Monday, 24 May 2021

Hello and Welcome Back to all our Readers Old and New.

Hello and Welcome Back to all our Readers Old and New

Saturday 22nd May 2021

Well, it's very hard to know where to start with our continuing story because it's been 14 months since our last post and I can't quite believe where all that time has gone.  Maybe I should start by counting our blessings because throughout the time that Covid 19 has dominated everyone's lives both ourselves and all our family members have avoided illness and much of the distress it has caused to others.  

If you've read our previous post you'll know that it was only by the skin of our teeth that we managed to get back into England (following our winter sojourn in Spain) just before the 1st Lock-down took hold, and since then, other than three little 'outings' we've resided at Butterley Bank Camping and Caravan Club Certified Site.  When we first arrived we were still living full time in our Motor Home 'T4rdis2' but our 1st outing on June 3rd (as Lock-down was easing) was a nip back down to Somerset to swap it for our brand new Lunar Clubman Caravan.  We had to make the round trip all in one day because at that stage all the campsites were still closed, but our journey was well worth it because the layout and comfort in the caravan has met our needs very well.  However, saying that is not with any disrespect to T4rdis2 - we absolutely loved the freedom our motorhomes provided over the 5 year period that we had them, it was just that we were ready for a change and we wanted to do that without giving up our nomadic lifestyle!

And that wasn't the only major change we've made during the past months.  While we had T4rdis2 we'd regularly explored a huge expanse of Europe on our trusty Raleigh Motus e-bikes but their near 50 kg combined weight and their large dimensions made them nigh on impossible to carry on the back of the car especially while towing the caravan.  Additionally, for a while John had been longing to change back to a light weight racing style bike, and after a fair bit of research  he eventually settled for a Boardman gravel bike which he is extremely happy with, but that left me with a bit of a conundrum as to what I should have.  

I did consider having something similar but to say the least, I'm not very fit so I therefore very much doubted that I would continue to enjoy cycling without the assistance of a bit of electricity - but as most e-bikes come with a huge weight premium or an extortionate price tag it was difficult to know what to choose!  This resulted in us scouring loads of e-bike reviews and outlets to try and find one that would meet my requirements, but despite our best efforts we could only find two that fitted the bill - and guess what - they were both out of stock, and furthermore, because of the Covid situation, there was going to be a long delay before they were available.  In the end I settled for a Ribble Hybrid e-bike and the company informed me that it would be ready early in May, but at the time of writing the delivery date has been pushed back to July 3rd, thus for our present 'holiday' (more on that later)I've had to resort to using my old Spanish mountain bike that only relies on 'Linda' power to propel it forwards!

But enough about that, I need to get back to our story!  Our second 'little outing' was for a bit longer - in fact it was form the end of July to almost the end of August because by then restrictions were being reduced and we were once again allowed to travel!   However, at that time we'd already very firmly decided we would be staying in England for the foreseeable future, so with that in mind, and also the fact that a lot of seaside places would be very busy because of the school hols we planned a route that would take in what we hoped would be 5 quiet sites in inland South Wales and Central England.  

Our first stop (28th July 2020) was at Erwlon Caravan and Camping near Llandovery and although I can clearly recall the site I'm finding it difficult to remember how we spent our time there! Therefore, John has consulted the oracle of Google and reliably informs me that we climbed Craig Clyngwyn, visited Llandovery and spent some time in the Brecon Beacons.   However, I do remember the Knight in Shining Armour!  He stands in front of the ruins of Llandovery Castle which is a thirteenth century Grade ll listed building that occupies a knoll overlooking the the River Towy on one side and part of Llandovery town on the other

Our next stop was at was at The Old Station Motorhome and Caravan Club site  in Moorhapton near Hereford which was closed to visitors due to the Covid restrictions.  However, our friends Gail and Kev just happen to be Stewards there, and with the blessing of the club they were allowed to have visitors so we spent 3 lovely days in there company and enjoyed some very convivial outings, lots of feasting and of course plenty of 🍷🍷.

Then it was on to Eastnor Castle where we stayed in their Deer Park for 5 boiling hot nights!  The site is set over 2 huge fields and we could just pick our spot and pitch anywhere, and even though it was very basic (no facilities and no EHU) the space and tranquillity suited us just fine. 

From our pitch we also had fantastic views of Eastnor Castle (which we visited) and there were also several walking paths that enabled us to climb out of the valley for magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. 

Chipping Norton Caravan and Camping Club Site came next and while we were there we visited quite a few of the Cotswold's villages, but if I'm honest it wasn't one of our favorite spots because the hordes had descended probably due to the school hols.  However, we did take the time to visit The Diddly Squat Farm Shop which is owned by the infamous Jeremy Clarkson (latterly of Top Gear) - but as there was Diddly Squat on the shelves we refrained from handing over any of our hard earned dosh and left empty handed! 

Then finally our little 'holiday' was completed at Eastfield Lodge CCC near Mablethorpe which turned out to be one of the best Certified Locations we've stayed on.  The site was immaculate and the owners extremely friendly, and the icing on the cake was a visit from our daughter Sarah, her husband Paul and of course our grandson Thomas.  We picnicked on the beach, splashed in the sea and built sand castles, but alas, they couldn't come back to the van with us because the Covid restrictions didn't allow any visitors on site.

So after all that it was back to Butterley Bank CCC because Jack and Liz (a couple who we'd met several years ago in Spain) were calling in for a sleep over with their motorhome, and we also had plans for outdoor gatherings with our family and to spend some time looking after John's Mum while his sister and her husband took their motorhome for a short outing.  

Top left is Sarah and Thomas, Right is Ben and Evelyn, Middle is Adam and Max and Bottom is Jack

Our next outing with the caravan was on 29th October when we initially nipped down to Brean Sands in Somerset for a few days to use up a voucher we'd been given when we got sent home as things closed down back in March. After that we moved on into Devon to stay at  the Tavistock Camping and Caravaning Club site which lies on the edge of Dartmoor but what a soggy experience that was ⛆☔⛆.   To say the least we had a lot of rain while we were there - and guess what we forgot to take with us?  πŸ₯ΎπŸ₯Ύ!  We had neither wellies or walking boots so as we'd almost had to wade through sometimes deep water nearly every time we went out on the moors we were forced to go and invest in a couple of pairs of fetching green welliesπŸ˜‚

However, having said that we had some fantastic and quite hilarious walks that provided stunning scenery and lovely encounters with the ponies that roam freely there.
While we were there we learnt that the Dartmoor Ponies have lived on the moor since prehistoric times, but these days they all belong to different keepers.  The owners round up their ponies every year in the autumn and then decide which ones to keep on the moor and which ones to sell.  In times gone by these hardy little horses had been used as pit ponies, for shepherding and apparently, on occasion even to carry the postman as he delivered his mail.  

The information boards also told about the hardiness of the breed and how they thrive on Dartmoor despite the harsh weather and poor vegetation, in fact their grazing of the moorland plays a vital role in maintaining a variety of habitats that support other wildlife.  However, while we were there the only other creatures we saw in any number were very shaggy dirty looking sheep!

We left Dartmoor on the 15th of October and moved into Cornwall, specifically to a site called Tehidy Holiday Park near Redruth, and there, we had absolutely no problem with social distancing because we were the only van on site! 

Unfortunately, for a fair bit of our 2 weeks there the weather was once again on the  inclement side so we continued to have to tog up and brave the elements, and at night the van often rocked and rolled with the gales that blew in from the Atlantic Ocean.  

But that certainly made for some very dramatic walking and when we visited which lie a little north of St Just, the wind very nearly picked us up and chucked us into the sea, and if you use your imagination you might be able to appreciate just how difficult (and funny) it was trying to don our wet weather gear in the raging gale!   But maybe we shouldn't have bothered because by the time we got back to the car the penetrating rain had managed to insinuate itself into every orifice and even our undies were ringing wet!

But it was well worth it!  That part of the coast is called The Tin Coast and the famed Crown Engine Houses cling to the cliffs and form part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage site.   It was also here where parts of Poldark were filmed, and while we were there we learnt that the mine had produced 14,500 tons of tin, 20,000 tons of copper ore and 1,500 tons of refined arsenic, and apparently it was a submarine mine with shafts reaching 570 metres in depth and it extended nearly half a mile out to sea!

Some of our other outing's included a walk from Sennen Cove to Land's End, a trip to Kynance Cove and a visit to Cape Cornwall which is nearly the most Westerly Point in England.


But then after enjoying 14 days of all that this area of Cornwall had to offer this little jaunt sadly also came to an abrupt end because the camp site we were staying on closed for winter at the end of October and the one we were planning to go to was in an elevated spot right on the coast .  At that time the weather warnings were  predicted to bring in storm force potentially damaging winds, and in addition, Boris's pending  lock-down  (that would come into force on 5th November) loomed over us so we decided to high-tale it home to our safe little spot at Butterley Bank.

And once we were back the lock-down induced another huge change for me and that occurred just before Christmas 2020 when I did something that I'd said I'd never do!  I came out of my blissful retirement status and went back to workπŸ˜•!  

I really don't do very well when my time isn't well occupied, and because the Lock-down restrictions had confined us almost entirely to our little home my sanity suffered and my wonderful long suffering husband πŸ’ž was bearing the brunt of my sulkiness.  Also, at about that time there was a huge recruitment drive to support the vaccination programme so I resurrected my 40 year nursing career, re registered onto the temporary Nursing and Midwife Council register and applied for a job as a vaccinator .  My application was successful and I was added to the Derby Community Nursing Bank, and what was initially planned as a part time job soon turned into a full time + one   πŸ’‰πŸ’‰πŸ’‰πŸ˜‚.

So with just a short break over Christmas I continued to work mostly at Derby Arena's Mass Vaccination site until the beginning of May, and then we had another 9 days looking after John's Mum before setting off on our present 'holiday', in Norfolk.  We choose Norfolk because the terrain is mostly flat, and as I mentioned earlier, my much longed for new e-bike is still in limbo so at the mo I'm having to 'manage' with my old mountain bike!  

We left Butterley Bank last Sunday (16th May) and arrived at the Strumpshaw CCC Site after a very easy 4 hour run, and as is often our habit, we found ourselves in the middle of a very quiet and sparsely populated field that has only the bear minimumπŸ˜‚ of facilities!  Toilets (but we wont be using them),  EHU and water and that's about it, but we're certainly quite happy here because we're surrounded by fields that are home to some lovely horses along with lots of old trees, and there's also plenty of wild life that includes squirrels, rabbits, deer, pheasants  and a beautiful if rather noisy peacock.   

Since we've been here we've mostly been shower dodging but other than last Friday when it poured for most of the day (and we had a duvet day) we've managed to get out and about.

On Monday we drove to Caister then abandoned the car and toddled over sand dunes and paths all the way into Yarmouth where we picnicked by the beach before about turning and trekking back.  However, it has to be said we weren't overly impressed because the razzmatazz and tat of busy sea side towns doesn't really float our boat!   But  if I had to think of something good to say about it πŸ˜• 'the chips πŸ˜‹ that accompanied out picnic were very nice as was the 🌞 sunshine 😎 that was with us for most of the way'πŸ˜‚.

Tuesday turned out to be much more of our cup of tea!  We visited Barton Broad Board Walk which lies within part of the Bure Valley Living Landscape in the Ant Valley.  Barton Broad belongs to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and is the second largest of the Norfolk Broads, however, a lot of the area is inaccessible on foot because of the huge swamps and reed beds that surround it. Happily, to some extent this has been overcome by 'The Barton Board Walk', and we felt quite privileged to be using it because while we were there we learnt that the building of it had  been a bit of a nightmare due to the land that it sits on being extremely soft and treacherous with lots of mud and black seemingly bottomless pools that sucked the builders in if they had the misfortune of treading in the wrong place! 

We also found out that this area has more than twice as many as the 690 species that inhabit London Zoo!  The info boards informed us that there are more than 1500 different insects, spiders, beetles, flies, snails, butterflies and worms that jump, creep, fly, crawl and swim in the dark dank waters that we walked over. 

On Wednesday initial thunderstorms gave way to lots of lovely sunshine so we donned our walking boots and toddled down to the nearby Strumpshaw RSPB reserve where we signed up as members (for the very reasonable price of 5 quid a month).  We then proceeded to have a delightful walk through their bluebell woodland and then picnicked by the River Yare while watching boats chugging by and also lots of Swifts ducking and diving in their quest to catch their own lunch.  

While we were there we also managed to spot a Hobby Hawk, and a another huge hawk that we couldn't identify,  a couple of grey herons, several swans, lots of greylag geese and an assortment of ducks that included mallards, shell ducks and several great crested greebs.  And in addition to all that there were loads of little birds high up in the trees that amused us with their songs.  

Thursday saw our first outing on our bikes for many months, and because I was relying on peddle power  and not e-power I could only manage about 14 miles in allπŸ˜“! We didn't find any hills but there were one or two long upward sloping stretches that sapped my reserves, and although I'm sure John could have gone much further it was a good job we didn't because by the time we got back I was absolutely knackered.   However, having said that we had a pleasant and interesting ride for our first outing.  We left the camp site and headed for the village of Cantley which lies on the north bank of the River Yare and lies within the Broads Special Protection Area.  Apparently the area is very rich in wild life, and it's other claim to fame is the 'British Sugar' sugar beet factory that is one of only four factories in the UK responsible for processing most of our sugar.   

From there we proceeded onto the settlement of Reedham which is another village beside the River Yare, and there the main street runs beside the river and also doubles as a quay.   Happily, several picnic benches had been very conveniently placed on the bank side so we quickly claimed one for our picnic lunch, and while we ate we watched lots of folks messing about on the water.  

And that brings us onto Friday but on that day rain stopped play!  

Saturday saw us out on the local fens again for a spot more 'twitching', and we weren't disappointed because along with lots of other birds we managed to spot a large white heron mooching about in the reeds.  

Later we visited a local farm shop and treated ourselves to some rather expensive fillet steak (along with quite a few other goodies) and then we had to complete the more boring task of food shopping for the next few days. 

So that just leaves Sunday to tell you about, and on that day we decided to take our bikes out again, but this time John tried to find a flatter route for me.  He chose Marriott's Way which is a 26 mile long bridleway that opened back in 1991 and which follows the routes of two Victorian Railway lines that linked Norwich via Reepham to Aylsham and beyond.  However, 26 miles there and back (52 in total) would have been far beyond our capabilities in one day so the idea was to do a 10 mile stretch starting from Aylsham and then save the other half for later.  

So for today's outing we loaded the bikes onto the back of the car and drove the 20ish miles to Aylsham and then off we peddled.  And all was fine to start with as we traversed along a fairly good track with green fields, wooded areas and a few relics that identified the trails previous life along the way.  Additionally, John's comment that his 'a__e had got a good memory' made me laugh - we could both still feel the imprint of our saddles from our previous outing!  Unfortunately, later this was amplified as the track got muddier and rougher following the inclement weather we've been subjected to recently, so by the time we got to Reepham we'd both had enough of slipping and sliding along in the mud and therefore we decided to scoff our picnic and then take the safer option of using quite back roads where we had the pleasure of having tarmac under our tyres.  

In the end this also proved to be the prettier route so even though our day didn't quite turn out as planned we still enjoyed it, and I'm really glad to say I managed it much better than our first outing!

Anyway, I think that's quite enough rambling for now and I'll try very hard not to leave it quite so long before I update our story next time. 

Bye for now 😘

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