The Heat Wave of 2018

I’ve not known a summer like this since I’ve lived here… so that’s almost 20 years in case anyone is counting!  The weather is warm (sometimes hot) and very dry.  The hose pipe bans have started and there are fires on the moorland – and on Bidston Hill too.  It’s been great weather for camping and walking though so I thought I’d give a little update of a couple of the things we got up to for the past few weeks.

We went for a  walk with Denis a couple of weeks back starting in Wilmslow.  There were lots of shady paths and it wasn’t one of the hottest days we’ve had which made it great for Stella.  Although 15 miles turned into 18, I still enjoyed it (but don’t tell Denis I did…it’s fun to tease him about this mileage increase!) One of the first stops along the route was Quarry Bank Mill and the Styal Estate.  Then we walked alongside the boundary of Manchester Airport and watched a few planes taking off.  We had a stop at the Merlin pub for lunch – that was a nice place and given that it was Father’s Day seemed to be a popular place for lunch.   There were also two ice cream stops and the last leg of the route was alongside a river which Stella was most pleased about.

We also had a camping trip to Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales with Nicola and Cathy and their families.  Nicola has a caravan that they keep there and we joined them to experience the delights of this little corner of Britain.  I do love the lovely coast line and turquoise colour of the water – it always feels to me like being abroad.  Paul and I took Friday off and travelled down in the morning stopping at Aberdaron.   This is a lovely little village with a nice beach, a great bakery and some lovely little shops including an ice cream shop!  After ice cream for me and a pie at the bakery for Paul, we headed to the beach for a little walk and play.  Stella loved running in and out of the surf playing ball.

We headed to the campsite where we found ourselves on a farm in a camping field to ourselves.  Stella was in heaven.  Even more so when the rest of the party joined us – more friends to play ball with.  On Saturday we went for a coastal walk – estimated distance 8 miles, actual distance 15).  There was ice cream, a pub stop and 3 beaches along the way.  We all felt we’d earned the sunny BBQ that night – lovely to sit chatting and still being warm outside.

We got up early the next day to come away so we were home in time for England’s second World Cup football game.  I came away with a couple of extra horse fly bites and sun burns on the back of both legs where I’d missed with the sunscreen but we both really enjoyed the weekend, the company of the others, the food, the walk and the weather.     The van does get a little toasty when the sun hits full power but it’s a small price to pay.  Our next van adventure is not too far away in a couple of weeks… it would be great if it was warm and dry but fingers crossed for temperatures in the low 20s rather than the high 20s!

 

The hottest May Day on record!

It is always a happy coincidence when some amazing weather and a planned camping trip coincide as was the case this past weekend…

We started our adventure on Friday enjoying a leisurely drive up to Cumbria.  We stopped at Broughton in Furness for a visit to the butchers, green grocer and the bakery too.  Oreo brownie’s – oh my!  Our first two nights were at the National Trust Campsite in Wasdale.  The adjacent car park is the main starting point for the quickest route up Scafell Pike and it was interesting to see it busy all times of the day… This is the season for people doing the 3 peaks challenge where they climb Ben Nevis, Scafell and Snowdon in a 24 hour window so when I say all times of the day, I do mean that.

On Saturday morning we walked from the campsite up Lingmell and then along a very famous walking route called the corridor route to Sty Head Tarn.  There was a lot of low cloud when we started but it cleared as the day progressed leaving behind some fabulous views.  From the tarn we heading up towards Kirkfell.  Going up was okay but the very steep, stony descent from Kirk Fell pretty much finished us all off.  Mine and Paul’s legs felt like jelly and Stella was not impressed either!  We stopped at Wasdale Head Inn for a well deserved cold drink in the beer garden by the river and then visited our wedding church before heading back to the campsite- it’s been a few years since we’ve been in so it was lovely to be back.

On Sunday we had a rather tortuous journey out of the valley as the good weather had prompted everyone (it seemed) to head into Wasdale for the day.  The single lane road with passing places just wasn’t really coping with the volume of traffic.  Once we’d escaped the grid lock, we made a beeline for Muncaster Castle for their Cumberland Sausage, Food & Drink Festival.  Again the fantastic weather brought the crowds but it’s a big place so it was easy to find quiet places.  It was nice to wander first around the bluebell woods – they looked amazing – and then around the food festival.

We camped up for the next couple of nights at Ravenglass this time – one of my all time favourite campsites.  We got settled and enjoyed the warmth of the evening sun.  We even put the sun canopy out to provide some shade it was that warm – we usually use it to give us a dry space to get in and out of the van when it’s raining!

On Monday we ended up abandoning our walk plans – Stella was still suffering with grazed, tender paws from Saturday’s walk and was tippy-toeing around the site avoiding the stones as much as possible.  Although we were both disappointed, it wasn’t fair on the little doggie who was obviously not very comfortable on her feet.  We enjoyed the sun, had a little wander into Ravenglass and a lovely lunch at the Pennington Hotel instead.

We hit the road home Tuesday morning – with a stop for some Cumberland sausage in Waberthwaite of course! – both having really enjoyed the weekend.

Here are a few of my favourite shots.

Hardened campers…?

We had our inaugural camping trip of the year this past weekend when we went to Gibraltar Farm in Silverdale, Lancashire. The Telegraph rated this website as one of the top 20 best coastal campsites so I thought it was worth a shot.

We were a little afraid when we saw the weather forecast for sub-zero temperatures and snow but didn’t think about changing our plans… We’ve camped when it’s been cold before and the van is warm and cosy. We travelled up the M6 on Friday morning via a shopping stop at Carnforth and a walk at Warton Crag.  Warton Crag is a limestone hill which is part of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It was the site of an Iron Age hill fort and there were lots of paths around to keep us entertained for a  few hours.

We were really pleased when we arrived at our campsite and found a pitch with an amazing view looking across the sheep fields out to the sea. We settled in and got the heater and electric blanket going.  We did note that the other occupied camping units on the site seemed to provide quite a few more home comforts compared to Frank so we patted ourselves on the back for being hardened campers.

We had a lovely walk the next day along the Silverdale coast.  On the way back we ended up walking through Eaves Wood and found the Pepperpot. The Pepperpot was built in 1887 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria and the views were quite something from its perch on the ridge. The weather was cold and windy but despite a few snow showers, it was quite dry and the cold ground meant it wasn’t very muddy.  However, the temperature was even lower on night two… Stella’s water bowl froze over as did condensation in the front of the van.  Our little heater was just completely overwhelmed by the sub-zero temperatures.  We got in our sleeping bags at 6pm just to stay warm  and it was at that point that I made the executive decision to book a hotel for the next and last night of our weekend!  So much for hardened campers, right…?!

So on Sunday we got ourselves packed up and went for another walk heading north this time to Arnside. Arnside is a lovely little village with some nice shops and seemed to be very popular with groups of walkers.  Despite the temperatures, I still had an ice cream along the prom although I think the few people we passed might have thought I was a little crazy.

Once we got back to the van we headed south to Morecambe and the Midland Hotel. What a treat this was for us – it would have been a treat anyways because it was such a lovely hotel but because we’d been so cold the previous two nights it was like a little piece of heaven.  With the exception of the fancy restaurant, the whole hotel is dog friendly.  It has a great art deco style and an amazing central staircase.  Our room had a huge bathroom and comfortable furniture and was lovely and warm!  I can’t go on enough about how nice this hotel was.  Our stay there also gave me a chance to do a little reconnaissance for a wedding I’m photographing there in July.  It’s going to be great and there are some great places for photos!  We had our evening meal in the bar and breakfast the following morning was great too.  After a little walk along the prom we headed back to the Birkenbub.

And most importantly – the reason for this adventure was to celebrate our anniversary. We always try and go away for our wedding anniversary and most of these trips away have been camping – with a few cottages thrown in for good measure/warmth.  (Next year might be a cottage!) Happy Anniversary to Paul – 8 years married and he still loves me (so I tell him) and still makes me laugh. J

Last camping trip of the year

We had a sneaky night away in Frank a couple of weeks ago to Rivington. Rivington is not too far away from us in Lancashire but it was our first visit to the area.  We arrived Saturday morning and took a (rather wet) walk through Rivington Country Park.  This park includes Rivington terraced gardens which were designed and built at the turn of the 1900s by Lord Leverhulme of Lever Brothers/Port Sunlight fame.  Originally the park contained a boating lake, a zoo and a castle folly.  It was a foggy day so when we were walking it was really neat to see what sort of structure would next emerge from the fog – a bit like a voyage of discovery.  There were some lovely terraces, towers and archways to explore.

Another great find along the way was the Rivington Village Green Tea Room (www.rivingtonvillagegreentearooms.co.uk). When I saw the sign I didn’t think about going in as dogs aren’t usually allowed in tea rooms.  Thankfully Paul had done his research and not only did this place allow dogs, it allowed muddy boots and muddy walkers too so we were allowed in too!  The place had a really nice, relaxed and inclusive atmosphere.  There were a couple of wood burners going, a few dogs lurking under the tables.  Banoffee Pie was my treat of choice whereas Paul had a Chip Barm… Carb overload.  We stayed for a while in the hope that the rain might go off but Stella decided it was time to go before that happened…

Our campsite was on a farm just outside the village of Rivington (www.wilcocksfarmcaravansite.co.uk).  Paul had knocked up a nice stew which we had for our evening meal accompanied by some cherry scones.  It was a windy night on the farm but we woke up in the morning we woke up to a beautiful clear sky.  We realised we had nice views across the fields behind the farm.  The campsite wasn’t very busy so Stella stretched her legs with a game of tennis balls before we packed up and headed home.

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There are lots of picturesque reservoirs around the area and a maze of footpaths. We didn’t make it to the top of Winter Hill which is on Rivington Moor either so we definitely will be scheduling in a trip back in that direction.

Camping in the Forest

We took Frank out last weekend for a trip down to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire   I’d never been before and was keen to visit this ancient woodland – the second largest forest in England.

It’s about a 3 hour drive from home.  On the way down, we stopped not far from our campsite and took a walk along a 5 mile sculpture trail (www.forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk) in the forest.  This is a collection of 17 contemporary sculptures dotted around the forest.  My favourite sculpture was the stained glass installation called Cathedral.  Paul liked a sculpture called Raw which was a tree’s mass represented as a cube in the forest.  Stella wasn’t too impressed with the sculptures but did find the forest smells very, very interesting.

When we arrived at Bracelands Forestry Commission campsite (www.campingintheforest.co.uk/england/forest-of-dean/bracelands-campsite), we found it was right in the middle of the forest in a clearing.  Our pitch had lots of space around it and was perfect for seeing the stars so clearly at night – and for hearing the owls screeching too.

On Saturday we headed directly out from the campsite onto the forest trails and headed towards Symond’s Yat.  Symonds Yat is a village in the Wye Valley which straddles the River Wye.   The views from Symonds Yat Rock are quiet something and we had fun watching the kayaks play around in the rapids on the river there too.  We also were quite fascinated by the hand pull ferry which enabled us to cross the river.  It was operated by a local pub and we were pulled across the river on the ferry boat by the use of an overhead cable.  It felt a bit like stepping back in time…  Unfortunately it was just before we got on the ferry that the heaven’s opened for the biggest and heaviest shower of the day.  Later on once the sun had come out, we crossed the Biblins suspension bridge which was rather wobbly… Stella wasn’t too impressed at all by having to cross it!

It was a funny weekend weather wise with showers always seeming possible and sometimes making an appearance but it was mostly sunny – so much so that we even sat outside in the sun when we got back on Saturday afternoon/evening.  We got the games out later on playing pictionary man which had us both in hysterics at our equally bad attempts to draw something sensible.

On Sunday we walked though the forest again and walked across the border from England to Wales ending up in the village of Monmouth.  I got a big two scoop ice cream cone (flavours = jammy dodger and eton mess) and Paul got a steak and stilton pasty.  I think these choices pretty much typify our differing tastes with regards to food!  We came across a National Trust property called the Kymin which was an 18th century round house with an adjacent naval temple (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-kymin).  We walked 15 miles altogether on Sunday so that coupled with the 11 miles on Saturday and the 5 miles on Friday put us over the 30 mile mark for the weekend.  That’s what my legs told me anyways… 😉 Goodness knows how many miles Stella did with her overactive sense of smell driving her to explore the forest floor very energetically for most of the weekend.

We had read that there were wild boar around the forest but we didn’t see any – probably a good thing given we had a sniffing canine with us!

We headed home Monday morning stopping at the Ludlow Food Centre to stock up on pies, sausages and other treats.  Yum yum. The next trip away is yet to be determined but there will definitely be one more before Frank hangs up his hat for the winter!