Manchester via John O’Groats – Part 1

Our Scotland adventure has arrived ! Research of locations, sites, timescales and ferries were about to be put to the test. Our version of the Scottish North Coast 500 from Manchester, 16 nights at 9 sites.

Decision had been made to just use the tarp on this occasion and hope the weather wasn’t too bad and prevent us from cooking under the tarp. Also made it easier to move on every 1 or 2 days, the awning is great but a lot of faff when you have limited time. Sites had been booked which had facilities and we planned to make full use of those, a very minimalistic approach, don’t you think?

With a three hour journey ahead of us Pod had been packed the previous night and after breakfast a few more items were added to the boot of the car. The sun was out and 9am rolled round pretty fast, we said our goodbyes to those left behind, including the dog, who looked less than impressed. Think she knows that once Pod comes out, we’re disappearing again.

The journey turned into a nice easy drive and we soon rolled into Lidalia Caravan Park in Newcastleton. Small site with two ponds, some pitches were around them, others looked out onto trees.

Turns out the site is built on the remains of an old railway station which used to run along the Waverley Line. The grounds were immaculate and the pitches were in great condition, the odd one were a little short in length but all were very good for Pod.

Facilities were good too, separate blocks for ladies and gents, spotlessly clean and each unit had 4 complete washrooms which contained shower, toilet and sink. Good facilities for those that struggled with mobility. The mirrors were funny though, all safety glass and we felt like we had walked into a fairgrounds hall of mirrors.

We were only here for one night and once Pod was set up we went for a walk along the riverbank and if we found a pub during the walk we’d have to call in, of course.

The path for the river walk was easy enough to find and we soon found the Newcastleton Bridge over Liddel Water. Looked like great mountain bike trails were on offer and the trails suggested rides of 10k and 24k in length.

After a very peaceful and relaxing walk we sat on a large wooden bench overlooking the river and listened to the water as it babbled past and under the stone bridge, the only thing that broke the silence was the occasion car that drove through the centre of the village.

We eventually made the decision to move and once on the stone bridge we walked back into the village and found the Grapes Hotel. Funny little layout inside, hotel at the front with a dinning area which looked out the large front window and the bar was eventually found in the middle.

Two pints were ordered and we sat at one of the benches at the front, we love watching the world go by and to us the village gave off an air of sleepiness, as if it was waiting to be woken up for something.

Back to Pod we went for dinner and to put our feet up and relax as the next day we had a 4 hour drive ahead of us to Braemar.

Day 2 arrived, breakfast was had and sandwiches were made for either a stop on the way up or when we arrived, all depended on how the journey went. Do love our little door bin, works perfectly for this trip and especially when cooking, just scrape it all off the chopping board and into the bin, easy.

With the aim to arrive around 1pm we set off just before 9am, we had good road conditions and little traffic so we stopped at Stirling Services for our little picnic.

Once demolished we hit the road again and drove through the Cairngorms, has to be one of our favourite places, spectacular scenery surrounded us along with a blue sky. Some snow remained in high spots and as we drove through we spotted the empty ski lifts going up and down. Plan to see this in the winter.. one day.

We arrived at Braemer Caravan Park just after one and were given our designate pitch, two nights were to be had here.

As we rolled along through the sight we met up with a few other Podders, and a few who had swapped their Pods for motorhomes and bigger caravans. People we’ve met during our travels and ownership of Pod seem to have become good friendships of a ‘vanning kind, no matter what they travel in.

Once set up we discovered we had no mobile signal and our mobile Wifi wasn’t working, not the end of the world you’d think but we like to have contact with the outside world, just in case a family member needs to make contact.

We’d brought data top up cards for EE and 3 as research lead us to believe these would be the best, but no, neither worked, we were fortunate enough to have Mat’s phone on O2 and this worked perfectly. Wifi could be bought from the site so we spent £4.00 on it for 3 days use, this cost applies to each device so only the IPad was connected.

Rumours were floating round the site that midges were out in the evening, so the home made midge door net was put in place, seemed to work well and good use was made of our tired old Khyam awning.

Time came to catch up with our fellow ‘vanners and arrangements were made for us all to trundle down to the local pub, in this case the Invercauld Arms Hotel. We kind of took over the bar area and soon rearranged tables for maximum grouping, needless to say it was fabulous catching up with everyone and listening to their adventures which were ahead of them in the holiday season.

Back at Pod we used the site facilities and these were as expected, clean and well laid out, day 3 was on the horizon so off to bed we went.

Woke to a frost but looked like a good dry day ahead, a walk was planned but no destination decided upon.

Breakfast was eaten and whilst checking good old Facebook one of our followers suggest a walk around Lock Muick, after a little research we took up their suggestion and rucksacks were packed for the day ahead.

45 minute drive took us through the beautiful countryside and for £4.00 we payed parking for the day. A short walk to the information hut highlighted the 8 mile route and of the deer who were in the area, it also informed us that the deer were to be steered clear of as they had had a very hard winter. On speaking to a local we discovered that after a ‘head count’ they were down by 30% on the previous year, the Beast from the East meant many had paid for it due to lack of food.

The sun was out and with hardly a cloud in the sky we began the well marked walk around the loch.

Words can not describe how spectacular this was, not a single sound could be heard, so peaceful.

When the wind dropped to nothingness the loch became a mirror image of the hills and grounds in the distance, totally mesmerising, so much so, we couldn’t help but stop every 100m or so as the scenery changed with every step.

For us it was one of those places you want to burn into your memory for ever.

The drive back to Pod was a slow one, we didn’t feel the need to rush, too much to see and take in, wonderful scenery.

Dinner was made using the slow cooker and eaten under the tarp, the temperature had dropped somewhat and if you were in the shade coats were needed, no midges though, so all good.

After our amazing walk during the day our bed was calling, with tired feet and aching legs it felt really good to climb under that duvet.

Day 4 and off the pitch for 9.30am as we had a 3 hour drive in front of us to Brora Caravan and Motorhome site.

Journey went well until we hit a road diversion which added half an hour, but the scenery continued to be glorious along the Highland Tourist Route, the roads were good too, so no complaints here. We were even treated to a low flyover from a giant Hercules and once back on the right road it took us partially along the Malt Whisky Trail, another idea for a future adventure.

We turned off the main road and within minutes we were at the site, we had to cross a single track bridge to get to the site, so anything like an 8ft wide twin axel may find it to be a ‘heart in the mouth’ moment.

Booked in and pitch found, sand dunes were just in front of us and we were itching to see what was over the other side, so we didn’t hang around setting up.

Cup of tea downed and off we went over hill to discover a golf course between us and the beach, easy enough to cross, just had to look left and right before doing so.

Beach was spectacular, long sprawling spotlessly clean sandy beach, best thing being, we seemed to have it all to ourselves. After a mini stroll we headed back to the car and drove into Brora for a few supplies, we could only find a Co-Op but this was well stocked.

Back to Pod we went and after dinner we headed back to the beach, do love the sea, always torn between mountains and the sea, we want both, or is that greedy.

Again we had the place to ourselves, the sea had gone out to leave sand untouched by any human, dog or any other species that might find its way to the beach. A gentle breeze blew in from the sea but we knew this wouldn’t be an issue for us in Pod as the golf course and sand dunes were a perfect barrier.

Shower block was standard Caravan Club fare, clean and hot showers, what more do you need.

Saturday, day 5 arrived and as we looked out of Pods window we were greeted with the sun rising over the beach into a lovely red/blue sky.

Bit of site seeing on the cards today as we headed out in the car for a 10 minute drive to Dunrobin Castle. A spectacular building still owned by the 24th Countess of Sutherland and built in the Scottish baronial/French renaissance style. For us the epitome of a fairy tale castle, just like in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

£11.50ea paid and in we went, we wandered through opulently dressed rooms in wonderful colours and eventually found ourselves outside in the gardens.

Falconry display was ongoing in the back ground and the beautifully maintained formal garden lay between. A walk down the steps to the garden lead us through areas full of colour and which had been left to grow wild, always think this is a great touch to any garden.

We then walked towards the museum, just before entry a sign informed us we would see archeological finds, intrigued we went through the door. This came as bit of a shock, as neither of us were prepared, the main open area was full to the brim with stuffed animals, including the head of a small elephant on the wall and the neck and head of a giraffe which was securely planted in the middle of the room.

Once over the shock the collection included various finds during the previous Count and Countess’ safari adventures, along with the stuffed animals they had collected items from Central Africa and even fishing equipment from Eskimos. It also gave a detailed history of Pictish stones found within the area.

Once back at the site we headed across the golf course and back to that beautiful beach, dinner was eaten later, after which a follower on Facebook informed us we had the chance to go fossil hunting should we want to and their was a nudist beach just up the coast. This, could also be an option for another trip north with Pod, not too sure about the nudist beach though.

Bed time was calling and we were on the move again in the morning, as this was our last site on the east coast we made the mad decision to wake at 4.30am in an attempt to catch a sunrise, this bearing in mind we were also on the move again to Dunnet Bay Caravan and Motorhome site, but it was only 1 ½ hours away so we thought it was worth the risk.

Alarm went off on day 6 and up we got, clothes were put on in a blurry haze and we flip-flopped over the golf course to the beach to be met by cloud, gutted. Still fabulous though, a little eery as the low light crawled across the beach and the wind scuttled through the reeds along the bank.

One last long look at the beach and we said our goodbyes as we scuttled back over the golf course and back to bed for a few hours.

Woke again a few hours later and once breakfast was eaten and pots washed it didn’t take long to get Pod loaded and we were on our way again to the top most point of Scotland……. Part 2.

Posted in Architecture, Beaches, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Coast, Conservation, Glamping, Highlands, Lakes, Lochs, Mountains, Photography, Scotland, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | 2 Comments

Isle of Arran : Wildlife, Walks and Wishes made.

5.15am and the alarm goes off ! Normally this could be mistaken for a work alarm, but not today as we’re off to the Isle of Arran. Awesome.

Out of bed we jump and the first thing to be done was to look out of the window to check the weather. All looked good, it wasn’t raining, nor blowing a gale and to be honest we couldn’t ask for anything more.

Pod had been loaded the night before, so once breakfast was eaten we pulled her out and tyre pressures were checked. An all important task easily and quickly completed.

By 6.30 we were on the road and starting our 4hr journey up the M6. Clear roads so no issues and we stopped once at Gretna to use the facilities. Once off the Motorway we veered left to Ardrossan, the roads took a little to be desired, pot hole hell sprung to mind.

At 11.30 we rolled into the Ardrossan Port and were soon followed by three other ‘vans, two of which were Royale T125s, built in 1969. Immaculate condition after being lovingly restored.

12 o’clock arrived and we all rolled onto the CalMac Ferry and began our journey across The Firth of Clyde. Once we’d eaten our packed lunch loving prepared by one of us we ventured outside to the front of the ship to find the pleasant light wind had turned into a very powerful beast. From here neither of us could move with any great agility, if we moved too fast we were in danger of sliding into the railing and who knows what there after. Needless to say we gingerly edged our way along the railings with a very tight grip.

Cloud was now shrouding Arran and we could see nothing of Goatfell or the islands extending coastline, we received the call over the tanoy to return to our cars and this we did with some eagerness as we couldn’t wait to settle in at the site.

Once on the road we noticed the legendary pot holes dotted along the winding narrow road and with some careful manoeuvring we eventually arrived on the south side of the island, Sealshore Camping and Caravan site and it looked like we were one of the first to arrive.

No rain but the wind was still strong, the sea was beating itself all the way along and up the shore line, the lighthouse out to sea looked stark against the dark sky and the smell of the sea brought in off the cresting waves was incredible, we could just feel the worries of the world drop off our shoulders, fantastic.

Pod and the awning were soon up and running. We even put the thermal wrap round the pop top roof as we knew the temperature could drop over night, especially on the coast.

The sea eventually made its way out and we went for a mooch along the beach, eyes peeled for otters and seals, but didn’t spot a thing on this occasion.

So back to Pod we went, with a beer in hand we settled in to the recliners as the sun slowly disappeared behind the Arran coastline. What a great way to start our few days away.

Woke to a dry day, a little overcast but rain wasn’t on the agenda. As we pushed Pods door wide we were met with a fabulous view of the beach and the salty seaweed smell of the sea.

A drive of the coastal route was decided upon and we went clockwise. Looking at a map it almost looks like two separate parts, the lower half more green, lush and arable, the top half more rugged and mountainous. We didn’t really get to see much of it though, as a very low cloud had descended upon us and anything more than 100m in front of us was obscured by it.

First stop for us today was the Whisky Distillery, way up on the north side of the island, sounds along way doesn’t it, but no, less than an hour away. Easy enough to find as there aren’t too many roads to choose from, plus we soon discovered there were no round-abouts and except those being used by the roadworks, there weren’t any traffic lights either.

We found plenty of parking and once in through the door we paid £8.00 ea for the tour. First off, we sat and watched a short film about the history of the distillery and then we were whisked off through a door and were shown the lengthy process of whisky making, not forgetting the wee share for the Angels.

By the end of the tour we had partaken of 3 fabulously different whiskies and as one of us was driving the other had more than a fare share. On leaving the tour we walked through the well stocked shop, there was a fabulous collection of local produce on sale, ranging from delicious cheeses to brilliant artwork. Could easily have spent a fortune and needless to say a bottle of whisky had to be bought, a peaty one was chosen, the Machrie Moor.

Once outside we discovered the sky had cleared a little and we continued our tour round the island.

Something else we discovered whilst doing this too, no well known branded fast food outlets, not a McDonald or Pizzahut to be seen anywhere. A small selection of cafes and restaurants but that was your lot. The only food store on the island was Co-Op, not a Tesco or Sainsbury’s to be seen either, very refreshing we thought.

Back at Pod dinner was eaten and the evening was spent mesmerised by the view in front of us, wide open sea with a lighthouse in the distance, bliss.

Next day was slightly hard to read, we hoped for blue skies at some point but pinpointing it was proving difficult, so the decision was made to walk Goatfell, if we didn’t see anything from the top we’d be disappointed yes, but were desperate to do it either way, plus it gave us a reason for a return visit.

Goatfell is the highest point on the island and stands at 874 metres, it promised some spectacular views so as we set off from the carpark we had our fingers crossed that we would walk through a thin layer of cloud to see its spectacular summit in the distance.

Onward we went, through the dense tall forest and the wide open moorland before reaching the rocky path that lead upwards, but the thin layer of cloud didn’t appear and then disappear, no, it got thicker. Still, we continued with map in hand, but the path was very well laid so there wasn’t a real chance of loosing our way. Gradient increased and the cloud along with it, it was a great pity but still an enjoyable walk.

Within 50 metre of the top we came across a large area of snow, slowly melting but doing its’ best to hang on in there, once past it we came across more and a group of people who’s path was blocked by a wide spans of it. The snow wasn’t compact and the path had totally disappeared, as none of us knew what lay beneath the decision was made to turn back, gutted was an understatement, we knew we were less than 20 metres from the summit.

The small group began their track down and we decided to eat lunch before doing the same.

More people arrived, some turned and went back and the odd one went past and upwards, these we soon discovered were locals and had trod this route many times. With great observation on our part and words of encouragement on theirs we found a second route up and the much wanted summit.

Yes, no views were to be had but we were so pleased we’d continued, that said, if we hadn’t befallen the locals we would have turned back, Goatfell wasn’t going anywhere and no summit was worth the risk of injury.

The long trek down began and a short journey back to Pod was had, needless to say, by the time we reached the site the sun was out, we were treated to a clear blue sky and more spectacular scenery.

Following morning was glorious, beautiful coastline lay all around us and the sea was out, giving us the chance to walk out onto the rocks in the hope of spotting the local otters and seals. The lighthouse on Pladda looked within walking distance and the mysterious island of Alisa Craig could be seen way in the background.

A day pottering around the site was decided upon and low and behold, with patience, we were treated to the sight of 2 Otters playing on the rocks and swimming between boulders. Incredible to see and an ever better sight was to be had when they swam from one outreach to the other which just happened to be on either side of Pod.

The day soon flashed by and before turning in we went for a stroll along the beach, a perfect end to a great day too as we were treated to the site of a Common Seal basking in the evening sun.

The coastline on Arran is breathtaking there is no doubting that at all, an incredible place, still hanging onto values from a bygone era and for this we loved it even more.

So during this walk we decided to do our own version of a beach clean and were shocked to discovered the amount of plastic debris washed up on its beautiful beaches. Within the space of 1 metre square we had no trouble in picking up 4 blue cotton bud sticks. With this find we continued, as our eyes became accustomed to the search we found ourselves falling over many others, not just bud sticks. Broke our hearts a little and if nothing else made us more determined to rid our lives of single use plastic.

End of the day arrived and once back at Pod a wee dram of something very special finished the day off perfectly.

Our final day arrived and we were yet again blessed with a wonderful blue sky, we wanted to see more of island so a drive was decided upon. A short journey from the site brought us to the coastal path which travels all the way round the island, that wasn’t planned today, we just wanted to see more seals, so camera in hand off we went on foot.

Didn’t take long to find them and to be honest they were a little hard to miss, at least 50 of them scattered amongst the outcrops along the water line, all sprawled out enjoying the afternoon sun, brilliant. Time was moving on so we turned and once back at the car we continued our tour.

This drive was much nicer than our first day, no clouds or sea mists to obscure the coastline with swans in huge numbers gliding by along the shore line, nor its panoramic views across the wide open hedge lined fields


Lochranza was our next stop, pretty little village with the remains of a Castle still standing proud at the bays entrance.

We eventually found ourselves on the east side of the island and at the Lighthouse Restaurant, here we were treated to some fabulous food, good value too, with great sized portions. Venison was had by one of us and a mushroom and leek parcel the other, the desserts were incredible too, worth every penny.

Time soon came to head back to Pod and a slow journey back was had, the weather report was checked and it seemed that the weather was taking a turn for the worse tomorrow, so the awning came down and was neatly packed away, nice and dry.

Our last evening had arrived and with a blue sky slowly changing to a warm glowing sunset we decided to treat ourselves to supper on the beach, old romantics eh..

Little gas stove came with us, along with pieces of cod, prawns and a variety of BBQ vegetables, we even had a little fire going as we finished our last bottles of beer and sat cuddled together listening to the sea gently rolling in against the empty beach.

7am alarm woke us and discovered rain had indeed visited us, so much so, it continued all the way through breakfast, packing up and leaving the site. We were so pleased we’d packed the awning away the previous night, just one less job to do once home.

We arrived at Brodick Ferry in plenty of time and joined the queue of those returning to the mainland. Once on board it didn’t seem long before we were off the other end and on our way home.

5 fabulous nights had been had on Arran and you can bet your bottom dollar (ode to our many American readers) we will be back, who knows, retirement isn’t that long away and we can’t think of a better place to retire to… or set up our own Caravan Site.

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Manchester Easter ‘Staycation’

Now, you may think we’re bonkers anyway and we wouldn’t blame you, but wait till you find out what we had planned for Easter, it may just confirm your judgement.

It just so happened our days off all coincided with Easter and we wouldn’t need to use any of our leave, but because work can be a wee bit sneaky sometimes this meant we couldn’t really book a site, just in case our days off were cancelled. Hate paying deposits which had the potential of being lost through no fault of our own.

So, we came up with a devilish plan, a ‘staycation’ in Manchester. She’s in the papers a lot, usually through football and most recently due to the terrible terrorist attack but we wanted to try and look at her through tourists eyes and see what she had to offer.

Pod would be moved onto the driveway and days out would be had around Manchester, the best part being we would still be able to stick a travel pin in our map because every night would be spend in Pod.

Good Friday arrived and out Pod came, she was filthy from our last trip away and once the bed was made up she was treated to a bit of sponge bath. Some fabulous Aldi waterless wash/wax followed by a good coating of Auto Glym. Took some doing but she did shine after.

Next came a car ride into Stockport, somewhere we’ve passed through on many occasions but never given it much thought, but one museum had caught our eye and after a little research we discovered another not too far from it. After a 20 minute drive we arrived outside The Hat Museum, as it was a Bank Holiday parking was free and we even managed to snaffle a spot just outside the old entrance.

Once inside we discovered it was free entry, with a donation if willing, but if a guide was required it would be £5.00 ea. We opted to go for a walk at our leisure and a donation was made. We began downstairs, two floor down and this took you through the whole process, from the making of the fabric to the moulding and decoration of the hats. Machinery was everywhere and you could easily imagine the deafening noise, we doubt they would have had ear defenders so goodness knows how they coped. Health and Safety was unheard of.

Next we went up a floor the display area and here we found a huge variety of hats of all shapes and sizes. Some were very delicate and intricate in detail and others had a work purpose and made of sterner stuff, but the quality of all of them was impressive. There was also a brilliant play area in the middle, great for the kids to try on hats and play out their own little fantasies.

Up the stairs we went again and this brought us back to the exit and reception, we had a peak in the room off here and this turned out to be a café/eating area, but it wasn’t open today which was a shame. It was still a great experience, lots of history and stories to be told about so many different types of hats.

We gave our thanks and left, once outside phones came out of pockets and good old Google gave us direction to our next Museum, the Air Raid Shelter Museum. This worked out brilliantly as it was only a 5 minute walk.

Entry was gained and £5.00ea was handed over, this gave us access to hand held audible narrators which we were instructed to carry round and when a disc mounted on the wall was located, point the device at it and you would receive a variety of information covering the shelter and those that lived and worked in there. All seemed pretty good.

Off we went down the steps and into small brick lined room, here we received a small presentation on the beginnings of WWII and Air Raid Shelters. Once done we were directed through another door and left to take our time travelling along the tunnels using the hand held devices. As soon as we dropped into the tunnels there was a marked decrease in temperature and we were immediately hit by the workmanship that had gone into the making of them, each and every side held deep gouged out marks by either hand held tools or the pneumatic drill they were able to use. Also on display was a very detailed map of German bombing targets, which had been found on an airfield in Berlin after the war.

Onward we went, using our hand held devices to clock into each section and here we delved into the lives of many who spent their days down here. From children, the sick and the elderly, they spent many an hour entombed in the depths of Stockport and did their best to pass the time they had. Kitchen and Nurses station was also on offer, along with 74 toilets which had to serve all those down there, very simple design but must have worked like a treat.

Once back out into the sunshine we walked the short distance back to the car and as it was Good Friday we treated ourselves and stopped off at a local Fish and Chips Shop, delicious and a great end to a good day.

Back at Pod we used the site facilities and as bed time approached we tottled off to Pod and were soon snug under the duvet planning the next day ahead.

Woke to another dry day and we seemed to be faring better than many who had travelled to their Easter Holiday destinations. Today we had a bus trip planned to Manchester City Centre, On the menu we had the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry as Astronaut Major Tim Peake’s capsule was on display.

After a 3/4hr journey into the city we finally found ourselves walking in the direction of the Museum. School holidays were on the go but it didn’t seem too busy. In we went and it was free entry with donations of £3.00, it didn’t cost any extra to see the capsule either, so that was great news. They were however charging £8.00 each for those who wanted to go into the Robotics display.

The capsule was amazing, awe inspiring and very small, as was the Majors suit. It was hard to believed it had contained 3 people and landed them safely back on Earth. Incredible. So wanted to touch it, but it was securely sat behind a barrier, well out of reach.

We then strolled round the rest of the museum which took us through a Mill Factory and we were given the opportunity to play with the large screen display in the centre of the Museum. A cylindrical display of screens which projected images of those brave enough to have their picture taken, you can guess we had a go, but can you spot us ?

Next onto the steam trains, fantastic smell of oil and diesel when you entered and a huge selection of engines, steam trains and locomotives. There were some amazing feats of engineering. One of the smaller ones was in the process of being started up to the delight of those surrounding it.

Air and Space Hall next, this was fabulous, enormous planes with contra rotating propellers to small homemade gliders were on display. Whilst in here we had to have a go of the Virtual Experience, this was to be the re-entry of Major Peake’s Capsule and for £6.00 it was very educational and informative. It would have been 10 out of 10 if the chairs could have moved too, but guess it wouldn’t of been £6.00.

Back outside we headed towards one of our favourite Restaurants and passed through North Gate, Castlefield. Much to our surprise we discovered an old Roman Gateway and this was one of four which led a Roman road into the city centre.

As we walked through the city we passed numerous Mobikes, strategically placed by their previous riders and positioned in such a way that they teased passerby’s to give them ago. Not for us on this occasion, we wanted to walk around as we weren’t in any rush today. Onwards we went and passed the beautifully historic John Rylands Library and the new stark looking Armani building. Very different but in an odd way complemented each other.

Next stop was The Grill on The Alley, a steak heaven for one of us but it was lucky enough to serve the other extremely well too. Service and food in here is next to none and we were even treated to complimentary cocktails as they were currently training new staff.

Bus was eventually caught back to our home village but we had to stop off at a local bar on the way, here a few cask ales were had and these finished our day off before we caught a taxi home for the last few miles. Those bus passes definitely came in very handy.

Easter Sunday arrived and the weather was again dry and bright. A walk was on the cards today and Dunham Massey was chosen as it was only a 20 minute drive away. We thought we couldn’t go wrong with this as we presumed children and their parents would be ensconced within their own homes devouring mountains of chocolate. We were wrong.

Traffic queue began over a kilometre away but it did keep moving, even if it was at a crawl. We eventually entered the grounds and after showing National Trust Membership Cards we found it quite easy to find a parking space. We then joined another queue, this was a little frustrating as we were all stood in single file working our way to the main door. Once reaching the door Members and non-Members were eventually separated into two queues, just wish they’d done this from the beginning.

Once through we were in the grounds and decided to head for the Mansion, entering the main door we were greeted by staff who informed us they had several displays on offer. One of the rooms had been set up as the hospital as during WW1 the Mansion itself was used as a hospital for those returning from the war, a very moving experience. Other rooms were dedicated to ‘Year of the Woman’ and displayed clothing worn by the ladies of the house.

We eventually found ourselves in the grounds and strolled along the tree lined avenues, we couldn’t believe how lucky we had been with the weather, little cold, but if wrapped up not an issue.

Lunch time was calling so The Axe and Cleaver caught our attention on the way home. Very busy inside but they managed to find a table for us tucked away in a corner, perfect. Good pub fare and reasonably priced. Friendly service too which always adds to a good experience.

Bedtime beckoned and after checking the weather it seemed for the following day our luck was about to run out, it wasn’t going to stop us though as we had tickets booked for the Waxi, also known as the Water Taxi. Return tickets were bought at £8.00 each outward journey and £6.00 for the return.

Rain met us in the morning and it looked like it was going to be hit and miss for the day. Decision was made to drive to the Trafford Centre and walk the short distance to the Bridgewater Canal for a Waxi ride into Manchester city centre, quite exciting really and something new to us.

Car was parked and the rain had stopped, so our fingers were crossed we’d make it through the day. Waxi arrived on time and ourselves and 3 others were soon on board and heading in the direction of the city.

Brilliant experience and a very leisurely journey was had, we were passed by numerous barges and all their occupants waved and swapped pleasantries with a smile. Trees were still bare but we could imagine this being a wonderful experience in the summer when trees were in full bloom.

We landed not far from the Museum of Science and Industry and once off the Waxi we thanked our driver and discovered he would be the pilot of our return trip later in the evening, good to know, as we didn’t want to be stranded in the city centre later.

First stop was the John Ryland Library, absolutely incredible building and we couldn’t believe we had passed it so many times over the past 20 plus years. It was one of those buildings we were always curious about but just never found the time to explore. So glad we found the time today.

We walked through a new build extension and entered what felt like a ‘time tunnel’, stepping from a smooth plastered white stark stairway and onto a warn, warm yellow toned, stone lined corridor.

The corridor led from room to room and took us on a journey through time using the many books on display. The Historic Reading Room and the staircase that took you there were breathtaking, still open for those who wanted to use it to study and it was great to see the mix of books and electronic devices being used by the many students who were bent over their chosen medium in deep thought.

Next stop was the Cathedral and anything we found in between. It seemed rain had passed whilst we’d been in the Library so we began our walk up Deansgate and found ourselves in Barton Arcade.

Amazing glass roofed three tiered shopping arcade, beautiful tiled floor and wrought iron railing surrounding the balconies, the shops were home to cafes, shops and a brilliant old fashioned barbers. ‘Barber Barber ‘ treated its customers with that extra special care, no appointment system but a place where a beer could be ordered, then you could sit and relax until a spot became available in one of the chairs. Once thing that could grate on some though.. no women were allowed, a men only zone.

From here we arrived at Manchester Cathedral, free to enter but donations were welcomed, there was a charge of £1.00 should you want to take pictures. Another wonderful building, beautiful stone floor, incredibly ornate ceilings and colourful stain glassed windows, always look up because you never know what you might miss.

Looked like it was going to be a late lunch for us so walked in the direction of the Printworks, great building with a huge in door area catering for everyone’s taste buds, Chiquito caught our attention and with the App we were lucky enough to get it at half price. Great food and good value for money.

The clock was slowly edging it way towards our Waxi pick up time but we thought we might just squeeze a beer in if we timed it right. Off we set and once within shouting distance of the river we stopped off at Dukes 92 for a wee beverage, by now it was pouring down so we sat outside under the veranda and watched the world go by as the rain bounced off the floor and surrounding tables and slowly ran down the courtyard in the direction of the river.

Waxi time arrived, we hadn’t been waiting more than a minute when we saw our bright yellow Waxi appear from under the bridge, it crawled to a stop and was soon turned 360 deg and lined up against the river wall, very competent handling we thought.

Others stepped off the Waxi as our driver greeted us and we were told we were the only two passengers for the return trip, how cool, we had it to ourselves for the next 45 minutes. The journey back was as relaxing as our arrival and between the three of us we discussed the delights our waterways have to offer and adventures we’d had over the past years. A very pleasant trip back, despite the rain. Once back at the car it didn’t take long to get back to Pod, our last full day had come to an end but at least we had one more night in Pod to look forward to.

Woke to a dry day and with cup of tea in hand we relived our ‘staycation’. We’d only touched the surface of what Manchester had to offer, it’s a fabulous place with a lot going for it, from a diverse culture and history, wonderful dining experiences, a variety of bars and some beautiful countryside.

Now, as we’d stayed true to Pod and spent every night of our break in her we had earned the right to stick a pin in our travel map, so the time came to pack up and head for home … to the front door. It had been a great Easter break and we did our best to see Manchester with fresh eyes, we think we succeeded too.

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Bridges, Canals, Caravan, Caravanning, Church, Conservation, Glamping, national trust, Photography, Science, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Trains, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking, Waterways, woodland | 2 Comments

Pod Powwow – York 2017

Caravans, so what’s the draw to the smaller end of the market, such as Micro Tourers. We can answer that for you, no problem and the answers all came from a recent get together of Pods which was held in October 2017.

It all happened through a bit of owner promotion, the Podpals page and using our Facebook page as a springboard. Within a few months the Pod Powwow was organised by Laurence Christie and 32 GoPods travelled from between Devon and Aberdeen to make their presence known in York at Naburn Lock Caravan Park where a field had been set aside for Podders use.

Claire and Mat aka ‘2B’s’ tried to met owners on their arrival at the site and they were then handed Pod pendants as a welcoming gift, questions posed were answered and they were directed to the relevant area, those that were missed received a visit soon after their arrival and were also given pendants, we didn’t want anyone to miss out on a memento of the event.

Within a few hours everyone was in possession of amazing cup cakes made by Donna and Julie aka ‘Penny-G’ and beautiful key rings and coasters made by Lee, owner of one of the more retro looking Pods.

Soon all Podders were on first name terms, taking notes of different set ups and quirky modifications.

People were then left to do their own thing but with the option of joining in on the evenings festivities, the first night was spent at the pub, way too many of us to fit inside so the outside became a mini Pod meet, dogs included. A right old giggle was had and it was great to put names to Pods before everyone made their way back to the site and their relevant Pods.. we hope.

We’d arranged for a daytime visit from Rob, the owner of Stratus Photography and the day he arrived turned out to be the driest of our time there. The wind was picking up but it didn’t deter Robs drone from capturing some great images.

Our second night was spent fending off Storm Brian, some fared better than others and a lot of time was spent in a scout tent kindly lent by another Pod owner. Brilliant idea and gave everyone the chance to mingle, dance and relax, whilst occasionally nipping out to check on Pods, awnings and anything else that wasn’t tied down.

Now.. a little about this wonderful group of people; the owners of these micro tourers have had varied travel experiences, from camping in 2 man tents to larger twin axle caravans, but they are a special breed and they don’t see their Micro Tourers as caravans.

It all comes down to no bathroom and relying totally on sites facilities, or for those a little more adventuress a bucket of hot water for daily ablutions and a shovel, which hopefully doesn’t need explaining. It’s described by most as a campervan without the front seats and engine, plus there’s a need to name them with decals, if you haven’t already noticed.

After many years of camping, Lee and her 10 year old daughter Skye now own a Cockpit 2007, they love going to the festivals in the UK and are soon to cross and explore Europe, all this knowing it’s cheaper as they’ve saved on paying extortionate supplements for being a single parent. They’ve plans for a few modifications too, with the split screen their Pod will be transformed into a Star Wars Stormtrooper, although we though Spiderman is another option.

Then we have the loan Podders such as Laurence ‘Podfather’, Julie ‘Piglet Pod’, Dave his dog, and ‘Peg’, plus Ann with ‘Buster’. All keen to hit the roads when they can, there isn’t anywhere any of them are afraid to travel.

Julie says it’s easy to tow, Laurence loves storing it at home and Dave said it’s ideal for single carriage roads. Ann wouldn’t be without her motor mover, on a trip getting to know ‘Buster’ she took a wrong turn into what appeared to be a very exclusive Golf Club. The carpark contained the like of Jaguars and Bentleys, the owners of which stood opened mouthed as she rolled into the carpark. Reversing wasn’t a skill she had yet acquired and after 45 minutes of trying whilst her audience grew, she popped out of her car, head held high, unhitched ‘Buster’ and using her motor mover soon had ‘Buster’ and car reconnected. With a proud nod of achievement, Ann waved farewell and wished them all a great game of golf.

The majority of Podders like Julie and Rob ‘Penny-G’, agree with keeping their tourer at home as it negates storage costs and gives that added flexibility, allowing a trip to have a bit of spontaneity. Chris and Keri ‘Escape Pod’ make great use of their solar panel on their adventures up and down the country, ideal for when hook-up isn’t an option.

Not forgetting the attention you get once you do get yourself on the roads, most people are used to seeing the largest beasts and find it quite funny to see something so small.

In fact, people seem to make a point of saying something when the tourers are on the move. Russ and Christine with ‘Flamingo Pod’ were stopped at traffic lights in Chesterfield when an elderly gentleman had them jump out of their seats by knocking on the car door window, shouting, “wish they’d had these in the 70’s, I would have loved one”. Then we have ‘Wolfe’s’ owners, merrily driving along the M1 when their attention was caught by a passing vehicle which contained a man doing his best to ask questions on its set up.

It seems you can’t be a wall flower when owning a Micro Tourer.

The Powwow was a resounding success, Storm Brian did his best, but with the wine, music and laughter flowing freely many new friendships were made. The day to leave eventually arrived and with a bit of team spirit and brute force tourers were pushed off the now sodden field and on their way home, not before everyone exchanged details with future visits in mind.

So much so, Powwow events are springing up countrywide, with participants joining us from even further afield, including Ireland. So keep your eye out for us and come and say Hi.

Plus… Here’s the link to the ariel footage curtesy of Stratus Photography, who also has his own FB Page and YouTube channel.

Posted in Accessories, Awning, Canals, Caravan, Caravanning, Glamping, Lakes, Modifications, Photography, Sight seeing, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking, Waterways, woodland | Leave a comment

Clumber Park and a Major Oak Tree

Trip number four of the year arrived and off we went for a two night stay at Clumber Park Caravan and Motorhome Club, looked fabulous nestled in the grounds of 20 acres of National Trust parkland in Sherwood Forest. Sun was out and the roads were pretty clear too, so we couldn’t ask for more during our 3 hour journey.

Arrived just after 1pm and it was perfect timing, there were plenty of pitches to pick from so chose one that had woodland to its rear. Didn’t take long to set up as we hadn’t brought the awning, just the tarp, but we had a new addition to equipment and that was the small 2 man tent, our ‘pup tent’ or as MrB called it, the shed. This was a bit of a dry run for our 16 night tour of Scotlands 500, we would be just tarping it and if weather was poor we would need somewhere other than the car to store wet gear.

After lunch and cream cakes in Pod we went on a walk around the site and ventured onto the parkland, very strange situation to us, as the main road through the park grounds seemed to be a regular thoroughfare from one side to the other. We crossed this main road and walked up towards the village and the lake, beautiful tree lined walk which lead us to a small row of exquisite red brick terraced houses and a farm at the end of the junction. We eventually turned and strolled back past the path for the lake and back to Pod to discover the site 90% full and people, children and dogs milling about all over the place.

Time came to find somewhere for dinner but due to the poor reception on the site our wonderful portable wifi had let us down, we couldn’t believe it as it has been all over Scotland and Ireland and worked superbly without any issues. We could only blame it on a slight dip in which the site was situated. We were totally cut off, no wifi or phone signal for either of us. Only option left for us was to tag onto the Caravan Club for 24hrs for the cost of a few pounds, easy enough to do but just annoying.

Decision was made to head to The Alders Pub, no more than a couple of miles away and this was on the recommendation of the staff at the site. Situated on a large roundabout along with a Fish and Chip restaurant and McDonalds it was a fair old circular display of eateries.

Looked like a new building and the parking was ample, so off we went through the doors. It was busy but we were shown to a table and updated on how to order food, a carvery was on offer so that was definitely to be had by one of us and a large one too plus a very nice ‘shroom burger’ was had by the other. Needless to say the carvery was piled high but easily demolished, minus a Yorkshire pudding.

Desserts were next on the list, and what arrived for MrB could have fed a family of four, it was a huge slice of a Chocolate Éclair Cake, this was delivered by a waitress who with a bawdy pantomime villain laugh said ‘Enjoy’ and plonked the plate on the table. A valiant attempt to eat this delight was made but it turned into an epic fail and a small section remained to be disposed of.

We eventually wobbled out of the pub and poured ourselves into the car for the drive home, we had definitely been well fed.

Back at Pod and showers were had, these were of the usual Caravan/Motorhome Club standard, looked a little tired but did the job required.

Rained through the night, not heavily but just enough to remind you of caravanning as a child, you know, that gentle tapping of it on the roof as it slowly sent you to sleep. A great memory where you felt warm, safe and protected.

Breakfast was had and a day out in the area was planned, the day before we’d passed a sign for a Military Museum so we opted to head in that direction to start with. It wasn’t hard to find and not too far from the site either, easily found on entering the grounds of Thoresby Courtyard which was situated next to Thoresby Hall (Spa).

Free parking and entry were used and the fabulous little courtyard had lots on offer, from a small café to boutique shops selling a huge variety of items, clothing and woollen yarns to personal, handmade art work, all reasonably priced too. In the corner of the courtyard we found the entrance to the museum which was dedicated to the Queens Royal Lancers and Nottingham Yeomanry. A very moving experience that took you through their entire history and up to present times, lots of personal stories and an amazing record of many historical events.

Next stop was the ‘Major Oak’, believed to be the tree where Robin Hood and his men took shelter and slept. This again was only a short distance away and we paid £3 for parking. Once out of the car we followed the signs towards the Oak and the path wound through the woods which to us looked a little sparse, many trees seemed to have died and their stumps had been turned into little works of art resembling houses with delicate little windows and chimneys.

The ‘Major Oak’ appeared ahead and it was indeed a very impressive sight, with a recorded girth of 33 feet and a canopy of 92 feet, it was believed to weigh in the region of 23 tons and be between 800 a 1000 years old, it was huge. The thick long extending branches were being held up by various metal supports and it was also protected by a sturdy circular wooden fence. It’s a good job too, it’s one of those things you just have to touch, but not anymore it seems.

Tummys were rumbling so a late lunch was on the cards, off we set without any direction in mind. After a short drive along the country lanes we found ourselves back at the roundabout and low and behold the Fish and Chip restaurant beckoned us forth.

We treated ourselves to a proper portion of cod and chips, it was absolutely delicious, the fish was huge and cooked in a very nice light batter. Great environment too, little booths along the windows with the same set in the middle. Would highly recommend.

Feeling very satisfied we headed back to Pod to enjoy our last evening, after our fish treat we didn’t feel like eating too much, so cheese and biscuits were enjoyed with the last few bottle of ale we’d brought with us. Not a bad end to our two nights away and we thought we ‘d crammed quite a bit in too.

Morning arrived way too soon but it was dry which is always a blessing when packing up and the pup tent had worked a treat, perfect for putting the chairs and muddy boots in, a brilliant little buy. We felt we were pretty prepared for our jaunt in May round the Scottish coast, midges and weather permitting.

But before that we had our special Easter break planned and our April trip to Arran, all very exciting stuff, don’t you think.

Posted in Accessories, Awning, Caravan, Caravanning, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, national trust, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking, woodland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February at Chatsworth.. and snow !

Chatsworth Caravan and Motorhome site in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside was all nicely lined up for a few days in February. The day soon arrived and this was our third attempt into 2018 to try and find some snow.

We’d missed out on the previous two as no matter where we were, the snow was always at the other end of the country. Scotland would have been a definite but as we were out of holiday leave it was just that little bit too far to go for a few nights away.

Weather reports were checked and it all looked quite promising, but British weather being what it is it still wasn’t a definite.

Due to Chatsworth location and the very narrow one way access road onto the site there was a strict policy of no entry for new arrivals until 1pm. So as not to run the risk of getting a telling off we left it as late as we dare, in the hope we would arrive a few minutes past the crucial hour.

Low and behold we arrived 4 minutes past the hour and cruised onto the single track road towards the site and its reception office. No sooner had we set wheels on the track when we saw no more than 20 meters in front of us the rear end of another caravan slowly manoeuvring its way along.

We thought, okay, not too bad, the chain gate had only just been removed so we must be one of the first to arrive, no. As we slowly wound our way down the track it opened up in front of us and we saw not 2 vehicles, but 8 and behind us there was an ever increasing queue of ‘vans and motorhomes working their way along the same track.

It was quite amusing as neither of us had ever seen anything like this before, but we resigned ourselves to sitting in the queue until it came to our turn to book in. We didn’t know how long we expected to be there but we were pleasantly surprised as the queue moved along quite quickly and we were soon at the gate being greeted by one of the wardens.

Procedure was explained and it was described by the warden as being the quickest and most proficient way of getting everyone on the site with the minimum of fuss. This required a ‘stop and drop’, by which we mean, once outside the office, the passenger, whom ever it may be, jumped out of the car and went directly into the office to book in. Whilst this was being done, driver of said vehicle was required to move along to the next stopping point. All very well we thought, but the stopping point was approximately the length of a standard outfit away from the office, so it didn’t really seem to lessen the queue and what about the solo travellers. But, ours is not to reason why, we were there and that was the main thing.

The site was quite full and we were informed by the wardens that they were expecting 65 ‘vans over the weekend, really good figures, considering it was February.

Pitch was found and Pod with her awning was soon up and running, the thermal wrap went on too, all in preparation for the expected, or should say, dreamed of snow drift.

Kettle had done its job and we sat and chilled with a nice pot of tea and cream cakes watching ‘vans come and go, some did 3 loops of the site in search of the their perfect spot.

Time came for a walk and as we had obtained our ‘secret garden’ gate key we decided to go for a stroll through Chatsworth grounds and work our way towards Baslow and a pub.

Pod was locked and awning secured, then once on the other side of the wall and on Chatsworth grounds we turned left and began our walk along the slightly sodden path but this wasn’t for too long, we then passed the gate house, went through the kissing gate and followed the path to the main road.

Once at the junction we had a couple of pubs to choose from but we decided on The Wheatshef as Caravan and Motorhome Club members were in line for a 20% discount on food.

In we went and found a table near the window, all look good and they seemed to have a nice selection of craft ales on offer. Typical pub fare was on offer and the portions were large, so much so MrB struggled to finish his main, but we managed to squeeze a few more ales in before taking our stroll back to Pod.

Evening showers were had and these were typical of what the C&MC had on most sites, showers we hot enough but would have liked them just a tad hotter, not enough to cause blisters but enough to feel yourself glowing.

All tucked up back at Pod we were very cosy, temperatures were dropping but there was no sign of snow on the forecast.

Woke to a very wet morning, rain looked like it was in for the day, not a good day for walking in the countryside so we decided to head into Bakewell and see what it had to offer, with the plan to return and settle down to watch England v Wales in the Six Nations.

Parking was easy enough to find and we paid 5.00 for 3 hours. We had a wander round the streets to get our bearings and found ourselves at a local craft fair. A very small affair but it had lots to offer, quilting, home made fudge, cards and a grand variety of jams. A jar of Sweet Clementine Marmalade caught our eye so that was our purchase made.

Once out of the fair we took a stroll along the main roads and passed a few bakeries offering Bakewell Puddings and Tarts, we decided to grab some lunch in the hope it may be on offer as a desert.

Lime Tree Coffee House was our stop for lunch and we tucked into ciabattas and a pot of tea, sadly no puddings were on offer, which seemed strange to us as it seemed a simple desert to offer and would promote a local produce. Also, much to MrBs annoyance, no chips were on the menu.

Needless to say, once we left the coffee house we found the Bakewell Pudding shop and bought the said item, had to buy the tart too though, needed for a taste comparison later.

Didn’t take long to get back to the site and we timed it so as not to get stuck behind any new arrivals.

Kettle went on and with feet up in front of the TV we settled into the game whilst conducting taste tastes of the said Bakewell delights. Now, they both went down very well, not all, we hasten to add, just enough to provide a comparison and taste buds switched from one to the other, so much so, neither of us could give a definitive answer to which we preferred.

England won 12-6, good game and hard hitting, we would have had Farrell as ‘man of the match’ but those better qualified than us saw it differently.

Dinner time arrived soon after and the slow cooker came out to play, along with our new door hooked bin, slow cooker works brilliantly for us as the main section cooked a delicious chicken, sausage and apple cider stew, whilst the griddle on top cooked some rather tasty garlic and chilli prawns wrapped in foil. The bin worked brilliantly too, small things you might think, but made a huge difference to preparing the food, just scraped into it, no messing, brilliant.

Following day looked like it was going to be wet again but we weren’t going to be deterred on this occasion, come low winds and high water, we were going walking. Chatsworth grounds were still yet to be explored, somewhere in the grounds a very large elephant shaped rock had an inscription carved in it to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and is now known as the Jubilee Rock.

We slept very well, strong winds woke us occasionally, but not enough to cause us any concern, so neither of us budged from our very warm, snug bed.

Rain was still doing its best and on the odd occasion it turned to snow, but not long or cold enough to stick, perfect weather for the ducks though, they were in evidence all over the site and would waddle on past in search of food.

Wrapped up in our waterproofs, gloves and hats we set off through the secret garden gate and turned right towards Chatsworth House.

Up the main road we went and took the entrance to the left of the house which took us straight into Stand Woods.

Quite a steep start but we remained on the main tarmac path and walked in the direction of the two lakes, The Emperor and Swiss lakes. The further we walked the path became more snow laden, nothing too deep but enough to give it a crunch under foot and a spectacular country eye-line view.

The Swiss Cottage appeared soon enough and between powerful gusts and hail we managed to grab a few pictures, apparently the cottage is for rent and we could just picture ourselves there, especially on a beautiful, crisp, fresh day like today.

We continued to follow the road round and as we stepped on the little wooden bridge we turned towards the Emperor Lake. Just as we stopped to look up the lake the sun came out and a cold fresh breeze passed in front of us, it dropped down to the waters edge and flittered across the water making it ripple in the direction of the bridge, beautiful.

We continued on, there wasn’t many people about, just the odd one or two, we could hear the Chatsworth Hunt somewhere in the foreground and we weren’t sure if it would come bounding in our direction so kept our eyes peeled.

The Hunting Tower came into view and this again is a very impressive building, this is also up for rent and the views were incredible, all the way out and down to the house and beyond, but not sure how we’d feel about a bunch of people sitting on the front lawn having their picnics, also making the most of the view. It seemed to be a regular spot for walkers to take a break and today was no different.

Once back on the footpath we came face to face with the hunt, it was in an opposite field and they appeared to have taken a break as all were sat astride their horses whilst the dogs roamed around below them.

We were a little uncertain as to how to feel about the Hunt as neither of us wished to see a fox ripped to pieces but understand tradition is a big part of the the community. Once back at Pod we did a little research into the Chatsworth Hunt and discovered it was a ‘clean boot hunt’, their quarry is human, such as a fell runner and he/she is usually rewarded by being licked to death. A much better approach we thought and now wished we’d taken a few pictures of the event.

Downwards we went, towards the village but the pub would not be visited until the Jubilee Rock had been located.

After a few wrong turns towards boulders and rocks that didn’t fit the bill, we eventually spotted it off on the horizon. Brilliant piece of work and still very legible, you could also see its previous identity in its shape too, clearly an elephant, don’t you think.

Feeling very accomplished we headed in the direction of Baslow and once in the centre we thought we’d try The Devonshire Arms, not to be it seemed, as they had stopped serving food, so across the road we went to the Wheatshef.

Phones then came out to calculate how far we’d walked, turns out that by the time we returned to Pod we would have done a nice 6 mile walk.

Our walk back took us back through the kissing gate and by this time the snow was starting to fall, Pod was waiting with the awning light glowing through the window and once inside our little fan heater came into its own, wonderful little thing, works a treat.

Showers were had and by now the snow was getting heavier, it was also sticking so there was a small promise of a possible white awakening.

We slept soundly and woke to an amazing site, the road, ground and surrounding caravans were covered in snow, untouched by anyone, so without wasting a second MrB ran out in only his shorts and snapped a few pictures of Pod and the surrounding area, sorry, no pictures of this event, so you’ll just have to believe us, he did get a few strange looks as expected but it had to be done didn’t it.

Now of course the next thing to do before breakfast was to build a snow person, but the snow person had to have a Snow Pod. Clothes were donned this time and out we went, don’t think we did too bad, do you ? Definitely have the Pod shape, even a step.

The day ahead looked fabulous, not a cloud in the sky so a walk was definitely on the cards. After speaking to a few people on a variety of caravan media pages we took someone’s advice and decided to visit Nelsons Monument on Birchen Edge and also stop by the three boulders named after his she ships, Victory, Defiance and Royal Soverin.

Again our winter gear was donned and off we went. Once through the garden gate we turned left and headed in the direction of the Jubilee Rock. The grounds were a complete blanket of snow and in places a good few inches deep, we passed a few of the horse jumps and the odd one looked more like a piece of art than an object in an obstacle course.

Upwards we went and took the footpath towards The Robin Hood Inn and Birchen Edge, a bit treacherous in places as it was very sodden, plus the snow tended to hide the path, luckily for us the route we were taking someone had walked earlier so we soon found ourselves at the foot of Birchen Edge.

Through the gate we went and followed the footpath along the base of the ridge, there was a footpath off up the ridge on the right but we decided to approach it from the bottom and walk that way back to the village.

The path slowly rose towards the ridge and we passed the Monument on our right, as we came to the end of the wall lined fields we decided to take a path up towards the ridge and what a good choice this was.

As we reached the top we came face to face with the trig point for Birchen Edge, couldn’t have worked out better.

The snow was starting to melt but the overall view from the top was still incredible, the wind had picked up and a chill was starting to set in so we made the decision to head in the direction of the Monument and then onto the village.

Nelsons Monument was set precariously on the cliff edge and from this point you could see down to Baslow and beyond to Chatsworth’s grounds. Behind the Monument sat the three huge boulders with the names of Nelsons ships stamped within them, with a bit of imagination you could see them as ships too.

Once back on the main road we walked the half mile into Baslow and as it was our last evening at Chatsworth we bought ourselves an evening meal in the The Wheatshef, a just reward for another 5 mile walk.

Darkness was starting to descend so we began our walk back through Chatsworth grounds and back to Pod. It was now a very different picture, all the snow had gone, not a patch to be seen. Have to say though we were pleased to still see our snow person and Pod still standing.

Last night in Pod and the rain decided to make an appearance and continued through the night, not the best end to our break as it meant a wet awning to deal with once home, but that’s part of ‘vanning so no big deal.

It did stop long enough in the morning to take the awning down and our poor little Snow Pod and person was definitely looking the worst for wear, but would we do it all again, you bet your bottom dollar/pound/euro we would.

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Conservation, Derbyshire, Forest, Glamping, Lakes, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | Leave a comment

Chilly Chester City and it’s cracking Zoo

January has arrived and 2018 looks like it’s off to a good start as were off to Chester for a few days, we’d chosen the Chester Fairoaks site, less than an hour away for us, so it couldn’t work out better.

Pod was pulled out and loaded up, tyres were checked as a matter of a pre trip routine and then it was time to go.

Roads were pretty clear but the weather wasn’t brilliant, not cold but it was doing its best to rain and the wind seemed to be picking up.  Site was easy to find too, just round the corner from Sealife and Cheshire Oakes Retail Park, plus there seemed to be 3 pubs within a decent walking distance.

Standard C&M site so easy enough to book in, we were given the obligatory site map and told to find a pitch that suits and report back with the pitch number.

The site wasn’t too busy, there were plenty to pick from so we opted for one just round the corner from the toilet block.  Pitches were all large,  well maintained and even.

After a short battle with the awning and the ever increasing wind we were soon set up and as a small reward we decided to avail ourselves of one of the pubs and walked to 100m to The Rake.

Might have been only 100m but with no path or street lighting a few passing cars took it upon themselves to get as close to us as they could.  Know people have places to go and people to see but slowing down a little so people and other passing cars can do the same isn’t too much to ask surely. However, we made it in one piece, the pub looked good from the outside and the inside didn’t disappoint either.

Beers were ordered and we were told if we wanted food there would be a delay as there was a problem with one of the grills, fair enough we thought as we weren’t in a rush to eat.  Food was decided upon and eventually we joined the queue to order. Nachos and onion rings to share to start we thought, followed by huge burgers and fries, proper stodge food.

Starters arrived and were delicious so we had high expectations for the burgers, sadly we were a little disappointed. Food looked fab but it wasn’t particularly hot and the burgers had been well and truly over cooked, must have been bad because MrB didn’t even finish it and he never leaves food.

Another pint was ordered and coats were donned, we were either sat in a draft or the heating wasn’t on not sure which, but we weren’t the only ones.  Some didn’t take their coats off at all.

Normally we’re quite happy to relax, people watch and plan the following days events but The Rake just wasn’t doing it for us so we hot footed back to Pod and her very warm and cosy awning, wind had died down too, which was a blessing.

Shower block looked new, but we’d been reliably informed it had been there for the past two years.  Clean, warm, large shower cubicles with lots of hooks and once they got going, hot showers with the added bonus of Radio 2 streaming through.

Slept soundly and we didn’t budge till 10am, always seem  to sleep well in Pod, probably something to do with all  the fresh air.

We ditched any idea of breakfast and decided to get something once we got into Chester, we were in danger of the day slipping away from us and we had a Cathedral to see, a wall to walk and a Museum to peruse.

Plenty of parking in and around the outskirts but it seems we decided to pick one of  the most expensive ones we’ve ever been in, Pepper Street, possibly priced as such as it was within the city wall.

Details later on that but once we’d taken the ticket we discovered it was a very large carpark, only issue we found, apart from the price,  it was multi-story, low ceiling and  very narrow, short spaces.  Plus for the majority of the floors it was the same way up as down, so it took some manoeuvring.  As we were in a Dacia Duster we opted for the open top floor, empty and more room to play with.

Chester is renowned for its architecture and it didn’t disappoint, we were surrounded by the tall wooden framed buildings with its integrated 1st floor shopping area. As we walked along the cobble roads and paths it was beautiful to see, taking care to look where we were going as we spent far too much time looking up than down.

We had a quick walk round to get our baring’s and instead of hunting out and researching a little cosy café we ended up in McDonalds, have to say it’s not we’d normally do as we can have one of those any day of the week back home, but time was precious and we know what we’ll get.

Soon demolished we set off out the door, across the road and into the Cathedral.  Once here, we discovered it was free to enter, but a donation was welcomed.   We’ve been in a few now, but this blew us away, absolutely awesome.

The Christmas Tree festival was still on, all the trees were spectacular and every single one of them was decorated to a very individual and high standard.  Have to say those done by the local schools were the best, their wishes and hopes expressed with such innocence, it was quite moving.

During this we found a door to the outside and this took us into a small garden, entirely surrounded by the walls of the Cathedral, considering where its placed in the city it still managed to be quite a peaceful place.

We moved towards the centre of the Cathedral and were met with its Lego equivalent, slowly but surely, through the purchase of a brick for a £1.00 it was coming to life.  The detail was amazing, down to the water feature in the garden and stain glasses windows.

From here we moved to the centre and were astounded by the colours and the mouldings in the walls and ceilings.  The colours were everywhere, the floors, ceilings and the mosaic wall were astounding, along with the huge circular cast iron radiators.  Have to say it’s one of our favourite Cathedral.

Time came to leave and as we walked outside it seemed like we’d just missed a bit of a down pour, next stop was the wall,  this was easy enough to follow to start with and took us along the river which now appeared to be in danger of flooding, but as we reached the racecourse we lost our way as there appeared to be a distinct lack of signs and during our detour we found ourselves at the Museum, just as well as it started to rain again.

This turned out to be another free entry which required a donation should you so wish, plus a £1.00 charge if you wanted to take pictures.

Small museum but lots to see from Romans to modern art, the floor as you enter and the winding staircase which takes you up to the other rooms is also rather spectacular, always pays to look everywhere, you never know what you might see.

On leaving we thanked the staff and they kindly pointed us in back to the wall and we continued on our circular adventure, it was now getting dark, so we got to see Chester and the Cathedral lit up, along with the Christmas decorations along the main walkways through the City.

Tummy’s were now rumbling and after scouring the centre we set our sights on an Italian restaurant for our evening meal but it was just that little bit too early so we settled for a sit down and a coffee in Café Niro.

Feeling relaxed we made the move to the restaurant, Urbano32.  Once welcomed we sat in the window which looked out onto the road, from here we ordered two courses and these were polished off with a nice cold beer, the pizzas were perfect, thin and crisp, just as they should be.  Prices were reasonable and staff very welcoming, the cucumber water went down quite well too, very refreshing and something we will consider for ourselves in the future.

We could have sat there all evening  but we still had the 20 minute drive back to Pod, so the decision was made to walk back to the car and face the final parking bill.  Now, we knew it was going to be expensive and at £16.50 for an NCP we thought it was a little steep.  But as our days activities had worked out cheaper than we thought it seemed to us, to balance its self out.

Back at Pod we checked the weather for the following day as we were off to Chester Zoo,  looked good, temperatures weren’t going to be much above zero over night but that wasn’t going to be a problem, quite exciting really and we’d of gone to the zoo no matter what as we’d bought pre dated tickets on line a few days before, they were for tomorrow.

Woke to a clear and very frosty morning and within an hour we were on the road. The caravan site was perfectly located, the roads were clear and no queues so this meant no more than a 15 minute drive.

Parking was easy, lots of spaces left, plus there was a huge overflow area should it be needed, guess in the summer none of  this would be quite so easy.

Didn’t need to print the tickets off so showed the email and barcode as we walked through the entrance and it was as easy as that, we were in, but where to first.

Elephants of course, the first thing you see on your left as you walk in, pretty hard to miss and were top of the list for us.  Adorable is an understatement, a joy to watch and could have stayed there all day but there was lots more yet to see.  It wasn’t particularly warm, we didn’t expect to see many outside and there were lots of indoor enclosures so we didn’t  think we’d be disappointed and we weren’t.

Map in hand we wandered from enclosure to enclosure, birds of prey, bears, bats, apes and reptiles to name a few, we only stopped for a bite to eat in the café and this seemed less well organised.  We decided that the staff within the café were new and were tested out on humans, only once they passed this stage were they allowed anywhere near the animals, fair enough we thought.

Quite funny really, there was plenty of staff, but lots of running around like headless chickens, trying to serve food that wasn’t there or just wasn’t ready and for what we had, two cups of tea, hot dog and chips, plus veggie pie, chips and veg., a bit expensive at £22.00.

Back out we went, in search of tigers, rhinos and orang-utans, these were soon found.  No matter what the species, there is nothing like babies, even a baby rhino, who managed to get himself well and truly entangled in branches and young orang-utans who seemed to be all arms and legs and found it much easier to do roly-polys all over the place than walk.

Time was running out, still lots we hadn’t seen and as the Zoo was closing at 4 we needed to get a wiggle on.

Giraffes, worker ants, sloths and many more were seen, plus so many more and we feel like we’re doing them a disservice by not mentioning them. We had, however been joined on our entire journey round the park by a very friendly, plump looking Robin. By 3.50pm there were still a few we hadn’t seen, including the lions, but time came to leave and if anything else this ensured a return visit.

Dinner was eaten back at Pod, all done by our wonderful one pot multi cooker. Temperatures were dropping again so from our very warm snug awning we made a mad dash to the shower block before bed.

Morning arrived to discover cars frozen over but under a beautiful blue sky, today we went home but we weren’t in any particular rush and the awning would be coming down dry, perfect.

On the road by 11 and home by 12, another bolt hole found for us and one we’ll try and get back to in the summer.

Posted in Abbey, Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Bridges, Canals, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Chester, Church, Conservation, Glamping, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | 4 Comments