Archive | July, 2013

Berwick upon Tweed

30 Jul

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Monday

I admit I had preconceived ideas about Berwick and they weren’t that favourable. It turns out it wasn’t the “upon Tweed” version I’d got in mind – an important distinction. The town came as a very pleasant surprise, then: Cheapish parking, Tudor town walls, an impressive viaduct spanning the river and a high street still recognisable from the Lowry painting.

There’s something about the cry of seagulls that immediately lifts my spirits. Perhaps I associate them with childhood holidays or perhaps it’s just the excitement of knowing I’m by the sea again. From the moment we parked their shrieking call had me lifting my head to feel the sun on my face, let the breeze blow through my hair and taking tangy, seaweed-scented gulps of air. Of course, if it had been bucketing it down it might have been a different story!

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As it was, the warm sunshine allowed us to stroll around the old military defences of the town, a reminder of the bloody border warfare of the past. Today the embankments are grassed over and park-like, with benches overlooking the sea and river and views over the high street and to the 28 arches of the Victorian viaduct.

But there was another town we wanted to visit before the weather closed in: Eyemouth, a short distance across the border in Scotland. This had been recommended to us just as we were leaving the campsite as being “like a village in Cornwall”. Unfortunately, we can’t really vouch for the truth of this statement as we hadn’t got far around the active fishing port before the black clouds and threatening rumbles had us heading for shelter in a popular fish and chip shop. An early lunch, then. Of course.

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A River Runs Through It

28 Jul

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Sunday

It’s raining. I mean, it’s raining in Biblical proportions. Somebody tell Noah. It’s so bad we’ve got our sailing boots out. That is saying something as we never wore them in anger during the four years we were on the boat. Now they’ll come in as sturdy wellies. And boy, do we need them.

The rain really got going during the night and went on and on and on. Not just any old rain but pounding on the caravan roof loud enough to not be able to hear the television at full volume. We’re pitched on the slightest of inclines here in Carlisle. On grass. We were reassured on arrival by the warden who said how well it drained and in all his 50 years here they never had a problem. Well, they’ve got one today.

Neil suggested we put the awning away yesterday but I persuaded him against it as I thought it would come in to its own during the rain, giving us extra space. Well, there’s a river running through it today so it’s not much use and putting it away will be something of a challenge now. We’re due to leave tomorrow so fingers crossed it doesn’t all turn into a quagmire. I guess it’s all in the great adventure that is caravanning. Hmm. 

All Change

25 Jul

Borrowdale Pictures:

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Walking in the foothills of Cat Bells. There was no way I was going to the top!

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Such a pretty tea garden a pleasant walk from the campsite.

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And the cream tea isn’t half bad either! Well, I need a bit of sustenance every now and then. 

All Change

When Neil opened the roof blind on Tuesday morning the bright, early morning light didn’t dazzle the way we’ve become used to. The clouds hung heavily seemingly touching the tree tops above us. Twitter was alive with descriptions of the storms and relief at the fresher feel to the air. It also made a refreshing change from royal baby jokes.

It wasn’t long before the first rumble reached us here in the north of England. The trees rustled alarmingly, the tops swaying as the storm approached. As rapidly as the hubbub had started just as suddenly a heavy stillness settled over the campsite.

 Minutes later, as the BBC was laying on the royal news with a trowel, the broadcaster was suddenly drowned out by the rising crescendo of thunder outside. As each roar intensified the caravan trembled and shuddered with each clap. We’d zipped up the awning as soon as we realised the rain was on its way and, thankfully, it remained upright and dry inside.

 Although the storm was short lived it was beginning to look like we’d seen the best of the summer with thundery and “unsettled” weather forecast for the foreseeable future and we were beginning to see the disadvantages of our campsite. Blissfully cool and shady during the heatwave, the rain had turned the hard-standing into a mulch of soggy leaves along with rotting pine needles and cones, all of which were making their way inside the caravan. The awning and the exterior of the ‘van were encrusted with them. The previously welcome shade made the interior dark and depressing while the dank meant the awning wasn’t going to dry out.

Unsurprisingly then, we took the decision to leave the site a little early, wrapping the awning while still damp and heading a mere 45 miles to Carlisle and urbanization. Asda may be nearer than the lakes and hills and it feels like we’re camping on someone’s back lawn but it’s none the worse for that. We’re going to the cinema and for a meal out while we’re here and I’ve already had a dose of retail therapy. A change is as good as a rest. 

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Awning

21 Jul

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Sunday

 As the unbelievable British summer continues (thunderstorms due soon, of course) we’ve decided to spend another week in the Lake District, this time in Borrowdale right on the edge of Derwent Water. It has also meant that we have finally got the barbeque out. I’m not sure quite why it has taken us so long to get around to using our Cadac, specially purchased for the caravan, but it is probably due to the fact that we now have an awning to leave it ready set up in.

Yes, we’ve succumbed to an awning. Not the huge, heavy affair that came with the caravan but one of the lightweight porch awnings that we see so many of. Having seen an elderly couple put one up with the greatest of ease while we were in Tewkesbury we finally became convinced that we should get one.

The colour (pale gold) tones in beautifully with the caravan and I get a kick each time I see it set up on our shady, woodland pitch. To be honest we haven’t made the neatest of jobs of putting it up (there’s definitely some fine tuning needed) and it took us quite a while longer than the couple we watched but it was our first attempt. The only problem has been that as soon as it was up it immediately filled with assorted flying insects, some of them nasty little bug**s as the bites on my legs testify. So we haven’t been sitting around in it much yet. Fly spray required. 

 

Lake District

18 Jul

Thursday

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The Lake District wasn’t really meant for caravans. Sure the motorway access roads are dual carriageway but as soon as you get off them you risk life and aluminium. As all other road-users, including lorries and buses, have to travel along them too it can get pretty hair-raising. Close encounters with pretty dry stone walling tend to change your opinion of its picturesque qualities when the only vision you can see is an enormous slash down the side of the ‘van.

Fortunately, in a caravan rather than a motor home (boy did we make the right decision!) you only have to take the kamikaze option travelling to and from the site. Which is just as well for the sake of my clenched jaw joint. Why cyclists think it’s a good idea to choose these roads for fun is beyond me.

I abandoned Neil to it while I went home for a few days taking the car. Don’t feel too sorry for him. He was as happy as the proverbial pig dining nightly on fish and chips or Fray Bentos pies and reducing the stash of Carling to zero cans. It also meant, though, that he did some of the walks that there was no way I would have done. His pictures prove he did it, too: steep, craggy paths; distant glimpses of the lakes far below and tiered waterfalls (with no pipes – eat your heart out Nidri). I can see why he does it. That doesn’t mean I’ll be doing any in the near future.

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When I returned he did persuade me to do one of the “moderate” graded walks in his book. He’ll probably hesitate to suggest it again, though. I’m afraid I left him in no doubt that I was not enjoying the clamber up to the Latterbarrow cairn. Sitting in the shade of the cairn, while my heart rate and body temperature returned to safe levels, was the best bit. But I did it and have the picture to prove it.

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Tewkesbury

15 Jul

Monday

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You don’t usually get caravan sites right in the centre of town like the one in Tewkesbury. With its medieval buildings and country feel it’s surprisingly difficult to get a good picture of the town. This is mainly due to the fact that it is not pedestrianised and the lovely old buildings have always got cars parked around them. Of course if it were pedestrianised we wouldn’t have been able to get the caravan into what is effectively a levelled field behind the abbey.

 

Tewkesbury has been caught in a bit of a time warp in some ways because of its inability to expand. Situated at a junction of two major rivers, the Severn and the Avon, it is very prone to flooding. The caravan site itself is effectively on part of the flood plains that surround the town. Other caravaners told us about being woken in the early hours of the morning and being warned to get out within the hour as the flood waters were coming in. It must have been chaos with everyone trying to hitch up at the same time!

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On lovely sunny days this year, though, it was a pleasure to walk along the river bank with only hedges of wild seeded rape flowers blocking the views. 

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South Wales

7 Jul

Sunday

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We’ve had a couple of weeks on the South Wales coast. This is an area of the country we both have vivid memories of from childhood holidays. The areas we remember are still recognisable, if more built up, but the internet and mobile phones might as well not have been invented. Or supermarkets.

Both sites, the first on the Gower peninsular, the second in Freshwater East near Tenby, were right on the coast, truly beautiful locations but a pretty exhausting walk to the nearest pub. Which explains why we’re now in Tewkesbury town centre. Amazing but true. The site is in a field right by the Abbey and more pubs and restaurants than you can reasonably crawl around in the four nights we’ll be here.

That’s not to say, of course, that we didn’t enjoy our time in South Wales. The coast is stunning. Much is spoken of the Cornish coast but this area takes some beating. So, some photographs:

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Worm’s Head, Rhosili on the Gower.

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Taking a break, Oxwich Bay, Gower.

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A surprisingly gentile Tenby. Perhaps it becomes more ‘Buckets and Spades’ in the school holidays.

 

Unquestionably, though, our favourite walk has been through the Stackpole estate. Owned by the National Trust it is worth the annual membership fee in its own right. The walk takes you through woodland, past lily ponds and along cliff tops with unsurpassed views. The area is teeming with wildlife; swans with their signets, wild horses with their foals, damsel and dragonflies copulating on lily pads and a heart-stopping, unforgettable glimpse of otters, smooth and sleek, chasing fish and each other amongst the reeds. Oh, and I finally got my birthday cream tea. Sometimes it’s worth being without the internet. 

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Barafundle Bay – simply beautiful. Is there a better beach?

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On Wild Horses

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Not sure exactly what bird this is but he seemed to be enjoying himself drying his wings in the sun.