Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Quantocks

It's been quite an experience, looking at the road map and realising that, hey, I've never been there, let's explore!   This was the case not only with the Long Mynd in Shropshire but also the Quantocks, just inland from the Somerset coast. At just 12 miles by 4, they are small but perfectly formed and were the first area of England to be awarded the national status of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We have not been disappointed. We parked up at a lovely parking area on the top, recommended on Wild Camping for Motorhomes
....where we enjoyed yet another lovely sunset
Then today, we had a lovely 16km run on the tracks up on the top.

Tomorrow, we will have been away for 4 weeks and will have been away for just about 5 weeks when we get home at the end of next week. But travelling and living in Sadie with all of her home comforts has really been quite effortless and the experience has exceeded my expectations. The freedom that she gives us to drive and explore at will, to run and bike wherever we choose, for however long we choose is really quite a luxury. Our only constraint has been the availability of a good 3G signal for the dongle. Fortunately, the Three coverage map has been pretty accurate and my dongle has enabled me to work pretty much wherever we have chosen to pull over. I can't help but reflect on the contrast to 4 years ago when 3G never existed. To do my work away from home, I was reliant on a sketchy GPRS Bluetooth connection between my mobile phone and laptop. Thank goodness for progress.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Brecon Beacons

We left Pembrokeshire and headed for the Brecon Beacons where we stocked up on provisions, bought a mountain bike guide and an OS map and headed up to the Cwmgwdli parking area, 3 miles outside Brecon, where we could pick up the path to Pen y Fan for a walk/run. It was a lovely little spot where we ended up staying for 3 nights, the longest we have wild-camped in any one spot!
That's Sadie, the white spot in the bottom left of the picture below
On Saturday, the weather was wild, with strong gusting winds and low cloud.
But we knew that the path/track up to Pen y Fan was direct and well-beaten, so we donned our running gear and headed up the hill, passing several school/college groups who clearly had the same target as us. They were, however, moving  rather slower than us and looking decidedly miserable in the claggy conditions. The run back down was much more fun that the trek up, it has to be said - the 7km/500m+ outing took us just 1h13m. Time for a shower and a pint of tea followed by beer!

Sunday was a complete contrast - hot and sunny! We were planning on doing what looked like an ace mountain bike circuit but thanks to a combination of problems with Andy's brakes and route finding issues, we baled and headed into Brecon where Andy got his brake pads replaced - thanks very much to Keith at Bikes and Hikes! Still, we covered 23km/400m+ on the bikes which was better than nowt! We returned to the van where we had serious issues with cleggs (horseflies) and midges - most unpleasant, but it is that time of year, so it shouldn't have been a great surprise.

Today, we did the mountain bike circuit that we had planned on doing yesterday - the Red Brecon circuit entitled 'The Gap'. Conditions were cooler as high level cloud moved in and we had a cracking ride on a mixture of singletrack road, rocky tracks, forest tracks and a disused railway line. That notch in the hillside up ahead is 'The Gap'
 Looking back down from the Gap....
Rain was threatening by the time we had made the fast descent so we legged it back to the van - 36kms/680m+ in 2h16m

....great fun, particularly as the old legs were playing ball today and not being a pain! More please!

Tonight, we are spoiling ourselves by staying on a small, quiet farm camping area a few miles outside of Brecon where we can enjoy a long, hot shower (showers in Sadie are never long as we have to be so careful with water!), where we can do some washing, fill up the water tanks and empty the toilet cassette. Luxury! Tomorrow, we are heading further south to the Quantocks which is yet another area that we have never been to. Then on Thursday, back down to mum's in Dorset for the weekend and finally back to France next week. So much to do and so little time!

Thursday, 23 June 2011


I have never been to the West coast of Wales before. What a lovely spot it is! We left Newport this morning and headed further along the coast, through Fishguard and up via country lanes to Trefin on the coast. It was a beautiful day with warm sun but a chilly breeze, so we had a walk along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. The coastline was beautiful and dramatic

We followed the path for 2.5 miles to the pretty little harbour of Abercastle

We returned to the van for lunch and then headed further down the coast to try and find a spot to stop overnight. Newgale was where we found ourselves. What a stunning beach! Dogs were not banned as they are from the vast majority of beaches so we had fun persuading Taff that paddling was actually great fun!

After the pootle on the beach we headed along the singletrack road towards Nolton and found a cracking little car park for our overnight stopover, with a path onto the Coastal Footpath and great views out to sea. Purfick!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


The best thing about having Sadie is that we are able to travel to and explore parts of the UK that we have never visited before. After a weekend back at John's near Keighley, we headed South to the Shropshire Hills and to the Long Mynd to be precise. Now, I had never heard of the Long Mynd and what a great discovery it was ... wild, rolling moorland rising above the pretty market town of Church Stretton. Sadie is the white dot that you can see in the photo below - it was a great spot to park up but unfortunately the 'No Overnight Parking' signs by the cattlegrid at the bottom of the hill rapidly dispelled any notions that we may have had in that respect
Thanks to the landlady of the pub in All Stretton, we parked up in a wonderfully secluded spot just up the Batch Valley, just a 5 minute walk from the pub! From our parking spot, nestled in the little valley in this picture ....

...we headed up onto the Long Mynd, picking up paths and trails, resulting in a fantastic 12km run in warm sun. We rewarded ourselves with a meal and a couple of pints of beer in the pub in the evening.... it would have been rude not to!

The Long Mynd is not only a great playground for the fell runner but also for mountain bikers. It would have been great to explore the tracks and trails further, but the warm sun quickly disappeared and was replaced with rain and gusty winds so we headed West into Wales and then South along the coast to tonight's overnight spot, the car park at Newport Beach where we have been treated to the most amazing sunset out across the bay
From here, we may explore into the Preseli Hills which are behind us (again, an area I have never heard of!) before we head East to the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains where we know there are some fantastic mountain bike and fell-running circuits. At some point, we really should think about heading home. We have been away for 4 weeks now. But we have nothing that we have to head home for ... no pressing deadlines, no demands on our time... and to be quite honest, we are having such a good time exploring over here, there is no hurry :-)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A trot up Ingleborough

After parking up in the farmer's field near Ingleton on Thursday, we decided quite late in the day and despite having had chips and beer for lunch that we simply had to get out for a bit of a trot seeing as the weather was holding out. We headed up to Ingleborough which looks down over the village and were soon cooking in the afternoon sun. But on the top of Ingleborough, the wind was whipping up a frenzy. I was however somehow persuaded to hop on top of the cairn for the obligatory photo shoot - can you tell that I wasn't entirely comfortable?!!
The view however was as stunning as ever
We met a lot of people up there who were doing the 3 Peaks and all  looked weary so late in the day. Rather than make a quick descent, we decided to continue down towards Chapel-le-Dale with great views to Whernside....
... and then up on to the limestone edge from where we had good views back to Ingleborough
 My legs felt tight and heavy all the way around and I was becoming increasingly frustrated at their reluctance to comply with my demands for action. The long run along the edge was hard work although it was lovely to be back on the moorland tracks again. Eventually we reached the end of the scar and dropped back down onto the road
We eventually made it back to the van after 23kms and 800m+, 3h30m - beer time!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The travels continue

Well, highlights of the last 10 days in the North of England have included ....

....parking up for 2 nights in a wonderfully secluded spot on the Whinlatter road near Keswick with Bassenthwaite Lake below...
... where there was the most amazing old oak tree ...
... and from where we rode the Whinlatter Altura Trail (North Loop) and Quercus on the mountain bikes which was some of the most technical riding I have ever done and great fun! The views to Skiddaw were wonderful before we got drenched in a downpour on the way back
Highlight 2 - catching up with my sis and going for a lovely walk with her up on Askham Moor where we parked up for the night... an idyllic spot by anybody standards....

We were however rudely awakened at 04.50 by a Lowther Park warden asking us to move on, which was a surprise considering how wild the moor is, but it wasn't for us to argue! Move on we did.

Highlight 3 - parking up for 2 nights at the Walna Scar parking spot in the shadow of the Old Man of Coniston and with a view of Weatherlam before us
Of course we had to do the run up to the Old Man with Levers Water looking lovely in the sun....
 ... up to the top with far-reaching views to the East...
and then back down via Goat Water beneath Dow Crag
It was a cracking run out in perfect weather!

Highlight 4 - a cracking mountain bike ride in warm sun in the Howgills where we have spent the past 2 nights.  The horrendous push (literally) up was more than rewarded by stunning views and spectacular scenery

We rewarded ourselves for our efforts with a pint at the pub! Now, I do miss my real ale, it has to be said.

So, we have 'wild camped' in some amazing spots but we have also spoilt ourselves by staying on sites with 'facilities'. We avoid the big camping and caravanning sites like the plague, choosing instead small farms where they have facilities for emptying waste, where we can top up with water and, if we are really pushing the boat out, where we can also have a shower without worrying about our own gas and water consumption and ideally from where we can also walk to the pub! It's great fun!

The downsides so far? Well, at times it has been a right royal pain in the butt trying to find somewhere to pull over that also has a 3G signal for mobile internet. This is the problem with running an internet-based business. I have to have internet access. The Central Lakes and the Yorkshire Dales are particularly problematic from this point of view, which has meant we have been unable to take full advantage of the parts of the country that most appeal to us.

But tonight, we are parked up in a farmer's field just outside Ingleton - water and waste disposal are available and peace and quiet are assured - what more could you want for a fiver!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Sadie's adventures

Yes, people, I am still here! It has been 2 weeks since I last blogged and what a hectic 2 weeks it has been. Thanks to a last big push on the van, we finally got away and started the drive up through France to Le Havre. We hadn't had the chance to test Sadie out properly before we left and there were still a number of jobs that would need our attention, but the lino was rolled up and stowed in a bed box, a box of tools likewise and off we headed regardless. We made it up to Chartres before finding a quiet spot on the outskirts of a village where we pulled over for the night.
We had a bite to eat before setting up the oh so comfy king size bed in which we both quickly fell into an exhausted slumber, enjoying the best night's sleep either of us had enjoyed for quite some time. I was going to enjoy sleeping in Sadie!
We caught the superfast Norman Arrow from Le Havre to Portsmouth and rocked up at mum's in time for dinner on Friday. So so good to see my laddy and mum again - it had been 9 months since my last visit which is just too long. We had 3 full days there during which time Andy fitted the Thetford cassette toilet and carried out other work which he had not had time to do before we left France. We seemed to do an incredible amount of shopping for stuff that we needed for the van and soon it was time to head up to the Peak District where we hoped to catch up with friends and do some running and biking. The weather was glorious and we stumbled across the Shillito Woods parking area at which turned out to be a perfect overnight (unofficially) spot between Baslow and Sheffield with fantastic moorland, tracks and paths on the doorstep.

However, before we could relax, we had to tackle a leak from the shower mixer tap fittings which involved far too much time being spent in the B&Q car park in Chesterfield. It had been a nightmare finding the right French fittings to fit the different hot and cold plastic pipes that Andy had bought in the UK, but fortunately he was eventually able to find a solution and eventually we were able to use the shower for the first time - hurrah! We celebrated by having a late afternoon trot round a short 8km circuit from Shillito Woods. 2 weeks without stretching however meant that my legs were tight and aching but it was fantastic to be back on the wonderfully dry Peak District trails again, albeit briefly. 

Our next overnighter was at Redmires Reservoir just outside of Sheffield - a lovely spot, despite the late night comings and goings of the city's chavs in their souped up cars which I found quite disconcerting. Fortunately, once they realised that there was a motorhome parked up for the night, they quickly turned around and retreated and we were left to enjoy the peace and quiet
I decided I had to try to loosen up my legs if I was going to enjoy any running while we are away. Past experience has shown that biking does that very job. So, before leaving the Peak, we had a quick 2 hour/25km blast on the mountain bikes in the Ladybower reservoir area which included some tricky riding up on to Rushup Edge. It was stunningly beautiful, the weather was warm and sunny and the ride sorted my legs out wonderfully!

Unfortunately, I just wasn't able to coordinate myself sufficiently to meet up with people that I wanted to see, but hopefully we will have a couple of days back in the Peak on our return trip when it will be a different story. 

As far as living in the van is concerned, we are learning very much 'on the hoof'. Amongst other things, we have learnt, by running out of water, just how far a full tank of fresh water will go and therefore how frugal we need to be in our water usage. We have learnt roughly how frequently the toilet cassette needs emptying and that, if there is the opportunity to empty it we should take it, before the red light comes on! And we have learnt that solar panels are the business for keeping the leisure batteries sufficiently charged for us to run our various electrical apparel without any problem whatsoever! 

We had a wild and windy night, parked up on the moors above Skipton last night which didn't make for the most restful night's sleep
But we are now parked up at a mate's house near Skipton before heading up to the Lake District on Tuesday. The adventure continues!