Archive | November, 2016

Greetings from Falesia, Algarve, Portugal

13 Nov

hurricane-portugal I had only just posted about today’s trip to Wales when good friend and like minded compadre, Martin sent some photos of Libby and himself from Sunny Portugal. Here is one lucky Brit’s way of spending Autumn in his motorhome. This is the site:

libby-and-martin-portugal Martin is still recovering from two bad falls and bizarrely, his son, Mark has been on traction after falling from a motorhome roof. Something I made light of after falling myself some time ago from a Microlite Caravan roof.My shoulder is still not 100 % recovered.  The couple are now enjoying some R and R in the Algarve. Cheating a bit at the Epic Sana Algarve  5 star hotel…. but why not? We often book into a hotel to stretch our legs and get a break from the campervan. A welcome change of chalk and cheese!

talbot-portugal-2talbot-portugal-1  Look at this old beauty. It seems in good condition. Our old Talbot shed most of it’s steel cab decades ago and that was following a respray and extensive body restoration. Our’s was petrol and I had to fit an emergency home made (motorhome made) heat shield to the carb and feedpipe once we got to the south of France with it. I also helped two delightful ladies with the same problem (fuel vapourisation) on a VW transporter. Here’s Martin again:

martin-and-burstner   I could easily get the NV200 inside that Burstner ! Following on from a previous trip which Martin and Libby made to Portugal we had looked in some depth at making our way there in the campervan but a trip to Cape Cod on the east coast of the USA has put that on hold for a while.

It’s really good to hear from readers. A big thanks goes out to Martin and Libby. Let’s wish them all the best for the remainder of their their holiday. Cheers!

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A walk in Wales. Whirlpool near Erddig Hall?

13 Nov

erddig-cup-and-saucer-in-flood  I was searching for somewhere different to visit in the campervan and came across this picture of a whirlpool near Wrexham. It looks like a lake vanishing into a sink hole. We had to go and have a look, especially after recent, heavy rainfall.

erddig-walk  Although cloudy, it was still fairly mild and we only felt a couple of drops of rain all day. Erddig Hall was the ancestral home of the Yorke family and was passed to the National Trust in 1973. Although we have visited several times, we had never heard of this “secret walk” previously. I printed off Mark Rowe’s sketch map and full of confidence we set off from the walled garden car park (LL13 0YT postcode) and found the Dovecote starting point. Easy peasy…….

Within 100 metres, I had gone wrong. What should have been an easy 2 miles was about to become a little bit ……… more than that !

erdddig-walk-bulls  We walked the busy path through some woods and past a group of Bulls in a field. Glad of the fence between us. It would have made Donald proud…….

We had gone down the wrong side of the House and a nice old Welsh gentleman went to great lengths to send us on great lengths of country paths to loop around via Kings Mill along the Sontley Road, then back alongside the River Clywdog. The broad valley was muddy but the River was stunning. The clear but brown water seemed peaty and even welcoming. On a hot day it would be nice to dip your feet in.

erddig-river-weir  There were loads of dog walkers, serious ramblers and we saw some faces twice……. not my best day’s navigating experience. I did spot some bullrushes in the marshy area and it brought back memories of collecting them as a kid.

Back then, our neighbour owned a florist’s shop. I had waded into a “dangerous” pond between our local Cocknage Wood and the common land at Rough Close. The neighbour, a Barbara Cartland lookalike , had spotted my mum’s ,proudly displayed  bullrushes and asked me to get some for her. Seeing pound signs, I walked back to the pool which , tragically,was a magnet for suicides and I was soon ruining another pair of cheap jeans. I got armfuls of rushes along with armfuls of leeches! I also had several cars stop to see if I needed rescuing from my tormented mind. No offence intended, by the way.

  Did “Ms Cartland” make it worth my while? Definitely not.She would not give you the steam from her dentures. A tough way to discover that setting up the deal in advance is probably best!I think that I had bored my wife with the story but soon we reached a cute cottage surrounded by Sheep.

erddig-cottage I once witnessed two Rottweilers savaging and killing sheep  in a field near Rugeley in Staffordshire. I had stopped the car and went to the only house nearby. Eventually someone responded to my doorbell ringing and shouting by poking their head out of an upstairs window. “Two dogs are killing sheep in the field!” ………. Their response???? “What? Not  Again!!!” 

So, when I spotted a Hound ( not sure what type??? huckleberry perhaps??)  crouching, hunting style, heading directly towards the fluffy sheep, I was a bit concerned. Then a short word from a Lady had the dog back onto it’s lead and ignoring said sheep completely. So… don’t tar all hounds with the same brush… as my latest saying goes.

erddig-cup-n-saucer This is how the “Cup and saucer” looked today. It’s purpose was to use the force of the drop in the stream waters to amplify and hydraulically pump water up a 90 feets rise to Erddig House. Have not  quite worked out the physics but it did actually work for a long time.

erddig-info-1   Even standing alongside the former location of the hydraulic ram, you could still not see the “cup and saucer” sinkhole, whirlpool, thingy. Signing was very poor but realising that it must be above the “ram”, a short climb revealed it in all it’s majesty. Several other walkers were also surprised to find it. No wonder it’s called a “secret” National Trust walk.

On the way home, we popped into Bryn-Y-Grog Hall to buy a couple of mirrored candleholders (?) and saw this:

tr8-rally-wrexham

I got all fired up in my Toad of Toad Hall fashion and commenced a spirited drive home, Rally style until hampered by very slow moving traffic on mostly double white lined roads. My wife also pointed out my recent speeding offence….. More of which later when I complete the lecture procedure. Still, I had did get 54 mpg on the way home.

A Remembrance day out in the sun

11 Nov

last-post-trumpet The last post

This morning dawned frosty and bright. I flicked on the gas heating in the campervan for an easy defrost and cosy pre-warm. While the heater was doing its job, we showered and dressed. I printed off a map and directions for a decent walk around Staunton Harold and Calke Abbey in Derbyshire and we set off. As we approached the lone soldier memorial at the edge of the village, I realised that I had forgotten that today was the 11th November.I felt so guilty. It was fast approaching 11am and I quickly parked up and walked to join the crowd at the memorial.

The crowd was listening to the local Vicar  preparing for the ceremony. Two police officers were watching the traffic at the busy junction. The mix of people could not have been more broad. Young and old. A good mix of ethnic groups. Religeous and atheist. Gay and straight. How it should be.

All with one purpose in mind. To remember those who have given their all, so that we have the freedom to go about our daily lives as we wish. A young chap played the Last Post absolutely faultlessly.This always moves me deeply. The significance had been explained to me a long time ago by my late father.  A young girl of part chinese ethnicity was amongst the first to place tributes on the cold stone of the memorial. A moving start to the day.

calke-abbey-walk-map

Just over an hour later, we were parked up at Calke Abbey. Although the house itself was closed, the place was packed out. We enjoyed a “home cooked” light lunch and then set off to walk it off in a circular tour of the sizeable deer park and along the adjacent Staunton Harold reservoir.

calke-abbeycalke-abbey-itelfchurch-at-calke-abbey     The weather was gorgeous! Mild enough not to have to wear gloves or hat. The Autumn sun was giving a beautiful light to the estate. The sheep were grazing happily all over the huge grasslands and walkers were (almost …) all smiling and greeting each other.

church-in-the-sun      The directions on the National Trust website were very easy to follow. It was not long before we reached the reservoir where two Welsh sheepdogs were being given a workout by a man using a tennis racket and ball. I could not believe just how obedient these two dogs were. They seemed to delight in carrying out his directions accurately and instantly. Lovely to see.

staunton-harold-twoimg_0523    The reservoir is a haven for wildlife and we quickly saw some healthy looking squirrels amongst the oaks. Then a heron , close to the one of the weirs. Swans and a large selection of  miscellaneous water fowl swiftly followed. Every other tree behind the deer fence of Calke Abbey estate seemed to be protected from the herd by steel mesh and timber frames thrown up around the growing trunks. A high maintenance and enormous parkland.

After an hour or so walking, we were back at the campervan and we headed off back to reality.

tigga-doh When I say reality, here is just one example of what I mean. This is our cat’s reaction to Donald Trump’s Presidential success. We think that he is somewhat ashamed of his similar hair. For certain, this is how his body language usually conveys the word  “DOH !!!!”  He has been looking longingly at a box of hair dye too …………….

Another day in paradise!

Shropshire Borders. Pigs and food culture.

5 Nov

george-morland-pig-sty

Had a run out in the campervan to Shawbury and Church Stretton in Shropshire. Church Stretton is in the running for the “Market Town of the Year Award.” TV’s John Craven was involved in the nomination.

Our current home, which has a bit of history to it, is on the borders of Shropshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire. Buried under our main lawn behind the house is a massive , long demolished pigsty. Every house in our row used to have a one. Each year, a pig sticker would arrive. He would slaughter the pigs, butcher them and take cuts of meat for his trouble. We still have apple trees which would have provided food for the pigs. In return we have deep, dark cheshire style loam under the trees where the pigs foraged.

The Black Country in Staffordshire is famous for it’s hot pork buns. The best pork crackling snacks are from Telford and Shropshire itself is famous for it’s pigs and associated products.

cherrington-farm-sausage-rolls   Cherrington Farm sausage rolls.

Nearby Stoke-on-Trent has for a very long time been renowned for it’s soft, oatmeal based, Staffordshire oatcakes. Made in dozens on huge gas fired , hot plates, in themselves very healthy “pancakes” but coupled with the traditional bacon and cheese, they become delicious but rather less healthy, breakfast meals. Eaten at any time of the day, the pig is celebrated.

fox-and-hounds-shawbury  Shawbury has an RAF (helicopter) base and some great places to eat. The “Fox and Hounds” does excellent food to a high standard. They have hosted Porsche Club of Britain events and the pub car park gets filled with motoring exotica. There is a sporty car garage in Shawbury opposite a very decent fish and chip shop, although we do limit ourselves to just a fish and peas if we eat there. Mostly….. ahem!

Virtually the entire drive, of about an hour, to Church Stretton consists of fertile agricultural land. , Well watered, especially around the flood plains near Shrewsbury, the land has provided food for the populace for centuries.

There’s lots of places to pull over for a brew with no shortage of garden centres, farm shops and the scenery speaks for itself.

A “standard” hog roast will feed 80 to 100 people. Bigger hogs will feed up to 140 people. That’s a lot of people fed. We keep a small garden stone pig in the garden as a tribute to all that apple fed pork!

Travelling locally is never dull. You can reach back into history and find new places to visit constantly. One of our next targets has got to be Moreton Corbet Castle, near Shawbury. Part of English Heritage it has escaped our National Trust focussed searches. Up until now !

moreton-corbet-castle-shawbury  It’s not just pork either. Woore and Market Drayton have several fruit farms including pick your own. Market Drayton was very well known for it’s damsons. Another good reason to buy local!

Can you time travel in a campervan?  Oh yes indeed.