tour, which would normally give you a commentary on the caves & geology of the area.  As we chugged along, passing numerous yachts (surprisingly, several had capsized), we could see caves, both big and small, gouged into the orangey-brown cliffs at odd intervals.  In the absence of the official commentary, we had to make up our own, which went something along the lines of The Pirates of the Caribbean, with fictitious smugglers dropping loot off into the caves shouting a hearty pirate’s ‘A‑haaaarrr!’

ANIMAL FRIENDLY

By the time we arrived at our site, the day was still young; and we had enough time to chill out after our walk back to the car park, as well as get some grub down our necks, before setting off for Buckfastleigh, where Steve had an evening cycle race lined up (more on that in the forthcoming Steve’s Cycle Shorts blog entry).

Although we’ve stayed at this site before, we always manage to forget how friendly the site owner’s dog is.  If it spots you leaving your van, you’ve had it!  Put it this way: I don’t know what its name is, but I think we should call it ‘Bostik’…  Not sure I’ve ever seen a dog so desperate for a friend – although we did come across a farm dog once that played with the sheep the whole time we were there.

HEADING FOR THE START

Normally when we come to this area, Steve races in the morning rather than at night, which doesn’t leave us much daytime to go exploring.  So it was nice to have the time on this occasion to be able to make a trip the next day to Start Point Lighthouse, some miles south of Torquay.

There were only a few of us on the lighthouse tour at this time of year and it turned out that many lighthouses such as this one were not initially painted white, but were just the original stone.

Start Point helps protect ships from the Skerries, a long crop of rocks beneath the waves that surround the headland.  Of course, many ships have floundered on the coastline there over the years; and, in days gone by, certain structures along the coast – trees or buildings, for example – would have been used as navigational markers.  It was therefore decreed in law that these had to be kept in place.

Although cottages were built at a later date for the lighthouse workers, they originally lived inside the lighthouse and reared pigs on site for consumption.  Our tour guide also showed us a picture of the original lighthouse which managed to drop off the cliff edge into the ocean.

Despite the glorious sunshine, it was rather a blustery day.  Breathing in the heady scent of bluebells on the headland, I made my way back to the car park and took a long, last look at the stunning views along the coast before jumping in the van and heading for home.

TIPS & CONCLUSIONS

  • If you’re travelling along country roads, it’s always best to over-estimate your journey time when making plans.  Winding about narrow lanes and giving way to, or backing up for, oncoming traffic will slow you down to a certain extent.
  • Although we manage quite well in our smaller camper, think twice about navigating country lanes if you are in a larger motorhome or towing a caravan.  It isn’t always that easy to tell from a map how wide the roads are; and if you meet another large vehicle coming the other way, one of you has to draw the short straw and reverse to a suitable passing place.
  • Price of fuel in rural locations can be quite high.  If your engine guzzles the fuel like ours does, think ahead and plan where your next top‑up point is.  We’ve sometimes looked these up online (e.g. Bing/Google Maps) before going away and we usually use supermarkets where it’s cheaper, tying it in with a food shop when necessary.

Coming soon…

We’ll soon be posting another blog for all you Steve’s Cycle Shorts fans, so if you haven’t subscribed yet, just pop your email address in the box to the right and it will automatically be sent to you.

In Steve’s next entry, he’s obsessing about floaters…  So whether you’re a cycling nut or not, I think you’ll enjoy tuning in and finding out what on earth it’s all about!

Bye for now and ‘Happy Campervanning’, folks!

PS – Lost & Found

The pixie/pisky keyring (pictured) was found on a park bench when we took our walk in Torquay’s ‘hinterland’.  Despite the fact that he has been lost, he appears pretty chipper – either that, or he’s had botox and can’t make any other facial expressions.  If you want to know which bench I found him on, please get in touch.

 
You can also read about our adventures in my book Campervan Capers. Available at all major outlets online. Click here for more info.

CAMPERVAN CAPERS

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Guess the Destination

Journey Date

5-Nighter – Late March 2011

Destination

You get to guess where (clues coming up)

I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to titles for this, my first ‘proper’ blog entry for Campervan Capers.  So here are a few to choose from – see if you can guess the destination:

 Wight on Time / Wight Goods / The Wight Stuff / Travelling Wight / Into Wight / I Love Wight

(“And there’s more,” as Frank Carson would say.)

Have you worked out yet where our destination was?  For those who guessed Blackpool, guess again!  It was, of course, the Isle of Wight.

A CURIOUS START

Glorious sunshine and newly-emerging cherry blossoms lined the way to our destination, as did a pub curiously named the Tippling Philosopher and an unfortunate amount of fellow creatures bumped off by passing cars.

Stopping off in a lay‑by for lunch, a sign reading “Highways Agency – Please take your litter home” was surrounded by rubbish, with more scattered for the full length of the hedge.

 A FERRY CALM CROSSING

This was our first visit to the Isle and the ferry crossing from Southampton coincided with the full moon rising.  There was talk on the boat of it being 14% larger than usual and the closest it has been to the earth in 20 or so years.  The moon began to rise just before we docked, and it certainly had a wonderful, orange glow about it.

WHAT A SITE!

The sunny weather was to continue for the duration of our stay at The Orchards, near Yarmouth on the S.W. coast.  And, waking up on the first morning, we were greeted by a quiet stillness that was broken only by a host of birds singing the dawn chorus.

With only ‘two handfuls’ of motorhomes on the site, it was delightfully peaceful.  And to think – within a few weeks, the Easter holidays would see the place packed to the brim.

Having stayed on one or two Caravan Club sites such as these (we are Club members), we’ve always found them impeccable; and they are a real home from home when you’re away, providing washroom and laundry facilities, etc.  This site even had two swimming pools, although only a brave or mad soul would dive into the outdoor pool at this time of year (Steve did consider it!)

DEFLATED FROM THE START

Steve’s a real cycling fanatic, so not only did he have a training schedule for our time away, but he was hoping to share a few gentler cycle rides with me.

However, on the first morning, as Steve went to take his bike off the rack, he noticed the tyre on my mountain bike had gone down.  Convinced the valve was completely stuffed, it looked like any chance of seeing the sights by bike, as well as getting in a nice bit of exercise, was doomed from the start.

SNAP HAPPY

While I was away, I had a photography project to work on, which meant not only getting out and taking lots of photos, but going through them all on the computer when on site to do the necessary editing.  So while Steve was out on his bike, there I was, cocooned inside on a lovely sunny day with the curtains drawn (so I could actually see what was on the screen).

Since I was snap-happy for the whole holiday, you can just imagine that, by the time I emerged from the campervan to partake of a much-needed cup of tea in the sun, I looked like a mole emerging from its hole, with my legs rapidly turning to jelly, looking anaemic from lack of sun and exercise.

To be honest, the weather was so wonderful, especially given the time of year, we could just as easily have sat on site in our deckchairs every day, soaking in the sunshine and watching the goldfinches, blackbirds and wood pigeons pecking between the gravel on the neighbouring pitches.  But, as I had a blog to write and photographs to take, we thought we’d better get out and do some sight-seeing!

 HIGHLIGHTS

Alum Bay on the south west coast is the parking point for the Needles and site of the Old & NewBatteries (owned by the National Trust), and we were happy to discover that the usual parking fees are waived from November till late March.  The views along the road from the car park to the Needles were breathtaking – and made all the more serene by a warm sun and the calmest of breezes.

With plenty to see and read, we learnt that the Battery was once a military installation used in the Cold War for rocket testing; and there is a long, thin underground tunnel you can go through which leads to a searchlight emplacement.

The Needles are a set of rocks jutting from the sea as if tapering away from the stunning white cliffs.  Strange how such a beautiful area could ever be considered for military activities.

Alum Bay itself is also worth a visit.  We took the monstrous amount of steps down to the beach and met a woman whose husband worked on the Lifeboats.  He’d called her to say he needed his camera, so they were meeting at the shoreline.  The woman told us that, because the tides were the lowest they’d been in years (all related to the moon being closer to the earth), a ship had got stuck on one of the sandbanks out at sea, and the Lifeboats had been called in as backup.

With Steve’s level of fitness, he had no trouble climbing back up the steps – but I’d certainly had my quota of exercise for the day.

The shops and eateries at Alum Bay reminded me a little of the ‘complex’ I’d seen years before at Land’s End, decked with the usual purveyors of trinkets and must-have souvenirs.

The ‘Lifeboat wife’ told us about some caves off Freshwater Bay which were now accessible due to the extra-low tides, so we popped on down.  Several others had obviously heard about the caves; and children and adults alike picked their way across the seaweed-strewn rocks in search of them.  I only went so far before leaving Steve (with his grippier footwear) to make his way round the final corner – to, no doubt, the best cave of the lot.  (Steve actually fell over on the rocks at one point, as you’ll hear in a forthcoming blog.)

Going off the main roads, we took a turn one morning off to the village of Gurnard on the N.W. coast.  What a curious delight it was, with various cabin-type dwellings all crowded up near the waterfront, as well as lots of new properties being built.  The view out to sea was hazy but, on a clear day, you can see England!

From there, we popped round to Cowes.  The town is split in twain by the estuary and you can travel between Cowes and East Cowes via ferry on foot (apparently free) or car.  Chatting with a local, I got the impression that the place gets saturated with visitors at regatta time.

The afternoon was spent in Ryde on the N.E. coast.  Walking along the beach, a dog wanting attention clambered up my legs with his wet paws.  His owner apologised…

…But what he didn’t know was that I’d already managed to chuck tea on them, spray a sachet of vinegar over them and blob yoghurt onto them…  So sandy paws were the least of my worries.  And, miraculously, the trousers looked completely oblivious to it all by the end of the holiday.

Bembridge Windmill, another National Trust property, was also on our visit list and was a working mill until about a century ago.  Thin, steep ladders allow for access to the various levels within the windmill; and with the audio spiel, information boards and miniature model, you couldn’t help but be intrigued.  A stop-off for a brew at Yaverland on the east coast nicely rounded off the day’s touring.

 SUMMARY

 THE BEST-LAID PLANS

Before leaving, I had two pleasurable aims in mind for the holiday: (1) to actually get round to reading my book; and (2) to go out for a few bike rides.  Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped, but what is it they say about the best-laid plans?  And, despite it being a bit of a working holiday, what with my photography project due in the day after our return, we still had a very enjoyable time.

NITTY GRITTY

Looking on our credit card statement when we got back, we were shocked at our fuel expenditure – although, as Steve said, we did over 600 miles all told.  But we were still paying over a third more than we would have a year or two ago.  Although we really enjoyed our holiday, the way forward is probably to do more frequent trips, closer to home.

An advert in the Caravan Club’s monthly magazine put us onto this holiday deal which included the Red Funnel return ferry from Southampton to the Isle of Wight as well as your five nights on site.  It turned out that you don’t have to be a Club member; but in any case, the cost was very reasonable and everything could be booked all in one hit, so we took it.  You can book it all over the internet to avoid phoning the 0844 number – I tried researching the charges to this number and it’s all a bit shrouded in mystery, so that might be something to watch for if you prefer booking over the phone.  Overall, though, highly recommended in our view.

 TIPS

Allow more time than you think you’ll need to get to your destination, especially if you have a ferry to catch.  Although we thought we’d left in plenty of time, we made it to the ferry with little time to spare – and the road directions to the port weren’t the most helpful.  One of our site neighbours had had a similar situation, arriving late for his ferry, but was fortunately let on to the next one.  Had this happened in the peak season, I’m not so sure the ferry company could have been so obliging, however.

If you think you’ll be doing a reasonable amount of travelling and certain attractions appeal to you, such as the National Trust or English Heritage, it’s worth considering a subscription, even if you just try them out for a year.  A few visits to some of their sites will often justify the annual fee and it’s often cheaper paying by direct debit.

PS

Just to let you know…   All the work I did for my photography project wasn’t in vain, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve since received my award certificate for all the hard work I’ve put in during the holiday and the academic year (YIPPEE!)  A selection of the photos I took are scattered about the blog.

Coming soon…

STEVE’S CYCLE SHORTS

Most of our trips away are combined with Steve’s ‘gruelling’ training schedule, so we’ve decided to add in a regular ‘sub‑blog’ (if there is such a thing) called Steve’s Cycle Shorts, which will no doubt appeal to fellow cyclists generally or to those thinking of going cycling in the areas we’ve holidayed.

Steve’s Cycle Shorts will be posted soon…  So if you haven’t already done so, why not sign up to be notified of new posts (see sidebar on right).

Stopping off for a Cuppa at Alum Bay

 

You can also read about our adventures in my book Campervan Capers. Available at all major outlets online. Click here for more info.

CAMPERVAN CAPERS

 

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