Rosie’s trip with the dragon

We really needed this weekend away in Rosie.  We’ve been so busy and struggling with life lately that we needed to slow down and take it easy.  That’s what having a camper van means to us; that’s what makes the difference.  So we packed up and set off on what was quite a lengthy drive through sunshine and rain to Pembrokeshire.

Our campsite Celtic Camping is near Abereiddy in the parish of St David’s.  It’s set above the cliffs by the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, is on National Trust land and has extensive facilities including a bunkhouse, several fields for camping and a very laid back feel.  We opt for the hook up field and pick our spot facing the sea. The views are fantastic, so tried to photograph a panoramic picture.


It’s an opportunity to properly use our new awning and light.  Now the old awning had Dubber in a frenzy every time we put it up. It wasnt complicated but add a breeze and a twisted guy rope and you can get your knickers in a twist very quickly.  Usually meant it was my time to put the kettle on and make a cuppa.


But with our new Kampa ‘inflatable’ (ooh!) awning it’s so much easier.  There’s a blue pump thing that Dubber uses to inflate two beams and the cross beam and then it’s up essentially. It’s lovely and light and stays quite cosy even when the evenings get cool.  It’s become our sitting room for when we’re camping but also has an inner tent providing another bedroom if others come to stay (see my next blog).

And then there’s always a place for a bit of decoration.


So we are settled quite quickly and have time to lazily watch the view, cook ourselves dinner and have a glass of wine or two ..and a gin.

There was overnight rain but we stayed nice and dry and after breakfast headed out to walk the Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk.  The scenery is stunning, with rocky cliffs and sandy bays, waterfalls and a blue lagoon where crazy people go coasteering.  Yes it was new to me too.  Young people wearing wet suits and helmets jump off cliffs and then climb back up them for pleasure.  Crazy.


Anyway we have a lovely walk to Abereiddy, a small village where the coasteerers set off from.  There doesn’t appear to be much there other than a well equipped food van on the car park. We will come back to that.  We continue on to the next village Porthgain where we know there is a pub. After a couple of sharp showers the sun is out and we take off waterproofs and bare our arms on what turns out to be a beautiful day.  This time of year is great for walking because there is so much wildflower around the edges of the path.  I’m sure that we are doing so much more to preserve our countryside and flowers are returning that we haven’t seen in a number of years.  This is National Trust land and they do a great job at preserving land so that we can enjoy it.


We arrive in time for lunch at Porthgain, a small village but obviously well visited by tourists with gift shops and a gallery, a restaurant and a pub, The Sloop Inn. There is a lovely little harbour and the tide is out. A man and his dog are digging for something in the muddy sand.  There is a strange building clinging to the cliffs that is almost fortress like and on researching it, it is a relic of slate quarrying days.  The slate used to come via a tramway, to be worked on here before being shipped out.  For a time when the slate mines closed it became a brick factory and later for crushing road stone.  Along with the large brick hoppers it is now an important national monument.


Dubber’s choice of a national monument would be this:


We make short work of walking back.  Dubber is perturbed that I’m on my second wind as I’m racing ahead, but to be honest I need the loo! It’s the beer my dear.

We unhitched Rosie from the awning and headed out to St Davids.  It’s the closest town or is that city as it has a cathedral. It has an impressive cathedral and remains of the Bishops Palace.  There are quaint shops and a supermarket; we have a list of things we forgot to bring.  Need to have a list permanently in the food box to check before we come.


We people watch as we had lunch but this visitor caused a distraction because it was feeling a bit peckish!


We sampled the local beer too.

Back at the van we make dinner and sit out in the evening sun to wait for the sunset.  Unfortunately the clouds moved in so it wasn’t as spectacular as we thought, but we are happy just to admire the view before the Skipbo challenge starts.

Another day and a trip out in the van today.  We are heading to Tenby.  It’s one of those places everyone except me has been to.  Even Dubber tells me he came here as a child.  First impressions are very good.  It’s an upmarket holiday destination.  No kiss me quick hats, more fancy gift shops, wine and coffee bars.  Inside the town walls there is a lovely feel to the town. We wander the shops and have a spot of lunch whilst people watching before we have a shower of rain.  We walk to look over the beach and make a visit to the Lifeboat, and next door was the old lifeboat station that became a home on Grand Designs.  A bit public!


We sat and enjoyed the sunshine a while longer then headed back to our campsite for dinner, this time experiencing a fantastic sunset.  How beautiful this world is.


After another killing at Skipbo, Dubber really does get fed up with me winning, we bunker down for the night and the next day we pack up quite swiftly – another asset of the new awning, it deflates really easily.

We say goodbye to the sea and make our way back towards Cardiff. We are stopping off near Cowbridge with friends Bev and Dick and enjoy a beautiful lunch in their garden.  There’s nothing better than relaxing in someone’s beautiful garden and enjoying lunch with lovely people.

So the awning was a real success.  I have another good win at Skipbo under my belt and at last I’ve visited Pembrokeshire, which was on my bucket list of places to visit in Rosie.  Another week and we are taking her out again.  Can’t wait.

Gorging ourselves on Cheddar

It’s good to be back on the road in Rosie.  Now you wouldn’t have heard me say that three years ago, but hey a girl can change her mind.  So we set off for an April Bank Holiday weekend in Somerset – love that accent.  Dubber has to make the transition from car to van so we race along the M42, changing up and down gears like there’s no tomorrow, until after about an hour he settles into her rhythm, and the drive becomes smooth again.

We are heading for Priddy in Somerset.  We’ve taken another giant step in our investment in Rosie and joined the Caravan and Camping Club, which essentially gives us better access to camping sites around the country.  We are staying at the Cheddar Mendip Heights campsite near Priddy.


We arrive at the campsite and immediately there’s a sense of this being a friendly and welcoming place.  The setting is lovely amongst the Mendip hills but also where we decide to camp is secluded and quiet…so much so that when our friends Sean and Claire arrive they can’t find us!

This is our first outing with our new awning, a Kampa Travelpod Action…Dubber is full of technical knowledge… It’s an inflatable awning to you and me.  It’s so much better than our previous awning because it goes up in 15 minutes rather than the frustrating hour accompanied by miscellaneous bad language from Dubber. He has no patience.  Anyway the awning is lovely and brings in a lot more light.


It’s not the only thing new on Rosie. She has her very own T25 Rosie sticker front and back.


We have just set up and our friends arrive.  We put the kettle on and share ( yes I said ‘share’) the Hobnobs.   I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before but a staple to our Rosie trips is Hobnobs. Chocolate ones of course.  What I have observed is that for every one that Dubber has I have about three.  What?!

So we have had our cuppa then we head off to the pub, the Queen Vic in Priddy for dinner.  A really nice traditional pub with excellent food. My goodness if you saw Sean’s pie – it was a wedge of meat.

Having said goodbye to our friends, who also have a camper called Verne but he’s off the road at the moment, (Look out for a Rosie and Verne adventure in the future) we settle ourselves in for the night.  Have missed the cosiness of sleeping in the van.  


After a great night’s sleep we decide to get out early for a walk through Cheddar Gorge.  The forecast is rain.  We park up in the Gorge and head to the Tourist Information Office for guidance on the walk.  After some simple instructions which included “There’s a bit of an incline as you begin” we crossed the road went through a gate and OMG that’s a cliff not an incline!

I’m not kidding it was practically straight up.  If we’d come prepared we would have had crampons!  Anyway we made our way straight up with a huff and a puff half way and after about 15 minutes having been overtaken by a dog, we got up onto the top and the plateau that is the top of one side of the gorge.  The views were fabulous and the weather was beautiful.


Now the good thing about going up is that you can go down, so after about 5 minutes we were back down on the road.  The walk we were following however covered both sides the gorge, so yes you’ve guessed it we had to climb again.  This time though the environment was more interesting and the view at the top was worth waiting for.  Walking back down we earned the double chocolate torte and hot chocolate overdose in a cafe, along with the cheddar cheese of course.


The rain came down as we head to the cathedral city of Wells.  It’s a beautiful cathedral and it was so calming to sit there in the peace.  A quaint town and worth the window shopping.  We spent the rest of the day back at the site and yes it did start to rain quite heavy, so Skipbo came out and I beat Dubber again, and again and again.

The next day we packed up and drove to the coast. Always good to see a bit of sea, our choice of place was Burnham-on-sea. Obviously we were slightly on the young side for most of the people we saw there but they had a good Clarks Outlet store.
Our aim was to get to Bleadon by lunchtime to hear our friend Unc aka Chief Engineer on the barge trip, playing with Chris Stinchcombe  at a village fete.  It was in full swing in blazing and I mean blazing sunshine.  A bit of tan initiation for everyone that day.  It seemed like a nice community and as we arrived the band had just finished playing and the Morris dancers were performing.  We got ourselves a local beer but there was no food left – it was only 1pm.  Constant throughout the fete was a Lady Commentator, obviously been trained by the WI with her pearls and twinset at some point.  She got very excited at introducing everything to everyone and saying how wonderful everything was especially the food – what food?


After the Morris dancers there were more dancers.  They called themselves Medieval but were dressed in Tudor clothes which I have to say in that heat must have been exhausting.  What followed was a bit of madrigal dancing and then everyone was asked to get involved in what can only be described as country dancing.  Not a medieval joust move in site.  Anyway after the Medieval, sorry Tudor, sorry mock Victorian dancers died from heat stroke in the corner at the bar which was by now running out of beer, our boys got up and played again before they were interrupted by the Lady Commentator mid-song to call out the winner on the raffle for the bike.


Joking aside, small village communities do a great job at entertaining themselves and visitors.  My own village of Hathern has a core group of people and organisations which do a fantastic job at putting on events.  Looking forward to taking Rosie down to the Wicked Hathern Festival again this year.  Come and join us August 11/12.

So the Rosie season has begun.  Have missed going away with you, Rosie.

New season adventures

We definitely have seasons for Rosie’s adventures. From November through to February we are busy doing other things and Rosie has a bit of work done on her to keep the old lady moving. A bit of respite care.

But the snowdrops are out, it’s half term and so it’s time for adventure!


Two munchkins love their days out in Rosie. Their excitement is catching.  We packed up lunch and headed for Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood.

After much whooping on the way there we arrive on a chilly but sunny day. These two are eager to get started.


The Museum of Childhood is fascinating particularly if you are a sixties child.  Lots of stuff from my childhood!  There’s really good areas about Victorian childhoods and the hands on experiences keep our two busy and interested. Scrub harder you two!


A bit of ironing


And washing


They didn’t like the idea of climbing chimneys.

After a couple of hours play we were back in Rosie for lunch – the best bit – they love picnicking in the van.


Back at the hall which is celebrating 50 years of being part of the National Trust, half term activities include Womble based activities (Wombles are 50 this year too). For those too young to know Wombles were little creatures who lived on Wimbledon Common in a TV series and picked up everyone else’s litter- the first recyclers on TV!

So we took our map and went in search for stuff that people left behind in amongst the landscaped gardens of the hall. 

There was all sorts of stuff hanging in trees. There was even a statue with sunglasses on!  It also gave us time for adventures in trees.

The expressions on their faces tell you what a great trip it was. Back in Rosie we travel home planning what we are going to do in her next. 

Mind the bridge!

As Rosie has the equivalent of a hip replacement (a bit of body work) and cosies up for the winter, we head off to Northamptonshire with our friends for a week on a 66 foot barge.  No problem I do camping; can’t be much different on a boat.

Our barge is the Rufus Castle and sleeps six.  We pick her up from Gayton Marina and begin our journey along the Grand Union Canal, heading for Nether Heyford, our first mooring.  For half the week there are five of us, with the Tiller Girl with us on the first day and then joining us mid-week.  The captain is a seasoned barger and known to us as Unc but on this trip as Chief Engineer which means he puts the engine on every morning, gleans his ‘gland’, clears the weed hatch and puts on the central heating so the rest of us don’t get cold and can use the hairdryer.  It’s civilised barging.


The First Mate also known as Gate Crasher, is a seasoned sailor (ooh-aargh) usually sailing the high seas off the south coast, looking for treasure …..or rather a pint of good beer at each watering hole.  We all help out in that endeavour this week and the girls make a good start!


Dubber has swapped his campervanning for his first steer on a barge as Cabin Boy.  As I found out too a barge takes longer to respond than shorter boats and there were a few connections with bridges and canal banks along the way.  


The route we take along the canal is beautiful.  The Autumn light is stunning on these unusually warm October days and the water as calm as a mill pond.  The reflections of the beautifully painted boats and the trees full of berries is glorious.

There’s plenty of wildlife too with moorhens, ducks, herons, a kingfisher or two and  Auntie, also a seasoned barger, is the Duck Spotter feeding this family of swans with its large brood of five signets.

When we moor at Nether Heyford we enjoy our first evening with beef casserole and the first of many crumbles. It’s a beautiful evening and we venture to the Olde Sun Inn with its friendly locals and excellent beer.  Then back to the barge for the first round in the Skipbo tournament. Yes we brought it along with us from the campervan. 

I’m responsible for writing the ship’s log so:

Day 1: 2 hours, six miles, no locks, Skipbo to Duck Spotter.

Day two finds us on our way at just after 9 with a bacon sarnie and a glorious sunny morning.  Quite early on we have seven locks and so us novices get instructions from Duck Spotter, who is very good at it.  It’s harder work than you think with your windlass in your  hand coiling up the paddles and then opening heavy lock gates.  


At Busby Top we went to the New Inn for a swift one before lunch on the boat before we travelled through a mile and a quarter of darkness in the Braunston Tunnel.  It’s really eerie travelling along with just a light shining in the front through pitch black, then seeing a light coming towards you as another boat squeezes by.  After another six locks we moor at Braunston to go for an evening stroll to the Wheatsheaf and then the Olde Plough for dinner.

Day 2: 7 hours, 11 miles, 13 locks, Skipbo to Duck Spotter again….

Another glorious day as we take the junction onto the Oxford Canal heading through 9 locks to Napton-on-the-hill and brunch served at two in the afternoon. Duck Spotter and I (General Dogsbody) gather blackberries for another crumble. The canal banks are abundant with hawthorn, sloes, rose hips, crab apples and blackberries.  The trees look like they are already celebrating Christmas with all their gaiety. 


We moor up at Fenny Compton enjoying a drink at the lovely Wharf Inn before home baked bread and casserole warming us from the chilly wind. Two good games of Skipbo; they are getting the gist of it now and then it’s off to bed…hold on who nearly fell in?  Now known as the First Mate’s arm incident.

Day 3: 8.5 hours, 14 miles, 9 locks, Skipbo – one to the First Mate and one to me.

Today our final destination is Cropredy so that the Tiller Girl can join us.  Early driving was through a beautiful narrow canal.


Until now locks had been double locks in which two boats can travel. Now they are single locks and generally but not always easier to deal with.  It’s international day today as we meet Australians and Germans. Besides meeting people the best thing about dealing with locks is having a lovely walk along the towpaths.  It’s so peaceful. 


And I managed a bit of driving too.

At Cropredy we shop for provisions and have a walk around this lovely village, Dubber’s choice because of its Fairport Convention connection.  We also turn round here before heading to The Brasenose pub for dinner and the Tiller Girl joins us.


Day 4: 5 hours, 7 miles, 9 locks, no Skipbo today.

We make a leisurely start after coffee in bed, breakfast and straight back into the locks.  They seem heavier today. We all have aching muscles. Some of the lock pools are really low so we have to be careful not to beach the boat. The day is spent meandering back up the beautiful canal to Fenny Compton where we fill up with water again and we have a drink too.  


We find a quiet spot to moor away from anyone else and have a splendid meal cooked by the captain with a crumble using the blackberries we picked. We were presented with an awesome sunset.


Day 5: 7.5 hours, 12 miles, 9 locks, and Chief Engineer wins two games of Skipbo.

We’re setting off early…..we didn’t!  It was a short journey before we had 9 locks and it got busier and busier as we approached Napton again.  This time we waited to get into The Folly Inn the landlord of which had the same surname as our First Mate.  This led to some witty chat about family likenesses and sharing of family details.  The food was amazing. We even managed a crew photo!


We are nearing the final stretch so we need to eat up the leftovers so it’s a tea of this and that after a couple of drinks back at The Olde Plough for early doors. Although somebody snuck in a bag of chips before we got back to the boat.

Day 6: 6.5 hours, 11 miles, 9 locks and Tiller Girl won a game of Skipbo.  So it’s just Dubber who hasn’t won yet. He’s bound to start moaning.
We have really got to get a move on today because we have to be about an hour away from Gayton marina tonight. So we are straight to it this morning and we did 13 locks and a tunnel with brunch in between.  It sounds as if we are rushing but you really can’t do this on a barge at 3mph. 

Alongside locks there are often interesting houses or old lock keeper cottages that are now either pubs or a canal shop. There are often lovely gardens and long stay canal boats of people who live and work on the canals. 


We moor at Bugbrooke and take a walk through yet another lovely village. A pint at the Five Bells before having a meal at The Wharf Inn. We make full use of the toilets there as ours are getting full on board and we don’t want to send out for an emergency pump out.  Cross your legs. No you can’t have another gin.  Oh alright then.  Just the one.  We play a final game of Skipbo and yay Dubber wins.

Day 7: 7 hours, 12 miles, 13 locks, one tunnel and joint winners at Skipbo Duck Spotter and the Chief Engineer.

The final morning we are away by 8am and travel back in sunshine to the marina.  By the time we arrive we have done 46 hours, 75 miles, 62 locks, and 8 games of Skipbo.  We have travelled through beautiful countryside, met lots of lovely people, eaten and drunk extremely well, walked miles, strengthened our core muscles with all that windlassing and pushing and pulling lock gates and been blessed with beautiful October sunshine with the best of friends.


And what did we learn?

Double locks are harder than single locks.

A pint of beer at lunchtime makes afternoon lock opening easier.

You meet lots of lovely people when you’re messing about in boats.

Dubber is still happier when he’s won a game of Skipbo.

Rosie’s European Adventure: Postscript

Finished my blogs and then realised that there were several significant omissions, so a postscript required.


I DO camp. This is a significant statement in my relationship with Rosie, but I have to say it is all down to her.  This summer’s adventure she did a fantastic job of getting us from home to Harwich, Hook of Holland to Amsterdam, on to Arnhem, then our fab weekend in Spa, onto Luxembourg, up to Utrecht and home.  A grand trek for two old ladies and Dubber ie me, Rosie and my husband.


The relationship has grown and there is a certain respect for this campervan which lets face it is getting on a bit.  This trip rather than any other we really feel that we enjoyed the indoors and outdoors experience. We were lucky with the weather so we could enjoy cooking and sitting outdoors especially in the evening which we couldn’t do on the Outer Hebrides trip last year.  And we even popped her top to cool her down especially in Spa where it was 35 degrees, but actually most evenings she was quite cool having kept the sun out of the vehicle most of the day.

The only problem we really had, well me until the last night was the bugs. We struggled to keep them out and I have been the food of choice most of the summer for any insect which needed to bite.  Having tried the citronella spray, lotion, Avon Skin so Soft and the hard stuff, nothing was really working. After several deaths by battering we thought we had got them all but woke on the last morning with one mosquito getting its own back with both of us covered in bites.  All ideas for future defence systems welcome.


The other thing on this trip which became clear is that male campervan owners fettle. Now I have checked this in the dictionary and there is a term for checking and getting ready known as fettling. Well park up a campervan, get yourselves settled in and most women I have observed relax and enjoy the experience reading, chatting with other campervan owners, and just enjoy the moment.  Men fettle.


There always seems to be something to be checking out, rubbing down, taking out, putting back, redoing, picking at, scratching ones head about, etc etc.  Dubber fettles. It might be he’s off to fetch water for the van but it becomes fettling as the water might be needed for something on the van.  The awning is standing up fine, but guys have to be checked and tent pegs redone; window trims are checked; paintwork wiped down………and then there was the reversing into a tree stump which cracked a rear light. That had to be fettled a few times even though we were nowhere near anywhere where we could fix it.


The term came into its on when we were at Spa with our friends to find that Keith fettles too.  And the as you walk around campsites you realise that it’s all that you can see. They are all at it.  Relax guys, you’re on holiday.

So lessons finally learnt this trip:

1 Men fettle

2 I Do camp

3 The battle lines are drawn between me and that damn bug

4 Dubber needs to practice card games more often – that’s all I’m going to say.

Rosie’s European Adventure Part 4: PROOST!

After a four hour drive from Luxembourg mostly behind large trucks we arrive at Boerderij Hazenveld.  A Boerderij is essentially a farm and there are many around in Holland that have great little campsites.  This one is about 10km from Utrecht and we did have plans to venture into Utrecht for a day but when we discovered what wonderful countryside was close by we hired bikes and spent two days touring.


Having set up camp we walked to the local village Kockengen to get supplies from the supermarket there.  We fell in love with the beautiful houses and little canals in the this lovely village.  


When we realised there was a market the next day we decided our first trip out on the bikes needed to be to Kockengen.  So we were up early and found a craft market which was fund raising for local organisations. There was all manner of stalls from food to knitwear to pottery to kids with blankets on the ground selling their unwanted toys.  What struck us was what a lovely community they have; smiles on everyone’s faces and everyone having fun.  We love the Dutch people.

We wanted to visit a castle nearby and the signs said 4km.  That’s one of the wonderful things in the Netherlands the cycle and walking trails are all signposted to a standard national scheme and the trails don’t always go alongside roads but venture across fields, through forests, across dykes and through beautiful villages.  And of course it’s all flat!  The one to Haarzuilens was across a field and brought us to our destination much more quickly than the 4km mentioned. Before the village stands a truly magnificent castle, almost a neighbour to the farm we were staying at.  De Haars Castle is on the site of a medieval castle and the footprint of the castle was used to build the magnificent building that is there today in the middle to late 19th Century.  It’s so photogenic.


And the interiors don’t disappoint either.

We then enjoyed a lovely dinner in Haarzuilens which finished the day off nicely, especially after we got in conversation with a Dutchman who complimented Dubber on his lovely wife!  At my age you take the compliment wherever it comes from!


Our final day was spent doing a longer cycle in slightly gusty weather. That’s the problem with the land being so flat.  We visited a town called Woerden, and enjoyed another Flammkucken.  


Then it was back to the campsite with the wind behind us for a final BBQ before packing for the morning.

This European trip has been wonderful and often unexpected. Our little campervan Rosie has got us to some beautiful places.  She’s driven lots of miles with ease and climbed hills in Luxembourg. She’s provided a comfy home at great campsites where we’ve met lots of lovely people.  And best of all she got us to Spa so we could tick the Grand Prix there off our bucket list.

So to finish off here’s the usual last words – I have learnt:

1 We loved Holland. We will be back.

2 I love Flammkucken.

3 The Netherlands really is that flat.

4 The Spa Formula 1 Grand Prix exceeds all expectations.

5 Rosie is a champion of a campervan. We couldn’t have done it without her.

PROOST!