Thursday 24th July To friends in the Peak District 118 miles
Low Bradfield after Tour de France
Breakfast outside with Peter and Dianne
Friday 25th July Southwards from one Peter towards another 104 miles
It was a lovely morning. We enjoyed breakfast with Peter and Dianne, sitting on their patio and leaving at about 10 o'clock.
There was a large park area behind it, where the former spa baths had stood. We had our lunch on a bench here before a short walk around.
We continued southwards, stopping beside the Grand Union Canal at Long Buckby, where we had ended our trip with Peter and Dianne last year on their canal boat. We sat beside the lock for our cup of tea, with the heavily flower bedecked New Inn opposite.
The Royal Hotel, Ashby de la Zouche
Just as we were leaving we saw that there was a loo emptying place (for boat users.) As we urgently needed to empty the loo and dirty water, this was great news!
We then drove right through Towester, where there was an enormously long traffic jam in the other direction. Soon afterwards, just before 5 o’clock, we stopped for the night at a long layby near Whittlebury. Tractors with large trailers of hay bales went by until late evening. Also a lot of smart cars passed by - we realised that there was a cut-off road to Silvertsone opposite, where there was a classic car meet. After supper we worked some more on the website.
The Grand Union Canal at Long Buckby
Saturday 26th July Home territory and meeting up with friends 100 miles
We moved into the sunshine to have breakfast.
We left at 8.45, soon driving right past Stowe Gardens with its impressive arched entrance and long drive. We had thought of visiting, but it didn't open until 10 o'clock.
We drove south, through familiar territory, stopping by the River Thames at Shillingford.
The large grass lawn was the private property of the adjacent hotel, so we carried on to Wallingford. Here we were able to park for free (using my blue badge) beside the river. We took our coffee to sit on the grassy riverbank, enjoying the splendid long bridge with its display of delightfully tasteful hanging baskets. A lady on the opposite bank was painting a picture of the bridge. We watched the ducks and swans in the water, and a few ancient boats which went by.
Adrian by the Thames at Shillingford
Children were having great fun in the large paddling pool, with its fun fountains.
The River Thames at Wallingford
Fountain pool reminding us of Calgary
Sunday 27th July To the West Country 92 miles
We heard on the news that three of the cooling towers of disused Didcot Power Station had been demolished last night. Only yesterday we had seen the towers in the distance, and commented on how you could see them from all around!
The 3 young lads who had pulled in beside us last night and set off with rucsacs hadn't returned – we assume that they were camping somewhere overnight.
We were deep in the trees, but did take our breakfast to one of the picnic tables which was almost in the sun. The only thing was, we had to get through the six foot grasses and avoid the nettles to get there!
We had a short walk in the woods, which we so love in the spring, with its carpets of bluebells. The trees are enormous, so it was very shady. It was really quiet, with just the sound of the birds. We left just after 9 o'clock and took a pretty road through Lockeridge, remembering how we used to bring Paul here for hang gliding when he was a teenager. We saw some really lovely thatched cottages. Being Sunday, the cyclists were out. We have noticed how popular cycling has become, and also the number of tandems. Our route took us past the Pewsey White Horse, and then on to Devizes and past the Caen Hill Locks. At Trowbridge we shopped in a large Tesco store, having given up on the nearby Tesco Express, which had very little parking, and would lack the choice of wine which Adrian wanted! We had our tea/coffee while sorting out where to put all the shopping - always a challenge!We passed Farlegh Castle, and then drove through several really attractive villages of light coloured stone. The first was Norton St Philip , which seemed very French. After that was Falkland and then Kilmerston, which was really pretty with flowers. I had wanted to visit Ebbor Gorge, which Paul had been so impressed with. This is very close to Wooky Hole. We didn't actually make it though. We did pull in to a popular picnic spot with wonderful views down over the countryside, including Glastonbury Tor and to the coast and beyond, with Wales in the misty distance. It was warm but breezy, so we sat inside for lunch, walking out afterwards to enjoy the view. There was another car park further down the hill, from where we had hoped to walk to the gorge, but this had a height barrier – the bane of motorhomes – and the roads were all too narrow to stop, so it will have to wait for another time. We continued on extremely bumpy roads across the Somerset levels, coming to West Hay, where we had held a very enjoyable Cape Camp two years ago. Just before the village, we had stopped at West Hay Nature Reserve - again with a height barrier, but this time there was room to park on the road. We walked along a pathway, where we saw dragonflies and a red admiral butterfly, but the view of the water was obscured by the tall grasses, bindweed and shrubs which had grown up! It was warm - when we did eventually see the water, we half expected to see an alligator like in Florida!
Monday 28th July Narrow road problems in Cornwall! 117 miles
At Holsworthy, the church tower stuck up dramatically. The road we took out was dreadfully badly surfaced. We discovered that the small roads we were taking had absolutely no places to pull off. We started looking for somewhere for lunch at midday, and finally found a place at one o'clock!
This was at Warbstow, and was a small parking area for Warbstow Bury Hill Fort . We walked up the hill and found that the site of the ancient fort was very large! We could see down to the coast at Bude.
Memorial at Hathersleigh
Warbstow Bury Hill Fort
Tuesday 29th July So glad we made it! 179 miles - 48 miles to Lands End
We walked down to the 'last house', and back by the coast, looking across to the Longships Lighthouse, with the Scilly Isles in the distance.
Looks like we made it!
We called in at the RSPB hut, then came back to the van to have lunch. While we were eating, a helicopter appeared in front of us and lowered a person down – we didn't know if it was a demonstration or a rescue. Anyway, we had accomplished our mission, so now it was time to go!
First and last house
We left at 2 o'clock, with much traffic still arriving. It is certainly a tourist attraction, with people from many countries visiting.
We started our drive back, stopping by the first and last pub, for Adrian to reminisce about times with ‘the lads’
A rescue or a demonstration?
and then having a great view of St Michael's Mount. We had decided to call in at Hayle, and have a bit of 'beach' before we left! We arrived at 3 o'clock, paid our 50p for an hour, and wandered down through the dunes to the beach. It made us think of past trips with the children to Woolacombe. Dozens of families were enjoying the simple fun of the sand. The water was too far away, so we just lazed on the beach for a while.
‘Louise’ outside the First & Last Pub in 1963
Adrian outside the now ‘famous’ First & Last Pub
We had been amused at a couple with two little girls, walking back barefoot. Dad to child one' do you want to put your sandals on, it's a bit sharp'. Daughter two 'where's the big shark?'
We left at 4.15. It was slow getting out of Hayle, but then we had an amazingly clear journey on the A30 back to Exeter, then on to Woodbury Common. We arrived at 6.20, with just a glimpse of the sea. When we saw a sign saying 'no parking between sundown and sunrise', we moved on to another area, where we had wonderful views all around, including the Exe estuary. It was a beautiful evening for our last night before meeting up with family, and then home.
Lots of sand at Hayle
Adrian chatted to a local couple who had walked here, then two cyclists came, but it was obviously the place for people to come and watch the sun go down, as then many cars kept coming – a bit like Portsdown Hill.
Adrian chatting at Woodbury Common looking to the River Exe
Wednesday 30th July Visiting family 47 miles
We left at 2.45 – almost thwarted, as a huge low loader was delivering bricks by crane right beside where we had parked. This morning, as we had gone to leave Woodbury, a truck had come into the entrance, and had dug it up! Then at Broadwindsor another truck had blocked the road as it was unloading! Also there were roadworks at Bicton just after we set off!
Nevertheless, we got to Paul & Nicky's, and enjoyed time in the garden with Louisa & Joanna, plus a swim in their pool.
We meet up with Emma
We had a look at Paul's building work, and at their newly acquired H van, which they are doing up as a play place for the children.
We ate supper outside and came out to the Ixi at 11 o'clock.
Paul & Nicky’s ‘new’ H-van
Louisa tries out a seat from the van
Joanna enjoying the pool
Thursday 31st July Home again 87 miles
We left at 9.45 and had a good run home, arriving in time for lunch. We were aware of the ripe golden fields and of the loaded hay lorries. Our garden was still colourful, and not too overgrown! We had really enjoyed our trip, particularly in such good weather.
It had been lovely to see families enjoying simple pleasures like picnicking and paddling as we travelled down from the far north.
We found the roads in the south much busier than the north – with Shetland being the wildest.
We were away 25 Nights - all free camping
We did 1600 Miles from the top of Shetland to Lands End
We did 1357 Miles from John o’ Groats to Lands End
We did 2640 Miles overall
Wednesday 23rd July Back in England we cross the Pennine Way and Hadrian's Wall 116 miles
It was a nice morning - the cattle grid hadn't been too bad. We left at 9 o'clock, and 1.5 miles later we came to the boundary with England.
It was overcast as we drove into Kielder Forest. We pulled in to the Matthew Linn parking area beside the lake and Adrian was able to use the toilets to empty the loo. Once more, the scenery looked very Canadian, with just forest and water. We drove on to another viewpoint where we saw just the reservoir and trees in all directions. We drove past Bellingham, where the Pennine Way crosses the route - we passed a walker. We crossed the North Tyne River, and walked across a field to a part of Hadrian's Wall called Brunton Turret.
While we had coffee afterwards, Adrian phoned Peter and arranged to meet up at their house in Youlgrave tomorrow. As we drove off, we saw a peacock beside the road. At Hexham, where the North and South Tyne Rivers join, we had a short shop in Waitrose. Parking was very difficult, as the car park served the town too, and was too busy. The town itself was pleasant, with a castle/abbey above it. Driving out, we had to negotiate a bridge with a six foot width restriction - the first of many narrow bridges today. The town of Blanchard was a pleasant surprise, being built of a sandy coloured stone, with lots of flowers everywhere. We now drove from Northumberland into Durham. We stopped at a picnic site beside Beldon Burn, which flows into Derwent Reservoir. It was now very hot and sunny. Lots of people were having good old fashioned fun on the grassy area and in the stony stream. There were lots of butterflies, and we saw a dipper. As we sat at our table beside the stream, a group of young kids and a dad paddled through the water. One of the children said to the man 'Did you use to come here as a kid, with my dad?' 'Yes' ' How did you resist the urge to drown him?' We drove on through the North Pennines, descending a very long way from the bleak moors to cross the River Wear at Stanhope, where again people were having fun by the water, before we climbed steeply again. We now came into Teesdale, crossing the Tees at Eggleston. We drove through Cotherstone, with its family history connections. It looked pretty in the sunshine. We drove through Barnard Castle (more family history connections).
We were then thwarted, as the road over The Stang, which we had wanted to take, was closed. The diversion we had to follow took us many miles out of our way. The roads were often very narrow, and at one point Adrian had an unpleasant altercation with a driver coming in the other direction, who all but crashed into us. We drove through Scargill and Barningham, but not through the villages of Gunnerside and Muker, which we had wanted to. At a road junction at Marske, a minibus driver asked us where we were going. (I said Land's End, but he didn't believe me!) He said not to turn right, as the roads were too narrow (what about where we'd been?) We drove on through Bellerby, which had a large roadside village green with a pretty flower bedecked house overlooking it. At Leyburn, we could see that the Tour de France had come through, by all the decorated bicycles around the town. At 5.30 we stopped for the night at a remote spot on Melbermy Moor. We had stupendous views of the Yorkshire Dales below us. As the evening went on, it became very misty, making us think that we were looking out to the sea.
The morning was misty too. The sun was just coming through when we left at 9.30. We had both had showers – mine was cold! We drove through Melbermy, the first of several attractive stone villages of Coverdale. Otherwise there was nothing but sheep and cows(and a few rabbits) roaming free in the wild moorland At one cattle grid, the long horned cattle were standing there, barring our way! At Kettlewell and Kilnsey it was evident that the Tour de France had gone through, with the flags and decorated bicycles lining the streets. We drove through Wharfedale, and then came out of our rural bliss into the vast conurbation around Bradford. We searched for a white face! Then, following the sat nav, we found ourselves on a motorway. This annoyed Adrian, as he was trying to avoid motorways. The road on towards Huddersfield was very slow with traffic. There were more white people about here, but it seemed an eternity until we got out of the conurbations and into the hills of the North Peak. Still there was nowhere to pull off for lunch. In the end, we followed signs to a picnic site, for the Trans Pennine Trail but it didn't say how far it was. It was in fact several miles, and was at Dunford Bridge. Although not very exciting, and anyway it was warm but really windy, the trail certainly looked interesting (note for the future!) We left here at 2.15. Back on our route we passed several places where we could have pulled off. We were now back on the route of the Tour de France (stage 2). We stopped at Low Bradfield, which seemed a nice place with a large memorial green with cricket pitch, bowls and tennis courts.
We bought an icecream from the van and sat in the park to eat it. We skirted Lady Bower Reservoir and found our way to Peter and Dianne's at Youlgrave. We drove through Tideswell, where we had come for Peter’s 60th birthday two years ago. Adrian was getting annoyed with the sat-nav, which kept changing route. We got to Youlgrave at 4.30 and spent a lovely evening with Peter and Dianne, coming out to the Ixi at midnight.
We were glad that the visit had worked out so well, as they had recently returned from 2 months on the canals, and were off again tomorrow! We drove south, through Ashbourne, where all the flags were out. We turned off the busy road to find the one we were on had just been resurfaced, so we had to go very slowly! We were trying to make the route as rural as possible, but did have to drive through Burton on Trent. Adrian had phoned Pete Moulder and said that we hope to get to the retired SEB engineers lunch at his house tomorrow. We cameto Ashby de la Zouch, where we had spent a happy weekend in 1994. The town was much larger than we remembered. After driving right through it and back, we passed the Royal Hotel, and both immediately recognised it as the place where we had stayed.
Next to that was the swimming pool and campsite. We remembered coming here with the Morris and old caravan a few years ago. I had tried out the swimming pool then – it was freezing! Places became even more familiar as we drove on through Streatley. It was strange not turning right to Hermitage! We drove on past Basildon to Bradfield, where we changed into our 'glad rags' before going on to Pete and Marion's at Tutt's Clump, arriving just after midday. We then spent a delightful afternoon with them and other former SEB engineers and their wives – 20 in total - enjoying the splendid views and their lovely garden. We ate and we chatted, not leaving until about 5 o'clock. We refused the couple of offers we had of staying over, and made for the A4. It was funny to be driving through Thatcham and Newbury 'en route'. We continued on the A4, pulling in at 5.45 just before Marlborough. Adrian then looked at the free camping places, and realised that there was a place we could stay at West Woods– a favourite place of ours to see the bluebells in Spring. We made our way there, arriving at 6.10.
We drove past the campsite we had stayed at, which still looked pleasant. Soon afterwards we came to Burrow Bump, which we remember passing before. Both names mean 'hill', and it was like another Glastonbury, with the ruins of a church on top of a hill.
We walked a short way up it, but realised that the view was better from far away, so sat on the grass to enjoy a cup of tea. It seemed to take a long time to negotiate around Taunton, but soon afterwards, we pulled off onto a layby beside the B3227 outside Wiveliscombe just before 5 o'clock. We were able to phone Simon and speak to him and to Manolo & Millie. We then finished the website for the Shetlands and Scotland.
The night was quiet, but we did have some rain. Not the problem of some places – we heard continually on the traffic news that Hillingdon had severe flooding after a torrential storm. The traffic in the morning started early. The weather was mixed, but I sat at the picnic table for breakfast despite the 'mizzle' It was sunny when we left at 9 o'clock. A worker had just come to empty the overflowing rubbish bin, so we were able to give him our rubbish too. We drove through Wiveliscome, with its red stone church, continuing to the stone village of Bampton, pretty with lots of flowers. Adrian was able to empty the loo. On the wall were two plaques saying that the town was winner of 'Britain in Bloom' in 1989 and 1991. We now crossed the River Exe, and soon afterwards came to a large picnic site by the A361 near Knowstone, (which had family history connections). We had our tea/coffee at a picnic table. The grass had just been cut, and we knew that it was time to go when the chap started blowing the clippings with a blower! We took quiet roads, driving through Chawleigh, which had pretty hanging baskets and continued towards Winkleigh where we crossed the busy A3124. We had a really heavy rain shower then. Just before steep and attractive Hathersleigh we stopped by a large memorial erected by his brother to John Henry Thompson who had died at the Battle of Balaclava .
A man had arrived from the falconry centre and walked up the hill with an owl perched on his hand, The two young boys with him, about ten years old, had a look of absolute delight on their faces. The road on from Hallworthy was incredibly narrow, with a narrow bridge not mentioned! We just about scraped through! As we drove on, the roads were so narrow, and the banks so high and unforgiving that it was rather nerve racking! The going was really slow, as one had to be on the constant lookout for an oncoming vehicle. There were very few, but also there might be walkers, cyclists or horse riders! We crossed wild Davidstow Moor, where we had overnighted twice in recent times. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find alternatives to the main roads (and you might say why try!) Sometimes though a road would start off wide, with two lanes, and then become hardly wide enough for our vehicle. At one point we drove through a ford. We continued past Bodmin, coming to the village of Lanivet, which had free parking beside a large village green. We stopped and refreshed with a cup of tea , looking to the solid church tower. The loos had Ladies and Gents written in Cornish – 'benenes' and 'gwer'. We took more small roads, with all their problems – the wing mirror on my side got pushed inwards, and the mirror slipped down, dangling from a wire! We had to continue until the road was wide enough to grab the mirror and push it back! Around the china clay town of St Austell, the villages weren't very pretty.. We needed somewhere to stop, so at 5.30 pulled into a layby near Probus, knowing that it would be difficult to find anywhere in this popular area. Not the most exciting for our last night before Land's End! We phoned Emma and Nicky and arranged to meet up with both on Wednesday.
There was traffic in the morning, but the night had been quiet. Although it was sunny, we were in the shade. We already had several replies about our website, which was nice. We left at 9.15 and drove through Tresillian and then through Truro, passing the grand cathedral. Bright orange montbretia often lined the road, sometimes interspersed with purple heather. We followed rural roads, but they weren't as problematic as yesterday! Even so, they were often narrow, even the B roads. At one point we followed a tractor with a real image – milk churns on the back, a faithful dog, and a 'typical' old yokel in woolly hat, oblivious to everything! At Marazion we joined the A394, and met the traffic! Then it was the A30, through Penzance, and on to Land's End. Blue agapanthus often lined the road now. We reached Land's End (and the many cars) at 11.30. We already knew that there was a £5 entry charge, so were prepared for it! Not like that in the old days! There were already crowds of people, but with our 'blue badge', we were able to park quite close. We had no interest in the many 'attractions' (Adrian was amused to hear a young lad, standing by all this beauty, saying to his parents' when are we going to visit the attractions?' We did go into the 'End to End' exhibit, which had some remarkable stories of various people who had walked or cycled the route. There was also a 'speeded up' film of a landrover trip from end to end, but their motorway journey wasn't half as much fun as ours!
It was a beautiful morning. We ate our breakfast sitting on a bench, with the wonderful panorama of the Exe below us. It was just a bit chilly. We had a short walk around. We could see to Mamhead, Powderham Castle, and to the parson & clerk rock. We left at 10 o'clock and found our way to see Emma at her friend Lisa's house, where she is 'house sitting', in East Budleigh. We sat outside in the garden, enjoying much chat and a nice lunch.