Warning Order – LeCercle 2017

The detailed planning is done! The obligatory red circles scribbled on a map…..It’s France, don’t ask me what the route is other than the mantra “clockwise” I will be mainly “Blagging for Britain.” We have a tunnel ticket, an out and return date, and loads of foolish optimism. We’ve stocked up on the essentials for life, a fridge full of food, beer, wine, a few maps, a pencil sharpened at both ends for my navigator, and a big bag of patience for me when things related to maps start to go wrong! Launch date is the 25th! Hold on tight, it’s going to be a blast!

That is all!

LeCercle2017

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All Aboard The Chucklebus 2017

Our first venture for 2017, a run south into the depths of Mid Wales. It’s been a while since our last blog, (hangs head in shame) the one thing you can say about me… “He’s reliably unreliable.” But hey, who cares, live life to the full and enjoy…..Cue Grandson …

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So anyway, back to the business in hand…Mid Wales, and here we are at the Old Station Caravan Park, at New Radnor, Powys, north east of Llandrindod Wells, just off the A44. A fairly easy drive down from north east Wales, taking just over 2 hours with stops. Taking us through Churchstoke, Chirbury, Clun, Knighton, a pleasant meander through towns and villages well off the beaten track.

The site itself is a mixture of a small number of statics, space for a few tourers, plus a holiday cottage. The touring area is quite small, but the site offers full facilities and has some brilliant walks directly from the site (These involve hills!) The site also has its own tearoom, which opens early March. We like this place for an out of season jaunt, only us and another van here….I suspect they don’t have any issues filling the site during the high season, but on a mid Feb day, with drizzly, misty weather, we’re kings of the castle and very happy with our lot.

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Yesterday and today we’ve done a couple of walks, today we wandered into the village of New Radnor, passing a prominant memorial topped with a cross to a local bigwig from the 1800’s …Baronet Cornwallis or similar. Sadly the local pub is closed, which is a great shame. The village is lovely, it has a small local shop, but the loss of the pub was probably quite a blow. The village is dominated by New Radnor Forest, with burial sites, an ancient church, castle mounds….on a good day, what’s not to like. The campsite owners have local guide sheets available for visitors.

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Spot the Chucklebus

Actually….just noticed on Rightmove, the campsite is up for sale!!!

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The “Other Half” taking in her quota of vodka…she never shares! See the flask! I’m going to review that….Its changed my life!!!

 

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The village of New Radnor

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Finally some #muttsporn

The dogs been quite a good lad on this trip, his 5th year of travelling. He’s bigger and stronger, but sticks to us like glue…odd squirrel or rabbit allowing..obvs. He absolutely loves the van, and is quite happy to slip into “Van Routine” at the drop of hat, I’m sure other van owners have similar experiences. He melts our hearts everytime we look at him, except when he’s not so well behaved…(read “Cats Bells, Hells Bells”)

Back to baseloc on thurs, tomorrow a short walk, to have a look at a couple of areas close by to the village, including the local church…Rock n Roll!!

That is all.

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Pause for Thought – #CampTramps2016

On a footpath skirting Newton Upon Rawcliffe, North Yorkshire, there is a secret viewing spot. From it’s well-made bench, you can see right down into Newton Dale and across Levisham Moor. The view being dominated by the steam trains of NYMR that travel along the valley floor between Pickering and Whitby. Pleasing though the views are, that wasn’t what caught my eye and gave me “Pause for thought”…..It was the bench!

The secret bench

The secret bench

On the backrest is inscribed the following text:

In memory of Kenneth George Evans and Patrick Bryant Evans. Cousins who for many years as boys together enjoyed the freedom of these moors.

Both were Killed in Action whilst serving with

Royal Armoured Corps

The former on or about 15th June 1942 at some place unknown in the Western Desert, Egypt.

The latter on the 21 November 1944 at Geilenkirchen, Germany.

Both were aged 21

Further comment doesn’t seem adequate.

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The View

That is all.

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Chippie Van Hell – CampTramps2016

Right, sitrep!

We’ve had a good couple of days at Sneaton Moor, up on the N Yorks Moor at the CC main site. We took the opportunity to get some walking in, with some great bimbles straight from the site. Again a deserted area, unusual for a National Park, on a decent day in the middle of August, not something you’d often experience in Snowdonia. We mooched along some really nice paths through the Newton House Plantation, even Mutts seemed happy.

 

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Called Fly Agaric – Referring to its use in parts of Europe as an insecticide, crushed in milk for attracting and killing flies. Also good for “tripping” apparently!

On a high we meandered back to the site…now earlier the Other Half had noticed Saturday was chippie van night!…So full of bonhomie and “hail fair fellow” in anticipation of chippie tea, we duly gathered in the chucklebus at the nationally appointed time of 6pm…..with me and mutts then pushing the other half out of the van, clutching a £20 note to her bosom, with just my voice echoing in her wake…” Don’t forget the curry sauuuuuuuuuce”, myself and mutts settled ourselves down in the chucklebus to await the potato pleasures! Five minutes later, the Other Half staggers back to the van, like she’s just witnessed a car-crash “Whats up my sweet?” I ask. With tears in her eyes, she announces that the chippie van isn’t due to arrive until 8.15pm, finishing at 8.45!!  “WHAT” I cried, “I can’t eat chippie tea after 8pm, I haven’t even had a drink, I’m sober, it’s just not right. How could they!” as I switched my anger to the Caravan Club, bloody pompous admirals, in their flannel blazers, “Eight bloody fifteen…`i’ll be dead by then”

We wept together that night, all three of us, this hardship only further cementing the family bond. We later consoled ourselves with “Chicken Surprise” and a warm can of stella.

Mutts displaying dignity in adversity. The Night the Chippie Van was cancelled!

Mutts displaying dignity in adversity. The Night the Chippie Van was cancelled!

That won’t happen again on this trip….we’ve moved on and are now parked at a Pub that serves meals.
Peace Brother!

That is all

 

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Pillbox Heaven – #CampTramps2016

Here’s a fishy tale! So yesterday, we arrived at the next stop on #CampTramps2016,  a small village called Barmston, a few hundred metres from the E. Yorks coastline, south of Bridlington. The site, Rectory Farm is fine, adult only (couldn’t eat another kid) and comes complete with showers…so Yippeee….sorted. The areas very flat, but with a warm easterly breeze it’s very pleasant, and an ideal base for some local exploring.

Rectory Farm

Rectory Farm

The Dog Walk

The Dog Walk

Yesterday after parking up the Chucklebus, we wandered off for a walk towards the beach. En-route we noticed an info board, that mentioned World War 2 Pillboxes (Fortified bunkers, providing coastal defence). As the font of all knowledge and keen to claim bragging rights in our little group, I mentioned to the other half, that my old battalion had been based near Bridlington in WW2, having suffered a severe mauling during the Dunkirk Withdrawal in May 1940. “Oh yes pet, what would you like for tea tonight?”

So, once we got back to the van, I fired up the laptop and well, you could’ve knocked me down with a feather! It only transpires, that my old rifle company…A Coy 1RWF had been based in Barmston during that period of 1940. How amazing is that! Who knew? Well, that put a different perspective on this part of our travels, such is the adaptable nature of the Brit ex-squaddie, that I quickly re-roled this stopover into a full-blown battlefield tour. The Other Half’s face was a picture of absolute joy!

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Today, I was up like a firecraker, with possible pillbox locations marked into the phones mapping, we set off to explore, trooping through the centre of Barmston,  Me, the Other Half and Mutt the Dog.

The Story:

1RWF had a tough 2nd World War. It started at Dunkirk, with almost 65% of its strength killed, wounded or captured during those bloody two weeks of May 1940. Figures indicate some 260 + men made it back to the UK.

Initially they were sent by train to Huddersfield, to recover, regroup and get back up to manned strength. This was in the crucial period when it really was expected that the enemy would invade, the Battle of Britain was raging and we needed to defend our shores.

A lonely place

A lonely place

By the middle of June, the battalion was sent to provide coastal defence along the East Yorkshire Coast concentrated in the Beeford and Barmston areas. My old rifle company Alpha Company, came here to Barmston, Later Delta Company also operated from this location. The soldiers lived amongst the Barmston population in pubs, digs, anywhere they could, they even occupied the now empty caravan sites in the Barmston and Lissett area. They were tasked to man the pillboxes hastily constructed along this part of the coast, camouflaged from the air and supported by beach wire entanglements, anti-tank blocks and various other methods to slow down an invasion or seaborne/para assault.

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For the men, this was a relentless, serious task, the country faced a very real threat. During their period at Barmston they were subjected to numerous air raids, and were required to provide anti-aircraft fire against enemy fighters and bombers, sometimes on a daily basis. In one occasion in Aug 1940 they even assisted in shooting down a bomber. During those summer months they often witnessed dogfights between Spitfires and German fighters overhead. Heady times.

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This was ideal training for the men in operating their rifles and Brens, especially as most of them who had joined the battalion Post-Dunkirk had never experienced actual combat. But because of the nature of the task, it restricted the more detailed training the new men required, so by the October of that year, they were relieved and moved on to the next stage of their war.

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This would involve sailing to the far-east in 1942, fighting the Japanese at Donbaik in 1943, again suffering heavy casualties, then, less than 12 months later in Apr/May 1944, the hell that was called “Kohima”, where again they endured heavy casualties and terrible hardship. I’m sure that some of them in 1944, crouching down in their trenches on Summerhouse Hill, Kohima, looked back to those days amongst the folk of East Yorks with great fondness and appreciation.

If anyone fancies a look around the area, this stretch of coastline is rich with the remnants of its WW2 past. To assist I’ve plotted the seven pillboxes I visited north of Barmston.

 

Some of the Pillboxes North of Barmston

Some of the Pillboxes North of Barmston

Tomorrow we head onto the N. Yorkshire Moors, no more battlefield tours for this callsign on this trip!

That is all.

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Hols at Hull – #CampTramps2016

Yep, you read it right…HULL, we’ve been staying here for the last few days, well just south of the city, on the southern bank of the Humber at a lovely little Caravan Club CL called Roxton, a mile or so from Barton Upon Humber. As we look across the Humber towards Hull, the Bridge is to the west(left) of us!

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Roxton CL

Roxton CL

The Roxton site is very quiet, basic facilities in a peaceful garden setting, in fact it is actually someones garden! EHU, lots of greenery, all topped off with a victorian potting shed converted into a loo….My life’s complete. Did I mention the bloody wood pigeons? No?….Cooing away every morning at 5am….In the end I woke the other half, so she could hear them! I was close to deploying her to throw stones at them(she likes to do that, not at animals in particular…just things!), but I eventually decided to leave them alone…Down girl, back in the van!

The Humber looking towards the North Sea

The Humber looking towards the North Sea

The southern bank of the Humber has been developed to support and encourage wildlife, now that the heavy industry has declined. This is enhanced by Spurn Point, that juts out of the Northern bank and is a desgnated bird sanctuary. It feels very dutch, or similar to parts of the Baltic coast with the high man-made dyke that contours along the river bank, heading towards the North Sea, with the Waters Edge Visitors Centre at the western end. From the dyke, heading inland are miles of footpaths taking you off the beaten track. It’s a dogwalkers paradise and very flat and underused. Over the two days of walking we’ve passed maybe 20 people on the river bank, so for the middle of August, a very quiet peaceful area. I would recommend a 1:25,000 OS map, to enable you to pick up the myriad of footpaths that criss cross the area.

The Humber Bridge

The Humber Bridge

Likewise, if you’re into sailing, fishing etc, there are a few lakes, dotted along the bank that offer those facilities. There is also a local train service that follows the Humber, should you feel the need to travel further afield to the outlying towns and villages.

So today, we’ve upped sticks and are now parked up on a quite windy East Yorks coastline at Barmston……showers…yaaaaay! More to follow.

That is all.

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The Opening Bit! #CampTramps2016

So, 2016, well what a year so far! and now it’s summer(sic), where to?

In a satirical nod to Brexit, we’ve gone all isolationist this year and are currently trundling around the Albion. Hopefully next year it’ll be “Vive La France” ….assuming the French have a sense of humour and let us in!

Anyway, we’re five days into this years trip and are having our last night at Grin Low, a CC Site just outside Buxton, Derbyshire, in the heart of the Peak District. A good site, which has matched our expectations of Caravan Club Main Sites. There are plenty of walks directly from the site, including a short one to Solomons Temple, just a 10 minute stroll from Grin Low. This fortified hill marker, which you can enter and climb sits atop a bronze age barrow and offers great views from its position 440m’s above sea-level.

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The Other Half, surveys her territory

Our group of friends left for home today, leaving us with a mixture of sadness, tinged with some relief as I don’t think the old liver can take much more of the late nights and liquid intake. So the middle-aged partying(oxymoron) is over….lets get down and dirty.

The Peaks (sometimes overlooked) are a great place to holiday in the UK, testified by the amount of family’s camping and taking part in outdoor activities throughout the area. The towns and villages are very well appointed, with lots of decent bars, food outlets, outdoor shops, and a high concentration of supermarkets, such as Waitrose, which is always a good combat indicator of an areas popularity.

One area worth looking at, which we’ve blogged about before is “The Roaches” a millstone grit feature, which is great for treking along. It encompasses Lud’s Church, nr Gradbach, Staffs.  A deep fissure, which has a slightly mystical feel to it, the Mutts and Ffion, his lab buddy seemed to enjoy it…..”Spot The Lab!”

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Lud’s Church

Future Plans! No Idea. But we do fancy visiting some areas we normally wouldn’t get to see, we’re really running with the wind on this trip. Tomorrow we are heading to a place called “Barrow Haven”, which is south of the River Humber, directly opposite Hull. A two night stop in a tiny site, whilst we ponder the next stage.

Right….Season 6, Ep 1….Game of Thrones!

That is all.

 

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Dolgadfan CL – Near Llanbrynmair

We’ve just had an excellent four nights, nestled away on a little farm campsite called Dolgadfan at Bont Dolgadfan, a few miles south of Llanbrynmair. This is one of the outlying villages of the larger town of Machynlleth, Mid Wales   Dolgadfan CL

The ChuckleBus looked quite the “Bobby Dazzler” parked up here, with his new Pirelli tyres that had been fitted in the spring, after an “incident” at Wern Ddu campsite near Abergavenny. When back in March,  the “Tractor of Shame” had to be summoned to tow us off the campsite to the sound of light applause! Hence the new tyres.

Anyway, I digress. The site, it’s a working farm, run by Gwenda and her son Brychan and a fine place it is too. For us, three elements were attractive. Firstly the location, we’ve always fancied a bit of walking in area of Mid Wales between Newtown and Machynlleth, this spot is not to far from where we live and very picturesque. Secondly, you can access the hill walks directly off the site, we don’t want to be faffing about with 3 mile road walks just to get to the first footpath…I’m nearly fifty five for gods sake, times running out, lets get on with it!

Finally, the site had a shower/toilet, with underfloor heating, which is a bonus for a CL. A nice hot shower after a hard day in the hills, i’ll have some of that please.

Right, lets set the scene…The arrow marks the spot!….told you it was “nestled”

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Dolgadfan Farm

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The Site

Facilities wise, it suited our needs. The toilet and shower cubicle were one of the best we’d encountered on a CL, they were immaculate, no coin slots and fitted with underfloor heating! Visitors have a choice of hard or grassed pitches, all with EHU, plus water points dotted around. Also plenty of areas to walk the Mutt…..Remember him?

Comms: The digital signal is variable, on some pitches you can pick up freeview, but not all. NO DAB, but we have an FM radio as back up, so no issues there. I could pick up a 3 network signal on the MIFI and phone so we had some internet and could make/receive calls. Of course, once you climb out of the valley, most of the major phone networks click in. So my advice if you need entertainment for the evenings, load up your kindle and chuck in a box set. We did lots of both, which made for a really relaxing stay.

Did I mention with the dog, £16 pn. Happy with that.

Bit of an embarrassing incident on day two! The couple in the next van overheard me singing in the campsite shower “Dressed for Success” by Roxette, without accompanying music! Ewwwww: Songs not to sing in the Campsite Shower

The Walks: You’re spoilt for choice really, over to the west you can quickly get up onto Mynydd Ty’r Sais, to the east you have Newydd Fynyddog, with the wind farms beyond. You can make the walks as hard or easy as you like, the one guarantee is the up-hill bit when you leave the campsite, but that’s part of the fun (so I tell the other half!) Most of the walking routes are well marked by Powys CC. Just be aware some of the map marked routes are deviated sometimes by the council to bypass shall we say “less” welcoming farmers, just one or two in this general area. Overall though a great place to hike. Look out for the groups of Red Kites that congregate in this area, as you climb onto the higher ground you will see lots of them overhead, amazing looking birds.

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Muttley!

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Sheep! But look at the panorama

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A Red Kite overhead

This site would be a brilliant location for friends to gather in the holidays, maybe Xmas/New Year or similar. You have the hard standing pitches, a decent toilet/shower with underfloor heating and walks directly from the site. Yep, we liked this place and we’re going to re-visit.

That is all.

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The Hibernation Ends

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#DeutscheBimble15 – Ypres. A City for all Seasons

Day 19 – Aachen

1774 Miles

 We departed Lemgo on Sunday morning. Unlike the UK, the Germans and indeed most of the other Euro countries still seem to treat Sunday as a day of rest, so the autobahn was blissfully quiet for a good portion of the 2.5hr journey. We arrived in Aachen and located the campsite, which was a few Km’s outside of the city centre. Nothing to report as we didn’t venture in.

Day 20 – 22 Ypres

1940 Miles

We arrived at Ypres at lunchtime on the Monday, this to be our 20th night in the van. We found the site easily, stopping off beforehand to stock up at the nearby Aldi. The campsite is pleasant and best of all, an easy ten-minute walk from Ypres Town Centre. For those interested, it’s “Camping Jeugstadion” and costs about €15 pn. With EHU and free wifi. Reservations can be made online.

The Town Centre

The Town Centre

For the last three days we have spent the time, strolling into the town centre, enjoying the café bars and war history. Beer features heavily!

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We also got the Mutts boxed off, with a visit to a local vet in the town for his obligatory worming dose, the details of which were duly entered into his passport….he’s sorted!

Ypres. Although the town was left in ruin during the Great War, it was sympathetically rebuilt in the 1920’s and is a wonderful place to spend a few days. Obviously the war features heavily, but they have managed to get the balance right here. It’s not at all sombre, it’s a happy vibrant place to be, but with certain aspects that generate remembrance. For me, it’s a much nicer place than Bruges; it’s small, easy to get access too and very friendly. This will be somewhere we will definitely return, possibly in a car, so we can visit the battlefield sites that surround the area.

The sides streets leading into the Grote Markt

The sides streets leading into the Grote Markt

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The sides streets leading into the Grote Markt

One evening we attended the Last Post at the Menin Gate, which is located 200 metres from the town centre. Best get there early for the best view of what is, a very moving ceremony.

The crowds are gathering

The crowds are gathering

This ceremony has taken place every evening at 8pm since 1928, other than a gap during the German Occupation of WW2, when the ceremony continued at Brookwood Military Cemetary in Surrey. Indeed when the Polish Forces arrived to liberate the town in 1944, the day they entered, whilst they were still fighting the Germans on one side of the town, the ceremony took place on the other side! The names of every Commonwealth soldier killed, without a known grave is listed. A sombre reminder of what my grandparents generation went through.

The Last Post

The Last Post

A side view of the Menin Gate

A side view of the Menin Gate

We also walked around the towns ramparts, which passes through two Commonwealth War Cemeteries; Reservoir and Rampart, both small in comparison to the cemeteries located further outside the town. I always feel peaceful when walking in the war cemeteries, there is something about the very nature of them that makes me relaxed and contemplative, I try to think that these mainly young men, taken in the fullness of their lives are merely resting. A sad place, yes, but certainly very peaceful and atmospheric, their war is done. The Commonwealth Graves Cemeteries are often set in beautiful locations; Ramparts Cemetery on the edge of Ypres town, is one such place.

Ramparts Cemetery

Ramparts Cemetery

Ramparts Cemetery

Ramparts Cemetery

The directions to the cemeteries further outside the town.

The directions to the cemeteries further outside the town.

We also spotted a recent addition close to the Menin Gate, a neat tribute to the Gurkhas who lost their lives in the Great War.

The Gurkha Memorial

The Gurkha Memorial

So all in all, a great place to spend our last night on #DeutscheBimble15, before starting the final leg tomorrow. As I write this, the Other Half is once again practising her hockey swing in preparation for our “Assault on Calais” tomorrow lunchtime. TBH I’m not worried about the migrant aspect, I’m more concerned about the duty-free situation! I’m thinking I will shop at Dunkirk mid-morning, then hit Calais at about Warp Factor 3 with a right flanker..totally unexpected, just before the suns at its highest point! I’ll be in the tunnel before they know it… Fingers crossed!

That is all

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