A trip to get away for a couple of days in nice weather. We went to another Forestry Commission (Boswachter) campsite, this time in Oude-Willem, which is in the Drents-Friese Wold, on the border between Drenthe and Friesland. It is a large forest area with mixed terrain including downs as well as trees. The campsite is only small, with 24 places, not all with electricity.
We’d planned to leave on the Sunday, 17th July, but had not planned where to go so a quick internet check of likely places revealed Oude-Willem in an area we hadn’t visited for a long time, and when I tried to book a place there was one free with electricity so we confirmed, packed Ruby and off we went.
It’s only 156 Km away in a really nice area with small but lively towns like Diever and Appelscha; prosperous looking towns that were busy and clean looking.
The check-in worked perfectly and this chap and the boswachter’s wooden tables (for sale) welcomed us.
Having pre-booked, the site was allocated and was a good pitch in a small field with campers, tents and caravans all around the outside.
We had reserved our spot on the internet and had apparently just got in before the previous incumbent had tried to extend his stay in the same pitch. He therefore decided to take over the place of the caravan next door when they left, but they stayed until 19:00 in the evening so he went away somewhere to sit it out. There was quite a bit of changing of places by people during the stay as pitches that were reserved by internet were required whilst the current camper was still there. This is the power of the internet in practice.
We checked the campsite map for the walking trails and settled down in the sun to relax.
We had a whole chicken to cook on the Cobb, so we fired up and made use of the meat thermometer so we were sure it was cooked and relaxed with some wine and beer.
The chicken was excellent, and the weather was warm, which made a pleasant change from the last few weeks.
We could have smuggled one of these onto the Cobb, except it would never have fitted and would have taken ages to cook. These are some serious chickens.
We weren’t disturbed by the cock crowing in the morning and after the breakfast had gone down, we went for a walk around the forest. The weather was perfect, warm and sunny, and of course being either mad dogs or Englishmen, we had to get out into the midday sun.
The area has a number of memorials relating to the second world war, including resistance activities and crashed allied aircraft.
In the afternoon, it became hotter still, and so relaxation was the order of the day. I went for a bike ride through the woods and then into Diever, where it was their summer market day and was very busy. I went to the Coop to stock up on goodies and then back, for a total of 15 Km.
We cooked the rest of the chicken in the Cobb wok and then used the frying pan to cook tortillas and the total mix was a fantastic meal. The evening stayed warm and the night was very warm.
I went for an early morning walk through the forest and around the open dune area. Very nice and a pleasant temperature at that time.
We had a leisurely breakfast and sat around in the heat until around lunchtime and then packed up and left. We went back though Appelscha to look at the town, and then, for a while, along the Opsterlandsche Compagnonsvaart, being glad I don’t travel by boat.
Back in time for a Barbecue at home.
To Lage Vuursche for practice in camper manoeuvring for Barbara just in case, and in any case it’s good to do every now and again. We tried every combination of forwards and backwards and it was very useful for all concerned.
We set off around lunchtime having packed and prepared in a leisurely manner. We wanted to avoid the usual Antwerp traffic mess, and did, and debated whether to go for a campsite or a stopover at the Carrefour in Dunkirk. Eventually, we stayed at a campsite (‘t Nesthof, Sitecode: 42048) we’d looked up on the way down. Terrible weather, drizzly rain and wind and cold. Very friendly site; we cooked inside because of the rain, slept peacefully and had nice rolls for breakfast, ordered from the campsite.
The site had free-roaming chickens and huge Belgian Giant rabbits that were twice as big as the free-roaming cats.
One of the things we were worried about during the trip to the United Kingdom was the ability to dump grey water and from our survey of possible campsites for the trip we hadn’t seen many that advertised drive over dumps. I had bought a length of PVC 50mm flat piping and a clip to hold it onto the downpipe from the grey water tank, just in case we had to dump next to the camper rather than under it. Since there was no shower block at the site we had washed in the camper, and the tank was not empty to begin with, so we dumped grey water to be sure we started the UK with an empty tank.
Filled up with diesel, actually at the Carrefour because they have cheap diesel there and also to see what the stopover was like for future reference. Looked like a good usable stopover and the petrol is a lot cheaper than in England. The boat was fairly full as it was the end of the half term break in England and there were lots of people going home. Found comfortable seats and occasionally wandered round the boat and had a look at Ruby from above as she was parked at the back of the boat and there was going to be one of the first vehicles to leave the ship. We could have cleaned the roof better before the trip but it’s difficult to reach. The view from above showed up how far we could reach with the brushes. The first price shock: £13 for coffee and muffins on board.
This is the inevitable picture of the white cliffs as we approached Dover.
On landing we were quickly off. Travelled from Dover up the M2 to the M25 and the Dartmouth Crossing, which we’d already pre-booked and paid for. Usual chaos at the crossing which is a tunnel heading north with everything reduced to two lanes. They have streamlined the means of paying the fee but not the means of executing the crossing. Eventually we were through and round the M25 to the M11 in the direction of Cambridge.
A word from the IT Department. Our tools for looking for campsites were CamperContact, an Android app called Archies and various other Apps, for instance for the AA, ACSI and ANWB. Archies has loads of sites but no indication of facilities whereas the other apps have only a few sites. Archies does indicate if the site is a Certified Site (CS) or a Certified Location (CL). In the UK, they are very big on Camping Clubs and Caravanning Clubs and just about any club that can certify a site. It is never clear if a certified site is willing to accept non-members, and some sites have certified fields with restricted entry (and numbers) but accept members in other fields.
We had planned to try Stanford Caravan Park(in Burwell) near Wicken Fen so we could visit it the following day. The site owner met us on the way in and said that the field was waterlogged and although a camper space was free, and a camper had driven off, the owner didn’t know if he would come back so couldn’t give us the pitch. We looked at a couple of other sites that didn’t look promising and headed for the Seven Wives in St Ives and we camped in their car-park, with an electricity feed, and went for a drink in the pub.
The pub is named after an old nursery rhyme riddle, and the St Ives referenced is the one that used to be in Huntingdonshire, but is now in Cambridgeshire, where we were.
As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?
We went for a walk into the centre St Ives, with the idea of finding an ATM machine. It’s a nice walk to the centre, which does have a financial district with ATM Machines. There are lots of references to various historical intrigues along the way and it turns out that St Ives has a statue of Oliver Cromwell, who was born in Huntingdon and who rose to be the leader of the Roundheads’ New Model Army in the English Civil War (1641-52). After he died in 1658 he was disinterred by the Royalists and hung in chains and beheaded. That’s the way to be punished!
We cooked inside again and went for another drink later, after the live music had started. It was ridiculously loud in the pub room, and there was nowhere to sit without being blasted by the noise so we retired to the camper after a while. They had wifi so we set up RubyCon and were able to plan the destination for the next night. The car park was peaceful.
After breakfast (bacon and eggs) we packed up and set off with the peak district as a destination. We stopped off at Rutland Water for a quick walk along the shore of the lake.
We had listed a few campsites as possibles but ended up at Riddings Wood Caravan and Camping Park which was a busy site, because it was weekend and close to many large towns in the north, but a bit cheaper because it was just outside the peak district. Friendly reception and a reasonable pitch, if a bit sloping which wasn’t completely corrected by the levelling ramps.
We Cobbed some lamb cutlets and sat outside to enjoy a bit of nice weather while we were eating. We were able to dump the grey water on the way out as they had a drive over dump.
The next day was the end of the weekend and the whole campsite seemed to be packing up. We planned to go to either Hollingworth Lake or a site on Saddleworth Moor (Moorlands Caravan & Camping Park). We travelled through some of the moors on the way and stopped to admire the views.
We turned up to the Saddleworth Moor site and there was no-one there so rang the number provided and there was no answer, but a suggestion to send a text, which was also ignored. It’s a pity because, from the website, it looks like a site with a nice view. We went to Hollingworth Lake, where there was also no-one on duty, but they said park anywhere and they’d see us the next day. It was a good pitch and excellent weather so we Cobbed a steak and some vegetables. We have switched from normal charcoal briquettes on the Cobb to coconut blocks and we are still getting used to the coconuts. Hopefully there’ll be plenty of chance to do that.
Hollingworth Lake is a bike ride away from where I was raised and so it was common to go there for an afternoon. It’s changed since, but not that much and it’s still busy on a sunny Sunday.
We went for a walk to the Country Park and thrilled to the sound of the motorway on the raised Rakewood Viaduct above the valley. The viaduct wasn’t there when I was a lad, but was last time we went there as a family, years ago, camping in a trailer tent.
In the morning I went for an early morning walk around the lake before breakfast and we saw the very friendly site owners and paid.
We then set off for Flookburgh where we were meeting family. We had a good pitch on a large holiday camp-like site (Haven Lakeland) in the touring area which consisted mainly of campers and caravans who were staying for an extended period.
We’d pre-booked the campsite to make sure we got a place and although when we booked it seemed expensive, at €38 for two nights, it was in fact cheaper than most sites in the UK. The weather was blazingly hot. Did some walking around the site, exploring, and met the family which involved more walking with the kids, followed by pulled pork at their hired residential mobile home. The next day I took a 9Km early morning walk along the edge of the Morecambe Bay, still in nice weather.
After breakfast, we all went to the south end of Windermere, which is the National Trust Fell Foot property, and had a good walk round the site, and the meadow.
Went back to the camp and had fish and chips from the shop on the site. We all agreed to go and visit more relatives (Mandy and Emma) in Ambleside the following day after which we would then carry on to our next site, which wasn’t at that moment planned, lack of internet being the problem.
We arrived in Ambleside and met up in lovely weather and a fantastic view from Mandy’s deck.
As we sat in the garden it started to rain and after a while we set off to go and try the Great Langdales National Trust campsite. They had no Camper sites available but we could have parked on the side of their road. We decided to try somewhere else and as we returned to Ambleside it started to rain really heavily with thunder and lightning, and Ambleside quickly became flooded. We couldn’t get out in the direction of Keswick, where there are good sounding sites, because a car was stranded in a flooded road. We turned round and headed for Ullswater via Kirkstone Pass a 25%, narrow rollercoaster between Ambleside and Ullswater and had a couple of mirror clashes from cars/vans going in the other direction. No damage done. In Ullswater we went to the information office and found out they’d had very little rain. The owner was hoping that a bit of rain in Ambleside would be good for his garden, but when we described the weather he wondered whether he still had a garden. He went off to check and we went off to try some of the sites he listed. We couldn’t find the turning to one promising site, and ended up near to Brotherswater in a campsite with all facilities.
Sykeside was set in beautiful scenery, surrounded by the hills leading up to Kirkstone Pass. The facilities were very good and included a small shop we could use to stock up so we had sausages on the Cobb for dinner and sat out most of the evening watching the scenery change during the sunset. I got up early and had a walk round Brotherswater before breakfast (about 4Km) and came across a pair of swans with a very young cygnet. The cobb was very protective and hissed and threatened as I walked carefully past.
Another word from the IT Department. We had been reliant on smartphones for navigation and, for finding websites, a range of Apps (13!!) on my Android tablet, together with websites through the tablet and the laptops. For the laptops to work we either need wifi or a data connection through the smartphone. Since this was roaming data it was more expensive than in the Netherlands and so we didn’t choose that option very much. RubyCon has a possibility to act as a Mifi, a wifi access point through the mobile phone network, but it wasn’t working and the IT Department didn’t want to spend its holiday programming RubyCon.
The tablet was a key to our search for campsites, and it was at about this time that it chose to stop working. It would not boot and also would not reset, so we were searching for campsites using wifi where possible and through smartphones elsewhere. Luckily, there is a very good website at UKCampsite where we could easily search and find campsites and we used it a lot. Variation in data signal quality, and lack of wifi at sites was disappointing. After various attempts to reset the tablet I left it to completely drain its battery.
The destination for today was an as yet unspecified location somewhere in Wales but, after breaking camp (obviously much easier in a a camper), we went to Ullswater in search of the Aira Force, a National Trust waterfall. It’s a perfect stop-off early in the morning before the crowds gather.
We set off in the direction of North Wales, much of it on the motorway. We aimed at half way between Chester and Bangor, with a site at Rhuallt as a potential target. Rhuallt is impossible to say for normal humans; it sounds a lot like a sneeze. The Rhuallt Country Park specialises in 5th wheelers and had all facilities except a drive over dump. The sanitary facilities were the most luxurious I’ve seen at a campsite; a large metal shed with loads of space for all the facilities, spotlessly clean, heated to a ridiculous level, but very nice in the morning. There were no walks except along the country road next to the site; I even went for a bike ride to see if I could find a Public Footpath, without success. The site had wifi so we could make a rough plan for the following days, with the help of RubyCon.
Leaving Rhuallt, we headed for the Caernarvon area. We called in at an archaeological trail on the way and walked along a lakeside at Llyn Brenig with ancient burial mounds and dwellings. It started to rain after a while, which drove us back to the camper to continue the journey.
Not before we had caused panic in the local population, however.
We wanted to stop in Llanberis for a cup of tea and we first went to the Snowdon railway car park which, it turns out, has a standard fee if £14 (more than the book says, as is usual!) but is available as a night stop. The friendly attendant told where we could park for less and we went there for our tea but a coach party arrived at the same time as us and the already slow service in the café became non-existent. We went to the Hydroelectricity generator visitors centre across the road instead but the service was not much better there. We set off again and, after a quick look at the scenery, which never disappoints in Wales, we called in at Beddgelert and walked along to Gelert’s grave, as we had done years before on a visit to the town. See the link for the full story, which appears in many cultures and with many alternative players. A pleasant walk through the town to get to the grave.
We were heading for a campsite at Snowdonia Parc Brewpub and camping in Waunfawr which sounded good. When we arrived we set up the chairs and table and settled down to relax after the journey through more very narrow roads, when it started to rain. We put the chairs under the camper, left the table out and retreated inside. The rain got heavier and heavier and eventually water started to flow around the camper so I donned my rain-suit for the bike and went and moved the chairs into the camper. Luckily they weren't so wet. The rain continued and eventually we decided to risk the walk to the pub to have a drink and to eat. With umbrellas and coats we made it and had excellent beer and Steak and Ale Pie.
There were also no walks for the morning exercise, although the shower block was across the steam railway line from the campsite and a little walk away. We didn’t see any trains as they run on the Saturday after we were planning to leave.
We first went to Dolgellau to get some shopping, grab a coffee and have a walk round. A nice, old fashioned town centre with lots of old fashioned, independent shops and which was busy and lively.
We had listed a few campsites on the coast and we saw a few that seemed very full and regimented. We went to visit a site that looked OK but it was quite full. The friendly assistant mentioned another more secluded site and we took the number so we could call and go back if we didn’t find anything. Eventually we headed inland to a National Trust campsite at Pumsaint, which is the site of Dolaucothi Roman and Victorian gold mine. Very friendly, and, as it’s a Caravan Club site, it’s normally expensive for non-members, but this National Trust site gives discount for members (Lake District ones don’t) so the charge was £13. No toilet or shower but all other facilities. No drive-over dump as far as I could see but I have the chance to try out my new grey water, 50mm hose and clip instead.
Good pitch on a quiet site with plenty of walks and a visit to the Gold Mine as well. Roast Chicken on the Cobb for dinner.
After Dinner is started to rain and it continued to rain for the rest of the night. As we were under an oak tree, the drips were noisier than the normal rain so it was not a peaceful night. The forecast was for rain nearly everywhere so choosing destination for the Sunday was tricky, but we decided for either Brecon or Hereford with the possibility of Somerset for the destination after that.
The following day it was still raining heavily and I decided to have an early look round the woodland walk at the gold mine site, a distance of 4.6Km. Nice walk despite the rain.
After breakfast, it brightened up a bit and we got ready to leave and waited for the tour of the gold mine at 11:30. The Gold Mine was really interesting and the tour was excellent. The mine was started by the Romans and continued by the Victorians, in two phases, and it was recently discovered that there is a possibility that the mine was begun in the bronze age, which would explain why the Romans went looking for gold in the first place.
Whilst I went into the mine, Barbara panned for gold at the museum and collected a bagful of fool’s gold, and, who knows, maybe some real gold too. I had a go too when I came out of the mine, but I didn't get anywhere near as much loot.
After dumping (there was a drive over dump after all) we set off for Hereford and a site where we could do some washing of clothes. It didn’t seem so good when we got there so we went to another campsite, the Poston Mill Park in Peterchurch, near Hereford, which has excellent facilities but is very expensive at £24, but we did get a ride in a golf cart to go and inspect the pitch. The weather played along and we Cobbed a roast lamb joint and vegetables with some beer and wine.
We had no washing powder, and there was no shop open so we couldn’t do the washing, so we still need a site with such facilities. In the evening, we walked round the site, including the golf course, which is very nicely maintained.
Tomorrow there are walks and various public footpaths before heading for somewhere else, we know not where as there is no phone signal and Wifi (except at £5 a day).
In the morning it was raining and as my boots were still soaked from the previous day, I missed out on the morning walk, and we had a leisurely breakfast and decided to go and visit the NT property at Lacock, which includes the Lacock Abbey house, a photography exhibition about William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the inventors of photography, and the whole village of Lacock. Since there is a campsite close by we thought we’d try that too.
Lacock was extremely interesting. We first viewed the museum dedicated to William Henry Fox Talbot and then the black and white photography exhibition with photos of Iceland. The Northern Lights are not as spectacular in black and white! We then walked around the village, which is completely owned by the National Trust, and is full of interesting cottages and various pubs, etc but is basically a working village in which the houses are all old. We then went back and looked at the Abbey which was set up in the time of Richard the Lionheart and later converted to a house. It is very impressive and made interesting by the volunteers who are on hand to point out interesting details. Of course the brewery was interesting, but the main hall is straight out of Harry Potter. In fact, it was a location for some filming of Harry Potter and also some Shakespearian plays. The costumes used in the plays were on display and the comment most often heard was that the actors appear extremely small, or at least appear to be able to squeeze into very small costumes. The Richard III costume of Benedict Cumberbatch was tiny, but still he is advertised as 6ft (1.83m) tall.
After a good wander round all afternoon we were glad of a campsite close by and we stayed at Piccadilly Caravan Park very close to the village.
The campsite was quite large, but only a few fields were in use. They had a washing machine so we pumped pound coins into it to clean the clothes and even more to dry them. It was a good site with mixed touring caravans and campers in a small field. We Cobbed a vegetable curry, which was delicious.
Another update from the IT department. The tablet that wouldn’t boot was charged up, after completely draining the battery, and when complete, the magic button arrangement necessary to cause a reset worked and I did a factory reset, the only one of the available option that did anything. Eventually the tablet booted to its normal screen, but was, of course, devoid of applications. In order to load it with applications, I needed a reliable, and fast, wifi signal which was not available in any of the campsites. Some offered paid wifi but I wasn’t happy with loading the tablet from it.
We decided we hadn’t seen enough of the sea whilst in England and Wales, despite crossing on a ferry, so we decided to go down to the south coast and find a campsite there where we could get a sea view.
We set off next day with Lyme Regis as a destination for possible sites. We didn’t find any sites that were interesting. Mostly regimented residential caravans and very big. Moving down the coast we went to a small site with residentials and some touring places. The road to it was no wider than Ruby and the touring part of the site was on the clifftop, on grass, which was very wet at this stage, and very difficult to get to. We decided against this and went to The Highlands End Holiday Park next door which was large, full of residential caravans but had some touring spots. We found a decent pitch and went for a windy walk to the top of the cliff, which had a good view of the sea and had promising walks for the morning.
After Dinner, we went to the pub, where the Portugal-Iceland game was being shown. No-one seemed to be supporting Portugal, and when Iceland scored, the place erupted. [As an afterthought, they probably weren't so enthusiastic later in the competition]
In the morning I went for a 5Km walk along the clifftop, which is the coastal footpath, to Golden Cap. I also visited the beach and took a photograph of the pebbles to match our new tablecloth.
The beach is actually part of the Jurassic Coast, and I should probably have walked along that as it is full of interesting fossils. We visited the Isle of Wight part of it some years ago and saw dinosaur footprints.
The plans were made for the next day, and we decided a short trip to Monkey World and a campsite close to there.
Monkey World was great, lots of room for the apes and monkeys and obviously the animals are the important thing to them; it is a rescue centre rather than a zoo. We had followed the television programme some years ago, and so some of the animals were familiar. There is lots of information and a good view of everything, although not all the animals were out in the cold weather. We saw everything and the track we followed looks surprisingly like two monkeys; or is it a plot?
We checked out a campsite at Longthorne Farm with almost the same address as Monkey World, and even has a footpath through to the carpark from the camp field. Very quiet site with all good facilities, although the toilet block could have done with some rethinking, especially the shower cubicles. (Stool, shelves, hooks, etc)
We Cobbed some sausages with lentils and vegetables. The following morning, I had a quick walk through the woodlands, and we made plans to visit the New Forest the next day, with a campsite somewhere to the north on the way to the family visit for Friday.
The New Forest was pleasant, plenty of sky, green, horses and donkeys. We tried to include as much as possible, stopping to look at the scenery and the horses and donkeys along the way.
We headed for The Summerlands Campsite near Salisbury in Coombe Bisset, and found a nearly empty site with an excellent pitch with a great view. Good facilities, flat site, small toilet block, short grass.
We set up the chairs outside and before we could drink our tea, the rain rolled in, in the form of a thunderstorm. We retreated indoors and after a while, when the storm had passed, started the chili cooking on the Cobb. Just as it was ready to start, the same thunderstorm came rolling backwards, so we saw the same thing from a different direction. We opened the awning to cover the Cobb and to protect the cook from the rain and just let the chili cook, and the cook’s assistant try the Summer Lightning. After the second thunderstorm, the chili was ready and was perfect.
Had a walk round the site and found a dog walk/footpath for the morning exercise.
The camper maintenance department tried the dump pipe and clip as the grey water was getting to be an issue, but it was not spectacularly successful so it needs some more thought.
The following morning presented us with rain, again, so no walk round the campsite. We made our way to Chalfont St Giles for a couple of days chilling out with relations.
A few walks into the village, wandering round monthly markets and school fetes and a meal out at the Dumb Bell in Chalfont St Peter, with good live music from The Beaver Band. The IT Department used the good quality wifi to download a collection of Apps for the tablet and maps of relevant areas.
On the Sunday we went to Lingfield at Long Acres Camping underneath the Gatwick flightpath.
The afternoon became colder as it went on, and we started out sitting outside, but it rained in the evening as we were eating so we moved inside. We tried to finish stuff in the fridge so we had an allsorts meal with cheese, salad, potatoes and bread for dinner, with a bottle of wine.
The site had a well camouflaged drive-over dump for the grey water although if it was a special drain or not was not clear. In any case we could empty the tank.
This was planned to be another couple of days with family, this time in Kent. It was my brother-in-law Peter’s 80th birthday week and he had been given a flight in a Spitfire from Biggin Hill, where he had been stationed for his military service. As a keen Spitfire enthusiast, this was a dream come true for Peter and it was scheduled to take place on the Monday. They weren’t sure how full the hangar from where he would be flying would be so we were doubtful whether we would be able to view the event from there but there was a café near the end of the runway we could use to see the take-off and landing. It was raining quite heavily so we made our way to the airport and found the café and settled in with a couple of coffees. Because of the rain the flight was delayed, and a few people had cancelled do there was room at the hangar for us so we made our way through the security fences and found the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, where it was all supposed to happen.
As it continued to rain, the likelihood of a flight on the Monday grew more remote, and eventually there was the choice of a flight at 08:00 on the following day, or at 17:00 on the Monday. It looked far brighter the following day so that was chosen. Consequently we all went off to the pub for lunch and then back to Selling.
The following day, bright and early, we went back to Biggin Hill, in nice weather, and all was ready to go. The briefing was already given the previous day so at 08:00 precisely, the Spitfire MJ627 was wheeled out of the hangar and made ready for the flight.
The Spitfire took off on the main runway at Biggin Hill, with the skyscrapers of London in the background and went for a 20 minute round trip, including a bit of work for the second pilot and a victory roll, which was optional but would not want to do it?
The plane appeared at the expected moment and landed as it took off, with the skyscrapers in the background, and then taxied past the gallery for all to see. The smile after the flight is apparently known as the Spitfire Grin.
After the ceremonies were over, and since we’d been up since 05:30, we retired to the Spitfire Café in Biggin Hill for breakfast. The cafe is a fantastic place, with a great breakfast and warm, friendly welcome. It is full of Biggin Hill memorabilia, and personal photos of the owner’s relations, and they were busy with a promotion for Help for Heroes as we arrived. They found out it was Peter’s birthday so our table was decked with ribbons and an “80” helium balloon appeared.
After breakfast we went back to Selling and, in the evening went out to the Red Lion for dinner.
Ruby spent the two days parked in the farmyard.
The next day we set off for home, via the Dover to Calais ferry.
We had thought of stopping off in Belgium somewhere to avoid the Antwerp traffic jams, but in the end we pressed on through them and went straight home.
We were ready for a break and we had a great time in the UK. The weather was not always what we would have wanted and we weren’t able to cook on the Cobb as much as we liked, but you don’t go to England for the weather, normally. We had a mix of family visits and camping which was just about right. It’s possible to spend all your time visiting family and end up not seeing anything.
The campsites in England and Wales tend to be larger than the ones we normally like to visit, but that’s the way it is. They are also more expensive and provide more facilities than we need. The Camper mentality is not quite there as many people use their campers as caravans, by going to stay in one spot for several days rather than touring around. The idea of cheap overnight costs for campers has not caught on as it has in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Having said that there are wild camping websites which advertise places where overnight stops can be made. One of the problems is the service areas that campers need for water and dumping. There is, according to Camper Contact, only one service area in England.
The UK is also expensive, and seems more expensive than the last time we were there. Everything seems to be expensive, from fuel, shopping, cafés and campsites.
Be that as it may, there is plenty of fantastic scenery and roads, and campsites with views of, and access to, the scenery. We tried to choose an activity for each day in addition to the driving, and indeed to limit the driving to about 150 Km per day. We actually averaged about 156Km so that worked, as did the visits to National Trust sites and other interesting places. Having National Trust Life Membership is a definite benefit in this respect as it keeps the costs down and encourages visits to some great places.
Now we have to get used to Campering without Timber. Already we see what structure had been built into the day at home with Timber, walk times, meal times, things you did to take account of Timber, etc. Now we want to see what it means in Ruby. We have booked a trip to England for June and wanted to go away for a weekend to check everything out. We also wanted to try a Staatsbosbeheer (Forestry Management) campsite as they sound very nice. We booked into De Pomp close to Lauwersmeer for two nights with a plan to go elsewhere for a third night.
On being met by the wood-carving of the sea eagle at the entrance, the first thing to note is that it’s much quicker to book these places. There was a group in front of us at the check-in terminal who took ages to register online in order to be allocated a pitch. Eventually I entered my Logerenbijdeboswachter login and it immediately told us our pitch number, which we could have changed, and then printed a sticker to show we were registered. Nobody came to check as far as we know. The sites are quite expensive at €38 for two nights.
The first day was warm and sunny and we had a great pitch. They are all big pitches throughout the site and we had plenty of privacy, surrounded by trees and reminders of last year’s trips as we were immediately surrounded by cuckoo calls. A sea eagle, other than the wooden one, has become resident in Lauwersmeer and so there are a lot of bird fanciers at the site and facilities are provided with for instance information boards, hides and walks.
We went for a walk following a marked route from the campsite (the blue route) which is about 5Km. We passed through fields and next to canals and parts of the river and through parts of the holiday village and the restaurant. Altogether, a pleasant wander through the countryside.
We cooked sausages and hamburgers on the Cobb, which went well with the salad and a bottle of wine. The night was very dark under the trees and felt strange not being interrupted by a wet nose in the night.
The second day was raining, as had been promised, but, after bacon and eggs for breakfast, it cleared up in the afternoon and it was warm and quite sunny when we walked a part of the longer marked route, the white route, seeing highland cattle and Konik Horses along the paths. We watched Reed Buntings amongst the reeds next to the paths.
In the evening we cooked slavinken inside as the rain had started again, and it then continued all through the night.
During the second day I decided to take the bikes down from the rack in case there was a chance to use them to ride round the site. I discovered that they were locked onto the rack with a steel wire into the bike ringlock and I didn’t have a key. I’d put the key on the rack whilst I secured the bikes and forgot to put it in its place in the camper. It had fallen off and as I don’t have a spare key, we were left with bikes securely attached to the camper. I got in touch with oldest son, Chris, in Harlingen and asked if he could use his grinder to cut the cable and lock. We arranged to go to Harlingen the next day to free the bikes and then go to a campsite I’d found somewhere in Ijsselham for the next night.
The following day was still raining as we ate breakfast so we packed everything up and dumped the grey water and WC and set off for Harlingen. We parked on the Zuiderhaven fairly close to the Excelsior, Chris’s boat, and he cut through the cable and lock in a frighteningly short time. The bikes were strapped back onto Ruby and we went for lunch at the Nooitgedacht, returned to examine the new showers and toilets in the Excelsior (very nice job) and then set off for Ijsselham.
The site in Ijsselham Camping Slamme, was a working farm with a field with some campers and caravans around the outside and a very good sanitation block by the reception. It was €14 for the night.
There was again plenty of rain but it eased off during the avondvierdaagse, where the local kids go walking the countryside together for four evenings on the run. There seemed to be a lot of people for a small place.
After breakfast the following day we decided to carry out our plan of visiting a place in Dronten where you wash a camper easily The advantage over the local one at home is that it has a structure next to the washing bay which allows you to reach the roof. Ruby is now nice and clean ready for the next trip.
It's nice to get away again and now we are looking forward to going to England. We liked both campsites and although the forestry management site is expensive, it does offer fantastic walks and is a great way to relax away from just about everything.
We went for a weekend away with Timber to Groenlo to the fruit/jam farm (Groot Antink) where we stayed last year. We expected it to be busy as it was a holiday weekend, and it was. We took Timber for a few walks through the fields, and he was always ready and willing, but it was a struggle. The weather was nice and we were able sit outside and he enjoyed being with us. Here we are recovering from a walk through the fields.
In the middle of the first night he wanted to go out, as usual, twice, and so we went for short strolls through the fields, including a nice sunrise.
We had enjoyed a long-planned family barbeque the day before we set off, with pulled pork and home-brewed beer. The remains of the pork from the preparation for the BBQ went with us and we did it all over again with the two of us. And some for Timber of course.
The weather stayed nice and we had a restful day. walking and relaxing followed by another meal on the Cobb and a bottle of wine. Timber slept through until breakfast time, which was very unusual.
While we were having breakfast, Timber had an epileptic type fit that left him very frightened, and us very worried. We settled him down as best as we could and he seemed to relax. We packed things up fairly quickly and went home and took him to the vet’s on the Monday. We decided that we couldn’t put him through any more pain and distress and he died on Monday, May 9th 2016
He is greatly missed and the house seems empty and the days without structure. We were glad we were able to go away with him one last time.
Timber turned 13 years old at the beginning of April (See here) and immediately things took a turn for the worse. On his birthday on April 6th, we went for the usual walks to Baarnsche Bos and Hoge Vuursche and he started walking into trees. In addition, a lump on the side of his leg became bigger and he started to chew at it. We went to the vets and he said that there was blood in his left eye and a cataract in his right eye. There’s not much we could do for the eyes but we decided to have the lump removed so he went along for the operation and had far more removed than expected.
When he came home he had to have the “Cone of Shame” to stop him taking the stitches out and, being nearly blind was very frustrated as he couldn’t see what the cone was hitting.
Eventually the stitches were removed and he was more comfortable but was getting very slow and restricted in his movements. We decided to go to Lage Vuursche in the camper to see how he reacted.
This a somewhat incorngruous clump of flowers near where we parked, but the brightened the place up.
He seemed very happy there and looked more like his old self so we decided to go ahead and book a campsite that we’d visited before and see how he was when away.
Ruby has been quiet over the winter. We drained all the tanks and left the 230V plugged in, filled the diesel tank to the top and left the handbrake off. We thought maybe there would be a chance to go out somewhere but it didn't happen.
We were planning to have a couple of days away and prepared everything to go but then we found the water pump was not working. A quick check showed that the submersion pump in the water tank was not working so I bought a new one and fitted it.
The pump worked, but unfortunately it was on permanently so long as the 12V was turned on. The old pump had therefore burnt out because at some stage it was on all the time. We went to Buscamper in Gorenchem to have it checked and it turned out that the kitchen tap was defect so it was changed. Should be OK now, hopefully.
Ruby was due for an APK (MOT check) to ensure that everything works. Also the increasingly worrying reports about the Ford Transit engine problems meant it was a good idea to have the Ford software update, which doesn't cure the problems but at least makes sure the engine is working at its best. We also planned a yearly service so all in all there was a lot to do. It was all performed by Broekhuis, the Ford dealer in Amersfoort. The fuel filter was changed, along with lots of other things, and they checked the valves and injection system and it all looked OK. Hopefully we won't be a victim of the Transit problem.
The Ford Transit Problem is a fault that appears on low mileage Transits built between 2006 and 2010 whereby the valves can stick open causing overheating and burnout of the engine. Various advice has been provided, by various people, and at one stage a Ford software update was claimed to be necessary. This undoubtedly helps to some extent, and is now provided free by Ford, but there are other effects, such as algae in the diesel tank that can get on to the valves through a faulty fuel filter, causing the damage. Keeping the fuel tank topped up whilst the camper is not in use helps with this. People who have experienced the problem are currently complaining to Ford to try to allay some of the costs of the repair. Ford are claiming that maintenance services not performed by Ford can cause the problem, for instance because non-Ford fuel filters can be used. The arguments go back and forth. In any case, it's a very worrying situation which we hope won't arise with Ruby especially after all the work that has been carried out in the last week or so.
So, now we are ready to go and are making plans for what we want to do and where we want to go.
This picture of the open road is probably a step too far since it's part of Route 66, but it's representative.
Barbara always makes Christmas cards from her photos, often using one from one of the trips during the year, but sometimes abstract themes. This year she decided to make a card using photos taken during our trips in Ruby, compiled into a Christmassy theme. After a lot of trials and discussions, the result was chosen and the cards printed.
One of the items in the card is a URL pointing to this blog, where many of the originals are to be found. This entry shows the card. By definition it has to be posted when we send the cards out, and some of the cards go to far away places, where it's difficult to estimate how long it will take for them to arrive. Which is an excuse as to why this message is going up early for Christmas.
In any case, when it arrives, have a great Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.
We had promised them a ride in the camper so we decided to go to Lage Vuursche again to have a cup of tea, walk Timber and to show them the camper. Here they are, above, looking tough.
The trees are past their best, but there are still nice examples left.
And it doesn't do any harm to let the kids climb trees and play in the woods.
And then there is always a cup of tea and cake at the end. (Plus, a chance to demonstrate some sort of death grip, apparently. There is an explanation for that, by the way.)
We took Ruby out for a trip to Lage Vuursche as we haven't been able to get away in October, partly because the weather has been very wet and drizzly, which is a lot worse than the cold when there's a large wet presence taking up most of the floor. When it wasn't wet there were other commitments that stopped us going away, but we are hopeful we'll get a chance before too long.
The object of the exercise was to take Timber for a walk, to see the trees in Lage Vuursche, which are probably at their best at the moment, and to have a cup of tea and piece of cake while we were at it.
The trip also gave us a chance to try out the RubyCon Dashcam. The Raspberry Pi has now been extended to provide range extending Wifi access point, 3G Mifi access point, dashcam and motion sensor support, ftp server for file transfer of films and images and a webserver for remote control from a tablet/laptop. All this from a Raspberry Pi and bits of equipment lying around unused.
The results of the dashcam test were a bit mixed. The old Logitech webcam is probably not good enough really and the quality of the resulting films and images is not that great but there are a lot of parameters that can be tweaked so we have more experimenting to do. (Note that since RubyCon had no Internet connection the date was not synchronised so the timestamp on the image below is incorrect)
A trip to Provence in France, hopefully to see some nice weather (prospects not great) but also some great sights.
First day, got Ruby ready to go, watered, stocked, provisioned, and left around lunch time thinking to stop, after a relatively short trip, at Blegny Mines in Belgium. Yes, we camped in Belgium again.
One part of Mines car park was blocked off for a Dethleffs Club France gathering but the normal camper places were not used by them and we chose a spot. Soon a gang of large campers turned up, possibly for an event at the mines the following day.
Timber had a walk round the slag heap, including up to the top and a late evening stroll around after dinner of pork chops and vegetables. Not Cobbed as it was a bit chilly.
Timber had another slag heap trip at 05:30 and yet another after we got up (Barbara's treat this time) and we were ready to go quite early (for us) after breakfast.
Belegny Mine Statue
Without internet available, we had chosen a campsite in Charmes as the next target for the route to Provence.
En route to Charmes, we stopped for our coffee break in a parking place next to the memorial for the Ardenne Hunters (Chasseurs Ardennais) who provided strong resistance during the German invasion in 1940. Their badge incorporates a boar, hence the statue at the memorial not far from Martelange on the Belgian-Luxembourg border.
Ardenne Hunters Memorial
The campsite at Charmes advertises that it has everything for a guide price of about EUR10. In fact Electricity is extra at EUR4.5, and it was EUR12, so the total was EUR16.50. One male and one female WC at our end of the field so when it’s busy it must be humming. Literally. Showers are in a different block a long way away. Internet is a paid service. The site wasn't busy and had a mixture of tents, stay and travelling caravans and a few campers. Took Timber along the river to explore and found a way out of the fenced field to a decent walking area, a path along the canals. This was OK, and I saw the Camper park, next to the canal. Very busy, but there were spots still available.
It started raining more or less as we pulled up and continued most of the evening so dinner was cooked inside again, with sausages and various delicious bits and pieces.
It stopped raining at about 10:00 and so Timber got a decent walk. Went across a field round a football field and under the bridge across the valley and found a set of steps that led to a path by the canal. This was an interesting walk; the side of the path is planted with all sorts of interesting trees with notice boards to tell you what the tree is. Timber inspected them all. Since it was dark, I decided to investigate further in the morning.
Spent the evening using the Ruby Access Point (recycled Wifi Extender used in Network Bridge mode together with my Raspberry Pi acting as a local Access Point) to provide internet for all the devices. Worked well. Stronger signal from the site through the Range Extender/Network Bridge and of course a very strong signal for all the devices from the RPi.
Range Extender (Device Bridge) and Raspberry Pi providing wifi access
The RPi is also set up so that it can take and store regular pictures so that it can be used as a security device or as a dashcam. Maybe we'll try that too during the trip.
Timber had a quick field trip at 06:00 and then insisted on more attention at about 8:00, when I took him for a walk along the canal, as far as a lock, then crossed the canal and back on the camper park side until the bridge over the valley and as I didn't know if I'd be able to cross again, I managed to get Timber to climb the spiral staircase leading to the bridge and crossed that way. It was easier to get him to go down the equivalent spiral staircase on the other side of the canal.
Trees in Charmes
It turned out I needn't have struggled as there was another lock by the camping entrance. Bread collected and a nice breakfast before dumping everything and filling up with water and off in the rain towards a few chosen campsites somewhere south of Besancon.
The sun came out after a while and we had really nice weather for the trip down to Besancon. Stopped for lunch at an aire along the N57 near Vellefaux. At first it didn't seem so big, but having taken Timber for a look round, it had a big, flat area above the parking area where you could park and use there picnic tables. We moved up there and enjoyed a nice lunch in the warm sunshine and made a note of the place for the way back.
Lunch near Vellefaux
We were looking for a camping place in Nozeroy but couldn't find it. (We looked on Google Earth later and it still wasn’t obvious) After driving round the village a couple of times we gave up and headed off to Champagnole were we had seen a camping site. Big camping (Camping de Boyse), but not very full; nice big pitch for us. One sanitary block was closed, presumably because the site will close soon for the winter.
Set up Ruby with awning chairs, etc, in the warm sun, but we saw rain clouds coming so I took Timber for an explore to find the nearby river, The Ain. It turns out to be quite a walk away, and meanwhile the rain clouds had arrived so both of us were wet by the time we got back. It was sunny again for a while, and then just as dinner, of salmon with rice and vegetables, was ready, the thunder storms arrived and it rained solidly, and heavily, for the rest of the evening.
Weather coming in!
Not only for the rest of the evening!. Timber was inside with us because it was raining so hard, but it was not sensible to take him out for his usual last thing at night wander. He had a wander round the outside of the camper instead and It continued to rain until we were woken up by silence at 04:00 in the morning. I took Timber out but we hadn't gone 200 metres before it started again. At 07:30 it was quiet again and I took him out for a walk to the river. I wish I'd taken a picture of the river the previous evening because it was a wide but quiet stream with a pebble beach and pebble shoals in the river that I could easily have walked to.
The Ain at full flood
In the morning the river was a heaving mass of water; full, fast and muddy brown. We walked along the bank for a while and then returned, picked up the morning bread and enjoyed breakfast.
The rain continued for a while but we set off with the intention of stopping at Roybon, if it was any good, and had a few alternatives in case it wasn't.
Really nice scenery all the way down, with mostly clear weather. We made a small diversion to see some cascades at Les Cascades du Hérisson but it was busy, and not clear if there was paid parking. In fact, after checking later, there is a camper place there so we will note it down as a place for future investigation.
Lac du Val
The Lac du Val, close to the cascades is a deep shade of green.
Lots of nice villages along the way. We stopped by a lake for lunch over the water from an ancient monastery (Château de Conflans).
Chateau de Conflans
Found Roybon easily enough, and saw a copy of the Statue of Liberty in the town centre. Found the campsite (Camping de Roybon) and the really friendly owner, who also speaks excellent English, said that if we went to the baker for bread to take a camera as there's a surprise outside the baker. It was the Statue of Liberty. It turns out the mayor of the town in the 19th century was a friend of Bartholdi, the maker of the New York statue, and he got a copy. We had a spot overlooking the lake, no rain, clean and complete showers, so all in all an excellent campsite for EUR12.80.
Campsite at Roybon The view from the camper
We went for a walk into the town and back, along the lake, which appeared to be full of fly-catching fish, which were successfully avoiding the fishermen trying to catch them.
Fisherman at Roybon
Whilst in town, we saw the campsite owner who directed us to the statue. We went by the church, which is magnificent in brick and local stone. There are lots of interesting buildings to see in Roybon.
Building in Roybon The church at Roybon A street in Roybon Part of the church in Roybon
Timber was well satisfied with his walk to the town, especially after his dinner.
Timber, a satisfied dog
Made pizzas on the Cobb, for the first time, and turned out really well. Definitely to be repeated. Good internet available but only close to the reception, and could not be picked up by Ruby RPi, so I had to go and sit with the local cats while I collected my mail and checked other communications, and they busied themselves with catching mice.
Timber woke at about 07:30 and we went for a walk to check out the route to town on the bike to get the bread. We met a friendly Samoyed and its owner. It was 12 years old, same as Timber so they had an interesting conversation between them as I was talking to the owner in strangled French. We also met a strange looking person sitting on a bench at the entrance to the campsite.
One of the locals
Having returned, I then set off to put my new knowledge to the test and cycled the hilly route to town for the bread. I photographed the statue, as instructed, and checked out the dates and names.
The Statue of Liberty, Roybon
Coming back I missed my turning and climbed far too high up the mountain before I realised and turned round again. It was all good exercise.
Having showered (excellent facilities) and consumed breakfast, we dumped everything, collected water and used the internet to update the mail and then set off for Avignon.
We passed some magnificent scenery across the valley as we travelled, so we stopped to look at it.
Scenery close to Roybon
The cows see it every day so they were much more interested in us than watching what we were looking at.
Avignon was very busy, and the campsite by the Pont d'Avignon was packed, and had a queue of campers waiting to go in.
Avignon Tower in Avignon
The city looked impressive, but was so busy that we chose another campsite in Cavaillon (Camping la Durance), south east of Avignon.
Very friendly reception and a good pitch. Windy and warm, but not sunny. Took a walk around the extensive sports facilities with Timber and had a dinner of lamb chops and took another walk around the site, which was pretty empty but there were a few touring caravans and tents and campers.
It rained in the night, and Barbara took Timber for a 6:00 stroll round the site. I took him for another walk at 8:00 including along the Durance River where they are building a new bridge.
The target for the day was Arles and possibly further in the direction of the Camargue.
We aimed for Arles, first stopping at a Lidl to stock up a bit. We planned breakfast for on the road so we came across a castle built onto the rock (Les Baux-de-Provence), which was impressive, and busy when we got close, and the stopped for breakfast a little later in sight of Arles.
We drove through the town centre, and found nowhere reasonable to park. Moving on to Aigues Mortes, where we had chosen a couple of possible sites, we went to Campsite Fleury, and passed a tower on a causeway which we decided we'd like to visit again. The campsite reception was shut for lunch but notices said it would be about EUR20. While we waited we went back to the tower and found a wooden walkway leading to it from a convenient carpark.
The Carbonniere Tower The Carbonniere Tower The Carbonniere Tower
The walk way crossed a marshy wetland full of all sorts of beasts, including egrets, swans, lizards, white horses; everything Carmargue. The climb up the tower (The Carbonniere Tower) and the view from the top was fantastic and on the way back we saw lizards, various coloured dragonfly types and a kingfisher. Great introduction to the area.
A Dragonfly A Dragonfly - a Scarlet Darter male
We then went into Aigues Mortes and saw signs to a Camping a la Ferme (Camping on a farm) which sounded more like our sort of camping so we followed the signs all the way out of town and eventually came to a farm, with just a few inhabitants, and found an excellent spot, with a view of horses, a nice sunset after delicious chicken on the Cobb. Very quiet, apart from the wind, and good facilities available.
Camping a la Ferme
Timber's walks have been restricted to the campsite which is reasonably large, and empty, so not a problem. Maybe I can find a longer walk in the morning.
Tomorrow more of the Camargue, with an intention to revisit the boardwalk to the tower.
We tried an experiment with Timber by leaving him outside Ruby for the night as it as very hot inside the camper after the warm winds. This didn't work out well. After a while I was worried he'd bite through his lead and then run free. So I got up and put him on the steel lead to give me some peace of mind. At about 5:00 it started to rain so I tried to bring him in but he was very unhappy. I took him for a small walk round and he remained unhappy and as the rain stopped we put him out again. Barbara took him again at about 7:30 and it turned out he had the runs and after that it started to rain hard, and stayed that way for an hour or so. He was in during this time and seemed to have settled down. He had his breakfast normally so we hoped he'd be alright for the day.
Sunset More Camargue Horses And another
We were running late so we had an uitsmijter for breakfast and then set off for more Camargue. We went towards St Maries stopping frequently to photograph birds (flamingos and egrets), fish and lizards and scenery. St Marie was busy.
A Flamingo A Carp A Lizard Another Dragonfly An Avocet A few of the more destructive specimens of wildlife
We went along the coast and saw more flamingos and avocets and swans and the end of the road packed with campers.
This was not attractive so we headed off for the chosen campsite, crossing the Rhone by ferry and passing through Marseilles. The campsite was full. We then looked for another campsite in the direction of Aix and arrived at Camping Saint Victoire about 17:30, found a good pitch, ordered pizza, arranged to stay for two nights, with a cone to keep the pitch for us if we left it, and settled down with a beer in the warm sunshine and under nice blue skies. Pizza was good, and the site has an internet point so we managed to catch up on mail and news. A walk along the road revealed a park with lots of walking in the hills, so the prospects for a good walk are promising.
Provence Rocks Even the teapot is happy to see some warm weather
Timber will be in with us tonight, although because of the clear skies it is colder so he should be OK inside. Let's see.
Well, he wanted out at about 6:00 for a quickie along the road in the dark. He was ready again at about 8:00 when Barbara took him again along the road. Since we are staying at the same campsite for today, we had a relaxed schedule so we had breakfast then unhitched everything and went to a local village to get money and then came back and emptied everything and filled with water and then enjoyed a relaxed afternoon until walk time when Timber and I went to the local park and climbed hills and wandered paths.
Timber in the park More Provence Rock
On the way back, we came across a large group of school kids walking back from a visit to the park. Teenage girls and Timber are like magnets and they engulfed him, despite the advice of their teachers, but he didn't mind. Too much of the “magnificent” and it all goes to his head. Chilli for supper with baguette and beer and wine and we were all set. Ruby had a really good clean out during the walk, and the clothes and bedding had been cleaned and aired, so we are all set for the next phase.
Sunset on the rocks Hole in the rocks
The sun cast some nice rays on the mountain above is, but the evening is still chilly after the sun is removed.
We wanted to see the Gorges de Verdon, and had a number of potential endpoints. We visited the supermarket and we were set. The Gorge de Verdon is spectacular and we stopped regularly to look and photograph. The drive through the pass, with lots of traffic, was tricky but not really a problem.
Gorges de Verdon Into the Gorge de Verdon
We were really pleased to see the vultures out in force above the gorge.
Vulture over the Gorges Another Vulture
After the pass we headed towards the chosen destination of Annot. The first camping was closed and the second was very nicely laid out, but probably not suitable for Timber, so we went to another site on the other side of Annot which was very friendly and had a nice spot by the River Vaire (Camping La Ribiere). It was not easy to walk along the river with Timber as it was all stones, which had clearly been part of a flood recently (probably the night we had continuous rain) and there was not too much river frontage available to walk along. Parts of the river bank were filled in a rather dubious manner (see below)
Camping La Ribiere Strange face in the rocks This riverbank has a tale to tell
As usual in Provence, there as no barbecue allowed so we had to cook inside. Internet was available at the reception in a nice communal area, but it was the usual French type where you have to sign away your life in order to get the connection. I use a dead email as I know I get nothing but French language spam as a result of visits to France.
We had a quiet night despite the river and Timber had a 6:45 wander and then we all got up again at 8:30 or so. I had collected some bread from the local supermarket on the bike so we had a breakfast and then set off for the target for the day, which was the Mercatour Park followed by the Lac de Serre-Poncon, and in particular Saint-Vincent-les-Forts.
We passed through Annot and, being Sunday there was a large market for antiques. Very busy with many stalls, and many visitors.
Some interesting villages with medieval sections separate from the main village, and built into the hills. Also Entrevaux, another busy town with a steam railway running.
We passed down the Var valley and then the Tinee valley through Isola and eventually over the highest road in Europe (It’s actually the highest through road in Europe) over the Col de Bonette. We parked and I climbed to the lookout post at the top, which is 2862 Metres above sea level. Stunning views of France and Italy, with Mont Viso plainly visible in the clear air.
Mont Viso View from Col de Bonette View from Col de Bonette
Motorcyclists made up most of the fellow travellers, many on a day trip from Italy. Most of them are mad, but some are suicidal.
We found the campsite we'd chosen, Camping Campéole du Lac in St Vincent-les-Forts but they said they closed today; but if we were leaving in the morning we could stay for the night.
A couple of other campers were also staying for a night but otherwise the campsite was empty, although there are enough facilities still working. We are right next to the lake and walked Timber a few times along it. It was very hot in the sun so we settled down with tea, and eventually a beer to watch the para-gliders circling the mountain over the lake, and landing on the lake shore, eventually.
One para-glider even managed the classic ET shot!
ET! Come Home!
Needless to say, with so few campers it is very quiet. Plans have been made to travel to another lake tomorrow, Lac du Bourget, and to try to stay around Aix-les-Bains. Meanwhile, there was a lovely sunset to see.
Sunset Sunset on the rocks, again
Timber stayed asleep until about 7:30 so we celebrated by going for a good walk into the hills above the lake, following tiny paths that snaked upwards, sometimes with wooden steps built in. After all the climbing he was happy to descend again, but his enthusiasm nearly pulled me over a couple of times and we were teetering on the edge of some big drops. We made it though. The light of the sun rising on the hillsides was nice to see, with mist on the lake and belts of cloud in front of the hills.
Panorama of Lake And, Sunrise
Showered, in the hottest water we've found for some while, and breakfasted, we packed up, dumped everything but didn't take on water, and we set off for Aix-les-Bains.
We stopped for cakes from a boulangerie along the way since we hadn't stocked up in the pain chocolat as usual.
More spectacular scenery through the Plateau du Vercors.
Plateau de Vercors
Through Grenoble, where the air was noticeably smoggier than further south, and shopped at Chambery, and found the campsite at Aix-Les-Bains (Camping Sierroz).
It's a big site and we have reasonable pitch in a secluded bay. We are close to the entrance and across the road is a big grassy area and a walk along the lakeside.
Camping Aix les Bains Aix les Bains
When we went to have a look, the town seemed to be out promenading along by the lake, many with yappy little dogs which were either curious about Timber or extremely aggressive, as only little dogs can be. The crowds thinned out after a while and it was very nice to sit by the lake in the warm sun.
Aix les Bains
Timber enjoyed a bit of fuss from a few people and generally ignored the yappers. Every now and again a military plane flew very low over the lake, but didn't come back when I was ready to photograph it. Later on there was a demonstration of model radio control aircraft, including a number of jets. Very impressive, and loud.
The site had good wifi, and the Ruby Access Point worked well to give access to all devices from a single login. I'll probably pay for it in increased spam but, for future use, I've set up gmail address that only receives French spam.
Timber was licking my toes at 07:15 so it was time to be out in the morning air. Actually, he had been licking my toes earlier but then it wasn't time so he had to go back to sleep, or quietly grunting to himself.
We walked along the promenade next to the lake, and back again. Nice sunrise light above the hills, but the weather had turned colder and cloudier.
Aix les Bains Sunrise
We were ready reasonably early and collected water and hit the road to find dog food and petrol. That done, we started off for our destination of Louhans and arrived, after some pleasant but not spectacular scenery, at about 14:00. The campsite reception was shut so we went into town and walked round the town centre.
Louhans Theatre Louhans College
The arcades are varied and very interesting with all sorts of shops set under ancient arcades.
Louhans Church Louhans Butchers Louhans Arcades
After the walk we went to the campsite and booked, with a pitch right next to the river.
I took Timber for a walk along the street, over the bridge and through a park on the other side of the river to the campsite (Camping Municipal Les Trois Rivières). Along the way we found a Beagle that attached itself to Timber, at first as a challenge and then as a friend, and then the person who seemed to be the owner of the Beagle and was walking in the same direction asked if he was mine. It turns out that it wasn't his and we had a spare dog. He wouldn't come to us so we could read the tag, so I set off back with Timber and beagle in tow but eventually the beagle stayed by some fishermen along the river so I hope he belonged to one of them.
After I got back, it started to rain, so we packed up the chairs and moved inside. It stayed raining all evening, on and off, sometimes very heavily. Luckily we had good internet so we could catch up on events.
Timber was very thirsty before bedtime, probably caused by his new food (having run out yesterday we had to buy fresh, and it's unfamiliar to him. Also to us, as the quantity he needs is always a guess). I expected that he'd be up in the night but he went through to 7:30, so we went for a trip round the local area. I forgot to pick up bread so I went back on the bike to the boulangerie for the necessities.
Passed around Dijon and through Langres to get to Andelot. Langres is an impressive looking place and is on the list to spend some time there. Huge ramparts and towers dominate the place.
Barbara had wanted photograph some of the sunflowers we saw along the way. Not in the same state as the sunflowers grown by grandsons Merlijn and Casper, but also not with the same purpose.
Sunflower - France Sunflower Field Sunflower - Holland
The Campsite in Andelot (Camping le Moulin) is a friendly, Dutch-run place. Found a good pitch next to the river and took Timber for a walk to see what there was. Didn't find any footpaths so it was all along the roads, and seemed to upset much of the local dog and cat population. Weather a bit nippy, with occasional sun. Should be better tomorrow everybody says.
We decided for pizzas at the restaurant on site for the evening so that'll make a change. The pizza was good, and Barbara had duck instead, which was also good.
From leaflets at the campsite, we've made plans to visit Grand tomorrow. It's a Roman town with archaeological finds including an amphitheatre and a huge hall with mosaic flooring.
A relatively short day, but an interesting one. We first went to Grand, a village which has a fantastic Roman mosaic floor and a somewhat mysterious system of Roman underground water pipes which are centred around the current church. They could have been centred around a Roman religious edifice at some time earlier.
Grand Floor Grand Floor - detail Grand Roman God's Head Grand Roman God Grand Floor Detail
And a special Roman dog for Timber.
Grand Roman Dog
There is also a really impressive Roman amphitheatre, half improved to show how it would have looked, and half left as found.
Grand Amphitheatre Grand Amphitheatre Grand Arena Ready to go and entertain Grand - What was I thinking?
Very well presented and offered, for EUR10 for two people together with entry to see the nearby Jeanne d'Arc birthplace at Domremy-en-Pucelle. This latter has the house where she was born and a museum which shows that the French royal family in the medieval times were not a good looking bunch, but also showed her life history from Domremy to Rouen.
Domremy Jeanne d'Arc's house Domremy Jeanne d'Arc Domremy - Jeanne d'Arc Family Tree
We were very close to the lunchtime shut down and so we left with more questions than answers, but it left an impression that needed to be uplifted by a visit to wikipedia. The cities she visited in her travels seem to match cities we've visited, without knowingly following her life, although, so far as we know, we haven't visited Gien, were she had many tribulations.
We arrived at the campsite at Villey-le-Sec early, and found a suitable pitch, which will be a problem if it rains as it's not got much grass. The campsite filled up during the rest of the afternoon with Dutch campers using it as a last stopping off point for the journey home. Some are regular visitors here. Took Timber for a walk round the site, in particular the riverbank of the Moselle, which he recognised instantly. The camping guide mentions occasional fighter jet flights overhead, and this was one of those occasions. They went past regularly, and noisily, all afternoon and evening.
Camping Villey le Sec Camping Villey le Sec
We ate at the site restaurant, which provided excellent steak and salmon. Timber had another wander along the Moselle.
Tomorrow we head for Belgium with a couple of options for stops from which we can get home in time on Saturday to attend Merlijn's birthday celebration (Merlijn = oldest grandson; 9 years old). We could also, as a last resort just drive all the way home. It will be interesting to see whether the Holland bound travellers leave early, so making the showers available for the more reasonable travellers, or whether they are the more reasonable travellers and it would have been better to leave early instead. Sanitation Poker is the name of the game.
Timber needed a walk at 7:00 and at that time a few people were preparing to get away, and a bit later the showers were in full use. We waited, collected the bread, had breakfast and watch the general scramble to depart, and by then the showers were empty, hot and delightful. We then packed up and set for the drive to Soumagne in Belgium, where we had chosen a site. We arrived in mid afternoon and were a bit put off by the stately house appearance of the place but it was indeed the campsite. EUR12, reasonable pitch, needing levelling correction, with hard standing for the wheels and grass otherwise, very good facilities, quiet and great walks through the grounds of the ex-stately home which had been endowed to the community for social use.
Chateau Wegimont Lake Chateau Wegimont Chateau Wegimont Chateau Wegimont Chateau Wegimont Chateau Wegimont Grounds Chateau Wegimont Trees Chateau Wegimont Detail Chateau Wegimont Detail
Timber actually got two walks in the afternoon on the basis of the interesting scenery.
Chateau Wegimont Camping
Curry for dinner, and then we prepared to travel home on the Saturday.
Another stroll round the grounds with Timber, who was keen to chase rabbits as they were everywhere, including taunting him in the nearby pitches, just out of his cable range. These rabbits have seen this before.
We dumped the clean water into the foul water so we could empty the clean water tank for cleaning at home. We dumped the foul water at the Roevenpeel motorway services near Nederweert at the dump provided by NKC. It’s a pity there isn’t one in the more logical spot on the way north, in the motorway services across the road.
Arrived home in time to get to the birthday party of Merlijn, our oldest Grandson, who was 9 years old.
Another trip during which we learned a lot and had a relaxed and enjoyable time. We were hoping to find better weather which, in the end, we did.
The next trip is not yet planned but we expect to be going to Friesland at some stage for a couple of days. In any case we've seen and noted some places which we'd like to revisit and spend more time exploring.]]>