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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: 54.9863, -1.61224
6 May - 31 May 2015
We returned home from New Zealand after a long journey, 42 hours door to door (we do always allow extra time in case something goes wrong on the way to the airport) and decided in future we would make stopovers.
Once recovered from the flight and after staying with Gilli for a few nights we moved to Rochford in Essex to stay with Pauline and Colin and prepare ourselves for Pauline's 60th party. It was a really lovely afternoon and I hope Pauline enjoyed it. P & C are really patient with our comings and goings and uncomplainingly store our excess clothes for which we are very grateful!
From Essex we moved down to Eastbourne for Dentist, Optician etc and then with a mix of excitement and trepidation we went to collect our new home, Astrid, our Elddis 135 Motorhome. She is called Astrid because it is an anagram of Tardis, and we hope she has similar properties in terms of providing more space than seems possible from outside, and also because Astrid represents strength and endurance in German mythology (according to Jim).
As we had rented
a car to tide us over until we collected Astrid we had to pick up the motorhome near Southampton and then return the rental car to Southampton Airport. Only Jim was insured to drive the rental vehicle which meant that he had to leave the motorhome dealers with me following behind driving Astrid. He had an idea about the location of the airport, I had none, so I had to keep him in sight. Easier said than done! At the second large roundabout which had a stand of beautiful but visually obscuring trees in the middle, I lost sight of his car and did not know which exit he had taken. I thought I caught sight of him as I passed one exit but was already committed to another so had to go off the roundabout, a mile down the road to the next roundabout and then turn back. It took some time as there was heavy traffic and roadworks but eventually I was travelling down the road I thought Jim had taken when he passed me going in the opposite direction. Eventually we met up and reached the airport after a number of hair raising incidents and then drove
on to Paul and Sheila in Winchester where I just managed to slide down out of the driver's seat and collapse until revived with a large wine. Having to drive Astrid alone on unknown roads, getting used to her size/controls and watching where Jim was going was certainly a baptism of fire!
Paul and Sheila kindly allowed us to park Astrid on their drive where we managed to start unpacking and spent a comfortable night getting to know her, but without water or gas connections we were very thankful that Paul and Sheila gave us a key to their house. The next day we set off to Abingdon to see Anna, parking in a very scenic and comfortable HGV site provided by the Council. From there we returned to East Sussex and spent one night with Rob and Trish in a field behind a pub in Boreham Street. It was an enjoyable evening with good food in the pub but although we had planned to sit out and have another glass of wine before retiring it was so cold we all went to bed.
Then we started our journey north spending 5 nights in Grassington in the Yorkshire
Dales, where we met up with Ken and Marilyn on a Caravan Club site. K & M were our first dinner guests in Astrid, but even better, they provided the dinner! Living in a motorhome has certainly not interfered with our social life so far. Within the grounds of the site rabbits hopped from verge to verge cropping the grass, spectacularly brightly coloured Pheasants wandered by, and clumps of Primroses raised their heads above the grass to catch the chilly sunshine. Apart from the cold it was a very pleasant park.
By this time we were beginning to appreciate that living in a motorhome in the UK is not the same as in Australia. For a start the temperature was struggling to get into double figures and we were wearing all our cold weather clothes at once together with hats and scarves. The prices on the CC site are exactly double what we paid in Oz and even the cost of washing in their laundry machine was double. There are other differences which I will say more about later.
Despite the chilly weather we had a good trip on the Skipton to Carlisle railway with the stunning scenery
made even more impressive by the intimidating cobalt, gray and black clouds weighing down on the hills ominously whilst the sun shone through gaps to create deep emerald green fields. The Dales are exactly as portrayed in the Postman Pat books and we expected to see Pat's van hurtling round the bends between dry stone walls. Grassington itself is small, on the banks of the River Wharf, with traditional stone cottages, an 11th Century Church in Linton (St Michael and All Angels, built they believe on an 8th Century Viking site), Linton Falls and a variety of walks around.
As we had had our eyes tested in Eastbourne and both need new glasses we managed to order them in Skipton but arranged to have them delivered in Newcastle. This means we have to be in the area for a week or so. As it is about 40 years since we last visited Whitby we decided to make that our next stop. The town centre itself has changed little apart from a new supermarket and more houses but the number of tourists has increased dramatically, not helped by the fact that we arrived in time for the Bank Holiday weekend.
The starkly imposing Abbey ruins and St Mary the Virgin church are perched on the top of the cliffs, reached by 199 steps. Quite a climb but worth it for the view. The area around the Abbey is now managed by English Heritage. We were very surprised and disappointed that in order to stop people viewing the Abbey ruins from outside (for free) they have built a high wall around which in places almost touches the ruins. It certainly reduces the impact of the site and we were glad that we had seen it in the 'old days' pre-wall when it was much more atmospheric. I appreciate the need to manage and protect historic sites but babies and bathwater came to mind in this instance! Jim did manage a photograph with his combination of height and long arms.
Many of the shops in the town reflect the literary connections with the strange and supernatural so have names such as 'Incantations', and 'Ancient Magicians', and if you wish you can buy chocolate coffins or Dracula's teeth! This all contrasts with the brightly painted beach huts which stretch along the promenade, and the donkeys which still plod miserably along the beach
with children on their back. Almost everyone walking by was eating fish and chips in boxes. It presents a traditional English seaside resort with little change since the 50s apart from the volume of visitors and at times it appears as a theme park parodying the old style holiday.
So how are we finding Astrid after 2 weeks? She is lovely and cosy despite the cold weather. It has taken us until now to work out what we need and buy the extra 'bits' such as bedding, crockery, cutlery (thank you Sheila for the cutlery, and James' family for kitchen items), car ramps to level Astrid, outdoor mat, car vacuum, TV and a folding step so I can reach the cupboards etc. Taking Sheila's advice I bought a thick mattress topper for the bed and it is so comfy I never want to get up. Real luxury after our campervan in Australia, and I certainly feel that I have gone up in the world now I have a car vacuum as well as a dustpan and brush.
We are now almost complete and have familiarised ourselves with the plumbing, heating and waste disposal. Jim takes care of the
chemical toilet cassette, (much easier and more pleasant than it sounds but I am still pleased it is his job!). Having a 'loo' on board is an amazing bonus, much appreciated at night, as is the space heating and hot water. Having cooking facilities and heating that can switch from gas to electricity is great as when we are plugged in on site we use electricity to save our gas but if 'wild camping' or between sites we can still use all the amenities by switching over to the gas bottle. It only remains to organise our storage more efficiently and test the awning which we have not done so far because of the strong winds or rain.
We moved on to Craster on the Northumberland Coast which is famous for its kippers. We decided not to buy any but we did stand outside the smokery for a few minutes to smell them - a wonderful aroma but we did not want it hanging around in Astrid for days.
The campsite is a mile from the the village and we walked in for a look around the harbour and cottages. Craster is tiny and less touristy than the
Yorkshire resorts. As we reached the harbour wall I saw something black splash into the sea. I thought someone had fallen overboard but quickly realised there was no boat to fall out of. Then the splash reappeared and we could see that it was a pod of dolphins very close to the wall. They must have been following fish as they slowly drifted northwards accompanied by birds which were also diving for fish. After watching them and stopping for a tea and scone we walked along the coastal path to the ruined Dunstanburgh Castle looking at the Forget-me-nots and dazzling yellow Gorse. The unspoilt Northumberland coast is dotted with castles set on strategic headlands between superb beaches, only saved from large scale exploitation by the chilly climate and cold sea. Having said that the infrastructure could not support many tourists either as the roads are poor and parking limited in most towns and villages, but for walkers it is a wonderful area.
We hoped to take a boat trip out to the Farne Islands to 2 RSPB sites however so far the weather has not been suitable
Back to the difference between camping here and in Australia. We
know that Oz is meant to be a classless society and visiting sites here in the UK does highlight that difference. The Caravan Club site presents a middle class image, with rules, orderliness (tents are excluded from many sites), controls, higher costs and many people travelling long distances to their favourite sites. Many of the private sites are clearly of a different class with people camping much closer to their homes, utilising a creative range of vehicles and tents and even hanging up their washing! Washing machines are few and far between. Not sure if this means that we are dirtier than the Aussies or don't stay away from home for as long. So far we have not met anyone who is not having a short break or a standard holiday stay, whereas in Australia there is always a mix of holiday makers, travellers, grey nomads, itinerant workers and people using the sites as accommodation to make visits to towns for hospital appointments, special events etc.The great distances and small population in most areas of Australia help create a very different usage of camps and lifestyle. It will be interesting to see if this view changes as we stop at
Our present site is on Budle Bay, approximately 3 miles from Bamburgh Castle which is built on a dolerite outcrop overlooking the sea and across to the Farne Islands. The Castle is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country and archaelogical evidence shows that the crag provided a natural fortress for the Iron Age Votadini tribe in about 800 BC but it was first mentioned in the 6th Century. The Normans built a new castle on site early in the 11th Century but much of what you see today was built by the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong and the Armstrong family still own it and live there today. The walk from the camp site into Bamburgh crosses a golf course, rounds the headland, and provides excellent view of the Castle and the Farne Islands but luckily we managed to catch one of the rarely spotted buses back as walking both ways would have a little too far!
We have just had a call to say that our specs have arrived so we can collect them on Monday. Jim and I then had a meeting to discuss our onwards itinerary. As we want to
be in Nottingham on July 14th Jim suggested we go north into Scotland until then and leave our visit to Ireland until after that date so we can spend longer there, probably until mid September. All for now, we are going to drive into Seahouses and see if we can post this blog and get online to send emails.
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