Exploring our corner of North Wales: Part Two

Despite a bit of poor weather and the need to carry out some chores, we still managed to explore further in our little corner of North Wales. We have tracked down geocaches on coast and mountains and have walked some favourite walks, but with a bit of a twist, and not always with success with regard to the caching!

Following our surprise last time on what we discovered in Bangor, this week we decided to go and explore some of the less well trodden parts of Caernarfon. The old 19th Century town park is now quiet, but there are pleasant walks along the River Seiont and into the town of Caernarfon.

As the sun was setting we headed off over the Aber to enjoy the sunset and views over to the castle. Unfortunately we forgot our purse, so had to forego refreshment on the harbour wall, always such a treat on a lovely evening. There is currently renovation work on going at Caernarfon Castle, but it is an impressive structure and well worth a visit, as thousands of visitors would attest to every year.

The following day we planned on walking around Llyn Idwal, something we have attempted on many occasions, but there has never been anywhere to park. We thought it would be ok this time, after all it is November and England is in lock down, and there would be fewer visitors. No such luck – there was still nowhere to park!! Obviously you also have to avoid Sundays!

Well, if we couldn’t have one lake, then two would have to do and we headed off to Llyn Crafnant and Llyn Geirionydd, high in the hills above Trefriw. It was a bit of a long way round, and we definitely would not have been able to drive Arnie down the access roads, but we were rewarded with a lovely walk in the forest between the two lakes, and a walk around Llyn Crafnant which we had not managed on a previous visit. Some forestry work nearly fouled our attempts at a circular walk, but as the evening was drawing to a close we just had to ignore some of the signs and carve our own path. Perhaps not advisable, but getting lost in the dark would have been more traumatic. Seth enjoyed swimming in the lakes, and we enjoyed a cuppa with a view when we got back to the parking area. It was quite busy here with people enjoying the water and the forest with its many trails. A very pleasant place, with parking and toilets, to spend a day.

Having missed out on completing a long planned walk on Sunday, on Monday we set off on another one, this time to Mynydd Sygyn above Beddgelert. Mr B had wanted to explore this area for ages because of the copper mining there. You can, in normal circumstances, take tours into the old mine workings, but these were not open. Nevertheless we were hopeful of seeing some evidence of the workings as we climbed up the rocky path to the summit of Mynydd Sygyn. Incidentally, this is also the place where they filmed the mountain trek in Inn of the Sixth Happiness, and we could see why!

I say see… That is actually a bit of an exaggeration! Having checked weather forecasts, we decided we had enough time to walk up and down the mountain before the expected rain was due in the late afternoon. We were prepared though, and packed waterproofs, extra layers and warm drinks as well as the usual sturdy boots and walking sticks. We were half way up when the clouds descended, soon followed by rain and wind, but thankfully to our backs. The decision was made to carry on going as the path up had been steep, and we were over half way by then. The descent was planned on a different path and straight down into the village of Beddgelert.

Needless to say, the views were not as far reaching as we had hoped, the going was a lot tougher in the conditions, bur Mr B had a peek down the mine shaft! It is fair to say that we have never been so wet on a walk, and the steepness of the descent meant that we found it quite hard to move the following day!

And to top it all, once we got to the top, the last thing we felt like doing was searching for the geocache which we knew was there!! I wonder how old we have to be before we stop doing theses daft things?

After a day’s rest we felt a little better, and I felt as if my legs were capable of supporting me again, so we headed off closer to home, to track down a cache near the ancient church of St Baglan in Llanfaglan. I must have walked, cycled and driven past this church hundreds of times and never visited or really paid it any attention. The church dates back to the 13th Century, with a rebuild in the 18th Century, but was unfortunately closed for visitors. This did not stop us admiring the building, the views and, of course, finding our cache!

We stayed on the church theme, and visited the enormous edifice which is St Beuno’s church in Clynnog Fawr, yet another place we have been saying for years we must visit as it is barely a 15 minute drive from our house. Again, unfortunately, the church was locked but the outside gave some indication of the interior. The church yard is old, and there is a wonderful lych gate.

Nearby we also found the Holy Well associated with the church, where parents used to take their epileptic children. The children were submerged in the holy waters, then taken to the crypt in the church where they were laid over night. If they slept, then legend has it they would be cured.

Those who read our blogs regularly will know that we do like a prehistoric site, so we were thrilled to find out there is a cromlech, or ancient burial chamber, just on the other side of the main road from Clynnog Fawr. It isn’t visible from the road, but has stunning views across the bay and is worth a walk down a muddy path.

One of our most favourite places in the area is Llanddwyn Island which is on Anglesey and is reached through the village of Newborough. We have amazing views across to Llanddwyn from our house, and as the crow flies it is probably only 5 miles or so. By road, it takes nearly an hour, but is worth the trip.

This time we decided to also explore Newborough Forest, as in the past we have just walked along the sandy beach to the island. As it is now after September, dogs are allowed on the beach and island and so Seth was able to enjoy the walk with us.

At low tide you can walk across to Llanddwyn Island with its ancient church, lighthouses and cottages. Two huge stone crosses dominate the skyline and seem to be visible from everywhere on the island. We have been here many times and it never fails to inspire awe. Please enjoy the selection of photos.

Great news for our future adventures, Mr B has fitted an electric motor onto his pushbike, so now he can keep up with me – and pull Seth in his chariot! We took our bikes along Lon Eifion from Penygroes to Bontnewydd to give them a test run. This is a cycle and walkingpath which runs from Bryncir to Caernarfon and follows old railway paths, as well as following alongside the Welsh Highland Railway. It is well surfaced, safe and well used.

The trial went well, and we can now look forward to more cycling adventures when we manage to resume our travels.

Almost at the end of these two weeks’ of adventures, and we made a return visit to Tre’r Ceiri, less than half and hour’s drive from home. Tre’r Ceiri is one of the biggest iron age hill forts in Britain and certainly in a commanding position on top of one of the Eifl hills. It’s quite a trek up from the road just beyond Llanaelhaearn, but the views are amazing, especially from the top. Apparently…. We did manage to spend a fair amount of time enveloped in low cloud and with tantalising glimpses of the views beyond!

The sun came out in the end!!

We are still enjoying our adventures close to home and planning for the next two weeks. After that we are keeping everything crossed for a Christmas with our children!

Stay safe everybody!

Exploring our corner of North Wales: Part One

I don’t know about you, but when we’re home we have our favourite walks which we will do over and over again, partly for convenience, partly habit but also because we love them. When we got back home this time Wales had a week of lockdown left, so we were restricted to our very local area for walks. This included the beach at Dinas Dinlle where Seth quickly re-familiarised himself with the extensive sand (at low tide). The weather was not always great down there, but we enjoyed the scenery and sunsets and thanked our lucky stars that we had such a beautiful place on our doorstep.

We do have to drive the few miles to get to Dinas Dinlle (although we can see the beach from our house), but a walk from our doorstep takes us to Dyffryn Nantlle, or the Nantlle Valley. Here you can explore old slate mine workings around Dorothea Quarry and Cilgwyn, and also stretch your legs in the hills behind the small village of Fron.

Over the last trip, we have got more into geocaching. If you haven’t tried it, then do! It’s basically treasure hunting in the outdoors using, in our case, a free app on our mobile phone. We’ve been walking the hills behind our house for years, but this time we also hunted for caches so we ended up in slightly more ‘off the beaten track’ locations which was great fun.

Once lockdown was lifted in Wales, we were able to travel further afield whilst remaining in Wales due to the lockdown in England! We decided to take advantage of having a car rather than Arnie, and therefore be able to access places where Arnie would struggle. Our goal was to explore new perspectives on familiar places, and to encourage us with this, we went geocaching!

Our first trip out wast to the southern tip of the Lleyn peninsula, the area around Uwchmynydd, which was just under an hour’s drive from home. There is a great National Trust parking spot on the top of the mountain with spectacular views up and down the coast. In normal times, and in high season, there is a manned information centre there. From the car park you can follow the North Wales coast path, and careful plotting does allow you to create a circular route back to the car park. Our total distance was around 15km, but there were many ups and downs as you navigate the headlands. On the route we saw one other walker, spoke to a fisherman in the small harbour and waved at a farmer – social distancing at its best. The only problem was that Mr B forgot the sandwiches, so by the end of the walk we were flagging a little!! Luckily, Seth’s snacks were in my bag, so he was ok. Doggy biscuit any one?!

Our next geocaching adventure took us to the tourist hotspot of Betws y Coed. It was quite strange to see the place so quiet! After parking in the church on the high street, we headed uphill (of course) to the beautiful Llyn Elsi. There are signs at the beginning of the trail warning of a steep path for almost a kilometre, but with the promise of a resting station every 75m and a bench every 250m!! Encouraged, we headed off, but the weather had been so wet that neither the resting stations nor the benches were suitable for sitting on!! Nice idea though.

Once at the top the path circles the Llyn Elsi reservoir with its far reaching views over the Snowdon range. We did spot a car park near the reservoir, so if we come again we’ll be searching that out, presumably accessed through the Gwydyr Forest somewhere! Lovely walk, found a couple of caches, and Seth enjoyed a swim in the lake. What’s not to like?

Perhaps our most surprising trip out has been to Bangor, again inspired by a spot of geocaching! Bangor has always, for me, just been a place where we went shopping, being bigger than, but close to, my home town of Caernarfon. This time, we parked near the pier and harbour, areas of Bangor I had never visited before! It’s not often you walk down a pier to views of land, but in Bangor the pier stretches out across the Menai Straits towards Anglesey, with great views along the coast to the Great Orme at Llandudno, and the two bridges connecting Anglesey to the mainland.

From the pier we headed along the coast path then uphill to Roman Camp, a hill fort overlooking the Menai Straits which we never knew existed. At this point we did start feeling a little guilty about our lack of knowledge of our home area! An advantage of lockdown is that we have the time to explore. The incoming poor weather curtailed our exploration of Bangor, but there are other areas there to find out about there, so we will be back.

One of our favourite places to walk is around Llanberis, another tourist hotspot with its train and trails up Snowdon, its lakes and slate museum. All these are worthy activities, and the slate museum is particularly worth a visit, but this time we were out walking, caching, and boating!!

We ended up visiting twice, as on our first visit we erroneously followed one of the marked trails through the Dinorwig Woods, and ended up miles from the caches we were trying to find, whilst missing several we didn’t know were there! No matter, we had a good walk in the woods, followed by a very steep descent and Mr B had time for a trial run of one of is old model boats on the lake. That didn’t go according to plan either, as reverse wasn’t working in the face of a stiff breeze, therefore some scrambling over rocks was required. He had fun!!

Over our two visits to Llanberis, we followed the path from the Country Park car park, up the incline towards the Anglesey Barracks, then up a further incline to the viewpoint way above the quarry. This is also accessible from Dinorwig village (much easier path!). The views were pretty spectacular and on the second attempt we even managed to find the caches we’d missed previously!

The weather over the two days varied a bit, from warm and grey to bright and cold, there was even a sprinkling of snow over the higher peaks. So, a range of photos to inspire!

We’ve had lots of fun exploring our little corner of North Wales and look forward, weather and lockdown permitting, to continue our journey over the next few weeks!

Take care everyone!

Days 68 to 70: Leg Four to Hartland

Well, this is it, our final installment for this trip. Boris has spoken, and England is going into lockdown, so we are heading home to Wales and seeing what the politicians decide is best there! It is ironic that we have been on the road almost exactly the same length of time that we were at the beginning of the year and in Portugal. Maybe next year we can manage more than ten successive weeks? We live in hope, whilst being thankful that we and our loved ones are all well.

When we left Damage Barton, our first stop was Westward Ho! – named after the book rather than the other way round. It is the only place in England with an exclamation mark in its name – and that is enough of a reason for us to visit it. The weather was not wonderful, but less windy than it had been on our headland, and we enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach. We couldn’t quite believe how many surfers there were out enjoying the waves. I don’t think I would make a surfer, but I do quite like the idea of wild swimming so maybe that is something I can work towards in the warmer months! In the meantime, warm pasties and a coffee on the sea front whilst watching the surfers just had to suffice!

We have three nights booked in on the Hartland peninsula, but the weather is not amenable, and there will not be a lot of exploring going on. We will have to come back to Hartland Abbey (scene of many films and TV programmes), the lighthouse and Quay at another time. In fact, this will be where we restart our Round the Coast trip when we are able, so we shall visit then.

We did manage to catch the bus to Clovelly to spend a lovely afternoon wandering around the steep cobbled streets of this preserved fishing village. The village is much as it was in the 19th Century and earlier, and as it is part of a privately owned estate, then any developments are tightly controlled. It is a living museum in that it gives an indication of a previous existence whilst people still live and make a living in the quaint little cottages.

It took a while to walk down to the harbour over the slippery cobbles, but from there there were good views up the cliffs to the top of the village. The harbour itself is home to the Red Lion hotel (excellent ales!) and is a working fishing harbour, from the number of lobster creels then the catch must be quite good! The harbour wall, although repaired in places, is 18th century, and even earlier in parts. There is a little walk along the stony beach to the waterfall, in full force following the recent rains!

Today, our final day before heading home, we stayed around Hartland and indulged in a spot of geocaching, of course! One of the caches sent us on a walk along the road to Hartland Mill; the rain was quite bad and we nearly turned round, but so very glad that we didn’t. The walk back, after finding the cache, was along the river and through a wood. Rather muddy at times, but gorgeous Autumn colours and fast flowing streams were very picturesque.

I hope that our readers have enjoyed reading about our recent travels in the UK, we do realise how lucky we are to be able to live this life! Seth has quite a lot of fun too!

Hopefully the UK won’t stay in lockdown for too long and we will be able to enjoy days out from home to tide us over until we can hit the road again. In the meantime, stay safe everyone.

Days 61 to 67: Leg Three to Woolacombe

We have continued West along the North Devon coast, taking our time as we’ve managed to catch up with our daughter and her partner over half term. The weather has been changeable this week but other than one day, we have been out every day exploring the area.

Our first stop was at Steart Marshes where a short stroll round the headland was longer than expected! There were good views over to Brean Down where we had come from, and along the coast to Hinkley Point.

We had a brief drop in at Watchet, but had to bypass Minehead as we were running out of time and it was getting dark. Watchet is a pretty harbour town, with motorhome parking which is a bonus! With only an hour to spend there, we will have to return to explore further and ride the steam train. Watchet harbour inspired Coleridge to write the Ancient Mariner after a visit he made to the area, and a statue commemorates this in the harbour. There is also a statue to a local mariner and a mural of the town’s history lining the harbour.

We continued following the A39 to Lynmouth where we were staying for a couple of nights. Although Mr B does the driving, planning and navigating fall to me and the A39 was an obvious route as it followed the coast and was a main road. Or so I thought! We drove up the infamous Porlock Hill, a 25% uphill road with tight hairpin bends and really narrow sections; the steepest hill in North Devon. We made it to the top, just about got our breath back and ended up going downhill into Lynmouth, again a 1 in 4 hill at the bottom, after a long descent. We were a bit worried when the brake fail lights came on! Thankfully only due to overheating, so a quick pull over to plan our next steps and they were back to normal! After another tortuous road up hill, with one particularly tight corner when we had to go backwards and take another run at it, we got to our campsite just as it was getting dark. Along the road we passed places we want to return to, including Dunster, Cleeve Abbey and Porlock, but we won’t be tackling that route again in a hurry!

The following day the weather was horrendous and we didn’t make it out of Arnie all day. To be honest, we needed a break, especially Mr B, but it was a shame as we couldn’t extend our stay as we were meeting up with our daughter, We will have to return to Lynton and Lynmouth another time.

When we set off on the Sunday morning, the weather was improved and we decided to visit Combe Martin on our way west. We drove through some stunning coastal scenery, with Exmoor National Park on the other side of us. Combe Martin is down another steep road and into a narrow cove nestled between two headlands. There were shingle beaches where Seth managed a swim, and some muddy walks up to the headlands to admire the views.

Our home for the next five nights is Damage Barton campsite just outside Mortehoe. It should only have been four nights, but our next campsite phoned to say their field was flooded and they couldn’t take us! There are beautiful views out to sea from our headland, but we are very exposed and have been rocked to sleep most nights by the wind!

One of the huge advantages of this site is the bus stop right outside, meaning we don’t have to tackle the tricky Devon roads on a daily basis. On Monday, we caught the bus to Ilfracombe and met up with our daughter and her partner. The weather was windy, but dry so we enjoyed a walk around the harbour, admired Verity, a Damien Hurst statue guarding the harbour, walked up to Hillsborough AONB where there were magnificent views down over the town, and also along the coast.

Ilfracombe was busy with holiday makers as it was the school half term holiday, and it was good to see families enjoying the seaside. There is only a small beach in Ilfracombe as it is a working harbour, but there are coves around which you can walk to, as well as the famous Tunnel Beaches, which were unfortunately closed due to the current restrictions.

The bus from the campsite also goes to Woolacombe which is a long, sandy beach and very popular with surfers. The weather was awful in the morning, and we got rather wet just catching the bus just before lunch, but we persevered – and were rewarded! Another blustery day, but the sun came out and we had a thoroughly enjoyable walk along the length of the beach, and back before a late lunch. We do realise we are living the dream!!

Our final day before heading towards Bude, and we walked across the fields to the coast from our campsite. It was a lovely, if muddy, walk and manageable only in wellies! There are loads of geocaches around, so we indulged today and found twelve! There were some amazingly creative caches, and one even involved a bit of tree climbing! Any excuse!!

Days 59 and 60: Leg Two to Brean

It has been amazingly difficult to follow Mr B’s rule that if you’re going round the coast, then you must be able to see the coast! This leg took us through some industrial areas, so I guess the navigator can be excused!

Our first stop was the other end of the Gloucester-Sharpness canal as we hadn’t managed to walk there. We were surprised to find a working quay with a dry dock and surrounded by industrial estates. We were even more surprised to find a picnic area overlooking the river, and although it was raining we did stop for a while.

We continued following the Severn Estuary as best we could, through Avonmouth in the rain and on to Clevedon. The weather was not in our favour, and the traffic was heavier than we had encountered for a while!

By the time we got to Clevedon, having been rained off a walk at Portishead, the weather was vastly improved and we parked Arnie for a walk along the most British of institutions – the promenade. Along the prom we found a marine lake, a bandstand and plenty of benches for enjoying an ice cream whilst looking out to sea. Unfortunately, there were no boats, bands or ice cream to be had, but it all faded into insignificance when we found that the pier was open!

Unfortunately time was running out on us and we had to drive past Weston super Mare without visiting as we were staying just south of it in the seaside resort of Brean, and it was getting late! Our campsite is quiet, and is closing at the end of October for the winter, but we pitched up and settled in to a warm dinner and a welcome glass of wine!

Thursday, and the weather was promising better so we had planned a walk on the beach to Brean Down, a circular walk of 12km according to the OS map…. The beach at Brean is enormous, and as the tide was not out, we were not impinged by the mud flats so could enjoy our walk, and Seth could enjoy his swim.

By the time we got to Brean Down the sun was out, and the views from the top were quite spectacular. The promontory has an old iron age hill fort as well as a Napoleonic fort which was rearmed during World War Two. There were views to Weston super Mare and along the coast to Hinckley Point power station, but also across the estuary to Cardiff, the Brecon Beacons and the South Wales Coast. We even made out the millenium stadium in Cardiff!

After a cuppa at the National Trust cafe, we set off back to Brean, this time deciding to see what the town itself had to offer. The road was lined with caravan parks, mostly static caravans which are so typical of English seaside towns. Although empty, there were also the traditional arcades, fairgrounds and range of eateries. We did not partake, it is not really our cup of tea, but it was interesting to see the traditional British seaside holiday still present if not exactly going strong. I guess it is out of season, and this year has not been typical!

By the time we got back to our campsite we’d walked just over 17km! It really seems to me that whenever we set off on a walk, we need to add another 5km to what we think it’s going to be! Sore feet currently being nursed!

Days 56 to 58: Slimbridge, Gloucestershire

Leaving Ross on Wye on Sunday, we said goodbye to the original planned trip after changing our plans so many times we’ve lost count. We are now officially starting our round the coast trip; we know we won’t complete it in one go! And before you say anything, no Ross on Wye is not on the coast! We have decided to start the trip at Over where the River Severn is crossed just outside Gloucester. Although this is still not technically the coast, being on a river, we have decided it is as good a starting point as any! Anyway, this is where we are and this is where we’re starting!!

Our first stop is at a lovely little campsite near the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Centre, still on the River Severn. The campsite is on the Gloucester-Shipness canal which once allowed sea going vessels up stream as far as Gloucester. When opened in the early 19th century, it was the widest and deepest canal in the world. Today it is used for leisure boats, and we have never seen so many different boats on a canal before.

We walked to Frampton on Severn and up to the ‘crossroads’ at Saul Junction where the canal crosses the Stroudwater Navigation, and the biggest marina we’ve seen on a canal! The water was not busy with traffic, although we did see the bridges in operation, but there were many vessels moored alongside with many people clearly making the water their home. Frampton on Severn was a pretty little town with an enormous village green and village pond, and a couple of pubs which we left in favour of coffee and cake at the marina!

We had to visit Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Centre of course, leaving Seth guarding Arnie as the presence of so many ducks would be more than he could bear! We had high hopes of seeing the beginnings of the winter migrations that this wetland area is famous for, and so were quite disappointed at first to see a centre that seemed to be more zoo than wild birds. There were dozens of geese, swans and ducks which were very used to people and thoroughly expected to be fed by the little people especially. It was rather like Seth when he knows you have a pocket of dog treats -any sniff of bird food and the geese mobbed you!

The centre also has many flamingos from all over the world. Not on any migratory path, simply there to be attractive and flamboyant which they did very well!

If you continued along the paths and away from the young children enjoying the birds and the sunshine, you came to many hides from where you could observe the more elusive birds. We were not lucky enough to spot kingfishers, but were treated to a display of a young Marsh Harrier trying to hunt and being thwarted at every turn by crows. There were also many geese, ducks and various waders in the wetlands which looked magnificent when flying in huge flocks.

We’ve had a much better few days with regard to weather than we had expected and we have, once again, walked miles! There are still quite a few holiday makers around, and our campsite has been busy but not full. Everyone is being very careful and following all Covid regulations and we feel very confident to carry on with our travels.

Days 53 to 55: Ross on Wye

Continuing South we arrive at Ross on Wye, not far from our adventures last year when we followed Offa’s Dyke from Chepstow.

We are here for three nights and staying at the Broadmeadows Caravan Site. It did not bode well as we drove through an old industrial estate, past reclamation yards and bus garages- but the site is great and perfect for exploring Ross on Wye.

On our first day we explored the town, following the geo-caching clues to explore the sculptures placed around Ross. It’s a busy market town with a good range of shops and cafes, which serve very good scones and coffee!

Day two and we decide to walk along the River Wye to Goodrich Castle. We knew the walk was going to be long, probably around 20km round trip, but we were hoping for lovely views of the river, watching the wildlife by the river, strolling on a riverside path. This was not the case! The path did indeed follow the river, around each and every one of its meandering twists and turns, but we saw very little of the river due to the trees and bushes obscuring the river bank. We continued, we had pretty little choice, and did see the castle up on a hill ahead of us. Unfortunately it became apparent, after 11km, that we couldn’t easily get from the river to the castle – I guess that is the point of having a castle on a promontory! What to do?? We got to the road, and a bus stop magically appeared followed by a bus 10 minutes later.

We never made it to Goodrich Castle that day!

Once delivered safely back to Ross on Wye, we found the nearest pub and we were very appreciative!!

Day three, we caught the bus to Goodrich Castle!!! It was absolutely worth the return trip as it is a magnificent medieval castle and there is so much of it still intact. The views from the top of the keep were magnificent. I managed to imprison Mr B and Seth in the dungeon!

We have had long conversations over the last couple of days just as we did when we were in Portugal in March – should we go home or should we carry on? If we went back home to Wales we would go into a lockdown in a couple of days which would last at least two weeks. If we stayed in England and continued travelling safely in areas of Medium risk, we could continue our trip.

The original plan had been to have a holiday with our children and their partners in Devon, but this is no longer possible due to restrictions. One of our children, still allowed to travel, was then going to visit us in Wales making it logical to go home, but this isn’t possible in a lockdown. It would have been easy to still go home, but we have decided that, for now, we are continuing our travels.

We have long wanted to travel round the coast of the UK, and we are going to start that trip and head towards Somerset and Devon. Whilst campsites are still open and we are taking all precautions against catching or spreading the virus, then we will continue to support the British economy!

Days 49 to 52: Tewkesbury

We continue to meander south, and decided to change our habits by staying in one place for more than two nights! So, we booked into the Caravan and Motorhome Club site in Tewkesbury for a whole four nights, giving us time to explore the area and re-charge our batteries.

We knew nothing about Tewkesbury other than the fact that it is half way between our children in Bristol and Birmingham, but we have been very pleasantly surprised. It is a historic market town, with a wealth of old buildings lining its streets and intriguing alley ways running between buildings.

Tewkesbury lies at the confluence of the Severn and the Avon and its history is very influenced by its river side location. There are many mills, all now closed, and many converted into apartments. The construction of the Mill Avon created the Severn Ham, a huge common, naturally flooded, and managed to preserve its unique environmental characteristics. Currently it is grazed by sheep, who were rather more interested in Seth than he was in them!

Tewkesbury Abbey is magnificent. It was originally a monastery, but was bought by the parish as their parish church during the dissolution of the monasteries. Unfortunately we were not able to see all of it due to Corona Virus restrictions, but it’s just an excuse to return.

We also had the chance to explore further by following the Severn Way west towards Deerhurst. The area around Tewkesbury is criss crossed by many public footpaths and town trails, meaning you can walk directly from the town to the surrounding villages through countryside and along the river.

Deerhurst is a tiny village, but has two Anglo Saxon churches. The oldest, built around 800AD is the priory church of St Mary’s which is stunningly beautiful in its starkness. The font is Saxon, there is medieval stained glass and the stone carvings were beautiful, including the angel high up on an external wall.

The second church is Odda’s Chapel, built in 1065 and lost for many centuries. It was only when the neighbouring farmstead was renovated in 1865 that the chapel was rediscovered. It had been incorporated into the house, with the nave being used as a kitchen and a bedroom in the chancel. The chapel is now pared back to the original walls and is a rare find. The church is on the left hand side.

Days 47 and 48: Family

We’ve continued South and driven through the vast conurbations of the North East of England, without stopping I hasten to add. Driving through Bradford, we can almost definitely say it is not a holiday destination, and it took so long (we try to avoid motorways), that taking huge detours through much more pleasant countryside would be infinitely more pleasurable. A lesson learned.

Mr B is from Leicestershire, and we spent the evening in Quorn near Loughborough catching up with Mr B the elder, another Mrs B and a Master B!! Sounds like a game of Happy Families!! Due to our travels, Covid lockdowns, and the fact that we live in Wales and they live in Leicestershire, we hadn’t seen them since November last year! It was great fun to catch up and it makes us long even more for things to get back to a semblance of normality.

The following day we headed off to the Clent Hills near Birmingham to meet up with our son and his husband. We’re all fans of geocaching, only they are much better at it than Mr B and myself! At the Clent Hills we were treated to some excellent views over Birmingham City, some muddy scrambles and some lessons in geocaching. Oh, and some pretty hefty showers before the sun came out!

Excellent afternoon followed by a tasty meal at the Swallow’s Nest.

We’ve been on the road now for seven weeks, and this weekend it has been good to catch up with family.

Days 45 and 46: Castles and Abbeys

We have meandered down through County Durham and North Yorkshire on our way south and picked up a couple of abbeys and a castle on our route.

Our first stop was at Barnard Castle where we had two nights at the Caravan and Motorhome Club site just half a mile outside the town along a riverside path. We arrived late afternoon and walked into town for a long awaited fish supper which we ate in front of the castle!

The next day we headed back into town to explore the castle further. It is a big space inside, around three hectares and is under the care of the English Heritage with their usual excellent information boards.

The Teeside Way follows the River Tees through Barnard Castle and we walked it as far as Abbey Bridge and Egglestone Abbey, the ruins of a Cistercian Monastery. This was not as big, but worth a walk out to see, if you like that sort of thing!

We liked Barnard Castle very much. There are some fascinating old buildings in the town, a whole range of independent shops and Bowes Museum, none of which we had the time to see this visit. Once again, we will have to return!

We continued south to Ripon and a visit to Fountains Abbey and Studley Water Park. We didn’t think we’d been before, and as we were walking down from the visitor centre, we were trying to remember the other place we’d been to with the Abbey down in the valley…. In our defence, it was a brief stop and we didn’t explore much – and since then we have travelled a lot!

This time we spent the afternoon wandering around, following a lovely lunch of soup and a cheese scone, a bit of a tradition for us but not one we’ve been able to indulge in much this year. There were other visitors at the Abbey, and it is mid-week, but we must admit that we like having more space and fewer people when we go visiting.

Days 43 and 44: Off grid in the North Pennines

For the last two days we have not had a signal for internet or phone, so a double post this evening as we are again on a campsite in a town, with an internet signal. Not that we don’t enjoy being off grid for a few nights, especially when we can be enjoying the stunning countryside which is this part of the North Pennines National Park.

We spent our first night at Derwent Water at the Millshield Picnic Area where you are allowed to park overnight. There is a walk along the reservoir to the Visitor Centre which had a fantastic children’s playground. Mr B wouldn’t let me have a go on the swings, rope bridges and frames, such a spoil sport!

Neither of us know this area of the country very well, and we have only a couple of days to explore this time. We were spending our second night at Selset Reservoir, not very far away, but we decided to go the long way round and approach via Teesdale and the High Force Waterfall. Teesdale is stunning and so very remote, but there are a few campsites so we will be back another time to walk and discover more. For this time, we headed to the High Force Waterfall, walking there from Bowlees Visitor Centre. As there has been much rain the falls were pretty impressive, but you can imagine that it would be so much more after a period of heavy rain.

Teesdale became famous in the 1970s following the filming of the life of Hannah Hauxwell. She lived on a farm here, with no electricity or running water, making a living from a few animals, and using low tech farming techniques. The farm where she once lived is still there, and her farm is now a nature reserve, Hannah’s Meadows, and is prolific in rare plants due to the low impact farming used here over generations. The area around here, and the Balderhead Reservoir is beautiful and we had a pleasant walk, missing the showers despite the looming clouds.

Such a brief visit to this area, but not the last. It seems to me that the more we travel, the more we find to explore!

Days 38 to 42: Hadrian’s Wall

Today, the last day of September we crossed back into England and decided to head East and follow the remains of Hadrian’s Wall from Brampton in the west to Corbridge in the east, avoiding the bigger cities and any pandemic hotspots.

The weather was not good as we left Scotland, but by the time we arrived in Brampton the rain had at least stopped and we managed to book tickets for Lanercost Priory where parking in a motorhome proved a little challenging! The priory has seen plenty of action over centuries, and at one time was the seat of national power when Edward I rested there for several months in 1307, too ill to lead his army against the Scots. Today there are only ruins remaining in the care of English Heritage, but are worth being explored.

The following day was based around the the Roman Fort at Birdoswald. First we walked east towards the river crossing at Willowford, passing milecastles and watch towers on the way. The wall is in remarkable condition, although not as tall as it once was of course!

Birdoswald fort is in a stunning location, and must have been so windswept for the soldiers guarding the area. Wonderfully laid out exhibition and great English Heritage staff on hand.

Excellent campsite, The Hadrian’s Wall Caravan Park, for a couple of nights, with the most wonderful sunset the first night we were there.

We caught the bus to Housesteads Roman Fort on Friday with the plan of walking back along the Hadrian’s Wall path to our campsite, a distance of around 8km so well within our ability.

There were many ups and downs walking the Hadrian’s Wall path, and they were pretty steep ups and downs too! This length of wall has some pretty steep cliffs and the Romans made use of them in their defense system. Very effectively! Fantastic walk on a brilliant day. Legs were tired at the end, but in a good way!

Storm Alex finally reached us on Saturday but unfortunately we had to move site! Other than popping in to a supermarket on the way, that is all we did on Saturday!

Our second site was lovely, right by the banks of a river…… As we sat there with a glass of wine, we watched the river get higher and higher and the flow rate increase… At 10pm the site owners knocked on the door and said they were worried about the river, and would we please move to a higher position on site. All motorhome pitches were by the river, so we ended up outside their house for the rest of the night. Hope they enjoyed the smell of frying bacon the following morning!

By Sunday morning, the storm had passed and we called in to our last Roman site, the Roman town of Corbridge. They have excavated only a small part of the site the old Roman town would have covered, but they have found so much. You can walk down the old High Street, and see where the old shops would have been as well as the usual barracks and military buildings.

When excavating the archaeologists found a treasure trove of artefacts, including the Corbridge Lion and the Corbridge Hoard which included the best preserved Roman chest armour ever found. These are all on display in the excellent museum on site.