Back on the Road: Week 6 – East Sussex and Kent

Sunset at St Mary in the Marsh

Wow – six weeks already!

We’ve been enjoying our jaunts around the south east of England, areas we have seen on signposts while getting from one place to another or on the M20 signs. Reg is getting back in the swing, settling down behind the driver’s chair and chilling when we’re on the road. He has his seat belt to restrain him and apart from once last year, he hasn’t managed to escape (perhaps he’s a little older, or just a bit fatter in his harness!

Monday and we left our lovely weekend site at Norman’s Bay and headed into the Garden of England, Kent. Driving through Bexhill-on-Sea, and Hastings. Hastings is somewhere Ric and I have both spent time working but we saw some sites we hadn’t before and hope to be able to go back and investigate! Out of nowhere, the heavens opened and a torrential rain shower greeted us. Our first stop of the week was Shingle Hall Farm, St Mary in the Marsh, in the Romney Marshes. https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/certificated-locations/england/kent/hythe/shingle-hall-farm/

What a find and what lovely owners. David and Susan, were so knowledgeable and friendly. We had planned to cycle up to the Old Military Canal and along the seafront to Dungeness, but the weather was not playing ball. Instead we walked to the village, with it’s 12th Century Church and pub. Just down the road is a lovely self-service (vending machine) Farm Shop at Honeycroft Farm. We bought some cheese, asparagus with hollandaise sauce and a couple of home-made Cheese and Bacon Twists, but there is milk, butter, cakes, pies etc – they have a facebook page if you’re planning a visit!

We also walked down the road to Dymchurch. The campsite is just off the National Cycle Route 2 and the Romney Marsh Meander Route 5. Instead of cycling in the rain, we took the opportunity to change the brake pads on them. On the last trip out on them, my brakes were so squeaky it was embarrassing to pull the lever! Not great, when there was a really steep hill on our route.

After four nights, and just as a weather warning was in place for wind, we headed along the seafront to Folkestone and the Battle of Britain Monument. The Battle of Britain Monument is located right on the cliff top overlooking the White Cliffs of Dover along the coast. The monument is free to visit (check the days of opening) and the car park does have a cost – depending on the length of your stay, but, if you’re passing by and monuments are your thing, it’s worth a detour! We headed along the coast stopping at Deal for lunch, before heading inland to the pretty picturesque village of Pluckley. We stopped for the weekend at Watercress Farm https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/certificated-locations/england/kent/ashford/watercress-farm/.

Tony and Penny were another lovely pair of hosts and the site immaculate. It’s a short walk along the road to the village, with its shop and Butcher. We also walked to the local pub (about 15 minutes away) and another Farm Shop, selling lovely local meat and vegetables. Pluckley is in the Guiness Book of Records as being the most haunted village in Britain.

We’re heading off again tomorrow to continue our tour of Kent. Find out where we go and what we find on our way. As always thank you for reading, and we hope you’re safe and well. We’ll be back with more next time….

Back on the Road – Week 5 Sussex: (East and West)

Reg enjoying the sea (again)

Not a lot to write about this week, but we have sorted a variety of things!

We left Slindon Caravan and Motorhome Club (CMC) Site and headed north to Gatwick CMC Site. Gatwick is close to our home and we knew we can get a decent curry here, along with the fact that Reg needed to have his booster vaccination. We can’t believe it’s been a year since he was fully vaccinated and nearly a year since we could start to walk and socialise him! In addition, we have a repair to carry out on the motorhome which, our friendly local mechanic can sort out for us; but true to form, the standard part you can order, is not the one we need, so we’re awaiting news of the part’s delivery!

After Gatwick, we headed south to Brighton CMC Site. A well earned and overdue haircut was on the cards!

Next we headed east to the Norman’s Bay Camping and Caravanning Club Site. What a lovely site! It’s a walk over the road to the beach, which although stone and shingle, has a great walk to the little village of Pevensey Bay, with a few shops,restaurants and the train station. A walk in the opposite direction takes you to the railway station at Norman’s Bay, passed the restored Martello Tower.

Walking Reg each morning was great as it was low tide and he still loves the water, he does go a little more nutty than normal but… He was able to be off lead, as the only restriction on the beach was to be under control – but with no other dogs or people around he was as good as gold (or as good as a 15 month Border Terrier can be!) Our only restriction was as the tide was still going out, the sand was a little quick and the rip looked a bit too strong. I didn’t fancy a cold early morning swim to rescue him!

We’re heading off to Kent, next week for a tour around and hopefully being able to see some sights we couldn’t the last time we wanted to (when the country went into the November Lockdown and the Kent variant of COVID-19 had just been identified. We’ll let you know how we get on and where we get to soon.

As always, thank you for reading. We hope that you and your families are safe and well.

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…

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….

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.

Along the South Coast – Littlehampton, Lymington and Hayling Island…

Monday and rain, we know it is December and England but it does get a little depressing. The days are short, the sun rises late and sets early, making dog walking interesting! We’re at the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site in Littlehampton. It’s a short distance to the local shops and a large supermarket. We had a little walk down to the Supermarket and back, mainly to tire the dog!

Tuesday and despite the early fog, the sun came out and we walked down to the sea. It’s a fairly short walk and in the December sunshine without the summer hoards, it was quite a relaxing walk. We’ve never seen the beach so empty, despite a few dog walkers. The sea was calm and beautiful (not inviting enough for us to go in though)! We stopped on the way back at a Fish and Chip Shop for a snack eating them on the Prom (avoiding the seagulls). The prom along the Pier has plaques with fish recipes on.

Wednesday and we’ve headed west to Hampshire and into the New Forest National Park, despite a road closure, not spotted by Ditsy Daisy, but thankfully a Diversion was in place and the road signs indicated the height restrictions so we were safe to continue. We stopped at a Caravan and Motorhome Club Certified Location (CL) Site outside Lymington – Homefield. It’s a small site, just of the main road, with a toilet block, paid shower and laundry.

Over the road is a footpath ideal to walk the dog or so we thought! On further inspection the first field is easy to enter through a kissing gate and well signed and walked, the next is a broken stile so negotiating with a puppy was a little tricky but manageable. The next field – through a gate, no problem then another broken stile and barbed wire, and a polite notice to follow the edge of the field then the signs run out and indicate the way you came… Needless to say, as darkness approached, we headed back.

We headed out for a drive, when the rain finally stopped heading up to Salisbury and Old Sarum. Although we’ve driven past many times we’d never actually been into the city centre. We had a quick drive through (vowing to stay more local and explore thoroughly in the future) and stopped for a dog walk at Old Sarum. Old Sarum is one of the most historically important site in southern England. It combines a castle and cathedral within an Iron Age fortification. Entry is via an online booking, but the car park is free and the lands around are too!

Leaving Lymington, we headed back east to Hayling Island, through the beautiful New Forest and Beaulieu. The site we’d chosen was another Certified Location in Stoke. It is a short walk to the Hayling Billy Coastal Path, running North to South along the western edge of the harbour. We had a walk along part of it, looking over to Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower.

We’re here until Tuesday! As always, thank you for reading. We hope you and your families are safe and well. We’l be back with our next installment soon….

Lockdown 2: The last full week.

Where you find the dog, when you leave him to clean the roof!

We’re still tucked up in our little parking spot. We’re thankful that most of our neighbours are still ok about us being here! The days seem to have dragged this week, probably in the run up to the Government’s announcements about Christmas and which Tier we will be in when Lockdown 2 is over.

This week there has been a number of houses getting themselves into the festive mood, with lights and decorations being added and switched on as the week has progressed. We ventured up into the loft and have got ours out ready for the festivities to begin, wherever we may be! We have made arrangements for the Festive Period, but not wanting to get our hopes too high, for fear of them being dashed once again.

We finished cleaning the roof, it was a bit of a chore without scaffolding or a gantry, or even a lot of space to move around, ever wary that we were blocking the roadway as we cleaned, but thankfully we didn’t get in the way (that we know of)! We’ve also taken the opportunity, whilst the sun was out, to clean the carpet – we have a carpet cleaner at the house, not a hands and knees scrubbing exercise!

We can definitely tell we’re heading into the depths of winter, the sun is rising later and setting earlier, the temperature has begun to drop and rain seems to be an almost daily occurrence. This time last year we were preparing to head to Spain for Christmas and saying our goodbyes to our families. At the beginning of this year, it seemed the ideal place to arrange to go back to, little did we know what 2020 had in store for us (all)!

We’ve got a fairly busy week again next week, whilst we prepare to set off on our mini tour. We’ll let you know what we’ve done in our next post… As always thank you for reading. Stay safe and well, wherever you might be.