New season adventures

We definitely have seasons for Rosie’s adventures. From November through to February we are busy doing other things and Rosie has a bit of work done on her to keep the old lady moving. A bit of respite care.

But the snowdrops are out, it’s half term and so it’s time for adventure!

Two munchkins love their days out in Rosie. Their excitement is catching.  We packed up lunch and headed for Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood.

After much whooping on the way there we arrive on a chilly but sunny day. These two are eager to get started.

The Museum of Childhood is fascinating particularly if you are a sixties child.  Lots of stuff from my childhood!  There’s really good areas about Victorian childhoods and the hands on experiences keep our two busy and interested. Scrub harder you two!

A bit of ironing

And washing

They didn’t like the idea of climbing chimneys.

After a couple of hours play we were back in Rosie for lunch – the best bit – they love picnicking in the van.

Back at the hall which is celebrating 50 years of being part of the National Trust, half term activities include Womble based activities (Wombles are 50 this year too). For those too young to know Wombles were little creatures who lived on Wimbledon Common in a TV series and picked up everyone else’s litter- the first recyclers on TV!

So we took our map and went in search for stuff that people left behind in amongst the landscaped gardens of the hall. 

There was all sorts of stuff hanging in trees. There was even a statue with sunglasses on!  It also gave us time for adventures in trees.

The expressions on their faces tell you what a great trip it was. Back in Rosie we travel home planning what we are going to do in her next. 

A year in the life of a tree quilt – February

The trees are planned and will reflect the seasons and important dates for my family- not quite sure how I’m going to work this in yet but that’s part of the joy of developing a quilt in this way.  There are decisions to be made all along the way.

The key message however from Marion, our wonderful teacher, is the importance of accuracy.  To make the patchwork elements of each block work when it all comes together accuracy in cutting and sewing are going to be paramount.  So doing our first block, although fairly simple become a shoulder clenched when you know you have to be accurate.  A few templates, a rotary cutter, sticky tape marking the quarter inch seam and a bit of unpicking, we succeeded in creating our first patchwork block.  Here’s Annette and I with our finished products.

Nearly finished my first tree block too so will post again soon.

A year in the life of a tree quilt.

Making a patchwork quilt is something I’ve wanted to make since I was a teenager, inspired by all things Laura Ashley and Holly Hobby in the seventies.  I made a slow start cutting out hexagons in paper then using these as templates on the fabric.  It still sits in the loft somewhere, the size of a cushion.

In retirement I’ve achieved what I set out to do which was get sewing again and with the support of Marion at Love, Heart, Home I’ve regained my confidence, picked up some great ideas and disciplined myself through attending classes to complete several projects posted in Pinterest

I love attending classes, meeting like-minded crafters and being a social sewing bee.  As a result I have a few quilts and quillows under my belt.

Now the bar is raised and we are starting a tree quilt, meeting once a month to get started on a section, focusing on accuracy!!

The theme is trees and although each section has a base determined by Marion, we all have got to get creative with our fabrics and our embellishments.

So here’s the first of my blogs in a year in the life of a tree quilt.

The first decision was the fabrics. I’d already bought some to make myself another Quillow so it was a no brainier really – there had to be some duck egg blue in there!

January – applique the trees and then get my thinking cap on for how to embellish them.

So far so good.  Watch this space to see how it progresses.

Mind the bridge!

As Rosie has the equivalent of a hip replacement (a bit of body work) and cosies up for the winter, we head off to Northamptonshire with our friends for a week on a 66 foot barge.  No problem I do camping; can’t be much different on a boat.

Our barge is the Rufus Castle and sleeps six.  We pick her up from Gayton Marina and begin our journey along the Grand Union Canal, heading for Nether Heyford, our first mooring.  For half the week there are five of us, with the Tiller Girl with us on the first day and then joining us mid-week.  The captain is a seasoned barger and known to us as Unc but on this trip as Chief Engineer which means he puts the engine on every morning, gleans his ‘gland’, clears the weed hatch and puts on the central heating so the rest of us don’t get cold and can use the hairdryer.  It’s civilised barging.

The First Mate also known as Gate Crasher, is a seasoned sailor (ooh-aargh) usually sailing the high seas off the south coast, looking for treasure …..or rather a pint of good beer at each watering hole.  We all help out in that endeavour this week and the girls make a good start!

Dubber has swapped his campervanning for his first steer on a barge as Cabin Boy.  As I found out too a barge takes longer to respond than shorter boats and there were a few connections with bridges and canal banks along the way.  

The route we take along the canal is beautiful.  The Autumn light is stunning on these unusually warm October days and the water as calm as a mill pond.  The reflections of the beautifully painted boats and the trees full of berries is glorious.

There’s plenty of wildlife too with moorhens, ducks, herons, a kingfisher or two and  Auntie, also a seasoned barger, is the Duck Spotter feeding this family of swans with its large brood of five signets.

When we moor at Nether Heyford we enjoy our first evening with beef casserole and the first of many crumbles. It’s a beautiful evening and we venture to the Olde Sun Inn with its friendly locals and excellent beer.  Then back to the barge for the first round in the Skipbo tournament. Yes we brought it along with us from the campervan. 

I’m responsible for writing the ship’s log so:

Day 1: 2 hours, six miles, no locks, Skipbo to Duck Spotter.

Day two finds us on our way at just after 9 with a bacon sarnie and a glorious sunny morning.  Quite early on we have seven locks and so us novices get instructions from Duck Spotter, who is very good at it.  It’s harder work than you think with your windlass in your  hand coiling up the paddles and then opening heavy lock gates.  

At Busby Top we went to the New Inn for a swift one before lunch on the boat before we travelled through a mile and a quarter of darkness in the Braunston Tunnel.  It’s really eerie travelling along with just a light shining in the front through pitch black, then seeing a light coming towards you as another boat squeezes by.  After another six locks we moor at Braunston to go for an evening stroll to the Wheatsheaf and then the Olde Plough for dinner.

Day 2: 7 hours, 11 miles, 13 locks, Skipbo to Duck Spotter again….

Another glorious day as we take the junction onto the Oxford Canal heading through 9 locks to Napton-on-the-hill and brunch served at two in the afternoon. Duck Spotter and I (General Dogsbody) gather blackberries for another crumble. The canal banks are abundant with hawthorn, sloes, rose hips, crab apples and blackberries.  The trees look like they are already celebrating Christmas with all their gaiety. 

We moor up at Fenny Compton enjoying a drink at the lovely Wharf Inn before home baked bread and casserole warming us from the chilly wind. Two good games of Skipbo; they are getting the gist of it now and then it’s off to bed…hold on who nearly fell in?  Now known as the First Mate’s arm incident.

Day 3: 8.5 hours, 14 miles, 9 locks, Skipbo – one to the First Mate and one to me.

Today our final destination is Cropredy so that the Tiller Girl can join us.  Early driving was through a beautiful narrow canal.

Until now locks had been double locks in which two boats can travel. Now they are single locks and generally but not always easier to deal with.  It’s international day today as we meet Australians and Germans. Besides meeting people the best thing about dealing with locks is having a lovely walk along the towpaths.  It’s so peaceful. 

And I managed a bit of driving too.

At Cropredy we shop for provisions and have a walk around this lovely village, Dubber’s choice because of its Fairport Convention connection.  We also turn round here before heading to The Brasenose pub for dinner and the Tiller Girl joins us.

Day 4: 5 hours, 7 miles, 9 locks, no Skipbo today.

We make a leisurely start after coffee in bed, breakfast and straight back into the locks.  They seem heavier today. We all have aching muscles. Some of the lock pools are really low so we have to be careful not to beach the boat. The day is spent meandering back up the beautiful canal to Fenny Compton where we fill up with water again and we have a drink too.  

We find a quiet spot to moor away from anyone else and have a splendid meal cooked by the captain with a crumble using the blackberries we picked. We were presented with an awesome sunset.

Day 5: 7.5 hours, 12 miles, 9 locks, and Chief Engineer wins two games of Skipbo.

We’re setting off early…..we didn’t!  It was a short journey before we had 9 locks and it got busier and busier as we approached Napton again.  This time we waited to get into The Folly Inn the landlord of which had the same surname as our First Mate.  This led to some witty chat about family likenesses and sharing of family details.  The food was amazing. We even managed a crew photo!

We are nearing the final stretch so we need to eat up the leftovers so it’s a tea of this and that after a couple of drinks back at The Olde Plough for early doors. Although somebody snuck in a bag of chips before we got back to the boat.

Day 6: 6.5 hours, 11 miles, 9 locks and Tiller Girl won a game of Skipbo.  So it’s just Dubber who hasn’t won yet. He’s bound to start moaning.
We have really got to get a move on today because we have to be about an hour away from Gayton marina tonight. So we are straight to it this morning and we did 13 locks and a tunnel with brunch in between.  It sounds as if we are rushing but you really can’t do this on a barge at 3mph. 

Alongside locks there are often interesting houses or old lock keeper cottages that are now either pubs or a canal shop. There are often lovely gardens and long stay canal boats of people who live and work on the canals. 

We moor at Bugbrooke and take a walk through yet another lovely village. A pint at the Five Bells before having a meal at The Wharf Inn. We make full use of the toilets there as ours are getting full on board and we don’t want to send out for an emergency pump out.  Cross your legs. No you can’t have another gin.  Oh alright then.  Just the one.  We play a final game of Skipbo and yay Dubber wins.

Day 7: 7 hours, 12 miles, 13 locks, one tunnel and joint winners at Skipbo Duck Spotter and the Chief Engineer.

The final morning we are away by 8am and travel back in sunshine to the marina.  By the time we arrive we have done 46 hours, 75 miles, 62 locks, and 8 games of Skipbo.  We have travelled through beautiful countryside, met lots of lovely people, eaten and drunk extremely well, walked miles, strengthened our core muscles with all that windlassing and pushing and pulling lock gates and been blessed with beautiful October sunshine with the best of friends.

And what did we learn?

Double locks are harder than single locks.

A pint of beer at lunchtime makes afternoon lock opening easier.

You meet lots of lovely people when you’re messing about in boats.

Dubber is still happier when he’s won a game of Skipbo.

Rosie’s European Adventure: Postscript

Finished my blogs and then realised that there were several significant omissions, so a postscript required.

I DO camp. This is a significant statement in my relationship with Rosie, but I have to say it is all down to her.  This summer’s adventure she did a fantastic job of getting us from home to Harwich, Hook of Holland to Amsterdam, on to Arnhem, then our fab weekend in Spa, onto Luxembourg, up to Utrecht and home.  A grand trek for two old ladies and Dubber ie me, Rosie and my husband.

The relationship has grown and there is a certain respect for this campervan which lets face it is getting on a bit.  This trip rather than any other we really feel that we enjoyed the indoors and outdoors experience. We were lucky with the weather so we could enjoy cooking and sitting outdoors especially in the evening which we couldn’t do on the Outer Hebrides trip last year.  And we even popped her top to cool her down especially in Spa where it was 35 degrees, but actually most evenings she was quite cool having kept the sun out of the vehicle most of the day.

The only problem we really had, well me until the last night was the bugs. We struggled to keep them out and I have been the food of choice most of the summer for any insect which needed to bite.  Having tried the citronella spray, lotion, Avon Skin so Soft and the hard stuff, nothing was really working. After several deaths by battering we thought we had got them all but woke on the last morning with one mosquito getting its own back with both of us covered in bites.  All ideas for future defence systems welcome.

The other thing on this trip which became clear is that male campervan owners fettle. Now I have checked this in the dictionary and there is a term for checking and getting ready known as fettling. Well park up a campervan, get yourselves settled in and most women I have observed relax and enjoy the experience reading, chatting with other campervan owners, and just enjoy the moment.  Men fettle.

There always seems to be something to be checking out, rubbing down, taking out, putting back, redoing, picking at, scratching ones head about, etc etc.  Dubber fettles. It might be he’s off to fetch water for the van but it becomes fettling as the water might be needed for something on the van.  The awning is standing up fine, but guys have to be checked and tent pegs redone; window trims are checked; paintwork wiped down………and then there was the reversing into a tree stump which cracked a rear light. That had to be fettled a few times even though we were nowhere near anywhere where we could fix it.

The term came into its on when we were at Spa with our friends to find that Keith fettles too.  And the as you walk around campsites you realise that it’s all that you can see. They are all at it.  Relax guys, you’re on holiday.

So lessons finally learnt this trip:

1 Men fettle

2 I Do camp

3 The battle lines are drawn between me and that damn bug

4 Dubber needs to practice card games more often – that’s all I’m going to say.

Rosie’s European Adventure Part 4: PROOST!

After a four hour drive from Luxembourg mostly behind large trucks we arrive at Boerderij Hazenveld.  A Boerderij is essentially a farm and there are many around in Holland that have great little campsites.  This one is about 10km from Utrecht and we did have plans to venture into Utrecht for a day but when we discovered what wonderful countryside was close by we hired bikes and spent two days touring.

Having set up camp we walked to the local village Kockengen to get supplies from the supermarket there.  We fell in love with the beautiful houses and little canals in the this lovely village.  

When we realised there was a market the next day we decided our first trip out on the bikes needed to be to Kockengen.  So we were up early and found a craft market which was fund raising for local organisations. There was all manner of stalls from food to knitwear to pottery to kids with blankets on the ground selling their unwanted toys.  What struck us was what a lovely community they have; smiles on everyone’s faces and everyone having fun.  We love the Dutch people.

We wanted to visit a castle nearby and the signs said 4km.  That’s one of the wonderful things in the Netherlands the cycle and walking trails are all signposted to a standard national scheme and the trails don’t always go alongside roads but venture across fields, through forests, across dykes and through beautiful villages.  And of course it’s all flat!  The one to Haarzuilens was across a field and brought us to our destination much more quickly than the 4km mentioned. Before the village stands a truly magnificent castle, almost a neighbour to the farm we were staying at.  De Haars Castle is on the site of a medieval castle and the footprint of the castle was used to build the magnificent building that is there today in the middle to late 19th Century.  It’s so photogenic.

And the interiors don’t disappoint either.

We then enjoyed a lovely dinner in Haarzuilens which finished the day off nicely, especially after we got in conversation with a Dutchman who complimented Dubber on his lovely wife!  At my age you take the compliment wherever it comes from!

Our final day was spent doing a longer cycle in slightly gusty weather. That’s the problem with the land being so flat.  We visited a town called Woerden, and enjoyed another Flammkucken.  

Then it was back to the campsite with the wind behind us for a final BBQ before packing for the morning.

This European trip has been wonderful and often unexpected. Our little campervan Rosie has got us to some beautiful places.  She’s driven lots of miles with ease and climbed hills in Luxembourg. She’s provided a comfy home at great campsites where we’ve met lots of lovely people.  And best of all she got us to Spa so we could tick the Grand Prix there off our bucket list.

So to finish off here’s the usual last words – I have learnt:

1 We loved Holland. We will be back.

2 I love Flammkucken.

3 The Netherlands really is that flat.

4 The Spa Formula 1 Grand Prix exceeds all expectations.

5 Rosie is a champion of a campervan. We couldn’t have done it without her.


Rosie’s European Adventure Part 3: Discovering Flammkucken

Riding on the high of an exciting weekend in Spa we travelled on through the countryside to Luxembourg, the third country in our Benelux trip.  Our base this time couldn’t be more different.  We are sited on a campsite, Camping Martbusch, at the top of the Mullerthal Trail in a town called Berdorf, in an area known as Little Switzerland.  It’s not mountains and snow capped Alps, it’s a rocky ridge that runs along the border with Germany popular with walkers and climbers.  And just as we found in the Netherlands paths and trails are very clearly marked.

We explored the town to get our bearings before cooking ourselves another meal on our newly acquired camping stove. We bought it so that we can cook outside instead of having cooking smells in the van while we sleep.  Makes you hungry in the night. We also have this ingenious metal plate that can sit on top of the camping stove and it becomes a BBQ grill. Works an absolute treat for Dubbers now he knows exactly where to balance his sausages.

On that first evening we didn’t realise how closely we had camped to the Mullerthal Trail and how significant a trail it was. We spent a lot of the day exploring and it is stunning.

Another home cooked meal and a local beer at the nearby snack bar and we were ready for our next day trip into Luxembourg City.  Public transport systems on the continent never cease to amaze me. They are cheap and efficient.  A €4 ticket meant we could ride the buses, trams and trains all day.  We took the bus option for a 45 minute journey into the city, travelling through beautiful countryside and villages.  

Luxembourg City is quite sophisticated with its cafes and lovely squares to sit and people watch. We discovered too that the city has free wifi so it was good to catch up.  

It was also here that I discovered Flammkucken, a very thinly rolled flaky dough topped with cream cheese and thinly sliced ham. Delicious. Must Smartpoint it when I get home.

We went into the Notre Dame cathedral and the underground museum, carved into the rock which was really interesting.  Then it was back to Rosie, out for a wonderful meal at a local restaurant, before watching the sunset from the Mullerthal.

Our final day was spent doing a town walk in Echternach, probably the largest town in the area with its lovely buildings and medieval walls.

This part of the trip has been a real contrast to the flat landscape of Holland.  And Rosie has managed the climb no problem. Favourite thing – Flammkucken and the sunsets.   Now for the last stage of our trip.

Rosie’s European Adventure Part 2: A Spa weekend for Rosie

You’ll guess quite quickly that by Spa weekend I don’t mean a jacuzzi and a back massage but actually that the second stage of our trip was to Spa Francochamps in Belgium for the Fomula One Grand Prix.  I apologise up front for the fact that I’m as excited by this as waking up Christmas morning to see if Santa has been.  😃🎉🏎

We’ve met up again with our friends Sue and Keith and their van Betsie, and set up our camp at the L’Eau Rouge campsite.  We are tucked in together, along with half of the Netherlands who support Max Verstappen, who are obviously professional Spa attendees with their mini villages, one of which includes cinema size TV screen, full bar and disco plus a pizza oven!  You had to see it to believe it.  So we just poured a wine (although Dubber managed to spill most of the red!) and joined in, listening to the boom boom of the bass being played around the campsite.  But true to their considerate nature they all turned the music down at 11pm and off at midnight.  Time for bed.

We had seasoned Spa attendees next to us who gave us good advice about how to get the best out of the weekend.  Dad and son of this Dutch family were going to the circuit whilst daughter and mum were just going to enjoy the sunshine on the campsite with their very big dog.  They proved a Godsend though as before hubby could go to the circuit each day he got sent to the local shop for supplies not only for them but also for Keith and Sue who needed supplies.

On Friday after eating fresh croissants fetched from the bread lady who arrived early each day, we went up the hill to get the shuttle bus to the circuit 2km away.  We queued for a brief time through security but you could already sense the party atmosphere was building and then it started……that beautiful sound of racing cars – Practice 1 was underway.  I can’t tell you how excited I was. I had butterflies in my stomach, was wide eyed and grinning like a Cheshire Cat.  So by the time we got into the circuit and can see the track I was almost hyperventilating.

It was incredibly hot about 32 degrees and rising which is unusual for the Spa weekend which is often wet. But today there was not a cloud in the sky.  We managed to find ourselves a great spot near corner 10 Pouchon where we could sit on the hill or get cover in the forest.  This became our spot over the whole weekend again amongst mostly Dutch fans who were so jovial and friendly. But must bring chairs tomorrow. Along with GP2 and 3 and Porsche qualifying it was a great first day.  All we needed was to get back, chill with a glass of wine with a promise of a BBQ from Sue and Keith which included sausages…..but then didn’t because Sue didn’t buy any.   The chicken was good though, Sue.

Up early Saturday we repeated the exercise of fresh croissants, shuttle bus and queue and got a spot with our chairs at the top of the bank to corner 10 as well as having blankets in the forest.  We claimed our land! Third practice and qualifying was undertaken in 36 degrees and we resorted to sharing an umbrella, although Sue made a nifty hat out of a box.  Didn’t catch on though.  Must remember binoculars tomorrow. We will get it sorted by Sunday.

So Sunday Sue got up at 5.30 to fetch bread. We thought we were all doing really well getting up to get the first shuttle bus at 7.30 but in fact the other half of Holland had arrived on 50 coaches so we queued for a greater amount of time and when we got to our spot we found there was hardly any room at the inn.  Perched a third of the way up the bank we then sat like lemmings on the edge of a cliff for the rest of the day.  Actually it wasn’t so bad. Again we had great people around us mostly British in amongst the sea of orange which included a stag party from Derby, and it was okay as long as you didn’t move. Numb bums all round.

The race itself was AMAZING! Usually at home in the two hours of the race you have time to put the kettle on and perhaps have a Sunday afternoon nap without really missing anything because you can always rewind.  I tell you this race was over and done with in a flash.  It was so exciting, powerful, dynamic, sensational, noisy, enthralling, energising and just brilliant that you hardly had time to take it all in as the cars sped by.  So many exciting things to keep track of on the big screen of what was happening elsewhere on the circuit and then watching them come down the straight to corner 10.  We loved every minute of it.

And then at the end we had the joy of being able to walk on the track so we headed for Eau Rouge and arrived at the Mercedes garage just as Nico Rosberg who won the race appeared in front of us with the cup through the pit wall fencing.  What a special moment when he looked straight at my camera.  We continued along the track picking up bits of tyre which was melting onto the track and headed back to the campsite for the final evening.  

Wow! What a weekend.  Love Fomula One.

Rosie’s European Adventure Part 1: Amsterdam and Arnhem

So our summer adventure begins.  One of our longest legs in the journey is from home to Harwich, but the roads were surprisingly quick. We arrive early for our ferry – let’s call it a ship because it was huge, a floating hotel and very comfortable. Straight on no problem, straight to our cabin, a nightcap in the bar watching GB beat the Netherlands at hockey and then time for bed. Hope they don’t hold it against us for the next week.

Blimey what a loud wake up call. “Dont worry, be happy” at full blast. Not what I particularly want first thing but it did its job. We’re up!

We travel up from the Hook of Holland on great roads. Only one wrong turning but the trusty sat nag got us to Camping Zeeburg. The campsite recommended by our friend Katty was really good. Facilities were great and its position for getting into Amsterdam were excellent. We had pre-purchased a 48 hour transport ticket and used it for the tram wherever we went.

The first day we got our bearings in the city, walking the lovely canals, looking up at beautiful buildings and visiting the cathedral Neuwe Kirk.  I’ve never seen so many bicycles, even when I was in Beijing. Everybody uses them everywhere and you have to look in every direction when crossing the road or you find yourself colliding with them.  

It is a lovely friendly city and we needed to make the most of it before the rain on Sunday.  We walked to Rembrandtplein to get the tram,admiring the statues in the square before heading for the Brouwerijhetij on Funenkade, which sits beside a windmill. Dubber had a 9% beer. Thought I was going to have to carry him home!

There are two smells as you wander Amsterdam, cheese and marijuana. The first is because this very Dutch food is on sale everywhere with small tasting pieces for you to try. The second is because the drug is freely available and tolerated and so everybody seems to smoke it. 

Sunday brought torrential rain. We delayed our start for the day and had breakfast with our friends who  are sharing some of the trip with us. We knew it was going to be wet so we planned a day at the Rijksmuseum. It took several hours walking through art work that clearly showed the development of Amsterdam from the 16-20 century. We loved some of the Vermeers and paintings of this era.  So that was the city trip done. Now time to explore a more rural Holland.

Monday saw us travelling eastwards to Arnhem. Our campsite in complete contrast being relaxing and set in beautiful forest on the edge of the national park Hoge Veluwe.  It was lovely to finally set up camp at Camping Warnsborn and relax in the evening sunshine after the long walk into Arnhem and back for supplies.

This is a great campsite with a mixture of ages and nationalities in our companions. Facilities are excellent and everyone so helpful. We think our grandchildren would love it. We spend the next day going for long walks through the forest and taking some time to relax in the sunshine.  

To walk or to cycle?  The next day we opted to walk and six kilometres later we arrived at the Netherlands Openair Museum.  Wow it was worth it. We had a great day exploring the 99 buildings which had been brought there from all over Holland.  The windmills were amazing.

What a great way to finish the first stage of our summer trip. We are loving the Netherlands.

A Monday Adventure

Another day out with Rosie and the grandchildren.  A quick selfie on the way to Markeaton Park, Derby.

Haven’t been here in ages, in fact since our kids were little and before that I remember visiting as a child myself.  We are heading for the paddling pool first as its a beautiful hot day, but so have several hundred other people.  The water is very cold so the children want to head off to some of the other activities including bouncy castle, several playgrounds and
fairground rides. There is so much to do here.

And then to end the day we had a train ride before heading home.  

❤️ Summer adventures

Rosie, Jonny Wild and the Broken Hearts, Y-ever-Not!

What do you get if you cross straw bales, cheesecake, a pint of Bohemian Ginger and portaloos with a sprinkling of positivity from Jonny Wild?  Well read on and you’ll find out!

imageRosie and I have just been to our first festival together.  Off we went in convoy with our friends the Harper-Danns and the Oakleys to ‘Y-Not‘ Festival in Pikehall, Derbyshire.  It’s the first time I’d camped at a festival; as you know until we had Rosie it wasn’t something I would do.  It was also the first time we’d had guests in our awning so a new adventure all round. First thing was to set up camp and Dubber didn’t check the new blow up mattress.  It needs a socket and we didn’t have hook-up. It left us a little deflated until Uncle said he had brought a mattress in his van.

We weren’t just camping, mind you.  The boys (Dubber, Dunc and Uncle) were performing on the Sunday afternoon as Jonny Wild and the Broken Hearts, but before then we had lots of music and entertainment to watch and plenty of food and drink to try out.

imageFirst stop…!  All the youngsters were drinking cider but I like the real stuff so a pint of Leatherbritches Bohemian GInger, 5.9%, did the job.  Actually it didn’t seem that strong, but there was definitely a ginger aftertaste.  Refreshing after setting up camp.  The main real ale bar was set up in what seemed like a circus tent filled with straw bales, which my friend Aunty seem to struggle with. Not once but twice did she fall through the gap between the bales, luckily with no drink in hand, but legs in the air, making us all laugh as she came up smiling and straw in her hair.  And she hadn’t yet had a drop! Well maybe a gin.  And I don’t know how she does it but she attracts oddball men and managed to engage with a number of them through the course of the weekend, the most infamous a guy from Liverpool called Paul Potts – no not that Paul Potts.

imageOff then to the Hog and Barrel for some cool music from our friends.  Tee and Katty aka The Herb Birds have such a great sound and got us in a great mood for more entertainment.





Then it was the turn of our star billing, the one and the only Duncan Oakley!!!  🎉🎉🎉🎉. Dunc strutted his comedy stuff supported by Tony Basnett.  Mad as a bucket of frogs but oh so funny, Dunc gave us a fast paced set with loads of laughs, or is that laughittos, Dunc?  Don’t know how you do it Dunc, but the pace of your act is amazing.



The best music of the night came in the guise of Peter Hook and the Light on one of the smaller stages (there were 12 in all).  He should have been on the main stage as the Joy Division and New Order songs really got the crowds excited, with everyone singing along.

imageTime to eat and so much choice. We went for wood fired pizza which did a great job in soaking up the beer.  Now the problem with drinking beer is that the need to go to the loo increases, particularly if you’re drinking pints.  And if you’ve read my blogs before I am not the best at using public loos, and even more so portaloos, and imagine my horror when I saw the numbers of them compared to the 25,000 festival goers.  This was not going to be good and it wasn’t.  I won’t go into detail but crossed legs were much the better option otherwise it meant holding your breath, wearing a full face mask and rubber gloves to ensure the stench didn’t get you before you had to breath again and escape trying not to touch anything.  Lots of sanitiser used!

imageThe other major disgust was the amount of litter, particularly in the Rock and roll campsite which we had to run the gauntlet of every time we walked from the campervan site to the main arena.  Amongst the thousands of tents it was like a biblical scene and it was only one night in. By Sunday night it was hell on earth. Or is that me just getting old. No, it was actually disgusting because there weren’t enough bins.

Noel Galllagher and his band headlined Saturday night and I really enjoyed it although there were mixed views from our circle of friends.  Then it was back to our simple abode, a few quiet drinks together and then we were tucked up in Rosie for the night….well after 2pm when the noise from the discos finished.  You see …getting old!

Sunday morning and we cooked a full English for seven. Not an easy thing on Rosie’s little stove, but we managed with the use of foil trays, which kept the food warm.  It set us up for what then became a busy day toing and froing with gear for the boys’ gig.  They did a great job in the Saloon, singing Dunc’s songs which really went down well with the crowd.


Then it was a quick race back to the Hog and Barrel for more comedy.  Dunc really did a great job in finding the comedic talent.  Scott Bennett was hilarious with very funny story telling about his dad and cheesecake.  Then we had the American comedian Will Franken with his wacky but clever observations.

We had a snack and went back for another beer and then it was time for Madness on the main stage.  All the old favourites, not always perfectly delivered but then like me they’re getting old!  ‘It must be love’ was great as was ‘Our House’.

imageWe ran the gauntlet finally of the rock and roll campsite and settled back for a few drinks with friends – all 12 of us – in the awning before settling again for a better night’s sleep.

It was a great weekend; blessed with good weather; time spent with friends was brilliant, sharing a bit of Rosie joy.

Lessons learnt when attending festivals in the campervan:

1 The window opens over the sink making an outlet for breakfast sales….or so says Uncle.

2 Avoid straw bales when with Aunty or water down the gin.

3 Go for colonic irrigation before the festival and don’t drink beer to avoid any need to use the portaloos.

4 Remember Scott’s dad has all the cheesecake.



An English Summer

A 90th Royal birthday party, a village It’s a Knockout, Coldplay in concert and torrential downpours.  It must be summer!image

Our first overnighter of the season is in Whichford, Warwickshire and do you know it’s glorious sunshine.  Sitting here in my shorts listening to the birds and moorhens, with the local church clock striking the quarter hours.  Delightful.image

Our campsite, Cotswold Camping at Holycombe, is on the grounds of a Norman fortification, archaeologically excavated in 1953, now below ground, but surrounded by a beautiful moat which still exists.  In the centre of the campground  are standing stones presumably set in place after excavations, along with two bell tents, an airstream camper and a showman’s caravan.  The owner’s house is a holistic retreat centre, and they are getting ready for a family wedding, so it was great that we were able to stay.image

Rosie has a new awning. It’s a sun/rain shower awning in a very fetching blue and in the first couple of hours of being here, we managed both uses, but we are warm and dry in our Rosie.image

Our evening meal at The Norman Knight, five minutes from the campsite, was excellent overlooking the village green where there was a car rally going on.  You know the sort of thing.  Men of a certain age (Dubber included) looking at cars of a certain age that they drove when they were 19, which are now classic or vintage.  A bit like the men really.  Shame it threw it down with rain as rather than looking at engines and shiny bonnets (cars as opposed to female headdress) they were all collected under trees or the pub umbrellas drinking very wet pints of beer.image

Next morning we woke to a light shower of rain and a promise of sunshine which did accommodate us late morning.  A wander through Whichford and their lovely Norman church started our five mile walk. First stop was Whichford Pottery, an interesting place with shop, cafe and a wonderful array of pots.  We will have to stop their on the way back.  image

From Whichford we walked to Stourton and Cherington, two Cotswold stone villages linked to each other. But before entering Stourton we came across of all things a gin distillery! Well we had to stop and take a look, impolite not to.  Cotswold Distillery is a boutique distillery making amongst other things gin, absinthe and varieties of liquer.  England is full of surprises when you walk the countryside.image

Having enjoyed the walk to Cherington we had a pint of Hooky at the Cherington Arms before walking back.  A good number of fit points on the Fitbit so back to the pottery for a cuppa and cake, and a pot.  Oh and the dry loo too!image

Now even though I am now the seasoned camper, you know that I have a thing about loos.  I like my home comforts clean, fresh and flushable.  Not only does our campsite have two compost loos, but this cafe does too.  That’s means basically using a hole into the open air and sawdust.  I really can’t be doing with it.  Thank goodness the campsite has a flushable loo too or I’d be walking with crossed legs or having to drink many pints of Hooky in several pubs just so I could use the loo.

Full of fresh air and a good home (Rosie) cooked meal we relaxed in the evening with a glass of wine listening to the football on the digital radio and playing Skipbo.  image

This is a game we picked up in Florida and unlike Scrabble is a game that Dubber actually can win and yet he still moans with every turn of a card, almost as much as when he dropped the kitchen towel and it unrolled itself as it fell out of the van!

imageSo an enjoyable couple of days in the heart of England was had whilst the rest of the world went crazy.

Reminders (rather than lessons learnt)

  1. England in the summer is a beautiful place
  2. Stopping at a pub half way through a walk for a pint of Hooky is also a beautiful place
  3. Compost/dry loos are not beautiful places

‘Trust’ Rosie

We haven’t really ventured far in Rosie this season as our adventures in Florida took place. Now we’re back we need to get some Rosie time in before the summer adventure (you’ll have to wait and see).

Although it’s a Bank Holiday weekend we decided we would have a day out in Rosie and just leisurely travel around Warwickshire and a few National Trust properties.
Charlecote Park was our first stop. Overlooking the river Avon on the edge of Shakespeare’s Stratford, Charlecote Park is still the family home for the Lucy family as it has been for 900 years.

We had a brief tour of the house but then wandered the extensive gardens and deer park. The landscape is beautiful.

The great thing about taking Rosie out for the day is that whenever and wherever you stop you can put the kettle on.  It still gets me excited being able to do that.  After lunch we drove a bit further on and went to Hidcote, definitely on my bucket list of places to visit and wow was it worth it.

Actually in Gloucestershire, Hidcote is an Arts and Craft house originally owned by an American horticulturalist, Major Lawrence Johnstone who created a series of ‘rooms’ in the garden.

Being May some of the blossoms are stunning.


We loved it and have come home with lots of ideas about what plants we like….the Royal ‘we’ that is. Dubber doesn’t really know a peony from a dandelion but he did appreciate the beauty of the place.


So time for an ice cream and then we drive back into Warwickshire for our third and final National Trust house for the day, Upton House near Banbury.  Owned by the Bearsteds, in the Second World War they moved their family banking business into the house from London and moved all their art collection into caves in Wales.  There’s an interesting Bosch and a Holbein to be seen.

So lessons learnt on this trip:

1 A reminder that we are lucky to have the National Trust so we can visit all these wonderful properties.

2  There’s still nothing better than putting your own kettle on in a campervan to make a cup of tea.

3 Buy Dubber a book on plants so that when I’ve bought lots of new plants, he won’t pull them up again when he’s weeding!




Up the swanny without a paddle

Well you know how this all started, with a statement that I don’t do camping.  Obviously with over a year of camping in Rosie under my belt this statement is no longer really true.  However the idea of being under canvas camping still doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm.  Now I never said I wouldn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t, just that it’s not my preferred accommodation when there are perfectly good alternatives with private bathrooms and a comfortable bed in hotels and motels abound.

So here I am with my best friend Pauline, and then her daughter Jessica invites us to go upstate to the woods to camp for Mother’s Day.  Several things to point out here.  Pauline lives in Florida; Mother’s Day is in May in the US and Jessica has just moved down here so it’s her first Mother’s Day with Pauline in a while; upstate may have less alligators but there are plenty of other critters to sneak into tents.  So what to do…..cheer and go of course.

Well guys, there is camping and there is camping. You have never seen so much gear put in the back of the car, so much so that we nearly had to leave the men at home.image After a couple of hours driving and a stop for breakfast at a Bob Evans, we arrived at our destination Ichetucknee Springs Campground.  This is a beautiful rustic campsite in the heart of Spring country with most of the amenities that you’d need.

So let’s unpick this a bit more.  It is a very beautiful place. With luscious canopies of trees when you look up.image The main lodge has great family facilities in a games room and there are places to sit out.  The toilet and washing facilities however are small and few for a campsite the size it is and I did have a tendency to check around for spiders which I expected to be like most American things large in comparison to anything at home. Think they must have been hiding!

So we pitched the tents in our pitch which had running water and hook up – yes I know we are camping but they are trying their best here to give me home comforts.

imageThe best comfort however was to come when Jessica and Trevor arrived with a queen size air bed which raises two feet off the ground, bought especially for me – the princess!  And it was very thoughtful of you Jess and very comfortable. Thank you.

Whilst waiting for the air bed to arrive we went off site to look for somewhere to eat and found The Gathering Place . Great food and great service.  As we were driving out we realised that we were by the Suwannee River, made a joke by singing ‘Way down on the Swanee River’ then realised that we actually were by the said same river. We were as excited as an alligator in a fish pond.  Wikipedia tells me this was written in 1851 by Stephen Foster and has actually the Florida State Song since 1935 although the original lyrics were censored in 2008.

image imageimageimageAlthough by the look of the sign on the last photo it could be a dangerous place!

After a great sleep on the queen size air bed we were treated by Jess on Mother’s Day to Mimosas and bacon and sausage sandwiches (actually cooked by Jim) and fruit pies.  imageGood job Jess, and Pauline arranged some crafts to keep us amused.

Now one thing you need to know about Dubber aka Billypops is that when he comes to the US he seems to want to become Chevy Chase aka Clark Griswald. I don’t know what the fascination is but well he just has to keep reminding us of the Griswald Vacation movies – very worrying when you think that we are camping and when the Griswalds camped they got in a bind with bears and raccoons and all sorts of beasties. (You promised no bears, Jess).

imageAnyway please see our creation over breakfast…we’re crazy, crazy!

Day 2 of this Griswald adventure sees us going off to Ichetucknee Springs.  imageThe springs are famous for being beautifully clear and absolutely pure and they work really hard to keep them that way so there are strict rules in the State Park on what you can do where.

You can kayak some stretches, swim in deep pools with underwater caves or as our gang did tube.image

Now you’re going to keep getting fed up with me with things I don’t do but I’m not a water babe, although I have tubed before.  What I did need though was exercise so whilst the gang went off tubing, I carried the shoes and went off on a trail on my own.  I imagine myself like Cheryl Strayed walking through the woods on my own, in 90 degree heat, hearing noises in bushes, being adventurous, seeing the wildlife, being brave and so it was, but always 10 feet away from the Tarmac road which takes the little tram from each site of the springs!

Anyways we all survived our adventure whether in land or water.  And the learning points this trip?


1 I do love being outdoors when it’s warm

2 A queen size air bed is do-able when you’re camping

3 Citronella bracelets are effective at keeping the bugs at bay but only from waist height upwards. Note to self investigate citronella ankle bracelets next time.

4 Breakfast is really good cooked outside and served with Mimosas.

5 I can go ‘Wild’ on my own

6 Adventures are best with friends. Thanks Pauline, Jim, Jess and Trevor for a great weekend.

Owls, a King and cake

Don’t you just love Sunday afternoon outings, particularly when they are spontaneous and the sun shines on a beautiful Spring day.  Worth a little jaunt out in our Rosie.

We head to Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Country Park and meet up with family for a fun afternoon.  It started with an owl display by Hawkwise Falconry. 

 Bottom, Fern and Angus (Long-eared, barn and eagle owls) behaved impeccably performing for the crowds and we had the opportunity to take part – even me, although fellow photographers weren’t quite as quick at taking photos as me!

Then it was back to Rosie for a cuppa.  

The campervan munchkins are in the habit of having a picnic in the back…there’ll be crumbs in the bed next time we sleep in it I’m convinced!

And then fully refreshed we went on a walk through the battlefield at quite a rate of knots. Those two little munchkins were racing off down the hill. 

  It took the four adults some effort to keep up with them.  Such an interesting site.  


 Must come back when we aren’t running down hills to fully appreciate the story of the battle that ended Richard III’s reign.

After our own battle with big sticks …that one is a bit big guys…… 

 we managed to get the munchkins to hold hands and share the stick…but not for long. 

 A lovely afternoon if not a laborious journey home thanks to sat nav having a laugh!  Looking forward to many summer trips this year, with the big one in August. Watch this space.