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!
Rosie 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.
First stop…..beer! 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.
Off 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.
Time 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!
The 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’.
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.
A 90th Royal birthday party, a village It’s a Knockout, Coldplay in concert and torrential downpours. It must be summer!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
So 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)
- England in the summer is a beautiful place
- Stopping at a pub half way through a walk for a pint of Hooky is also a beautiful place
- Compost/dry loos are not beautiful places
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.
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.
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!
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!
After our own battle with big sticks …that one is a bit big guys……
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!
The next day was beach day so we had breakfast and enjoyed a stroll at Highcliffe, 15 minutes from the campsite.
Did you enjoy your trip in Rosie, Chloe? Think the picture says it all.
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).
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………..
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.