Settling in… 14/11/18

Now we have spent a bit longer in Ava (the campervan), we have had the chance to get to know her a bit better.  It is a bit of a change from the Concorde …. but all in all, for her size, the configuration is really good, the bed is comfy, the lounge and seating area is fantastically light and spacious, the only thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the combined shower/toilet and remembering that we need to take the loo roll out before we have a shower – so far so good!

It’s great though as being in a smaller motorhome means that you appreciate what you have all the more and we are so glad that we decided to do this trip in a motorhome rather than a car and hotel/airbnb as even only after a couple of weeks we have parked up in some beautifully tranquil spots, waking up to amazing views and we can only see this getting better as we head further South.

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After a lovely run from Rainbow Falls in the humid sunshine, the cloud started to close in dampening our hopes of eating breakfast outside … thankfully not literally as we stayed inside but it was fair to say that the best part of the day had gone by 9am.

We hit the road again and after a impromptu/subconscious detour via Kawakaw to see the famous Hundertwasser toilets we headed back to John and Lorraine’s to cook them some Paella for dinner.  Although we still have eleven weeks in New Zealand, we were heading south of Auckland and they flew out to Nelson for the weekend so the likelihood of us catching up again before we actually leave was minimal.  As always, it is such a treat to have locals who show you a different side to a country and we couldn’t have had a better introduction to New Zealand, we were even introduced to Pinapple Lumps – although we were a little aprehensive when they were described to us as pinapple encased in chocolate – assuming they were crystallised – however, we were pleasantly surprised when we tucked into them and found effectively what can only be described as pinapple flavoured honeycombe encased in chocolate … a real flavour burst… we get it now!!

Waking to birdsong and after a walk down and along Long Beach in the morning – something to do with the fact that last week I went the wrong way when I went out for a run – we popped by the local butcher and then headed South, tackling the Auckland traffic – which was practically non existent at mid-day – towards a place called Ray’s Rest, recommended by Geoff and Tracey.  We parked up and ate our lunch whilst looking out over the bay and Wetlands before heading out for a walk towards the Miranda hot springs with the black clouds looming.  Unfortunately they didn’t ‘loom’ as long as we had hoped and 6km in to the walk the skies opened and it poured down.  Rather than battling on, we decided to turn around and head back to the dry where if it had been a nice day we would have been able to watch a lovely sunset, instead we settled in and Keith cooked a lovely Chilli Con Carne … although he forgot to add the kidney beans…apparently that is how they do it in the USA so as we learnt at the Smoke and Fire Festrival over the summer …. again the subconscious kicking in – It was still very tasty though!

Waking to the sea lapping about two meters from the motorhome we admired the view out of our bedroom window – what a fantastic thing to do – before our normal morning routine and heading off towards the Coromandel Peninsula and more specifically Coromandel town.

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What an amazing journey – the road twisted and turned and each time it did, the bay looked beautiful but in a different way.  It wasn’t however until we climbed up into the hills and looked down over the peninsula that we really got to appreciate the full beauty of it all … personally, I would say even more beautiful than the Bay of Islands, although I am sure that I will get criticism for such an agressive opinion!!

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We parked up at the NZMCA site in Coromandel ($3 per person, per night) which is pretty average as a site goes but it is in a fantastic location. After lunch we walked out onto the Wyuna Bay which is on the peninsula where thankfully most of the houses that were for sale that we walked past didn’t have a price on them as we would have happily signed on the dotted line there and then …. the photos don’t do it justice, it was stunning!

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Coromundal is home to many of New Zealand’s Mussel farms and also I believe a fair few Oyster farms as you can see in some of the photos. It is a small town centralised around fishing with a fair few cafe’s, bars and restaurants – not bad for a stopover.

In the morning after a quick empty and fill, we set off on the long windy road over the top and down into Whitianga.  Although different to the West coast of the Coromandel peninsula, it was beautiful in a different way.  We had been invited to go and stay on Karen’s parents driveway but we didn’t want to impose so instead, we parked up at the NZMCA site just at the edge of town which again was $3 per person per night.  It is a fairly new site, peaceful with just grass and a fresh water tap – perfect for what we needed.  As we arrived reasonably early we decided to walk into town and eat our sandwiches on the bay ….  stunning.

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It is obvious that Whitianga is a fairly touristy town due to the Nature Reserve, Cathedral Cove and the Hot Water Beach which are not too far away but it also has a ‘real’ town feel which gives it a lovely ambiance.  Although we didn’t go stay with Karen’s parents, we popped over with a bottle of wine and some beers for a drink and took in the afternoon sunshine with views out onto the estuary – what an amazing position for a house.

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Lots of lovely stories, a bit more wine, a cheese platter which ended up evolving into dinner and we had lost five hours – a lovely evening!

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We had obviously worn out the sunshine as we woke to grey cloud and rain and despite having been told that the weather forecast was rarely right, it appeared to be pretty spot on today unfortunately.  We had planned to stay a couple of nights and take a boat round to Cathedral Cove but as the forecast was grim for a couple of days we bit the bullet and decided to move on although as we were driving close to Hahei Beach – which is where you can park and walk to Cathedral Cove – we decided to take the detour as the rain had stopped for a bit.  It was obviously fate as it stayed dry for the majority of the walk and the weather had kept the majority of people away, enabling us to enjoy a ‘moody’ Cathedral Cove in peace!

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As the day went on and we headed further south the clouds lifted giving us some hope that we were going to be moving to nicer weather.  Parking up at Waihi Beach NZMCA (again $3 per person per night) we managed to get out for a walk and get the first BBQ in, unfortunately however, Monday morning brought with it low cloud and rain … thankfully not until 9am so we got a most dry run/exercise in.  We decided to hold out on setting out to explore in the hope that it might dry up catching up with some work…. ah well, has to be done at some time I guess!

The rain did ease a little just after lunch so we decided to make an exit and walk along to Waihi Beach with the hope of walking up to the trig point and seeing the views out over the bay.  Unfortunately no sooner had we left Ava, the rain started to fall again so we settled for a nice walk to the surf club, checking out Waihi Beach and the waves on the way… not too bad really and the rain did give us a break on the way return leg – we can only say that as it really chucked it down after we got back!

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After a lovely Kedgeree and a good nights sleep we woke to blue skies and a little too much warmth (we had left the windows mostly closed to stop the rain coming in).  Quite quickly the clouds started to come in just as we were eating breakfast but we weren’t going to be put off and decided to drive out to Waihi to do the Hauraki cycle track out to the Karangahake Gorge.  Roughly 30km later and with a sore back (me – I am so not used to being on a bike any more) –  we were happy, although rather (sweaty) bunnies!

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Happy to sit on a normal seat rather than in a saddle we headed to Tauranga where we parked up at an RSA (Returned and Serviceman’s club) for the night in one of the suburbs and settled into some delicious New Zealand Lamb for dinner.  It was busy … I think that the line dancing turned into a bit of an open mike night before calming down by about 10pm providing with us with a reasonable nights sleep!

With the sun still on our side – I have to say that as it is threatening to disappear on us – we headed over to Mount Maunganui this morning which is just the other side of the Bay of Plenty and sits 232m above sea level. The area itself surrounding the mount has fantastic surfing beaches and a real cafe culture and if you take the path up to the top of Mount Maunganui, it provides the most amazing views over the bay.

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After a lovely walk and a bite to eat we set off south to Rotorua to see the bubbling mud pools and thermal springs …. the mud pools in the town itself were a littledisappointing so perhaps we will see better tomorrow or perhaps it is just the time of year.

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Tonight after a bit of a search around for somewhere to stay we have ended up in Waiotapu at the Waiotapu Tavern which has a little area for campers out the back as the three places we tried before here were either full or no-one around to check in…. must be coming into that kind of season!  All good though and Keith has tried his first pint of TUI whilst I had a nice cold glass of Chardonnay in the bar.

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New Zealand – One week in… 6/11/18

Having packed everything up in Hattie we took her down to storage and then loaded ourselves and my mum onto the plane at Heathrow ahead of the long flights to Auckland via Singapore.  Surprisingly, the journey was far better than any of us expected and we all arrived in Auckland a little tired but able to make it through to a lovely Israeli meal before we passed out at about 8pm local time!

I have always been rubbish at sleeping and changing timezones and this trip doesn’t appear to be an exception but thankfully both Keith and my mum were slightly better so we were able to get up and after Keith and I had a quick visit to the gym, we explored Auckland despite the rain that it had decided to offer us!

We walked around the shopping area and then up into Parnell before passing back through the Auckland museum grounds to take in the views over the city and returning through the University quarter … all in all not to bad considering jet lag and the weather.  It is fair to say that we aren’t really city people and although it was a good place to catch up on ourselves and also catch up with Paddy and Marie (Paddy was an old Bath Uni friend of Keiths’), we were all (including my mum) happy to move on after a couple of nights.

So on Wednesday morning we packed our bags and set off to drop my mum off at her hotel in prep for her Moatrek tour and we headed to go and meet Paddy and Marie for a lovely lunch and catch up before John very kindly tackled the Auckland traffic in the elongated rush hour – yes, it really is that bad – to be taken out to the suburbs to pick up the motorhome.

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We met John and Lorraine in San Juan, Alicante a couple of years ago when they were taking a year out to travel through Europe and we hit it off (possibly the love of food, wine and the outdoors helped) and haven’t looked back since.  When we said we were looking to come out to New Zealand they were kind enough to introduce us to some of their friends who have agreed to lend us their motorhome for our New Zealand adventure…..

So, here we are, one week in with Ava (as we have now named her) which means ‘like a bird’.  She is 6.5m long (with the bikes on the back), has a lovely light lounge area at the back with a drop down bed and suits our needs perfectly for this trip.  We set off on Thursday last week and made it all the way back to John and Lorraine’s (roughly 25km’s)  to park on their driveway for the night and be fed with Oysters (cooked and Raw) and Whitebait Fritters – Kiwi style …. their whitebait are nothing like ours, measuring in at roughly 1 inch, completely transparent except the eye – despite my reservations – all absolutely delicious.

Moving on from John and Lorraine’s driveway we headed up the coast to One Tree Hill which is where John and Lorraine have their holiday house shared with Chris and Karen … or Bach as it is called over here.

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The drive up the coast gave us our first insight to what the North is really about ….beautiful sandy beaches that just go on and on….

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The house is right on the estuary, the garden big enough for us to park up and the views from our back window weren’t too bad either…..

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We were treated like royalty with John, Lorraine, Karen and Chris inviting us into their home – although we did sleep in the motorhome – and showing us a beautiful part of the North both in terms of the the food and the scenary.  Saturday morning … or to be fair it was probably almost afternoon by the time we got there, we set off up Mount Manaia which is situated directly across from where the Bach is, although about an hours drive away.

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A long walk up but stunning views once we were there.

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Following lots of steps, we were rewarded by the most delicious seafood platter at one of the local watering holes that looked out over the bay afterwards ….albeit that we were conscious that we didn’t want to spoil our appetite for the roast lamb that Lorraine was cooking for dinner …. she had obviously forgotten our appetites and love for food!!

The following day, after a fabulous cooked breakfast containing Chris’ golf winnings along with some left overs from last nights’ dinner we set off, leaving John, Lorraine, Karen and Chris in peace to venture northwards before they unfortunately had to head back towards Auckland.

Before coming over to New Zealand we joined the NZMCA which is the Kiwi equivalent of the motorhome club and provides a selection of places to stay – Sunday night was a service man’s club in Paihia costing just $5 a night to park up.  Safe and Tranquil and only five minutes walk to the seafront.

We were using Paihia as a stop over to get to Russell as although it was fairly quiet when we were there it is evident that it is a tourist trap and in the height of summer it would be horrific!

After a run up into the park where the treaty was signed (me) and a bit of exercise whilst being invaded by school kids (Keith) we ran down the road and caught the ferry to Russell.  It is still a little overcast up here on occasions and the boat trip was a bit choppy but it didn’t stop us from walking up to Topeka Point via Flagstaff hill where the views out over the bay of Islands and back into Russell were incredible.

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And we even managed to see some Kiwis … the bird, not the fruit!  Two adults and two babies, seperately – apparently they are normally night birds so we were quite lucky although it was too dark to take photos and we didn’t want to scare them.

Moving on from Russell we were conscious that unfortunately the poverty in the local community is high and as we didn’t want to invite any problems we found ourselves a nice little campsite to stay at in Pukenui costing us NZ $32 a night and as the evening was looking pretty good we decided to bite the bullet and drive up to Cape Reinga to take in the northern most point of NZ before settling in for the night.

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Not only is it the northern most point of New Zealand, but it is also the place where the Tasmanian Sea and Pacific Ocean meet providing a dramatic view out past the lighthouse.  This part is also famous for its 90 mile beach and sand dunes … although why it is called a 90 mile beach when it is only 90km I don’t know!

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Having taken in the northerly most point we headed back to the campsite to cook our steak on the campsite bar b q for dinner before settling in for the evening.

Woken by birdsong this morning we both got up and did our exercises before showering, breakfasting and heading back South to a beautiful spot at Rainbow falls near Kerikeri where we are staying tonight.

We are parked roughly 100m from the waterfalls themselves and there is a walk that goes from the NZMCA site (which is $3 per person) all the way along the river into Kerikeri which is a lovely little town.

Autumnal Air… 23/10/18

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As we are on countdown now to go to New Zealand I was looking at the map of where we have been in Europe over the last four and a bit years – each colour is a different trip and it is definitely fair to say that the darker/olive green, which was our first year and a half away was far more extensive!  Year two/three was the lighter/grass green, followed by Year three/four in blue and we are now just starting Year five which is purple, but won’t fit on this map as we are flying out on Saturday to New Zealand to start eleven weeks of a new mini adventure…. its quite impressive though – although it does make us realise how slowly we go!

I am not quite sure where the last four weeks has gone – I could have sworn it was only a couple of weeks since the last blog…. obviously the wonderful English weather is going to my head – or perhaps that is what I am trying to convince myself whilst our teeth are chattering when we crawl out of the van to do our exercise in the morning …. to be fair it hasn’t gone below 3 degrees yet overnight but we are hopeful we aren’t going to be around long enough to see any minus numbers!

We have been keeping busy though not only making lots of lovely Autumnal food including a really tasty Lentil Ragu, experimenting with Pizzas as well as cooking Halloumi on the BBQ and for the first time – I can only say that we are late starters as it will definitely be repeated! But also helping my mum run a Macmillan Cancer Coffee Morning.  Unfortunately, it has got to the point where pretty much everyone has been touched by Cancer and it is fair to say that the Macmillan nurses aren’t the only people who do an amazing job but as we love baking so much, this was an easy task!  We were overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone … even the postie stayed for a coffee and a brownie, helping to raise an enormous total of £345… and all the cakes were delicious too – well we had to try what we had made to ensure we weren’t poisoning anyone!!

Taking a break from cakes we decided to venture over to St Albans with Hattie for a few days (Woodstock CL £14 per night inc.). Although I had warned the owners of our size – possibly a little larger having consumed rather a lot of cake – they had forgotten to tell us that there was an electric cable at 3.2m over the entrance. Thankfully there was someone on site who cleared the way through the rubbish so we could get into the site … passing the remnants of the all night summer party on our way to the top of the field.

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Once Parked up Hattie had a great view … although she did feel a little light as her front wheels were dangling in the air – wouldn’t want to be doing this for more than a few days and I wouldn’t have wanted to be the caravan directly in front of us at the bottom of the field!

Although a little grey we managed to get out and did a lovely circular walk on the Sunday and went into St Albans on Monday for a look around and again on Tuesday to meet my mum for a mooch, dog walk and lunch – all very civilised. We were a little disappointed though as our expectations of St Albans were very high and although the old town and the park were very pretty, the rest was a little bit underwhelming unfortunately … apparently this is what happens when you start to visit lots of beautiful places!

We headed back at the farm in Holyport for a couple of nights before leaving Hattie and heading away to Weymouth for the weekend with the Andersons – a good location for a family get together despite the gale force winds …. a sobering run on Saturday morning to say the least.

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We had decided to set a food challenge for Saturday lunch – each couple having to prepare something ahead of time from a category pulled from a hat.  The Categories that we all agreed ahead of time were open to interpretation and the results were pretty good as follows:-

  • Savoury Pastry – Lentil and Meat Sausage rolls
  • Biscuits – Raspberry and White Chocolate
  • Bread/Rolls – Focaccia, Water Biscuits and a nice white loaf
  • Cakes/Muffins – Lemon drizzle cup cakes
  • Pizza – Spinach, Goats cheese and Caramelised Onion on one and Chorizo on the other
  • Wildcard – Black Pudding and Sausage Meat Scotch Eggs

… although way too much food and we did eat the huge Scotch Eggs for Breakfast as Paul and Carly didn’t make it down in time for lunch.

After an amazing summer in the UK both in terms of the weather but also exploring new areas with Hattie, the countdown is now nearly over and we are pretty much ready to take Hattie to storage ahead of our flights to New Zealand on Saturday.  It’s only eleven weeks and I am sure that it will fly by but watch this space for updates and hopefully lots of photos!

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…and just in case you need some more of the UK before we go, here are a couple from last weekend in Christmas Common which I can’t believe we haven’t ever visited before as it is so close … thank you Jonah and Karen!

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Autumnal air…. 23/9/18

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After an amazing summer, little by little we are noticing the days are getting shorter, the nights cooler and the rain has started to fall a little more frequently….. Autumn is finally here.  It’s strange though as the colours changed on the trees and the leaves started falling so early due to the lack of rain, we are a little out of sync with our seasons and inevitably therefore we have been caught out a couple of times by the rain coming out of nowhere – helped by gale force winds – giving our washing (and us) a second (unwanted) rinse whilst we were out …. just one of those things we will have to get used to! We aren’t going to complain though as we have been so lucky over the last five months and although it has pretty much rained for the last 36 hours, the sun looks like it is doing its best to push through the cloud and as I look out the window of the motorhome (which is lovely and snug with the heating on) there is a woodpecker having a good peck at the tree next to us …. life’s not that bad is it?

After a busy few days in Bath catching up with lots of friends and seeing our old house we set off towards Gloucestershire to find our next little spot.  I missed a photo opportunity as we pulled in en route to refuel at Asda. Although the forecourt was 3.5m – just tall enough – the bit we had to get through to pay was a little interesting to say the least.  Not only very narrow but quickly followed by a sharp turn to the right, so as Keith eased Hattie through the gap tickling her left ear on the barrier, I guided him with less than an inch to spare to turn narrowly avoiding the back end taking out the post…. not sure why I didn’t think about taking a photo as bemused car drivers watched on, waited impatiently to pay for their fuel. Next time we will go to the sainsburys a couple of miles down the road which looked like it had easy access… or should I say exit!

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We had booked ourselves into Passage Farm CL (£17.50 a night all inc.) which was about 1km from a tiny little village called Arlingham in Gloucestershire, right at the end of a little lane in the curve of the Severn River.  Although a little more expensive than many others, the site was lovely and tranquil surrounded by walking routes,  a fantastic Community pub in Arlingham, loads of blackberries and an abundance of free apples …. pretty much everything that we like and should you want a little more there was also a Michelin recommended fish restaurant 300m away.

We did three lovely long circular walks, each one in slightly different weather and light conditions making the village of Newnham which is on the opposite bank of the River Severn look different each time we saw it.  After lots of Fresh air, we finally gave in to support the local community pub on the Thursday night before we left where we were served up good beer and wine to go with pie and fish and chips.  A great location if you are happy to be a little remote and don’t mind doing a little bit of a limbo to get in to the site, as yet again we found that the trees stroked the top of Hattie despite lowering the suspension and limboing  through….. we definately need to invest in some tree loppers!

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With the change in the weather and being further west we have had a chance to check out Hattie’s insulation, the temperature dropped to 6 degrees over night in Arlingham and we remained nice and snug without any heating.  We have however since had the heating on a couple of times and it looks like we may get good use out of it this week assuming we don’t run out of gas as the temperatures are due to go down to 3 degrees tonight and tomorrow … not really the kind of slow introduction to the cold weather that we are accustomed to!!

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After our normal morning exercise routine, which apparently kept the site managers amused whilst drinking their tea in bed in the morning, we set off to Abergavenny for the last food festival of the summer.  We had booked into Blossoms Caravan Park (£18 no elec) which is roughly 2 miles outside Abergavenny ….. up hill. It is Wales after all so we were expecting hills and rain …. and we got both!

We did a quick recky on Friday walking down into town to do some food shopping and then on Saturday, after both heading off on a run in different directions – part intentional and part due to me getting lost – we rolled down the hill to eat our way round the markets.  Abergavenny is probably the biggest of all the festivals that we have been to over the summer but it is set up in multiple locations around the centre of the town making it interesting and showing off areas of the town that you wouldn’t necessarily visit if you popped by on a whim.  Each food market area focussed on slightly different foods – 1) Cheese, wine and cider 2) Food Market (i.e. to eat there and then), 3) Indoor Market (variety of food and drink) 4) New Producers, 5) Fish 6) Farm Animals (Education and child focussed) and 7) Fire at the castle …. (outdoors / wilderness based) they all offered a variation of foods and drink both to buy and eat, then additionally there were also other stalls in the streets around the town which anyone could access, rather than the former being accessible by wrist band.

Needless to say we tasted a lot of cheese and a fair bit of gin amongst other things and with way too much choice we ended up opting for two enormous savoury onion and cheese muffins for lunch on the Saturday and some seriously fiery houmus , flatbreads and scotch eggs on Sunday.

We managed to buy our own weight in Cheese and cured meats not to mention the local Sausages, bumped in to a friend from Horsham who has recently moved to the area, learnt about preserving, curing and smoking and avoided the best part of the rain…. can’t all be that bad!

The weekend was finished off by a visit from an old friend who had come over from Monmouth for dinner ….. a homemade Cassoulet with Apple and Blackberry Crumble – despite having been spoilt by all the food at the festival you still can’t beat good home cooked food on a dark, wet evening!

Monday morning we woke in the clouds with a damp mist that looked like it was going to turn quickly into rain but thankfully it held off whilst we did our exercises and got ourselves on the road – a complete change from what we found by the time we got to Reading …. Sunshine and 26 degrees.  As much as we love the country, I think it will be a while before we go back to Wales!!

We are settled back at the farm again now in Holyport with five weeks until we go to New Zealand, just contemplating whether we can get another trip in before we go….. watch this space!

It’s all about food…. 8/9/18

Not that it ever isn’t but this last month has been less travel and more experimentation as we have stayed fairly local to Windsor and Maidenhead except for a long weekend away with Hattie to Essex to the Smoke and Fire Festival (Mundon CL, Maldon £9 a night) ….. need I say more ?

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The above pretty much sums up the whole weekend… it was meat, meat, meat and a bit of beer and cider to go with it!  The festival had different competitions throughout the weekend, the most enjoyable – or perhaps I should say beneficial for us – were the Chilli making contest, where you could buy a spoon for £3 and we got to go round each of the 15+ competitors happily receiving a small pot from each to try, the only difficulty was deciding who we wanted to give our spoon to at the end, demonstrating our personal favourite … naturally there were a few that needed a couple of tries!  On the Sunday the competitors cooked up pulled pork, Brisket and Ribs, unfortunately they cooked way too much to submit to the judges so they gave out the rest to passers by … result.  Not really a festival for non-meat eaters but to be fair several of the stalls had a vegan option… not sure how well they did as there wasn’t many a vegetable that passed our lips that weekend!  Gary did sample the only fish / seafood BBQ stall though which was equally as impressive!

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As the weather has remained so good we have been making the most of the Bar B Q … although controversially we have actually just replaced the Cadac.  Our long lasting old faithful which has been with us all the way since we set off four years ago, cooking everything from paella’s to casseroles and Sausages to veggie burgers has now been donated to a new home, hopefully they will get as much use and lovely food as we have.

The new Bar B Q – a Napoleon before anyone asks – joined us just over a week ago and has pretty much been used every day since …. Beef burgers, Chickpea Burgers Swordfish Steaks, Lamb Steaks, Roasted Vegetables, Corn on the Cob, flat breads and Pizza …. (for those of you haven’t seen my blog before, just click on the highlighted word for the link to the recipe or go to the recipe tab above)

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We have been building up slowly making sure we get the temperatures right before we start to use it for more ….. we are very impressed so far and excited by the prospect of roasts and smoking food going forwards – so watch this space!

I jumped ahead of myself with our new addition … obviously far too excited about the array of foods we are going to cook but I also appreciate that our life isn’t as interesting for the rest of you when we stay put but as you can see, food experimentation has been the theme this month and despite the festival being fairly meat oriented, the experimentation has had a bit of a vegan twist including Chickpea Meringues which you wouldn’t know were eggless…..

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I have made them a couple of times now … even for a slightly more picky audience (Yes, that is you Steve and Alex!) and they went down a treat – well worth a go!

We have also made Vegan Meatballs which we served with Spaghetti Squash and a ratatouille sauce which were gorgeous

Veganballs

Other new recipes that have been added to the blog which were also equally as tasty are Spicy Jackfruit Fajitas, BBQ Jackfruit Burgers ….. yes, I have just found Jackfruit and it does actually come out like pulled pork if you put the right spices with it – really delicious!

Wanting something slightly quicker to make than rolls on occasions, Keith has been having a play with flat breads and even did a Masterclass on Pashwari Nan with Paul Jagger (Bake Off) at Great Missendon Food Festival a couple of weeks ago, whilst I have been experimenting with crackers and come up with Chia Seed Cracker which are really quick and easy to make and go really nicely with a good bit of cheese!  Not unfortunately what can be said for the Cauliflower Nachos that we tried earlier this week which were a bit of a disaster…. not even going to bother adding the recipe I am afraid.

We have hit the road again and are back in Bath for a few days to catch up with friends with the hope that the summer will give us another few weeks of sunshine even though the days are getting shorter.

Hattie goes glamping…28/7/18

We have been putting Hattie’s new air suspension and hydrolics to the test over the last couple of weeks and taking in some more of the beautiful Yorkshire countryside staying on some fantastically uneven grass sites just to make sure that everything works as it should !

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I’d like to say that we have been lucky with the weather but we are starting to feel a little sorry for the farmers as they are unfortunately already starting on their winter feed for the dairy cows as the grass is so dry.

Saying that, our last day in Ripley was wet.  We had already decided to do the walk over to Masham, a lovely village and home to both the Black Sheep and Theakstones breweries so we just got wet but were rewarded by The Black sheep brewery bar and restaurant – which has been done out really well, something for everyone …. wine, gin, beer and even coffee and the food looked pretty good too!  Theakstones was a bit more rustic, but there was still opportunity to buy a beer or two and while we did so the sun came out again to help dry us out!

Waking to another corker of a morning we both set off on hilly runs in opposite directions, heading off after breakfast an hour back south to Otley where we had booked in at the Plantation CL (£9 a night no elec).  The entrance was lined with low hanging and narrow fitting trees so poor ‘ol Hattie took a little bit of a scraping …. before the owners told us we could have come in the next entrance up which was much more Hattie friendly …. needless to say we went out the other way!

We parked up in our little field and sorted ourselves out before heading off into Otley for a little look around and to find a pub to watch the World Cup 3rd/4th playoff.  Not having been to the area before we hadn’t quite appreciated that the 1.5miles that we were outside Otley were almost vertically downwards …. or should I say upwards when walking home… I think that we had sweated off all the alcohol consumed by the time we got back to motorhome so we can call it a ‘cleansing’ location!

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Otley itself sits on a river and is beautiful.  It is a market town but just has that lovely feel to it of normality but a little bit quirky.  We had decided to visit it because it had a food festival on on the Sunday – to be fair it was probably a bit more like a large farmers market but we were not disappointed, the Yorkshire folk know how to do good food, whether Pork Pies, Scotch Eggs, Sausages or Sweet Potato fudge… it was all exceptional…. and that is without mentioning the Cider, Gin, Vodka and other bits!

We left Otley contentedly happy to return and explore the area more, moving all of 25 minutes down the road to Ilkley where we were staying at another little CL (Hall Croft, £15 per night) just a mile outside the town. The weather had temporarily turned and we were met with a good downpour of rain to help bring the evening in and freshen up the air.

Although we have benefitted from many a bar b q over the last few weeks it was actually quite nice to ‘pretend’ it was cooler and enjoy a lovely Cassoulet and a Fish Pie …. obviously not together!

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The area surrounding Ilkley is stunning, as Ilkley itself sits in a valley so although we opted for a quick trip into Leeds on the train on Tuesday, we quickly returned to our natural habitat of walking, doing a wonderful circular walk on Wednesday out to Addingham then up onto the Ridge before walking back to the Cow and Calf rocks and down into Ilkley before coming home.. totting up 20km, then on Thursday we ventured along the river which was part of the Dales Way … another 21km… all lovely although the search for the Ilkley brewery left us a little disappointed as there wasn’t any shop or bar to check out or buy the produce.

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To finish our little tour in Yorkshire we had booked ourselves a spot at the North Yorkshire Dales Food and Drink Festival which is held at a farm about 2.5 miles outside Skipton…. Hatties’ first Festival … as far as we know anyway!!

We sat in the queue to get into the field, looking jealously over to our right as a double decker bus happily entered the main exhibitors field whilst we were tousled by the trees dangling down, slowly scraping along the roof.  We made it through to our field without damage where we parked up, dropped anchor – better known as the hydraulics – and watched as the everyone else around us set up caravans/tents as the rain started to fall…. it was only light showers but still good entertainment!

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Friday night was a quiet affair as most stalls were still setting up but we ventured out for a wander around, a couple of drinks and to listen to some music…. all very calm.

On Saturday whilst being watched over by surrounding neighbours we both did our morning exercise routine before heading into Skipton for a walk around.  Skipton is a pretty little market town with lots of interesting shops and cafes, being a Saturday we had a walk through the market and stopped for a coffee before heading back to the festival for lunch.

The festival was in full swing by the time we got back and it was difficult to choose what to eat for lunch but after a couple of trips round all the food stalls we settled on BBQ Ribs … Keith had a rack of Pork ribs and I had Short Beef ribs,  both with chips and coleslaw… proper finger lickin’ food.

We had sat by one of the demonstrations to eat our lunch and just as we had finished the chef came round with a nice bit of Venison and Ciabatta – perfectly pink which led us nicely into the rest of the afternoon which was spent enjoying the tasters from the different stalls – Gin, Cheese, Cake, biscuits…. and much more, not bad At all!

James, Gail, Amy and Jack came to visit us on the way back from their holiday up in Northumberland so we got to do a second taster on the Sunday enjoying quality scotch eggs, and a pulled jackfruit burger amongst other things!

Unsurprisingly a large number of the campers left by Sunday evening which meant that getting out on Monday morning wasn’t too bad.  This time though we remembered that we could actually use our Air Suspension to lower the vehicle by a few inches and do a bit more of a limbo under the trees…. still not perfect but much less of a scrape than on the way in.

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The journey back to Holyport was long and hot but problem free.  We hadn’t quite appreciated how much cooler it had been up North in comparison to the South but by lunchtime we had hit 30 degrees and were glad to get out of the motorhome by the time we arrived.

It’s nice to be back in our field although it is very yellow, the cows seem happy and my run is much less hilly so my legs are too!  Along with the normal chores and Hattie’s mechanical service, we took the mum’s out for lunch to Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers this week and it surpassed expectations – proper posh pub grub in a lovely environment!

 

Pumped and Charged…. 12/7/18

We woke early, packed our bags and watched Hattie get lifted up onto the ramps for her cosmetic surgery to begin.

After a quick demo of the E&P Hydrolics and VB Air Suspension that she was about to have added, we headed into York on the train to our little Airbnb between the Shambles and the shortest road in York which is called Whip ma Whop ma Gate (or as it used to be Witnourwhatnourgate).  I hadn’t realised it when I booked but apparently the Shambles (better known as Diagon Alley) is where part of Harry Potter was filmed – where they go to buy their wands and wizardery bits.  Our Airbnb was a house above one of the shops which we were sharing with Sean (the owner) and his dog, rather strangely Sean’s surname was Potter ….

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It has been about 6 years since Keith was in York which was for work – I however, haven’t been here since I came with my parents 35+ years ago. Both of us were keen to come back, I have distant memories of the railway museum and the smells from the Viking tour!  Needless to say we didn’t re-visit either but may be back again as we had a great time.

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We couldn’t have asked for better weather or food – either we completely lucked out on our random choices or Yorkshire really is food central as everything from the bread to the curry was delicious.  We walked the city over the three days we were there, around the wall, along the river Ouze (in both directions) and through all the interesting streets.  I also managed to go for a run each day along the river … impressed by the quantity of people who cycle to work, although I appreciate that the weather helps.

We obviously did our best to try out the local taverns as well and ate out in three completely different places … all were fantastic.  The Rose and Crown, where we watched the footie on Tuesday night served up whale sized fish and chips and a fantastic Japanese Curry along with good beer, wine and a win for England. The Coconut Lagoon, which is an amazingly place just outside the city wall serving Southern Indian Cuisine where we had a mixed starters to share, Keith had a Thali to follow – which was almost enough to feed a small family – and I ordered a Prawn Curry which was spicy but creamy and delicious…. this would definitely be a local curry house if we lived in York.

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On the third and last night we found a lovely little place called Bistro No. 8 where the food was local and equally delicious….fish cakes, Beetroot and goats cheese salad, Slow Braised beef, Pork Belly and to finish, the most deliciously rich – but not too sweet – Chocolate terrine…  properly spoilt!

On Friday, after a last walk through York we headed back to see whether Hattie was ready for us, alas not and the TV wasn’t working either so Keith’s plan to watch the 3pm game on the big TV whilst waiting went out the door …. so too did most of the 7pm game as Hattie had a problem with the auto reset which is supposed to kick in when she gets up to 26 mph, thankfully Keith caught the key bits of the games on his mobile.

The team at SAP were amazing and carried on working until 8pm but called it a day and decided to come back at 7:30am Saturday morning with fresh eyes …. a task reasonably quickly resolved after a nights sleep!

It was late by the time we got back into Hattie on Friday night and thankfully we had planned a fairly simple dinner as we also ended up sharing it with someone else who also hadn’t planned on staying the night ….. a new recipe from The Minimalist Baker, Mushroom and Lentil Stew served on Mashed Sweet Potato – really flavorsome, although I think next time I am going to add some squash to bulk it out a little as well.

After a good play with the new suspension and hydrolics we finally got on the road from the SAP workshop just after lunch …. pushing it a little to get to our CL for the England game.  The drive was smooth and solid demonstrating the new Air Suspension was worthwhile and although the ground we originally parked on was slightly too uneven for the automated hydrolics, we moved slightly and set it to manual and had a play … very sturdy!   All in, only missing the first five minutes of the game.

The CL was Holly Tree Cottage in Upper Denby (£14 per night inc) which is owned by a lovely couple who keep the site in top order and are really helpful.  The field was beautifully tranquil, stunning views with a couple of overly friendly chickens and a mixture of varieties of sheep …. including two who were hand reared in their kitchen so behaved a little more like dogs than sheep!  Unfortunately we only stayed two nights due to my bad planning but we did manage to get in a lovely circular walk on the Sunday.  We will be back to take in more of the area as the rolling hills just go on and on.

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After both completing a morning run on Monday we headed North from Upper Denby to a pretty little village just outside Ripon where we are staying at Ivy Bank House (£12 per night).  Until recently it was a CL but between the time we booked it and when we arrived, it has changed to be a Caravan Club site.  Its a very nice field though, has a bit of a slope which is good for the ongoing testing of the hyrdolics, has sheep which is a bit of a theme now and is incredibly peaceful but the surrounding area is very hilly….. which is a bit of an issue for my poor legs and running!

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The campsite is just on the edge of Kirkby Malzeard,  6 miles from Ripon so we have been out on the bikes today and Tuesday …. first time in ages so that’ll be it for a few days now! We have also headed cross country on a few walking routes taking on the stinging nettles as they are particularly on form at the moment and tomorrow we are planning to walk to Masham …. the home of both the Theakstons and Black Sheep Brewery – might just be a taxi back then!

Just as a reminder I have started a new map as well for 2018/19 so you can follows us – have a look here if you want to see more