Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Our Little Holiday in England before Heading Home!

Thursday 24th November 2016 - A lovely warm sunny autumn day.

Today found us pitched up at the Canterbury Caravan and Camping Club site from where we planned to have a walk into the City to do a bit of shopping, visit the Cathedral and treat ourselves to lunch out, and to an extent we managed 2 out of the 3!

The site is situated about 20 minuets walk from the city and as we went we learned about The Via Francigena pilgrim trail - an 1800km route that leads from Canterbury to Rome and follows the path taken by Sigeric - Archbishop of Canterbury, and a chap who walked to Rome in 990 to meet Pope John XV.  The Council of Europe designated the Via Francigena a European Cultural Route in 1994 and it is now available as a walking or cycling trail that crosses Europe via the North Downs Way to Dover, the Great War battlefields of Northern France, the Champagne region, Lake Geneva and the mighty Alps, the Apennines, and the hills of Tuscany and then finally takes you into the City of Rome - and if you want to go as a pilgrim, you can get a passport that allows you to rest at religious refuges along the way.  It all sounded like a great adventure but sadly not on our agenda for today.

We continued our walk into the city and headed first towards the Cathedral, but when we got there we found you could only enter after coughing up £12 - a price we thought a bit steep after being able to enter all the magnificent Cathedrals and religious establishments in Europe for free, so we decided not to bother on this occasion! And anyway, the omission gave us more time for the  much more interesting task of shopping, and also visiting a couple of bike shops - one hadn't really got much to show us, but the other went to great lengths to inform us about their 'Ridgeback E-bike' an all singing and dancing machine that really would have suited us, but the price matched it's top end spec so we went away to think about it over lunch - which turned out to be burger and chips for John and fish and chips for me at good old Weatherspoons - delicious!

By the time we'd eaten we'd more or less decided against the 'Ridgebacks', but we still had  time to  do a bit more shopping before strolling back up the hill that took us home for another cosy evening in T4rdis2.

Friday 25th November 2016 - Another sun filled day

This morning we left Canterbury and headed for the town of Bodiam,  where we had an appointment to try some more E bikes with a company called E-bikes direct - they don't have a show room, your supposed to just order online, but if your in their vicinity they are happy for you to visit for a trial  play.  We arrived as planned at lunch time, and at first everywhere seemed deserted, but eventually we found our contact and he very obligingly got 4 bikes out for us to try.

The first was a Raleigh Motus - a bike that John had been looking at ever since we'd decided to 'go electric', and on 'test driving' it proved to be extremely comfortable.  We stayed and 'played' for quite a while - riding the different bikes up and down  the companies long hilly driveway, but we were soon in agreement that the Raleigh ticked all our boxes and would probably be the one that we were going to  buy.  However, we still had one more place to go and visit, so although he offered us a 'Black Friday' deal we didn't quite commit at that stage, but then he obviously didn't want to lose the sale because once he realised we were leaving without putting our hand in our pocket he quickly added that he would hold the price till 'Cyber (Cycle) Monday'!

Anyway, after our 'playtime' it was forwards and onwards to our next destination which turned out to be a bit of a shithole mistake.   We were booked in for 3 nights on a small site called Leobay on the Isle of Sheppey, and we had only chosen it because we wanted somewhere to pass the weekend before we visiting 'Whoosh Bikes' in South-end-on-Sea.  However, by the time we got there we had already decided we were going to be patriotic and buy the English made Raleigh bikes and we wouldn't be bothering with the other shop because they only stock Chinese made imports.

To get to our destination we needed to cross a huge bridge that passes over part of the Medway, but almost as soon as we were on the island we started to realise that we'd landed in a bit of a G-R-I-M place.  It was quite industrial and with lots of building work going on (a huge Aldi distribution centre), but then as we got nearer to the site the scruffy narrow residential streets didn't instil any confidence, and finally we had to traverse an unmade bumpy dirt track.  Now to be fair, this chucked us out into a little oasis that was the camping ground and we were greeted by the owner and made welcome with coffee and mince pies.  Additionally we were also entertained by the many varieties of birds (that included Keith the Kestrel), that swooped and squabbled around the numerous 'feeders' that festooned the area, and we also had views over the Medway from our pitch.  So there really was nothing (much) wrong with the site, but from where we were it was difficult to know what we were going to do for the next couple of days, especially in view of what we had seen so far!

Saturday 26th November 2016 - Windy and with light cloud.

We decided we'd go for a walk into the town of Sheerness this morning, but by the time we'd done I don't think either of thought it had been much of a pleasure!  To start with we'd had to go along the same dingy streets we'd passed through yesterday, then only to find that a footpath that should have been available was fenced off. Eventually we made it down to the waterfront, but even that wasn't very inspiring - the trail was strewn with dog💩 and as the tide receded a very muddy and smelly shoreline was revealed along with abandoned shopping trolleys, old tyres and all sorts of other rubbish.

Also we hadn't gone far when we found ourselves veering away form the water's edge  and forced to walk along a never ending path that had a high concrete wall on one side, and on the other, a tall fence topped with razor wire that guarded a massive car storage area. We calculated that there must have been at least 10,000 new cars and vans there (it took half an hour to walk past it), but additionally, later in our walk we passed two other storage yards as well.

I think I'm painting a fairly G-R-I-M picture, and it was at this stage that we wondered whether to give it up as a bad job, but we persevered and at about mile 4 we came across 'The Blue Town' which at least added a bit of interest to our walk.

Here we learnt about Naval Queenborough and that a dockyard was built at the north western point of Sheppey in 1665 along with a fort to defend the mouth of the Medway.  Apparently in the early 1700s a small set of wooden houses were erected by the dockyard workers - and these became known as 'The Blue Houses' - so called because they were painted with paint 'acquired' from the naval stores!  This development slowly grew and eventually included shops, trams, chapels, schools, a theatre, many pubs and a railway station, but today, although some of the buildings are still there,  the naval paint must have ran out because none of them are blue!  We  learnt that the real demise of the town coincided with the withdrawal of army and navy personnel in the early 1960s when a lot of the vibrant Blue Town was demolished to make way for the massive car parking storage areas that we had seen earlier - I suppose they call that progress, and all that is left now is a Heritage Trail with information plaques along the way. They highlighted such things as:-

  •  a gas jet at the dockyard 'Factory Gate' where workers could light their pipes on exiting because  matches were strictly forbidden inside the dockyard!  
  • The Red Lion public house - the oldest surviving pub in the town and one that still serves beer after hundreds of years in service.
  • The fire holes - spaced along the dockyard wall there are a number of holes were hoses could be poked through in the event of fire breaking out in the mostly wooden town - the main ones occurred in 1827 and 1830
  • The dockyard rush - a daily event that saw hundreds of workers emerge and flood up The Blue Town's high street, both on foot and bike, resulting in anyone in the way having to dodge the stampede!

A BIG anchor!

Next we came to the promenade at Sheerness - not particularly a pretty site, but by now we were hungry so we braved the wind and sat and ate our lunch while watching the murky waves wash up over the shingle shore.  And while we were doing so we decided that, rather than stay another day, we'd move on - even if the site wouldn't give us a refund on our already booked 3rd night.  So all we had to do then was walk all the way back and decide where to go next because we still have a few more days before we can take up residence on the site we've pre booked for the month of December.

Sunday 27th November 2016 - A cloudy morning but with some nice sunny bits in the afternoon.

As planned we packed up this morning (with our pitch fee fully refunded) and headed north to the town of Theddlethorpe  which is about 15 miles up the coast from Skeggy.    Why Theddlethorpe -  well the Camping and Caravan Club Certified Site there was just about the only place we could find that was open at this time of year, however we were a bit concerned when the address red Arklow House on 'Rotten Row'!

But it turned out to be anything but 'Rotten'.  We were greeted and shown to our pitch by a very friendly chap who proceeded to tell us that there was a fishing lake and 9 hole golf course available for our use and included in the price, along with all the other facilities we were likely to need.  However, by now the time was getting on and it was nearly dark, so there was no time for anything more than filling with water and then settling down for another T4rdis2 special Sunday supper!

Monday 28th November 2016 - A glorious sunny and quite warm day

So out came our bikes for a ride along the coast towards Skeggy, but as that would have made our round trip a little over 30 miles, and because the days are short now, we thought it was more likely that we would only make it as far as Chapel St Leonard's - and that was all we managed - so only 28 miles in the end!  Also, for a change, rather than our usual picnic I decided we would have fish and chips by the sea - but I hadn't reckoned on everywhere being shut on Monday's - we very nearly went hungry😒

We left our 'Rotten Row' campsite and only had about a mile to cycle before we came to the cycle track that has been built into the sea defences and runs between Mablethorpe and Huttoft Car terrace, and in the warm sunshine it really was a lovely place to ride.  And it was in the early part of our journey that our cultural knowledge was improved when we learnt that this area (Somersby) was the birth place and home of the poet Alfred Tennyson (1809 - 1892), and that the surrounding district influenced many of his famous poems.

We paused for coffee on the Huttoft Terrace, and then continued on our way to seek our lunch at Chapel St Leonard's, but it seemed  there  would be no chips for us from there😠😋😭 !  So we quickly turned tail and hurried back to Anderby Creek - but still no luck - and by now it was nearing chip shop closing time!  But, not to be thwarted, we peddled hard until we reached Sutton on sea (2.20pm), and our diligence was rewarded - we got there just in time to have freshly cooked delicious fish chips and peas which we hungrily consumed on the promenade with several gulls  watching and hoping we would share.

Thus fortified, we recommenced our homeward journey, but by now it was cold, so it was a very good job we had the distraction of the lovely seaward views to accompany us on our way.

Tuesday 29th November 2016.  Another lovely sunny day - but bitingly cold.

When we'd arrived here on Sunday the friendly caretaker had told us about a nearby place called Donna Nook - a Nature Reserve that runs for over 6 miles of coastline between Grainthorpe Haven and Saltfleet. The area is salt marsh and is used by The Royal Air Force for bombing practice, but additionally it is also used by a huge colony of grey seals that return each year from October to December to give birth to their pups on the sand dunes.  We'd never heard of the place before, but like many others, we were keen to go and see. And what a beautiful spectacle it was - literally hundreds of seals and pups spread out over dunes, but many were very close up to the small fence that was the only thing that separated them from the viewing public.

While we were there we learnt that this year the first pup was born on 24th October, so the ones we were seeing were about a month old, but they were already nice and chubby and shedding their downy white coat for a darker more camouflaged appearance.  The other lovely thing about it was the 'song' that was constantly being sung - a very haunting melody!

A Ringed Plover noshing on a discarded

It would have been really nice to have our lunch there, but it was quite busy and there was really nowhere to perch, so eventually we retreated and found our way to one of the other nature reserves nearer to home. Here we found a viewing platform that overlooked the marshes, but maybe the cold had driven all the birds and animals away because there wasn't really anything much to see, and by early afternoon (3ish) it was certainly driving us home - our fingers and toes were quite numb.

Tomorrow will see us on the final leg of our journey back to Ripley - we're really looking forward to being reunited with everyone - so next time you hear from me the blog is likely to be full of pics of our much missed children and grandchildren.

Take care 😘