Category Archives: Trips – 2013

Our first years trips in the Chucklebus

Salisbury Plain – March or Die!

Lets get the preliminaries out of the way first.

Where are we? The Stonehenge Campsite, Winterbourne Stoke, a couple of miles west of Stonehenge: http://www.stonehengecampsite.co.uk  We score it 4/5.

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What’s it like? Tidy!, Tucked away from the A303, located in a natural bowl. It’s protected from the elements, well laid out and at this time of the year economically priced. The wardens led by Elaine are welcoming and enthusiastic. The site facilities are in the process of being upgraded, the “Other Half” informs me the newly refurbished ladies toilets are pristine and very clean. The gents are basic and awaiting an upgrade, but the shower pumps out lots of hot water and the loo flushes so that all I need. The pitches have gravel hard standing and EHU, additionally there are water taps on some of the pitches.

The site at this time of the year is nice and quiet, in the summer however there is also 2 x tent fields being utilised so I can imagine it will be quite busy and less peaceful….Just a thought.

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What’s to do? There are plenty of walks directly from the site and two small village pubs within a 10min stroll that both serve food. This is old England at its best, lots of small picturesque isolated hamlets, thatched cottages and village pubs to explore.

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Winterbourne Stoke

It’s very easy to get off the beaten track and enjoy the rolling chalkland of the Plain, If you have a dog, this is a great place to exercise it. Of course the biggest draw is Stonehenge, which is a 3 mile walk from the site…..Be aware it will cost at least £14 per adult to access the site!

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Winterbourne Stoke – The Parish Church….Impressive. 2 mins walk from the site

We like this site, its deep in winter and we’ve had a glorious days walking and had a distant look at the nations most important relic. Perhaps we might feel differently after the 70mph winds forecast for the south west later tonight!!

March or Die: We’ve had a bundle of fun today. Last night we hunkered down in the van as the temp outside slipped briefly to the wrong side of 0’c….This morning we breakfasted, packed the rucsacs and then we were off on a cross country route to Stonehenge. Salisbury Plain is a great place to walk and walk and walk and walk!…..The missus was all cheerful this morning, however she committed the fatal error of leaving me to plan the route, which was to be circular and long!….This was “Infantry Country” and I was hankering on some tactical movement down memory lane! So off we went, so full of hope and cheer.

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The Other Half and Mutts scampering across the Plains early morning.

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Still scampering….Dog Toy deployed

The great thing about Salisbury Plain is the lack of hedgerows, you can see for miles. The ground is fairly firm going, with lots of public footpaths and permissive byways. An OS Map or App is essential if your going to cover any distance.

Bonus Alert. The Other Half got all excited when we passed the pig farm, I thought at one point she was going to slip one of the piglets under her arm and dance  a jig (she’s N/Irish) 

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Piggy Heaven. All excited and stuff!

(Rant On) I was determined to have a look at Stonehenge without paying the £14 per person for access to the newly opened visitor centre. I’m not tight, but this is a national treasure, its part of the fabric of our nation. If theres one artefact in the country that should be funded by the nation, this is it.

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First sight of the stones

I would object less about the admission charge if the site was kept in a way that was sympathetic to its history, but its not. So now we have a multi million pound visitors centre, that been designed to blend in with the countryside….But………. look at the picture:

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Stonehenge. The cars you can see aren’t parked, they are travelling past the nations jewel

Yep! The Cars! Not seen are the lorries, the caravans, the motorbikes…..The A303 still runs past the stones. Looking from a distance today the most obvious draw to the eye is the snail trail of vehicles that are flowing past the site….No gaps, no quiet periods, just a relentless conveyer belt of traffic. To be honest I felt outraged, only in the UK could this be allowed to happen…..So thats why I won’t be paying £14 for the privilege of funding a part-finished, half measure of an upgrade to the site. 

So instead we sat about 400ms away, eating our lunch in serene silence amongst the burial grounds at Normanton Nature Reserve, watching the site visitors being herded around like sheep to the backdrop of traffic hell.

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Lunch Break Stand Off….Who will blink first? Me or the Mutt

So we’re very relieved that we had decided against a formal visit to the site and the £29 saved. All that being said…I’m a grumpy middle aged bloke….If I had a young family, the visitors centre, which is well reviewed, would be a must…But just to see the stones? I think not. By the way, from Feb 2014, you will need to pre-book your visit. (Rant Off)

Anyway, back to the footslog,  we passed through a few small villages, none more impressive than Wilsford and the Lake House that dominates the valley

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Lake House Wilsford

But by mid-afternoon the Other Half was starting to lag and becoming “All Civvy” with me, complaining about the pace/hill/heat/route/national debt/price of eggs (Delete as appropriate)..Did I listen, no…onwards my dear, we have many miles to cover, and so we did. By the late afternoon I had used most of the following sayings:

  • Stay with me
  • No Pain. No Gain
  • Its just around the corner
  • Stop crying
  • Turn that frown, upside down
  • On me
  • Catch up
  • I want to feel your belt buckle on the back of my hand
  • Its just over the next hill
  • If you can’t stand the heat….Take your hat off!
  • Suck it up
  • Cup of tea at the next bend
  • Take that bad attitude and put it in your back pocket
  • Are you jacking? Are you getting in the back of the “Jack Wagon”?

Bless her, it’s official, she now hates me, but i’ve had a brilliant day, it was just like being back in the green stuff.

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March or Die. As the sun sets………Its just over the next rise Honey!

The Route. All 13 odd miles of it!

The Route. All 13 odd miles of it!

We are now safely back in the van, admin squared away, dinner finished, Radio 2 playing quietly in the background. She loves me again, its all in the past, I promise to be good……Now what shall we do tomorrow?

That is all

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Upcoming Xmas Jaunts

With Christmas nearly upon us, we’ve casually been planning a couple of trips for the festive period. For the first time in many years, myself and the “Other Half” will be sharing Xmas dinner as a solitary couple….Just me, her, a free range chicken and of course “The Mutt” eyeing each other up over the sprouts and pigs in blankets!. The Other Halfs strong irish arms and sense of competitiveness means I’m virtually certain to lose every cracker pull. Normally I just bully the kids (22 and 25!) into handing victory to me…Also….We’ll have to have.. like a proper conversation at the table..Eh!….No TV Xmas dinner on a tray in our house 😦

Oh well!

BUT THEN! A couple of days after a proper chrimbo, Team Motorhomedreamer climb into the chucklebus and head in the 4 o’clock position to  Salisbury Plain, staying at a campsite nearish to Stonehenge along the A303.

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We are staying here for about 3 days and really looking forward to doing some walks on Salisbury Plain, looking at the map, I’ve already identified Tilshead, Fox Covert, Imber and Chitterne close by, names that strike a chord in my memory having worked on the Plain constantly over a two year period in the early 80’s and then on further occasions in the late 80’s and into the 90’s.….For those of you who don’t know this part of the world, the Plain is a huge expanse of open country and has been used by our military for training for over a hundred years.

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In the 20th Century it was not unusual to see large-scale tank formations training on there. I’m not sure if thats still the case although Wiki notes the following:

Military personnel from the UK and around the world spend some 600,000-man days on the plain every year.

I do remember all the ancient burial sites dotted about the Plain, as I drove about the training area back in the 1980’s, they were normally marked with a white star on a post, and were out of bounds to all exercising troops.

Because of its military usage, civil access has always been limited, which meant as a benefit many species of flower, fauna and wildlife have flourished without interference. Over the last 30 years the military have had to adapt to changing attitudes to our environment, which is reflected in an even much tighter management of the Plains ecology. See here for more info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salisbury_Plain

I’m really looking forward to this jaunt, its many years since I spent anytime here, certainly my first trip back as a civilian. We’re then intending to spend New Years Eve in Dorset, with friends, before heading north towards the Lake District over a couple of days.  Anyway it’s christmas, so here’s my favourite song, which never fails to make me smile:

Finally wishing all our occasional followers and fellow bloggers a very Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

That is all.

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Five Go Down To The Sea (with a respectful nod to Ms E Blyton)

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It’s been a little while since my last blog, with winter blues, a lack of travelling and general idleness on my part all conspiring to squash my updates. So the opportunity to spend a long November weekend in Dorset with a couple of mates, both with forces backgrounds plus two dogs(hence the 5!), seemed a suitable way to find something to write about. Although we would be travelling from deepest darkest N Wales in the Chucklebus, mainly for ease of the dogs, the accommodation was to be found in the Ponciau Princesse’s Summer Residence located at Bovington (see previous blogs). 

We set off early on the Thursday morning, following a full brief from the “Other Half” on…

(a). Standards of Behaviour,

(b). Alcohol and its effects on the over 50’s

and finally

(c). The Mutt and the dire consequences for me, if he came to harm whilst under my supervision!!!!

.….all of which I of course immediately forgot about, except for point “C”.

For the road spotters and serious travellers amongst us, we travelled along the M54/M6 Toll/M42/M40/A34/M3/M27/A31 arriving in Bovington in just under 5hrs…Not bad going.

The first night found the three of us tucked up in a local bar, destroying bottles of cheap red wine, whilst Mutts(no nuts) and his female doggy companion Ffion snuggled up together, back at the Bovington Loveshack.

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Ffion and the Mutt.

The next day, after fully dealing with the wrongs of the world the night before, we emerged blinking into the sunlight, dehydrated, dishevelled and worse for wear…It was that last bad bottle of Port that finally finished me off!

Anyway, up and at em! So we headed off to Portland Bill, of particular interest was the Verne Citadel, whose fortifications had guarded this part of our sceptred isle since the mid 1800’s with it high angle battery of artillery. Its a great place to get stunning views of the coastline, the impressive Chesil Beach and of course Weymouth which is nestled below.

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Chesil Beach, a natural wonder of the world, that acts as a barrier to the pounding waves of the Atlantic.

Additionally the Citadel also housed an infantry battalion, indeed at the onset of the Great War in August 1914, my own regiment’s 2nd Bn was housed here, before making the step across to the horrors that awaited them in France & Flanders.

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A Royal Welch Fusilier on sentry duty 1914.
Picture: Courtesy Geoff Kirby. http://www.geoffkirby.co.uk/PortlandAchivePictures/index.html

Nowadays the Citadel is partly used by HM Prisons as a Young Offenders Institute, the Citadel no longer houses the military, however it’s still possible to walk around the fortifications, it’s a fascinating place to visit, steeped in our recent military history.

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The Citadel today.

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The view down to Portland from the Citadel.

 OK, military history visit now over, the guys and the 2 dogs were starting to get bored with my army reminisces…Scoff Time! Now you would think 3 blokes, 2 dogs, hungover and hungry, the nearest Maccy D’s would suffice?….WRONG…Only the best for us;  The Crabhouse Cafe is a small fish restaurant tucked in behind Chesil Beach at Wyke Regis: http://www.crabhousecafe.co.ukImage

Highly recommended, even by Rick Stein, one of our group had been unusually sensible and exceeded all of our low expectations of him and booked a table prior to the previous evenings shenanigans. So feeling smug with ourselves we piled in. Wow, very nice…Basic inside, its very understated, its the food here that takes centre stage and it doesn’t fail to impress.

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Starters: Fried Spratts, Mussells and a Thai Fish Soup

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Main Course: John Doore, Baked Hake and Lemon Sole

All polished off with a decent white….Very nice. We followed this with a bracing walk along Chesil Beach. The wind was up and the waves were really hitting the beach with force. This is where the Dambusters did their final testing of the bouncing bomb, prior to the main raid. You can understand why this area was chosen, the shingle beach really is a high banked natural dam and ideal for replicating the targets at the Mohne Dam.

The dogs enjoyed it as well, although they were very wary of the power of the incoming waves.

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Looking up to the Verne Citadel above Portland Bill, from Chesil Beach

Evening: Quiet night in! More Wine…..Homemade Pork Vindaloo….Methane levels = High

Next day, up with the larks and off to Studland at the Isle of Purbeck, an area of outstanding beauty. Although not an island, its 60sq mile of land is surrounded by the sea on three sides, which does give it an island feel. It juts out into the sea south of Bournemouth and Poole, acting as the southern breaker wall into Poole Harbour. Lots of interesting walks in the area and some great beaches, and for those of you slightly bolder in your bathing habits; designated naturist areas.

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As you walk along the cliffs you can see out to the Isle of Wight, just visible through the mist. You can also look in towards Poole Harbour, the immediate area is dominated by Brownsea Island, which is also the celebrated site of Baden-Powells Scouts first ever campsite. It was also the inspiration for Enid Blyton’s book “Whispering Island”. She based many of her stories in this part of Dorset, which perhaps gives the area a familiar feel to anyone who read her books as a child.

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The chalk cliffs of the Isle of Wight, just visible

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Next Stop France! From the cliffs of Studland

One location of interest is Harry’s Rock’s, a series of three chalk stacks and stumps that emerge from the sea off the headland of Purbeck

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Harrys Rocks

Wiki states the following:

“There are two stories about the naming of the rocks. One legend says that the Devil (traditionally known euphemistically as “Old Harry”) had a sleep on the rocks.

Another local legend says that the rocks were named after Harry Paye, the infamous Poole pirate, who stored his contraband nearby. These could be linked as Harry Paye could have been considered as the devil and could well have slept on these rocks.”

Whatever the truth, they make  great photos:

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Finally we finished the walk with a decent pint at the Bankes Arms Studland. A lovely old country inn, with a good selection of local beers and food: http://www.bankesarms.com/index.php

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Picture courtesy: Roy Farr

That pretty much concludes the “Boys Own” trip away, although in comparison to previous trips in my younger days I’m certainly slowing down…No dancing girls, In bed mainly by 11pm, sensible eating, plenty of exercise, I definitely do “Boring”…great trip.

That is all.

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Barmouth – Superb Beach, Town Needs a Polish.

We are currently parked up at Hendre Mynach, a fairly large camping and caravanning site just north of Barmouth. Not our normal type of site, but in the off-season during poor weather, it offers hardstandings, clean shower blocks and at this time of the year not that many other visitors on-site. The biggest sell is its proximity to the near deserted beach that runs between Barmouth and Harlech. So overall happy with the site, a warm welcome from the lady in reception, so we don’t really need much more.

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Everyday we head out to the beach with the Mutt, come rain or shine….As long as he can chase a frisbee and stretch his legs he’s quite happy. We normally walk along the beach for a mile and pop into Barmouth TC, pick up the paper and of course have a mooch through the window of the local Milk Bar(you don’t see many these days), this is currently the highlight of our day.

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The Other Half keeps trying to get me to have a pot of tea and a slice in the Arousal Cafe!!! Bit racy for me though:

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There’s not a lot here really, its a nice looking place when you scratch below the surface. But only once you get back from the prom do you see its best bits. It’s quite scruffy in places, which is a shame. I used to come here as a young teenager, it was buzzing, but now 40yrs later, whilst generally the tourist business has moved on in its style and content, Barmouth seems stuck in a time warp. The council has made some efforts on the long promenade, placing out dozens and dozens of Palm trees in nice planter boxes, but I think it needs a bit more than that. The amusement arcades on the front look really decrepit, and act as a visual barrier between the solidly built victorian town and its huge expanse of sandy beach. The hotels on the prom look pretty dire, one worthy of mention is the “Arbour”….

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The Arbour “O”tel in all its faded glory

You can see the plastic flowers placed centrally on the windowsill of each room and occasional glimpses of candelabras behind the numerous “No Vacancies” signs that populate the windows of this particular hotel.  Shades of “Great Expectations”.

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The Arbour Hotel in the background, along with an occasional palm tree

One area worthy of mention is the harbour, at the lip of the Mawdach estuary, beyond the lifeboat station. Some nice food places and less tat on display. There is an interesting sculpture by a local artist Frank Cocksey titled “The Last Haul” Carved from Carrara Marble, It represents 3 generations of fishermen hauling in their nets. The marble slab was recovered from a Genovese shipwreck in 1978, that sank off Barmouth back in the early 1700’s. The sculpture is located across from The Last In pub, on the road that leads to the harbour:

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The Last Haul

So whilst we like the beach off-season and the walks through to the Mawddach Estuary, the town itself needs some TLC. We will return though.

That is all

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All Aboard the Barmouth Express!

Yesterday, with a break in the weather, we fired up the Chucklebus and pointed the sharp end towards Barmouth. We last visited the area during “Snowmageddon” back in March this year. Its a favourite spot in the low season for us, as its quiet, sparsely populated, with miles and miles of open beaches that the mutt can exercise on. The drive was pretty interesting, the weather was dismal, with poor visibility and surface water. However this didn’t deter one Audi driver from displaying how big his gonards were on the A496 between Dolgellau and Barmouth….I assume its a male…I might be wrong….But watching the video below it has all the hallmarks of a 30something male with ego issues. Note the poor visibility, solid white lines and a blind summit:

https://vimeo.com/78267551

That is all.

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Woodville CL – Pontesford, South Shropshire Score: 5/5

After a month of self-imposed abstinence, this fine weekend we fired up the Chucklebus and headed into South Shropshire, to a small site located within the village of Pontesford, some 6 miles south of Shrewsbury.

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The site called “Woodville” is located on a family smallholding belonging to Dave and Sarah. They’re experienced motorhomers and this is evidenced in the layout of the site and the warm welcome they afford every visitor. The site is tucked away approximately 300ms from the main road, it’s very quiet and secluded with no passing traffic. This is a really nice location.

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The local area is dominated by Pontesford Hill, which is clearly visible from the site and linked by a series of footpaths to the CL. You can walk directly from Woodville to the summit of Pontesford Hill entirely off-road, so ideal for visitors with kids or dogs.

In the 1950s the famous big screen filmmakers; Pressberger & Powell shot many of the scenes from the Film “Gone to Earth” on Pontesford Hill and the surrounding area. The film was based on a book about the hill by local author Mary Webb, who lived nearby in the early 1900’s.   http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042513/

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The twin peaks of Pontesford Hill through the early morning haze.

The Woodville site fees are £13pn, for this you get a grassed pitch(neatly cut), your own fresh water supply, grey waste drain and 16A EHU. Sarah also provides each pitch with their own local information folder.  3G/Freeview are workable in the area, so its ideal if your staying for a few days and need communication. The larger village of Pontesbury is also within easy walking distance, with some local shops and a couple of pubs that serve food.

On Friday evening we spend the night eating, drinking and watching “Strictly”….I know, I know, shameful, but its a weakness!!. “Sequins & Pearls” Other than that, a very quiet night, with only the resident owl terwit-terwooing for company

……Next day, I was up like  a lark, issued the “Other Half” with instructions for breakfast, and gave the Mutt advanced notice of an impending walk. So whilst I relaxed and thought through the tactical considerations of the days activities ahead, the “Other Half” whisked up bacon n eggs and the Mutt aimlessly chased a rubber disk around the field.”Total Leadership in Action” Its a gift I have!

We then began the walk from the site to Pontesford Hill,  following a series of well marked footpaths that initially trace the flow of Habberley Brook.

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This is pleasant Shropshire countryside and with good weather, what an excellent way to spend a Saturday. The path eventually leads to a small waterfall and rock pool.

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The beauty of this place is the lack of visitors, its off the normal tourist track and is really only known to the locals. Throughout the whole walk we only passed 3 or 4 other couples.

Eventually we arrived at the foot of Pontesford Hill. The summit has two peaks, the highest is “Earls Hill” and is marked with a trig point. The major part of the hill is heavily wooded, with various paths offering different standards of walks to the bare-grassed steep summit, several are eye wateringly steep! Although in height terms it’s small fry, its does offer great views across South Shropshire

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The woodland walk

I was quite happy to meander up the Green Route(Easy), but the Other Half and Muttley had other ideas, so after a quick game of “Rock/Paper/Scissors”, which I lost, we hit the Purple Route(hard!)…Basically we went straight up in the general direction of the sky! along a narrow track until we reached the end of the wood, from which we emerged onto the final grassed approach to the summit.

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Only one slight problem, the final stile. Muttley for some reason won’t act like a steeple chaser and leap over it..instead he sits and howls like a wolf cub. So I end up like a sherpa, lugging a lump of hair and muscle over any obstacle in excess of 3ft:

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The dog won’t follow – The Approach

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Upsadaisy – The Lift!

So with the dog now safely on the same side of the fence as us, we continued up to the trigpoint on the top of Earls Hill.

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Nearly there

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Made it!

Once we’d reached the summit, it was easy to pick up the nearest hight feature in the distance, that of the Stiperstones, which we’d climbed earlier in the year.

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Looking towards the Stiperstones

After lunch on the summit, we commenced the walk down, which was pretty impressive as well.

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So! we were back at the chucklebus about 4hrs after our original departure, not one car seen, no roads to cross and almost all of the walk on small wooded paths or open fields. Sarah tells me there are some other walks that can be picked up directly from the site, so for us, this is one bolt-hole we will definitely be returning to.

That is all.

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Day 10 #grandtour13pt2 – Llandigige Fawr, Berea, Pembrokeshire

On Day 8 we all piled into the Chucklebus, tooted our horn and sped of in a cloud of dust in the direction of Haverfordwest. En-route I deployed the “Other Half” into Morrisons at said town for a replenishment of my beer and haemorrhoid cream, she also came back with a carrier bag of cherry lips and red liquorice laces, (she would actually kill you for those items) so both parties were satisfied and shopping justice was done. We then headed north along the Pembrokeshire coast, firstly stopping on a lay-by to take in the view at Newgale Beach:

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The approach to Newgale

I used to drive this road to work nearly 20yrs ago, I can still remember the first time I did it, I had to pull the car over and take a proper look. Still great today, although as its a bank holiday weekend it was quite busy.

So now on Day 10, we’re parked up at Llandigige Fawr a few miles north east of St Davids, a decent sized CL in a large grassed field, complete with EHU. Its quiet, clean and pretty much ideal for us.

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Llandigige Fawr

“The Other Half” is all excited because in the next field to us are rows n rows of Pembrokeshire Potatoes. As she hails from the Emerald Isle, I have a special pet-name for her “Spudmuncher”….what could be more loving than that? ” Oi Spuddy, there’s SPUD’s in the next field”….and off she scampers!! So for tonight on the BBQ, holding pride of place, is good old Pembrokeshire potatoes!

Yesterday we walked over to the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. Initially we headed to Abereiddy Bay, which is popular with surfers and body boarders,

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Our first peek at the bay

we bought some lunch and sat on the stony beach, watching their antics…Bondi its not, but still entertaining:

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Abereiddy Beach

Later we followed the path south, along the cliff edge, eventually spotting a couple of seals mooching about a lobster-pot buoy, no doubt hoping for scraps. The coast is pretty wild along here, but really good for walking. I think I would like to come back over the next 12 months and do some more.

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Looking back towards Abereiddy Bay

Today on Day 10, we’ve decided to have a “No Move” day, so lots of loitering around around the van and basically being idle and getting into mischief. Although we did take the mutt to a nearby cricket field and let him have a run about:

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I’ve also invented a new sport “Waspee’s” Which involves me whacking wasps with a flyswat, with the express intention of getting them to hit the “Other Half”, who’s scared stiff of them.  I’m doing quite well, we’re now at the stage where she’s to frightened to enter the van…I’ll do this for a couple of more hours, then tactically back off at tea-time, when she needs access to the cooker…

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Waspee Alert State – Red:

Another day here, before we move back to Motorhomedreamer HQ

That is all.

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Day 7 #grandtour13pt2 – New Park Landshipping, Pembrokeshire

So after a brief interlude. We packed up yesterday at Pendine Sands and headed a few miles west of Narberth into the county of Pembrokeshire, to an area called Landshipping. This is a small hamlet very close to the River Cleddau. We’re currently on an independent site, with full facilities provided. This means the “Other Half” gets to launder my clothes and basically pander to my every whim! In return, I allow her ones hours TV soap on the piped TV…..seems fair!

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I relax my whim, meanwhile the “Other Half” panders!

The site is called www.newparklandshipping.co.uk It’s a very nice, reasonably priced, well equipped and mostly quiet caravan and camping park. The only issue so far is the nice old boy a few pitches up from us, who’s spent the entire sunny afternoon repairing his boat, which he has parked alongside his caravan and awning, using a large and very loud hammer. He’s clearly a regular as the “Other Half” pointed out to me shortly after we arrived…“He’s got a sideboard in his awning!?” Oh well, we’re just passing through and after a lifetime of work, he’s probably earned the right.

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Sideboard in the awning!

This morning we went for a stroll down to the River Cleddau. Years ago this was a bustling trading river, as it provides inland access to Milford Haven, and the area was also a source of coal, nowadays life’s a bit more serene.

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The River Cleddau

Along the bank there’s not a lot going on and its probably under utilised as a tourist area. Its very scenic and all that, but there’s very little to attract families etc, although the moneypit of Oakwood Park is nearby. Even the local pub’s been closed for 5yrs. Still, I would imagine it’s a very nice area to live.

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Following the river south we came to the old quay. Located here is a memorial stone to the 40 men, boys and possibly some women, who died in the Garden Pit Mine Disaster of 1844.

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The mine workings went out under River Cleddau for about a quarter of a mile and were subject to water encroachment. On this occasion, a particularly high tide overcame the men who were working underground, reports suggest the main access shaft filled up with water at a speed of some 7 fathoms per minute. Locals managed to save 4 men and 14 boys by hoisting them up in buckets, everyone else perished.

What strikes you as you read through the list is the number of families left devestated with multiple losses and the young ages of some of the miners.

To read more:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/posts/landshipping_mining_disaster_1844

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The miners who lost their lives. (image: Roger MacCallum)

Tomorrow we head north west to a small village called Berea and get back to basics on a farm site called Llandigige Fawr, about a mile from Abereiddy Bay. To finish, i’ll leave you with documentary evidence that I do (on occasion) allow the “Other Half” some down-time.

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That is all.

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The West Wales Jaunt – Day 4 #grandtour13pt2

Yesterday we packed up the Chucklebus and headed into West Wales, and we’re now staying at a farm CL called Upper Marros Farm, a few miles west of Pendine. It’s small, quiet and only a mile from the Carmarthenshire coast. An ideal location to explore some of this great walking country.

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Upper Marros Farm

Today, having checked the tide times, we walked down to the beach at Marros Sands. The first thing you notice is the firmness of the sand and how flat it is. This accounts for the area’s importance in the early part of the 20th century as the site of attempts at the World Land Speed Record. More on that later.

So with the Mutt happily running around like some sort of crazed animal(very apt) we headed east along the beach towards the small coastal village of Pendine.

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Marros Sands

As we walked, over our right shoulders we could clearly see the main resort of Tenby and in the middle of the bay; Caldey Island, famously occupied to this day by a working monastery.

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Looking over the top of Marros Sands towards Caldy Island

As we rounded Ragwen Point, looking inland into the small bay of Morfa Bachan, you get a visible reminder of the area’s importance in WW2. Prior to the D-Day landings, Allied troops practiced landing operations all along this coastline. To add realism the military planners built fortifications for the troops to practice against. Lying at the foot of the Morfa Bachan inlet is a large reinforced concrete block, some 30ft across and approx 12 ft high. The sea facing aspect of the block has explosive craters blasted into it, probably where the practicing troops have fixed explosive charges on it, as they would later do on german pillboxes on the beaches of Normandy. This is a part of the areas history that needs to be preserved, it adds an interest to the coastal path that passes alongside it. Sadly there’s no information board there to mark its important past.

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The oblong concrete block, visible in the centre. It’s been placed in a position that allows it to dominate the beach approach. As would be the case on the beaches at Normandy

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The concrete fortification up-close, clearly visible the cratering caused by explosives.

Heading further east along the sand, we passed Gilman Point and entered the area of Pendine Sands. This huge stretch of flat firm sand was the site of world land-speed records back in the 1920’s. Two very prominent men for several years between 1925-27 vied for the top spot; Sir Malcolm Campbell and Wrexham born JG Parry-Thomas, who was the son of a Wrexham vicar.

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The huge expanse of Pendine Sands

During this period the record changed hands 5 times. Parry-Thomas holding the record in 1926 with a top speed of 170mph, which he achieved in his car that he’d named “Babs”. He actually made 12 successful records attempts over a 5 month period, pretty impressive stuff.

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Sadly he was killed on the sands in 1927, whilst testing Babs. After his body was removed, the car was buried in the sands, and that’s where it was to remain until 1969, when the MOD(they own the sands, which they also use for weapon testing) gave permission for the car to be recovered. A team of enthusiasts then spent 15yrs renovating the vehicle. It now has pride of place at the Museum of Speed, which is located on the beach front of Pendine. The car is still running and this year was on display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The car is a hugely important part of our automotive industry’s history……

After having a wander around Pendine, we followed the coastal path back towards Marros. In comparison to Cornwall’s gently undulating path, this one is not for the faint-hearted, the never-ending concrete steps from Pendine up to Gilman Point….”Absolute Killer” even the dog was laughing at me. Once your on the top though, great views.

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We’re remaining in the area until Wednesday, before heading inland to take a look at the River Cleddau. Tomorrow we might take a stroll in the other direction towards Amroth.

That is all.

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The West Wales Jaunt – Day 1 #grandtour13pt2

So after kicking our heels for a few days, we packed up the van with pot noodles, wine, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” dvd’s, a ton of sweeties for the “Other half” and various treats for the mutt. We then pointed the van to the 7 o’clock position and headed to the lower part of Mid Wales, pitching up at a great site called Cwmcuttan: www.cwmcuttan.com a few miles north of Llandovery. The location is very isolated, with only two other units present. As always with Mid Wales, its raining….Image

During this trip we’ll be moving through West Wales, eventually getting up as far as St Davids, before heading home. The planned route is shown below:

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Tomorrow we head across to a small isolated site near Pendine Sands, which used to be the venue for world land speed records. Of particular interest is the Museum of Speed at Pendine, which contains the record breaking car “Babs” which was driven by Wrexham born speedster John Godfrey Parry-Thomas. He was the son of a Wrexham vicar and broke the land speed record using Babs in 1925. He lost his life on the sands in 1927, driving the same car. Babs was buried on Pendine Sands by other enthusiasts after the crash, but removed in 1969 and eventually renovated. http://www.parry-thomas.co.uk

We’re also hoping to walk across to Laugharne, famously the home of Dylan Thomas.

So lots to do.

That is all.

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