Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Travels in March

Here's the account of our travels in March when the weather , scenery and friends made such an enjoyable month.
Sites visited:
Grange Caravan Club site, Durham
The Railway Inn, Acklington, Northumberland
Fowberry Farm CL, Bamburgh, Northumberland
Teversal Camping and Caravanning Club site, North Notts,
Castleton Caravan Club , Peak District
Elm Beds Caravan Site, Poynton near Stockport
( click on photos to enlarge) 
Durham City

The New Motorhome

Pete had been hankering after an Autotrail Tracker FB since they came out last year. We spent an afternoon looking at a brand new one in Baldwin’s in Halifax  -we don’t buy new- but having spent hours trawling the internet and dealers, we thought we’d push the boat out. We couldn't do a good enough deal at Baldwin’s  though they have a good service department but we got a very good deal with Brownhill’s in Durham.
We took Mam and Dad back home to Newcastle  in the Apache then spent the afternoon putting stuff from one van into the new one. I wasn’t feeling as excited as I ought to have done and when Pete suggested a glass of bubbly to celebrate, I only wanted a cup of tea as I was feeling a bit strange. Once we’d got the other van emptied and  all the paperwork done, I went to bed…..because I had obviously caught a nasty bug so the new loo was well and truly christened. Later on, Pete was ill too…… the first night in the lovely new van was a bit spoiled. It was a good idea to stay at Brownhill’s overnight though.

Grange Caravan Club site, Durham.

The next day, after we’d checked everything again, we moved to the Caravan Club site on the outskirts of Durham. It’s next to the A1 so handy for overnight stops but the traffic noise is constant.  We got set up and both of us went back to bed  (early afternoon) and stayed there till the next morning.
The next day we both felt fine so explored the new van a bit more, did some shuffling round of kit in cupboards then walked across the A1 to the park and ride to get the bus into the town centre. We got off at the first stop and went to find the Tourist information centre- loads of signs but no centre so we went in the library and got an A4 sheet street map from a kind librarian who told us the TIC is closed. We had a lovely time round the streets and market, cathedral and castle and Pete was happy to find a Wilkinson’s ( Pete’s favourite shop) so we came out with various absolutely necessary bits and pieces  ( hmmm) We had a coffee and a restorative pint then got the bus back. We spent a happy evening, glad to be feeling well again and really pleased to hear that our good friends have bought a Hymer so we can look forward to trips together.

The Railway Inn , Acklington      


We called in to see Mam and Dad who have also got the nasty virus and did some jobs before we headed for Northumberland and the coast. We found this site on the net. It’s a pub, next to the main East Coast line so the trains rushed past but it’s fine for us.  ( £17 a night with hook up) There are showers and loos, an outside veg prep area ( no cover) , waste emptying and best of all, a pub. We went in for a drink but decided against eating there, as we weren’t hungry at all. Poached egg on toast was nice for tea.
The next morning we decided to go for a walk but first we went for a look at Acklington station to see if there were any stopping trains. It’s a lovely little station but the train stops early morning to go to Newcastle and comes back early evening. We got talking to a guy on the platform and he said that there would be a steam train coming soon so we chatted and watched the Oliver Cromwell steam through in all it’s glory. Wonderful!

The kind chap  ( Greg- a Manchester United fan ) gave us a lift into Amble where we mooched round a car boot sale, watched the boats and walked up the river to Warkworth.  We got very close to a curlew and some oyster catchers and ate fruit at the point on the river where the sea and the river waters mingle. What a magnificent castle !  

The views all around are stunning. We went to buy an OS map as we had no maps with us  ( We hadn’t planned to come to Northumberland) but couldn’t find one so we went in a pub and as we had a drink and looked at one on the bar. I was a bit perturbed to see a road sign that read ‘Acklington 6 miles’ but it didn’t look so far on the map. We set off walking and found another sign about half a mile on that read ‘Acklington 4 miles’ ! 
We pondered over taking a route across fields down St Oswald’s Way but I wasn't really sure where we’d come out on the road so we stayed on the main road. We stopped for a magnificent ice cream  en route at a farm and as we left the farm, we found the place that St Oswald’s way came out. We got round to the camp site and had a pleasant evening after a lovely walk.

Fowberry Farm, Bamburgh

We had a lazy morning and our appetite had returned so we enjoyed sausage and beans  for breakfast. We parked in the car park at Bamburgh though on investigation, the castle car park is cheaper for the whole day. We went into the Victoria pub (dog friendly) to watch Manchester United v Wigan. Then we drove up a dusty lane to Fowberry Farm ( Caravan Club CL) There was no-one about but a note on the door told us where to pitch.. We had to go back outside the gate for water but the pitch was good with beautiful views of the sea and the castle at Bamburgh across the fields. It is a working farm with basic facilities. There is a loo and a shower ( 50 pence)  and free wi fi which was useful. The little site was full. We watched the stars- minimal light pollution and had a very quiet night.

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh or Barbados?
The next morning dawned sunny but windy so after breakfast we set off across two fields to the sea. The tide was in and the bay looked amazing- blue sea, blue sky and white sand. We ambled along to Seahouses, had lunch in the Bamburgh Castle pub, then a beer in the Ship then walked back along the sand, poking about in the rock pools. We saw something sticking up in the sea at low tide so went to investigate. It was an old mine so of course we had to go and have a closer look.


                                                                                                           yours or mine?                                                                                                                                                                                                            
The next day, we set off home, calling in at Mam and Dad’s. We slept in the van overnight outside the house.
Pete did jobs to make the van feel really ours- putting carpet tiles in the outside lockers to deaden noise and stop slippage, checking and restocking cupboards. We took it up to another friend’s house for the night.

Teversall Camping and Caravan Club Site

Phil and Pete went to get some electrical trunking to cover pipes in the underfloor storage. We put the bikes on the bike rack but it is higher than before so it took a bit of sorting. We went to Teversall camping and caravan club site- not far down the motorway. Tom and Lucille, and Katie and Stewart were already there and were surprised to see us arriving in the new van as we’d kept it a secret. We had a welcome cup of tea in Tom and Lucille’s then had a walk to the local Co-op and called in at the local pub, The Carnavon Arms. Katie and Stew hosted the evening meal. It’s a very neat quiet site, well set out with very good facilities.   

It was a misty morning  but it  the sun soon burned off the mist and we all cycled down to Teversall Visitor centre. What a friendly place! It is run by volunteers and has lots of information about the area as well as a little café which has bacon sandwiches ( I wished I hadn’t had breakfast!) and does lunches etc at very reasonable prices. We’ll remember that next time we come. We cycled along to Pleasley Pit on of the many trails .
Everyone we passed said ‘hello’ – a very friendly place. We chatted to a couple out cycling who gave us good directions for a circular ride. Unfortunately, Katie had a nasty fall on a steep downhill run and hurt her knee. She was very brave and straight back on her bike though. We cycled back via the Carnavon Arms – where D.H.Lawrence wrote ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ in the Ship room. We sat outside in the sunshine enjoying the warmth and our luck to be such a good group of friends having good times together. I cooked chicken fajitas which we had with refried beans with salad then we demolished a Co-op lemon tart with raspberries on…..well we’d earned it after a big cycle ride.  

The following day also started misty but then the sun came out and it was hot! We cycled to Hardwick Hall via tracks and across a field full of cows when we came to a diversion. We stopped for coffee at the Hall but left going in and exploring for another day. The weather was too nice to be inside. Katie and Stew went back to the site then the four musketeers went off down the trail to Tibshelf. It was a bit hard going for me after a while but I put the battery power on to get up a hill or two and I managed 25 kms. The pub stop at the ‘Shoulder’ revived me and the last bit home was all downhill wheeeeeeeee!. We went to the Carnavon Arms again but this time to eat. What a lovely meal we had and the service was friendly and efficient. We sat round the table really enjoying the meal, the surroundings and the company. What lucky people we are.


The next day was Sunday and we all cooked something to have Sunday brunch before Tom and Lucille left for home. I think I should comment on the camp site- it was neat, plenty of space, and the showers were amazing. They are wet rooms, much bigger than my bathroom at home with a loo, sink and a sensor operated shower which gave  lovely hot water without having to press buttons or levers. They have underfloor heating which makes the whole experience a pleasure, unlike some campsites where you hop round a wet floor, shivering. Later on, we went for a walk round the Silverhill trail where a statue  of a miner searching for gas commemorates the former pits and miners  stands on the highest part where you can see 360 degrees around the area. It’s an area  I haven’t been before but will certainly revisit. When we got back to the site. Pete went for another bike ride while I read. After yesterday’s big ride, I wasn’t sure I wanted to get back in the saddle.

Castleton Caravan Club Site

Mam Tor

enjoying the sun and the beer

gin and tonic time!

Another sunny morning and we stopped off for shopping in Chesterfield before getting to Castleton via a lovely but narrow back road. It was lovely to see John and Jen Illingworth already there in the sunshine so we parked up and settled down for a welcome beer and catch up. Katie and Stew arrived soon after and were on a nearby pitch. Pete and me walked rund the lanes and into Castleton where he bought new trousers before walking back through Losehill Hall . We went back into Castleton later tofind a pub showing the football but we were out of luck with the football but met John and Jen for a drink instead.

Phil arrived with Molly the dog not long after coffee, set up nearby then we went for a walk with the dog. We sat outside Katie’s with nibbles and drinks before eating together in Katie’s. I made chilli and we had a good evening though I don’t know what happened to late nights as we were all tired quite early!

wine time!

don't dare say 'mint sauce'

sitting in the shade

a very happy dog!
John and Jen left to go back to Nottingham. Pete , Stew and Phil  spent time making the ‘boot’ very tidy, hiding cables and pipes then having coffee outside in the sun ( is this really England in March?)  We all went for a walk along the back lane to Hope past places that are normally incredibly muddy but are now dry. We had to stop of course at the Old Hall pub where Katie had a nice cup of tea, the guys had beers and Molly had a big bowl of water and I had a sit in the shade. The landlord there, who we’d met last year, was very talkative and funny. We walked back along the river to Molly’s delight. She splashed in it whenever there was an opportunity. 

                                              We had tea and Katie’s home made cake before going to the ‘Castle’ in the evening for a meal. We had a very long wait but the food was good when it came and they gave us drinks and a bottle of wine which mollified us a bit.

Katie and Stew went home next day while Phil , Pete Molly and me found a different track up Mam Tor than we’d done before coming out near Odin’s mine. We went back through the mine workings to Castleton where we just had to stop in the Castle’s beer garden because Molly needed a drink (!)  The fish and chip van came to the campsite so we didn’t have to cook and they were very good.

Elm Beds Camp site Poynton, near Stockport

Another sunny morning and we set off via Chapel en le Frith. We stocked up on shopping and then followed the sat nav ( not always a wise idea) to Poynton. It took us over a railway line down a very narrow lane, which I certainly wouldn’t want to go down again. We went up the narrow cobbled stretch to the camp site where the lady told us to park anywhere and to save pitches for our friends. A lady in a caravan told us where to get on to the canal and into Lyme park and she was very helpful and friendly. Soon Tom and Lucille came in their caravan (they’d been down the same lane!) followed by daughters Victoria and Lauren in Rob’s VW camper- a vision in vintage cream. 
Stew and Katie pitched next to us and we spent quite some time putting up Rob and Victoria’s awning tent for the first time. Mike, Lauren’s fiancée arrived later.  I thought I’d given up crawling round pegging out groundsheets but was glad to be able to help. We did a group barbecue (Rob did amazing kebabs and I did lemon chicken) and sat in Tom and Lucille’s awning all chattering and eating together.

Saturday dawned a bit grey and misty but we all cycled to Bridge 11 and the Bull’s head pub at lunchtime for Black Sheep beer. In the afternoon, some cycled and some walked in the opposite direction to check out the Miner’s pub. We had another barbecue (Rob’s burgers) with salads – and luckily, the ice cream man had been on site and Lucille did what my mam used to when we were kids- got a bowlful, which went beautifully with Katie’s hot chocolate fondue , marshmallows and lemon meringue pie. Don’t we rough it?
Katie's photo of the awning support team

Sunday was a sunny, bacon sandwiches, reading papers sort of morning. I met a lovely little lad whose mum came to ‘rescue’ me from his chatter but he was very sweet. Rob, Victoria , Lauren and Mike packed up and went off to the Miner’s in vehicles while we cycled along. We had a very long wait for our meal but once again when it came it was delicious and free puddings or coffee helped us enjoy it. It was sad to say ‘goodbye’ to the younger ones but they’d had a good time and I’m sure it won’t be long before they’re camping again. Pete and me went for a late afternoon walk, looking for a better road out, while Tom and Lucille went for another ride along the Macclesfield canal. 
Time for a site report- it’s a little site in separate fields with lots of statics nicely out of sight. The shower block is down hill over matting to a rather tired block, which is very clean but unheated. There are two showers and two loos on the ladies’ side with the same on the gent’s side. It’s right next to the Macclesfield canal and not far from the Middlewood way which is great for walking and cycling. Poynton is a couple of miles away for shopping.

Sunday supper was in Katie’s  then an early night finished off a good weekend. Next day we found a sensible route  down to the A6 and we were home before lunch.

chef  Rob

Macclesfield Canal

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