Changing holiday plans isn’t something we normally do.
Last September’s two week trip was planned out and accommodation booked way before it was due to happen, but fortunately we’d made a savvy move by booking most of our overnight stays through booking.com which had free cancellation as an added incentive, just in case Covid rules were instigated at short notice.
The original plan for last September was to head up to Scotland and use trains and buses to get into the Highlands to explore the area and get to places such as Mallaig and Kyle Of Lochalsh by rail.
Why didn’t that trip happen? Not because of Covid, but a wedding…
Not ours, but Caroline’s son and his fiancee – who live in London.
The timing was going to be a bit close, so we decided to postpone it and cancel bookings in order to look for a break closer to London so Caroline was in striking distance for when the date/venue were finalised.
East Anglia became the location of choice, largely because we’ve been to both North Norfolk and Suffolk before, but we’ve never done the full circuit…
The process for cancelling the Scottish trip and booking (again by booking.com) the stays for the new plan took just four hours from start to finish – our favourite backpacker hostel’s ensuites in North Norfolk, a very good small hotel in Lowestoft, a chain hotel in Bury St. Edmunds, a coaching inn near IWM Duxford Air Museum and another chain hotel in Cambridge.
Our earlier than usual start on that first Sunday was down to our first port of call – Normous Newark Autojumble at the Showground on the outskirts of Newark which is next door to Newark Air Museum.
What’s an Autojumble? Think of a very large car boot sale devoted to predominately items for cars, motor bikes, memorabilia, bits for bikes and books, models, clothing and tools and you won’t be too far wrong.
We’d seen footage from Normous Newark on ITV4’s Junk & Disorderly TV show where presenters Henry Cole & Sam Lovegrove find things, fix them up and then flog them at other Autojumbles.
There was no sign of the dynamic duo though, but lots to look at and ponder on as we wandered around, had coffee and then wandered some more. We left empty handed, but now we know what’s what, a return visit could be in order when our Skoda has an empty boot to take any purchases!
Once lunch was taken care of, it was time to head for Deepdale Backpackers in Burnham Deepdale to find our room for the night. As the kitchen was closed due to Covid restrictions, we bought snack stuff and beer & cider for consumption later in the open air in the courtyard below our room.
As we had another early start on Monday morning, an early night was had, largely because we had a steam train to catch after finding our breakfasts!
Packing for trip around East Anglia was a last minute affair as we waited to see what the BBC’s twelve day forecast was predicting weather-wise.
The bags were our usual Osprey Farpoint 40 packs, but there were a couple of additions as we were car packing, so we had a shopping bag with our stainless steel coffee presses plus reusable plastic plates, mugs and cutlery, a newly acquired travel kettle and some bags of Taylor’s coffee.
Clothing choices reflected the weather outlook – sun at first then light rain, heavy rain, breezy days and also ensured that we didn’t look out of place in the backpackers hostel, hotels or inns we were staying in.
Personal choices were simple – a trio of cotton t-shirts from Gladstone Motorbikes, Uber Moose and Weird Fish, three tech tees from Rohan, two shirts/over shirts plus jeans, Trailblazer and Stretch Bags (all Rohan) plus M and S socks and undies. Jackets were an Alligin fleece, Troggings soft shell hoodie and an Ascent waterproof – all by Rohan.
Footwear came courtesy of Merrell and Oboz whilst hats came from Uber Moose and Lowe Alpine.
Tech taken along included the Nikon digital compact, my Sony Alpha DSLR, the iPhone, iPad and respective chargers. Kindle software is on both of our tablets along with a varied set of books too.
Caroline’s packing was similar to mine with Rohan jeans, fleece hoodies, tech tees and her Troggings hoodie being packed along with Bamboo socks, Rohan camisoles and underwear plus her Nike Gore-Tex, her Healthy Backpack handbag, her Samsung phone, tablet and chargers…
Shoes came from Ecco, Merrell and Reiker…
As we were staying in different types of accommodation, wash kits were taken along (inc battery operated toothbrushes) and travel towels for the nights in the backpackers hostel ensuite.
Was everything used?
Oh yes, especially when the rains came and we had to head out to a pub for our evening meal!
The above pics are a taster for what’s to come over the next couple of weeks
We spent time exploring the east of England last year heading off towards North Norfolk, Lowestoft, Southwold, Woodbridge and IWM Duxford.
It would have been a full two weeks, but the forecast for the last days was not good, especially as we were supposed to be exploring Cambridge on foot. Thankfully we’d booked a chain hotel on booking.com, so I hit the cancel button on the iPad and cancelled the two night stay.
We will head back there, it’s just a case of when…
When our car was written off by a supermarket delivery van in April last year, the choice of replacement vehicle came down to a shortlist of two – the Kia Picanto and the Skoda Citigo.
The dealer selling the Picanto screwed up big time when I was trying to see it when the first UK lockdown finished and the car showrooms reopened for viewing, so I got the bus down to the local Skoda dealer and took a look at the Citigo Monte Carlo that I’d seen online.
To say that I’d done some research would be an understatement. Not only had I looked at reviews for the Monte Carlo version and the standard model, I’d also looked at reviews of the VW Up! and the Seat Mii as well.
It’s the first time I’ve bought a car without taking it out on a test drive, but with with sound understandings in place, the car was bought, insured and taxed before driving it off the forecourt and heading back home the long way round.
The Citigo may be small, but it goes well thanks to the gutsy engine and aerodynamics and has been known to see off a few white vans at traffic lights since June last year.
The one thing we were worried about at first was the size of the boot/trunk. We knew that we couldn’t get a road bike in, but we could get the folding Dahon in and our bags if the back seats were down.
What we did find however was that it swallowed both of our Osprey packs, a bag of shopping and the usual gubbins that are kept in the car most of the time – foot pump, tyre repair aerosol, window wash/water bottle, hand gel, baby wipes/paper towel (both handy when checking the engine oil) and cleaning stuff for the interior surfaces.
Now this wasn’t to cope with two or three days away, this was also good for the two weeks we spent in East Anglia in late September last year. Yes, the camera bag was placed on the back seat when we were travelling, but it was handy for when I needed to use my DSLR at planned or unplanned stops.
With good mpg (@50+), low insurance costs and Vehicle Excise Duty of £20 a year at June 2020 rates, the Citigo is a good low, cost pre-owned option (new ones are now electric only whereas ours is petrol only).
That visit to East Anglia confirmed the decision to buy was a wise one!
Next up, Packing days are here again, then East Anglia, here we come!
If it’s Saturday, then it’s our last full day in the Lakes and it’s a walking one.
The route was very familiar as I’ve been using it for years, but we chose to walk under half of the usual distance and take it at a leisurely pace too.
The full route is from Ambleside to Rydal Hall then to Grasmere via the Coffin Path. After that It’s out on the road for a while before heading upwards over Red Bank before hitting the village of Elterwater.
From there it’s onward to Elter Water, Skelwith Bridge and skirt Tarn Foot Farm before going up over the back part of Loughrigg and then dropping back into Ambleside via Rothay Park.
The full route is around thirteen miles and it’s the one I used often back in my days as a gear tester as it’s a) familiar and b) has just about every surface you’re likely to encounter if you’re assessing & reviewing new boots.
Our choice, and we chose to accept it, was to wander through Ambleside, walk towards Rydal Hall, have some coffee and cake then head upwards towards Rydal Mount (former home to the Wordsworths) and then along the Coffin Path to How Top before taking the road down to Dove Cottage (the other home of the Wordworths) before walking into Grasmere itself.
The way through to Rydal Hall was the quietest I’d seen it for years and the campsite I’ve used on many occasions was quiet.
After taking some shots of the waterfalls, coffee and cake was ordered and paid for by card for a change as there was a no cash policy in operation.
Then it was up to Rydal Mount and time to hit the more rugged part of the track leading to Grasmere. This was also quiet and surprisingly so considering how many people had been wandering around Ambleside on Friday and first thing on this Saturday morning.
Dove Cottage was reached in no time, but there was no chance of heading inside as it was closed to the general public at that time.
We did get the chance to pay homage to the Wordsworths, because one place was open as a means of paying respects…
Lunch beckoned, but it wasn’t to be at the first place we sat down in. We were shown to a table, given a couple of menus and that was it. Staff came and went with food or taking orders at other tables, but not ours, so we legged it in search of another café.
And found one – Heidi’s (heidisgrasmere.co.uk). It’s a café and there’s rooms available too, but we were there for lunch and yes, it was warm enough to sit outside to eat.
Once fed, we took a look inside Sam Read Booksellers (samreadbooks.co.uk) and came away with a couple of paperbacks that I’d taken a shine to. Caroline and I had the place to ourselves as only two mask wearers at a time were being allowed in to browse and buy.
We also took a look inside a couple of art gallery shops too, but didn’t buy anything as we are running out of wall space at home due to the calendars, photos from previous travel trips and the pieces of art work that Caroline has made over the years.
Another coffee beckoned, as did a soft drink, but the soft drink may well have been one of the worst I’ve ever tasted so it was time for another double espresso to take the taste away!
We did take the easy way back to Ambleside – by bus, so we got back, had time to wash & brush up before heading out for our evening meal.
Which was at The Priest Hole once more – they were as good as their word and rang me after a table came up, so it was back there for another evening of good, unpretentious food and a bottle or two of fine local ales.
The next stop was back to Wanslea to prep for the next day, which turned out to be a quiet one. The museum we drove to turned out to be advance bookings only, so we ended up going to Booth supermarket in Kirkby Lonsdale for sandwiches, soft drinks and the chance to stock up on some unfamiliar ales and cider for home consumption.
Then it was time to head home, sort the washing out and use the phone to order a couple of curries for delivery as we didn’t feel like heading out again.
A good few days? Oh yes…
Thought that I’d lost these pics, but they were just misplaced!
Caroline, The Minstrels Gallery and a wet hire bike...
If it’s Friday, then it must be Ambleside and time to head out for an evening meal at the place we’d book a table for 8.30pm earlier in the day.
The walk from Wanslea to that establishment wasn’t as long as I thought it would be, so we arrived early and that’s where our problems started.
The person at the desk couldn’t comprehend that we’d arrived early or that we had a table booked for 8.30 in my name. After ten minutes of faffing about on the computer, the booking was found, and we were in – or so we thought.
The next person we spoke to couldn’t understand why we wanted to just leave our name and telephone number in line with the guidelines at the time and insisted that we scanned a QR code.
Eventually he relented when we pointed out that we’d already left a name and telephone number when we made the booking and that we’d never used a QR code ever for anything.
We were eventually shown to our table and given menus to peruse. What we hadn’t realised was that this particular establishment only offered vegetarian choices and I was looking forward to eating something a little meatier.
Given the palaver we’d already had, we left and went in search for another place to eat. The Michelin starred places didn’t appeal and the couple of nearby pubs were full, so we looked around and found The Priest Hole (thepriesthole.co.uk).
And it had a table – on a Friday night after 8.30!
Once in, names and numbers were taken and then we removed our face coverings and sat down, took a look at the drink’s menu, ordered and then examined the main menu. Both of our choices were easy to make – local lamb shank with all the trimmings and the fish special for Caroline.
After the mains were polished off, extra drinks, dessert & coffees were ordered, thoughts turned to booking in at The Priest Hole for the next night.
The small problem was that at that time, there wasn’t a table available for Saturday night, so my name and number was taken once more so I could be contacted during the day on Saturday should a table become available.
With that arrangement out of the way, it was time to head back to get some shut eye after our respective days out. Glasses of water were used to dilute the alcohol stream before turning in at a later than usual bedtime.
What we didn’t expect was the sound of car doors slamming outside at 1am and a few people congregating in front of the main door for a loud chin wag and ciggie consumption.
It was tempting to shout STFU out of the window, but I refrained because I just knew that that would not be a good idea, especially at breakfast time!
After a reasonable night’s sleep, showers and coffee made in our own cafetieres were a great way to start the day before breakfast.
Our choices had been made the night before with Caroline choosing the lighter breakfast whilst I went for my first morning full English in months.
Wearing masks into the breakfast room wasn’t a problem for us or the staff, but it appeared to be for one or two others over the few days we were there.
We were up early, largely because Caroline had booked a hire bike from Ghyllside (ghyllside.co.uk/content/12-bikehire), one of her favourite places to hire bikes from.
The forecast wasn’t that good for the first part of the day, so I was pleased that I’d opted to drive around to Hawkshead to sus out a potential lunch spot before meeting Caroline at the half-way point for the ride she was doing.
Why? Because it wasn’t long before it was hissing down and thoughts of taking quite a few photos disappeared…
After a mooch around a couple of shops in Hawkshead and buying a copy of Lakeland Walker magazine, thoughts turned to coffee and sustenance.
Which came in the form of coffee and fresh scones at Minstrel’s Gallery Tea Rooms next to the King’s Arms pub in the oldest part of the village.
The phone eventually rang when Caroline checked in to see whether or not I’d found somewhere to chill out, got directions and then entered the tea rooms in a slightly bedraggled state.
After this, Caroline headed up to Grizedale Forest whilst I headed into Langdale. The weather hadn’t improved, so I went in search of some hand gel and a couple of snacks for later on in the afternoon.
With Caroline on her way back to Ambleside (in an area that isn’t noted for good mobile phone reception), I headed back to Wanslea, parked up and wandered in to various shops to see what offers there were on footwear – Caroline’s shoes were letting in water, a sign of their age rather than the effectiveness of the waterproof membrane.
Once back at Ghyllside and the bike returned, it was rather obvious that an outside café experience was needed because of the mud and skunk stripe Caroline had acquired on her ride. After coffee and cake, we booked a table at a restaurant for that night before the search of new shoes.
Which was easier said than done. I’d seen a couple of options whilst waiting for Caroline but getting anyone to served proved difficult. Someone turned up eventually but wasn’t interested and whilst it was tempting to intervene, I wasn’t being paid to do so and after a discussion we went into John Gaynor’s and sealed the deal on a pair of Merrell shoes.
Next up was back to Wanslea for showers and a change of clothes before exiting for our evening meal – which wasn’t taken at the place we’d booked!
As I mentioned on Monday, both Caroline & I have visited the Lake District on several occasions and know the main areas pretty well.
We’d not stayed in Ambleside for a few years though and that’s why we chose it for our first post-lockdown visit to the National Park as we could wander around the village, head off on foot to other villages or as in Caroline’s case, hire a bike and explore on two wheels.
Getting there from home was easy and didn’t involve maps, route cards or any form of tech to get there, just good old-fashioned nous, memory and familiarity with the roads.
As Caroline had been on twelve-hour nursing shifts on two of the three days before we headed off, we didn’t have an early start.
We made a brief stop at the Rohan shop in Long Preston for a retail therapy raid on both sale and previous season’s offerings before heading to Wilf’s Café in Staveley for lunch and a couple of cold drinks.
Which was great in theory, but we weren’t expecting the car park to be that full, so we headed off in the direction of Ambleside to park up, have lunch, explore some more and then head to the B&B we were staying in.
After one circuit of the village, we parked up and walked out to Fresher’s Café (fresherscafe.co.uk) at The Courtyard on Rothay Road.
Ordering a full English with a cold Coke was a no-brainer for me whilst Caroline chose the Quiche Lorraine and sparking water. Coffee followed, as did a wander around before coffee and cake beckoned at Zeffirelli’s.
With the car park ticket running out, we headed for Wanslea Guest House on Lake Road to park up, check in, unpack, snooze and change before we took a walk into the centre in search of food first and a pub visit afterwards.
We looked at quite a few places on our way through the centre. Some were closed, others far too expensive for our budget (and not to our tastes either having looked at the menus) and then we came across Sheila’s Cottage (sheilascottage.co.uk), a place I’d visited before – in the 1970s when killing time at the end of a school trip to the Lakes.
After a couple of very good mains, desserts, mineral water and coffee, it was time to head to one of my favourite pubs in Ambleside – The Golden Rule.
Rules were in place for choosing and serving, but with a good selection of ales and ciders to choose from, neither of us were disappointed at our respective choices of ale for me and good cider for C.
It may have been a long day, but as the food and drink had been so good, it was time to walk back to Wanslea and do a very important task – fill in the breakfast order!