Anniversaries

‘Happy anniversary’ Bill sings to me every year on our wedding anniversary. A song made famous on ‘Lunch Box apparently. Before my time dear.

Anyway it’s the week for anniversaries. It’s 36 years since Bill proposed to me on Skegness beach in the rain.  Yeah, ever the romantic, it was in the days you could actually drive onto the beach! 

And we are spending a few days in the rain on the east coast again, this time Norfolk, celebrating another anniversary.  

It’s the first anniversary of my relationship with Rosie.  This time last year we tried one night away in Norfolk and in doing so made contact with our friend Phil and his lovely jam and chutney-making Andrea.  So we are back at theirs for two nights hooked up and comfy in the garden of their lovely home, The Nest.

  
The weather wasn’t going to be kind to us but in fact we had no rain on our 6-mile walk to Cromer along the cliffs being blown over by the edge of a dying hurricane. I jest not.  Despite having to hold onto each other at one point so as not to be blown off our feet, it was a great walk along a well signposted path which forms part of the Norfolk Coastal Walk and Paston Way.

   
       Arriving in Cromer smelling the fish and chips everywhere we walked we had a light lunch – Bill had the Cromer Crab- and then pottered about until getting the bus back to The Nest, the bus giving personal service, dropping us outside the house.

   
 Back in the van for a cuppa and the obligatory Chocolate Hob Nobs.

   
 So Rosie one year on. We’ve had exceptionally good times.  You are still a sanctuary in the rain, home from home for a cuppa, and have taken us to some wonderful places.  And even more to come. Happy anniversary xx

Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts

Tonight was Hathern Book Club’s 14th anniversary and we celebrated at Sue’s having read  Mary Gibson’s “Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts” with Pearce & Duff’s pink blancmange.   ‘Set in Britain in 1911, strikes and riots erupt countrywide as the shadow of the Great War looms over Europe.  But in one small corner of London, factory girl Nellie Clark’s wages are all that keep her young brothers and sister from starvation.  On top of this hardship, Nellie is forced to make a difficult choice between the family who depend upon her, and the man she loves…’ World Book Night 2015 Version. I think we all agreed the book really set the scene in terms of that moment in history and the hardships women faced having to work as men went off to war and returned broken men.  The love story itself was a bit twee and predictable. The evening made up for the lack of chocolate eaten at the last Book Club and the Christmas Tree for Hathern Church’s Christmas Tree Festival was decided – Prosecco bottles, chocolate and books will feature.  That’s so us!

Rosie and Chloe’s adventure

Once upon a time there was a ‘big’ girl called Chloe. She is going to be a big sister, that’s why she’s big. Anyway one day Chloe went away for a short holiday in Rosie the campervan. Chloe had had a ride in Rosie before but she had never camped. Chloe was very excited.

GJ and Billypops had got everything ready before driving to collect Chloe and drive to their campsite in the New Forest.  The New Forest is a national park and has lots of wild ponies.

 

Holmsley Campsite is in the heart of the New Forest with no dedicated pitches in most areas and few hook ups. This trip Rosie went without hook up, was stood on hard surface with the awning on grass. Chloe ‘helped’ get the awning up whilst Billypops stood and watched. Oops, think that was the other way round!

  
After settling in Chloe enjoyed some site takeaway before bed.

  
After dinner Chloe had to decide where to sleep; up top or in the hammock. ‘Up top tonight, hammock tomorrow’. Good choice.

The next day was beach day so we had breakfast and enjoyed a stroll at Highcliffe, 15 minutes from the campsite.

  Then the beach day really got started when we drove on to Mudeford. Fun in the sun.

  
After the beach it was an early evening walk and dinner in Christchurch.

 
Back to the campsite for a drink watching the sun go down and then a cosy sleep in the hammock for Chloe.  

Did you enjoy your trip in Rosie, Chloe? Think the picture says it all.

  

Homeward bound

So the last ferry.

  And then that’s the last we see of the sea. We shall miss it. We are homeward bound after two weeks travelling in our little Rosie through the Outer Hebrides and it’s time to reflect….are Rosie and I ever to ride out again?

  
I started out by saying I don’t do camping and I think after two weeks it would be fair to say I do. This is said however with some restrictions for future adventures. I think I’m a fair weather camper. I know, you’re surprised aren’t you!  Although until Harris we escaped the rain, the couple of days we were more or less restricted to the campervan it was claustrophobic and living with damp coats and shoes in a small space, forever opening windows to get rid of condensation, and trying to dry mattresses from wet awnings is no fun. And how many more times can Dubber bang his head.  I don’t think the memory part of his brain works, so he forgets to duck at the appropriate moment. Whereas I look like Mrs Overall constantly hunched up as I slot everything into its allotted space.

In Rosie’s favour she has done us proud negotiating the steep and rough roads of Harris and Lewis, the narrow roads of Barra and the Uists with their passing places and even the bashing of a gate post by Dubber (yes that was another story).

  
Rosie has been our cosy bed each night, our kitchen when we’ve wanted a cuppa, our sanctuary in the rain, our convenience when the toilet block was too far in the night.

She’s been the talking point with strangers, a saving grace to those in need, a member of a select club as we wave at the other T25s we pass, the little camper in amongst the caravans and motor homes with her own unique personality.

Rosie played her part well.

So yes I think Rosie and I will ride out again. Not quite the love of my life but a quiet respect for each other and a fondness which has enabled me to knock a few more islands off my bucket list.

Till the next time………..

Another day, another port

Millport to be exact. Day 13 and we head south. Rosie spends the day going up and down hills between Loch Long and Loch Lomond. Bless her she’s really working hard. The result is the Bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

  
We are heading south to meet family at Nardini’s in Largs for a fish supper before boarding the wee ferry to Cumbrae and the town of Millport.

  This little island is ten miles all the way round. Dubber runs most of it, well he usually gets half way round and realises he has one of two choices, run back or carry on.
  
Millport is the town on the island, no more than a large village and is a seaside destination for folk from Glasgow. It boasts a few restaurants and cafes, notably The Midge Cafe and several pubs, notably The Tavern. 

  

Day 14 and we don’t have rain….yet. Love the view from the flat. It’s so peaceful here. Well it would be if my lovely nephew didn’t watch such rubbish films of a morning. 

  
It’s time to desert Rosie for a couple of nights and put away the sofa bed each morning rather than Rosie’s rock and roll bed. She deserves the break.

  The day ended up being bright and sunny. We walked up to the highest point and got great views of Bute and Arran. A walk along the Prom, soup and cake at Wyn’s and a couple of gins at The Tavern and we will sleep well tonight.

Rosie in the Glen

Day 12. It’s still wet and misty. The last time we visited Skye, some 15 years ago, it was wet and misty. We drove over the bridge to Skye that day and when we stopped at Portree the rain stopped and the sun came out. Well the rain stopped today at least, until we started off for the ferry. 

  
We turned off towards Armadale to catch the ferry and two young girls thumbed a lift so we thought, why not. There’s plenty of room in Rosie. Hence the earlier picture of Leonie and Ann-Sofie, two students from Belgium. They stayed with us on the ferry and all the way to Fort William where they were hoping to walk up Ben Nevis tomorrow.  Rather them than me.  I climbed a Munroe once and nearly needed a helicopter to get me down much to the hilarity of Dubber and my brother who were ready to just roll me down! So another good deed/rescue under our belts.

  From Fort William we then travelled through one of my favourite places, the majestic Glen Coe. It is fabulous. Last time we did this we walked from the visitor centre with the children who were teenagers. We saw on a rock some tents and people obviously queueing at a cafe so we thought well we deserve a drink. As we walked closer we saw that the people were dressed quite strangely and there were old hags and hairy men. We realised it was a film set and we had walked straight into it, but no one said a word. We later found out it was  the blockbuster film of ‘Rob Roy’.

   
 Glen Coe is stunning even in the rain.

Home for our last night of camping before sunny Millport (high expectations) is Pine Trees Campsite at Tyndrum, set alongside a stream and woodland it is conveniently a short walk to The Real Food Cafe where we dine on a very welcome plate of fish and chips. 

  

Speed bonny Rosie over the sea to Skye

Day 11. Dubber says ‘Accuweather gives us a two hour window to pack away the awning.’ So we are up for the two hour window but there is no let up in the rain until we’ve packed up, then it stopped. So very wet awning in waterproof bags, that aren’t, means wet cushions later. It did go from bad to worse but that’s for another day, so here’s a picture of the Blackhouse on site. Anyone read Peter May’s books set in Lewis amongst the black houses?

  
We had time before getting the ferry so we stopped at the Harris Tweed shop in Grosebay which we had tried to walk to the day before and failed. I managed to buy some nice wool. And it’s not duck egg blue girls!

  
We then travelled towards West Harris and those beautiful beaches and found the Hebrides Art Gallery and cafe. Fantastic little find with the artists in residence and the cafe all blue and white like the sea and sand. We bought a print that will always evoke our time here. 

  
 Anyway speed bonny Rosie as we are going over to Skye.  We are booked into the Skye Caravanning and Camping site at Edibane, a Caravan Club site which we haven’t done before. Brilliant and so helpful. Because we had a break in the weather we asked if we could put the awning on the grass by our pitch, but then they helped us take it to their barn to dry off properly. Really helpful and welcoming. 

Moist mist….rotten rain

The awning is a Godsend to put the airer in for wet clothes. Rosie is our sanctuary after a wet and blustery 10k walk. We stopped for lunch at Bays View Cafe, a community hall run by volunteers with homemade soup and cakes and a lovely welcome.  Dubber forgot to pack his waterproof trousers so he got wet but his new Harris Tweed cap kept his head warm and dry.

  
Having had our walk we stayed in the van and so nothing much to report, so I thought we could consider two burner cooking. Rosie has 2 burners on top plus a grill, which until today we hadn’t used as we have a plug-in toaster. We have a saucepan and two frying pans of different sizes. We are going to put in the Le Crueset casserole pot next time. So far as well as the cooked breakfast which included Lorne Sausage this morning we have had: 

– tuna fish and pineapple on rice

– chicken fajitas

– vegetable pasanda

– vegetable pesto pasta and homemade grilled garlic bread

Nice and healthy and good on Weight Watchers. Balances the coffee and cake eaten each day and the wine of an evening! We had great gingerbread today!

Dubber to the rescue

Day 9 and hurray the wind has dropped. The sun is shining. We can take off our coats and jumpers, it’s t-shirt weather….just! By the time we leave Stornoway and head for Callinish we need jumpers back on but it’s pleasant.

  We take walk number 4 from our little book to the iconic Callanish Standing Stones. Amazing to think they have been there nearly 5000 years. How they got there and what the significance is, isn’t known, but the site is certainly worth a visit.
  We travel on to find somewhere to stop for lunch. It’s so good putting the kettle on. Whilst we sit there Mrs Duck waddles past with her ten ducklings. Good job I counted them as ten minutes later she waddles back with five missing and she’s looking all over for them quacking away.  The men come over to see if they can help and waddle off into the grass.
 However we have realised there is a cattle grid and yes you’ve guessed it five little ducklings are swimming around under the cattle grid trying to get out. Dubber tries to get hold of them but they swim off in the other direction. Another motor home had pulled up and the owner came running over with a soup ladle. Dubber scooped and GJ handed them back to mum. All was well with the world again although the men were still wandering looking for them in the long grass!
 Onwards then to Tarbet and the Harris Tweed Store. New cap for Dubber. New purse for me.

Now to find the campsite at Likisto. We’ll hold on as the road is narrow and winding. Rosie is really working hard. The campsite is really quirky, remote, lovely views over the loch, a Blackhouse community room, lots of Paths and places to sit if it’s warm enough…..and a few midges. Spray time!

  We settle in, have our one pot curry and watch the rain. Scrabble again methinks, currently 4-0, shortly to be 5-0 to me!

Dubber’s birthday

My new name for Billypops – Dubber. Although apparently officially only for those driving bays.

Day 7 we leave Liniclate for North Uist. Between some islands are causeways narrow mounds of rock with two lane roads over them, where we share the road with otters crossing, so the signs say.

In North Uist we visit Taigh Chearsabhaigh an art gallery, cafe and museum restored from an old salt house in the herring industry. You can do a module in fine art there. Inspiring.  The volunteers do like to stand and chat and we now know her life story!

We thought we had seen the best beaches but travelling into Berneray we found a cove which was beautiful.

 We arrived at our new campsite Moorcroft. Now as you know I don’t do camping and I’m fussy about toilets but so far this really meets my standards. They even have a community kitchen built in an old croft; and the view was spectacular. The only problem was the ground tilted so we could have ended up with our heads higher than our feet in bed, but luckily Rosie’s nose was down and we didn’t really notice it in bed.

  We have identified that we are sharing these islands with two other sorts of campers; motor homes and caravans driven by silver seventies and cyclists.  In the morning I needed the loo and had to walk past the Lycra wearing cyclists in their tents, all lined up like moths in cocoons and a cacophony of snores amongst the singing of the birds.  They all blamed each other when I spoke to them later.

Day 8 is Dubber’s birthday. He’d already sang ‘When I’m 64’ even before we’d got out of bed. Themed birthday of course (I expect more campervan cards when we get home) and the Swiss Army knife with 35 implements for all eventuality was much appreciated. ‘They are very sharp’ he says. Maybe should have bought a First Aid kit too as Dubber is accident prone!

  Whilst packing up I found our first Midge dead on top of one of our boxes.  Otherwise none sighted yet even though I have my Avon Skin So Soft Spray ready (recommended by everyone as the best deterrent  and eating rye bread works apparently) and my Neals Yard Voto Diffuser with eucalyptus oil for the van.

We took the next ferry ride to Harris. I thought we had left the beautiful beaches behind us but OMG, I was in awe of what we saw in West Harris. It’s breathtaking. What do you think?
  From here we drive north to Lewis and Stornoway our northernmost point on this trip.  The landscape changes to dark foreboding mountains. Rosie did so well climbing up into the mountains, racing back down again without any problems. I did tell Dubber she likes a slower pace so that we could actually enjoy the scenery.
We are at a busy site and the car next to us had what we thought was a roof box but we couldn’t see a tent or anything. After our meal celebrating Dubber’s birthday as we walked back I won the bet that the top box was actually a tent. We then sat giggling as we watched them set it up, bring out their collapsible ladder and climb in. We were messaging friends with pictures and were being egged on to remove said ladder but we are more grown up than that…..but the thought did cross our minds.

  

Prawn Marie ‘Rosie’

Day 6 and it’s mizzling this morning; it’s not raining or even drizzling but it’s mist drizzle, hence mizzling.

Time to unhitch from the awning (must remember to get back before it’s dark to hitch back up again – wait a minute sunset isn’t until after 11pm!). We are taking Rosie out for the day visiting Balivinich and back down to South Uist. In a circuitous route we found the Island Deli which had wifi so I can post some blogs, and also the biggest prawn Marie rose sandwich ever!

  
We then went in search of some history and found it at Howmore.  Traditional thatched houses with stones to weigh down the thatch sit alongside the remains of medieval churches and chapels with a gravestone dating back to the ninth century.  

  
The lichen growing on the stones in the Clanranald Cemetry were amazing.

  
A short walk across the Machair (I now know it’s pronounced Macca) and we are onto a beautiful deserted beach. The Howmore river runs to it and we are sure we saw an otter playing in the water. The book we are using for walks is called ‘The Outer Hebrides 40 Coast and Country Walks’ by Paul and Helen Webster. A really good find with good instructions and easy walks.
Back to Rosie waiting at the church and put the kettle on because we can!

   
  

Later that evening after successfully attaching ourselves back to the awning (we are not masters yet) we have a final stroll on Liniclate beach in the company of seals in the water. Stunning

  

 

Uist Rosie the Campervan?

OK needs to be said with a Glaswegian accent to appreciate the question.

Day 5 sees us leaving Barra but not until we head to Barra airport. I was wanting to see the beach which is amazing, but it doubles as an airport runway and guess what we were in luck.

  

 Rosie enjoys her second ferry to Eriskay, whilst I chat to a couple of elderly adventurers and Bill talks motor homes with another expert (yes declaring Bill an expert!).

   

  

Eriskay is small and beautiful. We drive on through South Uist. There is essentially a single road which goes from Eriskay to North Uist, with little roads to the Machair on the west and no access to mountains on the right. It’s a single track road that just meanders and undulates like a roller coaster. The skill Billypops has to master is keeping his eye on the road which is very narrow in places, and watching for traffic coming the other way. Every 50 yards or so is a passing place and protocol dictates that you slow down, see who flashes first (lights!!) and gives in. In Rosie’s favour is the fact that having to make so many strenuous gear changes, she has collected traffic behind and protocol dictates that if there is more than one car then they let you through first.  

We finally arrive at our next stop Shell Bay Campsite, a breezy little campsite near Liniclate, a stone’s throw from dunes and those beautiful beaches on Benbecula.

  

In the Machair 

Day 4 and we are so lucky. The weather is lovely. It’s windy but actually quite warm. Today we have walked through the Machair, special habitat for wild flowers that obviously protects the White sandy dunes. The flowers are beautiful.

    
Formerly (ie in the 1400s!) the land was owned by the McNeil clan, who now appear to run minibuses around the island and as far as I know, no longer behead their stepsons to ensure their sons become the next clan heirs. 

Our walk took us up to a cairn which overlooked the bay and the beautiful white sand of Halaman beach. It’s beautiful and what we came to Barra to see.

   
And I beat Billypops at Scrabble again -2:0.

On the Bonny Bonny Banks…..

Day 3 starts with the lovely drive alongside Loch Lomond and through woodland with amazing swathes of bluebells.  Hey we brought the sunshine. Rosie is coping with the twisty roads as we wind our way up to Crianlarich, except someone didn’t pack his washbag properly and his shaving foam is rolling around the van. Wave, there’s another T25, a custom amongst Dubbers (that’s VW camper drivers to you and me). Lovely views.

   
 We drive on to Oban a seaside town based around the ferry terminal and fishing boats. Rosie gets her first ferry ticket.  

  The mountains and islands around are stunning in the sunshine as we enjoy CalMac fish and chips.  

Off the ferry at Castlebay and we drive to our first campsite, Borve which is by the sea. We are blown away, almost literally, by the view and it’s 10 O’clock at night when we finally are set up and the sun still hasn’t set.

   

  

And so the adventure begins.

We are off to the Outer Hebrides for an adventure in Rosie. This is really why she arrived in our lives, so we could do these island adventures.

After what was probably the busiest weekend of the summer yet we left late afternoon and headed north to our first stop.

  
TeBay Services, also known as Westmoreland or to us as Shap, is most probably the best motorway services in the world.  Fantastic friendly customer services in every aspect; the camp site receptionist knew us by name; the lady serving food, generous with the helpings; the coffee lady suggesting the dark hot chocolate might need a bit of sugar and yes you’ve guessed it very pleasant toilets!

And to top it off beautiful evening light.