If I could turn back time

Puffin the camper van was fired up and off we set to visit some of our old haunts from the past. 50 odd years in our past to be precise.

Destination Kinver,  Staffordshire, where I grew up and spent my childhood creating havoc. If i hadn’t left when I was eighteen, I’m sure I would have been run out of town by a mob with pitchforks.

Kinver Edge

Kinver Edge was the the reason for our visit. In particular the Rock houses on the Edge. Now owned by the National Trust who restored the site having been gifted it in 1967. It was opened to the public in 1997. The Holy Austin Rock houses were cave dwellings carved into the sandstone that had been occupied from 1617 until the final residents were moved out in 1964.

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Yes you are reading this correctly, I lived in a village were people lived in caves. I went to school with cave dwellers. Once the caves were empty they became our playground. Being soft sand stone all the walls had names carved in them by generations of kids including mine, but I couldn’t find them.

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This is well worth a visit if your in the area. The restoration is amazing.

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As dogs weren’t allowed in the rooms we took it in turns to walk around. Of course once the Extreme knitter got into the the room with the sewing machine she was gone for ages.

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The Extreme knitter resting with Elsie and in there somewhere is Ruby.

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The trip was completed with a visit to Bridgnorth and a ride on my favourite funicular.

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Whitby

The campsite we were staying on was clean and regimented, but not the type that we would normally stay at with its neat pitches in straight rows and lots of “do not do” signs. When you’ve been staying off grid for a while it rankles being told what you can and can’t do, especially when the commands are just common sense things you wouldn’t dream of doing. One even said “do not wear walking boots in the shower” I can’t remember the last time I showered on walking boots.

Anyway we were there and that was that. Nice, but It lacked a soul.

It was bright sunshine when we set off to visit Whitby; by the time we had found somewhere to park it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale. Luckily a man just leaving the car park gave us his ticket with six hours parking left on it. We were hardy tourists and we all wrapped up in our rainwear including Elsie. Touring the town proved difficult, looking in shops and trying to keep upright at the same time. It was that windy it was a struggle to cross the bridge to the Scary part of Whitby.

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To get some relieve from being battered by the wind, we shot into a dog friendly pub that served local fish and chips. We found a table and ordered our food just before the rest of Whitby descended on the pub all with the same idea.

I was going to run up these steps. really!

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Back on the harbour and the Extreme Knitter saw a sign that brought back traumatic memories of one holiday we had in St Ives, back in the 1990’s. She had just purchased a clotted cream Ice-cream, when a rogue seagull swooped down and snatched it from her hand before she had even licked it. Was she livid that day? You bet she was and she still has flashbacks to this day. She even reckoned that if she saw it again she would recognise it. The seagull that is, not the ice cream.

whitby gulls

When we left Whitby I gave the parking ticket to another happy parker with three hours still remaining.

Puffin’s wiper blade decided to start shredding itself in all the torrential rain, so a trip to the local Halfords was called for and a pair of new wiper blades were purchased and fitted in their car park. Luckily it had stopped raining long enough for me to avoid getting soaked while fitting them.

The rain had set in for the rest of the day, so we spent the remains of our time in the camper reading, eating and generally lounging about until bedtime.

We hit the Wall

Morrisons at Hawick was our first port of call in the morning to use their facilities yet again. I like to think of Morrisons as our version of Walmart in the USA, although they don’t let us stop over in their car parks as Walmart do.

I had a plan. not a good one, but a plan all the same.

We needed to be beside the seaside and on our way we stumbled across Hadrians Wall.

Hadrians Wall

A section of Hadrians wall at Cawfield

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Apparently Hadrians wall took six years to build. I imagined that after 2 years Mrs Hadrian was losing her patience with him taking so long on his DIY project

“Hadrian”.  “you had better get that back wall finished before my mother visits”.

I set the Sat nav for a seaside destination and followed the back roads that she suggested. (yes, I do call my Sat nav a “she”) which isn’t normally a good thing, but this time she surprised us with a fabulous trip. It was obvious we weren’t going to reach the seaside before nightfall, so we scouted around for somewhere to pull over for the evening. After inspecting many places that neither of us could agree on, we eventually found a large parking area at one of the highest point of the North Pennines called Killhope Cross on the A689

Killhope Cross

We parked up just as the sun was setting. The beauty of places like this is the dark sky. As night fell it was pitch black and the cloud less sky was awash with stars.

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The only thing the extreme knitter was concerned about was that the strong wind might blow us over.

About 10 pm the gas ran out, so in the pitch black with the rain and wind lashing down on me, I ventured outside the camper van to swop over to the spare gas bottle.

Why doesn’t the Gas ever run out during the daytime.

 

 

Hawick and Kielder Forest

We had a very quiet night in the Hawick car park. 

Hawick Aire

The following morning after bacon butties, we visited Morrisons to use their facilities again before we set off for Kielder Water arriving at the start of the forest drive, a 12 mile long gravel road through Kielder forest.

I had read all the warnings that the forest road was only suitable in a 4×4 vehicle , but I worked on the basis that if the track became impassable we could turn around. The track was a toll road with a payment machine costing £3 and a notice warning about the need for 4 x 4.

I really enjoy driving these forest tracks

Kielder Forest Drive

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A stop over at the six mile point for food and beverages

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The 12 miles of track came to an end near a main road, so we turned around and went back along the track to travel another 12 miles doing the return trip.

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As can be seen from photos the road is a fairly level gravel surface with some steady gradients that you could drive along in your Granny’s Fiat 500 without any bother. Not as challenging as I would have liked, but certainly an enjoyable drive.

It was starting to get late, so somewhere to overnight was a priority before it got dark. There was a pub that allowed motor homes to over night in their car park if you had a drink and a meal in the pub, but It didn’t appeal to us.

I had heard that overnighting around Kielder water including the forestry drive was banned and checked by the forestry agents. All the parking areas had barriers across the access.

We gave up after driving around aimlessly and decided to head back to Hawick car park for another night.

You’ll note that this was the third night we had stayed off grid

Hawick

We decided to travel Eastward along the Scottish border, as further North in Scotland were experiencing some tremendous storms and although we don’t mind a bit of wind and rain, Gale force storms aren’t pleasant in a camper van.

We reached the border town of Hawick mid afternoon. Unfortunately it was a public holiday and the majority of the shops were shut. Luckily good old Morrison’s supermarket came to the rescue again not only for supplies, but when you’ve been camping off the grid you appreciate their clean toilet facilities, better than the usual public conveniences.

Hawick have become tourism leaders in providing for all types of visitors to their town, including free overnight parking for Motor homes and Camper vans. It would be rude not to take up their kind offer, so we parked up in one of the designated motor home bays and settled in for the evening.

 

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The Old Grey Mare

Departing from the Lake District after three nights of luxury camping and we were travelling to the Scottish border, turning off the A74 at the Moffat turn off. Taking a minor road out of Moffat, we arrived at the Grey Mares Tail waterfall in the wind and driving rain.

The volunteer National Trust workers were packing up for the day which left us and one other campervan in the car park. Yeah, another off grid overnight stay for the E/Knitter. I’m sure she will look back at these times with good memories. There is something magical about camping miles from anywhere and anyone in a beautiful location.

The Grey Mares Tail

Our wind and rain battered camp for the night.

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The following morning the rain had died down to a light drizzle, so we walked up to the view point and watch the spectacular waterfall in full flow due to the recent rain.

 

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The scenery here was stunning in a valley carved out during the ice age.

The car park soon started to fill up in the morning

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Maths, Munch and a School Day

My day started with me getting ready for school. I quickly left the house at 8.50am as I wasn’t going to be late for the maths and munch session. Our  seven year old granddaughter, Vicky had invited me to attend a Parents meeting to hear how her school were changing the way they taught maths and they used the promise of a bacon buttie as a lure . It was explained that they had researched the way maths was taught around the world and they came to the conclusion that Shanghai produced the best results. The first part involved us being told that the children were going to be taught and tested on their times table as though this was some amazing method they had just discovered. Anyone reading this of a certain age will remember the Friday mental maths tests we endured saying our times table as a rhyme. Then we were shown the pictorial examples of tuition that had many of us looking confused. Eventually it sank in and we were all there happily laying out counters and drinking straws, creating shapes and graphs that were remarkably similar to an abacus ( remember Shanghai) .

An hour and a half later I was busy loading the camper van with supplies and the extreme knitters vast array of clothes and shoes. All these years and she still hasn’t taken on board the travel light concept .

Ruby stayed with the feral daughter at the crazy shack and Elsie came with us for her longest road trip so far.

It’s now becoming a foregone conclusion that we will always revisit Scotland. So there we were winding our merry way to the Scottish border like a couple of geriatric gypsies, but we were going to go a long way around.

A change of plan to break the trip down into shorter chunks had us heading towards Wales instead, Betws-y-coed, Snowdonia to be precise.

When the Extreme knitter asked where we were staying that night I said “At the Swallow Falls Hotel darling” and she seemed impressed by my choice.

I knew that the Swallow falls hotel offered overnight camping in their car park, so that’s where we went, arriving at 5pm to settle in for the evening. Not quite the en suite hotel room with spa that the E/Knitter was expecting.

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In the Swallow Falls Hotel car park we spotted an unusual tree that we found out much later was in fact a disguised mobile phone mast

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Out second day started as any other as you do when you’ve woken up in a Hotel car park. We ate bacon butties and wandered over the road to look at the Swallow falls. Paying our two pound entrance fee we walked down the many flights of steps . The roar was deafening and the air was saturated with water spray. The recent rain meant the waterfall was in full flow and turbulent.

Swallow Falls

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I suggested that we visit the Zip World forest just to have a look, as you do. I think the extreme knitter could see through my ploy as she’s got used to my sneaky ways .

Zip World

The forest coaster is a fast down hill ride that twists and turns sharply down through the steep forest on a track. She even agreed to go first while I gallantly held Elsie. The first of her three rides was a gentle amble down the track with the brakes on. However the adrenaline kicked for the second and third rides, she let it go full speed and enjoyed it.

Now I’m not one to be beaten by a girl, so I had to man up and just let it go as fast as I could. Wow!!! the rush you get is exhilarating.

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The Extreme Knitter going at full pelt and obviously petrified. This was one of the official photos as all the ones I took turned in to blurred images at that speed.

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We headed back to the Hotel car park for a second evening stop over after a very pleasant wander around Betws-y-coed. We couldn’t be bothered to cook for the evening so drove back down to a pizza shop in Betws-y-coed .  The extreme knitter went in and ordered a ham and pineapple pizza.

” Sorry we don’t put pineapple on pizza, but if you supply your own pineapple we will cook it and charge you a 15 pence fee” said the guy behind the counter. In a state of shock she accepted the ham pizza and departed. Why no pineapple? I don’t know.

Before we set off for this trip our Grandson Sam and his partner Lauren gave us the news that we were going to become Great Grandparents as they were expecting a baby girl in November. We couldn’t more proud of them and thank them for the wonderful gift they are giving us. As you can imagine The Extreme knitters skills were going to be used to the “extreme”, providing far more baby clothes than any child can possibly wear.