Happy New Year

Okay, huge apologies for not having blogged for absolutely ages. I started the blog with really good intentions but then the more I went away in Edna the less time I seemed to have to write about it and then I had a bit of a back log. Sorry! So, I will definitely blog more often and try not to feel overwhelmed when we’re out and about lots.

Anyway, hope you’re all well. The first year in Edna has come and gone and it’s been brilliant. We still love her to pieces even though we had to pay a little bit of money to get her through her MOT. We didn’t manage to do all the counties in Wales, though we have done a few and intend to do more this year. We went to Scotland in the Summer which was brilliant and have visited relations in Clacton and Hertfordshire. Last year I talked about the horrible hotel we stayed in visiting relations in Hertfordshire and how it was too hot and itchy. Well, the last camping trip of 2014 was again visiting family but we stayed in Edna at a campsite which was brilliant. We hooked up for the first time and ran a little blow heater which comes on and then off again when it heats up to the correct temperature. It was less noisy than the diesel heater and I wasn’t sure how expensive the diesel heating would be to run all night. The diesel heater is louder in the van and also louder outside as it vents out. It was still colder in the roof than the main part of the van, it always will be, but it was warm enough with some good bedding. We’d do it again. Breakfast was a bit harder because we had to wrap up and get some ventilation in whilst we were cooking. The second morning we went out for breakfast. Well, why not. It was cheaper than the budget hotel and much more fun.

So, next year the plans are more of Wales, more visiting friends and relatives and either more Scotland or possibly a trip further afield to Holland or maybe France. We’re hopefully moving house this year so it depends when that happens. We don’t want to go anywhere warm though as my son still burns if it’s too warm. What are anyone elses plans for this year? Last year was a year of firsts for us so this year we get to worry less and benefit from a tiny bit of experience.

I’ve also got a new SatNav for this year. The SatNav app on my phone has really been playing up and Edna kept parkouring off onto B roads so now we’ve got a shiny new toy which will hopefully behave itself. We’ve only used it once so far and my daughter checked with the map the whole way there and back to make sure it wasn’t leading us a merry dance.

Near Tenby, Pembrokeshire

We turned around with big smiles on our faces.

Kelpies Camp SiteThis was our view from the bottom of the field looking up.  There was one other set of people there in a tent and they left the following morning so then we had the place to ourselves.  It’s amazing what a bit of green space does for you.  I suppose that’s why people like camping.  There was a static site next door and one of the days we heard the dustmen emptying the bins with a lorry that issued warnings but apart from that it was lovely and quiet.  The lane we were next to had the occasional car, walker, jogger and horse go by but it was very quiet.  In the distance was a series of crows nests along the tops of trees and we could hear them which shows how quiet it must be.  The down side of course to the space and peace and quiet were the facilities.

There were two portaloos and a porta shower.  The portaloos were kept nice and clean but they were portaloos and the shower had nice hot water, but the problem was there was only one hook to hang your clothes so it was tricky not to get your things wet.

Kelpies 2The recycling facilities were behind the portaloos and as you can see from the picture, they were all near the entrance.  The washing up sink was on the opposite side.  There were plenty of water taps and hook ups all the way around the field.  We didn’t hook up, but there definitely wasn’t a shortage.

A chair with a viewA chair with a view.  The owners lived in a cottage at the top of the sloping field.  They had only just bought the camp site off someone else so their weren’t any hens yet.  The owner had just bought some chicks so there will be eggs for sale in the future.

Bad weather on the way

Nice view shame about the weather

The weather had been absolutely vile on the way, but as we got there it seemed to settle for a bit.  We had our fingers crossed as the weather forecast had said bad weather and storms on the Saturday which was possibly our last day.So after making tea and stretching out we retired for the night.  The next day we explored the area.  We were in a village called Manorbier and we walked down into the village past the castle and to the National Trust beach which was lovely.  It was a mix of pebbles, sand and rocks and was part of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.  There was a few people there but it wasn’t too packed.  There were some people sea canoeing and the sun was busy trying to shine.

ManorbierManorbier pile of rocks Afterwards we went to get some supplies from the little shop in the village including ice cream for the kids.

When we had arrived the owner had helpfully given us a sheet with local information on it and we decided that we might eat out.  Having perused the sheet we decided to go for the restaurant with a view and got directions from the owners who told us what time they opened.  We couldn’t ring them as the Orange/T-mobile mast just outside the village had been damaged by a storm and there was a very limited intermittent signal.  The owner told us that most people in the area had an Orange/T-mobile/EE phone as there was usually a good signal.

We got there fifteen minutes after they opened and they immediately asked if we’d booked.  The place was empty.  The member of staff turned their back on me and another member of staff gruffly mentioned a table number.  We were seated the furthest away from the window and the view and they forgot to explain the menus or the specials.  When we left there were still three empty tables.  Having worked in restaurants I know that even if you have nine o’clock bookings or even eight o’clock you can easily turn those over once before then.  The food was nice but disappointingly the service was a bit brusque.  Sorry to get on my high horse but I do find poor service in restaurants disappointing and I love good food and friendly service.

So we returned to Edna and I had a glass of wine whilst we played Go Fish which is beginning to be a camper van tradition and hoped the weather would hold for the next day.

(to be continued)

Pembrokeshire

The next county in Wales we decided to go to was Pembrokeshire.  We have been to the top part a couple of times before and visited St Davids.  Last year we stayed in the Camping and Caravanning Club Site near there.  We visited the cathedral in Britain’s smallest city.

St David's cathedralIt looks like another bench with a view there.  I seem to like those.  It was a bit of a murky day as you can see.

The Caravanning and Camping Club Site is a little way out from St Davids.  We visited a very popular beach which we had to queue to park in and then when we got there they were three deep on the beach.  Everyone had little pop up shelters, windbreaks, wetsuits and lots of gear.  It was like a little camping village on the beach.  As we were camping we had micro fibre towels,  a bottle of water, a packed lunch and one bucket and spade to share.  We felt like we had to lie down like a starfish and spread out in order to preserve our space.  It was a very nice beach, but very busy.  I can’t remember the name of it.

The next day we decided to walk to a quieter beach nearby.

Beach near St DavidsIt didn’t have the sparkling yellow sands of the previous day.  It was a little more grey but it was a lot more peaceful with a mix of rock and sand.  We watched the sun set and walked home.  The only problem was the amount of slugs we encountered on the walk back.  Yeuch!  Whilst we were at the campsite I met a man with a camper van and two boys.  They had driven down to the beach and eaten their breakfast there and I remember thinking I would like to do that.  So that’s something else on my wish list of things to do.  Breakfast next to a beach.

 

We decided we would like to go to the South of Pembrokeshire this time to an area we hadn’t been to.  I had heard a lot about Tenby so I had a look for campsites near there.  They seemed to fall into two camps, all singing and dancing campsites often with a lot of statics and club houses or more basic sites.  So this time in contrast to Fforest Fields we chose a Certificated Site which is owned by the Camping and Caravanning Club but only allows five caravans and a small number of tents.  We went for a site with a good location over facilities this time and the site claimed it was walking distance to the beach, but it had portaloos and an outside washing up sink.  It had very good reviews.

It’s at this point when you’re travelling there that you remember how far away Pembrokeshire is and therefore why it’s nice and quiet compared to some other parts of the UK.  It is probably the County in Wales the furthest away from England.  I say probably it obviously depends where you’re coming from and where you’re going to.  We arrived a bit later than anticipated and heart in the mouth turned the corner hoping for a good spot.

Now, I’m afraid I’m going to be a tease and keep you in suspense until tomorrow.  Was it a good site?  I’ll let you know.

Camping Trip – Fforest Fields near Bulith Wells, Powys

Another view of Fforest Fields

Fforest Fields camp site and the boating lake behind it.

We headed off last weekend for our first trip on our every county in Wales challenge.  Well, we’re only challenging ourselves.  We decided to do Powys which is a huge county and has lots of choice.  It is also one of the few counties in Wales which doesn’t have a coastline.  We had already been on a couple of trips to Lake Vyrnmy which is in Powys, so we decided to go a bit further South.

We decided on Fforest Fields which is near Bulith Wells and comes highly recommended on http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/  It was our first time on hardstanding as last time we had been put on the grass, so it seemed a bit, well concretey at first and took a few moments to adjust.  I do like a bit of grass.  We found a hardstanding with some grass next to it so we could put up our tent and settled in.  We found the site okay despite realising that we had left our maps at home.  They were involved in an accident in which they had got soaking wet and we had taken them out of the van to dry, but I had forgotten to put them back.  We were okay with the Satnav app on my phone and the directions from the website, west of Hundred House village.  I knew it was Welshpool, Newtown and then either Bulith Wells or Llandridnod Wells.

After playing with the tent and cooking dinner we settled in for the night.  I organised the bedding differently.  Everyone had one bag with their sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and sheet for the bed.  So just three bags out from under the seat.  One up the top in the roof and two for downstairs.  It was much quicker and the new sleeping bags were much better than the old ones, very toasty and a lot less messing about than trying to add blankets and things on top.  In fact, one of the nights we were all pretty warm and were unzipping in order to keep cool.

Our first full day we decided to go to Hay-on-Wye the book town.  We were a little bit worried it wouldn’t live upto expectations.  We had been to Wigtown, the Scottish book town before and found it to be a lot smaller and less books than we had expected but Hay-on-Wye was brilliant, once we got there.

We had a bit of a dilemma with the SatNav.  First of all, I put in Ross-on-Wye and wondered why the journey time was so long.  Then we had a bit of a problem with directions.  I was driving and the phone won’t sit on the dashboard with the sucker thing like it did in the car, so my daughter is in charge of it.  She is usually in charge of directions as though my son is older he can’t read a map or directions whilst we’re driving.  It makes him car sick.  None of that phases my youngest and she likes maps and is pretty good with them.  Anyway for some reason or other we went badly wrong.( It could have been a right hand turn instead of left out of the campsite.)  We went onto a B road which was two lanes, then onto a smaller road which was smaller with passing places and then we ended up a small track with no passing places until the SatNav told me to do a U turn as I was in a farmer’s drive.  The SatNav then refused to get a signal even though it had one all the way up there.  I just retraced all the roads backwards then until I got back onto the main road and drove up the A road looking for signs.  It took us a bit longer than using any minor roads but at least I could relax and breathe properly.  We then decided to buy a map Hay-on-Wye.  My son said that Edna wanted a bit of an adventure and was obviously trying to do some Free Running or Parkour.  That became a bit of a saying then for the rest of the trip.  “Is Edna going to do any Parkour?”

The next day we explored the site.  There are lots of walks which can be done from the site which is a big plus point, but we had to wait for one of the maps to be downloaded as they had run out when we arrived.  The day we left, we realised there were about 5 sheets with useful information and walks on them.  It was a real shame we hadn’t had them earlier as we may have done another walk.  We walked into the woods above the campsite and zigzagged around and up.  There was a big cycle race which we accidentally got caught up with and had to mind out of the way (leap into the verge).  It was okay going up hill as we were faster than them but when it got to a downhill part they were going pretty fast and we had to be very vigilant until we could find an alternative route.  There were some great views.

View from above Fforest Fields

A bench with a view

A bench with a view

View of the campsite and the fishing lake in the foreground and the boating lake further back.

Views of Fforest Fields 3

Our Pitch

Our pitch

Then after some more eating and relaxing and discussing where to go the next day we ended up going to sleep.  A relaxing day.

The next day we went to Brecon which was lovely and particularly the canal.  We ate our lunch by the side of it listening and watching people in hire boats trying to work out what they were doing.  Next time we will definitely get there earlier and hire one of the little boats for a few hours.

Brecon canal Brecon canal 2

After that we headed for an ice cream parlour which according to the leaflet was in an area just outside of Brecon.  I got the impression it was in a neighbouring village, but we found it a couple of minutes out of the town centre.  The ice cream was fabulous.  We had two flavours each but they included Turkish Delight, Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake, another cheesecake flavour, Coffee and Walnut, Mango and Chocolate Orange.  We decided the Turkish Delight flavour was the best.

Ice Cream parlourThe following day we looked at even more sheep and their lambs which the children loved.  We walked around the boating and swimming lake and found the fishing lake which we had originally missed as it was over a hummock.  The weather was so nice that we caught the sun even though the children had their jumpers on and we had to slather sun cream on after that.

We came back feeling like we had sort of cracked things, unlike the last trip where everything went wrong.  We just need to make sure Edna doesn’t decide to do anymore Parkour.

Plans

I was thinking about plans for the warmer weather and I had been wondering about a theme. When the kids were younger we did a Castles week which was nice and we talked about doing a Waterfalls week which we haven’t yet done. But then I read an article in Camping Magazine here http://campingmagazine.wordpress.com/ about the gentleman camping at least one night in every county in England. This sounds very ambitious in a tent. So then I wondered about Wales and I think I will try in the better weather to camp in every county in Wales. Maybe it’s not as ambitious as every county in England but it sounds like an interesting idea. The North of Wales is our usual stomping ground, though we do actually live in England, so it will make us explore a little further South. We have actually only lived in this area for six years so we’re still exploring.  I hope to do lots of exploring in these counties too.