Monday, 19 July 2010

Heading South

The teaching session in Whitley Bay on Saturday 17th was from 10 till 5.  We decided to head straight off after the session and try and get about a third of the journey home to Cardiff covered that evening so that there would not be so much to do on the Sunday.  Before we set out I had tried to find a campsite around the Harrogate region to stay at Saturday night, but every one I looked at was fully booked for that night.  We had noticed however, on the journey up, that it was possible to pay to park overnight at a motorway services.  For some reason this had never occurred to us before as an option.  So we decided to just drive and see where we ended up.  We ended up at Tamworth services on the M42.
There are several advantages to stopping over at a motorway services: you can just stop when you are ready to; you do not have to worry about finding the campsite before it gets dark; the car park is always lit so it is easy to find your way around; facilities are guaranteed; and breakfast is easy to come by.  I was so glad we hadn't booked one near Harrogate in the end, as the roads were so clear and easy on Saturday night that we ended driving much farther than we had intended.

We found a quiet corner to tuck ourselves away and had a good night at Tamworth services.  There was not too much traffic in and out over night, so we were able to get a good night's sleep, and the curtains in the van are good enough to make it dark for sleeping.  There were shower facilities available as well as toilets and wash hand basins at this services, so we were well set up.  It cost £8 to park overnight – cheaper than most campsites.  I think we will always do this on a long journey in future as it means we do not have to decide how far we will travel in a day or an evening in advance.  Not all services are as good as this one, but if you do not like the place you can just drive on to the next one.  Campsites are generally nicer than motorway service car parks, but motorway services do provide a convenient stop-over on a long journey

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Heading North

This weekend was the weekend of the great expedition up north to Whitley Bay.  We taught a day workshop on Saturday 17th on the subject of meditation.

We decided to set out Thursday evening and try and complete about a third of the journey that evening so that we had all day Friday to cover the rest of the distance.  Last year we joined the Camping and Caravanning Club, but this year we decided to give the Caravan Club a try.  Their sites seem to offer electric hook-up more usually.  So Thursday evening found us at Atherstone Stables campsite, a Caravan Club certified site.  Entry is with a code via an electronic gate.  The site is basic but adequate: a couple of fields of level ground with gravel pitches and electric hook-up points.  The main building is a row of stables with one toilet and one shower.

It was starting to get dark as we arrived, but we settled in easily and found our way around.  The weather was stormy and wet.  We discovered that there was a problem with the electrics in the van—probably a dead leisure battery—but we had sufficient battery-operated lighting with us to manage for this trip.  We decided to pull the pop-top roof down for the night because the wind was so strong and the rain quite severe.

The website link for this campsite didn't work when I tried it, so I am not adding it to the blog.  The site is off the A5 southeast of Tamworth.

After a reasonable night we set off to complete the journey and drove for an hour before stopping at Bolsover for breakfast.

This is a lovely little town just off the A632 near Chesterfield, northeast of junction 29 on the M1.  It sports an impressive castle but we decided not to visit it this time as we did not want to stop for too long.

We settled for a walk around the town and a good breakfast bun at Sarah's café.  The food was good and set us up for the last stretch of driving.

We arrived in Whitley Bay around 4pm.  The weather was quite bright and mild, so we enjoyed a stroll along one of the beaches.  Whitley Bay is in North Tyneside, in Tyne and Wear, east of the A19 after the Tyen tunnel.  It is bigger than we expected, and not quite the scenic seaside jewel we had envisioned, but the people we met on the beach walking their dogs were friendly and the beach and headland area overlooked by St George's Church is well maintained.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Overnight stop

On 25th June I went to the USA for a week to take part in a Buddhist retreat in upstate New York.  I was delighted to be able to fly from Bristol Airport and not have to cope with the vastness of Heathrow, as I was travelling alone.

I had to be at the airport for check-in at around 7.30am, so we decided to drive over the evening before and have a relaxing evening in the van and a slightly less early start next morning.  We did not fancy dashing down the M4 at 6am, worrying whether we were going to get caught in traffic.

We found Brook Lodge Farm campsite most pleasant and convenient.  It is literally 5 minutes drive from Bristol Airport and yet a haven of peace, tranquility and beautiful surroundings.  The shower and washroom facilities were clean and well appointed, and there was a separate washing up area with hot water supplied from solar panels.  The proprietors of Brook Lodge are interested in environmental issues and hence it is a site that is run with the ecology in mind.  They have been awarded a bronze standard by Green Tourism.   This organisation assesses businesses wishing to join the scheme "against a rigorous set of criteria, covering a range of areas, like energy and water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity and more."

This was really our first real stopover on a campsite since we have owned the van – the first part of this summer has been rather busy.  We are most satisfied with the comfort Pema the Peugeot offers.  The seats are easy to organise into beds, the van feels roomy with the lid popped up, and it was convenient cooking a meal on the hob.

Our next trip is to Whitley Bay near Newcastle upon Tyne and we are going to have a stopover on the way up and on the way back.  We are looking forward to this.