Been busy making a rucksack ready for the next season in Rosie. Busy making plans.
Making a patchwork quilt is something I’ve wanted to make since I was a teenager, inspired by all things Laura Ashley and Holly Hobby in the seventies. I made a slow start cutting out hexagons in paper then using these as templates on the fabric. It still sits in the loft somewhere, the size of a cushion.
In retirement I’ve achieved what I set out to do which was get sewing again and with the support of Marion at Love, Heart, Home I’ve regained my confidence, picked up some great ideas and disciplined myself through attending classes to complete several projects posted in Pinterest
I love attending classes, meeting like-minded crafters and being a social sewing bee. As a result I have a few quilts and quillows under my belt.
The theme is trees and although each section has a base determined by Marion, we all have got to get creative with our fabrics and our embellishments.
So here’s the first of my blogs in a year in the life of a tree quilt.
The first decision was the fabrics. I’d already bought some to make myself another Quillow so it was a no brainier really – there had to be some duck egg blue in there!
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Riding on the high of an exciting weekend in Spa we travelled on through the countryside to Luxembourg, the third country in our Benelux trip. Our base this time couldn’t be more different. We are sited on a campsite, Camping Martbusch, at the top of the Mullerthal Trail in a town called Berdorf, in an area known as Little Switzerland. It’s not mountains and snow capped Alps, it’s a rocky ridge that runs along the border with Germany popular with walkers and climbers. And just as we found in the Netherlands paths and trails are very clearly marked.
We explored the town to get our bearings before cooking ourselves another meal on our newly acquired camping stove. We bought it so that we can cook outside instead of having cooking smells in the van while we sleep. Makes you hungry in the night. We also have this ingenious metal plate that can sit on top of the camping stove and it becomes a BBQ grill. Works an absolute treat for Dubbers now he knows exactly where to balance his sausages.
On that first evening we didn’t realise how closely we had camped to the Mullerthal Trail and how significant a trail it was. We spent a lot of the day exploring and it is stunning.
Another home cooked meal and a local beer at the nearby snack bar and we were ready for our next day trip into Luxembourg City. Public transport systems on the continent never cease to amaze me. They are cheap and efficient. A €4 ticket meant we could ride the buses, trams and trains all day. We took the bus option for a 45 minute journey into the city, travelling through beautiful countryside and villages.
We went into the Notre Dame cathedral and the underground museum, carved into the rock which was really interesting. Then it was back to Rosie, out for a wonderful meal at a local restaurant, before watching the sunset from the Mullerthal.
Our final day was spent doing a town walk in Echternach, probably the largest town in the area with its lovely buildings and medieval walls.
This part of the trip has been a real contrast to the flat landscape of Holland. And Rosie has managed the climb no problem. Favourite thing – Flammkucken and the sunsets. Now for the last stage of our trip.
You’ll guess quite quickly that by Spa weekend I don’t mean a jacuzzi and a back massage but actually that the second stage of our trip was to Spa Francochamps in Belgium for the Fomula One Grand Prix. I apologise up front for the fact that I’m as excited by this as waking up Christmas morning to see if Santa has been. 😃🎉🏎
We’ve met up again with our friends Sue and Keith and their van Betsie, and set up our camp at the L’Eau Rouge campsite. We are tucked in together, along with half of the Netherlands who support Max Verstappen, who are obviously professional Spa attendees with their mini villages, one of which includes cinema size TV screen, full bar and disco plus a pizza oven! You had to see it to believe it. So we just poured a wine (although Dubber managed to spill most of the red!) and joined in, listening to the boom boom of the bass being played around the campsite. But true to their considerate nature they all turned the music down at 11pm and off at midnight. Time for bed.
We had seasoned Spa attendees next to us who gave us good advice about how to get the best out of the weekend. Dad and son of this Dutch family were going to the circuit whilst daughter and mum were just going to enjoy the sunshine on the campsite with their very big dog. They proved a Godsend though as before hubby could go to the circuit each day he got sent to the local shop for supplies not only for them but also for Keith and Sue who needed supplies.
On Friday after eating fresh croissants fetched from the bread lady who arrived early each day, we went up the hill to get the shuttle bus to the circuit 2km away. We queued for a brief time through security but you could already sense the party atmosphere was building and then it started……that beautiful sound of racing cars – Practice 1 was underway. I can’t tell you how excited I was. I had butterflies in my stomach, was wide eyed and grinning like a Cheshire Cat. So by the time we got into the circuit and can see the track I was almost hyperventilating.
It was incredibly hot about 32 degrees and rising which is unusual for the Spa weekend which is often wet. But today there was not a cloud in the sky. We managed to find ourselves a great spot near corner 10 Pouchon where we could sit on the hill or get cover in the forest. This became our spot over the whole weekend again amongst mostly Dutch fans who were so jovial and friendly. But must bring chairs tomorrow. Along with GP2 and 3 and Porsche qualifying it was a great first day. All we needed was to get back, chill with a glass of wine with a promise of a BBQ from Sue and Keith which included sausages…..but then didn’t because Sue didn’t buy any. The chicken was good though, Sue.
Up early Saturday we repeated the exercise of fresh croissants, shuttle bus and queue and got a spot with our chairs at the top of the bank to corner 10 as well as having blankets in the forest. We claimed our land! Third practice and qualifying was undertaken in 36 degrees and we resorted to sharing an umbrella, although Sue made a nifty hat out of a box. Didn’t catch on though. Must remember binoculars tomorrow. We will get it sorted by Sunday.
So Sunday Sue got up at 5.30 to fetch bread. We thought we were all doing really well getting up to get the first shuttle bus at 7.30 but in fact the other half of Holland had arrived on 50 coaches so we queued for a greater amount of time and when we got to our spot we found there was hardly any room at the inn. Perched a third of the way up the bank we then sat like lemmings on the edge of a cliff for the rest of the day. Actually it wasn’t so bad. Again we had great people around us mostly British in amongst the sea of orange which included a stag party from Derby, and it was okay as long as you didn’t move. Numb bums all round.
The race itself was AMAZING! Usually at home in the two hours of the race you have time to put the kettle on and perhaps have a Sunday afternoon nap without really missing anything because you can always rewind. I tell you this race was over and done with in a flash. It was so exciting, powerful, dynamic, sensational, noisy, enthralling, energising and just brilliant that you hardly had time to take it all in as the cars sped by. So many exciting things to keep track of on the big screen of what was happening elsewhere on the circuit and then watching them come down the straight to corner 10. We loved every minute of it.
And then at the end we had the joy of being able to walk on the track so we headed for Eau Rouge and arrived at the Mercedes garage just as Nico Rosberg who won the race appeared in front of us with the cup through the pit wall fencing. What a special moment when he looked straight at my camera. We continued along the track picking up bits of tyre which was melting onto the track and headed back to the campsite for the final evening.