Time for an Autumn tidy

As Autumn is upon us it’s time for a quick trip over to the cottage to pack away the summer furniture, tidy the garden, plant a new batch of spring bulbs and stock-up the log store.

 

Wood shed at the cottage

On Thursday we’ll be heading down to Plymouth to catch the overnight sailing onboard the Pont Aven, Brittany Ferries flagship.  Although it’s a bit of a long haul down to Plymouth, once we land at Roscoff the following morning we’re just an hour’s drive away from Kernolou.

It won’t be all work though, I”m sure we’ll find time for some culinary experiments in the Kernolou Kitchen and some long leisurely walks along the Nantes-Brest Canal.

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Flying over the Thames with the Emirates Air Line

The Emirates Air Line, London’s only cable car has been open for just over five years and last week was the first time I’d got round to experiencing it first-hand.

It was a lovely sunny afternoon with just a hint of a breeze, in fact near-perfect flying conditions. So after lunch I took the DLR to Royal Victoria – the Emirates terminal is just a few minutes walk away.

There’s a huge array of fare options including visits to the Emirates Aviation Experience but.on this occasion I opted for a single trip which cost about £4.50. Fortunately there was no queue and before I knew it the next car was to be my exclusive air craft for the following 10 minutes

Each car takes up to 10 passengers, you can take dogs but they must be carried onboard. No problem for Herbie the mischievous Miniature Schnauzer there then.

I didn’t take any great photos as I was so entranced with the incredible views as we soared high over the River towards the Greenwich peninsular. Even in the calmest weather you can feel a slight sway during the flight, but maybe I felt it more being the only passenger..

Once on terra firma I took a few more photos and this short video.  It’s a bit noisy as the Peninsular is a huge construction site!

The Emirates Air Line is a great addition to the London skyline and as well as being an extra commuter link across the river makes for a fab tourist attraction.  I’d definitely return for another trip and maybe take in the Emirates Aviation Experience at the same time.

A jolly relaxing weekend…

The recent late summer warm weather provided the perfect excuse if any were needed for further adventures in the Bedford Bambi Campervan; it had been a very busy few days at work so we were looking forward to a jolly relaxing weekend!

We’d left it rather late to book, but success came just a few phone calls later and we were on our way to Comberton, a pretty little village just about six miles from Cambridge city centre.

Comberton Village Green and duck pond

 

Our destination and base for the weekend was Highfield Farm Touring Park run with amazing attention to detail by the lovely Beverley and crew.  We usually avoid the larger organised sites, preferring the more relaxed approach, however we were very pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Highfield to find a beautifully manicured site which offered an element of privacy through clever planting of the hedgerows.

Entrance to the campsite at Comberton

 

Our allocated pitch was at the farthest end of the camp, conveniently placed for access to the extensive dog walking routes through the local farmland.

Bambi parked at Comberton, Cambs

 

It doesn’t take long to set-up camp, especially with the help of Herbie, the mischievous Miniature Schnauzer! We’ve spent many weekends away in the Bambi so it’s quite a practised routine now we’ve got the hang of it.

Herbie the mischievous miniature schnauzer goes camping

 

Although we spent many happy hours wandering through the stunning countryside, of course no weekend away is complete without a visit to the local hostelry!

The pub in question is the rather charming Three Horseshoes where we found the staff to be friendly, super-efficient and the standard of food was just right. There’s plenty of parking; a lovely beer garden and patio area and especially important, it’s dog-friendly!

There is a designated dog-exercise area and a walk around the farm is about 1.5 miles offering stunning views of the village and surrounding Cambridgeshire countryside.

So we certainly succeeded in our mission of having a jolly relaxing weekend, Highfield Farm is definitely on the list for a return visit, highly recommended!

 

 

return to Cherbourg…

St Malo is by far the most convenient port for us in northern France, however on rare occasions when we can’t get a crossing we use either Caen or Cherbourg.

In the summer months Brittany Ferries operate the Normandie Express, a daily service between Portsmouth and Cherbourg with high speeds of up to 42 knots giving a nippy journey time of just 3 hours.

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This month we were on one of the first crossings of the season and very fresh it was all too.  There is a new Club Lounge with extra-comfy seating which is spacious enough to recline without impacting on your nearest neighbour.  In-seat USB connections are a real bonus and complimentary hot and cold drinks are provided at the beginning and end of each journey. Well worth the extra few pounds…

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Also new for this season is a small range of hot meals from Le Cafe, a very welcome addition.  Cooked breakfast was keenly priced and very tasty it was too; the perfectly scrambled eggs, tomatoes and sausages were accompanied by a rather strange (and unnecessary) mashed potato affair. For later in the day there is a limited but good choice of hot food again well priced at around £5.00 or a choice of delicious soups for £3.50.

Of course there’s a shop, just the one but it sells all the usual papers, magazines and things you never knew you needed plus wines, beers, spirits and tobacco; oh and giant Chupa Chups.

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We disembarked just a few minutes earlier than scheduled and after a very brief queue at Cherbourg French border control we were whisking our way down the peninsular. It is a bit of a gruelling drive home at around 7 hours with a few short stops, but much nicer for pampered pooch who only had to endure being left for 3 hours instead of the usual overnight in the kennels on the ferry.

Time then for feet up and a relaxing glass of something sparkling…

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I’ll be adding more pics and info to the Normandie Express page shortly, but in the meantime check out our oh so favourite Brittany Ferries ship, the MV Bretagne

a trip to the Fens…

So the Easter weekend weather wasn’t predicted to be great but that didn’t put us off taking a last minute trip out to the Cambridgeshire Fens.

After the obligatory supermarket pit-stop to top up on goodies we hurtled up the A10 at a staggering 45mph (excluding hills); Bambi really was on top form after its recent very extensive service.

Our destination for the weekend was the enchanting little village of Horningsea, located just a few miles north of Cambridge city centre.

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Gayton Farm & Campsite, which according to their Facebook page is a mixed farm of Arable land and Lincoln Red Cattle, home of Bespoke Bridlework and of course the campsite that is run by the very charming Carolyn and Robin who couldn’t have done more to welcome us and make our stay thoroughly enjoyable.

It’s clear both are passionate about everything they do, during our stay Carolyn and Robin were painstakingly constructing a large decking area at the rear of their house as well as taking care of the farm, the Bridlework business and of course playing host to the field of campers! Industrious from dawn to dusk, theirs really does appear to be a true labour of love.

Gayton is a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified site which means it’s limited to just 5 motorhomes or caravans and up to 10 tents at any one time which engenders an air of exclusivity enhanced by the tranquil setting and stunning views over acres upon acres of flat open farmland.

On first impression you might think that this is so good they’ve done it before and indeed they have… at Lynchets Farm & Campsite just 30 odd miles down the road at Great Chishill before taking their successful blueprint and recreating it at Horningsea.

Facilities are outstanding, they’ve just finished putting the final touches to the new washroom/toilet block which is kept immaculately clean. Each pitch has electrical hook-up and a couple are full service.

The village is home to two country pubs; we only made it to the nearest one, the amazing Crown and Punchbowl which is expertly run by those good folk at CambsCusine. We’ve previously sampled their outstanding hospitality at the Tickell Arms in Whittlesford and St John Chop House, Cambridge. All highly recommended!

During the daytime we enjoyed bracing walks across the Fens and along the River Cam, although Herbie is never able resist the pull of a country pub and dragged us into several during the course of the weekend, so naturally we felt obliged to partake in the odd pub lunch or afternoon Prosecco…

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Next week we’re back off to Brittany for a rest!

return to the shires…

First outing this year in the Bambi saw us making a flying return visit a couple of weekends ago to the Shires and the rather splendid Hertford Camping and Caravanning Club site (see also my previous blog).

After a warm welcome and speedy check-in the lovely Em showed us to this agreeable little hard-standing pitch not too far from the main entrance and well placed for easy access to the facilities block.

 

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Bambi pitched up at Hertford Camping and Caravanning Club

Although a large site with some 250 pitches, it is so well laid out with different areas that you never feel cramped and this early in the year it wasn’t overly busy so we really were spoilt for space and privacy.

We took H to the designated dog walk that pleasingly meanders through woods past a lake to open countryside, ideal for a game of chase.  Afterwards he enjoyed a rest and nap while we set up camp.

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It’s just a short walk into the town which has a huge variety of pubs and restaurants, our favourite being the very dog-friendly Dog & Whistle.  We were too late for lunch but thoroughly enjoyed a nice glass of red or two before making our way back to Balls Park, stopping off at the local Sainsbury’s to pick up some supplies and non-essential goodies!

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Following another bracing stroll through the Hertfordshire countryside we returned to the campervan just in time to hunker down before the wet and windy weather set-in.

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After dinner which consisted of a bowl of delicious steaming-hot chilli and rustic bread accompanied of course by the obligatory glass of red, it was time to relax in front of the iPad for some Saturday night trash television.

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The following day brought us blue skies and fresh air aplenty; after an invigorating early morning walk we treated ourselves to a simple but hugely satisfying breakfast of egg and bacon muffins before packing up the campervan and heading home to London and the reality of the working week ahead.

This week the little van has gone into the garage for a service, MOT and spring-clean in readiness for more outings, antics & adventures…

Down beside the side of the silvery sea…

When we were kids our neighbours used to go on holiday to Whitley Bay; I had no idea of the whereabouts of what we then imagined to be an exotic far-flung destination.

Until yesterday.

Historically in Northumberland but now part of Tyne & Wear the little seaside resort of Whitley Bay flashed before my eyes as we passed through on our way from Newcastle on the ‘Metro’ allegedly the first rapid transit light rail system in the uk.

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We alighted two stops later in the small town of Tynemouth at the rather impressive Grade II listed Victorian station that formerly served as a mainline railway station used by the thousands of day-trippers and holiday makers from the late 1800’s onwards.

As we strolled along Tynemouth’s main street, populated with the ubiquitous gift shops, chic coffee shops, trendy bars and restaurants, the ancient castle and priory ruins loomed before us, dramatically perched on the rocky headland.

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By this time a very patient H was much in need of some exercise and so we headed down to the award-winning Longsands beach that even on this fresh February morning was awash with dog-walkers, children playing in the soft golden sands and even a couple of brave souls who waded into the chilly, silvery waters of the North Sea for a somewhat brief bathe.

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At the far end of the beach the lights of a distant bar restaurant beckoned, the firm damp sand underfoot helped speed our way across. Lunch for me consisted of the freshest Mussels in a garlic and parsley sauce while the other half opted for the most amazing looking burger.

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Another much shorter stroll took us to Cullercoats station and the Metro whisked us back to Hebburn in no time… we’ll be back to visit this rather enchanting stretch of coast because oh, we do like to be beside the seaside!

Heading North

This weekend found us on the 08:30 Virgin East Coast from London to Newcastle for a weekend of birthday celebrations with the other half’s family. It’s been a while since I’ve made a long distance train journey and was very pleasantly surprised!

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As we were travelling with precious pooch we opted for 1st class; roomy comfortable seats, free WiFi, entertainment and power sockets to charge up our phones and tablets make all the difference to a 3 hour journey.

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On  board catering has come a long way too… Virgin have teamed up with James Martin (him off the tele) to create a range of new menus…

After a selection from the Bakery Basket Ian opted for the Breakfast Roll, crammed with rarebreed Yorkshire back bacon while I opted for the Great British Breakfast, succulent sausage served with a rasher of that delicious bacon, grilled tomato and flat mushroom complimented by the creamiest black pudding and topped off with a perfectly cooked egg.

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The freshly brewed coffee was freeflowing and fairtrade tea was also available. The menu is very aptly named ‘A Tasty Journey’ and it was simply first class – hats off to Virgin!

Lac de Guerlédan

Lac de Guerlédan the largest lake in Brittany, provided the perfect setting for an invigorating  hike last week, the gently rippling icy-blue water attesting to the seasonal wintry chill.

Lac de Guerledan

We’d enjoyed a very different vista last year when the lake had been drained – see my previous article or gallery here

There is some great information on their own website (in French) or the official Brittany Tourism site features articles about the lake and so much more of this beautiful region.

A trip to the Shires…

The county town of Hertford is just 20 miles or so north of the capital; a good distance for our second test-run last month with Tallulah the Bedford Bambi campervan.

After a brief stop-off in the local Sainsbury’s to stock up on essential supplies we arrived just after one o’clock when we were  warmly greeted by the site manager and offered a pitch with electrical hook-up not too far from the main entrance.

The campsite which is located in the lovely Balls Park area just on the outskirts of the town, extends to several acres ideal for exercising the hyper-active pooch, is sheltered and has excellent facilities including an onsite shop and even a takeaway burger van in season.

We didn’t quite get the hang of putting up the awning, after a few bungled trials and tantrums we elected to lunch in town at the rather splendid and pup-friendly Dog & Whistle. Following a vigorous afternoon walk through the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside we retired to the Bambi for the evening and enjoyed another glass or two of red and a bite to eat.

We discovered a few tweaks to make; the dining table is too low to sit at comfortably and the sofa could do with some cushions to lounge around on, we need to install another couple of power sockets and some additional lighting, and we really should read the instructions for that awning!

Altogether a great trip, even though we were so close to London it felt rural & remote; the Shires take heed – we’ll be back!

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