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19/09/2011

Afternoons camping by the seaside

Quechua Base Seconds 4.2

As a follow up to my previous post we did have our afternoons camping yesterday afternoon, and I thought I'd share the photos of the new tent, which I'm really, really pleased with. I haven't admitted the purchase of this tent to my folks yet so ssshhh...keep it to yourself!

I have wanted this tent for some time, it is sold by Decathlon and is in fact a pop up tent. It comes in the shape of a large disc (81cm by 14cm) and weighs about 2 tonne....well it's not an easy package to carry despite the rucksack style straps. But ultimately this is a family sized tent so it's not going to come in backpacker dimensions. It has been superceded by another model, and is about to be phased out. The new model is not as pretty in my opinion, and I would have been gutted to lose out on this tent.

We went to Murvagh Beach in County Donegal, just a few miles from Donegal town itself. I knew that there were various places where people normally pitch as evidenced by the remnants of fires dotted around the area. Being lateish September we had the place to ourselves.

The tent was very easy to put up. This tent has a separate groundsheet which you peg down first, then you use the pegs already placed to tie down the tent. I reckon it was pitched in two or three minutes at the most. It is actually easier not to have the ground sheet sewn in because it means when it's put away again it's easy to shake the sand or dirt off the groundsheet rather than having it trapped inside.

We also went to the Golf Course nearby to see if we could gain access to investigate the old property I'd seen on the historic map. Unfortunately it was not possible as the clubhouse has a panoramic view of the entire location, and in fact looks a bit like an aviation tower at an airport! So there wasn't much chance of sneaking in!
 Some photos.....

a lovely, secluded spot




We did take some strolls through the forest along the beach, and found the remains of an old cottage, now in ruins although the roof is still intact. It was in the deepest part of the forest and was quite spooky, but the effect was exadurated by the approaching twilight. I would not want to spend a night camping there, although there was some evidence that people have done so. Thanks for reading!

05/09/2011

NICF 1st Meet Weekend

.... it really was a meet of mini proportions, with myself and my family and another couple in their caravan. Gail and Stevie are both active members of the forum and it was Stevies idea to get together for a bit of craic, and I'm so glad he did! It was an excellent weekend and I can't wait to meet up with them again.

The weather was pretty awful when we first arrived, the rain heavy and steady. Stevie and Gail had prepared a Chilli for us all to eat which was very kind and gratefully received, even if I did try and choke on a single piece of rice which was when I was so glad I was in the company of a trained nurse (Gail). We got set up and absolutely soaked, and were glad of spicy chilli and a glass of red wine to warm us through. We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and discovered that we had lots of things in common with each other.

The campsite is on the lower slopes of Benbradagh Mountain and has fantastic views across the valley to Altahullion Wind Farm. Despite it's location the pitches are flat, with any slopes terraced out and landscaped. There are slides and swings, and the amentiy block is in an old Irish Cottage, which also boasts a campers kitchen, a sitting room and a washing and drying facility. I was very impressed with the attention to detail, with the owner providing a kettle for making a cuppa and the washing powder to put into the machine.


The Campsite taken from the amenity block. The cottage on the right is a holiday let.


On the laptop, with Ben the campsite dog




The landscaping means that pitches are flat, and the caravan is on a hardstanding

The Amenity Block

 On the Saturday morning it was overcast but dry, and it was mild too, T-shirt weather, despite now being September. We had booked into a local activity centre to try out archery and laser clay pigeon shooting. I surprised myself by being quite good although my results were not consistent, but it was so much fun it didn't matter. We had an absolute ball, finished off very nicely with moist victoria sponge cake and coffee.



Archery at Foyleho
We got some geocaching in on the way back to our site, Gail and Stevie had already found them but they brought myself and the two boys to a couple of ancient churches and graveyards. In the afternoon we went to the top of the mountain, by car, to find the remains of an American Radar Station. It can be seen clearly on Google Earth but there's not much to see from the ground, apart from the amazing views over Lough Foyle and into the North Sea.


Dungiven Priory
It was difficult to leave the site on Sunday as I really felt I was only just getting into the swing of things. I don't think a weekend is long enough to explore the area and so a return visit will be on the cards.


25/08/2011

The Sunflower Festival

Last weekend (third weekend in August) I went to the Sunflower Festival which was held at Tubbys Farm, just outside Hillsborough. Having never been to this kind of festival before I was nervous and excited at the prospect. I’m a fan of live music anyway but I’m a fairly sensible Mum who has the odd glass of red, partying was something I did a long time ago when I had more energy. I wasn’t sure if I’d fit in or if I’d be ridiculed for being there, but I need not have worried at all, it was very welcoming and friendly.

I arrived far too early. I’d anticipated some sort of mad rush to get the best camping spots but in the end I was there before official opening times and was almost mistaken for a volunteer. I nearly got a purple wrist band and a job to do! Actually volunteering would be a good experience and something I might do next year.

When I arrived on the family campsite it wasn’t all that clear where I was to pitch the tent. This was partly because the signs hadn’t all been put up yet, and partly because I didn’t believe that the waist high barley crop should be pitched in. I chose a pitch amongst some trees instead but then other people started arriving and pitching amongst the barley. The place where we had pitched was seriously bumpy so we moved later that day to the barley too.


I had deliberatly taken an old tent to the festival. Not an old ‘retro’ tent as I really value those when I get my hands on one, but a five or six year old dome vis a vis with a busted, taped up pole and a tear in the fabric near the door. It’s not particularly valuable and it’s been well used to the point of almost delamination so I wasn’t too concerned if it got damaged or muddy. I was astounded by all the ‘good’ tents that people had brought with them, there were lots and lots of the Pagoda style Quechua 4.2’s and even one of the new model that replaced the pagoda style one (which is not as pretty in my opinion). There were large Outwells and Bell tents too, so there was no need to bring an old, nearly done tent. I could have brought my Vango Icarus and been able to stand upright! I’ll know for next year....
I really love this tent. It's the Quechua BS 4.2 and I'd like one as they're being discontinued.


There were three stages, a main stage, a campfire stage and a barn stage. The music was scheduled in such a way that when the main stage was between sets the other two were active. This meant that the sound from the main stage didn’t encroach on the music from the other two, which were quite far away from each other. The campfire stage was my favourite, built in such a way to face a slope which had logs dotted around to sit on, and a large campfire was lit when the sun went down.


Campfire Stage

Pay*ola
 

  



Swannee River

Nasa Assassin

14/08/2011

My Festival Loo


As projects go this is certainly not a large or complicated one. For camping I have a Kampa Khazi which is a proper camp loo, it has a inner bucket with a lid and a proper loo seat and lid as well. It's extremely useful at night time and lives in the corner of the tent with a blanket thrown over it.

But at a Festival you don't have the luxury of parking beside the tent, and although the Kampa Khazi isn't heavy it is bulky and also, it looks like a loo - and I have to carry that to the tent with everyone knowing what it is.

So I went out to my favourite cheapie shop, B&M Bargains, and bought a waste paper bin with a clip on lid, and a kiddies padded loo seat. I took off the plastic ring under the seat as unfortunately it did not fit the rim of the bin. I then put the screws back in they stopped the seat from sliding about.

Cost:

£1.99 for the bin with lid
£2.49 for the kiddies loo seat

Over all cost: £4.48

I have anti-bacterial wipes and will bring wet wipes, hand sanitiser and some loo roll. I will line it with bio-degradable bags and discard and I may also recycle the whole thing at the festival if they have the facilities to do so and I don't want to take it home. I'll play that by ear.

12/08/2011

Popping the festival cherry this time.

This time next week we'll be some hours into our first ever festival. The one we are going to is called the Sunflower Festival and it's held at Tubbys Farm, quite near Hillsborough which is just outside Belfast.

So I've been swatting up on Festival hints and tips, and I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Like, do I really need to worry so much about the state of the toilets? This festival I'm going to is quite small, and I hope to camp in the Family Field so it couldn't be too bad, could it?

I've decided to take my old Royal Tarn 4 tent, it's a vis a vis with a separate groundsheet. It's not a very valuable or favoured tent, but it ticks a few boxes. The loose groundsheet can be peeled back to give a wellie boot area if the ground is muddy outside, it's stand up height in the middle, big enough for three chairs (just about) and has two separate bedrooms which are large enough to store bags as well as hold sleeping mats and bedding. The front door also poles out to make a tarp, so it's possible to sit with the door open and look out even if it's raining. The rubber mat from outside my front door will be useful, along with a dirt trapper mat inside the tent.

I'm not planning to take the camp loo as it's quite bulky and I don't want to carry it from the car to the tent. I'd like something more discreet, a bucket with a lid that doesn't look like it's for wees?

I am really looking forward to this Festival but nervous at the same time! Wish me luck!






05/08/2011

Mannix Point, final blog instalment

I'm having too much fun writing this blog now, especially now I've got the hang of posting pictures! Expect a lot more as I go into tent withdrawal mode.

The rest of our holiday was spent visiting new places and finding new beaches. We spent some time exploring Valentia Island, which is accessed across a bridge from the fishing village of Portmagee, about 10 miles south from the campsite.

From Portmagee over to Valentia Island
Portmagee
Valentia Island is 11 miles long and 3 miles wide, and has a permanent population of 650. It has a principle town called Knightstown, and a smaller settlement called Chapeltown. When you drive over the bridge from Portmagee, you turn right to go to Knightstown. From there a short Ferry can be caught back to the mainland, a point close to the campsite again. So in this way is a circuitous drive and a very scenic one at that. The Ferry is good value at six Euro, although it lasts for about 5 minutes before you cross the channel to the mainland again.



Ferry from Knightstown to Renard Point
Valentia Island is noted most famously for being the eastern terminus for the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable. The first official message was passed from Queen Victoria to the then President of the United States on the 16th of August 1858. The short message took 20 minutes to transmit.

Knightsbridge is therefore a Victorian town, quite out of place in this part of rural Ireland. It was a community dedicated to the cable and provided housing, schooling and worship in the Church of Ireland church at the head of the town.
Housing built by the Anglo-American Telegraph Company
Valentia Island, indeed the surrounding coast on the mainland, is full of slate. There is a slate quarry on Valentia Island itself, still being worked. It is on the tourist trail because of a religious grotto that is set up in the entrance, and of course the surrounding views are outstanding.

The Slate Quarry at Valentia Island


And of course Valentia Island has views, in abundance. Here's a selection of them....


We also had a couple of days out at the beach. We found a few different beaches but our favourite was Derrynane Beach, about 20 miles south of the campsite. Just off the coast is 'Abbey Island' with a ruin of a church and the remains of a graveyard all around it. We went midweek and virtually had the place to ourselves. The day was overcast but the temperatures were mild so we decided a swim was in order. But the sea is blummin' cold and it would take a hardier soul than me to go anything more than waist deep, and I think I did well to go that deep!

Derrynane Beach
Other highlights of the holiday was visiting the two stone forts which are very close to the village of Caherciveen. They have been partially reconstructed, but the inner sections of each fort are the remains of a Roundhouse and each dated from 500BC. These are incredibly ancient settlements, fortified, and with steps up the inside of the fortifications so that they could see over the top.

Cahergall Stone Fort
Cahergall Stone Fort, now often used for music events
Leacanbuaile Stone Fort

26/07/2011

Using the tent as a base to explore around the coast of Co. Kerry

After the first few days were we did very little except chill and and recover from the ordeal of getting there, we started to explore out and about. First stop was a castle we could see from the campsite, we had no idea how to get there but we just drove in the general direction and found it easily.


Ballycarberry Castle


The side of the castle facing the sea





24/07/2011

Mannix Point continued - welcome to the Twilight Zone

I read some reviews about Mannix Point Campsite before I went, to be honest they were the sole reason for choosing this site. One of the comments said that Mannix Point is like a Twilight Zone, you lose track of time. Another said it was like the 'Hotel California', as the famous track goes, ''...you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave'' but in a good way (not a creepy way as the song suggests).

Well I did lose track of time, and what day it was too. It became unimportant until we had some dates to work with which were the local arts and music festival which co-incided with the last weekend of our stay.

I also lost my two teenage boys, I barely saw them unless they were hungry - if they turned up it must mean it's dinner time. They had a great time hanging around the 'common room' and the campers kitchen, gently playing one of the guitars that were hanging on the wall, or taking in the 10 minute walk into the town.

Here's some photos of the campsite, our pitch, and the pitches around us.

 Got a nice pitch, no 6, right in the corner with a tap right beside us.


The kitchen comprised of two 30 litre boxes, one food and one non food. The non food had cutlery, utensils, plates, mugs, torches, clothes pegs and all the other little bitty things you need to go camping. The food consisted of tinned soup, Supernoodles, juice, dried pasta, rice, olive oil etc etc.





View from the tent. Twice a day the local sailing club held lessons on the shore directly in front of our tent. The water is actually part of the Atlantic Ocean, this is an estuary with another headland across the way. To the left is open sea.


As the week went on we got a variety of neighbours, some short stay and some longer.


We got great use out of the firepit, most of the evenings were sat around watching the flames, better than TV any day! 


This is the common room, or sitting room of the main building. This room was used for playing cards, reading, charging phones and laptops, and at the weekends things tended to get quite musical as people enjoyed a good Ceili.

Free wifi too! 
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