Week 38: Lockdown

Not the normal view (or is Nortia trying to hide)

Monday, started as a normal day. Reg slept until almost 06:00. Although, it was a cold night, the sun rose and the weather warmed quickly. We had moved pitches as the pitch we were on was not available for our lengthened visit. Not happy with our orientation we chose to turn Nortia around to take advantage of the sun. We popped over to the cafe on the site, it is only open for take-away but the food is amazing. We got the chairs out and sat in the sunshine, allowing Reg to play a little. Later, we were informed that the campsite has to close by Friday evening, and the Prime Minister, basically put the country into lockdown. It was a no brainer, we had to leave, but where?

We had two options we could realistically put in place and went with our first choice. We’ve parked up next to our home. We rented it out, while we were off travelling, but thankfully we are able to use the garden and Reg has somewhere to play. He’s been running around like a looney. It will give us a chance to reflect and complete a few chores we need to do. Reg has a vet’s appointment booked for his second jabs. He’ll have a chance to grow and play here. We can also plan our future trips.

The week has been a little different to our usual ones. We’ve had to stay in one place ( a bit like Storm Gloria, but without the view. We’ve managed to go out on our bikes (one of our lodgers petsits Reg) and for a couple of strolls, in line with the Government Guidelines. We’ve queued for food and started cleaning Nortia.

We’ve written a list of chores to try and keep us occupied, how many will get completed is another thing! So far we have completed three!

We’re lucky to be safe and warm with somewhere to stay, without imposing on others and able to practice the social distancing advised. We’ll be back with a slightly changed blog next week, unless we can get back on the road or something significant happens in between! Thank you as always for reading and we hope that you and your family and friends stay safe and well.

Week 37: Road Trip – Yorkshire to Sussex and a new Team Member: Meet Reg!

New Team Member – Meet Reg

This week has been a little weird. We set off on Monday from Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales to Harrogate. We had planned to head up to Leyburn and then on to Harrogate, but a road closure meant we needed to travel back to Hawes and north to Kirkby Stephen before heading through the Swaledale Valley towards Richmond and then south to Harrogate.

We walked the Coast to Coast several years ago and were reminded of the route as we headed up to Ravenseat and on to Keld, Muker and Reeth. We like to remember the little tales we heard on the way! Albi also did this walk with us.

We arrived at Harrogate Caravan Site, after having been taken to the wrong address by Ditsy Daisy – Gloria Google Maps to the rescue! The campsite is not too far from the town, and next door to a Farm Shop and Cafe, just up the road is Sainsbury’s. Our reason for coming to Harrogate, was to get the Motorhome sorted. In Spain, our water pump stopped working and we have been making do with water bottles and topping up, but Rachel at Erwin Hymer was able to book us in to Steve Mann Caravans https://stevemanncaravans.co.uk/ for a repair. We consulted with Alison and were able to book an appointment for Tuesday at 09:30. As you are probably aware, Ric doesn’t like early mornings and the thought of a wake-up call at 08:00 was a shock to the system!

Tuesday morning, bright and early we set off to Steve Mann Caravans, where we left a very dirty Nortia and Alison, dropped us into the town and we set off on a mooch. We have to say, this was the day after the Government brought in new measures to control the spread of Coronavirus – Covid-19 and the town was very quiet. We were able to get a bacon bap in Gregg’s but Betty’s – the iconic tea rooms in Harrogate, was closed (the shop/bakery was still open, as we write). We managed to bag a couple of bargains too, before we walked back to the workshop, they had offered to collect us but in light of the current rules of socialising we thought a walk the best way! When we arrived, Nortia was being cleaned, that told us how dirty she was. Pump fitted, we headed off to get some puppy bits – Reg is a Border Terrier puppy, who we are due to collect on Thursday!

We returned to the campsite and took the bikes off for a well deserved clean. They were still caked with sand from France! Before we could go out on a ride, the weather turned and rain clouds loomed, so they were put back on the Motorhome, with the knowledge they are serviced. We took the opportunity to plan our trip back, south. We still aren’t sure what we’ll be able to do or go with the Coronavirus pandemic. Currently, there are no restrictions for campsites here as there are in France and Spain, but we’re waiting. Technically, we aren’t socialising and we’re away from vulnerable people, but we’ll wait and see! We had hoped to take our next tour to Ireland, but with the lock-down we think it might be wise to stay on the UK mainland, wait and see what we’ll get up to, we have no idea at the moment!

Wednesday, we had a fairly long journey to Polstead, Suffolk. We’ve stayed here before on our return from our first Europe tour. It’s a lovely site, in the middle of the country but in true British fashion it was raining. We settled down for the night and got ready for our short journey tomorrow.

Thursday, we headed to Essex, where we were picking up Reg, our new puppy. He’s the new team member. He’s a lovely, lively eight week old bundle of fur. Normally, we would have waited and collected him a week or so later, but with the threat of countrywide shutdowns, we felt it best to collect him now.

From Essex, we headed to our campsite outside Horsham – Sumners Ponds. They have a special offer until the end of March. We like Sumners, we have stayed here before on a number of occasions; it’s on the edge of a footpath and close to the Downs Link, as well has having a number of fishing lakes. It’s the ideal place to stay. We have booked to be here until Wednesday. In the current pandemic situation, we chose to stay within our NHS catchment area, just in case.

Friday, after the first night with Reg, up at 03:30 to let him out (not alone!) and then move him into the bedroom to stop him crying. Until 03:30 he had been as quiet as anything. We were met by my (Sarah’s) mum and practicing social-distancing – no hugs or kisses just an air high five. The weather was still not great and a reminder of those days dog walking in the rain!

Saturday and a less early start. Reg slept until about 05:00. Later in the morning, we took him on a little stroll (we strolled, he was carried!) he saw a couple of horses, which he wasn’t quite sure of. The sun has graced us with its presence today.

Sunday, and a surreal Mother’s Day. It’s not advised to visit family and spend time in groups more than two outside of your own household. We strolled with Reg (who slept until nearly 06:00) to the village shop, maintaining social distancing. Reading through e-mails it was becoming obvious that things were changing in relation to the COVID-19 virus. The Caravan and Motorhome Club have shut their sites, as have the Camping and Caravanning Club. The campsite today, has no intentions to close, so we’ve booked to stay until 1st April. It’s still sunny and becoming positively springlike, following yesterday’s Spring Equinox.

As always, thank you for reading. We hope that you, your families and friends are safe in this current strange time. Please see what we get up to next week and more of Reg’s adventures…

Week 36: France to England (Appointments and a Road Trip)

England Bound

On Monday, we left Montreuil-sur-Mer, and set off to the tunnel. It was a little strange, as we normally have to go to the pet check-in first and then sort ourselves out at the check-in booth. The last time the procedure had changed, but this time it stumped us. Last time we were able to self check-in, but after three goes of checking in this time, we remembered that last time we bought our tickets direct from Eurotunnel, this time we bought them through the Camping and Caravanning Club (you get a great discount, this way!). Much to the annoyance of the car behind, we had to ask him to back up so we could reverse up and go to a manned booth. After check-in it was an eventless trip and we arrived back in England.

We headed to our overnight stop at Brighton, going along the coast road from Folkestone. The sun decided to come out for a while and the coast road was a lot more inviting than the last time we drove it (after a New Year stop in Canterbury).

Arriving at Brighton, we settled in and started our chores – the laundry, the last week’s campsites hadn’t had a laundry at all, so it was beginning to pile up. Next to sort out the Dentist and Doctors (both had been due and one of the reasons we were coming back) – appointments made next I (Sarah) needed a haircut and that was quickly sorted too – this was too good!

Tuesday, more washing – we stayed at Brighton for another day and once the washing was complete, we walked down the road to the cafe for a lovely English Breakfast for lunch. I headed off for my hair appointment, leaving Ric to have an afternoon of peace, alone! The last time we’d had time apart for any length of time was in November!

Wednesday, we set off up to the Gatwick Caravan site and were able to go to our respective doctor and dentist appointments, along with a quick shop – the rumours we’d heard about were true, the shelves were basically empty of essentials, thank goodness we’d bought toilet paper in France!

Thursday, still at Gatwick, we had one more appointment and in the meantime we decided to see if a different shop had groceries – this time it was even more soul destroying there was hardly anything in the shop. Next we thought we’d get our tyres checked at ATS and they confirmed Ric’s suspicions and our front tyres were barely legal. Luckily for us they had a set which would fit and an hour later we were back on the road with a lovely set of new black boots!

Friday, we decided to head off on a little road trip and head up to Yorkshire. We’ve got an appointment in Harrogate next week! We got onto the M25 eventually – Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav, had her moment again and sent us off the wrong way on the M25, so a quick turnaround at the next Junction and we were off in the right direction. We headed up the M40 toward the lovely Cotswolds and stopped for the night at Morton in Marsh. This is is definitely somewhere we will come back to on another tour.

Saturday, and we set off again this time to the Peak District. Our first stop was a Morrisons for groceries, we have decided to make sure we have enough provisions to make sure we are sorted if the Coronavirus (Covid 19) shuts down England for a while (or we need to self-isolate)! Next stop gas, and a great find in Leamington an actual Auto-Fuel Station and 50p a litre. We returned to the M6 and passed three (closed) football stadia to add to our list for the week, Monday at Brighton we’d passed the Amex, now today we saw Villa Park, The Hawthorns and the BET365 Stadium at Stoke. Our stop for the night was Blackshaw Moor just outside Leek.

Sunday, and we’re off again heading into Yorkshire. We left the Peak District and headed into the Yorkshire Dales. The scenery was amazing and each time we drive through the English countryside, we see it in a different light in different weathers. We headed up through Buxton, on towards Manchester and Burnley before reaching Skipton. Turning off the main road, towards our stop for the night in Bolton Abbey, we were confronted by a large stone arch. A bit of jiggery with the mirrors and we were through. The Caravan Site at Bolton Abbey is a lovely small campsite in the dales and we will definitely add to our list to return to.

For now, we’re hoping to be able to continue our trip to Harrogate, there is talk of isolation and non-essential transport being stopped but no actual news at this time. Thank you again for reading and we hope that you and your families are safe and well. We’ll be back next week, with more news (hopefully)!

Week 36: France – from the Edge of the World to Montreuil-sur-Mer

On Monday, we awoke to more rain and rain at La Ferme du Bout de Monde, The Farm at the Edge of the World, Kerguidy-Izella, Brittany. We set off to the most westerly point of France, the Pointe de Corsen, where the sun did come out but the wind was bitter. The views were amazing.

We chose a campsite to stop at in Locquirec, right on the bay overlooking the English Channel (or La Manche in France). The view was amazing and when the sun was out.

The following morning we set off on a road trip, recommended by the free guide we picked up in Reception. We headed up to Plougasnou, Saint-Samson, the port du Diben, up the coast to Primel-Tregastel and on to Saint-Jean du Doigt, through Prajou and back to Locquirec. The leaflet called the route the Grand Panoramas along the Tregor protected coastline and it was truly stunning.

Wednesday, we left Locquirec and headed up the coast to Dinard. The views along the coast were lovely and we were only 40 miles from the Channel Islands – we had thought about going there, but campsites don’t open until later in the year and the weather didn’t look favourable for a ferry crossing. Our campsite has fantastic views of the sea and we are almost on the beach! Today, also marked the one year anniversary of our house move, downsizing to fund our adventure.

Thursday, we had chosen to go on a walk around the town of Dinan and down to the yacht harbour, but the weather had other ideas! We walked into the town, stopping for lunch in a little brasserie for the plat du jour! Next, we headed along to see the Alfred Hitchcock Statue, apparently it was put in place for a film festival. As we headed towards the beach, we were sandblasted as the wind whipped the sand off the beach, not wanting to be lightweights, it was impossible to continue our trip, though comfortably.

The change of plans was incredibly fortunate as when we returned to Nortia, she was also being battered, the sand had started to drift over the roadway and was beginning to accumulate in the vents on her side (these are the ventilation points for the fridge). We chose to runaway! We packed up as quickly as we could and sought shelter in a lower and secluded part of the campsite. We have sand everywhere, outside, inside and ourselves – we were still finding sand in our hair and eyes, the following morning.

Overnight the wind did calm and the rain began to ease. We set off up towards the Tunnel and Calais. We have booked our crossing back to England for Monday! We decided to have a longish journey, so we could get to the port with some ease. As we headed up the coast, we found a car wash where we could try to get rid of some of the remaining sand. We drove up to Le Mont-Saint-Michel and although the weather wasn’t good enough to stop for long (and it was high tide), we admired the view.

Our stop for the night was a hidden gem. We pulled into the campsite – Camping Sous les Etoiles, in Saint-Martin des Besaces, Normandy and on first impressions thought it shut up fo the winter, there didn’t appear to be anyone around. We drove back up the drive and pulled over to find somewhere else for the night, when Steve the campsite owner, drove up and told us they were open and if we still wanted to we were more than welcome.

Steve and his wife have only recently bought the campsite, but it is a gem, old buildings some over 400 years old and farmland with grass pitches and the best grass we have seen for ages. There is a bar and a restaurant – used by the locals, and one of the best toilet blocks we’ve been to!

Saturday, we headed off again, this time to Le Treport. The campsite we had found was just outside the town, but when we arrived the Reception was closed (in the winter it opens from 09:00 to 12:00, helpful! We did however stay at the Camping Car Aire just behind it!

Sunday, we wanted to get close-ish to the Tunnel, just in case, but not too close! We had made the mistake a few years before of checking how long it would take us to get to the Tunnel from our site the morning we were supposed to leave and finding the Sat Nav told us it would take 30 minutes longer than we had left! (We did make it, but it was a push)! We’d chosen to stop at Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Montreuil-sur-Mer, is an old walled citadel town and also the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Each year there is an open air performance of the play there too. The campsite is located under the citadel walls and Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav did try and make us do some rather precarious turns, which we didn’t (we’ll try a lot of drives, but a switchback left, downhill with a wall and parked cars, was really out of our comfort zone), we did find an alternative route. From the campsite you can also walk up to and through the wall to the old town.

As we mentioned earlier, we’re off to the Tunnel tomorrow, so find out what we get up to back in England! As always, thank you for reading…

Week 35: The Islands and the West Coast of France

We left the Île d’Oléron and headed to the Île de Ré. We headed back across the bridge to Royan and then up the coast through La Rochelle and Rochefort before heading over the toll bridge. I’ve wanted to come to the Île de Ré, since I read a book based here as a child, and it didn’t disappoint. The island appears to be mainly closed up, but it gives the impression of being lovely in the warmer weather and in season.

We drove up the Island to the top and then over to the Lighthouse (Phare) before heading back to the campsite. We passed some horses, we thought were cows to begin with and then on second look they appear to be big long haired donkeys! As we settled in on the campsite the weather app indicated that there was an amber warning for flood in the area where we were (and the north coast). We apologise sincerely for sending sun photos back to the UK!

The following morning, we hadn’t floated away, nor did we see a lot of water, in fact the sun was shining! There was another weather warning in place though this time a yellow wind warning! From the Île de Ré we headed back across the bridge (the toll covers both crossings), the wind didn’t appear to bad here – perhaps it hadn’t read the warning, but further up the road it did get gusty – the landscape changed to flat open fields and the wind was able to just blow across. We left the Charente Maritime and entered the Vendee. We stayed at a very nice little campsite in La Grisse, near Le Givre.

Moving on from La Grisse, we headed to Nantes, via the Island of Noirmoutier and the “dangerous road”, the D948 – Le Passage du Gois. The Passage du Gois is submerged after low tide, so we duly checked the tide times and low tide for Wednesday was at 12:37. The road is passable 90 minutes before actual low tide and either 60 or 90 minutes after – depending on which web page you read! We chose to keep our timings on the definite and arrived at 13:00(ish). The road is marked with safety towers and as we passed there were a number of vehicles parked and people farming cockles.

Once safely across, we stopped for lunch before heading to Nantes, where we had found a campsite on the edge of the city. There is also an aire next door belonging to the campsite. Having sorted ourselves out we thought we’d go into the city the following day, but in typical fashion the following day it rained, and rained! France has been hit by almost continuous storms since October, some named and some not! We took a short walk around the local area and the campsite, before getting back to the lovely warmth and dryness of Nortia. One of the attractions we wanted to see in Nantes was the Machines d’Ile, some robotic giant animals but they don’t always perform when there is rain and strong wind – we had both!

Friday, we headed off into the storm warnings for today and tomorrow – Storm Jorge has gracing us with his presence! We drove up over the Loire River (twice) once at Nantes and again at the mouth of the river in Saint Nazaire, heading to the picturesque village of Piriac-sur-Mer. We had our wing mirror hit by a delivery driver en-route and had to go back up the road to find the blindspot mirror which had pinged out in the hit. Luckily, before we left England at the start of the adventure we bought Milenco Wing Mirror Protectors and they have now saved us the expense of replacing the whole unit (we believe) on at least two occasions. We parked up on the campsite in what looked like a lovely spot, but when the wind picked up at 03:00 as Jorge arrived, all we could think about was the large tree opposite!

Saturday, we survived the night! The facilities at the campsite are very basic but for 10 Euros with electric, you kind of know what you’re getting! The wind today was due to be gusting over 47 Km/h! We headed up the coast back to Carnac, where we have both stayed before and past the stones, which neither of us had seen before! We were going to the Island of Quiberon, but with the weather – wind and rain, it seemed a little pointless in a giant box! We stopped for the night in a campsite in Pont Scorff, another idyllic Breton village, where the rain was relentless!

Sunday, and we’re off again! This time we are heading, literally to the edge of the world – our stop for the night is at La Ferme du Bout de Monde – the Farm at the Edge of the World! We passed through the village of Gourin, which has a Statue of Liberty in its village square – of course as we got there it had been removed and was due back later in March! We did however stop at the Memorial to the Resistance Fighters of the Black Mountains, a memorial to 59 local people who were members of the Resistance and killed by the Nazis in 1944.

When we arrived at the campsite the farmhouse is a typical french looking building, complete with outdoor bell to summon the owner. We were greeted by two lovely Border Collies, who had our undivided attention playing fetch for a while! We had decided to park up on our Traction Tracks, as the ground was very wet and with more rain due didn’t want to get stuck again. We’ll let you know now, we didn’t get stuck – the tracks worked, although it took a while to clean all the mud off them!

We survived another week of storms, we’ve got our fingers crossed for good weather next week and hope you have some too. We’ll let you know next week what the weather did! As always thank you for reading…