Clumber Park and a Major Oak Tree

Trip number four of the year arrived and off we went for a two night stay at Clumber Park Caravan and Motorhome Club, looked fabulous nestled in the grounds of 20 acres of National Trust parkland in Sherwood Forest. Sun was out and the roads were pretty clear too, so we couldn’t ask for more during our 3 hour journey.

Arrived just after 1pm and it was perfect timing, there were plenty of pitches to pick from so chose one that had woodland to its rear. Didn’t take long to set up as we hadn’t brought the awning, just the tarp, but we had a new addition to equipment and that was the small 2 man tent, our ‘pup tent’ or as MrB called it, the shed. This was a bit of a dry run for our 16 night tour of Scotlands 500, we would be just tarping it and if weather was poor we would need somewhere other than the car to store wet gear.

After lunch and cream cakes in Pod we went on a walk around the site and ventured onto the parkland, very strange situation to us, as the main road through the park grounds seemed to be a regular thoroughfare from one side to the other. We crossed this main road and walked up towards the village and the lake, beautiful tree lined walk which lead us to a small row of exquisite red brick terraced houses and a farm at the end of the junction. We eventually turned and strolled back past the path for the lake and back to Pod to discover the site 90% full and people, children and dogs milling about all over the place.

Time came to find somewhere for dinner but due to the poor reception on the site our wonderful portable wifi had let us down, we couldn’t believe it as it has been all over Scotland and Ireland and worked superbly without any issues. We could only blame it on a slight dip in which the site was situated. We were totally cut off, no wifi or phone signal for either of us. Only option left for us was to tag onto the Caravan Club for 24hrs for the cost of a few pounds, easy enough to do but just annoying.

Decision was made to head to The Alders Pub, no more than a couple of miles away and this was on the recommendation of the staff at the site. Situated on a large roundabout along with a Fish and Chip restaurant and McDonalds it was a fair old circular display of eateries.

Looked like a new building and the parking was ample, so off we went through the doors. It was busy but we were shown to a table and updated on how to order food, a carvery was on offer so that was definitely to be had by one of us and a large one too plus a very nice ‘shroom burger’ was had by the other. Needless to say the carvery was piled high but easily demolished, minus a Yorkshire pudding.

Desserts were next on the list, and what arrived for MrB could have fed a family of four, it was a huge slice of a Chocolate Éclair Cake, this was delivered by a waitress who with a bawdy pantomime villain laugh said ‘Enjoy’ and plonked the plate on the table. A valiant attempt to eat this delight was made but it turned into an epic fail and a small section remained to be disposed of.

We eventually wobbled out of the pub and poured ourselves into the car for the drive home, we had definitely been well fed.

Back at Pod and showers were had, these were of the usual Caravan/Motorhome Club standard, looked a little tired but did the job required.

Rained through the night, not heavily but just enough to remind you of caravanning as a child, you know, that gentle tapping of it on the roof as it slowly sent you to sleep. A great memory where you felt warm, safe and protected.

Breakfast was had and a day out in the area was planned, the day before we’d passed a sign for a Military Museum so we opted to head in that direction to start with. It wasn’t hard to find and not too far from the site either, easily found on entering the grounds of Thoresby Courtyard which was situated next to Thoresby Hall (Spa).

Free parking and entry were used and the fabulous little courtyard had lots on offer, from a small café to boutique shops selling a huge variety of items, clothing and woollen yarns to personal, handmade art work, all reasonably priced too. In the corner of the courtyard we found the entrance to the museum which was dedicated to the Queens Royal Lancers and Nottingham Yeomanry. A very moving experience that took you through their entire history and up to present times, lots of personal stories and an amazing record of many historical events.

Next stop was the ‘Major Oak’, believed to be the tree where Robin Hood and his men took shelter and slept. This again was only a short distance away and we paid £3 for parking. Once out of the car we followed the signs towards the Oak and the path wound through the woods which to us looked a little sparse, many trees seemed to have died and their stumps had been turned into little works of art resembling houses with delicate little windows and chimneys.

The ‘Major Oak’ appeared ahead and it was indeed a very impressive sight, with a recorded girth of 33 feet and a canopy of 92 feet, it was believed to weigh in the region of 23 tons and be between 800 a 1000 years old, it was huge. The thick long extending branches were being held up by various metal supports and it was also protected by a sturdy circular wooden fence. It’s a good job too, it’s one of those things you just have to touch, but not anymore it seems.

Tummys were rumbling so a late lunch was on the cards, off we set without any direction in mind. After a short drive along the country lanes we found ourselves back at the roundabout and low and behold the Fish and Chip restaurant beckoned us forth.

We treated ourselves to a proper portion of cod and chips, it was absolutely delicious, the fish was huge and cooked in a very nice light batter. Great environment too, little booths along the windows with the same set in the middle. Would highly recommend.

Feeling very satisfied we headed back to Pod to enjoy our last evening, after our fish treat we didn’t feel like eating too much, so cheese and biscuits were enjoyed with the last few bottle of ale we’d brought with us. Not a bad end to our two nights away and we thought we ‘d crammed quite a bit in too.

Morning arrived way too soon but it was dry which is always a blessing when packing up and the pup tent had worked a treat, perfect for putting the chairs and muddy boots in, a brilliant little buy. We felt we were pretty prepared for our jaunt in May round the Scottish coast, midges and weather permitting.

But before that we had our special Easter break planned and our April trip to Arran, all very exciting stuff, don’t you think.

Posted in Accessories, Awning, Caravan, Caravanning, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, national trust, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking, woodland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February at Chatsworth.. and snow !

Chatsworth Caravan and Motorhome site in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside was all nicely lined up for a few days in February. The day soon arrived and this was our third attempt into 2018 to try and find some snow.

We’d missed out on the previous two as no matter where we were, the snow was always at the other end of the country. Scotland would have been a definite but as we were out of holiday leave it was just that little bit too far to go for a few nights away.

Weather reports were checked and it all looked quite promising, but British weather being what it is it still wasn’t a definite.

Due to Chatsworth location and the very narrow one way access road onto the site there was a strict policy of no entry for new arrivals until 1pm. So as not to run the risk of getting a telling off we left it as late as we dare, in the hope we would arrive a few minutes past the crucial hour.

Low and behold we arrived 4 minutes past the hour and cruised onto the single track road towards the site and its reception office. No sooner had we set wheels on the track when we saw no more than 20 meters in front of us the rear end of another caravan slowly manoeuvring its way along.

We thought, okay, not too bad, the chain gate had only just been removed so we must be one of the first to arrive, no. As we slowly wound our way down the track it opened up in front of us and we saw not 2 vehicles, but 8 and behind us there was an ever increasing queue of ‘vans and motorhomes working their way along the same track.

It was quite amusing as neither of us had ever seen anything like this before, but we resigned ourselves to sitting in the queue until it came to our turn to book in. We didn’t know how long we expected to be there but we were pleasantly surprised as the queue moved along quite quickly and we were soon at the gate being greeted by one of the wardens.

Procedure was explained and it was described by the warden as being the quickest and most proficient way of getting everyone on the site with the minimum of fuss. This required a ‘stop and drop’, by which we mean, once outside the office, the passenger, whom ever it may be, jumped out of the car and went directly into the office to book in. Whilst this was being done, driver of said vehicle was required to move along to the next stopping point. All very well we thought, but the stopping point was approximately the length of a standard outfit away from the office, so it didn’t really seem to lessen the queue and what about the solo travellers. But, ours is not to reason why, we were there and that was the main thing.

The site was quite full and we were informed by the wardens that they were expecting 65 ‘vans over the weekend, really good figures, considering it was February.

Pitch was found and Pod with her awning was soon up and running, the thermal wrap went on too, all in preparation for the expected, or should say, dreamed of snow drift.

Kettle had done its job and we sat and chilled with a nice pot of tea and cream cakes watching ‘vans come and go, some did 3 loops of the site in search of the their perfect spot.

Time came for a walk and as we had obtained our ‘secret garden’ gate key we decided to go for a stroll through Chatsworth grounds and work our way towards Baslow and a pub.

Pod was locked and awning secured, then once on the other side of the wall and on Chatsworth grounds we turned left and began our walk along the slightly sodden path but this wasn’t for too long, we then passed the gate house, went through the kissing gate and followed the path to the main road.

Once at the junction we had a couple of pubs to choose from but we decided on The Wheatshef as Caravan and Motorhome Club members were in line for a 20% discount on food.

In we went and found a table near the window, all look good and they seemed to have a nice selection of craft ales on offer. Typical pub fare was on offer and the portions were large, so much so MrB struggled to finish his main, but we managed to squeeze a few more ales in before taking our stroll back to Pod.

Evening showers were had and these were typical of what the C&MC had on most sites, showers we hot enough but would have liked them just a tad hotter, not enough to cause blisters but enough to feel yourself glowing.

All tucked up back at Pod we were very cosy, temperatures were dropping but there was no sign of snow on the forecast.

Woke to a very wet morning, rain looked like it was in for the day, not a good day for walking in the countryside so we decided to head into Bakewell and see what it had to offer, with the plan to return and settle down to watch England v Wales in the Six Nations.

Parking was easy enough to find and we paid 5.00 for 3 hours. We had a wander round the streets to get our bearings and found ourselves at a local craft fair. A very small affair but it had lots to offer, quilting, home made fudge, cards and a grand variety of jams. A jar of Sweet Clementine Marmalade caught our eye so that was our purchase made.

Once out of the fair we took a stroll along the main roads and passed a few bakeries offering Bakewell Puddings and Tarts, we decided to grab some lunch in the hope it may be on offer as a desert.

Lime Tree Coffee House was our stop for lunch and we tucked into ciabattas and a pot of tea, sadly no puddings were on offer, which seemed strange to us as it seemed a simple desert to offer and would promote a local produce. Also, much to MrBs annoyance, no chips were on the menu.

Needless to say, once we left the coffee house we found the Bakewell Pudding shop and bought the said item, had to buy the tart too though, needed for a taste comparison later.

Didn’t take long to get back to the site and we timed it so as not to get stuck behind any new arrivals.

Kettle went on and with feet up in front of the TV we settled into the game whilst conducting taste tastes of the said Bakewell delights. Now, they both went down very well, not all, we hasten to add, just enough to provide a comparison and taste buds switched from one to the other, so much so, neither of us could give a definitive answer to which we preferred.

England won 12-6, good game and hard hitting, we would have had Farrell as ‘man of the match’ but those better qualified than us saw it differently.

Dinner time arrived soon after and the slow cooker came out to play, along with our new door hooked bin, slow cooker works brilliantly for us as the main section cooked a delicious chicken, sausage and apple cider stew, whilst the griddle on top cooked some rather tasty garlic and chilli prawns wrapped in foil. The bin worked brilliantly too, small things you might think, but made a huge difference to preparing the food, just scraped into it, no messing, brilliant.

Following day looked like it was going to be wet again but we weren’t going to be deterred on this occasion, come low winds and high water, we were going walking. Chatsworth grounds were still yet to be explored, somewhere in the grounds a very large elephant shaped rock had an inscription carved in it to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and is now known as the Jubilee Rock.

We slept very well, strong winds woke us occasionally, but not enough to cause us any concern, so neither of us budged from our very warm, snug bed.

Rain was still doing its best and on the odd occasion it turned to snow, but not long or cold enough to stick, perfect weather for the ducks though, they were in evidence all over the site and would waddle on past in search of food.

Wrapped up in our waterproofs, gloves and hats we set off through the secret garden gate and turned right towards Chatsworth House.

Up the main road we went and took the entrance to the left of the house which took us straight into Stand Woods.

Quite a steep start but we remained on the main tarmac path and walked in the direction of the two lakes, The Emperor and Swiss lakes. The further we walked the path became more snow laden, nothing too deep but enough to give it a crunch under foot and a spectacular country eye-line view.

The Swiss Cottage appeared soon enough and between powerful gusts and hail we managed to grab a few pictures, apparently the cottage is for rent and we could just picture ourselves there, especially on a beautiful, crisp, fresh day like today.

We continued to follow the road round and as we stepped on the little wooden bridge we turned towards the Emperor Lake. Just as we stopped to look up the lake the sun came out and a cold fresh breeze passed in front of us, it dropped down to the waters edge and flittered across the water making it ripple in the direction of the bridge, beautiful.

We continued on, there wasn’t many people about, just the odd one or two, we could hear the Chatsworth Hunt somewhere in the foreground and we weren’t sure if it would come bounding in our direction so kept our eyes peeled.

The Hunting Tower came into view and this again is a very impressive building, this is also up for rent and the views were incredible, all the way out and down to the house and beyond, but not sure how we’d feel about a bunch of people sitting on the front lawn having their picnics, also making the most of the view. It seemed to be a regular spot for walkers to take a break and today was no different.

Once back on the footpath we came face to face with the hunt, it was in an opposite field and they appeared to have taken a break as all were sat astride their horses whilst the dogs roamed around below them.

We were a little uncertain as to how to feel about the Hunt as neither of us wished to see a fox ripped to pieces but understand tradition is a big part of the the community. Once back at Pod we did a little research into the Chatsworth Hunt and discovered it was a ‘clean boot hunt’, their quarry is human, such as a fell runner and he/she is usually rewarded by being licked to death. A much better approach we thought and now wished we’d taken a few pictures of the event.

Downwards we went, towards the village but the pub would not be visited until the Jubilee Rock had been located.

After a few wrong turns towards boulders and rocks that didn’t fit the bill, we eventually spotted it off on the horizon. Brilliant piece of work and still very legible, you could also see its previous identity in its shape too, clearly an elephant, don’t you think.

Feeling very accomplished we headed in the direction of Baslow and once in the centre we thought we’d try The Devonshire Arms, not to be it seemed, as they had stopped serving food, so across the road we went to the Wheatshef.

Phones then came out to calculate how far we’d walked, turns out that by the time we returned to Pod we would have done a nice 6 mile walk.

Our walk back took us back through the kissing gate and by this time the snow was starting to fall, Pod was waiting with the awning light glowing through the window and once inside our little fan heater came into its own, wonderful little thing, works a treat.

Showers were had and by now the snow was getting heavier, it was also sticking so there was a small promise of a possible white awakening.

We slept soundly and woke to an amazing site, the road, ground and surrounding caravans were covered in snow, untouched by anyone, so without wasting a second MrB ran out in only his shorts and snapped a few pictures of Pod and the surrounding area, sorry, no pictures of this event, so you’ll just have to believe us, he did get a few strange looks as expected but it had to be done didn’t it.

Now of course the next thing to do before breakfast was to build a snow person, but the snow person had to have a Snow Pod. Clothes were donned this time and out we went, don’t think we did too bad, do you ? Definitely have the Pod shape, even a step.

The day ahead looked fabulous, not a cloud in the sky so a walk was definitely on the cards. After speaking to a few people on a variety of caravan media pages we took someone’s advice and decided to visit Nelsons Monument on Birchen Edge and also stop by the three boulders named after his she ships, Victory, Defiance and Royal Soverin.

Again our winter gear was donned and off we went. Once through the garden gate we turned left and headed in the direction of the Jubilee Rock. The grounds were a complete blanket of snow and in places a good few inches deep, we passed a few of the horse jumps and the odd one looked more like a piece of art than an object in an obstacle course.

Upwards we went and took the footpath towards The Robin Hood Inn and Birchen Edge, a bit treacherous in places as it was very sodden, plus the snow tended to hide the path, luckily for us the route we were taking someone had walked earlier so we soon found ourselves at the foot of Birchen Edge.

Through the gate we went and followed the footpath along the base of the ridge, there was a footpath off up the ridge on the right but we decided to approach it from the bottom and walk that way back to the village.

The path slowly rose towards the ridge and we passed the Monument on our right, as we came to the end of the wall lined fields we decided to take a path up towards the ridge and what a good choice this was.

As we reached the top we came face to face with the trig point for Birchen Edge, couldn’t have worked out better.

The snow was starting to melt but the overall view from the top was still incredible, the wind had picked up and a chill was starting to set in so we made the decision to head in the direction of the Monument and then onto the village.

Nelsons Monument was set precariously on the cliff edge and from this point you could see down to Baslow and beyond to Chatsworth’s grounds. Behind the Monument sat the three huge boulders with the names of Nelsons ships stamped within them, with a bit of imagination you could see them as ships too.

Once back on the main road we walked the half mile into Baslow and as it was our last evening at Chatsworth we bought ourselves an evening meal in the The Wheatshef, a just reward for another 5 mile walk.

Darkness was starting to descend so we began our walk back through Chatsworth grounds and back to Pod. It was now a very different picture, all the snow had gone, not a patch to be seen. Have to say though we were pleased to still see our snow person and Pod still standing.

Last night in Pod and the rain decided to make an appearance and continued through the night, not the best end to our break as it meant a wet awning to deal with once home, but that’s part of ‘vanning so no big deal.

It did stop long enough in the morning to take the awning down and our poor little Snow Pod and person was definitely looking the worst for wear, but would we do it all again, you bet your bottom dollar/pound/euro we would.

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Conservation, Derbyshire, Forest, Glamping, Lakes, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | Leave a comment

Chilly Chester City and it’s cracking Zoo

January has arrived and 2018 looks like it’s off to a good start as were off to Chester for a few days, we’d chosen the Chester Fairoaks site, less than an hour away for us, so it couldn’t work out better.

Pod was pulled out and loaded up, tyres were checked as a matter of a pre trip routine and then it was time to go.

Roads were pretty clear but the weather wasn’t brilliant, not cold but it was doing its best to rain and the wind seemed to be picking up.  Site was easy to find too, just round the corner from Sealife and Cheshire Oakes Retail Park, plus there seemed to be 3 pubs within a decent walking distance.

Standard C&M site so easy enough to book in, we were given the obligatory site map and told to find a pitch that suits and report back with the pitch number.

The site wasn’t too busy, there were plenty to pick from so we opted for one just round the corner from the toilet block.  Pitches were all large,  well maintained and even.

After a short battle with the awning and the ever increasing wind we were soon set up and as a small reward we decided to avail ourselves of one of the pubs and walked to 100m to The Rake.

Might have been only 100m but with no path or street lighting a few passing cars took it upon themselves to get as close to us as they could.  Know people have places to go and people to see but slowing down a little so people and other passing cars can do the same isn’t too much to ask surely. However, we made it in one piece, the pub looked good from the outside and the inside didn’t disappoint either.

Beers were ordered and we were told if we wanted food there would be a delay as there was a problem with one of the grills, fair enough we thought as we weren’t in a rush to eat.  Food was decided upon and eventually we joined the queue to order. Nachos and onion rings to share to start we thought, followed by huge burgers and fries, proper stodge food.

Starters arrived and were delicious so we had high expectations for the burgers, sadly we were a little disappointed. Food looked fab but it wasn’t particularly hot and the burgers had been well and truly over cooked, must have been bad because MrB didn’t even finish it and he never leaves food.

Another pint was ordered and coats were donned, we were either sat in a draft or the heating wasn’t on not sure which, but we weren’t the only ones.  Some didn’t take their coats off at all.

Normally we’re quite happy to relax, people watch and plan the following days events but The Rake just wasn’t doing it for us so we hot footed back to Pod and her very warm and cosy awning, wind had died down too, which was a blessing.

Shower block looked new, but we’d been reliably informed it had been there for the past two years.  Clean, warm, large shower cubicles with lots of hooks and once they got going, hot showers with the added bonus of Radio 2 streaming through.

Slept soundly and we didn’t budge till 10am, always seem  to sleep well in Pod, probably something to do with all  the fresh air.

We ditched any idea of breakfast and decided to get something once we got into Chester, we were in danger of the day slipping away from us and we had a Cathedral to see, a wall to walk and a Museum to peruse.

Plenty of parking in and around the outskirts but it seems we decided to pick one of  the most expensive ones we’ve ever been in, Pepper Street, possibly priced as such as it was within the city wall.

Details later on that but once we’d taken the ticket we discovered it was a very large carpark, only issue we found, apart from the price,  it was multi-story, low ceiling and  very narrow, short spaces.  Plus for the majority of the floors it was the same way up as down, so it took some manoeuvring.  As we were in a Dacia Duster we opted for the open top floor, empty and more room to play with.

Chester is renowned for its architecture and it didn’t disappoint, we were surrounded by the tall wooden framed buildings with its integrated 1st floor shopping area. As we walked along the cobble roads and paths it was beautiful to see, taking care to look where we were going as we spent far too much time looking up than down.

We had a quick walk round to get our baring’s and instead of hunting out and researching a little cosy café we ended up in McDonalds, have to say it’s not we’d normally do as we can have one of those any day of the week back home, but time was precious and we know what we’ll get.

Soon demolished we set off out the door, across the road and into the Cathedral.  Once here, we discovered it was free to enter, but a donation was welcomed.   We’ve been in a few now, but this blew us away, absolutely awesome.

The Christmas Tree festival was still on, all the trees were spectacular and every single one of them was decorated to a very individual and high standard.  Have to say those done by the local schools were the best, their wishes and hopes expressed with such innocence, it was quite moving.

During this we found a door to the outside and this took us into a small garden, entirely surrounded by the walls of the Cathedral, considering where its placed in the city it still managed to be quite a peaceful place.

We moved towards the centre of the Cathedral and were met with its Lego equivalent, slowly but surely, through the purchase of a brick for a £1.00 it was coming to life.  The detail was amazing, down to the water feature in the garden and stain glasses windows.

From here we moved to the centre and were astounded by the colours and the mouldings in the walls and ceilings.  The colours were everywhere, the floors, ceilings and the mosaic wall were astounding, along with the huge circular cast iron radiators.  Have to say it’s one of our favourite Cathedral.

Time came to leave and as we walked outside it seemed like we’d just missed a bit of a down pour, next stop was the wall,  this was easy enough to follow to start with and took us along the river which now appeared to be in danger of flooding, but as we reached the racecourse we lost our way as there appeared to be a distinct lack of signs and during our detour we found ourselves at the Museum, just as well as it started to rain again.

This turned out to be another free entry which required a donation should you so wish, plus a £1.00 charge if you wanted to take pictures.

Small museum but lots to see from Romans to modern art, the floor as you enter and the winding staircase which takes you up to the other rooms is also rather spectacular, always pays to look everywhere, you never know what you might see.

On leaving we thanked the staff and they kindly pointed us in back to the wall and we continued on our circular adventure, it was now getting dark, so we got to see Chester and the Cathedral lit up, along with the Christmas decorations along the main walkways through the City.

Tummy’s were now rumbling and after scouring the centre we set our sights on an Italian restaurant for our evening meal but it was just that little bit too early so we settled for a sit down and a coffee in Café Niro.

Feeling relaxed we made the move to the restaurant, Urbano32.  Once welcomed we sat in the window which looked out onto the road, from here we ordered two courses and these were polished off with a nice cold beer, the pizzas were perfect, thin and crisp, just as they should be.  Prices were reasonable and staff very welcoming, the cucumber water went down quite well too, very refreshing and something we will consider for ourselves in the future.

We could have sat there all evening  but we still had the 20 minute drive back to Pod, so the decision was made to walk back to the car and face the final parking bill.  Now, we knew it was going to be expensive and at £16.50 for an NCP we thought it was a little steep.  But as our days activities had worked out cheaper than we thought it seemed to us, to balance its self out.

Back at Pod we checked the weather for the following day as we were off to Chester Zoo,  looked good, temperatures weren’t going to be much above zero over night but that wasn’t going to be a problem, quite exciting really and we’d of gone to the zoo no matter what as we’d bought pre dated tickets on line a few days before, they were for tomorrow.

Woke to a clear and very frosty morning and within an hour we were on the road. The caravan site was perfectly located, the roads were clear and no queues so this meant no more than a 15 minute drive.

Parking was easy, lots of spaces left, plus there was a huge overflow area should it be needed, guess in the summer none of  this would be quite so easy.

Didn’t need to print the tickets off so showed the email and barcode as we walked through the entrance and it was as easy as that, we were in, but where to first.

Elephants of course, the first thing you see on your left as you walk in, pretty hard to miss and were top of the list for us.  Adorable is an understatement, a joy to watch and could have stayed there all day but there was lots more yet to see.  It wasn’t particularly warm, we didn’t expect to see many outside and there were lots of indoor enclosures so we didn’t  think we’d be disappointed and we weren’t.

Map in hand we wandered from enclosure to enclosure, birds of prey, bears, bats, apes and reptiles to name a few, we only stopped for a bite to eat in the café and this seemed less well organised.  We decided that the staff within the café were new and were tested out on humans, only once they passed this stage were they allowed anywhere near the animals, fair enough we thought.

Quite funny really, there was plenty of staff, but lots of running around like headless chickens, trying to serve food that wasn’t there or just wasn’t ready and for what we had, two cups of tea, hot dog and chips, plus veggie pie, chips and veg., a bit expensive at £22.00.

Back out we went, in search of tigers, rhinos and orang-utans, these were soon found.  No matter what the species, there is nothing like babies, even a baby rhino, who managed to get himself well and truly entangled in branches and young orang-utans who seemed to be all arms and legs and found it much easier to do roly-polys all over the place than walk.

Time was running out, still lots we hadn’t seen and as the Zoo was closing at 4 we needed to get a wiggle on.

Giraffes, worker ants, sloths and many more were seen, plus so many more and we feel like we’re doing them a disservice by not mentioning them. We had, however been joined on our entire journey round the park by a very friendly, plump looking Robin. By 3.50pm there were still a few we hadn’t seen, including the lions, but time came to leave and if anything else this ensured a return visit.

Dinner was eaten back at Pod, all done by our wonderful one pot multi cooker. Temperatures were dropping again so from our very warm snug awning we made a mad dash to the shower block before bed.

Morning arrived to discover cars frozen over but under a beautiful blue sky, today we went home but we weren’t in any particular rush and the awning would be coming down dry, perfect.

On the road by 11 and home by 12, another bolt hole found for us and one we’ll try and get back to in the summer.

Posted in Abbey, Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Bridges, Canals, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Chester, Church, Conservation, Glamping, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | 4 Comments

Sandringham – Pods Royal Appointment

On the conservatory wall we have a fair old sized map stuck to a cork notice board and this wonderful map is slowly filling up with a multitude of colourful pins, all depicting where we’ve been with Pod since we bought her 3 years ago.   It’s hard to go a day without passing it, we can’t help but stop momentarily to remember our past adventures, plus make plans and dreams of future ones.

During these pauses are eyes are always drawn to certain areas which are void of  these colourful little flags and the time had come to address it.

The east coast looked particularly barren so with 4 nights away we decided to head to Sandringham Caravan and Motorhome Club site.

The day arrived and with a 3 1/2hr drive ahead we set off just after 9am.  Roads were dry all the way and no delays or road works, so we arrived a few minutes after 1pm, perfect. 

Booked in easily enough and once through the gate we were amazed at how busy it was, there couldn’t have been more than half an dozen pitches left, but not to worry, we found one to our liking and soon had Pod and the awning up and looking very cosy.

All looked good so far and as the weather was with us, we jumped back into the car for a drive round the estate and to hunt down any local pubs and small shops.  The surrounding area was beautiful, lots of dense woodland with small secluded roads running off in all directions.  Most had large ‘do not enter’ signs and we could only presume they lead in some way back to Sandringham itself.  Didn’t take long for us to find the shops and pubs in a car, but we wouldn’t recommend walking to any of them as they turned out to be around 2 miles away in any direction.

Back at Pod the temperature was starting to drop so our little electric fan heater went on and within minutes our little bubble was impervious to the outside, we reckoned we were in for a cold one as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and cold air was starting to bite.  Temperature may have been 2 Deg outside, but inside we were a toasty 20.

Dinner was cooked in the ‘one-pot’ and consisted of prawn chilli/tomato tagliatelle and a glass or two of what tickled our fancy, once demolished and showers had we settled into Pods awning and set about planning the following days outing.

The weather forecast looked promising so the coastline was decided upon, we decided to start at Hunstanton and work our way round.   Who said summer months were best for holidays? Not us.

Woke to a sunny but very frosty morning and once we stuck our heads up at the window, we discovered neighbours across the way were scraping the ice off car windows.  We weren’t in any rush so settled back into bed with a nice hot cup of tea.  Breakfast eaten and dishes done, we jumped into the car and headed off towards Hunstanton.

Paid £3.50 for 3 hours parking and headed towards the beach.  Here we saw in the region of 20  kite surfers, most were already out on the sea but there were a few still setting up.  Amazed us, mainly because the majority had nothing on their feet and what seemed to be thin wetsuits covering the rest of their bodies.

Up and down the shore line they went, the wind lifted the odd one up but not before they came crashing back down again.  Must have been freezing, they were all wearing harnesses but goodness knows how they maintained their grip.

As  we walked further along the cliff edge came into view, its colour was beautiful and you could see the multiple layers created over the centuries.  It had crumbled in many places and its chalk compound was scattered along the beach.  We passed the odd person hammering away on small chunks of rock, they looked  very engrossed and we presumed they were endeavouring to find a fossil of some sort.

Lunch time arrived and once back on the sea front we walked along the front to find the ‘Salad Bowl Café’.  If you managed to grab a  table next to the windows the views from inside spanned the length of the sea front and beyond.    Fish finger butties were ordered with a side order of chips and followed by two pieces of delicious cake.  The sandwiches were awesome, big pieces of fresh chunky bread filled with fish goujons, delicious.

The sun was still out so once back in the car we headed off to Wells-next-the-Sea, only half an hour up the road and parking was easy enough, just outside the village.  Another £3. Was handed over for parking, but on  this occasion it was for 2 hours.

Very picturesque seaside village. The sea front itself wasn’t particularly large but well stocked with shops on one side and boats the other. We saw a steady queue of people coming and going from the sea wall and decided to follow suite, this seemed to take you up through the bay and towards what looked like open sea.

The sea was out and the sun was starting to drop behind us, this gave some wonderful light, which fell very dramatically onto the stranded boats and low cloud ahead of us.  Once we reached the end of the wall we could see the sea through a small walkway down through the dunes, this we followed and crossed a small wooden bridge.

Once past the dunes we turned left towards the beach and were met with the most spectacular site.  An extremely long row of wooden beach huts, all set back against the dunes and of every different conceivable shape, colour and size you could image, all were numbered, most were on stilts and some were quirkily named, which only seemed to add to their glamour.

The sand was also amazing, so soft, fine and extremely clean.  People were still around, many with children at the waters edge and some with dogs, the huts were all closed up and no one appeared to be in residency, but we could just imagine in the summer what it must look like and would have loved a peek inside one but that wasn’t going to be happening today.

The sun was beginning to dip behind the dunes and we hadn’t even reached the end of the beach huts, we made the decision to turn back and once back at the entrance to the beach we turned for one last look to see a seal bobbing up, just at the water’s edge.  The sea was on its way in and he/she must have been enjoying the current which was now whipping its way into the bay.

The drive back to Pod took us through the countryside, winding roads past villages in darkness but managed to spot the odd Christmas decoration and village fairs in the process of being constructed.

Dinner was eaten snuggled in the awning, another clear night was ahead so the temperature again dropped, but all was good as we climbed into bed which was now warm, as a hot water bottle had been secreted to keep bottoms warm.

Beautiful blue sky again greeted us as we woke and as the Christmas Market was on at Sandringham we decided to head off on foot in its direction, but not before a bit of a  fry-up on the multi cooker.

No footpaths were to be had, luckily the deep, overgrown grass verge was dry enough for us to walk on most of the time, but on the odd occasion we had to walk part way along the road, have to say some drivers were not the most forgiving and many didn’t even slow as they passed, even when cars were coming in the opposite direction and road space was at its minimal.

Needless to say we made it to the market in one piece and joined the very long but fast moving queue to get into the event.  £7 each was handed over and our trawl of the many stalls and displays began.

There was a huge variety of craft goods, the obvious Christmas ones and many others from clothing, soft furnishings, bags, toys and ornaments for both house and garden.  Roast hog was on offer, as well as the usual burgers and of course we had to partake of  a couple of cups of mulled wine, this we sat and enjoyed whilst listening ‘Bill Baileys Band’.

The sun had been out all day and we couldn’t have picked a better day, considering the amount of people, children and dogs that had passed through the grass  field remained pretty firm, dread to think what it would have been like if the weather had taken a turn for the worse.  People were beginning to leave and as there weren’t any street lights we also thought the time had come for us to do so too, so the perilous walk back to Pod along the grass took place and within half an hour we had our feet up with a nice cup of tea, bliss.

After dinner the weather was checked for the following day, wasn’t as good as we’d had so far but we decided to head off to Cromer to see what it had to offer.

Rained in the night, not  that we noticed much as we’d slept pretty soundly, only evidence of it was the wet awning and surrounding ground.  Nothing too major though, the site grounds seemed to have coped wonderfully.

Once in the car it was a 45 minute drive to Cromer, parking wasn’t an issue, plenty of ‘pay and display’ and all offered the same prices as those we’d visited the day before.   A short walk along the streets, passed tall terraced houses brought us to the sea  front.

Wasn’t particularly warm, but wouldn’t expect any different for November and the rain decided to make an appearance.  The pier stretched out from the shore line and we could see all the restorative work that had taken place since the big storms of recent years.

We walked over the stone concourse area at the front of the pier, this was decorated with many metal strips detailing  the history of the lifeboats  and in some cases of lives lost.  Up the steps we went and onto  the pier itself.

A grand wooden structure supported my huge iron beams, we were extremely impressed with its condition and could imagine it in the height of summer; people with ice-creams, children with buckets in hand to get stuck into the crabbing which would have been on offer.    Today though, it was just us and one loan surfer who was doing his best to glide along any quiver in the water that remotely looked like a wave.  Brave man, it looked freezing.

At the end of the pier we found the RNLI boat housed in a purpose built structure, immaculately clean and poised to enter the cold seas should she and her crew, whoever they were, be called to do so.  It always amazes us that a service such as this is funded from donations and the generosity of the public, awesome, but we do wonder why. But that’s a debate for another day, and not on here.

Time came again to hunt down a café or bar that would delight us with its offerings as lunch time had arrived.  We struggled with this one, many had closed down for the season and we didn’t want to end up at McDonalds, not  that there’s anything wrong with it, we’ve eaten plenty, just not today.

After walking in and out of a few places we fell across a little gem, hidden on a side street and partially blocked by a huge delivery van.  ‘Hot Rocks’, from the outside the menu looked promising so in we went.  We were warmly welcomed by the staff and told to pick a table that suited, we like to spread out so headed for one that was really for 4.  The menu didn’t disappoint and we found out that the restaurant’s name referred to  the cooking method of its steak.

Needless to say one had the steak and the other a huge Portobello mushroom/cheese burger, the steak arrived, slightly

seared on a hot slab of stone, the heat emanating from it was fierce and you didn’t want any fingers to get in the way.

Compliments were given to the staff and the chef bobbed out for a bit of a chat too, we discovered the restaurant was in its infancy but doing really well and all produce was local, always good in our books.

Feeling very satisfied we ventured outside to discover the rain had disappeared but there was still a bit of a chill blowing in from the sea.  Once wrapped up we strolled along the front and noted that our lone surfer had left, do hope he managed to get the wave he had been after.

Darkness was starting to fill the sky so back to the car we went, traffic was pretty light and it wasn’t long before we were back at Pod, our last evening had arrived and we spent it going through our pictures from our stay at Sandringham, we’d crammed quite a bit in on our trip away.

Woke to a wet awning, not  the best thing to have to pack away as many will testify, but better this than 4 days of rain, has to be a payoff somewhere doesn’t there.

Didn’t take long for us to be packed up and on the road as we’d made the decision to leave the bed made up, never done it before but we thought we’d give it a go and see how we go between trips.  Done mainly as a trial for May 2018, our 16 night adventure of 9 sites round Scotland, 2 nights at each site and neither of us fancied remaking the bed every two days.

We digress.. Back on the road we went and were soon home, Pod was cleaned and put back in ‘Pods Place’ and the awning made an appearance in the conservatory, not ideal, but it needed to dry off properly and be ready for our next adventure.. but where ?

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Beaches, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Coast, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | 2 Comments

Yorkshire Cheese and Castle Bolton

Few days away were needed to charge the old batteries, but to be honest if we get more than two days free we are duty bound to take Pod out for a trip, shame not to, don’t you think.

After spending a few days with other Pod owners we made the decision to extend our break by two nights and head off to Lower Wensleydale which is nestled in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.

Caravan and Motorhome Club site at Leyburn was the perfect location for us, nice walk into the village and lots to see in the area, so it was booked for two nights.

Easy enough journey there but the approach to the site was a little different. First off, the satnav tried to take us down roads that didn’t exist and and when we did get the right one we found ourselves winding down a fairly steep and narrow road, not dissimilar to the one that took us down to Hill of Oakes at Lake Windermere.

Thankful that we didn’t meet someone coming up the road we reached the bottom and swung round the toilet block to come to a stop outside reception.

Booked in easily enough and we were given the choice of any pitch that took our fancy as the site was only a 3rd full.

We did a quick circuit and eventually decided upon one that backed onto the railway and not too far from either the toilet block or the footpath into town. Setting up was done and the thermal wrap went on too, it definitely made a difference to the temperature inside Pod.

It was still quite light so we set off on a walk into Leyburn, no street lights most of the way, so we went prepared with a torch. We’d learnt our lesson the hard way, well, one of us had.

Before getting to the main road, we had to cross the railway line, not something either of us likes, but it’s a necessary act. What did catch our eye was the very large sign with some very interesting instructions on how do so, can you spot it ?

Soon came to a junction which once crossed opened up into an odd shaped village square. The outside was lined with shops, pubs and the like, in the centre there was a large carpark with an interesting payment method; by donation, brilliant idea we thought, if it worked.

We did pass an antique shop too, caught LB’s eye as there was a very small white rocking chair all on its lonesome sat outside the shop.

Our original mission was to buy a late lunch and a pint or two in one of the pubs, but after trying a few we discovered all seemed to stop serving food through the afternoon, so a pasty and pie were bought from the local bakery and this was eaten on a wooden bench just off centre from the square.

Once demolished we needed to fulfil the second part of our mission and we chose the Golden Lion as a first stop.

After one pint of Wensleydale Brewery Gamekeeper and Semer Water, we made the decision to stay put and have a few more.

Pub was welcoming and seemed to be one occupied by the locals, so that for us was a good sign. Besides, we were very cozy sat in one of the windows watching the world go by.

We eventually left our little snug and took the walk back to Pod, torches are a must.

Dinner was eaten using the multi-cooker, great device and a delicious spicy prawn and tagliatelle dish was soon demolished.

Utility block was very close, but you would still need a torch, just to be safe. These were Caravan club standard fare, there was loads of room and the showers were hot, can always do with a few more hooks but really couldn’t ask for anything more.

Weather was checked, just to make sure we didn’t have another Storm Brian heading our way and plans were made for the next day. Forecast was rain, so a visit Wensleydale’s Creamery was on the cards and we’d hopefully get to taste some of their fabulous cheese.

Woke to rain dancing on Pods roof so we knew what kind of a day we were starting with. Once breakfast was out of the way and dishes washed up at the block we were soon on our way to the Creamery.

Carpark was very busy, people coming and going at a great rate, but there were still a few spaces available. First stop was reception and we bought tickets for the centre and the cheese demonstration. The demonstration wasn’t due for 45 minutes so we used this time to walk around the centre. Very interesting and full of information, specially the kitchen set in early 20th Century and would you believe it, they had a small rocking chair, very similar to the one we’d seen outside the Antique shop in Leyburn.

The centre is a great place for adults and kids, lots to get your hands on and we even got to see the cheese making in action, all through the very large display window.

Time came to take our seat for a more personal look into cheese making. This was excellent and well worth the extra few pounds. We were taken on witty, knowledgable journey through the life of cheese, from milk to its solid form.

The shop and cheese tasting was next on the list. It was again very busy, but the queue moved along at a steady pace and we’ve must of tasted over 20 different cheeses. We were stuck for choice but bought Blue 16, Fountain Gold and Sheeps Cheese. All very different, but equally as tasty and we thought we would never say that about Sheeps Cheese.

Rain seemed to be abating so we decided to head over to Hardraw Force and take our chance with the weather. Hardraw is England’s largest single drop waterfall with a reputed 100ft drop.

Access to the waterfall is gained through the back of the Green Dragon Pub and as we were there, lunch seemed a very good idea. Very atmospheric pub, very oldy worldly, without any modifications you could easily image it being used in a period drama of some sort.

Lunch went down very well and we crossed the rear carpark to the waterfall entrance. After speaking to the landlady we discovered both businesses were now run separately and she had only a few months earlier taken on the tenancy of the Pub.

We paid just under 5.00 to enter and took the path up to the waterfall, due to all the heavy rain it was very impressive indeed, camera came out in short bursts as the spray from the ‘fall was in danger of drenching us and the camera and we were stood some distance away.

After a half hour walk round the grounds we eventually returned to the car and began our journey back through Hawes.

With a little bit of googling on the way we noticed Outhwaites Ropemakers was open for business and this was free to walk around, not an opportunity to be missed we thought, so off we went.

Large carpark at the rear, but be mindful it’s a pay and display. We nearly fell fowl of it as the signs are limited and very small.

Interesting entrance area where you had the chance of attempting a various selection of knots, there was also a small room which had information footage playing on a loop.

The walk through the factory was interesting and showed various types of cord and rope being made. At the end of the walk the shop had a variety of dog leads on offer, plus a few others items made from rope. As it was a free experience we can’t really knock it.

After such as busy day we eventually made it back through Leyburn and to Pod, but not before passing the Antique shop, which still had that little rocking chair outside. Once dinner was eaten and showers had we collapsed on Pods bed and were soon asleep.

Woke to the sun peeping through the gap in Pods blind and over breakfast we decided to head off to Bolton Castle, it just so happened we had to pass the Antique shop to get there.

Once on the road and with a little persuasion we stopped and LB went in to the shop to ‘enquire’ on the chairs price, within the space of 10 minutes she was the proud owner of 1 rocking chair. Now we had to think how we would get it home, luckily the Duster was more than capable of doing this, thank goodness. Money was handed over and the shopkeeper kindly agreed to hang onto it until we returned from our day out.

Bolton Castle appeared through the trees and along a narrow road which lead more or less to its door. The carpark was at the rear and easily accessible, this was a pay and display, but the parking fee was reimbursed on entry to the castle.

Through the entrance we went and to get to the ticket desk we passed through the café. Delicious smells surrounded us and we knew we would have to pay it a visit on the way out.

Tickets were bought and a map obtained of the castles layout, we took the advice of the receptionist and began our tour at ground level. This was most definitely the best way to see it, the footprint of the castle is immense and the story told as you wound your way through the rooms was extremely well done.

From the kitchens to the rooms where the archers lived, then onto the court yard with the blacksmiths anvil you had a real feel of how things used to be. Then up the stairs to the chapel with the monks living quarters and onto the rooms Mary Queen of Scots occupied, all superbly set with storyboards depicting events from times gone by.

Eventually we found ourselves in the gardens where the Falconry display was to take place, but due to high winds this wouldn’t be happening today. Wild boars were also to be seen, two adults with their young were happily mooching away in their enclosure.

The Maze was great fun too, we could both see over the top but only one of us found the middle, we shall leave you with that one, don’t want to cause any embarrassment.

Lunch was eaten in the café, and as we reflected on our visit we thought it was an excellent example of how, as a child, you expected a castle to be. A brilliant day for any family.

Time came to leave and on our way through Leyburn we stopped to collect the rocking chair, whilst causing a mini traffic jam.. very sorry, we eventually managed to rearrange the rear of the Duster and lodged the chair securely in the back.

Back at Pod the chair was extricated from the car and LB promptly sat on it and gave it a bit of a test drive, it was a lovely little thing and once stripped and waxed it would have pride of place at home.

It was our last night in Leyburn and cooking was decided against, so we took the walk into the village and again paid the Golden Lion a visit.

The pub was much busier than our previous visit and we were lucky enough to time it just right as a table became free. Huge burger and chips for one and the most delicious macaroni cheese for the other were ordered, both eaten with two more pints of Wensleydale local ale.

Fellow diners soon began to leave and we took the opportunity to move to a window seat, much cosier than sitting at one of the more rigid dinning tables. Here we sat and spent our time looking back on our visit to Lower Wensleydale, we’d had a brilliant time and we still had so much to see. We hadn’t even set foot into the countryside, which was a little unusual for us.

This only meant a return visit was on the cards and we new we had a long list of things to see and do prepared.

The walk back to Pod was done under a cloudless sky, no light pollution meant we were treated to a spectacular star lit night. As we walked past the farmers fields we sneaked a peek at the sheep with the torch, just to see what they were up to and the majority were curled up asleep. Those still awake left us wondering what they counted to nod off.

Back at the site Pod was waiting and within a short space of time she was soon warm and cozy, nothing nicer than getting under the duvet and catching up on the days news on the TV.

Rain stayed off over night and we were lucky enough to get the awning down just in time. Nothing worse than having to unpack a wet awning once home.

We said our goodbyes and thankfully made our way to the top of the road without meeting anyone on the way down.

Such a lovely site and with one last look out of the car window we were soon on the motorway and on our way home.

Next stop in two weeks, Sandringham, our furthest point east with Pod.

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Birds of prey, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Cheese, Church, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, Modifications, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking, Waterfall, Waterways, Yorkshire | 4 Comments

Wildlife, Science and Innovations Tested

 Calendar watching can be dangerous, you know, when you see those huge gaps between holidays and you realise it’s a full 6 weeks till your next trip away in your wobble box aka ‘Pod’. So, what’s better than looking for a two night trip, one that’s not too far from home which means, hopefully, less travelling, less gear and no cooking.

Our next 7 day trip to York and Wensleydale was just too far away so the search began for something on our doorstep. Research began on the trusty ipad and within half an hour we found one that was no more than 45 minutes away, you may think us mad, but it was great to be able to hook Pod up, go on a mini adventure and hopefully discover a hidden gem somewhere along the way.

Royal Vale Caravan Site was the chosen site, reviews seemed great, a little bit more than we usually pay but claimed to have good facilities, wifi included and was an adult only site, all very positive. Straight on the phone and a 2 night mid week break in the Cheshire countryside was booked, during the telephone call we were told we could arrive anytime from 9am which was brilliant and meant we would have two full days to explore.

Not living a million miles away from the site we knew the area and had visited a few of the attractions in the past. Within half an hour of the site we earmarked Tatton Park a National Trust property and Jodrell Bank. Tatton Park because we’re members of the Trust and it seemed foolish not to avail ourselves of it, plus there was a possibility of seeing the deer during the rutting season. Jodrell Bank for the Lovell telescope and to calm the child in one of us who just loves to touch anything and everything on sight.

The day arrived, the sun was shining and with a bit of a giggle, off we went. Quite funny really, once we were on the road with Pod attached and following us quite faithfully, we were soon in holiday mode.

Roads were empty and by 10.30am we rolled up outside the site office. Access into and out of the site was gained with a pass card, deposit of £5.00 was required and money would be returned when handed back in at the end of our stay. Pitches were a little strange, well spaced but split in half, one half concrete and the other stones, only one car could be next to the ‘van, but had to go on the well manicured grass, seemed a shame, especially if it rained, but that was the set up.

Luckily the concrete wasn’t too wide so it would have been possible to peg the awing down, but we decided to go with the tarp on this trip and it worked out well, still possible to peg out in the stones and we managed to get 2/3rds of the car onto the stones. Thermal wrap went on too, great little invention of ours and it works so well, plus the folding chairs when not used would slide nicely under Pod whilst protected in their home made Khyam fabric covers, explanation of which is at the end.Facilities were also very nice, a row of showers with push button controls set along the back wall, toilets along another and a full size disabled toilet along the third side with open sinks along there too. Well lit and very clean.

Quick weather check was done and today seemed to be the better of our two away, so back into the car and off to Tatton Park we went. Only gripe with Tatton Park is the parking is managed by the council so £6.00 was paid to park. Not grumbling though, as its been £6.00 for as long as we can remember and that’s saying something.

Once on the estate we followed the road up to the house and the main car park, there were a few cars, but not too many, we decided it was one of the advantages of a mid-week break.

A short walk through the stables and past the shop brought us to the main entrance of the house. Membership cards were shown and we were given the obligatory information sheet and informed in which direction to go.

We slowly wound our way through the rooms, the card room, music room, dining room and library. Eventually we went up the wide portrait lined staircase and passed National Trust staff conducting restoration work on clothing which looked like elaborately decorated military uniforms.

Through the nursery and bedrooms we went, all the while taking in the grandeur of all the rooms, especially the linen lined walls which gave each room the feeling of opulence.

From here we went down a stone staircase to the kitchen and cellars. Here we discovered the Housekeepers rooms, the kitchen and pantry. The corridor connecting them all was lined with a rail track which ran from the coal cellar to the end and had a very small turn-table for its return journey, really incredible, labour saving invention.

Weather was now a little overcast, but still dry, so we walked off in the direction of the open estate grounds in the hope of finding the deer and maybe a sighting of rutting in action, big ask for the latter but it was a good day for a stroll either way.

Didn’t take us long to find the deer, bit hard to miss if we’re honest as they were all grouped together with the odd stag hovering round the outskirts. With this in mind we decided to approach them from down wind, stealth mode was operated and with camera in hand off we went.

We got within 20 metres of them all and stood glued to the spot, within 10 minutes we found the grand daddy of them all, huge fella with a very impressive set of antlers. We watched as he cruised between the ladies of his harem and when they were approached by one of the younger males he made his presence known by his loud guttural roar and charging in the direction of the presumptuous youth. Once the upstart was seen off he returned to patrolling his ladies in waiting whilst a few of the very young stags had a bash at clobbering each other with their very small but prominent set of antlers.

It was all so mesmerising, we could of stayed until we were thrown off the estate but after a good hour of watching them we decided to head back to Pod before it got too dark.

Back to Pod we went and the time came to look for somewhere for dinner. Thanks to our Facebook page, kind people had left recommendations on local eateries and one which seemed most popular was The Bells of Peover, only a mile or so down the road so it was ideal. If we’d have gone earlier in the day we could probably of walked it, but as there wasn’t any street lighting or pavement it seemed a little perilous so we opted for the car.   

Satnav came into play and within 10 minutes we arrived, a narrow cobbled road took us to the car park and within a few steps we were walking along a fairy light lined path to the front door.

We hadn’t booked but this didn’t seem to be an issue and we were shown to a table in the window, once seated drinks were ordered and we began to peruse the menu. Very select menu which always gave us good vibes, for us it meant food was all freshly prepared and cooked when needed.

All read very well and we decided on Vegetable Soup and Chorizo and black pudding/Pork Scotch Egg for starters to be followed with the Chateaubriand and Pan Fried Hake. Starters were excellent, the scotch egg was delicious as the egg inside was still runny, we saw this as an achievement in itself, the soup was equally scrummy, chunky and filling and more akin to a vegetable chowder.

Main courses arrived soon after, Steak cooked to perfection as was the Hake, both courses were of fair sized portions so we both felt very satisfied but we couldn’t resist a peek at the desert menu and fell for the Chocolate Fondant, who wouldn’t.

There were a few other couples dinning, with a steady flow of people coming and going, we didn’t feel rushed so relaxed over our drinks before leaving.

We were really pleased with this recommendation and would ourselves highly recommend it, service was great and the staff were knowledgeable and helpful, prices were reasonable too.

Back at the site Pod sat waiting, all lit up with the light under the tarp casting a lovely glow around her Once in, we collected our toiletries and went to test out the showers, we weren’t disappointed, spacious cubicles and hot.

After a good day out in lots of fresh air it didn’t take us long to fall asleep, all cosy inside our little Pod.

Slept well as expected and woke to what looked like a dry day, although the weather forecast said something different.

We weren’t in any kind of a rush so while still snuggled up in bed we had a huge mug of hot tea and caught up on the news on our little tv. The thermal wrap had worked well too and condensation wasn’t even an issue.

Today we were off to Jodrell Bank, home of the Lovell Telescope and all things space and science, so after a very late breakfast off we went.

En route we passed signs for even more local attractions; Imagination Tree and the Falconry Centre caught our attention, 20 minutes later we rolled into the carpark where huge signs were on display instructing all who enter to turn off their mobile devises as it could interfere with on going tests and experiments, awesome, normally not something we like to do but on this occasion we complied without any grumbling. The car park was fairly empty but there were quite a few coaches so we expected a big influx of children.

We paid our £8.00 each and in we went. Lots to see and read, but the best thing was being allowed to touch and play with many of the things on display. The thermal imager and the parabolic dishes were two of our faves, great time to be a kid again.

All played out we headed for the cafe, and once satisfied with a delicious meat pie, quiche and cream cakes we headed back in the direction of Pod and decided to hunt down the Imagination tree and we were so glad we did, got to play at being a kid.. again.

First off we spotted what looked like a home made large white sign, with its obligatory huge black arrow pointing in one direction off the main road and onto a narrow lane. This we followed as it wound its way along the hedge line road.

After what seemed like an age we considered turning round but on we went, bends and turns continued and on what appeared to be another twist in the road we came face to face with the trunk of a 12ft tree.

Fabulous, our faces lit up with big smiles at what on first sight was an elaborately decorated large tree stump on a small grassed area next to a small junction.

We pulled over and once out of the car we were all over the tree like ants at a food fair. Lots of little windows to peer in to which displayed tiny rooms with different settings. From tables and chairs to candles and books, shawls and shoes and tiny portraits.

Windows were also on stairways with similar displays and led all the way to the top. Tiny doors could be opened and windows with shutters, all with brass fittings and spotlessly clean.

Small hand written notes had been pushed in holes, along with silver coins rammed into the smallest of gaps and a wonderful wooden tiled roof was placed on top.

We scoured the tree from top to bottom and there wasn’t a mark on it, no cobwebs or creepy crawlies hiding anywhere, someone clearly tended to it on a regular basis, either that or the resident fairies took charge themselves.

Back in the car we went and headed back to Pod, the wind was picking up and rain was threatening us with the presence of dark clouds but Pod was as we’d left it and the tarp was doing a sterling job.

Research then began on somewhere to eat, there were quite a few to pick from but we decided on The Whipping Stocks, less than a mile away so perfect.

Looked impressive on the outside, almost like a new build dark brick, as we rolled onto the car park the heavens opened so we made a dash for the door.

The pub opened up into a large central bar area with smaller rooms leading off in different directions, we chose one at the front of the pub, mainly because it had a lovely log fire roaring away in the centre.

Food ordered and within minutes the starters arrived, soup and bread coated prawns with a dip. This was followed by a mixed grill and a vegetable wellington. All very good but missed something, maybe it was the presentation of the food or we’d just been spoilt by our previous night at the Bells of Peover.

We decided against staying for another drink or two and opted for a drink back at Pod. Tarp was still in situ but the wind was becoming a wee bit gusty and along with the near horizontal rain we decided to bunker down in Pod.

Bed called after showers, we soon fell asleep listening to the wind howling around us and on the odd occasion feeling Pod give a shudder as it protected us from the appalling weather outside.

Through the night the wind picked up, the flapping of the tarp had gotten worse but when checked on at 4am it was still stood where it was tethered. Decision was made to take it down then at least we wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the night.

MrB decided on doing it there and then, in nothing but his undies. So, out the door he went, LB’s only thought was, well, if he gets spotted at least he has his Calvin Klein’s on.

LB decided to get dressed to assist, but on sticking her head out of the door she was told it was all done at which point MrB turned and chased the now unprotected bin across the path.

Once in Pod the inside of the pop up roof was checked and it was bone dry, brilliant, all thanks to the thermal wrap. Back into bed we both went and soon fell asleep, didn’t wake till well past 8 but as we didn’t have to be off the site till 3pm we weren’t in any rush. Calm winds and blue sky greeted us as we opened Pods door, just as well, because we wanted to test out our home made, newly designed fly screen.

Now slightly off kilter here, but it needs to be explained. Our old Khyam awning was still loitering in the garden shed but neither of us could bare to just throw it away. True, its knuckles had gone but the fabric and all its fasteners must have a second life, so a week before this trip we set about up-cycling the awning.

First off, we de-boned it so to speak, then we made the decision to make chair/stool covers. These turned out well so next came covers for the water filler upper tubes, of which Mr.B had made 6 for those that wanted them at the Powwow (GoPod get together for those not in the know).

What next we thought, well, that was easily decided upon and that was a fly screen for the door. Pods design wasn’t going to make it easy, due to its curve it would take some crafty workwoman ship, but it was worth a go.

For this we used the fly netting from the one and only window in the awning and added the split zip as the edging down the both sides. Next came small tabs at the top for the poppers to be attached to and some black edging along the bottom which had a section of the awning bead slotted in to give it weight.

A small section near the bottom had to be cut out for the electrical cable than ran through the door but that was easily done and edged with black webbing. This, of course, also needed its own bag so one of them was whipped up too.

One part of the popper had been stuck to Pod prior to leaving home and the other had been sewn onto the fly net, all we had to do now was check that all the hard work sewing and trips back and forth from Pod to the sewing machine had paid off and it had.

Bringing you back to Royal Vale and the testing of the fly screen; we fastened it to Pod at the top of the door frame with the poppers and it slotted perfectly within the frame. It held its shape as it curved with the door, down to the bottom where the weighted edge kept it perfectly in place and the small insert for the cable slipped in nicely to be fasted back in place with a bit of Velcro. Perfect and just what we would need for our May 2018 trip along the NC 500. Grant you, it could only be used when Pods door was open, but when else would we need it.

Feeling very chuffed with ourselves, this along with everything else was soon packed away in their respective bags and all then tidied away inside Pod.

We hit the road an hour later and within the same time frame we had landed at home. Turned out to be a great two day trip away and a site we would consider again should we feel the need to escape from our brick four walls.

Just a small addendum, the Khyam awning still had some life in it, the clear plastic windows came in very handy and worked perfectly as an addition to our designer Tea-cosy.




Posted in Accessories, Awning, Caravan, Caravanning, Cheshire, Conservation, Glamping, Modifications, Photography, Science, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | 1 Comment

Edinburgh; The Tattoo, its Fringe and a dog called Bobby

Edinburgh here we come ! First time for both of us and all planned around the Edinburgh Tattoo, plus a few days before setting off we’d found out The Fringe was on, so it looked like a fun packed four nights away. In addition to all this we had a new awning to try out so all exciting stuff, but first off we had to get there.

Up at 6 and on the road for 7.30. The site itself took new arrivals from 9am but after a quick chat the day before with one of the site staff we decided to try and arrive around lunch time, we were told there may not be many pitches to pick from as not many people are up and off the site by noon, never mind 9am.

 As you’d expect the roads were clear and the M61 soon became the M6 and M74. Before we knew it we were driving through Coulter and Bigger, followed by the scenic route of West Linton and Easter Howgate which took us right to the site.  

A pretty uneventful and smooth journey, it’s always nice to arrive anywhere feeling a little less frazzled and a bit more ‘with it’ to set up Pod.  

Booked in easily enough and we were told there weren’t many pitches available as they were at capacity but it didn’t take us long to find a pitch to our liking. Not far from the entrance and toilet block and south facing, great as the sun was out and we hoped it would stay that way for the next few days.

Once Pod was levelled off out came the new awning a SunnCamp Silhouette Motor Air 225 Plus, a big name for such a small awning.

Now, a new awning you may ask as Pod is only just over two years old, as is the Khyam XL awning, but we’ve fallen out of love with it and despite all the modifications we’d done; sewing in the beading, adding sucker hooks and re-waterproofing, it still didn’t quite have that snug fit we were after, our Irish trip kind of made all this clear.

The Wild Atlantic Way had given it a right battering and with hindsight, we would of bought the Khyam regular and not the XL as the tunnel consists of less fabric providing that sought after fit, plus the knuckles in the legs now no longer gave sufficient support and we were in fear of them popping out all together.

All that said, it’s served us well and after 2 years of constant all year round use it’s protected us well from all the elements, sunshine to snow, but in truth we did expect it to last a little longer.

We considered replacing the knuckles but knew within 2 years we would end up in the same boat again, plus we fancied having windows we could see out of whilst sat inside the awning. The Khyam only offered 2 small windows in the tunnel and one in the main section which could only be seen out of if you stood up, we felt very shut off from the outside world, not a bad thing some days but wanted an option at least.

Research for a new one then began, we didn’t want anything bigger, in fact smaller would suit us as we’ve opted for the minimalist approach which leant to the idea of being able to set up within the shortest amount of time. It just needed to be big enough for a couple of chairs, foot stools, bin and multi-cooker, but due to Pod being a little bit of an individual it wasn’t easy to find an awning that would hug the rear without needing an awning rail and beading down the sides, one for future development maybe.

Air or pole was another question and after viewing and walking round numerous types we opted for the air as the fabric was thicker, 300 denier and 6000mm HH, almost canvas like and therefore less likely to waft around at the slightest mention of breeze.

Only thing we weren’t too keen on was the sewn in groundsheet but weighing this up overall, we really liked it, so we bought it.

Once we had it out on the pitch it didn’t take long to slide the beading onto Pod and pump up the two main arch beams, plus the small central support column. All it needed then was for it to be positioned and pegged out, really loved the windows, so clear and plenty of light flooding in.

One thing we did notice though, the ground sheet looked like it may need a little more protection as the hardstanding could do some damage if we weren’t careful, a possible one-off modification to be done before our next trip.

Once we’d finished faffing around we settled into the new awning and as we’d driven far enough for today our limit was a stroll round the site and to the information desk to check on the bus route for the following day and collect a few maps and leaflets to aid our exploring. It would be a big day for us, our chance to see the Tattoo, excited was an understatement, we’d both seen it many times on the TV but now it would be for real.

Back at Pod we sat outside enjoying the much missed sunshine and set about planning our full day of sightseeing in the city. ‘vans continued to arrive in a steady stream plus a few did more than one circuit looking for their perfect pitch.

Dinner was eaten al fresco and showers were had in the typical Caravan Club block, spotlessly clean and hot, perfect end to a great first day, although we could have done without planes flying over after 11pm and starting up again soon after 5am.

Up, out and walking to the bus for 9.30, it was only a short walk round the back of the site and onto the main road. We weren’t waiting long and spent the time chatting to other caravaners who had seen the Tattoo the night before, it sounded wonderful and we couldn’t wait to experience it ourselves.

£1.60 each was handed over to the driver and within 20 minutes we were slap bang in the middle of Edinburgh city.

First off, we were amazed at the architecture, the city was bursting with history, from the structures to the road names, all seemed to have a story to tell.

Our problem was where to start, so after a look at a small map taken from the information room we began by walking up and down main roads and side streets in an attempt to get our bearings. We eventually decided the best way to do this was to go up Scott’s Monument for a birds eye view.

The building of the memorial to Sir Walter Scott began in 1840 and was completed in 1844 and it stands at 61.1 metres high (200ft 6inches) with 287 steps to the top viewing point.

Interestingly, as well as his well known books his fame was guaranteed in 1818 when he re-discovered Scotland’s lost crown jewels within Edinburgh Castle.

We paid the £6.00 entry fee and began our climb up the narrow stone spiral staircase, only problem being it was the only way up and down, so on the odd occasion we met someone on the way down one of us had to hug the wall why the passing party squeezed past perilously close to the centre column and if not careful a slippy slide downwards.

First viewpoint was as expected, spectacular and when walking all the way round views of the castle down to the coastline could be seen. But not to be daunted we continued onwards and up. The next level gave and even better view over to Nelsons monument and beyond, but this wasn’t the end, there was one more level to go.

This was even narrower, MrB had to take the rucksack off as it was impossible for him to reach the top without going up shoulders turned at an angle, there was certainly no squeezing past anyone, it was a one-way only trip.

Once we knew the way up was clear upwards we went onto a very small and narrow platform and the climb was well worth the view. As we’d been blessed with a clear sky the skyline went on forever, past the castle, the monuments and out all the way to the Forth Rail Bridge, amazing.

Time came for us to begin the walk back down but this could only be done by shouting down to those below, we didn’t want to meet anyone half way up as it really was impossible to squeeze past anyone. The way was clear so off we set and once the stairway became a little wider it became slightly more possible for others to pass us, certainly not for those who aren’t keen on tight spaces and their personal space being well and truly invaded..

Back at ground level we walked towards the Scottish National Gallery, market stalls and some of the street performers. We passed bagpipers, jugglers and lone musicians, all doing their best to fill their pots and hats with money from passing pedestrians.

The Gallery was free to enter and whilst passing many wonderful works of art the highlight for us was the works by Wainwright, fantastic to actually see the real thing.

Out on the streets again we wondered through the busy walkways, again surrounded by food stalls and performers. A bit more sightseeing was on the cards and we headed in the direction of Holyrood Palace, we walked round the outside of the city, past Nelson’s Monument and through the graveyard to find the entrance to the palace in front of us.

Very impressive building and the official residence in Scotland of Her Majesty The Queen. Entry to the public and a tour was on offer but we had more to see and had other plans whilst the sun continued to shine, besides, tummies were rumbling for a bite to eat.

Royal Mile lead from the palace up to the castle so we decided to walk up and find somewhere with food on offer, we passed a few and eventually decided upon The Tolbooth Tavern and we weren’t disappointed.

The biggest burger ever was placed in front of one and a delicious cheese macaroni in front of the other, followed by Mars Bar cheesecake with cream and ice-cream, we were going to walk it off so no guilt here on this occasion.

Service was great and food portions were not for the faint hearted, well worth every penny.

Feeling rested and well fed we continued our walk up the Royal Mile, bobbing in and out of boutique shops and watching the street performers from the Fringe.

We eventually found ourselves at Grassmarket Square, brilliant little place, with plenty of eateries to choose from and lots more Fringe performances dotted around, from a young American bashing his way musically through empty paint cans, to a bubble maker entertaining the very young.

Best one that gave us a giggle was the moveable silent disco, about 30 people with headphones on were merrily jigging away, singing and following the leader in his bright yellow jumpsuit as he wound his way along the streets and off up the road into the distance. A true pied piper.

The Tattoo was getting nearer but still a couple of hours away, neither of us had room for dinner so nibbles were eaten whilst people watching, especially those trying desperately to give give out leaflets for Fringe performances, most people were polite in their refusal but there was the odd one who wasn’t.

The Tattoo was due to start at 9pm and the clock was now heading for 8, so we began the climb up the steps to the waiting area and joined a few hundred other people who were all wrapped up for the drop in temperature and waiting patiently to be told they could move forward to the bag searches.

We hadn’t been there more than 10 minutes when the loudhailer was heard dishing out instructions to those with bags.

The queue moved along nicely and once through the bag checking area we walked the short distance up to the castle entrance where our tickets were scanned and we were in. Yay!

It was quite surreal as we walked onto the parade ground, seating all the way round but it didn’t seem as big as on the TV, the wonders of a wide screen.

Seats were found as more people poured through the entrance onto the parade ground, all were soon seated and we waited with baited breath as the announcer did his best to warm the crowd up with a bit of audience participation. It wasn’t really necessary as everyone was just so excited to be there, but his explanation of proceedings was very welcome.

9pm on the dot the fun began, bagpipes emerged from the castle gate and one of us did their best to keep it together, a very emotional experience, just love the bagpipes.

The story of Tartan unfolded intertwined with Indian history, awesome display by all. At the end the lone piper held us spellbound leaving us wishing it could go on longer, but end it did, 100 minutes, spectacular.

People reluctantly left their seats and we all moved along nicely back the way we had arrived. We even managed to make it to the bus stop in plenty of time and were back at the site just after midnight, not long after we were tucked up in bed reliving our first incredibly busy day in Edinburgh. 

Wednesday arrived and even the planes didn’t disturb us as we had a very welcome lie-in. Sun was out again so we lounged around the awning and Pod making the most of the glorious weather, but once lunch was out of the way we were back on the bus and into the city centre for some more sightseeing and Fringe watching.

First stop was Nelson’s Monument on top of Carlton Hill, built in 1807 in honour of Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. Many Scots served during this battle and sixty where known to have fought along side Nelson himself.

From here we walked round the National Monument of Scotland which is Scotlands memorial to soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Construction started in 1826 but ran out of money so it was left unfinished, great shame but it gives it more of a natural aura, as if it’s been through a battle too.

Lunch was calling so we walked back through the city and the Fringe entertainment, one of the unusual performances we passed were what appeared to American native Indians on panpipes doing a rendition of Lady in Red, very surreal.

We found ourselves back at Grassmarket Square and as the sun was out we decided to eat at Oliviero Italian Restaurant, mainly because they had a large outdoor dinning area which would allow us to watch the world go by.

Pizza and a few beers were ordered and all went down extremely well, freshly made and delicious. Whilst enjoying this we were saddened to see one of the waiters slightly distressed as a large party of people had walked off without paying, why ? who could do such a low thing, especially during Tattoo and Fringe season.

Entertainers surrounded the square, from jugglers to musicians and many people trying patiently to dish out flyers in the most unusual ways.

Feeling very happy and relaxed we strolled down the Royal Mile and found ourselves in a whisky shop were a bottle of 8yr old GlenDronach single malt whisky was bought for LB, a new one to try once back at Pod.

As we had another big day ahead of us on Thursday and we were meeting friends for lunch we decided to head back to Pod for dinner.  Once off the bus we walked along the coast path, brilliant walkway and great views over the sea towards the railway bridge, we eventually found ourselves back at the site and after a little whisky tasting we had an early night curled up in Pod.

Woke to another glorious day and we were back on the bus for 9.30, we were that early there didn’t appear to be any other caravaners joining us. The bus was busy with its regular daily commuters and we ended up chatting with one who reminded us of Greyfriers Bobby and told us of her fathers involvement, his appearance in the film and the statue of him in the city. 

 We were so pleased to have run into her and thanked her repeatedly for the reminder and once off the bus made it our mission to find the statue of him. Just wished we’d asked her what role her father had played in the film, because that was also on our ‘to do’ list once home and would love to have identified him in the film.

Phone came out and it didn’t take long to find him, another emotional moment when his nose was given a good rub, as this little dog was so loyal and true to his owner, then taken in and looked after by those around him in what was a very different era.

Apparently the statue is a life image, created shortly before his death.

Across the road from here appeared another museum, The National Museum of Scotland, so off we wandered and in we went.

Absolutely incredible place, we didn’t know where to start and could easily of spent the whole day in there. From ancient history to modern works of art, the power of electronics and space travel to prehistoric animals, just amazing.

Lunch time was fast approaching and we needed to find Fishers on Thistle Street.

As we now had quite a good walking knowledge of the centre it didn’t take us long to find it and make ourselves comfortable at the table to await our Podding friends.

Dee and Ian were the first to arrive and it was so nice to see them as it had been months since we had laid eyes on them, in fact October Powwow in Oban the year before.

Minutes later Laurence and his good lady Liz arrived, Laurence we’d spent a few days with at Coniston but Liz was about to be engulfed into the Podding world although we all did our best to vary the topic of conversation.. occasionally.

Fabulous time was had, reliving our travels and planning many more, time went by way too fast and before we knew it we were all saying our goodbyes till next time, October 2017 and Powwow 2 in York.

The castle was next on our list so off we went and paid £17.00 each for the privilege of entry. We’d missed the 1 o’clock gun but moving from one exhibition to another kept us very interested, from dungeons to the history of war through military artefacts and various treasures, plus a very moving experience in the Scottish National War Memorial which honours those who gave their lives in past wars, including those in Afghanistan and the Gulf.

We eventually joined the small queue to see the Crown Jewels and loved the display and story shown en route to the viewing room.

No cameras were allowed inside, pity, as they were amazing to see, even though it was a fleeting glimpse as the viewing line had to keep on moving.

Time was moving way to fast and doors were beginning to close and lock behind us, the castle was slowly closing down which meant it was our time to leave it and the city of Edinburgh.

The bus returned us to the caravan site and once dinner were eaten and showers had we reminisced over the wonder few days we’d had in Edinburgh. The weather had been with us, the new awning worked like a dream and we’d seen what we felt was a small part of the city. We would definitely be back as there was still so much we just hadn’t had time to see, beautiful place and could well be one of our favourite cities.

Friday arrived and it had rained in the night, not a problem though as the day looked dry up till noon and we planned on being well on our way home by that time.

Didn’t take much effort to deflate the awning and as we don’t take half as much stuff with us as we used it wasn’t long before we hit the road.

We both hate this bit, but it just means we had to plan the next trip away. Doesn’t stop us wishing we could just be on the outskirts of home and say ‘Nah.. lets just keep driving’. Maybe one day….


Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Coast, Conservation, Edinburgh, Glamping, Highlands, Modifications, Photography, Scotland, Sight seeing, Stately home, Travel, Traveling, Walking, Whisky | 13 Comments