Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Ashbourne and The Wirral - Mon 26 to Wed 25 Oct 17

We wanted to have another bash at the Tissington Trail with a better bike (and more practice over the years) to determine her level of cycling proficiency compared to that first venture out in Oct 2011 (http://thebinkybus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/ )). This time we stayed at Ashbourne Heights site, parking up in very high winds due to Storm Brian on a bit of tarmacked car park at the end of the site. The toilets and showers are warm and clean but certainly very dated. I wouldn't want to stay on this site at full price in peak season!  Anyway, we parked up, having to move the van slightly over the pitch markings to enable the hookup cable to stretch to the power socket, and had a bit of a wander around to suss out the lie of the land.

On Tues we launched the bikes, cycling up along the Tissington Trail, stopping for a packed lunch near Hartington and then heading back down the incline to Ashbourne, then back up to Tissington and then home - a total of 25 miles.

On Wednesday 18th we went for a long walk along Dove Dale, and came back over the fields where the farmers had once again enjoyed peppering our route with liberal sprinklings of manure. Luckily the weather held off whilst we were wandering along the beautiful dale, and whilst we enjoyed a delicious cup of hot chocolate in Milldale, then, as we climbed out of the valley, the weather closed in and the drizzle started to fall. It was still a very nice long walk and the pub stop at the end at the Old Dog in Thorpe (lovely pub, but not cheap) was very welcome.

On Thursday it hissed it down all day. It didn't stop. It was dark, dank, wet and miserable and so were we.

On Friday we gave up on the Peak District and, in terrible weather and poor visibility, we moved onto the splendid civilisation of Cheshire Oaks MOTORHOME (and caravan) Club Site. Modern, clean warm loos, neat pitches, pub just around the corner, shopping centre 10 minutes away - what more could anyone want? There were a lot of shed-draggers already parked up there and the site was very busy. We even deigned to help manoeuvre a shed into position, but we made sure we washed our hand thoroughly afterwards ;-)  We had a quick wander around the outlet shopping then had dinner in the local pub.

On Saturday it rained again, so we took the bus into Chester and wandered around the shops and walkways of this very pleasant city, trying to stay dry.  

On Sunday the wind was blowing very strongly again. We used our bargain bus pass to go into Liverpool and wandered around my old haunts, blown around Albert Dock, ate Scouse in the Museum and spent a very interesting and upsetting hour or so in the Slavery museum. The City has certainly cleaned up its act since I used to visit!

We caught the bus again on Monday to go back into Liverpool and explore the awe-inspiring Anglican cathedral built on St James's Mount. Liverpool Cathedral is the largest cathedral and religious building in Britain and was constructed between 1904 and 1978. The total external length of the building is 207 yards (189 m) making it the longest cathedral in the world; its internal length is 160 yards (150 m). In terms of overall volume, Liverpool Cathedral ranks as the fifth-largest cathedral in the world. With a height of 331 feet (101 m) it is also one of the world's tallest non-spired church buildings. After climbing the tower and playing around in the whispering arches we wandered back down to the riverside to look at the Motorhome parking area and enjoy a lovely sunset. Later we met our niece, Katie,  and her partner, Oli,  for a lovely dinner, catching the last, and lively, bus back through the delights of Birkenhead to the caravan site.

Tuesday 24th saw us back in Chester - in the dry this time - to wander the City Walls and explore Chester Cathedral (no charge thank the Lord). We were very impressed with the Racecourse and, what was interesting, was reading the notice boards by the racecourse (The Roodee) which is the oldest in-use course in England and probably the smallest, the first recorded race being held on 9 February 1539 with the consent of the Mayor Henry Gee, whose name led to the use of the term "gee-gee" for horses. We had lunch in a delightful old pub, the Bear and Billet (built 1664) before braving the rain again. It's a shame that one of the buskers, a plukey-faced, baseball-cap-on-backwards, yoof thought that his amplified Rap (or is that crap) would delight the crowds, whereas in fact it was a bloody awful din.

The caravan site was packed this week, being half term so, despite the weather being good and there being so much to do in the area, on Wednesday 25th we reluctantly we headed home.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Germany/Luxembourg/Belgium 8 - 24 Sep 17

Following our last visit to the Moselle we always said that we would go back to see the area in better weather.  Accordingly, on Friday 8 Sep we set out for a couple of weeks, stopping for two nights at Abbey Wood Motorhome and Caravan club site in Sarf East Larndarn in order to visit mother and to watch Harlequins beat Gloucester at the Stoop Memorial Ground in Twickenham on Sat 9 Sep, managing to stay dry in the torrential rain storm. Abbey Wood may not be in the nicest of areas  but access to and from London is excellent.

Abbey Wood

On Sunday we made an early start in the sun to the Channel Tunnel. It was nice that one of the members of staff at the Tunnel recognised the Harlequins shirt and came over to say hello. After the usual speedy and effortless crossing we took on fuel at Carrefour at 1.17euro a litre (£1.08) then followed the French/Belgian border on the French side (trying to avoid the awful Belgian roads) to Tournai. Arriving in Tournai we found that a  poxy funfair had set up on the aire, so we moved  on to a delightful aire at Peruwelz, just over the Belgian border, at 2€ a night and a wonderful bar and restaurant (Sam Suffit) on site. With our china and glass just about surviving the crap Belgian roads we had a meal and retired early, still knackered from the rugby on Saturday.

On Monday we completed out=r drive into Luxembourg across the Ardennes, stopping at a large shopping centre just over the border for provisions. We completed the short drive (everywhere is a short drive in Luxembourg) into Camping Gritt in Ingeldorf, walked around Ingeldorf (not much there), tried to walk into Ettelbruck, but hit a dead end, so walked to Diekirch and enjoyed a well-earned beer from local brewery.

Bastogne in the Ardennes

Camping Gritt

Nice statue in Diekirch
Very odd statue in Diekirch

Nice Bridge for the cycle path

Our bus is at the end of the rainbow
Tuesday it rained again so we bought an exceptionally good value travel card for 4 euro and caught the bus into Luxembourg City. It rained, we got bored, so we saw a bus with what we thought was our changing stop on, but it wasn't and it took us on a delightful mystery tour to a very pretty town called Echternach, where the sun came out and we enjoyed a lovely walk around this quaint town, even venturing across the river to invade Germany for a few minutes. We got off the returning bus at Ettelbruck, bought some delicious cakes and beat the rain home by catching another bus back to Ingeldorf. Mistaking Ettelbruck and Echternach gave us a great day out.  
Luxembourg City in the rain

Into Germany

Water pressure in Luxembourg is VERY high. No need for a shower before filling the van up as you'll get one doing it.

On Wednesday we  filled up with fuel at 96cents a litre before heading into Germany, stopping at Netto for some real bargains. The sun was shining, but strong winds and rain were forecast so we headed to a Stellplatz in Mehring where the owner/warden parked us as close to his awning as possible, obviously to give him shelter from the oncoming storm! It rained. The wind blew. It was shite.

Vital Provisions

In Germany you get a wine gut not a beer gut

Storms clouds brewing
The next stop was the excellent Stellplatz at Brauneberg. There's not much in Brauneberg itself, so we walked into Mulheim in the hope of finding a nice bar or café for a spot of lunch. Everything was closed. Eventually we had a coffee and cake in Netto and very nice it was too, so there's two fingers up to the lazy cafe owners who cannot be bothered to open at lunchtime! Later, we unhitched the bikes and cycled along the excellent path into Bernkastel-Kues. Kues is a bit bland, but Bernkastel, on the opposite side of the river, very pretty.

On Friday we moved onto a Stellplatz in Traben-Trabech, walked into town and enjoyed an excellent glass of Riesling at a Weingut, headed back to the van and unhitched the bikes to cycle into Kröv via Wolf. They were setting up ready for a wine festival that evening in Wolf so we had a glass in a nice café in Kröv and went on to discover why the wines are called "nacktarsch" (naked arse). Indeed, the word Nacktarsch is displayed in big white letters over the vineyard. Apparently, so the story goes, the local winemaker discovered some boys stealing his wine and dealt with them summarily the old fashioned way. Any story to hang a bit of marketing on, eh?  We avoided the worst of the rain and  cycled back into Wolf for the wine festival before heading home. The stellplatz is a noisy one though - doors slamming at 6am and the noisy exit barrier going at 6am. Top tip - park away from the barrier! 

Walnuts from the tree behind the van


Wolf wine festival

Winter is coming
More marketing featured on Saturday in Zell, where the Black Cat is prominently displayed (story about a black cat fiercely protecting the barrels of the best wine or some such tosh). We parked up in a Stellplatz we had visited on our last trip, walked into town in the bright sunshine, walked on to the next town, Merl, stopped on a boat for a glass of Riesling, walked back into Zell, ate a delicious Apfelstrudel, had a glass of sekt then decided to climb the fiercely steep and dangerous footpath to the viewpoint above the town. At the top, surprise surprise, there was a wine bar! We ambled back down and stopped for jaegerschnitzel and watched the rain come down once again.

The Black Cat


Don't attempt this path unless you are stupid.....
Stupid is as Stupid does...
Wine Bar at the top

More very steep vineyards. The owner told us he has one leg shorter than the other
Scenic view ruined by a couple of Numpties

Sunday was a busy morning. First the bread van arrived and then the winemaker with a delivery of 6 bottles of his finest that we had ordered from him the day before. We then watched a huge Concorde empty it's black waste tank down the drain at the Motorhome service point. It may be a big, expensive, flash motorhome but it didn't half pong! Finally we set off hoping to park on a stellplatz just outside Cochem, but the design of the parking, and the selfish parking, meant that it would have been uncomfortable to stop so we moved onto the campsite just outside town.  We wandered into Cochem where there was a nice wine peach festival going on, we then took the chairlift to the viewpoint, ignored the hideously expensive café at the top, wandered around a bit and then headed back for a splendid night's kip. 

On Monday we once again made the mistake of following the SatNav rather than the map to head to the remarkable suspension footbridge at Morsdorf. The road was narrow, steep and twisty and e did meet a tractor coming the other way, but it was fun. Arriving at Morsdorf we found the motorhome parking area (can stop overnight, but daytime parking is quite expensive, wandered through the village stopping at the rather nice war memorial chapel before messing around on the suspension bridge for a while. It was great fun and a remarkable effort to put a footbridge on a walking trail, but I suppose it does drag the tourists in.  In the afternoon we moved onto our final stop on the Moselle in Kobern-Gondorf. This is another very pretty little town, but the Stellplatz, which is next to a fast road and railway, is very noisy and we were pleased to leave.

Once we eventually found our way out of Gondorf on the Tuesday we headed north past the Nurburgring to the delightful little village of Monschal. However, the campsite we stopped to look at appeared a deserted, damp, miserable place so we stopped for a couple of hours on the expensive parking area, mooched around the tourist tat filled village, then headed back to the very pretty stellplatz at Gudem. Gudem itself is pretty boring though, but the stellplatz makes a great stopping place for exploring the Eifel region, which is very pretty indeed and certainly worth revisiting.

Having completed our provisioning in Germany where things appear to be generally cheaper, we took a deep breath and jumped across the border into Belgium, rattling our way around the Brussels ring road and comparing the almighty tailback to the massive car park that is the M25.  Finally we arrived at a campsite called Kompas Camping Westende, near Nieuwpoort on the Belgian coast. Madame receptionist wasn't the jolliest or the most helpful person ever, but eventually she deigned to allow us onto a pitch for a couple of nights. The people we met in Monshal also turned up and experienced the wrath of the battleaxe receptionist and were allocated a less spacious pitch by the gate. We had a quick mooch around the local area before retiring to bed.

On Thursday the weather was perfect so we cycled along the excellent bike tracks to Nieuwport, had a beer in the beach bar, cycled back to Middelkerke for lunch then went back to the van to chill out.
Dawn on the beach

A bit of the Atlantic Wall, now listed 

A fresh fruit and veg vending machine

It's art innit

Beach at Middelkerke

A lovely view of the smog dome over London from the A2 at  Rochester
On Friday it was an early start in the rain, an hour or so drive to Coquelles, fill up with fuel, a dash around Carrefour (obviously they had an offer day on as the scrums around the bargains when they opened were amazing), early train on the tunnel and back in the sunshine to plead with the friendly and helpful caravan club wardens at Abbey Wood to let us in half an hour early. The sun shone, it was warm, we had wine and, despite being in Sarf East Larndarn, all was well with the world.

On Saturday we caught the train across to Twickenham to watch Harlequins and on Sunday we were up early and home in time for the washing machine to get through 4 loads before it got dark.