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27/07/2016

July 2016 annual hols - The Lake District Part 2

Baysbrown Farm Campsite, Chapel Stile, Great Langdale (photo taken from Baysbrown web page)

For the second week of our holiday (Part 1 here), after consulting the weather report, we decided to move to the Lake District. We settled on a campsite deep in the Langdale Valley, partly because of the amazing views from the campsite, but also because it was close to Ambleside which in turn isn't too far away from Windermere and the central lakes area. What I couldn't know, until we got there, is that even though it is only 6 miles from Ambleside, the roads are quite narrow and so it takes quite a while to get there anyway.

The central Lake District is an area of two halves, divided by Lake Windermere. The Eastern side is easy to get around with roads wide and plenty of amenities. The Western side, where we were, is windy, narrow and steep roads and it is a lot more difficult to get around. However every corner travelled opens a new part of the amazing scenery up to you. The towns and villages are stuffed full of tourists and the car parks, urban or rural, are all very expensive.

I'd been quite shocked at the cost of parking a car in Whitby, but this was nothing compared to the cost of parking in the Lake District. The car parks all have card readers so you can pay by credit or debit card, and you can stay for either 1 hour, or 3, 4, 5 and 6 hours etc, but you cannot pay for 2 hours. I found myself paying for more hours than I needed because I couldn't be sure of getting back to the car in time. In other cases you have to go through a touch screen process at the pay and display because the registration number of your car has already been read and logged by a camera on the way in. Many attractions even have pay and display car parks, and the average car park cost I paid was between £5 and £6 for maybe 3 or 4 hours. I pay 30p an hour at home!

So after a rant about the cost of car parking I can still report that the Lake District is a wonderful place, well worth the visit. The campsite we stayed is on a working sheep farm and is spread over several fields in the valley between very dramatic and steep mountains.

Baysbrown Campsite
Herdwick Sheep, particular to the Lake District

The village of Chapel Stile is close by and walking distance. There is a very pretty walk all on one level to the village, with two routes, one taking a path beside a river down as far as the Wainwright Inn, crossing over the bridge to the village on the other side - or the other walking along the road for approximately the same distance. The village has a shop and a cafe called the Bramble Cafe and there are two pubs. The previously mentioned Wainwrights Inn and not too far further on the Britannia Inn. Both do bar food and evening menus.

We decided that for Elan, in the future, this would be a great stop for camping trips. As he would be using public transport, and the bus stop is immediately outside the campsite gate. The village is close enough to walk to and has enough amenities in it to keep him fed, watered and happy. Even better it is about an hour away from Carlisle where he is a University student.

We went out exploring the area every day except the first. We arrived late afternoon on the Thursday (after driving through that amazing scenery over the Penines again) and we knew the Friday would be a wet one. So we decided to have a 'Duvet Day' apart from a quick run to the shop for supplies.

Over the week we visited Hilltop which is the home of Beatrix Potter, author and illustrator. This was of particular interest to my son because he is studing a degree in Illustration in university.


Hilltop, Beatrix Potters House


Front room of Beatrix Potters House
Beatrix Potters House

We also went for a boat trip on Coniston Water and spent a day at the Aquarium on the southern tip of Lake Windemere, as well as exploring the towns of Bowness and Windemere, and the villages of Coniston and Hawkeshead.

Coniston Lake 
Aquarium

Hawkeshead The Queens Inn


Wray Castle grounds, lake Windermere


We set up my Bell Tent and Elans Olpro Pop along side the track that leads to the farm. The Campsite itself is spread over various fields but this means that some of them are quite a walk from the amenities. We wanted to be a bit closer (after a week of being far from them at Hooks House Farm) and we found a lovely spot to pitch in. The facilities are excellent but there are no plugs to charge anything. You can give your device (phone, tablet etc) to the owner for a charge of £2. We just did without, there was no phone reception anyway. Elan missed the use of his laptop to an extent, but made do with a newspaper everyday and we played Battleships, Cluedo and did the crossword in the paper most evenings.

Bell tent layout

Olpro Pop






Initially, because of that first wet day, we pitched a tarp over the front of the tent. I put it up in such a way that Elans 'pup' tent was under the cover so he could get in and out in the dry. This worked well but after the initial wet period we had no more rain so there was no point keeping it up. There were some windy spells and we had bother keeping the eyelet of the tarp attached the the spike on the door pole of the Bell Tent so because we didn't need the thing there was no point fighting with it.

No matter the weather, the campsite has a stunning outlook. The best view, which I don't have a photo of, was one evening we'd both been playing travel Cluedo in the tent. It was night and both of us left the tent to go up to the amenity block. We were slightly uphill from the Valley floor, which was completely filled up with a layer of mist and we were above it the layer looking down. There was also a full moon  and because we were completely surrounded by dramatic mountain faces it was like stepping in to another world. Wonderful! But even in the rain, the mountains are stunning.

Low lying clouds hiding the mountains

A view from the tent 

A view from the tent
Sun going down

On the Tuesday we had a heat wave. The campsite prints out a weather report and it is stuck up on the door of the washing up area so we knew about it in advance. We'd decided to take a picnic blanket to the shore of the lake at Ambleside because we could find a spot under a tree in the shade and there would be a steady breeze from the lake itself. We brought a picnic and a couple of books. Elan mostly dozed but even with the breeze it was just too hot. Elan then started to overheat and had a severe headache. When we went back to the car the gauge said it was 39 degrees. We went for a drive because the air conditioning in the car was better than being outside. Eventually, we came across a bridge that was over a river with some woods. Elan took his shoes off and went for a paddle in the water  under shade and started to feel a whole lot better. The following day is was more normal a temperature - at around 27 degrees. We ended up in the Britannia Inn, having sandwiches inside in the shade beside an open window with a steady breeze coming in. We Paddy's are not used with that sort of heat! I also realised that this is why I don't go to Spain.


This is my favourite picture of the whole holidays even though it is out of focus (sadly) because it shows Elan being relaxed and happy, which is the whole point of the holiday. 

The Lake District is definitely a place I would visit again and Baysbrown Campsite is one of the best I've ever been on. Again, like Hooks House, it was very quiet late evenings probably because most of the other campers were walkers. We had lots of youth groups stay, from scout groups to school groups and they were often up and away by 6.30am in the morning, without so much as a loud cough! The campsite was so quiet at night that somebody opening a zip carried across the fields.

I found that English campsites don't really have much in the way of social spaces like we have in Ireland, and that I missed that element (in my more limited experience of English Campsites). As much as I enjoyed my holiday in the Northern areas of England, I'm looking foward to holidaying in the relatively unpopulated areas around the coast of my own Island next year. It's good to have an epic odyssey once in a while but Irish campers and Irish campsites will always be my first port of call.  





24/07/2016


July 2016 Annual Hols - North of England Part 1


It's the weekend after the fortnight before, and I am so happy that our holiday, the big annual camping trip, went so well. We were lucky with the weather, in fact too lucky as we had one day when the temperature in the car read 39 degrees which is just nuts in this country. We had one day of solid rain, one night of sheet rain and crazy wind, and another mad thunder and lightning storm go right over our heads for and hour in the Langdale Valley that, with mountains all around, was like something out of the 'Lord of the Rings'. These were all separate weather events with sunny days in between, some bright and some a bit cloudy. Cloudy was a relief in some ways. 

My eldest son Elan and I were together on this trip, he is a student now in a university in Carlisle and at that stage where he has moved out of halls and into a private let with 5 other students, and part of our trip meant calling in to the new house to meet the landlord and for me to sign a document. 

We bit off more than we could chew with this outward journey. Our plans had been flexible, the only thing that was booked was the ferry and I had it in mind to spend two weeks in the Lake District, which is only an hour or so south of Carlisle. However in the lead up to the holiday the weather forecasts gave it to be bad in the Lake District and better over in the East and so it was last minute that it was decided that we'd go over to the North Yorkshire coastline. According to Google directions this was only a couple of hours more in the car. 

The boat from Belfast was mid-morning and so we left the house at 9. Boat was uneventful and we'd brought a picnic as I wasn't impressed with the food the last time we were on a ferry. We weren't to know that there was to be two major roadworks projects in Dumfries, one going in and one going out. I knew about some roadworks going in to Carlisle and so we slipped off the main road at Gretna Green and went on the minor road parallel to the motorway, which took us nicely in to the Scotland Road and the right side of the city for Elans new house. It was late afternoon by this time. The stop with the landlord took the most of an hour and we were keen to get on to the campsite before it started to get dark and knowing we had maybe two hours travelling ahead of us. 

Taking the road over the Penines, which is just stunning scenery the whole way, Elan started to take unwell with stomach cramps. Thinking it may be the result of something he ate he fished some tablets out of my medicine kit and pressed on. He got much worse and with him in agony, we stopped at Barnard Castle for some more of our picnic. But by this time the bread was stale and the insides were mush and neither of us could eat it. At Darlington, we accidentally took the wrong exit off a roundabout and just by chance I saw a restaurant/pub called the Tawny owl. We had a decent meal and Elan started to improve dramatically. So I guess it was a blood sugar problem, he just didn't have enough to eat during the day.By now it was 8pm. 

I'd been in touch with Hook House Farm campsite prior to leaving and the owner had told me that if I was going to be very late, to phone ahead and give her an estimated time. She officially closed at 8pm but in the end we didn't get there until 9pm. By the time we'd booked in we were setting up in the dark. Because it was dark I did not know why the floor of the tent was all sticky underfoot. The following morning I discovered there was a layer of mildew all over the floor of the Bell Tent (I washed it down with Milton and it was fine again, but quite a bit of work with only a cloth) and so the last time I went camping, and thought I'd dried the tent, I obviously didn't dry it well enough.

It was 12 hours from door to door. Too long really, and with Elan not well I do not think I would undertake a journey in one go like that again. Even driving all the way to Mannix Point on a previous year only takes 8 hours. 

I'd chosen Hook House Farm because of recommendation on the Bell Tent facebook page online, when I put in a request for a recommendation for a campsite with a view. I liked the idea of staying in the area, it was close to Robin Hoods Bay, which is famous for being the end point of the 'Coast to Coast' walk - and recently I saw a film called Downhill (2014) which is a comedy about four men taking the Coast to Coast walk from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay. It is a really sweet, independent, fairly low budget movie where four men in various ways are simultaneously going through a mid life crisis and a coming of age at the same time. 


Hook House Farm overlooks Robin Hoods Bay, which was only too apparent the next morning when I first opened the tent and this is what I saw.


The campsite is very sloped but there are some flat pitches at the very bottom of the campsite, furtherest, of course, from the loos and facilities but I really hate sleeping on a hill. Elan pitched the Olpro Pop, which is my latest tent purchase, right beside my Bell Tent and it was it's first use. Elan was so impressed with how easy it is to put up, and how spacious it was inside, that he asked if he could keep it for himself to use when in university with his girlfriend. So although I've effectively lost my new tent I'm secretly pleased that he wants to go camping off his own back and I hope it is the start of many of his own camping trips. 

The first day we drove the 17 miles south to Scarborough, parked in a shopping centre and went for an explore. We found a Victorian Funicular Railway, or a cliff lift as it's often described, and beside it some gardens clinging to the steep slope that had hairpin bend paths all the way down to the 'seaside' area of Scarborough. We decided to walk down and get the cliff lift back up for a whole big 80p for both of us. Scarborough is a very grand Victorian sea side town with the most of the town is up top on a cliff. There is a slim strip of land at the bottom of the cliff, enough for a row of shops of the seaside variety, amusements etc. A great beach and at one end a harbour with a fun fair. the whole time I had the song 'Scarborough Fair' going round my head. You can see that in the Victorian era it would have been very grand, and the architecture is still in very good condition but the seaside part of it is the usual tacky shops. I enjoyed exploring the town and would quite happily go back. 

Cliff Lift at Scarborough
Scarborough

Over the next week we also visited Robin Hoods Bay village, which is a small fishing village clinging to the banks of a steep inlet with a maze of tiny streets. It has a history of smuggling, and there are reputedly tunnels linking the dwellings where smugglers could hide and escape the law. It is mostly for tourists now, as there is no car parking in the village. You park up on the hill and walk down a very, very steep path. Going down is one thing, going up - well it took me four stops! 

Robin Hoods Bay, the way down! 


Robin Hoods Bay 

Robin Hoods Bay

Whitby is the nearest large town to the campsite and I absolutely loved it. It also has that smuggling history, and is another port with tiny streets and red roofs. Dramatically it also has a very gothic abbey on top of the East Cliff, and on the West Cliff, high above the port town, is another world of elegant Georgian town houses with pavilions, crescents and direct views out to sea. The Whitby of the port is much earlier, Captain James Cook, famously captain of the Endeavour, apprenticed there in 1746 having been born nearby. His apprenticeship lasted nearly 10 years with a Quaker family and he went on to explore, discover and map much of the world. As a mapper myself I found this interesting.

We spent most evenings in Whitby as the car parking was free after 6pm. Whitby has reputedly the best fish and chips in the world in the Magpie Cafe and so we went, and it was good but I have had just as good elsewhere (namely Mr Eatwells in Omagh!). 

Whitby, Captain Cooks Museum

Whitby
Whitby



Whitby also has an unusual swing bridge across the mouth of the river which lets seafaring traffic in and out of the port. I'd been over it several times before I saw it literally 'swing' in to action when it just split in half and one section of it swung out of the way. I was sitting in a coffee shop across the road at one end of it when it started to move. I nearly fell off my chair and said to Elan, 'look at the bridge' and Elan just rolled his eyes as he already knew it did that! 

Whitby, the Swing Bridge


Hooks House Campsite turned out to be a great base. The Campsite itself, as previously mentioned, in on a slope overlooking Robin Hoods Bay. The toilets and showers are in a portacabin which are cladded in timber so it looks quite smart, and they were spotlessly clean the whole time we were there. There are a couple of areas with sinks for dishes, one behind the portacabin which are outdoors with an amazing view which makes washing dishes almost a pleasure. Then there's also a kitchen area in a farm building with 3 sinks, a microwave and kettle and a few plugs for charging devices. Elan spent most evenings in there using his laptop where there was a plug and got chatting to quite a few of the other campers. I was quite happy reading a book outside my tent. 

I found that people are not as quick to stop for a chat as they are in Ireland (North or South) and very much keep themselves to themselves. I barely spoke to a soul apart from Elan the whole week and I don't think that would happen at home! I realise of course that I it takes two to tango and Elan was spending a lot more time in the communal parts of the campsite than I was. Another thing I noticed was how early everyone went to bed. At 10pm there wasn't a sound apart from the occasional snore from a tent. Even a large youth group in a rally field beside us were tucked up and sleeping. No messing about, giggling or pushing their luck! Just good as gold! A revelation to me! 

Hooks House Farm 


Hooks House Farm 

Hooks House Farm 


We were in the North Yorshire National Park and so it was a pity not to go and see some of it while were were there. I wanted to see the radar at RAF Fylingdales, and although you can't go near it because it is Ministry of Defence, you can still see it from the road. It is a very strange structure, so much so that you find yourself just checking overhead for the 'Independence Day' spaceship flying overhead. 

Radar at RAF Fylingthorpe
We carried on until we were in Pickering, another picture postcard village on the south west edge of the National Park. It was the ideal place to stop at a cafe and we explored the ruined castle, the village and found a flea market to peruse as well. 

Pickering Castle


Pickering

After a week in this area, we decided to up sticks and move to the Lake District. We really enjoyed our time on the North Yorkshire coast, but decided we'd covered a lot and were ready for new things to do. We also wanted to be a tad closer to Carlisle so the journey home would not be as arduous as the outward one. Part 2 coming up....



03/07/2016

Tarpology





I have created a new Facebook Group for people who like using camping tarps. The link is:

Facebook Group - Tarpology

Please help me get it going.























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