Back on the Road: Weeks 3 and 4 – Salisbury, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and back to Sussex

Our blog this week will cover two weeks, as we had very poor mobile signal and wifi connection at the start of the week!

Having left Winchester, we headed west to the City of Salisbury. Salisbury Hillside Caravan and Motorhome Club Site is located 8 miles from the city centre and unfortunately not the site I thought it was! Still that site will remain on our list for another trip! Salisbury Hillside is, however, a lovely peaceful place, with a dog walk through the countryside and an ideal place to relax.

The weather was in our favour most of our stay and on the day the rain arrived we took a road trip to Warminster and Westbury.

After five days on site and chores completed (we were going off-grid for our next stop and we’re unlikely to have access to a site laundry for a week or so), we headed along the A303 (at the start of a Bank Holiday weekend – are we nuts?) past Stonehenge and into the Cotswolds.

Our stop for the weekend was a small Caravan and Motorhome Club Certified Location in Slaughterford. Toplands Farm CMC CL is located just outside the villages of Slaughterford, Biddestone and Giddeahall, 5 miles west of Chippenham. We loved it’s rural location and the ponies as our neighbours with the pheasants running around. The weather was kind, despite a weather warning for our departure day. We followed the Biddestone Heritage Trail in two halves, firstly walking to Biddestone and around, and then walking to Slaughterford and Ford. This is definitely a site we’ll be back to, there is so much more we could have done and seen.

In addition, this was our first time off-grid in England and it was also our test to check everything still works! It was not as warm as it was the last time in Spain, and the sun not quite as strong, but we survived. The gas heating and water was a dream, and the battery lasted until we left. We learnt a few lessons and we were pleased with our achievements. For reference, we needed to fill back up with LPG, our first top up since we left on 12th April – 3 weeks earlier, and it cost us £7.00.

After the glorious weekend at Toplands Farm withe the Cotswold countryside, a weather warning had been issued – yellow warning of wind for Monday and part of Tuesday, making the drive to our next stop a little hairy at times, one of the hazards of open countryside in a large metal box!

We arrived at the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site of Bladon Chains, just outside Woodstock, and on the edge of the Blenheim Estate, just before the rain arrived. Bladon Chains, is due to be handed back to the Blenheim Estate in September, so we had wanted to see it before it is turned into a lodge park. Blenheim Palace is the home to the Duke(s) of Marlborough and Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (British Prime Minister 1940 – 1944 and 1954 – 1955.

We walked to the Burial Sites of the Churchill Family and in particular the grave of Winston Churchill. It is located in the graveyard of the Church of Saint Martin, Bladon, Oxfordshire and about a 20 minute walk from the campsite.

The next two days we walked into the town of Woodstock, past the impressive entrance to the Blenheim Estate. The town of Woodstock has a number of historic wall plaques, which we managed to locate all of. Woodstock town dates back to around 1185, founded by King Henry II and expanded in the Eighteenth Century during the building of Blenheim Palace, which replaced the Royal Palace. https://www.oxfordshirecotswolds.org/dbimgs/Walk_WoodstockWallPlaque.pdfhttps://www.oxfordshirecotswolds.org/dbimgs/Walk_WoodstockWallPlaque.pdf

We discovered that although a fee is due to be paid to enter the Blenheim Estate ( the house was still closed when we went due to the pandemic, and several of the outside garden areas do not allow dogs, and £36.00 for the privilege was a little steep!) there is a gateway open and unmanned allowing entry to the Estate grounds, and we had a great look at the landscaped lands.

We headed back to Sussex, and the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site at Slinfold. We were here at the start of this mini-tour and loved it so much, we thought we’d try and stay when we have tasks to do, close to home! Ric had his second COVID jab booked, the motorhome needs a little fix, Reg needs his booster and I need a haircut! We were also able to catch up with family, outside the campsite. We’re heading off again, still local to complete our list of tasks before we begin another mini-tour.

As always thank you for reading. We hope you and your families are safe and well and the Bank Holiday wasn’t too much of a washout. We’ll be back with more soon.

Back on the Road: Week 2 Sussex to Hampshire

Photobombed by Reg!

We left our weekend stop at Northbrook Farm Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, Worthing and headed along the coast to Bognor Regis.

We were surprised to find just up the road, there is a Monument to a Racing Driver we’d never heard of – David Charles Purley, GM. David Purley was the son of the founder of LEC Refrigeration and in our opinion, did not have the best of luck. His parachute failed to open, while training with the Parachute Regiment, but fortunately landed on his Platoon Sergeant’s parachute and both survived the landing. He was awarded the George Medal (GM) for trying to save another racing driver from a crashed car, which was on fire in the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix. He survived a crash in pre-qualifying at the 1977 British Grand Prix. After retiring from racing he took up Aerobatics and died when his plane crashed into the English Channel off Bognor Regis.

We were able to enjoy the sunshine and the heat, sitting outside, reading and relaxing. There are several nice places to walk to from the site, including Bersted Brooks, a nature haven and very popular with dog walkers!

Moving on we headed north-west to Winchester and the Morn Hill, Caravan and Motorhome Club Site. We had a stroll into the city on St George’s Day and were glad to see the Cathedral had the Flag of St George flying. The city was the first capital of England and there is a statue to Alfred the Great, who prevented the country falling to the Danes.

We’ve been very fortunate in our second week on the road to have had great weather and we have both welcomed sitting outside in the sun (after an endless winter in Lockdown)! We had a couple of visitors each evening, a pair of partridges.

Hopefully, next week will continue to be as pleasant as we move on further west. As always, thank you for reading. We hope that you and your families are safe and well and able to plan your journeys out of Lockdown. We’ll be back soon with more updates from our mini tour, while we wait for our second vaccinations and the final two announcements on the route out of Lockdown. We’re planning our great escape but, you’ll have to wait to find out more….

Back on the Road: Out of Lockdown 3 (at last!).

We’re back on the road! We’ve left our Lockdown spot, much to the joy of one neighbour and the disappointment of others! After a weekend of cleaning and preparation (the last two times we left Lockdown, we left it to the morning of our departure and the heavens opened both times), we were ready – this time we awoke to snow!

Incidentally, 13 years ago, this week, we took our first camping trip together to the Lake District. We had a few days to spare and I (Sarah) was between jobs. We were slightly under prepared, we bought decent (but heavy) rucksacks, more for style than practicality, mummy-style sleeping bags, which we’d never tried before and subsequently didn’t allow us to move too warm up on the cold nights and an equally impractical Bivvy tent. Our next trip away camping, we were more prepared and thankfully, as you can tell, it hadn’t put us off!

Heading off we arrived at our first stop, Slinfold Caravan and Motorhome Club Site. We have cycled passed this site, before but knowing it had no facilities, we weren’t able to stay in our last van. We were looking forward to being local and enjoying the location. The site is right on the Downs Link – a 36 mile cycle and walking path, following two disused railways from St. Martha’s Hill (near Guildford), Surrey and Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex. During our stay, we walked up to the Double Bridge – a brick arch bridge with an iron girder bridge on top. The iron girder was added as the original gradient for the railway line was too steep for trains. We also cycled up the track to Cranleigh, passing the old restored station at Baynards.

After a three day stay we headed south to Worthing, and Northbrook Farm Caravan and Motorhome Club Site. We have never been here before either, but again another local-ish site. On the first day a long walk to the beach at Goring, made us realise we had headed slightly in the wrong direction to get there and Gloria Google Maps helped out on our return to the site. We also took a walk up to the South Downs, for a picnic lunch at Highdown Hill, just a short walk from the site, but with amazing views along the coast to Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters and to Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

It’s been a great week, we’re heading off again tomorrow, along the coast. We’re trying to stay local-ish as we’re waiting for our second COVID-19 vaccinations. We have plans for this year, fingers crossed and Coronavirus permitting, we really hope we can get there!

As always, thank you for reading. We hope you’re all safe and well. We’ll be back to share our trips soon…

100 Days and Still in Lockdown, but, Brighter Days are on the Horizon!

Brighter days on the horizon?

We’ve reached another milestone, today is 100 days since we left our campsite and returned to our parking spot. We won’t lie, it has been hard. We’ve had long dark nights, snow, ice, hail, wind and this week, beautiful sunshine. Our Facebook pages, like to remind us of where we’ve been in years gone by and (with the exception of last year, obviously) we like to go away over the Easter Break, so there are a few reminders of what life used to be like!

We’ve filled our days with puzzles and books, computer games, tv, streaming box sets, trying new skills and dog training. Reg is improving with his obedience and slowly his recall, not enough to be off the lead in a town, but we do have a five metre training lead. Reg has also been meeting lots of new friends. We’ve discovered all but one of the Historic Blue Plaques and several pieces of street art, locally, on our morning walks.

We’re still talking and getting on and we’re contemplating and planning, where we will go next, when we’re allowed to do so.

We’ve both had our first COVID jabs and whilst I have an appointment for my second, Ric is still awaiting his date – we are sure it will arrive the moment we are able to set off, in true accordance with Murphy’s Law!

This week, lockdown has eased slightly. We no longer have to Stay at Home. We can meet with another household, outdoors (or in a group of six). The weather had brightened, but today the wind has a chill and the sun is yet to show up.

On Monday, we will find out whether we can get back on the road the following week, but in anticipation, we’ve cleaned up the garage, and started sprucing up Nortia. We’ve had another clear out and left behind another set of stuff, we haven’t used, since setting off! There are still more things to do

As always, thank you for reading. We hope you and your families are safe and well. Fingers crossed, Monday’s announcement will give us all the news we want/need! We’ll be back soon with an update…

Lockdown 3 Continues…With a Hint of Hope on the Horizon!

An unexpected find!

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, the English Government have released a road map out of the current Lockdown. Fingers crossed, we’ll be able to get out and about on 12th April, but subject to all the previous stages meeting their targets, starting with the schools on 8th March. We will know more by 5th April! Tentative route planning is in progress.

The Historical Blue Plaque hunt is becoming a bit of an obsession, this week we’ve found a few more: Frederick Knott – who wrote Dial M for Murder which was originally a play before being filmed in 1954 by Alfred Hitchcock; James Pulham – a Landscape Engineer, who designed a Pulhamite (type of artificial rock) water feature as well as features in Buckingham House and Sandringham Gardens; The Greyhound Pub – World Marbles Championship, formally held on Good Friday and possibly dating back to Queen Elizabeth I reign, but reintroduced in 1932; Philip Webb – an Architect who co-founded (with William Morris) the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings; Elizabeth Fry – Quaker and Prison Reformer; and Sir Malcolm Campbell – World Water Speed Record Holder.

We also found various bits of street art and a Timeline Totem, carved from a fallen tree.

Some of the things we’ve found this week also remind us of places we’ve been (and where we would like to be), Sir Malcolm Campbell – Bluebird Coniston Water, Lake District; William Morris – a pub in Keld, North Yorkshire, where we found the inspiration for the wallpaper in our last home ( a feature wall, not a whole house)!; Daffodils – the Lake District.

We have to admit the last couple of weeks have been hard, we’ve both felt it, at different times, but we’ve weathered the storm and can see the light on the horizon. The change in the weather has helped, we’ve had some lovely sunny days, although the temperature does drop as the sun sets but… We are lucky to have a safe place to stay, vaccinations are approaching and we can plan the next part of our adventure, picking up from where we left it almost a year ago, at the start of the first Lockdown.

As always thank you for reading. We hope you are safe and well and that there is hope on the horizon for you too. We’ll be back with more updates from our Lockdown Hidey-Hole, soon.

Blue Plaque Hunting is wearing me out!

Almost Eight Weeks into Lockdown 3…

I can’t have a bath, if there’s no towel…!

We’re still in our parking spot, awaiting news from the English Government as to when and how Lockdown 3 will come to an end. We’re not hopeful but better to expect the worst! We have been told our booking for March has been cancelled, so we’ll leave that in the bag as it’s now the fifth amendment from the start of the first Lockdown, almost a year ago. We’ve booked to be away at Easter too, but…

Over the last week, we’ve discovered blue plaques depicting people from the town and their claim to fame, around the local area and the dog walks have been an opportunity to discover more. Some of them are surprising. There are a few more to find, but they are a little too far to walk to and back, we might be able to cycle to them though, in the future, when the weather is a little nicer.

So far, we’ve found plaques for Mark Lemon – the first Editor of the Magazine, Punch; Richard Marsh – Author; John Leech – Illustrator (he actually illustrated the Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens; Richard Brown – Sculptor (along with his sculpture – Family Group); Sir Charles Court – the 21st Premier of Western Australia; Roger Bastable – Author, local historian and founder of the Crawley Festival; Francis Thompson – Poet and Essayist; John Goepel – famous for naming the streets of Crawley; Jim Pitts – Musician, Artist, Sculptor; and Dame Caroline Haslett – Electrical Engineer. There is also a green plaque from the Brewery, Hall and Woodhouse dedicated to the actor Peter Vaughan.

We have also discovered more street art along the way too.

The weather has slowly improved and the snow turned to slush and ice before the sun came out and cleared it all up, now it has started to warm up a bit, we actually had some sunshine yesterday which was more than welcome and we were able to have a proper airing of Nortia. Hopefully, it’s a good omen and we’ll be able to have more good weather soon (although typing this it has now started raining!). We’ve celebrated Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) with Yorkshire Puddings, rather than pancakes and Ric has been lucky enough to have had his first vaccination (I’m still waiting for my turn)! Reg had a bath too (well a shower really), but he did decide he was going to steal the towel first, he’s not as adverse to a shower as Albi was, but it’s only number 2! Time will tell.

Fingers crossed we’ll have good news soon and we’ll be able to get back on the road soon. As always, thank you for reading, we really appreciate your support. Please stay safe and well, Ric, Sarah & Reg

Lockdown 3 continues…

Nortia in the snow

We’re almost seven weeks into Lockdown 3, and still waiting for an announcement regarding its end. An announcement is due on 22nd February. Restrictions mean we can not travel more than 5 miles without a valid reason, meet up with other households in or outdoors and definitely not stay away from home.

So far, there’s not been much to write about…. We’ve updated our blog site, cleared out the motorhome garage, watched more television than we should, played computer games, and puzzles on paper and still we’re not done! We have a few tasks to carry out, but they’re outdoors tasks and require the air temperature to be above 0°C and dry! But, we’re very fortunate to be safe and well, quietly tucked away in our little parking spot.

This week the weather has turned very cold and snow arrived on Sunday and carried on until Thursday, with some thaw and refreeze inbetween, making some walks a little more hazardous than others! On top of the snow, we met Storm Darcy, with strong cold winds and more snow. The temperatures this week, have been below 0°C continuously, with a wind chill taking it to -11°C one night.

We’ve found various little gems on the dog walks, from wall art to old cars and the first signs of Spring (before the snow)! We use this time to train Reg, although the weather hasn’t been to favourable to do too much. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not southern softies, but the fields have turned from waterlogged mud baths to a frozen wilderness. Reg likes to lick the snow and ice, before completely turning into a looney – we’ve put it down to brain freeze (or ice-cream head)!

On a positive front, we’ve now got over 500 followers, across all platforms – we thank you all for your support. We know we’ve not been to active recently, and our posts have been few and far between. This lockdown, seems to have affected us a bit more and although we’re safe and well, we’re definitely feeling our wings have been clipped and we’re itching to get back on the move. Where and when we’re not able to plan yet, hopefully the Government’s announcement in a week (or so) will enable us to start thinking.

Hopefully, our next post will be more positive, the weather might have got warmer (hopefully without rain but…), we might know when we can leave Lockdown and our parking spot and vaccinations might be on the horizon. Thank you, again for reading and your support. As always we hope you and your families are safe and well and there is some hope on the horizon (fingers crossed). We’ll be back with an update soon….

2021 continues: Another two weeks in Lockdown, and no end date yet!

We’re still locked down in our little parking spot. We’re safe and well so we do have that to be thankful for.

Storm Christoph hit the UK, this week. We weren’t too badly hit in the south, but know there is a lot more damage up in the North,almost a year to the day that we hankered down outside Valencia, trying to avoid the fierceness of Storm Gloria.

Reg had his first birthday, this week. It seems like we’ve had him for so long now! Although, he has only had minimal travelling, but has certainly seen a lot of England and a bit of Wales. He has so far spent five months in Lockdown, with us, and we are looking forward to being able to travel freely (and safely).

We haven’t been able to go out and about too much. The local parks and nature sites are too busy with people to be able to safely venture too, when the weather is fine, when the weather is bad (it is January), you don’t want to venture too far. We’re hoping the weather might improve slightly and we’ll be able to get out on the bikes and get Reg back into the trailer.

We are missing our time in the sun, our memories on Facebook, keep reminding us where we were this time last year, but we’re trying to be positive and getting ready for a tour. Where and when are still undecided. We are waiting to get our vaccinations, hopefully we won’t have too long to go (fingers crossed)!

Thankfully, our families are on the mend. The COVID affected are on the mend, still not 100% but back to work and out and about. Fingers crossed the fractured wrist has healed and the plaster will be off in a few days.

As always, thank you for reading. We hope you are safe and well, and surviving Lockdown Part 3. We’ll be back with more news (or no news) soon, stay safe..

2021 and a New National Lockdown – Tier 5

Another Day …. Another Place… A DIfferent Year 2019 – Norway

We had thought there would an extension of the Tier 4 Restrictions until the end of January, but this week the announcement is we are entering a National Lockdown (Tier 5) until at least mid February! More bookings to change!

We feel a bit more positive than in previous lockdowns, perhaps as we’d expected it, we’re not sure, but five days in and we’re surviving. We might have to review at a later date!The weather has been relatively nice (cold but sunny-ish), which might have helped. There had been snow forecasted, but it never arrived.

Not bad for a year of Lockdowns : Countries – Spain, Gibraltar, France (and England & Wales)

We’re settled into our Motorhome and have been purchasing a few items, we know we’ll need when Lockdown ends and we can set off again. Thank you family for our vouchers! We’ve bought Reg a new trailer. This time it’s a proper dog trailer, that hopefully he can’t get out of. It’s only just arrived so we’ve yet to put it together and try it out, but I’m sure you’ll see it here soon!

New Year’s Celebrations (and a wedding Live on YouTube from the USA):

Another of our purchases was a 2021 road map of Europe. Are we being too optimistic? We know what we need to do to take Reg abroad, and our Vet can assist with that – he had his Rabies vaccination at the end of Lockdown 2. Opening the map, was a bit like entering a Sweet Shop for a child, the possibilities are endless. Our plans for 2020 are still in our minds, we had hoped to go to Ireland, Scotland and the Hebrides, possibly even the Shetland and Orkney Islands, so that’s one trip. Another would see us retouring Spain and Portugal, hopefully being able to spend Christmas back in Spain and a third could take us to the Eastern side of Europe – Poland, Hungary, Romania and beyond… Travel after Brexit won’t be as free but keeping an eye on the non-Schengen countries will assist with the amount of time spent on each trip, but we know everything is dependent on being allowed to travel post-COVID.

Reg continues to grow (more mature than size-wise), we’re keeping him active each day, he gets a few walks and training along with playtime, hopefully his recall will progress too. The last session, resulted in him running off across a rugby pitch with a bottle he’d found. He did return but….!

Butter wouldn’t melt!

We’re hoping to be able to take the bikes out soon, the weather has been just too cold (today was -2°C, with a feels like of -4°C) plus our local football team were playing in the FA Cup on the TV, so a must to watch.

General life and chores continue regardless of lockdown, although we’re trying to get food delivered as much as possible to prevent us being exposed to the new strain of the virus. Each time I think about it, it seems like something out of a sci-fi book or film we’ve watched, not real life! We have to stay positive and await our turn for the vaccination.

Dreaming of Travel:

Our families are so close but we’re unable to see them (no doubt as you are too), which is additionally hard with a new granddaughter and one of the sons and his wife testing positive to COVID-19, and having a bad time with their symptoms. We have had to change our bubble already, due to my (Sarah’s) mum’s fractured wrist and having to support her.

As always, thank you for reading, Lockdowns do suck, but they are there to try to keep us all safe. We hope you and your families are safe and well, with as much support as you need. We’ll be back to keep you updated with our news and plans soon…

Good Bye 2020 – Hello 2021

Happy New Year!

We had hoped to be spending Christmas and New Year 2020 in Spain, but Coronavirus put paid to that idea. Instead we’re in our Lockdown Parking Spot, as our home postcode went from Tier 2 to Tier 4, on Boxing Day. We’re not surprised or too down about it, we’re safe and well as are our families too, barring a COVID-19 scare and a fractured wrist!

2020 was not the year we expected! I don’t think it was for anyone. For years we’d planned our travel adventure and nine months in, it was curtailed. We’ve still managed to do a few things this year, regardless.

2020 – in a nutshell:

Having said goodbye to Albi in Spain, in January, we returned to England in March and picked up our new puppy, Reg, It might seem quite a short time between dogs but we realised in the two months on the road, life wasn’t the same without one. Reg is not Albi, despite being the same breed, they are totally different!

Spain and Gibraltar: We loved exploring the coast and mountains. We have got several places we want to return to and hopefully Christmas 2021, can be spent out there.

France: Travelling back along the Canal du Midi up to Bordeaux and on to the most westerly cap, in Brittany before turning right and heading along the English Channel.

Lockdown 1: three months with a new puppy in a car park, was entertaining, but we survived. Reg started puppy training, we took advantage of the good weather and the garden. We went out on our bikes and generally, survived!

July – October: We took advantage of being able to travel and visited much of England and Wales. We avoided hotspot areas and were able to see some places, we’d never been to before.

November – Lockdown 2: We returned to our car park, the prospect of another stay here was daunting, but we knew we could get through it. We had planned to be relatively local, anyway, awaiting the imminent arrival of our first granddaughter (she is actually the sixth grandchild, but the first girl in 30 years!). We are slightly biased, but she is a beauty.

December – a mixed bag! We rescheduled our campsite from November to December, We travelled locally and stayed at some places, we’d usually deem to close to stay at (we could day trip from our old house!). We made arrangements for Christmas and New Year, before changing our plans as the sites we wanted to go to were placed into Tier 4 and closing. Then, the big one on Boxing Day our location and our home address went into Tier 4 too. The campsite was closing, so we had to return home to the car park for the New Year.

We’re hoping 2021, is a better year for us all. There is a hope with the roll out of the vaccination programme. We’re planning our adventure for 2021 and hopefully we’ll be able to see it through, but it’s more important that we stay safe and well. Thank you, as always, for reading, we’ll be back in 2021.