Here’s to 2018!
Nothing has been firmed up yet for 2018, but there are a few ideas in the melting pot that may (or may not) reach the fruition stage later in the year…
Clues? Where we’re going, we don’t need clues!
A very fine day on Isle of Man, but we were heading home!
The packing for our visit to Isle of Man was definitely a last minute affair.
I’d been tracking the 10 day forecast for Douglas and surrounding area for a week or so and as the departure date loomed, so did the prospect of rain (and plenty of it!).
Things did look good for the first three days of the nine day break, so we had to balance the packing between clothes for sunny days, clothes for overcast days and clothes for days when there was the potential for heavy rain.
We’d also caught the tail end of a TV programme about walking on Isle of Man and had seen Julia Bradbury sheltering besides the trig point on the summit of Snaefell and trying to do a piece to camera about the weather conditions being experienced.
Words weren’t actually needed, because the visuals provided enough evidence of what she and the television crew were experiencing!
Now this wouldn’t have been a problem if we were pointing the car towards Liverpool or Heysham to catch the ferry to Douglas, but we weren’t.
We’d booked rail tickets to Liverpool, seats on the Manannan sea cat to Douglas and were then heading around the island using a mix of a five day Heritage Travel Card and feet.
We were also using a hotel/guest house mix of accommodation and were eating out rather than using hostels and self catering facilities, so there was a need to take some smarter clothes as well of those that could be used as a layering system during the more inclement weather conditions.
There was also one more thing to consider – after reading up on the reviews of the guest house we were using as our base in Douglas, the potential for washing and wearing was going to be restricted to undies rather than shirts, t-shirts or fleeces.
The main bags were our usual weapons of choice – 2013 vintage Osprey Farpoint 40 travel packs, but as these were packed to capacity, second bags were brought into play.
In Caroline’s case the second bag was her handbag for the trip, a brightly coloured small size Healthy Back Bag. In my case, it was my Rohan Stowaway 20, a packable day sack that normally is packed into the Osprey and brought into play as and when it’s needed.
We did get creative with our choice of clothing and footwear for the trip and whilst we would have busted any size and weight restrictions on a budget airline for instance, we took a good look at our travel and outdoor clothing and kit and put together a mix that covered all eventualities.
Both my jacket and my windproof fleece gilet came from The North Face. The jacket is a longer length HyVent waterproof one with a hood that goes into the collar, has pit zips for ventilation and the kind of pockets that will take guidebooks, bus timetables, camera, iPad Mini and my reading specs too.
The gilet is a ten year old TNF Windwall with a chest pocket for the phone and handwarmer pockets that will take the camera and specs case.
Tops came from a couple of sources. Crew neck fleeces and zip necks came from Rohan, as did a couple of Core Silver t-shirts, Stratum long sleeved polo shirts and a couple of merino wool based t-shirts.
These, coupled with a Peter Storm merino wool long sleeved zip neck formed the basis of the layering system employed on the trip to combat the expected bad weather.
A Rohan Stronghold shirt also came into play as a wind shirt and a secure place for my passport that may have been required for ID purposes.
Two out of the four pairs of trousers were the usual suspects – Rohan Goas – and these were complemented by a couple of pairs of Craghoppers Kiwi style cargo pants.
Socks and underwear were largely Rohan, but sock choices also included a couple of pairs of M&S trainer socks with a silver content and a couple of pairs of Bridgedale Light Hikers for the days when boots were needed rather than trainers.
And footwear? One pair of Merrell Mesa Ventilator shoes were packed whilst a five year old pair of Hi Tec casual/hiking boots were worn en-route and on various days out.
Whilst the mix of clothing and footwear was much more than I would normally pack for a week to ten days away, it worked and coped with all that was thrown at it – sunshine, wind, rain, squalls and downright filthy weather.
The wash kit and meds combo was the usual one with Lush shower gel, tea tree oil (good as a shaving oil IMHO), sample size toothpaste (courtesy of the help yourself boxes in my dentist’s) along with a disposable razor and my ViaSonic battery powered toothbrush.
With a Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant thrown in for good measure, all I needed to buy locally was a can of Lynx body spray and some baby wipes.
Not convinced about the need for the baby wipes? Trying eating a freshly cooked kipper bap from the kiosk down by the pier in Peel or a bacon buttie down by the beach in Port Erin and you will be convinced about how useful these things can be!
My main bag also had the paperwork – rail tickets, ferry tickets, hotel booking info, the paper only guidebook and travel insurance documents.
Why travel insurance documents for Isle of Man?
Although there’s an agreement regarding health care between the Isle of Man and mainland Britain, there’s no repatriation agreement between the two, so any repatriation after a medical emergency or an accident, has to be covered by travel insurance.
The other thing that needs to be taken into account is that the EHIC card isn’t valid on Isle of Man. Why? Because the Isle of Man isn’t in the EU…
But what about Caroline’s bag? By and large, the contents of her bag reflected my choices, even though we hadn’t really talked about what should be taken.
Her Nike Pac-Lite Gore-tex came into play along with her TNF Windwall jacket, a recently purchases lightweight Rohan hoodie, a zip neck fleece from the same brand and another zip neck fleece from Craghoppers.
A couple of Rohan Stria tops were also packed along with merino base layers, Ultra Silver camisoles, a few pairs of M&S socks,two pairs of Endura cycling socks, her Rohan Trailblazer trousers and a pair of their travel jeans. Footwear? Merrell trainers and two pairs of Ecco Biom shoes.
Did everything work? Yes, is the answer to that one.
We both had more clothing than we would normally have on a break when we’re not using the car to get around, but that was down to the potential weather conditions we were due to face. Out of the six full days we had on the island, only two were rain free.
Was everything used? Just about…
I had one t-shirt that wasn’t worn and a bit of washing to do once we got home, but that was a thankfully minimal task given the properties of the items taken with us and the decision to stick with a couple of colour pallets in the clothing choices.
We did forget one thing though. Weighing those bags!
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.