One of the little trains that helped inspire a certain tank engine…
Sea, sun and a sandwich by the beach – Port Erin
And the last day in Douglas
The term Three Legged Race was our name for the basic plan for our recent visit to Isle Of Man.
The decision to head there was made at relatively short notice as Caroline and I had a two week break coming up, but hadn’t planned anything.
I’d held up a road book with a circle indicating four hours driving time from Wisepacking Towers, but wasn’t expecting Caroline picking out Isle Of Man as a destination for this upcoming trip.
By close of play two days later, we’d got return train travel booked to Liverpool, a night in Liverpool before the outward ferry trip, two return seats on the fast cat running between Liverpool and Douglas, , seven nights in Douglas, found out about smart cards for use on our travels and made sure that travel insurance was also in place.
With no motor sport or other festivals taking place over our visit, we did have to amuse ourselves, but we’d got a few things sussed.
Some came from the only guidebook we could find, some of it came from the Tourist Board’s brochure and website, but there was also some prior knowledge coming into play too as Caroline had made two visits to Isle Of Man about thirty five years ago.
More to come over the next month or so!
Wheybrigg Hall Hotel
Well, we got to our destination, even though we had a flat tyre to contend with near the end of the journey between Patterdale Youth Hostel and Wheybrigg Hall Hotel.
Was I going to change the tyre when we’d just got there? Was I heck as like!
Coffee, freshening up and fodder were the respective orders of the day once we’d checked in, found our room and flopped for a few minutes.
After a good meal, cider or beer and a shared sweet, we retreated to our room to flop some more and unwound with Yesterday channel’s latest in a re-run of guitar players in action at the studios of the BBC.
Sunday morning came around a bit too soon, but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to try a bit of haggis as part of my breakfast platter!
Quick enquiries at the hotel regarding a tyre supplier came to nothing, so it was time to pack, put the bags on the back seat and then try to get the wheel changed.
Which was easier said than done. The wheel nuts wouldn’t even budge as I tried to ease them before putting the jack under the car to raise it up to facilitate changing the wheel.
So it was time to call out the road rescue service. “Someone will be with you in about an hour” was the verdict when I made the call, but a van pulled into the car park just twenty minutes later and did the deed – although the chap that came to do said deed had a fair bit of trouble in getting those darn wheel nuts shifted too…
As expected, there wasn’t a tyre place open in Wigton on a Sunday, so it was time to head over to Workington in search of the local Kwik-Fit.
I hadn’t been to Workington for about 27 years (to Cumbria Rock Festival to be precise), so finding Kwik-Fit was always going to be a case of winging it. Or was it?
Caroline’s phone gizmo came into action once more and Kwik-Fit was found, entered and the problem explained.
The wait was an hour, so we wandered into the town centre in search of coffee and a Sunday paper. Finding a copy of The Observer and a couple of cups of Greggs coffee was easy, but what I didn’t expect to find in Greggs was a guilty pleasure that was last tasted about fifteen years ago when I lived in the North East.
Peach melbas. A cake that has to be tried at least once – fondant icing on the outside, cream on the inside and a piece of peach inside the bottom crust. Naughty, but nice!
Polishing off the coffee in Kwik-Fit’s waiting area happened at the same time as the car was ready, so our stuff was taken off the back seat and packed into the boot in readiness for setting off to do the rest of the planned route.
Which is when it started to rain. And then some. I’d thought about having lunch in St. Bees, but the combination of rain and lack of parking put paid to that idea. We kept on going and tried in vain to find the airfield that was signposted with a brown tourist sign.
No dice there, so we kept on going and headed into Broughton-in-Furness to try our luck there. No dice again there as all of the parking places surrounding the cafe we’d spotted were full.
We kept on going though and then I had an idea. Have a late lunch at Wilf’s Cafe, an old haunt over in Staveley. It took a while to get there, but the big breakfast roll I had at 3pm went down well, as did the big bowl of veggie chilli that Caroline ordered. And the coffee? Probably some of the best coffee we’ve had in a cafe for years!
As I’d done so much driving, an on foot diversion into Wheelbase cycle emporium was always going to be on the cards once we’d decided on heading to Staveley. Caroline took a look at a few mountain bikes and then bought some socks (decidedly cheaper!) whilst I looked at and handed over a copy of Stephen Frear’s film about one Lance Armstrong.
And that was about it as we pointed the car in a homeward direction. Plans on visiting our local farm shop to get something for tea though went out of the window as we hit a five mile or so tailback of stationary traffic near Long Preston. Caroline’s gizmo came in useful once more as it got us around the accident blockage and back home.
The eventual evening meal? A good old Yorkshire favourite – a curry out!
Next week’s posts – some all-time top tens!
Ullswater from the steamer pier
First visited in the 1970’s…
Watch out, there’s squirrels about!
The return of Tufty?
Ullswater on a grey day
Same day, but with added sun!
With three days to spare, a couple of last minute accommodation bookings were made, the car tanked up with unleaded and a couple of bags packed for a Cumbrian road trip.
Despite spending so much time in the Lake District since my first visit back in 1973, there are parts of the Lakes and the surrounding area that I don’t know that well, even after my years as an outdoor instructor and gear tester for a number of climbing, walking and cycling magazines.
Although I’d run off a route card from the AA’s Route Planner software, it wasn’t needed as the car was pointed towards Skipton, Kirkby Lonsdale, Windermere and the right turn that took us to Troutbeck for a drinks stop at The Mortal Man.
Once refreshed, the car was pointed towards Kirkstone Pass, Brotherswater and then into the car park at Patterdale Youth Hostel. We’d got a room for the night, arrived earlier than anticipated, checked in, dumped the bags and then went a wandering.
Which is why we ended up in Glenridding. I’ve used Gillside Farm campsite on more occasions than I care to remember and it would have been a good place to overnight had we been in camping mode (Caroline was getting physio for a back problem at the time, so it would not have been a good idea to break out the camping gear for the weekend).
I did show Caroline the campsite though before we made our way around the top of the village to have a drinks stop at The Traveller’s Rest, a pub first visited back in the summer of 1975 when a few of us were over in the Lakes for a spot of walking, sightseeing and sword fencing.
It was tempting to stay at The Traveller’s Rest for another pint, but that would have been a bad move given that I tend to stick with one drink per night at the best of times. So it was back to the hostel and to the member’s kitchen to cook up some posh meatballs and accoutrements bought at Booths in Kirkby Lonsdale earlier in the day.
Although we were checking out of the hostel on Saturday morning, we were allowed to leave the car there whilst we went exploring. The plan was to head somewhere that I’d passed through on several occasions, but had never stopped in and taken a walk around.
I’d been on the Ullswater Steamers before, but only as far as Howtown before. Getting the steamer to Pooley Bridge was therefore a new experience, especially as that was the village I’d never stopped in.
The steamer was busy, but not packed out. Pooley Bridge on the other hand was busy with quite a few Geordies and Mackems in evidence (I recognised the accents after working in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and three years living in Sunderland whilst taking my degree course).
Other accents and languages were also evident – Punjabi, Hindi, American and a variety of Eastern European accents were amongst those heard.
With the £ exchange rates being what they are at the moment, all parts of the UK are coming into play as tourist destinations once more. How long it stays that way after March 2019 remains to be seen!
As Pooley Bridge is a small place, walking around didn’t take too long. Lunch was easily found in a local deli and eaten in the village square. The wait for the steamer back was taken up with a conversation with an American family on the merits of visiting Durham over York and the merits of an orange coloured politician!
Once back at the car, it was time to Boo Boo * and get going towards the hotel we were staying in near Wigton.
We did need a route card for this one, but there was a small problem near the end of the drive that meant that the navigation tool on Caroline’s phone was brought into play.
After a little bit of driving around, we found our hotel for the night, but realised that we had a small problem. I’d heard a not-quite-familiar sound coming from behind me on my side of the car and the reason was evident when I pulled into the hotel car park.
One very flat tyre!
The origin of Boo Boo? Watch The World’s End!
Ready to roll – Caroline on a pretty good hire bike
Just part of the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea
The tide is low – and then some…
Wash and go. Or wash and boldly go?
It’s Tuesday on a hot week in June and Caroline and I are heading off in different directions. Although Caroline had taken her cycling kit, she hadn’t brought a bike.
Fortunately we knew that there was bike hire available at Deepdale Backpackers and that the bikes in question were all very much on the new side. After making her choice of steeds and gearing up, we arranged to meet at the beach cafe at Wells-next-the-Sea.
One plus point of having visited Wells so often is that I’ve sussed out where the free car parking is. Yes, it’s a few minutes to get into the centre, but it’s also the difference between giving the local council money or local traders.
Which is what we do when we’re in the area – at Whin Hill Cider, a couple of preferred coffee stops, local fruit & veg shops or bakers or the locally owned mini-market.
After a couple of stops to make small purchases, I made my way down to the harbour and then along the footpath that follows the road down to the beach. The last time I was down here there were some serious television vans down there making a commercial for Lloyds Bank.
Not today though. The car park was filling up and there was a stream of people heading to the beach and in some cases coming back again because of the restrictions placed on walking dogs on that nearby stretch of beach.
It wasn’t long before Caroline appeared, a good move on her part because it wasn’t long after that a cycling club turned up and filled the rest of the bike racks outside the cafe.
This had had a makeover since out last visit and was now apparently being run by the Holkham Estate. Although tidied up, it hadn’t gone all hipster beardie on us and the prices were still quite affordable, hence the numbers sheltering from the sun in the cafe and the greater numbers sitting outside and slapping on SPF 30.
Once lunch was over, we hit the beach. Well I did for a few minutes and Caroline did for a lot longer. I still have problems walking on soft sand following that stroke a few years ago, but I was also conscious that there were a heck of a lot of people around, so the beach wasn’t as quiet as the ones I’d been walking on in Northumberland a few weeks beforehand.
Ice cream was the order of the day when Caroline returned and we were both rather intrigued by the Wash ‘n’ Wag device pictured above.
Wet and sandy dogs go in, very wet and clean dogs come out, much to amusement of those gathered around, especially when the dogs came out and start the usual rigmarole associated with shaking themselves dry.
With Caroline heading back to Deepdale on the bike, I was put in charge of finding food for the evening meal. Well two evening meals actually as I ended up buying stuff for both Tuesday and Wednesday night’s cooking sessions.
When it came to Wednesday, Caroline was back on the hire bike, heading this time in the direction of Holkham Hall. As I’d had a sleepless night because of the heat (despite the fan in the room being on all night), I drove down, bought some coffee and started to read a couple of short books on the iPad’s Kindle app.
Not only does the cafe do good coffee, they also do a very good sausage baguette. Coffee and one of those came and went for lunch whilst Caroline chose something with a rather more healthy attitude to go with her coffee.
Once done, we made arrangements to meet up for coffee and cake at the cafe near Creake Abbey. This has also had a makeover, but the coffee and cake were first class and not out of the way expensive either.
With time running out on the bike hire, it was time to head back to Deepdale. Whilst there were thoughts of staying on another night, we decided not to.
Which was a good move as we awoke to find that it was throwing it down. A brief respite gave us the chance to make a dash to Deepdale Cafe for breakfast and then head back to pack our bags and head for home.
We’d enjoyed the break and the changes at Deepdale will ensure that we’ll return for more of the same… And to take photos of the revamp!
Next up – Two days, hostel and hotel, a new tyre and lots of rain!
Standby for action…
The sea and the slipway…
Life’s a beach – when the tide’s out, not in!
When the chance for a five day break in June came up, it was grabbed with both hands.
There was a temptation to pitch a tent, but as Caroline has had some bother with her back and has been on the receiving end of physiotherapy for it, a hostel beckoned.
Our usual port of call in North Norfolk – Deepdale Backpackers has changed since our last visit and that’s down to new management, new staff and an improvement programme.
We managed to get a room at short notice as it wasn’t school holiday time and we were heading out on a Sunday and returning home on a Thursday.
Although we had a leisurely lunch on the way down, we still had time to kill when we entered the village of Burnham Deepdale, home of Deepdale Backpackers and our temporary home for the next few nights.
So we carried on, passed the entrance to Holkham Hall and carried on to Wells-next-the-Sea on a mission – to find locally produced cider…
Whilst I parked the car, Caroline headed into Whin Hill Cider to do some tasting and some buying too.
With a few bottles stashed in the boot, we then stretched our legs in search of ice cream given that this was a rather warm day and we’d been in the car for a few hours with the stereo playing and the air conditioning set to cool.
Once done, it was almost checking in time. We’d paid in advance, so all we had to do was get the electronic keys to access our room and the kitchen/common room area.
Changes were obvious in the Office and Tourist Information area and more subtle in Samphire, the ensuite room we’d been allocated.
The results of building work on the campsite were in evidence and as we noticed later in the week, the Deepdale team are investing heavily in changes to the group hostel and the areas we were using.
Changes had also occurred in the supermarket next door too – it’s not part of the Deepdale set-up, but it had been upgraded.
It’s okay, but we only bought a bare minimum of supplies there during our stay, and ended up spending more at the Co-Op and Leftley’s in Wells-next-the-Sea instead.
If it’s a Monday morning and the temperatures were rising, it was time to head out in search of some high quality confectionary from Baker & Larner’s in Holt and then head to the sea at Sheringham.
Baker and Larner’s didn’t get as much business as usual as they’d dropped a few things that we used to buy and we’d forgotten to pack any freezer blocks to keep any food purchases cool to have on the beach later. The local greengrocers got some cash, as did Mountain Warehouse, but that was it.
By the time we got to Sheringham, it was busy. Still got a place in the car park next to the heritage railway though and ended up finding lunch and then somewhere to eat it. As luck would have it, the tide was in and the areas of the pebble beach that were still exposed were rather full with deck chairs, tables and windbreaks.
We did find a place to sit and sprawl out though, but we were aware that we’d have to shift PDQ if there was a lifeboat call-out. We’d wandered into the lifeboat station, taken a look at the rescue craft pictured above and bought a couple of bags of RNLI fudge too.
Next stop was the slipway as nobody had staked a claim to it. And there we stayed for an hour or so, chewing the fat and slapping on the SPF 30 to prevent burning. Dogs came down the slipway, entered the sea and then shook themselves off, but other than that, everything was calm and peaceful.
We had to move eventually though and whilst we did call in at the main RNLI shop to get more fudge and a 2018 A5 desk diary, that was about it apart from an ice cream each at Sheringham Railway Station.
A quick call into the Co-Op in Wells saw us exiting with food and wine in readiness for a very rare event for us in the UK. An evening meal with wine at a table in the open air during a British Summer…
Wine and food went down well and in relative peace and quiet too after the previous night when a group had been playing in the barn next to the hostel courtyard. Not my cup of RNLI tea at all, especially on a first night away…
More on Monday!
On the beach…
Where were we?
Ah yes, heading into Alnwick for some fodder for an evening meal.
I’ve made quite a few visits to the town over the years. Some for work, but most have been for pleasure. My best friend from University lived a few miles away and even had her wedding reception at Alnwick Castle, but there were quite a few nights out on pub crawls or single bar nights, usually at Oscars.
Which appeared to have closed down when I drove past it a couple of times. Parking in the town centre was a problem, but a bit of local knowledge came in handy as I headed out of town in the direction of Barter Books and turned right into Lidl’s car park.
With shopping for a couple of meals and breakfasts done, it was time to head back to Calico Barn for coffee, food and a snooze before catching up with email and then switching the iPad to Kindle mode for the rest of the night.
Wednesday wasn’t quite a repeat of Tuesday’s meanderings. Yes, I did some more work and then tried to get into Amble again afterwards, but that mission failed thanks to parking issues once more, so I just ended up mooching towards Alnmouth again and then headed to Newbiggin-by-the Sea.
After getting back to Cresswell, I drove past the hostel and turned onto a side track that led to the car park at Druridge Bay. It was busy and there had been a load of builder’s waste dumped near the footpath to the beach.
Although I’ve visited Northumberland many times, this was the first time I’d been to Druridge Bay. It may have been half term, but the beach itself was pretty empty.
The above photo doesn’t do it justice, because it is a great beach and I’d only wished that the lighting conditions had been better from a photographer’s point of view.
One thing was blindingly obvious. I’m pleased that environmentalists stood up to the powers that be over thirty years ago and fought a successful campaign against plans to build a nuclear power station at Druridge Bay.
Little did I know that there was a public enquiry taking place down the road which was discussing plans for opencast coal mining near Cresswell. BBC’s Look North covered it in their 6.30pm news bulletin that night and whilst the public enquiry is over, the verdict isn’t due to be released just yet…
After a while on the beach, it was back to Calico Barn to freshen up, have a meal and relax for a while. I was due to be the only one staying in the hostel for a couple of nights, so I could spread out, take the best seat in front of the TV and have a beer or two.
There was a knock on the door though as two Dutch cyclists who were heading onto the adjacent campsite were wanting somewhere to buy food or get a meal. Caroline and Luke rode past and whilst I shouted to them in the hope of catching their attention, the wind took my words elsewhere and they didn’t hear me hollering!
I suggested that they try Cresswell village to see what was available in the pub or indeed at the caravan site shop, so off they went. When Caroline and I spoke later on, it transpired that she had heard something, but had dismissed it as she rode back after another long bike ride.
Thursday saw a bit more work going on until about lunchtime so lunch was taken at The Drift cafe just along the road from Calico Barn.
Which was rather busy. A bacon and haggis roll was ordered along with a Coke Zero and both went down well, especially that bacon and haggis combo… The two Dutch cyclists were also in there and the steady stream of customers suggested that The Drift is a rather popular feeding station.
After a drive around, I ended up in a couple of places I remembered the names of from news bulletins during my days of living in both mining communities and towns or cities in the North East of England.
Ellington and Lynemouth had been proud mining communities, but those days were over. When I asked locally what had happened to those people who had worked at the collieries, I didn’t get that much information apart from the mention of a mental health facility opening up in the area.
On returning to Calico Barn, it was time for an early meal and a plan for another relaxing evening. Then a couple of large cars pulled up containing two families who had booking in at the last minute. Peace and quiet did go out of the window, so I retreated to my room and promptly fell asleep.
When I woke up, all was quieter than New Year’s Day. After a snack, a beer and a phone conversation with Caroline, I turned in for the night, only to be woken up by those two families returning at 11.30pm. I was not amused…
Friday was departure day, so my stuff was packed up and left until I headed up to the caravan park to pick up Caroline, her bike and her couple of bags. Once done, it was time to get my bags and then let Caroline look around Calico Barn for a potential weekend base for her cycling club.
Calico Barn Independent Hostel, near Cresswell, Northumberland
After that, it was time to go home. On relatively quiet roads and motorways for once!
Next week – North Norfolk in June…
Tractor on a very sunny day
Northumberland is a place that Caroline and I keep returning to.
We’ve spent weeks up there before and made fleeting unsuccessful visits to try and see those pesky Northern Lights too.
This time was a little different though as we were staying about a mile away from each other – Caroline in a caravan with her son, daughter, son-in-law and her two grandsons while I was occupying a bunk in Calico Barn, an independent hostel a smidgen nearer the Northumberland coast.
The original plan was for Caroline to head up there on her own to spend time with her family whilst I stayed home to sort out some bits and pieces. That plan was soon ditched when Caroline tried to book herself and her bike onto the trains needed to get her there and back again.
Booking the tickets for herself was easy, but for the bike? Er, no…
A phone call was made to the railway company to find out what the actual procedure was. Despite Caroline specifying a very Yorkshire point of departure, the chap on the other end of the line insisted that she had to get the train from there and then change at Vauxhall Bridge station.
When she pointed out that she was departing from Yorkshire and that Vauxhall Bridge is in London, the guy didn’t budge, so she thanked him politely, put the phone down, saw my face and we both burst into fits of laughter at the same time.
Which is why I was in Northumberland. Plan B was for me to take Caroline up to Cresswell, head back home and then go back for her.
We then went for Plan C – I would take her up there, find somewhere to stay, do the stuff I needed to do and then pick her up and head home…
Our paths did cross a couple of times during the week. I spent most mornings doing what I had to do in the way of paperwork and research using books and iPad and then headed off with my camera to explore and take some shots along the way.
The first foray out saw me trying to get into and park up in Amble – no chance as it was half term with fine weather and the car parks were full.
So I headed up to Alnmouth instead. Now I’ve been heading going up to Alnmouth for over forty years and know my way around the place well. Or so I thought, because someone, somewhere has decided to implement a one way system around the village.
With no parking there either, I headed off in the direction of Seahouses and Bamburgh. As I was about to head towards North Sunderland, I spotted familiar figures on bikes heading in a different direction.
Caroline and Luke were also heading to Seahouses to meet up with the other family members who were using Mazda power rather than bikes. After a quick chat, Caroline and Luke headed off one way and me in another.
Seahouses was packed, so I wasn’t even going to try and find a parking space. Bamburgh beckoned and as I headed up to where I thought I could get parked, Caroline and Luke came down the road I was heading up…
Parking turned out to be dead easy as it was on the road near the hotel Caroline and I had used on our last visit to the village. And it was free too, handy as it was lunchtime and I was getting hungry.
Pub and hotel food in Bamburgh is rather good, but that wasn’t the food I was looking for. A couple of Scotch pies hit the spot, as did an unexpected find – pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) – and good ones too!
With most of the village taken up by fellow day trippers, there was a place to go in one of the quieter parts of Bambugh. The Grace Darling Museum, which has a very good RNLI shop on the ground floor level.
The RNLI’s 2018 diary wasn’t available as it was still May, but five bags of the RNLI fudge did leap off the display and were duly purchased. It’s good stuff, but it gets rationed now to having a few pieces at a time rather than downing a whole bag in one go (been there, done that!).
Once back in the car, there was more food shopping to be done, but of the supermarket kind as I needed to get some milk, bread, butter and something to go with rice for an evening meal.