Things looking up

Not a bad start to the working week – I’ve got some stuff done.  A wet weekend with both C and I still feeling under the weather on Sunday.  We were going to do our first carboot, but the weather was as poor as our mood.  However, having picked up a few audio books no longer needed from the School library, we decide that we would go to Cheddar carboot anyway and see if we could imagefind a suitable Walkman.  Purchase shown here (£2, having cleaned it up – new on Amazon for £16).  It’s fabulous.  And things got better from there.  We shopped, cleared the attic for carbooting and deframed my pictures.  By supper we were both feeling a good deal better.  Hurrah!

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We’re all ill

Bex had this week off with the aim of returning to Birmingham for the weekend to continue her birthday celebrations.  Unfortunately all of us have been feeling unwell.  Bex with a very poor stomach, C just under the weather and me and my head, with a accompanying general malaise.  Well Bex made it to Birmingham, C eventually perked up and I have been referred to an ENT consultant.  Actually I think my head is feeling a little better, but I’ve been here before over the past 4 months.

Work is as good as it can be.  The JS is going well and I have found the energy to crack on with a couple of important final projects.  I hope to be able to keep this focus…….  We may make our first car boot this weekend.  We shall see.

The final (longish) straight

Back home and back to work. D minus 76. Work was good. My final Inset day and an afternoon with the JS. They seemed in v good heart. I just need to try and help keep that going.

C and Bex (Wolvehampton’s school dates are mad) took the bus into Bristol and met imageup with Jen. After school I drove to Bristol to pick them up and clear out the stuff from Jen’s garage for our first car boot sale this weekend. I remember at the v start of this reading ‘Eric and Shazza’s’ blog when he went through about five car boots to clear out their stuff last year before heading off. I don’t think we’ll need more than two, but we’ll see. Neither of us have any real idea how long the preparation is going to take, but it’s starting in earnest this Sunday.

We have already sucked the life out of our ski kit into bags to go in the top box……..

Keilder – a mammoth cycle ride, and heading home

We left the moors in overcast skies and it stayed that way all day as we headed south for Keilder.  The route was lovely and the Keilder forest area is as bleak as it gets until you reach the lake.  Still overcast (that is us, accompanying the weather) we stopped at the first obvious opportunity and made the bold decision to cycle the 11 miles to the visitors centre just north of the dam.  Somebody (C) mentioned under their breadth that we might cycle all the way round (27 miles…..).

Well, for no other reason than “it’s there”, I decided to cycle the 11 mileskielderwithout power, which was fun.  On the way – a beautiful meandering route through the trees – the weather worsened and the wind picked up.  It took us about an hour to make it  to the visitors centre and we regrouped.  C decided that we would cycle over the dam and see what happened there.  We turned left at the end on the dam and were immediately hit by a wall of wind.  Decisions.  Oh what the heck.  Actually the route back was fine.  The batteries had plenty of power (you have to understand at this point that the electricness just assists with the cycling – you still have to peddle and I guess we use the power for uphill bits and when there’s a terrific wind only) and whilst it rained we loved it.  At the carpark I washed the bikes down and we headed off for a CL just outside the forest.

Off to Hadrians Wall today leaving this rubbish CL site (electricity tripped and we’re surrounded by mud – £10) and then slightly further south.

Monday.  The promise of good weather -yippee!  Once you seen Pompeii haven’t you seen them all?  Not so.  Vercovicivm, a Roman fort on Hadrians Wall, was brilliant.  We had sunshine (still with a sharp, cold wind) but the museum, the fort and the wall were great.  Once we were Romaned out we sat outside the van in the sun with a cup of tea and planned our next step.  It was packed though – well done history!

C wanted to go to Flamborough Head (more birds) so we split the distance IMG_3315and drove the v pleasant drive passed Aunt Peggy’s old house to a CL in the middle of nowhere on the Yorkshire Moors.  In the late afternoon sunshine it was lovely, almost 400m off a dead end track, tucked down by a stream – £5.  We tried out the blue awning wind stoppers (which worked) and I had another go at the fridge (still working this morning).  Chilli, Silent Witness, a gawp at the stars and full moon, and a frosty night.  It was a perfect spot.

Who would have thought that Scarborough was so fabulous?  We parked up among huge Victorian houses and fell off the high cliff edge down through a beautifully manicured park to the curving beach, with big white waves, working harbour, cliff-top castle and massive French style seafront hotel.IMG_3322  The bay had a number of pointy boats zimming about and a pleasure craft mocked up as pirate boat being thrown about by the waves.  We had lunch (dealing with accompanying emails -grrrrr) at a seaside cafe and managed to pop into Tk Maxx and come out without buying anything.

We eventually found a CL (£7) on Flamborough Head in a wonderfully manicured field just down from the lighthouse and cycled to the point where, in the windy, sunny evening, we saw more birds than we knew where to look.  And a pair of nesting puffins on an chalk outcrop which hung ontoIMG_3335 the headland overlooking a precarious arch.  Back to the van for schnitzle and double fried chips!  Is there nothing this truck cannot do?

Well well.  A day stood still.  C wanted to spend some time at the RSPB sanctuary at Bempton Rocks.  We cycle there (5 miles) and then spent about six hours looking at seabirds.  C loved it – she could watch them all day.  If it wasn’t for the biting wind it would have been, for me, a v relaxing day.  I was as always the expert puffin finder, but I don’t have C’s staying power and spent some time sitting on benches looking out over the quite majestic cliffs onto deep blue sea scattered with more birds than you could care to imagine.

We walked for a couple of miles up and down the cliff paths and came across some mad bloke with a rope making his way down the sheer chalk cliffs.  His pal said it was to find a fishing spot, but it could be he was looking for nests to steal eggs.  Who knows; I told the RSPB centre but they didn’t seem worried.  We cycled back against a ferocious wind, popped to another local beach and then came home for sausage and mash.  (With Yorkshire pud!)

Another very good day with news from Bex that she’s still alive walking part of the coast of Northern Spain with her pals.

Thursday.  Almost at the end of this break as we headed south towards M&Ds.  We briefly discussed how the next 10 or so weeks would pan out, but it’s difficult to get your head round it.  Work looms large, but we have a million things to do in order to sort ourselves out.  So the conversation didn’t get v far……  Still, I guess, too excited to think about it all.

IMG_3339We drove over the Humber Bridge, struggled through Lincoln in overwhelming traffic (but stopped to forage in Morrisons) and ended up in a lovely little CL (£5) just south of Sleaford on a venison farm.  It’s a bit overcast and there’s still a wind, but I managed a run and we’ve settled down for the night.  All’s still well…….

More birds………..

IMG_3272Wednesday.  We were promised rain as we headed north again to end up in Berwick so we could catch the boat trip to Bass Rock tomorrow.  We found ourselves in a beach car park on the west of Dumbar with a strong wind, but mottled sunshine.  To C’s credit we walked a couple of miles along one the best beaches (must be) in the UK.  Very reminiscent of the west coast of France, a long curving sandy beach flanked by low dunes and a pine forest.  The walk along the beach was into the wind, but worth every step as we watched scores of gannets dive bomb like Stukkas into the water just metres away. It was a seemingly unending special treat which lasted for the hour long walk to the next estuary.  We retraced our steps inland along the edge of the pine forest stopping for a sandwich sat on a log.  Back at the carpark I emptied the loo and we found some water at the next carpark down (I know, irritatingly banal detail, but this is what you have to do when you live a caveman like existence).

We’re now sat back on the beachfront in North Berwick, both reading books we bought from Oxfam yesterday.  As C said as we walked along the beach, we’ve never pottered like this before.  And it seems that this is the way it’s going to be for a while, once I get through the next ten weeks.  Downside?  Only a lack of any Internet at the moment.  Campernet works well, but there’s no open wifi and no mobile data here.  But this downside is only work based.  There are some emails I want to attend to, but from the summer there won’t be anything that can’t wait.  Did I say “can’t wait”?  Off for a quick run now……

photo (9)

Thursday.  The focus of today was to be the trip to Bass Rock.  We meandered first thing and sauntered the half mile down the seafront to the harbour for the one o’clock sailing.  We were blessed with sunshine and the trip was fascinating.  Every sort of seabird hung around Craigleigth and Bass Rock including puffins.  Bass Rock was impressive close up (and we got very close) with the tens of thousands of gannets doing gannet type stuff.

Packed lunch on the seafront and then, with a pin in the map, we headed south down the coast to Telegraph Hill, with the aim of finding somewhere to stop for the night.  As if by magic just under the comms tower that marks Telegraph Hill there was a small open quarry with 180 degree views over the North Sea, Bass Rock and the nuclear power station…….  But at about 400IMG_3301 foot up we had such panoramic views you could see the curvature of the earth on the horizon.  Bikes out, we cycled to the end of the road and walked the final mile or so to Last Castle.  The castle is just a pile of old rocks on a prominantry, but the views along this bit of coast line, with its slopping heather and sheer cliffs, is as good as anything we have seen in the UK.  For me, to cap a pretty great day, were two sets of white seabirds flying geese-like in v formation just above the waterline in the middle distance.  I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Friday.  We drove the short distance to St Abbs and realised when we got there we had been before sometime in our dim and distant past.  But we walked the circular 4 mile route anyway in lovely sunshine accompanied by a cold wind.  It is a fabulous walk, reasonably easy underfoot, with expansive views, sheer cliffs and a dinky lighthouse.  On the way round we saw the miracle of birth, with a farmer extracting a lamb from a sheep.  We had a cup of coffee by the lighthouse and our lunch in St Abbs, one of the few small working harbours on the Scottish east coast.  I know it’s all middle-age, middle-class stuff but it’s great.  And all from the back of a small truck.

We’re now parked back on the moors on the side of the road a mile or so IMG_3310short of Cranshaws Hill (which I have just run up).  Heating’s on, C’s looking at menus for next week (apparently Berwick has an Aldi – yippee!) and I am under instructions to make supper.  Plenty of grouse kicking around, and I spotted a Canada goose on my run.  Life is going on…….

A flat day – our first.  I guess it’s inevitable.  The issue (we think) is the travelling and finding a site.  We already discussing having to go static for periods of time.  But things will change again from the summer when this is it, the weather is better (almost too windy to stay outside on the moors) and when we’re abroad.  But we’re coping well enough.

Two things dampened the day.  First I took the bottom corner off the van turning around at the beginning of the day.  And whilst our trip to Berwick foraging in Morrisons and Adli was successful when we stopped the fridge was playing (sorted after mega-clean).  However our day was brightened by a trip west along the Tweed.  It is a magnificent river flanked by sharp hills and stately piles.  We stopped at Melrose walked along the river, mingling with the fallout of the ongoing Melrose 7s.  This world renown event looked v professional but from our perspective was interesting for another reason as it brought together three social groups in the same place: the country set (Range Rovers, tweed jackets and Hunters); rugby teams (v masculine men, tight shorts, no necks); every young girl from a radius of 50 miles (almost naked, heavy make up, slightly tiddly).  The latter group clearly hanging around on the off chance of bagging an appropriate man – the cold kept at bay by appropriate levels of alcohol.  Primeval.

We’ve slept again on the moors.  This is a good thing in that it’s free with desolate but inspiring views.  The downside is that we are rocked by the wind and going outside is a major expedition.  Oh well……

Bass Rock(ing) Beat

Just over a week into the full trial. Ok we haven’t got the top box on, nor the skis, but most other things are set.  The van has been first rate.  Even with a mostly inside existence due to the cold and wet (I did cut C’s hair outside last night) it all seems workable.  Whilst the bed is huge, the other living space is pretty much one person on their feet at any one time.  But we have consistently used the shower, made whatever food we like, been warm and dry and watched what TV we want to. It will all become a much bigger space when it’s warm and dry.

We have slept long and well.  I am writing this sat up (well, more hunched up as the ceiling is low) in bed, something I wouldn’t have dreamt of at home.  We have had few cross words but plenty of enjoyable silence.  C has started walking in some sort of earnest and I am running.  But we’re not yet in a routine.  This is still a holiday, not a way of life, and we both know we have to slow down further, concentrate on each other more and try to enjoy the moment.  I am confident it will come, but. not on this last trip I feel.

Anyhow, time to get up!

And off to the south coast of the Firth of Forth.  It was proper miserable.  We left Peebles in the rain following the B709 north out of Innerleithen.  The road was deserted and beautiful – these Scottish Lowlands are picture perfect.  We had an encounter with a couple of squadrons of kamikaze frogs who I did my best to avoid (although scores were flattened already) and turned right along the coast road at Mussleburgh. The rain persisted and the coast road emptied left into car parks with height barriers.  We eventually stopped for lunch at Aberlady Bay but refused to get out onto the bird sanctuary because of the weather.

A bit miserable we drove into North Berwick and parked along the curvingIMG_3243 seafront next to a sign which reported “No Parking for Vehicles over 7’6”.  As a metric man and disdainful of the folk who want uninterrupted views of their bay windows all year round we parked up and walked into town.  Let’s be clear, North Berwick is fabulous.  Even in the rain.  The town itself isn’t much, but the sandy beach broken by rock and pools overlooking numerous islands is as good as it gets.  And, spotting a loan camper at the end of the town, we headed off and parked up – the collective name for a group of campers is ‘proliferation’ and at one point we had four.  And why not?

We walked round the sea front further east to get a look at North Berwick’s famous son: Bass Rock.  An old volcano core about three miles out to sea, with an accompanying lighthouse strapped to its side, on its own the rock is impressive.  However, at this time of year and as I write, in the late evening IMG_3250glancing sun, the rock takes on the appearance of a tall fruit cake covered in a dusting of snow.  And through binos it seems that the snow continues to fall.  Of course the snow analogy is nonsense; Bass Rock holds the largest gannet colony in Europe and the rock is covered in and surrounded by them.  Spectacular.

Tuesday.  Sunshine, but a sharp wind.  We left North Berwick for Dunbar and stopped for a peek at Tantallon Castle.  We were both in a bit of a grump (my head and C just not right, possibly because she saw the boat leaving for Bass IMG_3257Rock which we weren’t on) and shuffled down the long path leading to what looked like a typically ruined castle; not our thing.  Well, how wrong we were.  English Heritage enabled us to get in for free and it was a huge, coastal pile with history including a siege by James V and views over to Bass Rock to die for.

But that wasn’t all.  We headed to Dunbar to get some milk, and ended up wandering around this lovely harbour town (three harbours to be exact) with our mouths open.  We were blessed with cold sunshine and managed to catch up with our emails at a local high street coffee shop.  A stop at Asda (mini food mixer for £8) and then south to find a stop on Whiteadder Resevoir.  The route over the Lammermuir Hills was exceptional.  It was a barely tarmaced road up and down dale, passed wind farms and very narrow gaps through enchanting pine forsests.  The descent to the lake was another magnificent twisty road down and lovely flat-bottomed valley.  The few people we passed must have thought we were mad…..

We didn’t stop at the lake and the spectre of not finding a spot to sleep very quickly hung over us.  But C spotted a turning right and we headed up another single track road and stopped on the valley floor by a small stream in intermittent sunshine.  I washed the outside of the van whilst C did the IMG_3263inside and we the walked up a track into the bare hills.  After about a mile we stopped at the edge of a wind farm which had a v useful accompanying display board – incongruously placed in the middle of nowhere.  On the way up we disturbed three pairs of black grouse (RSPB endangered species) so are proper bird watches now.  Came back, fixed the fridge and used the new food processor.  Is there a more perfect day?

Cross-crossing the Lowlands

Having felt odd after a run and with my head feeling not quite right at the picnic site we slept well and woke to overcast, flat skies. Quick chat to local bird watcher and then off to Stranraer to forage in Morrisons and after a bacon roll at their cafe, meandered about the isles picking off cheese and the like. Fuel, Lidls (no LPG – big bottle ran out last night) and then a v surprising drive north to Girvan. The coast road, even in low cloud, was lovely with cascading hills falling to meet calm seas. (Note to self – there some lovely wild camping spots here.)

IMG_3234Girvan didn’t quite the match the large sun sign displayed on the map book, but we were able to fill up with water at the quay having asked a pleasant fisherman if that was ok. We headed south into the Galloway forest, which is beautiful. It’s a high plateau overlaid with forestry commission trees, large estates, moorland and the odd loch. After about 10 minutes of dithering we parked by a river, snuggled in some trees and cycled for eight miles around and about. And to add to our pleasure the sun peaked out from behind the clouds enabling us to drink our evening beer sat on the bridge. Just perfect. (This is in stark contrast to my previous visit where I ran the KIMM in appalling weather and shocking shoes).

Saturday. A slow day, slowed further by low cloud and rain. Travelled via Newton Stewart to get some LPG. And then north to Clatteringshaws Loch where we walked to Bruce’s Stone (apparently he leant against a large rock having stoned an English army to death whilst they slept – how nice). We had a lovely cup of coffee and bun at the accompanying coffee shop looking over the Loch whilst glancing at the many bird feeders and squabbling birds.

Still raining we headed east through rolling countryside and then finally intoIMG_3236 the beautiful Lowther Hills. These hills are fabulous. Very barren, wide deep valleys and sharp, dark green pine forests. And we made it as far as Daer Resevoir. This is a one-road trip and we parked up right next to the water, walked and ran and bedded down for the night. Still all good! However, after note. Battery just gone (in that the red light started flashing so we turned off the TV in the middle of an episode of House). I guess after 6 nights wild camping watching TV every night and about 3 hours of charging each day by driving, it’s understandable. Thankfully lights are still working! Added impetus though to look at a second battery.

Sunday. Woke to rain and decided to head east to Peebles. More lovely rolling countryside scattered with dark pine forest, over-engineered house and tufty moorland. Rivers snake through lush green valleys, sharpened by the now intermittent sunshine. Had a poor attempt at campsite selection at Innerleighton which we paid for and then left as the tourers were in the middle of a circle of statics in the less salubrious area of town. Went back to the Forestry Commission site just east of Peebles and whilst it was exorbitant at £21, we had lovely cross-valley views and, by the end of the day, no neighbours. Oh, and free wifi

We walked up the local hill through tall pines as mountain bikers skidded down pre-prepared routes. It was a maze of tracks culminating in an Eco-photo (6)cafe at the bottom of the hill, its large wooden vaulted room full of mud-splattered bikers. It was heaving and, if my nose had been working, probably a bit smelly. But it was great to see so many people, young and old, getting exercise in this way, I ran back up the hill straight after – not sure if it is doing me any good.

Finally a sausage and mash thing with cranberries and the latest episode of Endeavour. The plots are fantastical and a complete mystery. But the acting is first rate. Will Morse get off with the black girl?