Autumnal air…. 23/9/18

8361C3C5-BDFE-4546-A2FB-D01A1D0848C0

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!

1B8B0417-FD50-457B-AB4D-71B98D83F888

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!

A38F64AF-BAA3-46B9-A8F2-83047C946018

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!!

3BF08463-8295-48AE-9EF4-768915C1D0DE

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!

Advertisements

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 ?

Pig

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!

Gary and Langoustines

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)

Pizza

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…..

Meringues

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 !

976CC8AF-6C16-481F-81A1-599E0942E852

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!

C9684E5D-72C6-4154-BFC2-357813856E60

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!

E95CC087-CD0A-4F20-BC70-5C679C783D8E

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.

E3F3246E-8D93-4CAA-93E1-2DD130D21E16

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!

1176EE04-129A-4777-97AF-859CE5DFC7F3

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.

A0E19543-1AF7-47EF-8477-DA0562632574

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 ….

DSC_0493

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.

DSC_0498

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.

Thali

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.

DSC_0514

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!

DSC_0516

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

All charged up and on the move… 2/7/18

Chocolate Cake

Who needs to be in Southern Europe to get the sunshine…. its scorching over here – couldn’t ask for more, although a bit disappointed that they are already talking about a hosepipe ban after the winter the UK has had …. but what can we do?

After leaving the farm we spent a night at Rookesbury Park Campsite (£22.50) which is just north of Portsmouth before taking Hattie down to Southdowns Motorhomes early Monday morning where she was booked in for a bit of TLC…. it was always going to be an expensive visit.

Hattie stayed at Southdowns all week as there was a fair amount of work to do….. a couple of extra sockets, a fitted bike rack in the garage, new oven hinges, connecting to the France freesat box and enough Solar panels to be seen from space.

Its great, although I appreciate that we are having a particularly good June but Hattie has been fully charged by breakfast…… even with a lot of football watching!  The only issue we have found is that whilst putting the television back together we think that they didn’t quite connect one of the cables properly so currently the UK TV stations only show martians….. a bit of an issue with Red I think!  They’ll get it sorted but we need to head back for them to do it so our green faced friends will be around for the rest of the World Cup at least!

Back in Hattie and at the farm we have new calves in the field …. well, when I say new they are probably about 6 months old but very cute and inquisitive!

We have been enjoying the sunshine and even had Jonah, Karen and the kids out for a picnic…. not often that you see them outside the M25!!

As the weather has been so good we have been making the best use of the BBQ… I think we managed 6 over 8 days …. not bad… nice spicy Chicken, burgers and Lamb chops at my brothers on Sunday, Prawns and Chorizo on Monday, Smoky Beetroot Burgers on Tuesday,  Steak and Chicken on Wednesday, Chicken and Halloumi at Jools and Clares on Friday and Sausages and Chicken with Mike, Jo and Ella at ours on Sunday …..a good mix… although it makes us out to be meat lovers, most were accompanied with a good varied selection of salads!

So a few recipes that I haven’t published before….. Mackeral Pate, Mixed Bean Salad, Lentil and Goats Cheese Salad, Smokey Black Bean Beet Burgers – really moist and nutty, Chocolate Beetroot Cake and Nutella Ice Cream……so easy and so very yummm!

I did also try my hand at a bit of Strawberry Ice Cream yesterday but I think it needs another try as it wasn’t quite strawberry enough …. so watch this space!

This is now going to sound really sad…..we have a new addition to the motorhome – don’t laugh – its a twin tub washing machine ….. and its great!!! We had been talking about it for a while and now we have an inverter (and now a socket in the garage) we thought why not.  We have only used it a couple of times for clothes (not bedsheets) so far but it has a great little spin, although you do have to hold it down for the first ten seconds so it doesn’t work its way around the garage and you can wash and spin in under 15 minutes.  Yep, sad… I am sure the novelty will wear off soon!

Leaving the farm again on Thursday we headed down to Bath to catch up with friends and take in some of the beautiful rolling hills that surround it. Although we used to stay at the CL when we could, the entrance is a little too complicated for Hattie – lots of low hanging trees and a very steep slope – so we headed back to the Bath Marina Campsite which although a bit bigger than we would normally opt for, suits the purpose and worked perfectly for entertaining and also getting to friends to be entertained!  We had also forgotten that it is just around the corner from the Electric Bear Micro-Brewery so Keith decided to buy a few to sample whilst we were in the vicinity…

Beers

Waking to what can only be the warmest day yet this morning, I went for a run along the old railway path whilst Keith got some HIIT training in before we set off up the M5 to a little place just North of Doncaster where Hattie is having her next round of work …. air suspension and hydraulic levelling jacks.  We are staying overnight in the van tonight and then leaving her for a few nights to have the work done whilst we head into an Airbnb in York.

 

No looking back …. 16th June 2018

So, we are now six weeks into our new life with Hattie and all is good ….. well mostly anyway !

It would be incredibly dull if everything had gone smoothly so just to help mix things up we managed to break the oven door… how, I don’t know but I think that there was a very key point when it was coming in between Keith and his dinner ….. and I am afraid Keith won.  Needless to say that was four weeks ago and we haven’t been able to use the oven since which is a massive shame as we were really getting used to it being so much better than the last one.  Since then we also managed to break out little manual hand mixer (better known as the Hummus machine!) through too much pulling …. but Lakeland replaced it for free as it had a 3 yr guarantee… quite impressive!

After our last blog we ventured up to Thirsk in North Yorkshire to get our gas bottles switched for an Alugas system, enabling us to fill up with LPG at petrol stations…less stress and cheaper than standard bottles if you are in it for the long run.  Autogas 2000 did a great job, with a smile whilst introducing us to a great little pub round the corner where the burgers are towers and the fish are whales….. we will be back if we are passing by!

On the way back south we couldn’t help but stop off at Melbourne again which is beginning to feel like a second home now, not only is it a beautiful location but the butchers is great and we were running low on Black Bomber Cheddar!!

We were heading south again as Keith’s sister and brother in law were very kindly hosting a bar-b-q / FA Cup Final afternoon which coincided with a big event in Windsor…. not quite sure what that could have been, but it meant that we couldn’t stay at the farm and had to find alternative accommodation.  It was great though, as we were introduced to the Hurley Riverside campsite which is half way between Marlow and Henley costing £15 per night for a grass pitch with electricity.  The site itself was a lot larger than we are used to with quite a few static homes but the location was stunning, right on the Thames with a path taking you into Marlow in one direction and Henley, the other…. lots of lovely walking and running routes!  Needless to say the weather was fantastic, the BBQ was lovely, the football went the way Keith wanted it to and what we saw of the wedding wasn’t too bad either….. just a shame that the oven didn’t see the weekend out …. at least the Stuffed Chicken with Wedges went down well when we finally extracted them!

We have now moved back to the farm and have been sitting comfortably, sorting out different bits of work for Hattie which has given us time to catch up with quite a few friends – trying out a good selection of Gin in a new bar in Maidenhead … including a rather nice Earl Grey one (I can’t stand Earl Grey Tea …. so was pleasantly surprised) as well as a Rhubarb one that wasn’t to be knocked either!  We have also been cooking lots to get used to how everything works…. (obviously not in the oven) so I have added a few of the favorite recipes as follows:- Chocolate Mousse Cake, Apricot Crumble, BBQ Baked Beans, Belgian Fridge Cake and Baked Bean Mince.  We have also been cooked for alot over the last few weeks …. Pizzas (yep left over Birthday Pizza… N+R – I am not going to let you forget it (only joking, it was delicious!!), BBQ’s, Curries, and Full on Roasts….  sorry Carly, I think it’s time for you to cook us some Yorkshire puddings as I have eaten what can only be described as the best puds I have ever tasted this week (thank you J!) ……. not to forget a particularly random (and lovely) Vodka (Gold Wasser) and Asparagus tasting session last Sunday afternoon …..its been a busy couple of weeks!

Getting back to Hattie, we have now had a play with her music system and its great – she is a proper party bus!!  Sub woofers and surround sound, better than most home systems, we just have to be careful not to park to close to our neighbours now!!

Just to make sure it works properly, Keith has also put the TV and satellite dish up a couple of times …. unsurprisingly to watch football – the dish seems bigger than the last one, a proper lightning attraction!

Now we are preparing for the first set of the awaited works…. solar panels, hopefully fixing the oven and a few other bits.  So, tomorrow we set off down towards Portsmouth so we can get her into the workshop bright and early on Monday morning – bring on independent living again!

Bye bye Mika…. Hello Hattie – 15th May 2018

E71A25CD-B151-4684-A7F2-288A8AECA8E8
It’s been a busy couple of weeks since we left St Valery sur Somme.  We caught the Eurotunnel and arrived back to a windy and rainy England with a brief stop overnight in Windsor before heading up to Derbyshire to a large village called Melbourne which is just near Donnington Park racecourse.
We booked the CL (Dovesite, £11 per night GPS n. 52.816825 w. 1.451407) on its proximity to the storage place where we were due to go and look at Hattie on the Monday morning… but what chance, as despite the heavy rain and it blowing a gale it is a stunning location and a great little site.  The CL was a field at the top end of a small campsite and as the entrance to the CL field was a muddy slope I called the owner and asked if she would mind if we took one of the hard standing pitches on the campsite instead of churning up her beautiful field … to which she was of course happy to oblige!
After parking up we set off to stretch the legs and were quite surprised to find that Melbourne is quite a ‘well to do’ village with a few pubs, butchers, bakers, deli, a couple of restaurants and cafes and a Sainsbury’s local… pretty much everything you could want surrounded by hills, reservoirs and national trust property.  All topped off by the campsite being about a mile outside Melbourne itself, surrounded by walks … pretty much perfect for us!
26DC890C-B681-422E-A3C2-8FD62B424440
So, after a windy and sleepless night (due to apprehension regarding the new motorhome) we got up, I went for a morning run up into Calke abbey (I got a little lost) and then we set off to the storage place to size up the possible new motorhome…… Hattie
As much as we both love Mika and have enjoyed the last four and a half years with her, we both agreed that Hattie has the right configuration for us for our next chapter and hopefully the next five years or more therefore it was time to cut loose and move on.  Apart from her tyres needing to be replaced she is in excellent condition for her seven years, so after a full check over by a very friendly independent motorhome chap and a little bit of negotiation we shook hands and did the deal.
It took another few days to move into Hattie as she needed new shoes before we moved her however, with Seven new shoes fitted (one was a spare), we spent Friday moving everything from Mika into Hattie, arriving back to the campsite shattered and glad that we were on hard standing and not the field!  Hattie, as you can see from the photos is slightly larger than Mika, weighing in at 5.4 tonnes and 8.13m in length….just under 2 tonnes heavier and 1.2m longer than Mika but she is a beauty.
We were lucky enough to meet some great people at the storage place (of whom two of incidentally are living at the campsite where we are staying) and therefore we arranged for Mika to have a full valet to prep her for being sold and also for the outside of Hattie to be washed and waxed next time we were up to help provide a good layer of protection going forwards.
With the swapover done, we were blessed with amazing weather over bank holiday weekend, so while we cleaned and sorted things out we did also manage to enjoy a few gin and tonics outside as well as get some walks in. We also caught up with both my brother and family who were on there way up to Manchester on Saturday, as well as James and Jack who came over to visit us for lunch on Monday.  The only downside that we found in the first couple of days is that the BBQ point for the gas has a different connector so we weren’t able to cook outside …..we did however manage to get some Bacon, Egg and Black Pudding butties in for lunch on Sunday…. lovely local produce!
E2DFC597-0CFF-4038-8017-42D85A137CF2
Thinking that we were going to switch motorhomes, we had run the freezer down on the journey back from Spain.  Therefore we have taken advantage of trying everything out in Hattie cooking up a storm over the last week or so – Chicken Cassoulet, Chilli Con Carne, Quiche …. a little burnt at the top of the pastry (my fault for talking on the phone too long), rolls, Fajitas (home made of course), Mushroom and Spinach Risotto, Kedgeree, Lasagne, Apricot Crumble, Lentil Chilli… the list goes on!  Needless to say we can confirm that everything works really well.
The oven is hotter than the previous one so we just need to be careful with the temperature …. but it cooks well. The oven is also slightly narrower than the last one so cooking 8 rolls at a time was a little cosy the first time round and they came out like one large loaf.  We have now found a new tray with holes in the bottom removing the need to turn them over for the last three minutes which appears to do an excellent bake!
We have both driven Hattie a couple of times and although she is very different to drive than Mika (Automatic vs Manual), she does drive well. We just need to get used to leaving a little more time for braking and acceleration, going slower round corners and holding on tight when passing a large truck as she is that much taller as well so you do notice the wind quite a bit.
After a fantastic weekend we left Melbourne last Tuesday to go back to the farm in Windsor to catch up with family.  Keith met the new cows getting a good licking each time he went to clean out the waste but thankfully we didn’t sink into the field.
We took advantage of having the car and did a big shop and filled up some of our storage areas …. the wine potential is amazing!  Now all we need to do is find a weigh bridge as it would be good to know how much we weigh laden before we have any additional work done.
We spent five nights at the farm without any electricity which pushed us to the limits on the current batteries, if we had been watching TV or spending more time in the motorhome we possibly would have only lasted four which does restrict us currently. We don’t have solar panels at the moment so are currently a little less self sufficient than we would like but have booked Hattie in to get Solar panels added (along with some other bits) in the middle of June… so we have a little while to get used to her and play around – but so far, ten nights in and we are very happy.
Yesterday however, was a very sad day as we said good bye to Mika who we hope will go to a lovely new home and that the new owners will enjoy spending time in her as much as we have but it gives us a fresh start to begin the next chapter of our lives with Hattie.