A brief return to civilisation

Back on the road again following our overnight stop in the forest.

http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/forest-parks/galloway-forest-park/raiders-road-forest-drive

We stopped at the Glen bar view point then travelled to Newton Stewart. By now we were peckish. We came across a small Italian café that allowed dogs, so in we went and devoured soup and steak rolls.

The Extreme knitter was showing signs of lack of wool fatigue, so Ruby and I returned to the campervan and had a short nap while the E/knitter found a wool shop and passed away an hour or two in woollen heaven. Low and behold she returned with a bag of wool to knit me a hat.

Yes!!!! Me, a hat.

I know. I couldn’t believe it either especially as this was the hottest day yet.

We were able to access mobile phone and wifi signals in the car park for the first time this trip.

After a quick phone call I managed to get a pitch on the Balloch O’Dee campsite not far from Newton Stewart. Following the long single track road, we arrived at the campsite. First impressions were rustic and comfortable with ponies and chickens roaming around. No printed rules and camp fires welcome.

http://www.ballochodee.com/home/4553037475

We had spent the last three nights with limited facilities and we needed to clean up, so the hot showers were a welcome treat.

P1130140

It was strange camping on a busy site again after our solitary three days. This site is popular with people returning time and time again and we could see why. Some sites may have superior facilities, but this one feels right. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it has something magical about it.

P1130148

We all enjoyed staying here, even Ruby who was desperate to make friends with the pony.

Every September they hold  a music festival on site.

P1130150

Like a night in the Forest

After leaving Castle corner caravan site we headed into the Galloway forest area on the A712. Along this road are various stop offs, like the deer park, the goat park, Bruces stone and the visitors centre.

The Goat Park

P1130113

I eventually turned off the A712 on to a dirt track. Two miles along the track is the payment machine and after paying our £2 fee we were driving “The Raiders road”, basically 10 miles of forestry track.

P1130055

Halfway along the track is Otters Pool with a toilet and parking area. This was to be our overnight stop for the night, but it was teeming with day visitors who departed about 5pm, leaving behind the remains of their picnics, litter and broken chairs. There was a group of lads who were camping out in a tent with a large fire. It was obvious that they were there to party the night away, so we decided to move on further along the Raiders road and found a car park at the end of Stroan Loch.

Otters Pool

P1130071

It’s a shame that Otters Pool is so neglected and the main culprits are the locals. It will eventually lead to camping restrictions like the ones being enforced in the Loch Lomond area. (sorry, rant over)

The Otter statue and Ruby

P1130074

We were alone in the parking area at Stroan Loch and the sun was setting  across the Loch. The forest area is a designated dark skies area and as night fell I scanned the sky, but unfortunately the clouds blocked my view of any stars or galaxies.

The sunset over the Loch

P1130090

Sunset on Loch Stroan

P1130092

We woke to find an eerie mist sitting on the water. All was quiet as the road doesn’t open for visitors until 9am. Two red kites circled above the Loch and a couple of walkers stopped to have a chat. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

P1130095

It’s good that we are comfortable to rock up in a pitch black forest, miles from anywhere without any radio, TV, internet or phone signal and have a peaceful nights sleep. We have an agreement that if either of us feels uncomfortable with an overnight stop, we will move on to find somewhere else.

P1130099

Puffin covered in dust from the track

P1130104

We seem to have fallen into the habit of having a lazy start to our days, just being, without any pressing commitments. It was getting near midday when we pulled on to the forest track to continue our journey, so it came as a surprise that I had to brake hard to avoid an owl that swooped down in front of the campervan.

The forest area is amazing and well worth a visit despite the minority of inconsiderate visitors.

 

Having a crafty Peak

We snatched a couple of days off and on Sunday morning headed North to Derbyshire and the Peak District. Our camp site for the trip was Ilam hall the National Trust property.

Ilam Park Caravan site is a beautiful green oasis nestled in the grounds of Ilam Hall, about 5 miles from Ashbourne in the southern end of the Peak District National Park.

The hall was built in 1827 and was destined for demolition in 1930. Three quarters of the hall had been demolished before Sir Robert McDougal (the flour magnet) bought it for the National trust to be used as a youth hostel.

ilam hall

Ilam Hall

I found it rather grand sleeping in the grounds of a Victorian hall, but of course the Extreme knitter being a Lady herself takes it in her stride.

https://escaperoutetales.wordpress.com/2015/12/27/lady-extreme-knitter/

We took the drive away awning with us, but the strong winds meant we couldn’t put it up.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the extensive park land admiring the hall and the river.

robin

Yes, we had meat balls in homemade tomato sauce again, but we have decided to alter our first evening meal for future trips. Just need to decide what to have instead.

Ruby came with us on this trip although she had some dental work carried out in the week. Yorkies are prone to having dental problems, so she had a clean and descale at the Vets. Unfortunately she had to have three teeth removed, one being a baby tooth that hadn’t popped out in her youth. We were concerned that she wouldn’t be up for this trip after the anaesthetic, but she was back to her normal self the following day.

This campsite is stunning and fairly basic in a good way, it’s a bargain at £16 per night with electric hook-up.

view

Our Morning View

The facilities are housed in an annex of the hall which a fair trek from the camp pitches, so a trip to the toilet has to be preplanned. It’s no good waiting until your bursting.

toilet block

Ye oldie toilet block

This slight inconvenience (see what I did there) is a small price to pay for the privilege of using this site. There is however a well sited fresh water, waste water, chemical toilet disposal point and refuse bins situated bang in the centre of the site.

During a late night trek to the toilets I could hear footsteps following me, so I stopped and looked around, but there was no one there.

I carried on and the footsteps started following me again. At this point I was having visions of a mad axe man/woman ready to murder me. After looking around and finding nobody, I finally realized that I was hearing my own footsteps being amplified through my new hearing aids.

Monday morning and Ruby woke me up to go for a wee. The rain was torrential at this point and she didn’t hang about outside for long. We eventually dragged ourselves out of bed and cooked a full English breakfast to set us up for the day.

pitch

Our Corner Pitch

Calamity!!! The electric power supply tripped. A quick reccie showed that rain water had entered the supply socket and tripped the circuit breaker. No problem, the site rangers were sorting it out later for us as we were going out and we didn’t need it until we returned.

Unfortunately, I disconnected our supply cable then I promptly slid down a muddy embankment on my back.

I was covered in mud and feeling embarrassed I quickly got up as if nothing had happened, as you do. I changed my clothes while the Extreme knitter hosed the mud of my rain coat and we finally set off for Bakewell.

Following the sat nav directions, is always a risk, but we got to see some beautiful countryside whilst travelling down some narrow country roads.

We have visited Bakewell before on a previous trip and experienced the Bakewell tart/pudding wars.

https://escaperoutetales.wordpress.com/category/derby/

Well, because I couldn’t decide which was the best back then I just had to have a rematch. Funnily enough even after a tasting session I still couldn’t decide, but I must say the lemon/coconut version of the Bakewell tart was scoring a 10 out of 10, but technically it wasn’t the original recipe so it didn’t count.

Parking in the farmer’s livestock market car park was a little muddy and I had to walk very carefully as I didn’t have another change of clean clothes if I decided to slip over.

The walk in to the town took us across the footbridge covered in padlocks.

padlocks

Padlock Bridge

We drove back to the campsite via Matlock Bath which has gained a reputation for being a landlocked seaside resort. The river creates the focus for the visitors to promenade up and down and during the autumn they have the river and road illuminated similar to Blackpool.

Tuesday came around quickly meaning we were heading home. This campsite is run by National Trust and staffed by volunteers. We couldn’t have wished for a better pair of site rangers as Colin and Jenny. In fact in all the years we have been camping we have never met such a pleasant and helpful couple. We will return.

Of course our trip home would be incomplete without a visit to a wool or sewing shop and as always, the extreme knitter had located two shops in the same street in Darley Dale.

I will say that she is a dab hand at sewing/knitting etc.

Many years ago I asked for a pair of trousers legs to be turned up. “Put them on the sewing pile” she said. A few years later I found my trousers still at the bottom of the pile. I tried them on and found I had grown in to them.

High on a hill

At last we were travelling again after a long lay off. The Malvern Hills in Worcestershire being our weekend destination.

Campsites that are open this time of year are few and far between, so we opted for the Camping and Caravan Club site at Blackmore.

We arrived on the Friday afternoon and settled in. Club sites can be a little regimented, but this one has a lot of grass pitches that make it seem more natural. Ruby was treated to a good walk on the campsite dog walk and we spent the afternoon reading and listening to the radio then settled down for a quiet night in the campervan. The meatballs made an appearance for our evening meal along with my customary Bacardi & coke.

I know it seems like we eat nothing but meatballs in a homemade tomato sauce, but we only have them on our first camping night because it is a easy meal that can be prepared at home to make life easy. There can be weeks or months between our trips, so it was 2 months ago when we last dined on meatballs.

Saturday morning started slowly with a full English breakfast then we set off to Great Malvern and parked in Waitrose to take advantage of 2 hours free car parking. After a wander around the town taking in the farmers market we returned to Waitrose and purchased goodies for our evening meal.

p1120795Farmers Market Great Malvern

p1120793

The Extreme Knitter having a meaningful  discussion with some geezer called Elgar who wrote a few party tunes. 

Ag a do & the Birdy song I think.

We drove towards British Camp situated at the southern end of the Malvern Hills where we had sandwiches for lunch whilst parked in the visitors car park.

p1120817

Suitably fuelled we tackled the long steep pathways up to British Camp that are the remaining earthworks of an Iron Age fort built about the 2nd Century BC.

p1120803

Getting nearer to the top of British Camp

The walks around Malvern are hilly and it had an impact on us all. The three of us had chicken for the evening meal and promptly collapsed for the night totally shattered.

Sunday morning and we were leaving the campsite heading for home. We decided to take the pretty way home firstly calling into Upton on Severn.

p1120818

The Dog poo Fairy

These vintage wreckers have stood for sometime at this garage in Upton.

p1120824

p1120822

p1120825

Pershore was our final stop off before we finally headed home.

Adrenaline Knitters

Today was the extreme knitter’s birthday and for a short period of time I have become her toy boy again.

In amongst her presents this year was a set of Cath Kidson racing knitting needles. Sleek, colour coded, lightweight anodised aluminium needles built for the more demanding speed knitter.

These are the equivalent of go faster stripes on the family saloon car.

p1120739

When the extreme knitter gets into a comfortable knitting rhythm the needles become a flailing blur and the rapid clickity click is no more than white noise.

Life can be tiring living with an adrenaline seeking knitter.

 

I hear the sound of breaking glass

Don’t you hate that heart wrenching moment when you hear the crack of breaking glass and the thought of an expensive repair?

I bent down to pick something up off the floor and my phone slipped out of my shirt pocket onto the hard tiled floor. It dropped about half a metre and landed screen down on a hard tiled floor. The cracking sound made me wince.

The result of the fall

p1120730

Luckily because of my work, my phone is protected by a silicone skin and has a tempered glass screen protector. I carefully removed the screen protector to reveal an unbroken phone screen

 

The relief

p1120731

The tempered glass screen protector cracked.

This screen saver cost £2.99  from e bay and has saved me from having to replace my phone.

With the cost of phones and tablets they are worth fitting and they don’t affect the touch operation of the screen.

As you can see. Its been an uneventful month, work and commitments stopping us getting away.

Puffin past her MOT test without any advisories. We are road taxed and have renewed the insurance, so we are legal and ready to travel.

I did mange to successfully reseal the leaking roof vent, but in all the excitement I forgot to take loads of photos.

p1120694

The hole in the roof after I had cleaned the old sealant away.

I took Puffin to the local weighbridge and she weighs in at a lightweight 2150 kg which gives us a useful 500kg payload allowance.

I can highly recommend anyone in the Warwickshire/Worcestershire area to use the Public weighbridge at Simon & Deans Ltd in Brickyard Lane, Studley B80 7EE. cost £3.50

Bath Christmas Market

When we bought our campervan we said that we would try to never visit the same place twice, so that we would always find new horizons.

Here we are travelling to Bath Christmas market again and using the same campsite for the third time. So much for our earlier statement.

We last visited Bath Christmas market in 2014. We didn’t go last year as we were cabin bound because the extreme knitter had a procedure on her foot.

We’ve been determined to make use of puffin all year round, so decided to book a pitch at Bath Marina Campsite to coincide with the Christmas market. By pure luck I phoned the site on the 29th September 2016 and managed to book the last pitch available. The site is so popular because of its close location opposite the Newbridge Park & Ride.

The lady I spoke to said she was taking booking for December 2017.

We set off on Friday lunchtime arriving at the campsite mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day on the campsite. In the evening we read, knitted and of course the meatballs in a homemade tomato sauce with pasta made an appearance for supper and as I wasn’t driving for the next few days and purely to get into the Christmas spirit the Bacardi made an appearance.

The site has installed free Wifi since our last visit and it gave a strong signal right across the site.

With the dark December nights upon us we settled down to a relaxing evening in Puffin with the television. Each pitch on the site has a TV aerial socket and the dark night makes you want to close the curtains and snuggle down. The battery operated Christmas lights were switched on to create the scene.

This was another dog less trip as it was going to be all shopping, so yet again Ruby was handed over to our feral daughter for a couple of days.

We woke up late on the Saturday morning and after a full English breakfast we walked over the road to the Newbridge Park & Ride to catch the bus into Bath city centre

The Park & Ride has been totally refurbished since our last visit, with toilets and a rental bicycle scheme, but it still had height restriction barriers, so parking a camper or motor home there wasn’t allowed.

It cost me £3 for the return 2 mile trip into the city, but the Extreme knitter travelled free using her bus pass for the first time. We arrived at Westgate Buildings at lunchtime.

As on previous visits to Bath we needed to pace our selves or we wouldn’t be able to last the day. The Christmas market opens at 10.00am, but it is best experienced in the dark to see it fully lit up in the nightime.

We wandered around, taking in the sights and architecture. We needed a late lunch, so headed for the a little Deli/coffee shop we had visited on our last trip.

As the darkness set in we headed for the market situated around the Abbey. It seemed larger than previous visits taking up more side streets. It is mainly local crafts and businesses selling a wide variety of Christmas goodies and speciality foods.

We carried on shopping and sightseeing until we could take no more. The day was only slightly marred by the rain showers

Totally exhausted we caught the 5.30pm bus back to the Park and Ride and then walked to the campsite (I’m glad I took a torch) I’m getting to old for these mammoth retail experiences. We settled in for a relaxing evening in Puffin, but

that was short lived as I noticed a drip of water from the roof light.

Closer inspection showed that the there was a slight leak through the seal. No problem I thought, I’ll just clean it up and put gaffer tape around the edge as a temporary solution.

Every campervan over 20 years old carries a toolbox (I think it’s the law). Open the toolbox and no gaffer tape, so I bodged up a ropey seal with insulating tape.

It looks like I’ll have to remove the roof light and reseal the whole frame. After twenty years the original sealing lasted quite well all things considered.

Sunday morning and we were due to leave the campsite. We had bacon baps for breakfast and we leisurely packed everything away.

After a tiring, but totally enjoyable three days we made our way home.