A Year On The Road

Wilma at the top of Sutton Bank
 
Our first van (Wilma) at the start of the adventure!

On April 5th 2018 we set off on our year-long journey leaving behind secure jobs, our home, family and friends to embark on the adventure of our lifetime. And what an amazing year it’s been. 

Apart from returning to the house to prepare it for rental and to sort Hannah out with her place in London, we’ve been travelling non-stop since then. In that time we’ve covered over ten thousand miles, stayed on 85 sites (some of them more than once) met some absolutely amazing people and generally had a fantastic time. 

There’s an oft-quoted phrase amongst motorhomers which says “home is where you park it” and that is certainly true for us. We have become so used to living in our van that it’s hard to imagine living in a house again. When everything we need fits in a floor area of 25ft x 7ft 6ins (7.5m x 2.3m for those used to new money) anything else seems extravagant. In fairness, Annie more than me still sometimes harbours a desire for a bricks & mortar shack and there’s no doubt that we will eventually return to having a static base. 

But not just yet. 

So, what have we learnt from our year on the road? Well, in no particular order (except for the first point):

    1. We love this lifestyle!
    2. We don’t need much to be happy – having done a serious amount of decluttering before we left we’ve discovered that we don’t need many possessions to live a happy life
    3. The state of British A-roads is appalling. Having travelled the length and breadth of the country we can certainly attest to this fact. The worst of all is probably the A429 (although there are many other contenders for this title!) Obviously local councils feel it’s far more important to give their Chief Executives unwarranted, unjustified and certainly unearned six-figure salaries than provide decent road surfaces to their electorate.  
    4. People in the north are friendlier than people in the south. A generalisation for sure but, based on experience, northern people are far more likely to stop and chat, or even just say hello when walking past our pitch, than southerners
    5. We still hate London (sorry Hannah)
    6. Never say never. We always said we’d never have a van over 7 metres long. Our van is 7.5 metres. We said we’d never have a car – particularly one towed behind our van. We now have a car and will more than likely end up towing it behind the van. (At the moment, I drive the van and Annie follows behind in the car. We have a couple of Motorola walkie-talkies to keep in touch – which are legal to use whilst driving before anyone complains – but it’s not the same as travelling together) We said we’d never spend winter in this country in a van. We spent last winter in this country, in a van. Like I say, never say never.
    7. We have to be adaptable! Following on from point 6, because our plans have regularly changed as the year’s progressed we’ve had to constantly amend things as we’ve gone along.
    8. We miss family and friends. Although we both thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, we still miss catching up with people on a regular basis and this has probably been the most difficult thing to come to terms with. 
    9. It’s been a lot more expensive than we initially thought. Our biggest expense isn’t wine, surprisingly, it’s pitch fees. We average between £600 and £700 per month just having somewhere to stay for the night. Add to this fuel, food, wine (of course) and boring things like insurance, tax, maintenance etc. and those monthly bills really do start to add up. Despite having the income from renting the house, we’ve been regularly dipping into savings to make up the difference. 
    10. Ultimately though, we’ve discovered over the last 12 months that all we need to live a very happy life is food, shelter, love and good health. Oh, and wine. 

So what about the next 12 months?

Well, we realised the implications of point 9 after the first 3 months – we can only raid the savings pot for so long (and the piggy-bank was already plundered outrageously to swap the van) so in order to continue this lifestyle we had to reconsider our plans. 

Whilst staying on the numerous sites on our travels we inevitably talked to a number of site wardens and came to realise that theirs was a job that still allowed them to live the lifestyle (minus the travelling bit), was largely stress-free and that they were actually being paid to do it. 

So last August we applied to the Caravan & Motorhome Club to become Assistant Site Wardens for the 2019 season. It was largely due to this (and changing vans) that our continental plans had to be postponed as we were interviewed in December, had a 3-day work experience stint up at Coniston in January followed by a week-long induction course at Lingfield in February before being appointed for a 5-month contract beginning at the end of April. 

Although it means our touring plans will be temporarily suspended, at least this ensures the continuing longevity of our lifestyle. And from what we’ve experienced so far, we know we’ll have a great time.

We’ve also learnt to be careful what we wish for. Annie always wished she lived somewhere with a gated drive – the site has gates at the entrance; I always wanted a lawn big enough to require a ride-on mower to cut it – the grass on site is cut using a tractor; we both wished we could find a job where we could work together – we now have a job where we’ll be working together; Jack wishes he could enjoy sleeping in the comfort of our king-sized bed. 

Sorry Jack, wishes don’t always come true. 

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And Now For Something Completely Different…

It’s been a while since the last post so apologies for that. Truth be told, it’s the weather’s fault – when it’s good (as it has been lately) I’m not really in the mood for sitting behind a computer and when the weather’s bad (as it has been lately) we’re not really in the mood for going out and doing stuff that may pass as being vaguely interesting to read about.

I blame the bad weather on the Met Office’s recently adopted policy of naming storms, such as Storm Derek or whatever it was that we’ve recently endured. Previously, we just had some rain blown about by a breeze of varying strengths and nobody really took much notice. Now though, the “storm” has a name – something to live up to and become more memorable than “Storm Steve” or “Hurricane Hannah” (we’ve got one of those!) that preceded it. So let’s just go back to having “rain” or “wind” and do away with this naming nonsense!

Anyway, as ever, I digress. Another, and altogether more practical, reason for the delay in posting is to try something new; something completely different, hence the title. Photos can tell a story certainly, but a video can put things more into perspective and give a real sense of being there. So, for a change, I’ve recently been shooting video rather than photos which has necessitated quite a learning curve in terms of shooting, editing (particularly!) and uploading to YouTube.

So here are a couple to start with – firstly, a few shots in and around Cirencester:

And then a trip to the New Forest:

These are very much a work in progress and hopefully, with practice, will improve over time.

London Calling…

We are not city people. Far happier hiking through a remote wilderness or cycling along country lanes and cycle paths than battling through crowds in soulless shopping malls or congested streets. So it was with mounting trepidation that we headed south towards the Caravan & Motorhome Club’s site at Crystal Palace so we could catch up with Hannah who for some inexplicable reason (to us at least) has chosen London as a place to live and work. 

The Club has two main sites serving the great capital city – Abbey Wood, which we stayed at last year, and Crystal Palace. Abbey Wood was a lovely site and despite its proximity to the city was surprisingly quiet and detached from the hustle and bustle which surrounds it. It’s also very popular and invariably full due to its ideal location and ease of access into London from the station, a mere 10 minutes walk away. 

So this time we booked Crystal Palace which, although not as convenient as Abbey Wood for metropolitan access nevertheless offered a ride on the Number 3 bus from right outside the site entrance to whisk us up to Piccadilly Circus in a mere 55 minutes! Using the bus meant that all of us (including Jack) would be able to travel and as much as I was looking forward to seeing Hannah again, she was looking forward to seeing Jack. 

As has become the way with our best-laid plans on this trip things didn’t happen as envisaged. Unfortunately, a couple of days previously Annie had come down with a severe bout of laryngitis, felt rubbish and couldn’t speak a word, so meeting up with Hannah had to be postponed as we’d missed the one day on which she was available!

Unlike Abbey Wood, Crystal Palace was not a good site. Looking a bit old and tired now and dominated by the massive nearby BBC transmission tower our stay here was not pleasant being accompanied by a soundtrack of Littledicks in their chavved-up wanker-wagons screaming about the place, their cacophony regularly punctuated by blasting horns and sirens. Peaceful it was not. 

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The BBC transmission tower rather dominated the view!

Leaving Annie in her sick-bed, Jack and I had several walks in the nearby Crystal Palace Park, which was easily accessed from the site and gave some welcome relief from the drabness of its surroundings.

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View of the tower from Crystal Palace park. Note the remains of the Crystal Palace building
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Looking south across the park down an impressive flight of stairs. The original building must have been extremely impressive!
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One of the many impressive Sphinxes that were part of the original building (with dominating tower in the background!)

Thankfully, we only had to endure this site for two days as we’d booked it purely to meet up with Hannah, so it was with great pleasure that we relinquished our pitch early (well, early for us) on the Monday morning and commenced the battle with London traffic to get out of there towards our next destination which was to be the Hunter’s Moon site near Wareham in Dorset – far, far away from city life!

It took over an hour just to get through the outskirts of London onto the M3 motorway and head off towards peace and tranquility. How people manage to endure that on a daily basis is utterly beyond us but then we’re all different eh?

We stayed for over a week at Hunter’s Moon enjoying being back in the countryside and had many walks and cycle rides in the nearby Wareham Forest revelling in the clean air, tall trees and big skies – our kind of place!

 

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View from the hill – on a bike ride in Wareham Forest
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Sitting outside the van, in the sunshine on February 15th. Amazing!

Inevitably though, the subject of “meeting up with Hannah” soon surfaced again and a date in her unbelievably full diary was offered as a potential time. Having just escaped London, returning to either Abbey Wood or Crystal Hovel Palace was out of the question so we settled on the oddly named Wyatts Covert Caravan & Motorhome Club site near Rickmansworth with a brief stay at Henley on the way.

Henley was as wonderful this time round as it had been previously and the weather was beautifully sunny for our short stay. Whilst there we explored the delights of the town, had a long walk along the Thames (not literally, of course) and took a bus into nearby Marlow. 

Although Jack is becoming more accustomed to travelling by bus, he still isn’t entirely comfortable with it and is visibly apprehensive before boarding. Once inside, he lies flat to the floor, legs splayed and with claws scouring the lino as the bus moves off and he slides backwards. His relief as we disembark is tangible.

 

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Henley market square
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Henley from across the Thames – note the weather!

 

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Marlow swans out in force

 

Wyatts Covert was chosen as the next destination because it satisfied the dual requirements of being far enough outside of London to be acceptable and yet near enough for access by train and tube. Once again though, Annie had to make a solo trip to see Hannah due to dogs not being allowed on the tube, so Jack and I enjoyed a lads day out by going for a bike ride then watching the aircraft activity at the aerodrome adjacent to the site (it’s a guy thing!)

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Cycling alongside the Grand Union canal whilst at Wyatts Covert site
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…such gorgeous weather!

When Annie returned I was updated with the latest news from the World of Hannah. One of the main topics of conversation, apparently, was how our lives have now seemingly reversed:

Hannah – complaining about getting up at 6am five days a week, working long hours, enduring a stressful lifestyle, eating on the run, never having any money* and having to fit general chores like shopping, cleaning and all the other mundane stuff that comes with “being an adult” into her life. 

Us – adopting a more student-oriented lifestyle, never getting up much before 9:30am, enjoying a lazy morning before doing something fun in the afternoon, then slipping gracefully into the evening, opening the wine and casually preparing something delicious and healthy for dinner. 

No wonder she refers to us as “unemployed slackers” Ha! The words “pot” and “kettle” spring to mind!

(* Hannah’s version of “having no money” has still allowed her to have Tea at the Ritz, spend a week in Portugal and go skiing at Christmas! If only we were that poor…)

With “catching up with Hannah” finally ticked off the list, freedom returned and over the nightly winefest future plans were contemplated.

Surprisingly, London didn’t feature in any of them. 

Twin Bleaks

With Sally’s weight problem sorted, and almost being in the vicinity, we felt a visit to the Lake District would be in order so a weekend at the Coniston Park Coppice site, on the shores of Lake Coniston (as the name suggests) was duly booked. 

It’s been a while since we’d last visited the Lakes and on the previous occasion one of the more memorable features, apart from the lakes, was the mountains. Unfortunately, due to the low cloud and incessant rain we could have been in Norfolk, as nothing above about 20 feet (6 metres for you Millennials amongst us) was actually visible. 

This was the case for pretty much all of the weekend. In a brief respite from the unending deluge we managed a quick walk along the lakeside where, bizarrely I bumped into an old friend who I haven’t seen for years! What are the chances? With contact details swapped we went our separate ways only to meet up again as we walked past their van on the way back. Serendipity is a strange thing indeed. 

Monday – the day we were leaving – dawned bright and sunny with a near cloudless blue sky affording several magnificent glimpses of the snow-capped peaks as we drove past. I am not a fan of winter sunshine when driving and heading south, with a low sun and wet roads made for extremely difficult driving conditions. 

Our next destination was Castleton in the Peak District where we’d booked a few nights stay. In the end, a relatively short (134 miles) journey took over four squinting hours to complete (note: “squinting” is not a euphemism!)

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Castleton village centre (before the snow)

Although the sun was still hanging low in the sky the darkness of the sky on the horizon alluded to the forthcoming weather and sure enough, overnight, the snow arrived. 

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Sally in the snow!

It was still snowing the following day when we headed into Castleton village less than a mile along the road. After a quick perusal of what the little village had to offer (not a great deal unless you were into all manner of trinkets fashioned out of stones from the nearby Blue John caves) and with the snow still falling fast, we were forced to take refuge in a rescue shelter (or pub as the locals call them) and spent a very cosy couple of hours – and pints – in front of a roaring fire. Now that’s what winter days are all about!

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The welcoming interior of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn rescue shelter
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Sustenance for a cold winter’s day!

Eventually, and with Jack’s fur approaching self-combustion, we donned fleeces, coats, hats, scarves, and gloves before heading out once again into the wilderness. 

One of the many things we love about Sally is the warmth and comfort once inside with the heater on. Although Wilma (the previous van if you’ve not been keeping up with past adventures) was great, winter would have been a whole different experience in her!

Although it snowed again overnight, the next day actually dawned bright and clear so a walk over the fields to the nearby village of Hope was planned. Good name, and one that was to prove quite salient. 

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The local cement factory on a wintry day

Due to the outside temperature (about minus three) the overnight snow had frozen and the previously muddy ground now had the appearance of solidified chocolate. Due to my complete stupidity when preparing for our walk across such terrain I opted for lightweight walking boots rather than the much more sensible, completely waterproof, fleece-lined and equally available Wellington boots!

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Snow-covered ground – for the moment!

Very little time had elapsed before my error of judgement surfaced. The previously solid snow and ice holding the solidified ground together was melting. Fast. Suddenly, we were wading through quagmires of liquid mud embellished with various flavours of similarly fluid excrement. The water-proofness of our boots was brought into question as another step plunged ankle-deep into the morass. 

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On the way to Hope – snow melting fast…

I was not a popular man, and Annie was not a happy bunny. 

“Hope” had now ceased to be a place but a state of mind as field after field presented another navigational challenge. Jack, as ever, was the only one in our party who had no problem with it. Now resembling a chocolate Labrador, he continued to plunge headlong into whatever bog was presented to him with the same gleeful appearance as bounding through a summer’s meadow. 

Eventually Hope arrived (as it had almost departed us) and a decision to take the roadway back was quickly agreed on, only stopping along the way to buy some homemade pork & leek sausages from a local farm shop. 

Another pretty bleak trip was saved by sausage, egg & chips for tea.

What simple souls we are really. 

 

Weight Expectations

Having departed York, we headed west towards the ancient market town of Knaresborough which boasts a mention in the Domesday Book, still has the remnants of a once imposing Norman castle and whose magnificent viaduct straddles the river Nidd in Nidderdale – both of which sound like names from a Monty Python sketch (The Knights Who Say Nidd anyone?)

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Knaresborough seen from the Castle grounds

We stayed at the Caravan & Motorhome Club’s Knaresborough campsite and once again had difficulty in booking due to the site being full on Fridays and Saturdays! Still, caravans and motorhomes aren’t cheap so I do at least applaud their use in all seasons rather than just sitting on a drive save for a quick trip away in the summer. 

We were lucky to arrive around lunchtime in glorious sunshine so having checked in and pitched up we walked back down into Knaresborough as it was only a mile and a half away.

The town itself is lovely and, with it being Sunday afternoon, was quite busy with singles, couples, families and an unusual number of dogs all meandering about and enjoying the winter sunshine.

The castle ruins were definitely on the agenda and once again I was pleased to see that entrance to the castle (or at least what was left of it) and its grounds were completely free for all to wander around, as we did although Jack spent most of his time trying to hide from all the other dogs – he’s such a wuss!

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Knaresborough Castle ruins
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Castle ruins seen from the rear

From the castle, there is quite a steep drop via a number of stone steps to the riverside where a profusion of bars and cafes were plying their wares to the passing crowds. In summer I’m sure they would be even more packed than they were today with punters enjoying a tranquil riverside view to accompany their snacks. It was all very picturesque though and the late afternoon sun picked out the colour of the buildings beautifully – albeit that the sun was in the wrong location for a really good shot of the viaduct!

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Viaduct over the River Nidd. (Worked better in Black & White because of the sun’s angle!)

One of the main reasons for visiting Knaresborough, charms of the town aside, was to catch up with my cousin Mick and his wife Yvonne which we did the following day and, predictably, had a great laugh catching up over far too many biscuits!

Unusually for a Club site, Knaresborough has an on-site bar and restaurant called The Wanderer. Normally, I’m not a fan of any such thing on a site as it can often be filled with the wrong sort of people (children) but as there were none of these on site I thought I’d try it out so one night I left Annie catching up on Call the Midwife as I enjoyed a couple of episodes of Call the Barman. A successful evening all round then.

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The Wanderer Bar & Bistro at Knaresborough (Image courtesy the Caravan & Motorhome Club)

The stay at Knaresborough was a short one as Sally had an appointment to get her weight problem sorted out. Because we are, effectively, fully loaded all the time (whereas a “normal” van has different loads depending on the circumstances) we decided to have air suspension fitted to the rear which assists the standard suspension by means of a couple of inflatable air-bags mounted between the body and the axle.

The system we chose was the VB Semi-Air system which can either be ordered as a kit only or can be fitted by an expert. Now although I know my way around a spanner something like this was WAY too complicated and important for me to attempt so an appointment with the brilliant Rhino Installs in Preston was duly booked and we had to move over the Southport club site for a couple of days whilst the work could be completed.

So with her weight problem sorted, Sally has now had a bum-lift and certainly sits a little higher off the floor at the rear. In addition to carrying the extra weight, she certainly rides a lot better over the utterly APPALLING surfaces which comprise the majority of Britain’s A-road network!

Annie says if only her weight problem could be sorted so easily…*

 

(* I, of course replied that she hasn’t got a weight problem)

A Tale of Two Cities

After surviving the entry into 2019 we headed north from York up the A1 to Durham where we spent just over a week. The primary reason for the visit was to catch up with some of Annie’s family who hail from the nearby village of Murton, but we also wanted to take a trip into the great city itself as it’s been many years since we last visited. 

Having been virtually imprisoned on the last site by the thoroughbred nags it was a real pleasure to be able to walk from site, along the River Wear (or at least the banks of it) into Durham on a glorious, if a little chilly day. 

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Durham Cathedral seen over a misty River Wear
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The more popular view of the Cathedral

To say it was the last Friday of the Christmas and New Year holiday there were surprisingly few people about and the whole place had a lovely calm and quiet feel about it which meant we could  mooch about freely and Jack wasn’t constantly tripping people up as he darted about sniffing his way along.

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A surprisingly empty Market Square in Durham

The following day was family catch-up time and first up was a visit to see Annie’s sister June and brother-in-law George at their new house in Murton where they’ve recently returned after spending years cast adrift in the southern wilderness (Sussex)

A lovely and relaxing day was triumphed by June’s gift of a couple of her amazing home-made pheasant and ham pies which we can attest to being absolutely superb! When it comes to culinary expertise our June can certainly give silver-coiffed baking narcissist Paul Hollywood a good run for his money. 

The biggest surprise of the trip came a couple of days later when we visited the coastal town of Seaham which is within walking distance of Murton and just a few miles south of Sunderland. In Annie’s childhood, when living in Murton, Seaham was the sort of place where you’d exit a pub via the window and often with considerably fewer teeth than you possessed on entry.

Now though, after a period of massive  redevelopment, the seafront down by the harbour is home to a number of upmarket bars, bistros and restaurants. The Terrace is home to Ray Lonsdale’s “Tommy” sculpture depicting a World War One soldier sitting forlornly on a packing case. Although only supposed to be a temporary installation, it caught the minds and hearts of the many visitors to the town and after raising over £72,000 the 2.90m, 1200kg figure is now a permanent installation. 

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Ray Lonsdale’s “Tommy” Sculpture looking toward Seaham Harbour
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Frontal view of “Tommy”

I couldn’t help thinking as I stood by Tommy that, had he been there during WWII, and if the Germans had mounted an invasion onto that stretch of coastline they’d have taken one look at the size of Tommy and realise that they’d seriously underestimated how big the British soldiers were!

After leaving Durham the next destination was supposed to be a return to York but we had to make a slight diversion via the unlikely town of Bridlington. The reason for this was because both of the York sites were full! We have been constantly amazed how many sites are fully booked – at weekends particularly – in January!! Do folks not work anymore? 

But, diversion as it was, Bridlington proved to be a great site. Recently refurbished, the pitches were spacious and the washblock spotlessly clean (very important!) There were some good walks directly from the site, Flamborough Head one way and Bridlington the other. 

Bridlington itself though has the faded glory of a once popular, probably upmarket seaside town that’s slightly had its day and has now succumbed to the inevitable seaside staples of tacky fairground, sense-numbing amusement arcades and an abundance of artery-clogging takeaways and fish & chips shops. 

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Bridlington in all its (faded) glory!

However, the all-pervading smell of fish & chips did its trick and before we knew it we were ensconced on a bench overlooking the sea enjoying a styrofoam tub of quite superb haddock & chips. A seagull stood eyeing up a possible feast but surprisingly made no move to invade. As we finished every last morsel leaving not a scrap it simply shrugged and flew off. A polite seagull, whatever next?

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Bridlington beach with fairground in the distance

Although Bridlington may have lost its former charm the nearby, and unfortunately named, town of Sewerby was lovely, boasting Sewerby Hall as its main attraction. It was a refreshing surprise to walk around the abundant grounds, with Jack, and without having to fork out a small fortune just to do so (are you listening English Heritage?!). Entry to the house did incur a small charge but I’m ok with that as everything else was freely available for all to enjoy. 

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Sewerby Hall
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Part of the gardens at Sewerby Hall

So with Bridlington in the rear-view mirrors, once again York was in our sights, although this time we would be staying at the Rowntree Park Caravan & Motorhome Club site which is right in the city centre and alongside the river. That’s the good bit: that York is literally 5 minutes walk away. The site itself though was a disappointment. Little more than a carpark, it has virtually no grass, the pitches feel cramped, is always very busy and can be prone to flooding at times of excessive rainfall. Apparently it’s not unheard of for a chap in a boat to come tapping at your window with a suggestion that it might be prudent to move on before being carried off downstream. Thankfully that didn’t happen whilst we were there. 

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The walk into York from the campsite
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One of York’s many old streets
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Beautifully preserved Tudor buildings

York, like Durham, is a fabulous city dominated by a magnificent cathedral. Although not a religious person I do find cathedral architecture staggeringly beautiful, so a double delight was in order here. Annie contemplated a visit for Evensong but then remembered that in October 2018 a two year restoration project for the organ began involving its complete dismantling and removal. Even though the cathedral is acoustically brilliant, a bloke on a Casio keyboard (or whatever is actually being used as the stunt-organ) just wouldn’t have quite the same effect. 

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The Cathedral (or Minster) seen from the rear. (Because the front was covered by a school trip!)

Overall, the Rowntree Park site at York proved its worth and we can understand why it’s so popular as it’s just so convenient to access the city, as we did on several occasions. That said, I don’t think we’ll return any time soon. 

I hear rain is on the way…

New Year – Van Style!

I’m not a fan of New Year – the annual excuse to let off yet more fireworks, make impossible resolutions and top up the food and alcohol levels from Christmas (actually, I don’t mind those bits)

For many years now we have spent new year’s eve just at home, normally watching a film or other televisual spectacle that doesn’t involve Jools Holland or anything that comes from north of the border wearing a kilt and saying “hoots mon” every couple of minutes (too many years as a kid watching Moira Stewart and her fellow Scots dancing around celebrating Hogmanay to the sound of accordions and bagpipes), then tuning in at the last minute to see the increasingly spectacular fireworks lighting up London’s skies and briefly toasting the year that’s gone and the one that’s to come. 

So no wild parties, no vastly overpriced meals out or standing amongst a crowd of thousands for hours on end waiting in a city centre for that last 10 seconds of excitement before spending hours trying to get home before sunrise. No, our New Years tend to be on the quiet side so spending it in the van was little different to normal. 

We were actually on a site just outside York – the Caravan & Motorhome Club’s Beechwood Grange site which, although lovely with easy access into York, is a bit of an oddity – for dog owners anyway. Billed as being “dog friendly” the site information then proceeds to inform us that dogs cannot be walked, or even carried down the approach road to the site because of it being shared with a stud farm churning out prize-winning donkeys (or thoroughbred horses as I believe they call them) The concession to being dog friendly was to have an area, on site, where dogs could be walked off-lead. Short of using a catapult (or dogapult in this case) there was no way we could get Jack off site for a walk without using the van, which rather defeats the object.

However, we were very pleasantly surprised on arrival at the site reception to be invited to a drinks & nibbles “do” on the great Eve itself. By the time we arrived there were already several other people in attendance and despite being warned by Annie beforehand not to go into “buffet mode” (i.e. stand by the refreshments eating and drinking everything in sight) I nonetheless gravitated to the snack table just to give things the once over. Pork pie in hand I was about to head for a handful of my favourite dry roasted peanuts when a young child appeared from nowhere and plunged its grubby hand into the bowl before scooping up a mouthful and heading on to the crisps. Appetite suddenly diminished I headed for more liquid sustenance instead. 

It was a great idea by the Club though and we got to chat to many people that we wouldn’t normally have seen as, it being winter at the moment, everyone tends to stay in their respective vans rather than sit outside and chat to passing campers. 

After clearing up what was left edible on the buffet table (whilst Annie was distracted chatting to the wardens) we headed back to the van to spend the rest of the evening as usual, popping a bottle of champagne at midnight to toast an exceptionally brilliant and eventful 2018 and welcoming what we hope to be an equally exciting 2019. Some plans are already in place for this year and all will be revealed shortly…

However you spent your new year we hope it was enjoyable and wish you a very happy and healthy 2019