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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Extreme Felting

The Extreme Knitter has now added Extreme Felter to her list of nicknames. I treated her to a one day felting workshop for her birthday as she has always wanted to try it.

The course was held at a cottage studio in Hatton, Warwick with six other beginners.

When I collected her she was pleased as punch with her felted figure of Ruby. I was amazed at the likeness and at her first attempt. I’m really proud of her because she seems to be able to turn her hand to anything.

She wants to book another workshop that will hone her detailing skills.

The course is run by Sophie Wheatley from “All things felt and beautiful”  07706279252

e mail :  sophie@feltandbeautiful.co.uk

All things felt and beautiful

I was told that not only was the course inspiring and enjoyable, but it was complemented by a magnificent meal and desert. You would have thought I’d have had a doggy bag.

Unfortunately this photo doesn’t do justice to the texture of the figure that can be seen in real life.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

 

It’s getting hot in here

One thing that Puffin lacks is an oven. We have two hob burners and a grill which is fine, but sometimes it would be nice to oven bake some delicacies.

I discovered the Omnia oven on a boating web site and it seemed to be just right for our camping style however the purchase price of £45- £50 was putting me off buying one.

Well blow me down with a feather, Ruby only went and bought the extreme knitter and me one for Christmas. This alone is an amazing feat for such a small dog.

The Omnia Oven

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The Swedish designed Omnia oven sits on top of a hob burner and heats the ring shaped oven chamber by convecting heat up the central chimney.

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The first test was to warm up some part baked rolls bought from Morrisons. These were heated on a low setting for 15 mins. I put them on some tin foil to stop any burning. The results were great.

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We bought our Omnia from http://www.simplybrilliantstuff.com/

This will open up our cooking choices instead of just eating bacon bap; we now have a vista of dishes only limited by our imagination and ingredients.

Jacket potatoes, bread, unusual shaped pizzas and even cakes are now on the menu.

The trick to using it revolves around getting the cooking time and the hob burner settings correct.

The recipe book that is downloaded from the Omnia web site gives away the ovens Swedish origins as most of the dishes are fish based.

The book gives you an idea of the cooking times, but it takes some experimentation to get it perfect

I initially thought that it would use a lot of gas. We only have room in Puffins gas cupboard for one 2.72 kg Camping Gaz 907 and one 6kg Calor Gas cylinder and I was worried it would quickly deplete our gas stocks, but the hob burner needs to be set quite low. A rough costing of gas usage worked out at 40 pence an hour

One of the by products of the oven is the heat generated which quickly warmed Puffin up, so for our 40p we are getting roast potatoes and heating Puffin for an hour.

Who would complain about sitting on a chilly winter’s night in a toasty warm campervan eating freshly baked crusty bread and homemade soup?

The oven packs down to quite a small size in its storage bag, so finding room for it in Puffin wasn’t too bad.

 

I’m lucky that I’m given unusual and quirky Christmas presents. The e/knitter gave me a Tiffin sandwich tin that I’ve been wanting for sometime. This is the only cool way to transport your lunch.

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I also received a bottle of Camp coffee. I haven’t see Camp coffee since my childhood when it was the only inexpensive coffee available, Nescafe instant was far too costly in those days. It wasn’t always Costa and Starbucks.

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I can’t tell you how pleased I was to get a roll of sniper tape and a length of Para cord of my Grandson which will be used in one of my future projects on the campervan.

A favourite Niece (well the only one we have) gave me pair of VW socks and a Ukulele pin badge.

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We received a smelly candle in a jar off our Granddaughter that will be used in Puffin to take away cooking smells. We had a very good Christmas.

Tomorrow the Lady extreme knitter returns to hospital to have her plaster cast changed. She’s hoping for a pink one this time, but I think she has plans to knit a big sock for it anyway. Any excuse to get her knitting needles out..