To Skye and beyond…… 8/5/17

After a hilly run (me) and lots of strange looks (Keith, whilst doing his exercises) we set off on our way further into sunny Scotland. I don’t like to be critical,  but it was a bit of a ‘caravan’ site and you could almost see the neighbours looking on and complaining about us doing press ups….. obviously too noisily!! – just didn’t quite have that ‘lovely’ feeling that so many of the other places we have stopped in have had.

Not having booked or planned much for this trip, we did a last minute bit of calling ahead and found that the beautiful campsite that we had earmarked for a couple of nights and a mass laundry session was full …. 120 places at the beginning of May???? not by midges, but possibly worse…. a six day motorcross event, so with only a couple of pairs of knickers (being a boy, Keith had plenty of boxers!) left we set off towards Fort William in search of a launderette.

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En-route we stopped briefly at the top end of Loch Lomand for lunch and whilst I was playing chicken with artic trucks, Keith found another campsite which looked fairly interesting a little further north so we pushed on.  Despite some of the roads being a little on the narrow side, the journey was beautiful going from almost lunar landscape potted with small lochs, to a yellow/green water colour valley glancing up at snow capped mountains and then finally thick pine forest … not bad at all.

We finally arrived at the Faichemard Farm campsite (Faichemard Farm, Invergarry, Inverness-shire, PH35 4HG £16 +£2.50 if you want Electricity)  by following a windy road up into an opening in the forest – a stunningly tranquil location for us to hang out our washing and have our first Bar B Q of the year!!

The following morning the sun was shining and there were bright blue skies so we managed to get two large loads of washing done and do two very different but lovely walks, one through the moon-like landscape finally arriving at a loch, the other with a fierce, fast running river through a dense forest.

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On Friday morning we woke with bright blue skies again (although a chill in the air) and we both set off in different directions for a run. I think Keith thought that his was going to be slightly less hilly than mine but it turned out that he got the short straw….. trail, shuttles due to gates AND more ascent/descent …. at least mine was mostly on tarmac and slightly less wearing!

Showered and breakfasted and ready to take on the day, we set off to Skye, working our way round several Lochs before we parked up at Sligachan Camping (£15 for two people + £5 if you want Electricity which we didn’t), which is just at the bottom of Spurr nan Gillean. (A nice sized peak in case your were wondering!). It is a basic site with fantastic showers and friendly wardens owned by the hotel/brewery/pub/restaurant just across the road.

As the field around started to get covered in tents, we set off for a little stroll towards the fairy pools. We didn’t quite make it as we realised that it was further than we thought but had a lovely 3hr walk and certainly had all the cobwebs blown away!

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With dinner prepped and rolls on their second prove we popped over to the pub to sample some local produce …. gin and beer! …..Thank you James – great suggestion!!

The following morning, after a wind swept set of exercises amongst fellow campers looking on like we had actually gone mad we set off up Spurr nan Gillean for a little stroll.

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The first part was pretty easy but unfortunately the last 25% was more bouldering than walking and the last 5% of which was a scramble on steep scree …. not much fun when you are quite a long way up. Needless to say halfway up this last part of scree we gave up, ate our sandwiches with a beautiful view and started the slow descent back down to enjoy the rest of the evening watching the sun go down and the light changing on the hills around us.

We woke to a slightly different picture on Sunday, unable to view the top half of the Spurr nan Gillean as it was covered in cloud. The skies were blue but the winds were high and we felt quite glad we did the walk the day before rather than Sunday.

After breakfast we set off on a road trip round Skye, passing through Dunvegan to take a quick peak at the Clan Macleod castle before passing round the northern coastal road to arrive at Staffin where we would stop for the night (Staffin Camping, Staffin, IV51 9JX £16 without Electricity).

If you didn’t know it, you could mistake Staffin for a little Cornish bay as it is very similar with beautiful crashing waves on a rocky coastline. We set off for a walk from the campsite over the cliff and down onto the seafront which was hard work to say the least as the gusts of wind must have been 40+mph but worth the views despite being a little too misty to take any decent photos.

As the evening went on the winds got stronger…… we were going to be in for a long one.

This morning thankfully most of the winds had died down leaving it pretty tranquil by 10:30 when we were ready for the off. So, with blue skies and rolling rocky hills/mountains water coloured into the backdrop we weaved our way along the road to make our way back to the mainland, smiling briefly as we passed a local farmer in search of any mischievous sheep escapees to put in the back of his track and return to the field.

We passed through Portree which is a beautifully picturesque town in a bay and promised that we would be back again to explore Skye further, next time armed with OS maps so we can do some more walking!

Back on the mainland we started the trip around the coast along what is now called the NC500….supposedly now one of the most beautiful drives in the world. We wiggled our way up the coast through the narrow roads to arrive at Shieldaig our little wild camping spot (GPS +57,525209 -5,648208) for the night looking out over a beautiful bay.

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Oh, and just in case….. I have been updating the map in case you were wondering where we were.  Just go and have a look at the map

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Scotland here we come….. 2/5/17

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After spending 16 nights in Holyport and having our lovely cute cows traded in for some rather large bullocks we have moved on and are winding our way Northwards.

Our first stop was just outside Burton upon Trent (Cross Farm CL, Rolleston-onDove, Burton upon Trent – £12 per night) to meet Kevin, Petra and Molly (the dog) for a couple of nights and a catch up. To celebrate the event I even made the ‘posh’ brownies for the first time with the whole Valrhona suite ….Valrhona Chocolate, Valrhona Cocao powder and Valrhona choc chips….. which helped bring out the memories of this time last year when we were in Tain D’hermitage eating lots of Valrhona chocolate whilst fruit picking!!

On Friday morning after a nice run and a cuppa with Kevin and Petra, we finally set off for Chester just before mid-day. Although we have had Mika out of storage for over three weeks this was my first time back in the saddle as Keith had done all the driving until now. He gave me a nice easy run though … 100 miles on dual carriageway with only a few trees to weave in between to park up on our new field – or perhaps better described as an apple orchard – for the next four nights (Heathfield CL, Guilden Sutton, £6 per night). Oddly, despite it being a bank holiday weekend we were the only ones at the farm …. unless you count the rabbits as they were plentiful.

The farm was roughly 3 miles outside Chester close to a Greenway cycle path, so we ventured in for a wander on Saturday, walking the city wall which is roughly 2 miles in circumference, admiring the beautiful Tudor buildings and double layered shops and generally taking in the atmosphere – a pleasant market town.

After a pretty breezy night as the winds had started to get up, we walked back in to Chester on Sunday and took the train over to Liverpool.

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I had been really looking forward to Liverpool but was a little disappointed as although they have done a lot with the docks and shopping area and they are pretty impressive, it didn’t really promote ‘culture’ to me and was a little lacking in Architecture and historical buildings…..I am just getting picky in my old age, it’s all a personal preference though and I would have no hesitation about recommending it for shopping or a night out on the town as I am sure it would hit the mark! We headed back to Chester early in the afternoon as we didn’t fancy doing any shopping and snuck into a local pub to sit quietly whilst watching Everton play Chelsea….. I did have to tell Keith to punch the air more quietly when the goals were scored!

Not wanting to get caught up in the Bank holiday traffic, after American pancakes for breakfast, we decided to jump on the bikes and go visit a farm shop that Keith had found not too far off the greenway. So, 12 miles, a sore bum, a bit of rain and a couple of hills later we arrived, locked up the bikes and found the coffee shop. Salivating at the full welsh breakfast – yes, we had crossed the border – that was being served up around us, we decided to drink up and get a move on round the farm shop before we started to trade in our lovely home made sandwiches!!

Rather cunningly they had cooked up sausages by the butchers counter to tempt us, so having tried all four of them at least twice we settled on buying some for a bar b q, (well, the weather forecast looks hopeful, despite us heading for Scotland) as well as some other bits and bobs for dinner later this week. Finally, forty five minutes later and with heavy ruck sacks, we made it back out into the garden where the sun was shining to eat our sandwiches along with a lovely black pudding scotch egg which we found looking a bit lonely on the deli counter.

We said goodbye to the farmer and his bunnies and ventured further North today, crossing over the border into Scotland to find a CL with a dairy which makes ice-cream (Cathrine House, Maucheline, West Templeton £11). The sun shone all the way for us but the cafe was just closing up when we got here and oddly neither of us were tempted by the ice-cream …. which must say something.

The forecast is still good for the next few days, so lets hope it stays that way as we head further North to Oban tomorrow……

Getting to know the locals….. 16th April 2017

 

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Over one week in …. where does the time go? It feels like yesterday when we were living in Mika last and not over six months ago. It is hard to believe that you can adapt to a small space so quickly but the bed is so comfortable and dare I say it, she has everything we need in a sleekly, refined form! The quick adaptation has probably been helped along by the beautiful weather over last weekend and the fact that we have only actually cooked dinner at home three times in ten nights…. well, we don’t want to shock Mika’s system too quickly!!

We have got back into routine quite quickly though, baking bread, making muesli, flapjack, doing our exercise outside in the mornings ….. and we even had crepes with fresh strawberries this morning ….. happy days!

Nothing has changed though as we still get odd looks and a few smiles and comments as people walk by whilst we are doing the odd Burpee!

Last weekend in Bath was great, not only did we manage to catch the sun (we have missed the additional vitamin D we had been getting in Spain), we also caught up with lots of people, eating and drinking lots of great food, beer and wine…. you still can’t beat the Eastern Eye in Bath for a Curry.

Back in Holyport and we are back in our field and our friends are back too….

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We reckon they are about 12 months old and they are very cute, I can say that as I don’t have to go into the field to empty the toilet and grey water whilst they are playfully having a tête a tête ….. Keith see’s them slightly differently, especially when they take an interest in what he is doing, although the more comfortable they are the closer they appear to be getting and over the last few days they have apparently been giving him a good licking….. I think I will just admire from a distance!

It has definitely cooled down a little this week but it is still dry so we are enjoying walking in and around Maidenhead and Windsor a little more and trying out some local pubs.

Back on the road …… 8th April 2017

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Having taken the decision to spend the winter in the UK to be closer to family we also moved into a flat worried what the winter mornings in a muddy field without electricity would do to our exercise routine…..and possibly also our marriage!

It has been an interesting few months as we had more space than we knew what to do with but oddly found the kitchen a bit small – despite the fact that it was probably four times the size of the one in the motorhome! – possibly something to do with the fact that we like entertaining and simply have too much stuff !

So, having made the most of all those lovely desserts that you need a real oven for and made the most out of eating as many baked potatoes as possible – seriously, it is not worth waiting two hours for one in the motorhome – we are back with Mika and even more surprisingly the sun is shining for us.

We picked her up on Thursday and apart from needing a good clean (inside and out) she started ok, strong German lass, and she has fared the winter in storage pretty well….. all Keith needs to do now is go through the cupboards and move everything that I have put in the wrong place before we set off again on Monday!!

As most of you are used to the fact that the only thing in our lives that is consistent is the amount of times our plans change.  So, just to update you, for now we are staying in the UK for the summer and planning to venture up to Scotland and out West to Wales over the next few months to discover a little more of our own beautiful country before we go further afield again.

So watch this space for updates and photos of a sparkly clean Mika….. when I find some time to get up on the roof.

All good things come to an end ….. Temporarily – 17/8/16

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Well despite everyone’s comments about poor weather – we are still in the UK, the sun is still shining AND it is school summer holidays….. unheard of when I was younger 🙂

We are back at the farm having disappeared off to Bath for a couple of days to see friends (and the big sunflowers at the bottom of Clare and Jools’ garden).  Obviously someone was looking down on us as we even spent the Saturday in the park with footballs, frisbee so and picnics and there was barely a cloud in sight….the rain held off until the Sunday morning when we were perfectly happy to take it easy.

We have got to know the calves in the neighbouring field a little better, anyone would think they are pets as they are very curious and really like people – although I have a feeling that the first lot were shipped to the abattoir a couple of weeks ago and it can’t be long until these ones go unfortunately.

Obviously as we were starting to twitch after stopping the apricot picking we have fallen on our feet with the early blackberries and have been a bit over zealous with the quantities, although neither of us reckon you can ever have too much Apple and Blackberry crumble 🙂

It is however with regret that this is going to be the last blog for a while. We have decided to temporarily move into an apartment to be close to family for a bit and will hopefully continue our adventures in Spring.

So, watch this space …. We will be back soon 🙂

Back on British Soil… 31/7/16

Despite believing that life would get back to normal following the Apricots, we have hit a hitch and have had to come back to the the UK, but we are slowly coming to terms with the fact that normality in ‘Gail and Keith’ world is actually a bit random which shouldn’t really surprise anyone who knows us!

But back to where we were as it has been a couple of weeks….after a day on the bikes on the Sunday, we set off on Monday to walk through the San Joseph vinyards which are spread across the hills above the West Bank of the Rhone – beautiful.

Tuesday was our last day in Tain L’hermitage and we ended up spending it cleaning and cooking ….. A bit of a chocolate fest with double chocolate chip muffins for the evening and some of the extra special brownies which were a present for Florian and Josette.

The evening was a joint celebration as it was Florian’s 21st birthday the day before in addition to the end of season meal and therefore we got a bit of an insight into how young farmers celebrate their birthday in France …. The first present from his friends was a box with two holes in the top which toppled off of Florian’s lap onto the floor. Once picked up and finally opened inside was a baby lop eared rabbit …very cute. The dogs went mad but things started to calm down after about 15 minutes until the friends went back outside and came back in with a 6 month (fully grown) lamb. The poor things was petrified and not surprisingly didn’t want to stay for the meal and tried to make off in every direction to get away from the dogs howling. All settled down however when Florian and his friends managed to get it down into a field below the house enabling us to tuck into an enormous paella which was washed down with copious amounts of wine.

The evening ended with several people (including the birthday boy) being thrown into the swimming pool … Very glad that we didn’t need to get up at 5am the next day 🙂

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Rather lazily we got up at 8am-ish, went for a run and packed up the Motorhome to start the route north. We did just over 250km, arriving at Beaune which we thought we hadn’t been to before, but on arrival (and seeing the amazing rooftops), remembered we stopped here for a quick walk after visiting Dijon a couple of years ago. Not a problem though as there is so much walking and cycling to do from here which we didn’t touch on last time, so, we headed for the campsite (Camping Municipal les Cent Vignes GPS n47,03276 e4,83906, 20 euros a night) which was pretty full and very warm. The whole area was heaving with holiday makers but luckily we got one of the last spaces which was home for the next three nights.

On Thursday we set off on the bikes, weaving our way through the vineyards and the surrounding villages which were beautiful.

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However on Friday the weather broke and from about 10am in the morning the skies opened and we had a huge storm …. It did cool the air a little though.

Unfortunately it was on Friday that we received news that made us quick foot it back to the UK. As many of you know, my father has been fighting that nasty disease that appears to be appearing in many of our lives, successfully getting through lung cancer two years ago and last year fighting off what had transferred itself into brain tumours. Unfortunately, it is back and the tumours are growing again so we are now back in the UK.

It was a quick journey as we covered most of the ground last Saturday, stopping at an Aire in Hondschoote (Free GPS n50,97591 e 2,5876) before a ferry back on Sunday morning.

We are now staying on a farm half way between Windsor and Maidenhead in a very tranquil field with cows as our only neighbours …. Keith is a little apprehensive each time he has to go and empty the toilet and grey water as he has to go into their field and they appear to want to be closer friends than he wants …. Perhaps over time this relationship may blossom, I however am fairly happy that he empties the grey water and the toilet 🙂

RAS…better known as Repetitive Apricot Syndrome -17/7/16

I am not sure whether it is the slight twist of the wrist as we pick the apricot, or the slight twist as I have been parting the lush Apricots in two to de-stone them before quickly disposing of them in my mouth …. but one has definately caused a bit of a strain – probably a good thing therefore, not only for my wrist, but possibly for our teeth, that it has all come to an end.

After eight weeks of mostly 5am starts, ladder climbing, scrapes and bruises on every part of exposed skin (those Apricots are heavy buggers when they fall on you) and aches and pains from bending down, our life may just start to get back to normal this week…. Normal in our world anyway, as I appreciate for most of you we are a little odd anyway 🙂

We have done our best to eat our weight in Apricots and Cherries, have experimented in cake baking for the team – since our last blog teh portfolio has expanded to incorporate enhanced Raspberry and Chocolate Muffins, Apricot Muffins, Fruit Cake (in muffin tins – can you tell that it is a newly acquired piece of kit 🙂 ) and Brownies made with Apricots – and have had our eyes opened to the work involved in maintaining a fruit farm and vineyard as well as the horrifiying price pressure that farmers have nowadays.  A large quantity of the Apricots we picked were sold to the industry at just 15 centimes a kilo – just about about breaking even on their costs, without taking into consideration anything for their time and labour, we just have to hope for their sake that the vine will provide a bumper crop and a good price this year.

It has been good and despite the physical hard work and the early mornings it has definately been worth coming here and we have made some new friends along the way.

The last couple of weeks have been mainly working, with hours increasing to the afternoon as well in the last week and a half, leaving little time for much else other than eating, oh errr…. watching the football and a little sleeping.  However, as many of you will know – for the wrong reasons unfortunately – last Thursday (14th) was Bastille Day, a national holiday in France.  After a morning run (and some long awaited Crepes with some of the delicious Apricot Jam Teresa made last week ) we set off on the bikes along the Rhone to the North, arriving at Sarras after roughly 20km just as the skies opened.  Thankfully as we had battled against the wind on the way there we managed to get ahead of the clouds on the way back with a whole 15 minutes to spare before the rain caught up…. Just about enough time to load up on a Apricot Brownie and a cup of tea 🙂

In the evening, like most of the French population, we went to the local fireworks display which was on the bridge just under a kilometre from here and it was pretty good – it even had a display where the fireworks formed the shape of hearts.  It is just incredibly sad to think about all the people who were killed in Nice following their celebrations as it could have been in any town in France that night – there are some very unfortunate people in this world who believe that inflicting harm on others will make life better for themselves or their families, why – we will never know.  All we can do is hope that sometime soon things will change.

On a brighter note as today is officially our first day of ‘holidays’, after a morning run,  we headed off into the Ardeche hills on the bikes following the Doux river which was beautiful.

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As we have a little time to ourselves now, we plan to stay in Tain de L’hermitage for another couple of days to explore the area a bit more before heading north … Hopefully resuming the blog to normal frequency from now 🙂