Wales Jul 21

We have never manged to visit St Davids, so that set the scene for a Welsh trip. After a few days in Dorset with friends, we had a brief stopover in Cheddar then carried on to Brecon for a couple of days. It was handy as we were able to have new phones delivered to “BargainBooze” in the town. The walk into Brecon, along the canal, is quite pleasant. On our first day, I set off into the town with my backpack, to visit ALDI and stock up on milk and fruit. I loaded my basket and waited patiently in the queue to pay. As I waited, I was visited by a horrible thought. I did not remember putting my purse in my bag. A swift check confirmed my fear!! I had to abandon my shopping at the till amidst huge apologies. They would have kept it for me to collect later but, the hour long round trip on a hot day did not appeal. I slunk “home” empty handed.

St David’s

Hoping to save a bit on campsite fees, I had selected a site a few miles away with views across to Broad Haven in St Brides Bay. It was possible to walk down to the bay but was a bit far and steep for Clyde to manage safely. However, we were there to see St David’s, so we set off in the van along the very scenic A487. We passed through the pretty village of Solva and past the glorious Newgale beach. The views were stunning all the way.

St David’s is really a large village overlooking Ramsey Sound. From here you can take a boat trip to Ramsey Island to see the wildlife. We walked down the high street and at the end we stepped through an archway where we were assaulted by the spectacle of the Cathedral. What a lovely building. Apparently, two pilgrimages to St David’s equals one pilgrimage to Rome. We will have to come again!

First view of St David’s Cathedral
Walk down to the Cathedral
One of the amazing ceilings in St Davids Cathedral
Nave in St David’s
Wow floor in St David’s Cathedral
Memorial screen

Back at the car park we discovered that we had parked in the wrong place, along with other vans. One of the local bus drivers was quite unpleasant about it. I just shrugged in a Gallic way and set off.

Newgale

On the way back to the campsite we stopped off at Newgale Bay. It is a stunning sight on the way to St David’s and does not disappoint once you stop by the beach. There is a huge beach with rocky cliffs either end. It is very scenic.

Newgale beach
View from Newgale beach

Our stay near St Davids over, we moved on to Cenarth. The route along the A487 was beautiful with glorious views of the coast. We stopped at Fishguard Lower Town on the way, which was a surprise, as we had only thought it was a ferry port. The Lower Town Quay was very pretty, although the road out was quite steep and twisty. Par for the course in Wales really!

Cenarth

Cenarth is a small village alongside the River Teifi. There are a couple of gift shops, a pub and some tea rooms. The highlight is the walkway along the river and the Cenarth Falls. Although very pretty, they are a bit misrepresented as waterfalls. However, we enjoyed our riverside pitch on the campsite and had a couple of lovely walks alongside the river.

Bridge over the Teifi
Mill by the Teifi
Babbling river

Whilst staying in Cenarth we had a day trip to Cardigan. Unfortunately it turned into a very wet day and we changed our plan to meet an old friend from our Germany days. We sat under a dripping gazebo to have lunch at a cafe. The view towards the river and hills beyond would have been better on a sunny day. We also decided against a costly visit to the castle so after a wee wander around, we headed homewards. Thank goodness for the Sat Nav, as we would have been there still. The route around the one way system to escape was very unintuitive!

Aberystwyth

It is a long time since we were last in Aberystwyth. It was Suzanne’s university town so we tended to be there for delivering and collecting her. The last visit was for her graduation. Such happy memories. We had booked a campsite that is within walking distance of the town. Well, technically it was, but in practice it was too far and on a narrow dangerous road. The campsite was not the best either but we spoke to the owner and gave her some advice as worldly wise travellers. That aside, we had a nice trip to the seafront where we discovered some motorhome parking spaces. It was a bit of a mission getting to them along the narrow seafront road, but welcome once there. We strolled along the promenade and had a look at the ruined castle before a quick visit to the town shops. Coffee at Starbucks and back to the van for lunch completed our day.

View towards the funicular railway
Aber Pier
Iconic view of the seafront houses
Old University building
Castle memorial statue

On our last day at Aberystwyth we had a scenic drive up to Devils Bridge. The road twists upwards giving splendid views across the valley. We parked by the steam railway and walked over the bridge. You can pay to descend into the valley alongside the river and falls, but it would have been a bit of a painful process for Clyde and it was very gloomy amongst the trees. We felt that the drive up there had been the best bit. We had tea and cake at the railway cafe instead, which was much better.

Macynlleth

We cut our stay at Aberystwyth short and booked one night near Macynlleth. We had a gorgeous drive along the A487, stopping to admire the River Dovey which meanders through the valley. We stopped at Macynlleth to get toilet chemicals from the caravan shop and had a stroll around the little town. We have been there before, but it was a nice break. Onwards to the campsite at Pennal, a short drive from Macynlleth. The road up to the site was steep and narrow but, what views!. Our allocated pitch was equally scenic and we were sad that we were only there for one night. There were stunning views all around and we made the most of the sunny weather to sit outside with our books.

Market cross, Macynlleth
Campsite views
Dovey Estuary

Dolgellau

I had a bit of a shock when I checked for details of our booking at Dolgellau – no booking! I rang the campsite and was able to book in, which was a relief as most sites have been very full this year. Along the way we stopped at Aberdovey, which is really pretty.

Aberdovey
Aberdovey harbour

The campsite is really just a big field and was a bit over priced. However, the welcome was genuine and in fact, the views were lovely and the facilities adequate. It was a proper campers site with tents and campervans dotted about. It had a really nice atmosphere. We were also able to walk into Dolgellau, which is not the most exciting place, but gave us an outing and we found a Co-op for essentials.

Campsite with scenery!
Mountains at Dolgellau
River at Dolgellau

Whilst at Dolgellau we had a trip to Barmouth, remembered by Clyde from his childhood. It was a bit of a disappointment but the journey there was very pretty. We stopped to admire the pretty River Morddach and returned to site to watch the Euros final on the internet, as no TV signal.

Morddach estuary
Morddach Estuary

Bala

Our last stop in Wales was a CL at Corwen, near Bala. Lake Bala was looking fabulous and we spent a couple of hours there before making our way to the campsite. There were groups of schoolchildren enjoying the watersports and we were entertained whilst having our lunch.

The small site (a Certified Location, only 5 vans), was in a lovely position with yet more amazing views. We were entertained by Doris, the chicken as she pottered about hoping for scraps.

Lake Bala views
Lake Bala
Sailing on the lake

We returned to Bala the next day as we wanted to visit the little town as well as the lake. There is not much to see in town, but we parked on the other side of the lake and sat in the hot sun to enjoy our lunch. The journey to Bala from Corwen was a joy for views too.

Our last trip out was to Llangollen as we wanted to visit the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. It did not disappoint with the stunning views all around. Definitely worth the trip along more winding Welsh roads.

Canoes at height!
Pontcysyllte Viaduct
View down from the aquaduct
Side view of Pontcysyllte Viaduct
One of the commercial boats on the canal
View from the Llangollen town bridge
Llangollen bridge decorated

We stopped off in the town for a look round. Its best aspect seems to be the river and surrounding area. We did not manage to find out why the bridge was decorated with patchwork.

This was the end of our Welsh trip for 2021

Bristol June 21

I have had many trips to Abbey Wood, Bristol, but never visited as a tourist. Although the CAMC site at Baltic Wharf is a bit above our usual budget, we decided to spend a few days there between our stays in Dorset and Wales. Sadly, the site will be closing down in September as the land is prime building land and therefore the lease has not been renewed. I am really glad we had managed to make it there in time as it was a very enjoyable stay.

We spent our three days exploring the floating docklands, which were accessible directly from the back gate of the site. We decided against a visit to the SS Great Britain although it was an impressive sight from the dockside and the water. Instead we had a river tour, which provided us with a nice snapshot of the history of the area and the SS Great Britain. The story of how the SS Great Britain was brought back from the Falklands and renovated is shown in storyboards outside the museum for free.

SS Great Britain
Floating Docklands

Typical Bristol colourful houses

Out of the campsite and turn left, took us to Underfall Yard where the old boatbuilding skills are still used for restoration purposes.

Underfall Yard is a working boatyard that welcomes visitors. There is an ever changing landscape of boats to enjoy thanks to the skilled maritime businesses that call the yard home. They have organisations relating to boat building, rigging, blacksmithing, marine engineering, marine safety, maritime training and maritime leisure pursuits. In their Visitor Centre you can explore the fascinating story of Bristol’s Floating Harbour through hands-on displays, a giant interactive map and with the help of their amazing volunteers.

The walk through the yard is extremely interesting and there is a harbourside restaurant which was quite busy while we were there. The backdrop is provided by old red brick warehouses and in the distance, the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It is possible to visit the bridge, but we were not there long enough.

Underfall Yard

Clifton Suspension Bridge

We walked to the cathedral which is quite close to the harbourside. It has a well kept garden and a cafe in the cloisters.

Bristol Cathedral


Verdant Cathedral gardens


The trip to Bristol was so enjoyable, we would definitely visit again. It is just a shame that we will not be be able to stay at the same location.

East Anglia. Apr 21

The long awaited day arrived when we could travel again and we headed for Southbourne campsite. This enabled us to have some outside time with family.

Fun at Stokes Bay

After trips to the park and beach and coffee with friends, we made our way to St Neots. Here, we stayed on the campsite alongside the river. It was such a treat to be there as we were able to meet people in the Riverside Park. We also had a fabulous Riverside pitch.

Misty morning on the river

Fabulous reflections


After 3 weeks in St Neots in glorious Spring weather, we moved on to Kessingland in Suffolk. This time we had a beach front pitch which was tremendous. The beach there is big and unspoilt and you can walk for miles. It was a very relaxing place to spend time.

Huge Suffolk skies

Lucky van!
Typical Suffolk beach

Whilst here, we visited Lowestoft which was very deserted and had an interesting visit to Sutton Hoo. Having seen the recent film about it, we were pleased to see how faithful it had been to the history of the discovery of the Anglo Saxon ship in the 1930s.

Model of Anglo Saxon ship

Our next stop was West Runton in Norfolk. The site did not have the same proximity to the beach, but there were views to be had if you walked up the NT managed hill behind the site.

We enjoyed a trip to Sheringham and another to Cromer. Both are charming old Norfolk towns with little local shops and old fishing beaches. In Cromer, we met up with my brother and his wife who were there to celebrate her 60th birthday. We had a lovely pub lunch and a stroll along the front.

Cromer Pier

The views from the hill (yes, honestly) behind the campsite were gorgeous. It would have been even better with some decent sunshine!

Norfolk coastal view

After 2 weeks on the coast it was time to head back to civilisation and half term with grandchildren.

Winter 2020/21 in UK

Lockdown No 2 in Hampshire – Nov to Dec 20

WICKHAM

Our stay at Rookesbury Park, near Wickham, was very pleasant. Although we were not allowed to travel until 5 Dec, we were able to enjoy walks to Wickham village and around the woods. The site is set amongst woodland and there were lots of pheasants wandering about. There were only 12 units on site plus the lovely wardens. It was a really nice group of people and we became quite good friends. The woodland and site were very pretty in the Autumn colours.

Autumn colours in Hundred Acre Wood
Pitch with a view. Rookesbury Park, Wickham
First frost of Winter 2020
River through Wickham

Whilst at Wickham, after the Lockdown was lifted we visited Gosport and the National Trust run Hinton Ampner. Both are places we love and although we did not see any of our friends due to Covid restrictions, it was a comfort to be in our home area. I finally had my Carpal Tunnel operation on 12 November, which was a bit tricky as I could not get to the Covid test centre by taxi. I had to have a test on the Monday and could not park the van anywhere. Luckily, a lovely man on the site offered to take me. We both wore masks and had windows open. I was allowed to have a taxi to go to the hospital for the operation thank goodness.

Sunset at Stokes Bay
Hinton Ampner rear face
Hinton Ampner, rear terrace
View from the house
Side garden at Hinton Ampner, complete with Christmas stars

December was a strange month. The country was still struggling to cope with flare ups of the virus. A tiered system was in place and was subject to change as the surges in different areas started to cause problems for the NHS. A more virulent strain was spreading rapidly and the decision was finally made to limit Christmas visits to one day and only 3 households. We changed our plan to visit family and ordered gifts online to be delivered direct to the recipients. The two family groups in Wantage and Havant had a flying visit from us on 22 Dec. At the farm in Wantage, we sat out in the cold and damp with hot drinks, ran about the fields with the children and tried to feel Festive. We then dashed to Havant to deliver the gathered presents and had a quick hello on the doorstep. All very sad.

Christmas decorations

Lockdown No 3, in Surrey – Jan to Apr 21

The campsite at Rookesbury Park had expected to give us refuge until 3 Jan 21, but the decision to have another lockdown from 26 Dec meant that we had to move. We were sent to Alderstead Heath campsite near Redhill in Surrey. Not a place we would normally have chosen but, off we went on Boxing Day. Some of our new friends also went there and we picked up where we had left off. We were now in the Surrey hills, again amongst woodland but with more open fields and about a mile cross a muddy field from the nearest village. Netherne is a village that grew up around a psychiatric hospital that opened in 1903. Its history is very interesting as it pioneered many of the modern treatments. It is now a large housing estate with large expensive houses surrounding the old hospital buildings, now converted into apartments and a gym.

I was fortunate to have made friends with a lady who grew up in this area, and she took me on many long walks with her adorable corgi, Merri. It was a challenge as we had so much rain, the footpaths were all thick with mud and huge puddles for weeks. I had to order, online, some wellies! We were then treated to a very cold, snowy period. The scenery was lovely and the walks became easier as the mud was frozen. Clyde and I were having to wrap up in layers, as we had left our Winter clothes in Bedford! Thank goodness for a warm and cozy motorhome.

Fields at Netherne
Happy Valley, Surrey Hills
Chaldon Church
Canary Wharf, London. Seen from the campsite
Very frosty shrubbery at the campsite
Snow at Alderstead Heath
Hattie Hymer at Alderstead Heath
Chilly outlook across the fields
Thick frost across the countryside

We survived nearly 4 months at Alderstead Heath. It is most unusual for us to be in one place for so long. However, we made some new friends and kept ourselves safe. Clyde was fully vaccinated before we left on 12 April. I had my first jab before we left and had to return on 16 May for my second dose. It was a sad, but exciting, day on 12 April when we were able to leave and head for the campsite at Southbourne. All our companions were heading for different places around the country. At last we could see the children and grandchildren outside for the first time since 22 December. Restrictions were still in place – wearing masks, no inside mixing, no public events etc. The next relaxation date was set for 17 May, so fingers were crossed for an improvement in the data.

Autumn 2020 – UK

TUNBRIDGE WELLS

As we had an appointment at JC Leisure in Rye on 29 Sep, we started working our way across from Hampshire. We chose a site in Crowborough, which would enable us to visit Tunbridge Wells and Sissinghurst Castle. We went to Tunbridge Wells by bus, which was fine until we wanted to come home. The Covid restrictions meant that numbers on the bus were strictly limited, and we were refused entry on three buses before striking lucky. It is another affect on our lives, of this virus. However, we did enjoy the few hours we spent in Tunbridge Wells. We only explored the famous Pantiles area, but on a sunny day, it was very pleasant.

The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells
Glorious flowers in Tunbridge Wells
Historic Centre in The Pantiles
The Pantiles

SISSINGHURST CASTLE GARDENS

The next day was spent at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. The house was not open, but we were happy to enjoy the gardens. We also had a very nice National Trust cream tea, sitting out in the sunshine. The gardens are a bit overgrown, but this is probably due to Covid related volunteer issues. The buildings surrounding the grounds are very attractive and it was interesting to see the summer house overlooking the surrounding countryside, where Harold Nicolson (husband of Vita Sackville-West)did his writing.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, at Sissinghurst in the Weald of Kent in England, was created by Vita Sackville-West, poet and writer, and her husband Harold Nicolson, author and diplomat. It is among the most famous gardens in England and is designated Grade I on Historic England’s register of historic parks and gardens.

Sissinghurst Castle gardens entrance
Sissinghurst Castle gardens
Writing hut at Sissinghurst
View from desk
Orchard lake
Formal garden

After Crowborough, we had a quick trip back to Portsmouth for a medical appointment, then spent a few days at East Hoathly. The campsite was in the countryside and was a peaceful spot for country walks. Our next stopover was at the campsite near Battle, which is a beautiful terraced site amongst trees and with lovely views over the countryside. It is a convenient site for a nice drive to Rye.

Grand reminder of the site’s previous life!

RYE

Rye is such a lovely place, it is no hardship to be forced to return for work on the van. It is a bit of a walk into the town from the dealership but is a reasonable stroll to Rye Harbour Village. We had a walk there to start with once the van was dropped off. Disappointingly, there was nothing open so we were not able to have a cup of tea and a cake. After a look at the water, we decided to call a taxi to take us into town. The taxi driver was very helpful and dropped us at his favourite tea room.

Waterside at Rye Harbour Village
Tea time in Rye

We enjoyed a wander around historic Rye with it’s attractive buildings and cobbled streets.

Rye is an English town near the coast in East Sussex. In the centre, cobbled lanes like Mermaid Street are lined with medieval, half-timbered houses. The redbrick Lamb House was once owned by writer Henry James. Nearby, the tower of the Norman St. Mary’s Church overlooks the town. The 14th-century Ypres Tower, which formed part of Rye’s defences, is now Rye Castle Museum, with paintings and displays on local history.

One of many lovely streets in Rye
Historic museum building in Rye
Rye harbour

Back at the dealership, we collected our fixed van, and the carpets which had been professionally cleaned. We were very grateful next day when the weather turned a bit chilly and damp and we had lovely warm, homely carpets to keep our feet warm! It was now time to leave East Sussex and make our way, via Gosport, to visit Suzanne and family in Wantage then the rest of the family in Bedfordshire. We also caught up with some friends and swapped our Summer wardrobes for Autumn clothes at Clyde’s sister’s house.

Although we had been on campsites and visiting towns and National Trust properties, we were still very much restricted by the Covid regulations. The rule of six people indoors together has prevented any of our usual family gatherings and the children have had their activities curtailed and education interrupted.

CHEDDAR

It was now mid October and we decided on a visit to Cheddar for a change of scene. The campsite was very attractive and situated a short walk from the village. We did not visit the gorge as we have been before, but took the opportunity to get the bus to Glastonbury and Wells.

Cheddar is a large village and civil parish in the Sedgemoor district of the English county of Somerset. It is situated on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills, 9 miles north-west of Wells, 11 miles south-east of Weston-super-Mare and 18 miles south-west of Bristol. Wikipedia

The parish church is behind the campsite and I enjoyed hearing the bells from “home”. The walk into the village was along the footpath behind the site and away from the rather narrow road that snaked between the buildings on the edge of the village. There is a small river running around the campsite which is very picturesque.

Parish church, Cheddar

GLASTONBURY

We caught the bus to Glastonbury and were grateful, as we could both enjoy the fabulous views in all directions. The town is well known for it’s alternative therapies and lifestyles. It is also home to the famous music festival. There are a wide variety of small shops and decorative courtyards to explore.

Glastonbury is a town in southwest England. It’s known for its ancient and medieval sites, many rich in myth. Glastonbury Tor is a tower-topped hill linked to Arthurian legend, overlooking the marshy Somerset Levels. Once said to be King Arthur’s burial place, Glastonbury Abbey is a ruined monastery dating to the 7th century. Nearby, centuries-old Glastonbury Tribunal has a museum with Iron Age artefacts. ― Google

From the lower end of the main street, we could see the Tor on the hill. We decided against visiting the Abbey and walking up to the Tor, as it was a bit steep for Clyde, still awaiting his knee replacement. Instead, I had an interesting visit to the Tourist Information office and a chat with the TI lady.

Courtyard decoration in Glastonbury
Wall art, typical in Glastonbury

WELLS

We have visited Wells before and enjoyed a visit to the Cathedral. This visit was a bit short as we were relying on the buses which were not very plentiful. The bus from Cheddar was very late and we had just decided to forget it, when it turned up. That left only 90 minutes in Wells before the last bus back. We had a quick visit to the town centre and the Bishops Palace grounds before dashing back to the bus station. It was another scenic bus journey to enjoy, even if we dipped out a bit on the delights of Wells.

Bishops Palace, 800 years old
Bishops Palace moat

After a few days at Cheddar, we spent some time visiting the children and grandchildren in Havant, Wantage and Great Barford. Whilst we were on the campsite at Southbourne, having arrived on 2 November to await an operation on my hand in Portsmouth on 10th, another lockdown was announced and we were to be ejected from the site on 4th! We had no idea what to do this time and phoned the Caravan and Motorhome Club to see if they were offering refuge. We dashed up to Great Barford for the night and celebrated Jessica’s birthday (a bonus!). Whilst there we had a call to say that we could go to Rookesbury Park campsite near Wickham. It was a huge relief and we travelled back to Hampshire to set up home for a few weeks.

Summer 2020 in UK

I am writing this in March 21, so it will be a gallop through our strange Summer and Autumn.

JULY 20

July 4th saw us happily collecting our replacement motorhome from the dealership in Rye. We had bought it remotely, with lots of pictures and a video tour provided by the salesman. We enjoyed a two night stay on a campsite near Ashford to make sure we were happy with everything. It was so exciting to be away from Bedford at last, and on a campsite with other happy campers. The campsites were delighted to be able to open again, and people who had been forced to cancel their usual foreign holidays due to the ongoing pandemic, had taken to the roads in campervans and towing caravans. It remains to be seen whether they have been converted.

Hattie Hymer

Back at Great Barford, near Bedford, we spent a very busy day loading up and a visit to the weighbridge.  Shock, horror, we were very overweight!  There followed a few weeks of discussion with the dealership whether we should return the van, have bits removed, or up-plate to 3850 kg.  Not easy, as Clyde no longer has a C1 licence which means I have to do all the driving.

In the meantime, we left a lot of our kit in Sarah’s garage in Great Barford to reduce the weight, and set off to enjoy the Summer.  Eventually we had the van up-plated and accepted that I would now be the sole driver.

As the Summer progressed we were able to have cautious meetings with family and friends, mostly outside. It was so lovely to spend time with our grandchildren again. We also managed some trips away, in between hospital appointments for Clyde.

One of our regular haunts became the campsite at Southbourne in Hampshire. This is a handy place for visits to Gosport and to our son in Havant. It is within Chichester Harbour and there are some lovely walks to be enjoyed around the harbour in both directions.

View out to part of Chichester Harbour

The remainder of July was spent on campsites in the south, gently enjoying a bit of freedom but constantly guarding against the virus. We became accustomed to social distancing, wearing masks and keeping ourselves and other people safe. That has not really changed as I write this in Mar 21.

AUGUST 20

We started the month with a few family gatherings, outside as per the regulations. We had a fabulous, very hot, day with Suzanne, Alec, Frankie and Sylvie at Bowood House adventure playground. The children thoroughly enjoyed the playground, which was restricted via timed tickets to keep numbers down. After their timeslot was over, we had our picnic overlooking the lake. We then had a lovely garden party for Elijah’s first birthday.

Elijah and Grandma

This was followed by a glorious trip to the beach on Hayling Island with Suz and the children.

Stonethrowing on Hayling

As if to make up for the continuing Covid restrictions, the weather remained glorious throughout the Summer. It was a treat to be in England enjoying the opportunities to see family and friends, always at a safe distance, but face to face after so long apart. We made the most of the chance to visit places we had either not visited for many years, or had never been before.

Here is a small selection:

Rutland Water

Rutland is the smallest county in England and has an enormous and very scenic reservoir. From the campsite just outside Stamford, we explored the various visitor centres around the reservoir. We were also able to meet up with more of our family whilst enjoying the great outdoors.

Suffolk

From Rutland we went to Suffolk and spent a week on a campsite at Polstead. From here we visited Lavenham, Clare and Frinton-on-Sea. The weather took a bit of a dive and we had some heavy rain and winds. However, it did not dampen our spirits and we managed a few hours with old friends in Clare.

Lavenham

This is a very pretty town dating back to the Middle Ages and built around the wool trade. It is widely acknowledged as the best example of a medieval wool town in England.

Most of the buildings in Lavenham today date from the 15th century, many of these were never altered due to the fall of the weaving industry. Consequently the town is still very much on the same scale as it must have been in the 15th century. The Guildhall is the dominant feature in the centre. We had a cream tea in the National Trust tearoom adjoining the Guildhall. Sadly, due to the ongoing restrictions, the hall was not open for visitors.

Guildhall
Lavenham Centre

Frinton on Sea

Back to the fine weather, we decided on a trip to the seaside. I had fond memories of family trips to Frinton, as a child growing up in Suffolk. It seems to have become a lot more busy in the intervening 50 years! I really struggled to find somewhere to park the van. However, faint heart never won fair lady (old saying!). I suddenly spotted a space on the side of the road across from the seafront. We had our sandwiches sitting on a bench overlooking the famous beach huts. A very pleasant and relaxing (once parked) day by the sea.

Beach huts at Frinton

Frinton Victoriana

Clare in Suffolk

This is Suffolk’s smallest town.
During the 14th century the Castle was home to one of the wealthiest women in England. Clare was very prosperous in Medieval times as it was a centre for the wool and cloth trade, and the Church and many of the listed houses were built then using the wealth brought to the town. The church of St Peter and St Paul is a very dominant feature in the town, and on the edge of town is the old railway in the country park with great views over the town from the castle ruins. Lots of history in a very compact Medieval wool town.

Church of St Peter and St Paul

View from Clare Castle
Clyde on bench awaiting his cuppa!

Again, it was many a long year since I had visited Clare. It was lovely to meet up with some old friends here and have tea and cake on a bench by the old railway buildings. Take away only, due to Covid restrictions.

After Suffolk we had a brief stay in Winchcombe in the Cotswolds, before heading over to Isle of Wight to meet Sarah, Chris, Molly and Jessica on a campsite for a few days. We stopped off for a night in Gosport on the way and had a visit to Stokes Bay. Always a joy to be here.

Stokes Bay

Our trip across the Solent next day was lovely with sun shining and views of Portsmouth to enjoy. The Spinnaker Tower was impressive as ever and Old Portsmouth was looking attractive in the sun.

We arrived at the campsite in time to walk to the local pub for Sunday roast. We sat in the garden in the sun and caught up with the family news. By staying on the same campsite we were able to spend more time with the family as all campsites had restrictions on visitors. Sandown was close by and we all enjoyed our beach visits. Chris had his metal detecting kit with him and the beach was a reasonable hunting ground. There was also a lovely cliff top walk, from the campsite to Sandown in one direction, and to Bembridge in the other.

View from cliff top walk

Lucky riders on Sandown beach

After a great few days with the family, we waved them goodbye as they returned home. We moved on to a touring site at Freshwater to complete our fortnight on the Island.

We had some lovely trips out from Freshwater, along the coast road and by bus to Yarmouth, Cowes and the Needles.

South coast of the Isle of Wight
The Needles, Isle of Wight
Yarmouth Harbour. Isle of Wight
Yarmouth, Harbour Street
Guns overlooking the Solent at Cowes

All too soon it was time to head back across the Solent. We spent a week catching up with medical appointments and visiting family and friends. We had developed a problem with the front passenger seat, which necessitated a visit to the dealership at Rye. After getting an emergency fix done in Portsmouth to keep us going, we booked a couple of campsites in East Sussex and cancelled plans to visit Suzanne and family in Wantage. A bit disappointing, but these things are sent to try us!

Jul 20 Explanation of 2019 reposts

Due to my ineptitude, I have had to repost 4 posts from last year. I had created pages for these, but found that my followers could not find them. I had to copy them and turn them into posts. They are, therefore, out of date order. I hope this is not too confusing.

We are currently on a campsite in Southbourne, near Chichester, keeping as safe as possible. The virus is still very much here, and life is not back to normal. These are strange times.

Summer 19 in UK

By the third week in July we had the van back, complete with new floor, and we were ready to get our lives back. After a visit to Wantage, we treated ourselves to a break in Cheltenham. The most convenient place to stay was Cheltenham Racecourse, where the Caravan and Motorhome Club run a campsite. We had a pitch on the rails with sweeping views across the countryside. It was very exposed when the temperature reached 37.5 degrees!

We had one excursion into Cheltenham itself and simply enjoyed walking through the parks and the main streets. Of especial note is The Promenade and Montpelier. These are tree lined and historic areas great for shopping and eating. It has a very refined atmosphere! We also explored the Suffolks and Tivoli which are also full of independent shops and eateries.

Elegant buildings on the Promenade

Inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome I believe


Whilst we awaited the arrival of Marcus and Chantelle’s baby, we visited relatives and pottered about between Bedford and Havant with odd excursions to Gosport. Suzanne and the children came to spend a day on Hayling Island and baby Chilestone arrived the next day. All very exciting.

Other than some time spent on a dodgy campsite on Hayling Island, a nicer time on a CL at Nutbourne, and a short stay at Pevensey, we enjoyed a few days at Canterbury. I went to university at Canterbury in the 1970s and it was a treat to go back for a visit. It was full of tourists and no students as it was still the holidays. We did not fork out a fortune to visit the cathedral but enjoyed exploring the city and in particular, the Westgate Gardens. It was a surprise to me to see punts on the river. I definitely didn’t see anything like that when I was a student. We also visited my old college which has changed a bit but still has the same church in the centre.

Cathedral Gate
St Augustine’s
St Augustine’s Gate
Lady Wootten’s Green
Main Street
Tributory running through the town
Riverside
Westgate Gardens and the Westgate
Old building next to the river
Outside the Cathedral Gate. I have a photo of me at the same place in my student days
Christ Church College

After the blast of nostalgia for me, we returned to Havant for a last few cuddles with Elijah and prepared ourselves for our trip to France and Germany.

August 19 Belgium

We had a vague plan to drive down the Romantische Strasse in Germany, but having already sidetracked ourselves, we thought a stopover in Belgium would be rather lovely. Not expecting to spend any time in Belgium, we did not have a road atlas other than the rather sketchy Europe map. It made things very interesting and I discovered that our new campervan sat nav is not fully functioning. Luckily, I had brought the old Garmin along, and it was pressed back into service.

I rather fancied a visit to Namur and a look at the ACSI camping book came up with a reasonably priced touring park near Namur. Thanks to said sketchy road atlas, this proved to be misleading and we ended up much further south. However, the little village of Mouzaive on the river Semois was a lovely spot for a couple of nights of peace and quiet.

Road to Mouzaive in the leafy valley of the Semois
Log store common in this area
River Semois from the bridge in Mouzaive
River Semois, Wallonia. View from our pitch

Undoubtedly, the region of Wallonia is beautiful and worthy of a longer stay than we had. There is plenty to explore if you like walking and cycling. Our stay was brief but relaxing and we will return to visit Namur another time.

Our journey into Germany was now via Luxembourg. We have visited before so did not stop, but we enjoyed the scenery along the way. As we climbed out of the Semois valley, we enjoyed some stunning views. We stopped at Rochehaut in the Bouillon region to enjoy the views down over the Semois valley.

Sign just by the viewing point
Viewing point at Rochehaut, Bouillon
Samois valley

This area, which is in the Duchy of Luxembourg, is a land of forests criss-crossed by footpaths, with an ancient feel to it. No walking for us, so we pressed on through Luxembourg to Germany.

Autumn 19 France and Remembrance

At last we managed to escape the UK for a bit of European travel whilst we awaited a date for Clyde’s knee operation. We booked a ferry for 26 August and a return for 4 October, which gave us 6 weeks to wander about France, Belgium and Germany.

ARRAS

First destination was Arras, as we had decided to do a bit of war grave visiting. Arras is on the circuit and described as very attractive, so we stopped on the aire for a couple of nights. It was a reasonable stroll into the town and was indeed quite attractive. There are two main large squares and several smaller ones. The cathedral was a disappointment but the squares were lovely and the Town Hall was very impressive. We were hoping to be impressed by the interior of the Town Hall but, we were denied entry as we were too late and had not joined a tour. Just our luck!

Very French square
Arras Town Hall
Memorial near the station

Le Touret War Memorial

This was a great moment as Clyde’s Grandfather was killed in the First World War, in France. His sister had tracked down his memorial to a cemetery in Le Touret, and we were on a mission to find it. This part of France is littered with war graves and memorials to men from countries all over the world. It is truly sobering to see the scale of death and destruction. So many young lives were lost and families affected forever. Clyde’s father was born after the death of his father, and therefore started life, as thousands of other children did, in a grieving family.

The memorial is situated in beautiful, peaceful French countryside. It is a glorious memorial building and Joseph Campouser is named on one of the many tablets. He is also one of thousands with no grave.

Memorial graveyard
Memorial to those without graves
All along the length are memorial tablets with thousands of names
Here he is
So many headstones, so many lost lives
Royal Welsh Fusiliers and others. Just one of a large number of tablets
Peaceful spot

We were so pleased to have had the opportunity to visit this place. Clyde is the first member of his family to ever visit this memorial to his Grandfather and he was very moved by the experience.

YPRES

As we were so close to Ypres in Belgium, we decided to pay a visit and attend the daily ceremony at the Menin Gate. We stayed on a campsite nearby, the one on the edge of town was full, and we drove to Ypres town late afternoon and parked just along from the gate. The town is not very big but has a pleasant town square and attractive buildings including the old town hall.

Ypres town square
Museum commemorating the fallen
Menin Gate
Rear view of Menin Gate

We walked up the steps of the Menin Gate and looked at the thousands of names engraved on the walls. More than 54000 Commonwealth servicemen were killed in the Ypres Salient during the First World War who have no known grave. The Menin Gate was unveiled by Lord Plumer in a ceremony on 24 July 1927 that was attended by veterans and relatives of the missing.

In his speech, Lord Plumer declared:”Now it can be said of each one in whose honour we are assembled here today:’He is not missing, he is here’.” At the end of the service, buglers sounded the “Last Post”, a tradition that continues today.

Last Post plaque

On the day we visited, there was a male voice choir singing as well as the Last Post played by 3 buglers. It was a haunting sound echoing around the walls.

Choir ready to sing at the 8pm ceremony

After a few days of driving around the old war grave sites and experiencing the way that these men are remembered in foreign fields, we continued our journey through Belgium.

Sep 19 Germany

This is our first visit to Germany since we moved back to the UK in Feb 2010 and we were very excited to be back. Our plan was to drive along the Romantische Strasse as we had completed some of it in our MX5 many years ago and thought it would be different to be able to park up in the campervan in some of the most scenic places. Rather than dash to the start of the Romantische Strasse, we decided to spend some time on the Mosel, and headed for Bernkastel-Kues. As we drove over the bridge at Zeltingen, en route, I spotted a stellplatze right by the river. We quickly changed our plan and swung in to grab a riverside pitch.

Riverside pitch. Plenty of boats to watch.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the river was looking gorgeous. Zeltingen is a typical wine producing town, picturesque and with a backdrop of vineyards. We enjoyed two nights here and found it hard to tear ourselves away. We even treated ourselves to a meal out in a restaurant overlooking the river. Not something we do very often!

Zeltingen on the Mosel
Pretty timbered houses
Vineyard background
Grand river front building

Feeling that we should get moving, we moved a whole 4.5 kilometers along the road to a touring site within walking distance of Bernkastel-Kues. Although it was not quite as scenic we still managed a riverside pitch and stayed for 2 nights, just long enough for a quick visit to the town.

We have been here before but it was still rather lovely . It is one of the more touristy towns and there were a few Oriental visitors getting in the way as they posed themselves in front of the various attractions. However, it was nice to see a bit of bustling activity. There are the usual half timbered buildings which are quirky and pretty, and you can walk through to the vineyard covered hills beyond. The river is busy here with river cruise boats and day trip boats coming and going.

Lots of angles on this one!
Nice variety of coloured buildings
More Mosel buildings
Lots of elegant buildings like this in Bernkastel

This is a very picturesque and much photographed Mosel town. There are others just as lovely.

Our next stop was Senheim near Cochem. The plan here was to stay on a campsite where we could get the washing done and hung out to dry whilst bussing into Cochem. The campsite we chose is a Dutch run site and therefore, very orderly. It was also very full with mostly Dutch people. Not a problem, at least we got one of a few remaining pitches and a river view between some caravans. The weather let us down here and we didn’t go into Cochem. We did manage to dodge the showers and walk into the village for a look around. Not much here apart from a winery offering tasting tours, and a few eateries. The walk along the river was pleasant enough and the view across to the neighbouring village was pretty in the evening.

Mosel at Senheim
Main road through village
Central hotel with typical decorative sign
Another decorative sign. Most of the menus focus on pork
Looking across to village opposite campsite
Senheim village church

It was time to move on again, otherwise we were never going to get to the Romantische Strasse. We drove along the Mosel through some gorgeous villages where the stellplatz were bustling, and we were very tempted to stop for a while. However, we felt we must stick to our plan and promised ourselves a return visit. We headed across country, over the hills and finally arrived at Wurzburg which is at the start of the Romantische Strasse.

WURZBURG

Once again we struck lucky with our spot on the stellplatz. We arrived to find it was full and had just parked in a normal car parking place when, to our delight, someone decided to leave. We quickly spun our seats round and shifted onto a river front spot. We also had electricity so we were able to charge all our devices and save on our gas. This becomes more exciting, the more we live off grid!

Relaxing spot by the river

Now we were settled, we walked along the river and over the Alte Main Brucke, into the heart of the city. By now it was early evening and folk were enjoying glasses of local wine as they strolled across the bridge. It was a lovely atmosphere on a beautiful late summers evening. We also enjoyed watching the cruise boats passing through the lock under the bridge and very close to our van on the stellplatz.

Socialising on the bridge at Wurzburg
River cruise boat at Wurzburg just approaching the lock

There is a lot to see in Wurzburg including the Residenz, which is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. We needed a full day to visit The Residenz, so we had a day following the walking tour guide around Wurzburg and a day dedicated to The Residenz. The Fortress Marienberg which is on the hill overlooking Wurzburg had to be added to our future list.

Here are a few of the best bits that we saw on our walk round. We were staying close enough to be able to go back to the van for a couple of hours before heading back into town to enjoy the evening atmosphere.

Marienkapelle
Marienkapelle
Marienkapelle at night
Grafeneckart and Town Hall

Long arcade at the Juliusspital. Founded in 1576
Attractive courtyard of the Juliusspital
Fountain in gardens behind the Juliusspital
Unusual statues in Juliusspital gardens
Falkenhaus. Formerly a guesthouse. Facade dates from 1751
Stift Haug dominating the area
Stift Haug. First church building of the Baroque era in Franconia
Cathedral of St Kilian. A mixture of eras and styles
Inside the Neumunsterkirche
Ornate frontage.
Grafeneckart and Town Hall at night
Statue outside the Grafeneckart in Beim Grafen
Group entertaining in the square outside the Grafeneckart
Cruise ship on River Main at Wurzburg

The visit to the Residenz and the Court Garden was our aim for the next day. It was a 30 minute walk through the town and we arrived just in time for a guided tour in English. No photos were allowed inside the building so we bought a postcard! It was rather relaxing just listening to the guide and marvelling at the ostentatious decor. The mirror room was the most amazing sight. Much of the building has undergone restoration since a devastating fire in 1945 which has cost a fortune and I am sure is helped by the contributions of visitors. The staircase is also a wondrous sight. It is an unsupported vaulted roof which was decorated by Venetian Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in 1752/3. The ceiling fresco represents the four continents and is one of the largest frescoes ever created.

We had to satisfy our photographic desire by taking pictures of the outside. It is a big place and the grounds are not extensive so we managed to find a bench on which to eat our sandwiches.

A bit of colour outside the palace
Formal gardens at the rear
Interesting use of the trees for sheltering the statues!
View from our picnic bench

We had a cup of very expensive coffee in the restaurant and made our way back to the aire. Altogether a very pleasant couple of days. In the tourist office we had picked up a guide to the Romantic Road. It has a map and brief details of all the participating places. We did not realise that there are 29 destinations along the route! We decided quite quickly that we would need to be selective.

BAD MERGENTHEIM

Bad Mergentheim is the former town of residence of the Grand and German Masters of the order of Teutonic Knights. It has a castle of the Teutonic Order with a chapel and museum. From our parking place near the stellplatz across the park from the town, we walked through the castle grounds and gateway into the town. The market place is home to some fine half-timbered houses and Baroque palaces. The town has a reputation for its spa and wellness focus.

Rathaus Square
Kloster
One of many lovely old buildings
Busy little place

We did not think there was enough here to keep us overnight, so we did not stay on the stellplatz. We moved on to our next stop at Rothenburg ready to immerse ourselves in a feast of Medieval delight.

ROTHENBURG ob der TAUBER

We had a tricky time getting round the old town and onto the right road for the stellplatz. The sat nav wanted to direct us through the narrow archways and through the pretty cobbled streets. Eventually, instinct paid off and we arrived safely. The stellplatz was extremely busy but we managed to find a spot for the night. In the morning, there was the usual movement and we dashed into a newly vacant spot with a grass verge and electric. It is not essential for us to have electric but, it is a bonus if we can keep things charged, such as the camera battery and the phones.

Once settled on the first evening, we walked into the town through one of the town gates in the wall. From here you can access the town wall via the Spital Bastion or walk up one of the most photographed streets in Germany, Spitalgasse. Rothenburg is a really beautiful Medieval town with an interesting history. It became a commercial centre in the 12th century, due to its position, and in 1274 it was elevated to a Free Imperial City by King Rudolph of Habsburg. In 1618-48, it was a victim of the 30 years war then was only saved from invasion by the Meistertrunk (Master draught). In 1945 40% of the buildings were destroyed in a bombing attack by allied forces. Financial support from around the world enabled the destroyed areas to be restored.

Spitalgasse

Our first day was spent in the town and the Burggarten. There were plenty of visitors giving the place a buzz, mostly American for a change. The Christmas shops were in full swing and doing a roaring trade. There are so many attractive buildings, it is an absorbing place to visit. The only slight disappointment was the glockenspiel. The two figures that appear when the doors open do not come out. I think we were spoiled by the really exciting one in Goslar.

Spital Bastion. There are two inner courtyards, seven gates and an upper walkway
Inner courtyard
Upper walkway
One of the guns in the upper walkway
Town viewed from the Burggarten

At 8pm every day, there is a night watchman tour of the city. I attended the tour on our first full day there, with a neighbour from the stellplatz, whilst Clyde and her husband sat in the market square with a beer. It helped to get a feeling for the history of the place and I revisited some of the parts the next day in daylight.

On our second day, we did the walk around as much of the walls as we could access. There are 7 towers still accessible and one of them is open for you to climb up and view the town from the top.

Altogether, Rothenburg is a truly worthwhile stop on the Romantische Strasse and one we would not have wanted to miss.

View from the wall walkway
Interesting shaped building viewed from the walkway

DINKELSBUHL

On our way to our next stop at Dinkelsbuhl, we paused at Feuchtwangen and Schillingsfurst, as they are on the Romantic Road list. Both small places, the view from the Schloss at Feuchtwangen was best bit for us, as we did not visit the schloss itself. There was a great atmosphere in Schillingsfurst as it was a family fun run day. The local band were there playing good old German music to cheer things along. We stood and applauded the runners for a while before moving on.

View from outside the Schloss at Feuchtwangen
Fun run celebrations at Schillingsfurst

We decided on a campsite at Dinkelsbuhl so I could get some washing done. I booked in advance for once and when we arrived, I discovered I had booked a site near Munich with the same name!! Last time I do that, as I lost my £4.50 deposit!

It was a 20 minute walk into the town, which is more compact than Rothenburg but also Medieval with lots of unspoiled buildings. The streets are wider which gives it a different feel. We had a wander round and then enjoyed an iced coffee overlooking the main street.

Centre of Dinkelsbuhl

The Cathedral by the main square

Dinkelsbuhl had a different atmosphere from Rothenburg. It was not nearly as busy or touristy and was a lovely relaxing place to enjoy for a few hours.

DONAUWORTH

This was another short stay for us as it was not very exciting. We managed to squeeze onto the free stellplatz, where we bumped into some people who had been at Rothenburg. We had a walk into the town, were slightly disappointed by the glockenspiel at 1630, visited the cathedral and back to the van via a riverside cafe for coffee. The weather was not so bright which probably coloured our view!

Nice pink town gateway
Glockenspiel. The bells played a nice tune at 1630 each day
Very decorative cathedral
Nice feature in the main street

NEUBERG AN DER DANAU

By now, we fancied a change from the Romantic Road and made for the Danube. We stopped at Neuberg with the idea of strolling by the Danube and visiting the Schloss. We were happy with the stellplatz, as it was on the banks of the river and had a great view of the schloss.

Neuberg Schloss

Sadly, this was another of those places that look better from the outside. We paid to go in the schloss and were disappointed by the lack of anything decorative within. The courtyard had interesting painted walls which were unlike anything we had seen before.

Painted walls in the courtyard
Handsome courtyard

There is a compact old town with some attractive buildings but, when we were there, it was deserted. The lack of people made it feel unattractive and we were not inclined to linger.

One of the central buildings

The best part of this visit for us was the view of the schloss across the river, and the stellplatz where we relaxed in the sun.

AUGSBURG

Back on task, we went to Augsburg. It was a 30 minute walk into the centre from the stellplatz which we did twice. It was not good for Clyde’s knee so we limited the walking around Augsburg and focussed on the central parts. This is a university town and has a lively feel to it. The central square was busy and on our second visit, there was a peaceful, but musical, demonstration taking place in recognition of the world climate justice protest.

Augsburg has an interesting history and we visited the Fugger and Welser museum to see how the two families had contributed to the development of the city through their trading and banking activities. The grand Maximilianstrasse has some lovely buildings and I also visited the Fuggerei. This was the 1st social housing complex in the world, set up by the Fuggers in 1521. It is still operating today and is a most interesting place to visit. I am not sure what the residents feel about living in a museum with people walking past their windows having a good look and taking photos!

Building on Maximilianstrasse
One of the streets in the Fuggerei
All the buildings are this colour and well maintained
Inside the historic preserved cottage
Kitchen as left by a resident
Inside the Golden Saal

Inside the Rathaus is the renovated Golden Saal. It is used for grand occasions and weddings. It is certainly an impressive sight. We paid to go in and have a look. Not to be missed!

It was time to move on. There is a lot of the Romantische Strasse to cover!

ROTTENBUCH
Augsburgh exhausted, we looked at our Romantische Strasse leaflet again and plumped for a visit to somewhere more countrified. Rottenbuch seemed to fit the bill so we decided to spend a couple of days on the ACSI site there, get the washing done, and explore the local area.
The first afternoon there, we walked into the village. It is not very big but there are some lovely walks in the area. The village is mostly comprised of the Klosterhof and is extremely charming. We stepped through the creaky door of the rather plain looking church and our eyes popped out. What a stunning interior! This was definitely the highlight of the village.

Unassuming front door
Church at Rottenbuch
So much plaster, carving and gold leaf!
Lots of gilt
Klosterhof

Next day, we went to visit Schloss Linderhof, which is a 30 minute drive away through very pretty countryside. The schloss grounds are extensive but only a relatively small area is devoted to formal gardens. The schloss is very small and was built by King Ludwig 11. It was the only palace that was finished in his lifetime and he actually lived there for part of the time. He was a strange character who did not like people much and preferred his own company so he had small rooms for receiving guests as large gatherings were not his thing. The rooms that ae available for visiting, by guided tour only, are sumptious Roccoco afairs. The mirrored room is astonishing but as you are not permitted to take photos in the Palace, I have no evidence to share here. We enjoyed the flora fountain in the front courtyard but the cascade is undergoing renovation so it was closed off. The views from the top of the staircase in front of the palace are also very pleasing.

Flora Fountain
Pretty gardens
Folly at top of steps in front of the palace

On the way home we stopped for a cup of tea by a lake which was very busy with locals enjoying a swim and boating activities. Back at the campsite, my washing was dry. Just as well as it rained all the next day. We used the time to do some planning and decided to extend our stay in Europe by two weeks.

As we were initially planning to drive down to Monaco in France, we thought a stay by the Bodensee would make a convenient stopping place. The weather had not improved much when we set off but we stuck to the plan and stopped overnight on the stellplatz outside the campsite at Lindau. It was not the best part of the lake but was fine for one night. Next day we made it to the border town of Freiburg.

FREIBURG
We found the stellplatz in Freiburg quite easily and were welcomed by the friendly Manager, who spoke excellent English. His wife provided us with a map and information about the city. It was a bit of a step into the centre but having the map was a bonus as we probably would have gone wrong along the way, as we did in Augsburg. A determined English lady from a van near us also gave us detailed instructions, which actually confused us a bit! I remembered having been to Freiburg several years ago but I did not recognise it until we finally found the Altstadt. We must have stayed on a different stellplatz last time and approached from a different direction. It is a very bustling city full of students. We were helped by a lovely young man who saw we were lost in the back streets. He was pleased to practice his English with us. We only had a short time to spend here and the weather was inclement, but the old parts were well worth a visit.

Neues Rathaus
Cathedral Square
Altes Rathaus
Haus zum Walfische

Cathedral

After a couple of hours enjoying Freiburg we were ready to head back to the van and prepare for our trip across the border into France.

May 2020 – Virus Rages On

Looking back at my diary for May reminded me of some small pleasures. We had to attend an emergency eye appointment for Clyde at QA hospital in Portsmouth. This involved borrowing our daughters’ car (carefully sanitised), and we had the treat of speaking to the children from the end of their drive. Self shoulder hugs all round and blown kisses from 10 feet away.

The next day saw us creeping quietly from the house at 0600 complete with flask of coffee and enough sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. We had an eerie trip along the unusually quiet motorways and arrived in record time. We had time to park at the car park on Portsdown Hill where we enjoyed the view across to the harbour and Spinnaker Tower, glistening in the glorious sunlight. We had a small cup of coffee as there were no facilities open! I dropped Clyde off at the front of the hospital and went in search of somewhere to park. It was not easy as most of the car parking is now reserved for staff. I finally found a small space at the back of the site and awaited his return. When he emerged blinded by the eye drops, he could not see me and I had to resort to old lady style cooees! Back up the hill to enjoy our lunch sandwiches and have another small drop of coffee. No toilet trip for me, Clyde was lucky as he had found one in the hospital. I managed the drive back to Bedford before desperation set in. It is not easy travelling during lockdown.

It was now the 75th anniversary of VE day and we had a socially distanced street celebration. This involved sitting in the front gardens with our own picnics. However, we managed to chat to the neighbours, listen to music and enjoy the ambience.

15 May was the first time I had seen my best friend since before lockdown. The rules were now relaxed enough to be allowed to meet one other person outside at a distance of 2 metres. We met at the Country Park in Bedford and brought our own cup of tea and chocolate biscuits. We then had a walk around the lake in the sunshine. Odd to be together but apart.

Priory Lake

Interesting bench in the Country Park

It was such a lovely treat to see Gill and catch up with our news face to face, albeit at a distance.

There are a few empty pages in my diary for May, which reflects how my world seems to have shrunk. My highlights are my daily walks, now up to between 6 and 8 km per day, video calls with the children and grandchildren, and working on crochet projects. Thank goodness for the sunny weather enabling us to get out in the garden for some of our meals and reading our books. We are so lucky to have been able to move in with Clyde’s sister until we can get back on a campsite. We are also very grateful that so far, our family have remained well.

Bedford Embankment

By the last week in May the lockdown had been relaxed further and we were able to meet some of the family in a local park with each household observing the 2 metre distance rule. We had also managed to find a buyer for the campervan as we had decided to look for something a bit more spacious. It was very sad to see it go as it has been our home since we started full time travelling in October 2017. Now we can proceed with the purchase of a replacement. More on that coming up.

April 2020 Lockdown continues

We have now been in Bedford for 3 weeks and there are shocking death rates being reported daily across the UK. So far we have remained well, and the neighbours here are all pulling together to keep each other safe and provided for. Social distancing has been adhered to locally, apart from a few non compliers.

We are missing the children and grandchildren masses, but so far our family has remained well. We have been touched by the sorrow for so many families as the virus sweeps across the country taking so many lives.

I have managed to Nordic walk an average of 5 km per day for my daily exercise allocation. It seems a good idea to use this time to improve our fitness and diet, whilst dreaming of the open road. I am managing the fitness, not so good on diet thus far. Last week I made bread pudding to use up leftover rolls, as we are really focussing on limited excursions to the food shops and reducing waste. It was welcomed by Clyde and by Shane next door. However, after a disappointing scales experience, we have decided that in the weeks ahead, we will not have puddings or cake except on odd occasions.

This has been an opportunity for me to explore parts of Bedford I was previously unfamiliar with. The Spring weather has taken the sting out of the tail of this period of isolation. The blossom on the trees and the Spring bulbs, have been beautiful in the sunshine.

A host of golden daffodils!
River Great Ouse
Totum pole in Priory Country Park
Local park
Forsythia
Golden Acer
Cherry blossom
Fabulous blossom
Silver Birch

The natural beauty of Spring is there for all to enjoy. This year it was enhanced by the sounds of birdsong that are so often drowned out by traffic noise. This is the silver lining.

Mar 20 – All Change

It is difficult to know where to start. As we dashed back to UK, the Corona Virus was already wreaking havoc in China and starting to be reported in Europe. By the time we had completed the medical appointments and moved on to visit Suzanne and family in Wantage, then Sarah and family in Great Barford, the virus was starting to change lives.

Almost as though we had got an inkling of things to come, I had decided it was time to visit my eldest brother in Bury St Edmunds. For a number of reasons, we have not seen each other for 15 years, and it was a lovely reunion. I also managed a coffee and cake session with my best mate Gill, which will have to keep us going for a while now. Thank goodness for phones, internet and social media!

We spent a few days in Great Barford, which meant we could do a bit of normal grandparent stuff with Molly and Jessica. A trip to Wimpole Hall, National Trust, was the last family outing before we left again.

Images courtesy of Jessica (age 11)

Jessica as photographer




By Monday morning we had decided that we should remove ourselves into isolation, as Clyde is 79. We chose a Caravan and Motorhome Club site at Malvern and booked in for a week initially. We have been here before and so we knew that it is near the village of Hanley Swan and the small town of Great Malvern. The countryside is beautiful, and it was very deserted and peaceful on the campsite.

Deserted campsite
Lonely van!
Village pond. Pub in distance
Pond again, Post Office in background

All was well, but we started to feel that we should perhaps move ourselves a bit closer to family and friends. We became concerned that if we should become unwell, we would have no support if we remained isolated here. There was also an increasing issue with people heading off to their holiday homes and caravan sites, rather than staying at home. This movement would put immense pressure on some areas and therefore, the Government initiated a further stage of the developing social isolation policy to reduce the spread of the virus. On the Sunday morning of our stay, the warden came to advise us that all campsites would be closing with immediate effect. We asked whether there was any leeway at all for those of us who live full time in our vans. He contacted his head office and came back to say they had agreed to let us stay long enough to make alternative arrangements. It was a big relief, as I had just hung out the washing!!

Joking aside, we are very fortunate to have Clyde’s sister in a house that is big enough for us to move in with her for a while. On the Monday morning we drove down to Gosport to collect Clyde’s prescription, then we drove up to Bedford to become cuckoos in Jean’s nest. We were just in time before more stringent restrictions on movement came into force. Any unnecessary travel was disallowed so we might have struggled to get to our destination.

Prinstead, W Sussex Feb 20

We had to stay near to Portsmouth for the various medical appointments regarding Clyde’s ruptured Achilles Tendon, and his deteriorating eyesight. To that end we booked onto Chichester Camping and Caravan Club site at Southbourne. It is a lovely village between Emsworth and Chichester, with a fabulous farm shop, handy Co-op, and a regular bus service to Chichester and Portsmouth. I was surprised to discover a village called Prinstead, attached to Southbourne next to Chichester harbour. It is a lovely place to walk along the waterside and there are some pretty houses along the way too.

Once all the appointments were over and we had 6 weeks to wait for Clyde to see the consultant again, and have his leg scanned (currently in a boot), we moved on to family in Bedfordshire. Little did we realise how our lives were to change as the Coronavirus took hold across the world!!

French Villages with Aires Feb 2020

Here we were, once again, travelling through France in Feb. Unlike last time, in 2018, we did not have snow, but we did have plenty of wind and rain. We needed to break the journey from Spain to UK into sensible driving distances and so we allowed ourselves 5 days. Most campsites were still closed but there are plenty of aires in France, some of which even have electric points. We were able to get drinking water in most places and there were facilities for emptying waste water and the toilet.

Capbreton

We really loved it here last time we visited, so decided to head there again. The drive from Burgos took nearly 5 hours, but we felt that we had bitten off a good chunk of the journey. It didn’t seem that way after another couple of days on the road! We were last here in Oct 17 and it was buzzing with activity due to the excellent surfing beaches. This time, it was much colder and extremely rough with some heavy rain late in the day. In the morning the bread van arrived bringing delicious French bread to cheer us on our way.

Capbreton beach
Capbreton beach looking in the other direction

Nersac

Nersac is in the Charente Department in South Western France, eight kilometers from Angouleme. The village is very pleasant with a very old church, a chateau that needs Dick and Angel’s attention, and an excellent patisserie. The aire is located behind the Marie’s building and provides free electricity. Campers are requested not to use the electric for running their heating. We were joined by an English couple who were on their way south; lucky them!

We had a stroll around the village between showers and enjoyed the view across the parkland, visited the church, and bought fabulous pastries to have with a reviving cup of Earl Grey tea.

Village Centre. The Marie is behind this building
Small square behind the church
View from the Marie’s place
Parkland view from the aire
Village church
One of the altars in this charming small church
Beautiful colours in this stained glass window
More fabulous colours
Even on a dull day the colours are vibrant
Council buildings alongside the aire
Sunset over the parkland after a stormy day

We were here when the schoolchildren started coming home from school and then reappeared with musical instruments, heading for the music school in the village centre. Several of them bid us a cheery bonjour as they passed. We had a peaceful night, apart from the bonging of the church bells until 11pm and again from 0600!!

St Genouph

This village was a bit remote and there were roadworks in the village centre with a diversion alongside a canal. It was a bit confusing, but we found the aire which was surprisingly busy. The village is in a market gardening region near to Tours and looked as though it would be nice to wander round. However, the storm that was due to arrive around now, had started to make itself felt and we stayed in the warmth of the van. The aire is located on the outskirts of the village and is a short walk into the centre.

Nonancourt

The weather was a bit better today, although breezy and a bit cold. By the time we got to Nonancourt, it was sunny and after a bit of lunch we went exploring. I enjoyed the architecture of this place and once again, the aire was situated alongside the Mairie and the riverside park.

Bridge at Nonancourt
Pretty riverside houses
Town centre
Back streets
Central chateau

Front of the Mairie’s place
WW1 memorial
Church at Nonancourt. It was not open and close to, is quite delapidated

This is a place with a history that starts back in 1112. There are some delightful buildings and a lovely riverside park. Unfortunately, we could not walk along the river as it was far too wet and muddy.

Channel Crossing

At last we were nearing the end of our journey home. We had an e.mail from DFDS advising that our ferry crossing on Sunday was cancelled due to the impending effects of storm Dennis. After much discussion we decided to see whether we could get a crossing on the tunnel instead. The difference in price was £8, so we looked for an aire away from the port, and the immigrants, and found one on a farm.

We arrived in a gale on Saturday, which was Clyde’s birthday, and headed round to the back of a large barn. It looked very modern and robust and provided some much needed shelter. To make his day complete, Clyde battled with the slightly primitive toilet emptying facilities, almost being blown away in the process! It was a far cry from last year’s birthday spent in Madrid. It was a very wild night and in the morning we were very concerned that we might not make it the few kilometers to Calais. However, we managed to keep on the road, which was very quiet, and arrived in time for the earlier crossing. It was certainly a lot faster and calmer travelling through the tunnel and we will probably use it again.

Back in the UK we drove through heavy rain and wind from Folkestone to Gosport and went straight to the minor injuries unit for his leg to be looked at. A ruptured Achilles Tendon was diagnosed and we headed to our usual car park to consider our next move. We were blissfully unaware of the excitement looming once we got into the medical system for Clyde’s leg and eye issues!!

Feb 2020 Burgos

For this trip we stopped on a campsite that had a bus stop outside the gate. It only took 10 minutes to get into the city and cost 1.20 euros each. The campsite was very shady and had obviously enjoyed the same wet weather as the rest of Spain. We were advised to pitch in the middle and still struggled to get free of the mud when we left.

Burgos has to be back on our list as we had terrible weather whilst we were there. It was cold and wet and after a visit to the cathedral, we could not face wandering around the town in the cold for the 4 hours until the next bus. I have put some pictures of the cathedral on here, and a few of the grand buildings around it, but there is definitely more on offer and that will get on the blog next time around.

It is said that Burgos cathedral is one of the most beautiful in Spain. We did not get that impression although the colours in the stained glass are rather wonderful. There are also some lovely carvings and statues. The cupolas are also quite unusual and very attractive.

Squares and streets around cathedral

Steps ascending to the castle

Interior of Cathedral

Oriel window
Stained glass all round the cloisters

Was El Cid in here? If so, he was very short!
I loved this old wall painting
One example of the bling
Wall art on the way to the Cathedral

As you can see, there was plenty to enjoy in and around the Cathedral, this is just a small selection. Interestingly, Clyde was allowed to have the concessionary discount here.

This was a fleeting visit to Burgos, on our long trek north towards home. However, it was a pleasure not to be missed and definitely to be repeated another time.

Feb 2020 Merida

Merida was on our list for a visit so that was our next stop. Because we are cutting our trip short, we have put the white towns, Ronda and Cordoba back on the list.

Although the weather is not so good now, we have to stop somewhere and Merida is a convenient place. There is an aire near the centre so, although it is not very attractive, we settled for a night there. Merida is a town with lots of Roman ruins that are scattered around the less than attractive centre. We had a little exploration, saw the aqueduct, the Circo and then the Roman Theatre and Amphitheatre. Well, I saw the theatre and amphitheatre as we could not have a concessionary rate for Clyde(we were denied it as we are not in the EU) and he was not really all that keen to see yet another Roman ruin. I paid 12 euros to go in and he sat outside in the sun.

I had been unimpressed with the ruins seen up to this point but, the theatre was worth a look. All Roman theatres were built in the same way and served the same purpose of educating the citizens and for political meetings. I had not seen one with the amphitheatre on the same site before.
The photos say it all really:

Stork in nest on aqueduct
Gorgeous stork!
View of columns from behind the stage
View from the cheap seats
Seating is partly replicated
Actors entry tunnel
Amphitheatre

The Spanish have a curious way of preserving their old ruins. We have seen numerous examples of repair to historic ruins, rather than preservation. That aside, we think that Merida would be worth another visit as we did not see everything. Maybe one day……

Feb 2020 Bornos

Bornos was a surprise as we had certainly never heard of it. We came upon it by accident really, as the aire we had intended to stay on at Arcos de Frontera was not as expected. I went back onto Search for Sites, and found a parking place near a lake, not far away. We had an exciting tour around and through Bornos trying to find the place, and eventually found our way to the small promenade instead. It was deserted apart from some workmen on a small building site, so we decided to stay there for the night. The lake, which is actually a reservoir, was lovely and I had a walk into the little town, which was unexpectedly pretty. It is in the Sierra de Cadiz, on the Pueblo Blanco route and has the usual white buildings as well as the Palacio de Los Ribera, which has attractive gardens.

Nice lakeside promenade
View of Embalse de Bornos from the van
Lovely view down to the lake from the road into the town
One of the many arrow roads in this lovely little white town
Ornate centre piece. Shame the fountain wasn’t working
One of the old churches, currently undergoing renovation
Palacio
Palacio grounds. Lovely hedges and flowers as well as ornate pathways
Morning light over the lake. View from the van

We had a really peaceful night and recharged our batteries ready for gobbling up some more miles northwards. We got out of Bornos a little more easily than we got in by not using the SatNav!!

Feb 2020 Cabopino – Costa Del Sol

Having been off grid for a few days, I wanted to have a couple of days on a campsite so that I could do some washing and get all our equipment charged up. The best plan seemed to be a site at Cabopino with a bus stop nearby for catching the bus into Marbella. We arrived early afternoon and bagged the last pitch. It was obviously a popular place, although it was not really our preferred type of campsite. That notwithstanding, we settled onto our pitch and I headed off to the laundry. I met an English couple who advised me how to get to the little marina and the seafront which was handy, as we would not have found it.

Cabopino Marina

It was a bit of a tricky walk to the marina, which was a poor effort after Almerimar. We did find a nice bar which had the rugby on, and there were lots of Ex-Pats there enjoying the match over a glass of beer/wine/gin……We joined them and rested our legs ready for the uphill walk back to the site. It was too much of a walk for Clyde really, so next day, I left him at home and went for a nice walk along the boardwalk through the nature reserve along the sand dunes. It was a much nicer experience than the marina. The dunes are protected and the wildlife is evidence of the success. It makes a very pleasant place to spend time as there are picnic areas as well as the beach which is accessible via boardwalk extensions.

Excellent boardwalk with several entrances onto the beach
One of a string of these towers along the coast providing protection from invasion by the Barbary pirates
The dunes are protected
I chased this fellow to get a shot in the dunes. I was on the boardwalk

Having got the washing dry and ironed, it was time to move on again. We were very reluctant to move away from the sun but the campsite was too shady, so we agreed that a day or two at the marina at La Linea, near Gibraltar would be rather lovely. We arrived there in glorious sunshine and I had planned to walk into Gib for a spot of shopping next day. Sadly, the bad weather arrived in the early evening, planes were cancelled and we had ships foghorns sounding all evening. Next morning we awoke to a damp, foggy day and decided to call it quits. It was time to start heading north on the long trek home.