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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Wed Apr 13, 2016 10:18 am

Ellie and Me – T5 travels (or, a novice and her dog's campervan journeys) :)

The lovely Mary Webb invites us along to share in her adventures as she travels around the country with her little dog. :aok
........................

Last year, after not having one for more than seven years, I got a dog (well she came to me, but that's another story):
Marys pic 1.jpg
click picture to enlarge

Ellie on her first walk in the Cumbrian/Western Yorkshire Dales fells

A few months later, I bought a campervan.
Marys pic 2.jpg

My lovely campervan :)

Just before Christmas, I was given notice that I was to be made redundant.
Well, they do say that good things come in threes!!
Now in early retirement, and after some work to make the 'van spic-and-span, little Ellie dog and I set off for our first 'proper/practice' campervanning trip in March of this year.
.................
Part II: The first trip
Leaving Dent, Cumbria, where I'd been visiting friends, I heard a strange noise from the back of the van. When I looked round, I realised that I'd forgotten to check that the bed was fully locked in the 'seat' position, it had slid down flat giving Ellie a fright. That was when she was sick for the first time.
Marys pic 3.png

Ellie and her friend Maisie, outside the farmhouse at Conder Farm, Dent

Location: Conder Farm, Dent, Cumbria (£5 pppn, additional charge for hookup). This friendly, basic campsite is partially sloped, has water, washing up facilities, toilet blocks, free showers, and emptying points. Breakfast (HUGE) is sometimes available for a very modest fee and local, free-range eggs are also for sale.
Web info: http://www.dentdale.com/visiting-dentda ... onder-farm
Lesson learned: Make a 'Before you set off' list.
We were heading to Southwest Scotland, Garlieston to be precise. Upon leaving the M6 and heading down twisty country roads, Ellie was sick again.
Lesson learned: Make sure wet-wipes are easily accessible.
The SatNav (once I'd realised that I needed to change the country setting to 'Scotland'!) took me to the middle of nowhere. Worse than sick came from Ellie (need I say more?). Fortunately, I was to initially meet up with my cousin, Jan, and some friends who had rented a cottage in the village and, also fortunately the cottage (when I eventually found it, with no help at all from the SatNav but with great directions from the lady in the petrol station/shop) had an industrial washing machine, which I used to wash ALL of my bedding (except for my pillow, which was in a cupboard).
Lessons learned: Locals are better at giving directions than the SatNav is. Put waterproof rug OVER bedding.
Finally, I arrived (with only slightly damp bedding) at the beautiful 'Hideaway' campsite, Garlieston Lodge Campsite (Camping and Camping and Club (C&CC)). I was warmly welcomed and explained that I was a 'virgin' campervanner. The owner said that he'd be happy to help me with any problems and gave me a wonderful pitch – when I opened the sliding door of the 'van, I looked straight out over the trout lake :)
Marys pic 4.png

Ellie chilling out outside the 'van

We settled in just fine and I had no problems with setting up. Phew!!
Well, I say 'no problems'. The truth of the matter is that I just wasn't organised enough to get everything I needed out of the lockers, which resulted in me putting the bed down, up, down again and again, until I'd finally got it all out and sorted – hahaha.
Location: Garlieston Lodge Campsite (£15 pn, including hookup). Limited number of pitches, 5 vans + 3 tents. Trout fishing (fly) available on site (also tuition), free-range eggs and free-range pork for sale (animals are on site). Toilet/shower block (very clean and warm), water, emptying point, grey water point, rubbish bins (including recycling), local information leaflets. Dogs allowed, but must be on-lead at all times on site.
Web site: http://www.garliestonlodge.co.uk/
Lesson learned: Make a 'Setting up' list.
I'll post more soon, as I walked several lovely routes whilst I was in the area. Oh – and with some more photos!
Hope you'll enjoy reading my future tales of joy and woe.
............................
March 2016: Garlieston/Portpatrick/Galloway Forest Park, Scotland

Garlieston, in the far South-West of Scotland is, as you might expect from its location, a quaint fishing village.
Garlieston.png

And the tide in the bay goes out a LONG way out.
Garlieston 2.png

There is a nice pub and a shop and the harbour still has a couple of working fishing boats at berths. No 'pleasure' craft moored at that time of the year, though.

There are two nice coastal walks from Garlieston and I chose to walk north from the village on my first walk. Starting from the pub, I headed out onto the beach, with Ellie poking around in rockpools and trying to avoid the masses of slippery seaweed. We cut back to a path that wound through the dappled shade of a forest that followed the coastline – snowdrops, celandines and a few wood anemones already in bloom.

Not far and the path began to divert inland, with tangles of sea buckthorn between us and the jagged rocks on the coast. After a couple of miles, I could hear the 'boom' of sea caves. We found a path between the buckthorn and went down towards the noise. Unfortunately, the tide was in and so we couldn't get down to see the caves, but the noise of the waves booming into them was quite impressive!
Garlieston 3.png

Looking out over the Solway Firth, near the sea caves.
Further along, we came across many game bird pens and met a nice old gentleman. Back to the pub for a well-deserved half of Guinness :-)
Length of walk: Approx. 6 miles
Seen on this walk: Pheasant and two red admiral butterflies (sorry, no photo – couldn't get close enough to them).
..................
Hello peeps. :mz For the latest adventures of Mary and Co. click this link .... viewtopic.php?f=26&t=1483

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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Wed Apr 20, 2016 9:59 am

Portpatrick
The following day, I was invited by my cousin, Jan, and her friends to go on a whistle-stop drive to Portpatrick and the west coast of the Rhins of Galloway.
Portpatrick is lovely :-D
Portpatrick 1.png

PortPatrick 2.png

PortPatrick 3.png

Portpatrick Parish Kirk. Built 1622-1629 and in use until 1842.
....................
Back to Garlieston
On my penultimate day in Garlieston, I walked the coastal path South, to a little beyond the ruins of Cruggleton Castle.
Another relatively easy walk hugging the coastline and passing Rigg Bay. On the return walk, I ventured into the grounds of Galloway House Gardens.
Back to Garlieston.png

Up on top of the cliffs (great views out over the Solway Firth!), the footpath, somewhat unusually, passes through an ivy-clad stone doorway!
Back to Garlieston 3.png

Looking back to the ruins of Cruggleton Castle.
Length of walk: Approx. 6.5 miles, some steep parts and slippery footing. Look out for the rookery (you won't be able to ignore it) – nest-building was being carried out and 'rejected' twigs/branches rained down on us – hahaha. :-D
.....................

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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Wed Apr 20, 2016 2:20 pm

Glentrool.

After packing up (no mishaps this time), I decided to return for a quick visit to Galloway Forest Park (which I shall be visiting on my forthcoming trip – hoping for clear night skies to venture into the Dark Skies Area/s!).

I'd passed the Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre on the way to Garlieston and was impressed by the loch.
Glentrool 1.png

but, instead drove to Glentrool. The bridge to the Visitor Centre there had been badly damaged by floods, so I couldn't actually get to Loch Trool. I parked up and picked up a couple of leaflets (the lovely lady in the cafe looked after Ellie for me, whilst I nipped in to the loo).

The longest walk was closed, as part of the path had been washed away, so I plumped for the 'Water of Trool Trail'.

The trails are well-marked (and well-worn!), and this particular walk took in a waterfall (woefully lacking water - must have been a raging downpour during the floods!!) and some Martyrs tombs.

Being out of season and quite early in the year, I only saw four other people on the path.
Glentrool 2.png

Glentrool 3.png

Length of walk: Approx 5 miles. Mostly wide gravel paths and some long steep sections.

What's next?

As mentioned above, I'm shortly off on another 'travel', so the next blog updates should be almost 'live' (if I can get the tech. to work!).

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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Fri Jun 10, 2016 2:37 pm

5 weeks away - Major Road Trip: Lingfield - Sheffield - Dent

I have to admit that the first 2.5 weeks of this trip were spent with some of my lovely friends and my cousin Jan, all of whom refused to let me sleep in the van, insisting that I sleep in a 'proper bed'. Who was I to complain? (I've suffered some 'stick' from mates who say that it's 'cheating', but .... it was still travelling (close on 2,000 miles in total) and all good experience.)

One of my absolutely favourite, and most unexpected, adventures during these 5 weeks (and 2 days), was to be allowed to interact with a wolf. Yep - a wolf. 'Tame' but still wild, she wouldn't deign to come when called, but approached me, slinky, casual, almost sly, in a way only a wolf could, and twined herself around my legs, making sure that her scent was on me as much as possible. Then, slowly, she looked up at me with her eyes as amber as bright jewels and allowed me to stroke her. Later, when I was sitting drinking coffee with my host, she came and placed her head - so gently - on my lap and I fussed and stroked her head and tickled her ears, much to her delight. And mine. I can't think of a way of truly expressing the delight (and slight fear) I felt at this meeting. I'll never forget it.

Her name is Angeni. It means 'spirit' in native American, and suits her perfectly.
Angeni.png
Angeni


Her companions are a slightly bonkers Lakeland Terrier and a feral dog rescued from Romania. I was more worried about the feral dog than I was of the wolf - weird?

Making (more) memories in Sheffield:

(Easy journey up to Sheffield. Ellie not sick. Remembered not to park under the bird-poo tree outside the house.)

Visited two cherished friends, Steve and Vicky, in Sheffield, who have recently had an addition to their family - little Vanessa. Now, I'm, not overly keen on babies, but she is a little sweetheart :-)

Steve took Ellie and I on a lovely walk on Loxley Common, with his/their two dogs, Tilly (Bloody Border Collie (BBC)) and Lister. What a lovely place! Steve took some lovely photos of the dogs, but I can't find the memory stick he put them on, so a few will have to do for now:
Dogs.png
Ellie, Lister and Tilly
Credit: Steve Allen

Ellie.png
Ellie, rock-climbing. Loxley Common, Sheffield
Credit: Steve Allen

Ellie, Lister and Tilly, bounding around. Loxley Common, Sheffield..png
Ellie, Lister and Tilly, bounding around. Loxley Common, Sheffield.
Credit: Steve Allen

Then - we all went (3 humans + three dogs) on a pub-crawl - yay! :thunbsup
Vicky and I , do we look like we're up to no good. Probably. Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield..png
Vicky and I – do we look like we're up to no good? Probably. Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield.
Credit: Steve Allen

Steve Allen and I. Can't remember which pub.png
Steve Allen and I. Can't remember which pub *hic*
Credit: Vicky Allen


After a visit to 5 or 6 pubs, we indulged in that compulsory closing-time snack – kebab (can't remember the time I had one previously). With garlic sauce. And chillies, naturally.

Leaving Sheffield (reluctantly), I headed for one of my favourite places - Dent, Cumbria (or Yorkshire - depends ;-) )

There, the weather threw everything it could at us - snow, sleet, hailstones, wild winds and sunshine. Four seasons in one day, for sure!
Another first for Ellie - I took her to a funeral service. Little Mick, gentleman, intelligent and interesting being and all-round good egg, died unexpectedly, having lived in Dent for 20-odd years. The church was packed. To the gills. As I walked in with Ellie, one of the ladies who was handing out the order of service, looked at her and expressed her surprise that I was taking a dog in. I answered, "The God we are told about loved all creatures, so why shouldn't I bring her in?". She nodded, we found a seat at the side of the aisle and Ellie behaved impeccably though out the service. Not a whimper, not a growl or a bark - even when one of Mick's friends played his washboard tie in tribute - she just looked at him for a bit with a, "What the heck are you doing?" and lay down again on the pew.

The wake was a real good craic - Little Mick would have heartily approved - halves of Guinness with whisky chasers all round. A good day to see a true gent off in style.
Here's a little tale I was told by one of the Dent locals (Audrey) at the wake:

A lady was hanging her knickers/bloomers out to dry on her washing line, when a cow came into her yard, pulled them off the line and ate them!! She went to the farmer to complain:, "Old Mottley, your cow has eaten my bloomers off my washing line - I demand that you replace them!". "Surely enough, my dear," replied the farmer, "if you'll come into the farmhouse and let me measure you for the new ones." Tehehe.

Lessons learned:
Don't leave the rear end of the van hanging over the tram tracks (fortunately, a tram didn't come along before the traffic ahead moved – phew);
Sheffield is, indeed, the Capital of Real Ale;
Wolves MAY not be as scary as first thought.

More soon (oh, so much more :-) ) ….
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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Fri Jun 10, 2016 3:19 pm

Moving on: Dent to Fletchertown

Before I move on, metaphorically speaking, to 'proper campervanning', I have a few more tales and some photos from my visit to Dent and Fletchertown.

Now, Ellie and I like a good walk. And a visit to the pub afterwards. But during this visit, the latter was almost imperative. It snowed, it hailed (which Ellie HATED – she looked at me accusingly, as if I were responsible for the almost golf-ball sized hailstones that bounced off her head and lay thickly on the back of her companion, Maisey (Mick and Wendy's Border Collie)). And it rained – boy did it rain, with ferocious winds.
But, as previously mentioned, there was always the Sun Inn to pop into at the end of the walk, for a warming glass of something and good banter with the 'locals'. I've been going there for so long that there is always somebody in there who I know – and they've taken me to their hearts just as much as I've taken them to mine. Love 'em all to bits.
Looking out at the snow-covered Howgills from the footpath on Conder Farm.png
Looking out at the snow-covered Howgills from the footpath on Conder Farm

Flinter Gill after a little drop of rain.png
Flinter Gill after a little drop of rain


The walk up is not for the faint-hearted, it's a bit of a slog, but well worth it for the views on the way up and when you get to the top, where the footpath meets the Occupation Road (Ocky). If you wish to do a longer, and more challenging, walk, turn left at the top of Flinter Gill onto the Ocky, walk for a few miles until you come to a road, turn right and walk down the road for a few hundred metres, then left onto a footpath, which will take you up the 'steep way' to the top of Whernside. Yes, steep. A bit of scrambling and short (but easy) climbs up small rockfaces. Well worth it – avoids the main path up to Whernside. An alternative route back down is to turn left onto the main path, then fork left towards three tarns and come down via Whernside Manor (where my good friend Elaine lives), then left on the road back to Dent.
I also have to mention that there were a couple of really good music sessions in the pub when I was there (Dent holds its main (free) music festival on the last full weekend of June and there are two mini-music festivals in the Sun Inn, held in March and October. The music is good, the beer is excellent and .. it's always a good craic :-) )
And …… I was told of a 'rumour' about something exciting happening later in the month, which I'll come back to at a later date ;-)

Dent to Fletchertown

As usual, I wended my way from Dent to my cousin's abode (Jan) in Fletchertown (Ellie not sick).

Highlights whilst there were:

* A knit night (at which there was more nattering and eating than there was knitting. I was 'allowed' to be an honorary member, even though I was doing cross-stitch rather than knitting :-D );
* A visit to Allonby beach to collect seaweed for Jan's asparagus patch (forgot to take more than one ball for 3 dogs, which resulted in me throwing the ball once and Jack (the Jack Russell) keeping it in his mouth for the hour-and-a-half walk. Kaz (BBC) and Ellie didn't even get a sniff at it;
* A 'Pork Fest' evening. Jan got a HUGE joint of free-range pork out of her freezer (from her good friends at the Camping Barn) and a host of people cooked up a storm to feed everybody. It was organised chaos and the resulting meal was terrific!;
* A visit to the local Cheese Farm (http://thornbymoordairy.co.uk/);
* Lovely dinner at Maryport (REALLY cross with myself for not taking my camera – the sunset was ablaze, with a fantastic shot of the harbour wall and fishing boats waiting to come in with the tide – didn't even have my mobile with me – grrrrrr);
* Visit to Larch Cottage Nurseries, Melkinthorpe, Penrith. A beautiful, walled garden centre. More info here: https://larchcottage.co.uk/cms/home
Larch Cottage Nurseries.png
Larch Cottage Nurseries

Larch Cottage Nurseries 2.png
Larch Cottage Nurseries


Lessons learned: Take 1 ball per dog;
Always take your camera with you – it's worth lugging it around and not getting one decent shot, rather than leaving it behind a regretting it :-(

Recommended: Maryport Tandoori, Maryport, Cumbria

Bonus: Left Ellie at Jan's house with her two dogs for a few hours. On our return, there was no evidence of blood or bits of fur, so assumed that they had all got on just fine and so left her there another day for much longer to go for dinner in Maryport. Again, no apparent stress. Result!!!!
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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Wed Jun 15, 2016 8:58 am

Further North: Fletchertown to Garlieston
(Ellie sick – a blanket fell down on her during the trip, giving her a bit of a shock).

I headed to Gretna Green and then took the Solway Coast Route. B roads for the large part, scenic and quiet – hardly anybody else on the roads.

On a previous trip, I'd seen signs to the Devil's Porridge Museum, but of course it wasn't about porridge at all! The state-of-the-art museum provides information on what life was like in the HM Factory Gretna, which employed 30,000 workers at its height, to manufacture RDB Cordite, a new type of munitions propellant. By 1917, the factory was producing 1,100 tons of cordite per week
The Devil's Porridge Museum.png

http://www.devilsporridge.org.uk/
Lesson learned: porridge is not always edible ;-)

Continuing along B roads, unable to take a decent photo out to the Solway Firth from the viewpoints due to heat-haze, until I arrived at Caerlaverock Castle (Castle of the Lark). What a gem of a place!! It was preceded by a Roman fort, then by a second fort which stood close by on Ward Law (hill) in around 950. This was named 'Karlauerock' and was built by British Lords. I met a most interesting chap, who knew a lot about the castle's history (including the variations – Scots v English).
The sun shone, the people were very friendly, dogs are welcomed and we took a lovely walk around the castle and grounds.

Caerlaverock Castle in the  bright sunshine.png
Caerlaverock Castle in the bright sunshine

The Castle moat.png

One of the ornate fireplaces.png
One of the ornate fireplaces

As well as the castle itself, there are lovely woodland walks and the site of the original castle (built, rather stupidly, on swampy land – it didn't last long, naturally).
One of the woodland walks, Caerlaverock Castle grounds.png
One of the woodland walks, Caerlaverock Castle grounds

All that remains of the original castle. Presumably, the stones were 'robbed' to build the second one..png
All that remains of the original castle. Presumably, the stones were 'robbed' to build the second one.

Aside: Monty Python fans, this reminded me of 'King of Swamp Castle', “When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. And that one sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up.” (Monty Python and the Holy Grail). :-D

You may remember from an earlier blog update that I visited a small campsite in Garlieston. I liked it there so much that I decide to return, partly to walk the full stretch from Garlieston to the Isle of Whithorn (on the Solway Coast Heritage Trail (more information may be found at:
http://www.dgerc.org.uk/files/dgerc/dow ... ooklet.pdf) )

It was just as pretty as on my previous visit.
Looking out of the campervan door to the trout lake. You can just see their Large Black pig pens in the background..png
Looking out of the campervan door to the trout lake. You can just see their Large Black pig pens in the background.

Another joyous occasion – my brother was travelling southwards as I was making my way northwards, in his 'van (much, MUCH newer than mine!), so we were able to meet up for the evening. We walked Ellie along the coast for a bit and then had dinner in the pub.

I also noted that I arrived at my destination with more miles 'in the tank' than when I left Fletchertown.

Lesson learned: A very 'light' and smooth right foot will get you loads more miles per tankful.

The following day, with my brother on his way home, I decided to walk the full length of the footpath between Garlieston and the Isle of Whithorn. It was a gorgeous morning. Breakfast consisted of three cups of tea. Shortly after starting the walk, I needed to find a 'Ladies' Bush' – hahaha.

Lesson learned: Do NOT drink three cups of tea in quick succession before setting off for a walk!
The walk began as on my last visit – through lovely woodland parallel to the sea, round Rigg Bay, through the rookery (much less noisy than in March) and on to the remains of Cruggleton Castle.
Masses of Bluebells and Wild Garlic (Ransomes) .png
Masses of Bluebells and Wild Garlic (Ransomes)

Big beat-harvester.png
Big beat-harvester!


After we'd passed the castle ruins I saw that notices had been posted at stiles, warning that there were cows with calves in the field and specifically stating that one 'entered at your own risk'! Stopping for a drink of water (for both of us) in a ruined lookout tower, I could see that the next three or four fields had no livestock, so we continued on. But …. it didn't last. After skirting round the bottom of one field, so that cows further up the field wouldn't see us, we passed through a gate into what seemed, initially, to be an unoccupied field. NOT SO!! As we crested a small rise, we were met by the sight of some 20 or so cows with quite small calves. No way round them at the bottom of the field, so we retraced our steps, walked up along the walled field edge, in an attempt (vain, as it turned out) to then turn left and rejoin the footpath further along. More cows hove into sight. Looking back to the previous field, I could see that the inquisitive cows there had made their way down the field to watch us.

What to do? Then I remembered: there is a 'right to roam' in Scotland! So, through several gates into yet more fields, always watchful for cows, through a farmyard to a farm track and then a slog to a B road.

By this time, I was getting very hot. The sun beat down. I'd remembered to put sunscreen on the pink patch on Ellie's nose, but had arrogantly forgone to take that precaution myself (I rarely need to use it). My nose, cheeks and forehead began to give me warnings that I was in danger of becoming sunburnt.

So – the locals must have thought I was a complete mad person, as we walked down the road to the Isle of Whithorn, me with my jacket on and zipped up to right under my chin and the hood pulled down as far as it would go over my face, in the broiling sunshine – hahaha.

Arriving at the harbour, I popped into the pub (as you do) and discovered that I'd missed the bus back to Garlieston by a few minutes and that there wasn't another one for an hour and a half.
Isle of Whithorn.png
Isle of Whithorn

Lunch service had finished. So it was (some excellent, local) beer for me a water and some food for Ellie, who then flopped down and had a 'wee nap'.

We caught the bus back (no charge for Ellie and a lovely, smooth ride round the twisting country roads) and a couple who were also staying at Garlieston Lodge boarded in Whithorn town. They told me of a nice campsite at Port Logan, which I considered visiting later in my journey.

Back at the campsite, I cooked an excellent Cumbrian sausage (purchased in Wigton) and eggs (in a pan, Danny – no room for a frying pan as well as an 'ordinary' pan, ;-) ) and had a wee nip from the bottle kindly provided by my Dad.

My Dad's gift to me for the 'van (It epitomises his sense of humour perfectly (the 'flashed-out' word is 'colouring'))..png
My Dad's gift to me for the 'van (It epitomises his sense of humour perfectly (the 'flashed-out' word is 'colouring')).

Ellie was pretty tired after this walk (I measured the distance on the OS map to include the 'detour' – it was just a little less than 11 miles (instead of 7.5 miles if we'd been able to go all the way down on the footpath!).
Ellie.png

Lesson learned: Take a small bottle of sunscreen in my backpack.

Seen: Skylarks on the ground. I've often seen and heard them up in the air, but not seen them in the grass before.
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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:18 am

Into the forest: Garlieston to Clatteringshaws Loch (Galloway Forest Park (GFP))

I had a suspicion that the day was not going to go well as, whilst I was in the shower, Ellie knocked a quarter of a pint of milk into the gas hob. Fortunately, it wasn't deep enough to get into the gas jets, but it did take me quite a while to clean it out.

Lesson learned: Always put the milk away in the 'fridge.

To leave the Garlieston Lodge site it's necessary to open to two huge iron gates and as I jumped out of the van to do so, I shut my right thumb in the driver's door. No, I haven't got a clue how that happened either, but it bloomin' well hurt!!! Fortunately, I was quick enough to open the door with my left hand before too much damage had been done (it only shut on the 'first click', not completely). The most 'ouchy' bit was at the base of the thumb nail and I kept and eye on it, just in case I needed to find a cottage hospital to get it lanced (wincing at the thought!!).

Lesson learned: Don't shut your thumb in a VW van door – they are very heavy!

Drove up to Clatteringshaws Loch. Having driven past this beautiful stretch of water on a previous trip, I wanted to take advantage of some of the views on the drive up and out over the loch itself and to recce for a wild camping place. I'd already seen somewhere that I thought might be suitable.

Before reaching Clatteringshaws, I stopped to take some photos from a viewpoint. I looked for Ellie's lead. Nowhere to be found. Then it dawned on me ….. I'd left her spiral screw-into-the-ground 'anchor', with the lead attached, at the campsite. Ghastly. So, I had to return to Garlieston (about 30 minutes drive) to retrieve it. What a plonker. At least that was the third thing.

Lesson learned: Walk completely around your vehicle (at least once!) before leaving a site.

So – back to Clatteringshaws an hour later. The loch has a magnificent dam at the southern end. Work on the dam started in August 1932 and was substantially completed by June 1934, when the reservoir was already partially filled. The dam is a gravity structure built of mass concrete, 1500 ft [457m] long and about 75ft [22.9m] above the original ground level at its highest point. It's been built on a slight curve, rather than straight, for aesthetic reasons.

I found a parking spot just below the dam and took Ellie (now on her lead) for a walk down by the River Dee, basking in yet more sunshine.
I found a parking spot just below the dam and took Ellie (now on her lead) for a walk down by the River Dee, basking in yet more sunshine..png
Two, parallel bridges on the River Dee, below the dam. The one on the left is the current road bridge, the other deemed 'dangerous' (but still standing, despite recent floods (and probably many others previously)). Both beautiful.

I was acutely.png

Dam.png
I was acutely aware of the power of the water coming out of the base of the dam. I'd had to persuade Ellie to hop from rock to rock to get out into the river so that I could take these photos. She wasn't keen at all. If either of us had fallen in, we would have been swept downriver very quickly by the force and sheer volume of water.

Looking downriver.png
Looking downriver. Looks peaceful and calm, eh? Looks can be deceiving – it was deep and dark and powerful. Still a gorgeous scene, though.

The Clatteringshaws Loch.png
The Clatteringshaws Loch/Reservoir. Postcard perfect. (There's a sleeping dragon in the clouds just above the hills, if you can see it? :) )

On, to the Galloway Forest Park's Clatteringshaws Visitors' Centre. From there, we took a short (2-mile) walk to (one of many) Bruce's Stone. This is a fully accessible walk, with a flat, gravel path and served as a little 'recovery' walk after the day before's 11-miler.

Information on the Galloway Forest Park may be found at: http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/forest- ... orest-park

One of my neighbours at the previous campsite had correctly pointed out that, “Four days of wild camping is roughly equal to one tank of fuel.” and I was eager to go 'fully wild'.

I found the spot that I thought might be a good one – a small entrance into an oval, level and gravelled space. Annoyingly, there had been some fly-tipping in it (nothing really horrid – just some soil and a few bit of an ex-kitchen). But why, oh why, do people feel that they have to spoil such lovely places? It's beyond me.
Ellie, just chillin.png
Ellie 'just chillin' ' on her blankie, wild camping

Lovely wild campsite.png
Lovely wild campsite – bedding, at left, airing on the heather :-)

One of the reasons I like my campervan so much, is it's colour – it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb when you're wild camping (or anywhere, really):
Taken from over the road at the first wild campsite..png
Taken from over the road at the first wild campsite – can you see the van? Maybe, just.


I'm really lucky in the fact that my 'fridge works 'three-ways' – if I'm on the road, I switch a switch and it takes power from the van battery, if I'm 'hooked up', it takes power from that and if I'm out in the wilds, I can run it off the gas.

This evening's meal (especially for Danny) was: gently fried shallot (better than onions, as you can use one (or more) without leaving half an onion to 'sweat' for a day or so in the van), added smoked garlic then water and a chicken stock cube, noodles (udon), an egg (free-range, of course) and a handful of wild garlic (collected on my walk). Yum!

The next day (some of it 'just' into the next day)

Dark Skies: Woke just after midnight. The moon was up, so I didn't get the full impact of the Dark Skies Area, but it was amazing just the same. Silence. Blue-black sky with an array of constellations above – some of which I know, some of which I don't. Sat for quite a while just in awe. So peaceful.

I gradually drifted off to sleep again, bathed by the light of the moon through the windows of the van and the flickering light of my tea-light (one of the only 'luxuries' I allow myself when I'm off out in the van – a nice scented candle in a cut-glass holder throwing shards of light around the interior of the van is the most magical way of falling asleep).

At 02.20 I was awoken by Ellie growling. I've never heard her growl before. What, Ellie? WHAT?? I'd made a decision to lock myself into the van when wild camping, but it was unnerving to hear that growl. I sat up. The moon was still giving good light. What was it? I looked out into the semi-darkness. Nothing. That was worse than if there HAD been something! I watched for a few minutes. Ellie wasn't growling any more. In fact, she'd flopped down next to me and was soon fast asleep again. I can only assume that it was a passing deer/fox/sheep/badger etc.

Next morning (or, rather, later that morning)
(Thumb nail turning a 'nice' shade of bluey-green – yuck!)

Now, I am a lady (questionable?) of habit and the next morning I discovered that I'd forgotten something important – a trowel (if you don't know why this was distressing then you're probably not 'ready' for wild camping!!).

But Nature will usually provide:

Trowel 'pome'

Mossy bank,
Sturdy stick,
Latrine dug
Double-quick

Lesson learned: Take a trowel.

Off (very) early to the Loch View Trail (2.5 miles - another excellent thing about the GFP is the variety (easy to quite challenging) of trails and the fact that they're quite well-marked (although I always take an OS map with me)).
Again looking out.png
Again, looking out over Clatteringshaws Loch. Doesn't my van look spanking new from up here?

Lunch was CAKE (and coffee) at the visitors' centre. I figured I deserved it after my 'trials' of the day before :-) Very nice it was, too (sponge cake with strawberries and cream. Large portion, not a large price.) The staff at the GFP are excellent – polite, helpful and smiley :-)

Then, caloried-up, off to take on the Raiders Road Forest Drive. It's a 10 mile (16 km) two-way forest drive, which is open to vehicles between April and October - and for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders year-round. This 'road' is rough – very rough. If you have a new/low/sporty car, this is probably NOT a road for you! It's little more than a 'pimped-up' forestry track but, at £2 (honesty system), it's well worth the ride/drive. I was a little concerned by the abundant notices that read 'CARE!! Water levels may rise rapidly due to hydro-electric operations!'. I survived without incident (as you can tell by this post).

http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/forest- ... rest-drive

Along the way on the Raiders Road, I sopped to walk the Buzzard Trail (2.75 miles). 'A challenging walk through the Norway spruce and Corsican pine above Loch Stroan to reach the atmospheric ruins of Clachrum village. Magnificent views across the loch from Ross Hill.' It obviously hadn't been well-walked for a while, as I had a few problems finding it at higher levels, but the day was warm, the views were spectacular and I have a good sense of direction, so – no worries!
Loch.png
Loch Stroan – the starting point of the Buzzard Trail

Seen: Roe deer (as my Dad taught me – walk softly, you'll see so much more than if you stomp along, or talk loudly). Whilst walking quietly down a trail, Ellie off-lead, I saw a doe up ahead. I called, softly, to Ellie to come to me, which she did, slipped her on her lead and approached. The doe (I was downwind) stayed there for quite a while whilst we watched her and then eventually ambled off. Later, we saw a buck;
Pike (sadly, dead);
Pheasants (lots) (including one drinking tea at the Vistors' Centre - hahaha);
Buzzards (magnificent birds!);
Note: I've seen a lot of birds during my travels in Scotland, but have been surprised at the most commonly seen: finches (of various types), robins! and blackbirds.

It looks like it's going to be a good year for bilberries. There were masses of flowers on the plants everywhere I went (they are very pretty and I now regret not trying to take a 'macro' shot of them :cry )

Heard: Cuckoo

Lesson learned: Don't bother to take the added weight of a bread knife. Never used it – never will.
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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Tue Jun 21, 2016 8:51 am

To Moniaive – home to lots of music (and other stuff) ….

On the recommendation of two good friends (Matt and Blanty) I now headed off towards Moniaive, which is a lovely, friendly village - only to discover that I'd missed their annual music festival by one week – disappointment :cry

http://www.moniaive.org.uk/home

'Wild camped' in the village car park.

I popped into the pub/hotel (The Craigdarroch Arms Hotel) for a pint and to ask the landlord if it would be ok for me to go back later and use their wi-fi. He was really chatty and said it wouldn't be a problem. He also gave me a leaflet, which gives information on all of the forthcoming events to be held in the village for 2016 – so many things going on for such a small village, including music/jam sessions, sports events/clubs, poetry workshops and various exhibitions. How wonderful that the community is involved in such a variety of activities. Respect.

Supper was one of those 'camping' dinners. Pre-packed, gluten-free. A bit 'gloopy', but it was ok (I added some rice, but it was still quite 'glutinous', which is at odds to the gluten-free description - :lol: ).

I needed to find somewhere I could get mobile signal, so I hiked up the road with Ellie, until I found somewhere. Called my parents to confirm that I would be visiting them in the holiday cottage they'd rented, later in the month.
Looking down on the village of Moniaive..png
Looking down on the village of Moniaive.

Ellie, waiting patiently for me to finish my phone call.png
Ellie, waiting patiently for me to finish my phone call.

Then, back to the pub to catch up on e-mail and let people know, via Facebook, that I was still alive (and to sup a couple of pints, of course).

After an uneventful (and peaceful) night (thumb nail now a nice dark black) , I had a decision to make: Head to the West Coast? Or drive the 7-mile, single-track road to see the Striding Arches? Oh, go on then – let's drive another rough track – why not?

Striding Arches is an artist-led project which celebrates and interprets a little known area of Dumfries & Galloway in south-west Scotland. Andy Goldsworthy’s red sandstone arches ‘stride’ around the natural amphitheatre that is Cairnhead, deep in the Southern Uplands. In the heart of the glen, another arch springs from a disused farm building, The Byre, creating a place that is both sculpture and shelter.

http://www.stridingarches.com/

It was slow going along the track – it starts out as a metalled road, quickly deteriorating into a very rough track, with more potholes than solid surface. I took it very gently, but it still gave the 'shocks' on the van a good workout.

There was nobody else there when I arrived at the starting point for two of the 'Arches' walks , which was a good job as the 'car park' is just a couple of lay-bys and it took me a while, jiggering back and forth, to get the van in neatly and out of the way of any passing forestry vehicles.

First, we took the walk up to The Byre Arch.
The Byre Arch represents the link between the farming community that once worked the area with the landscape in which they strove..png
The Byre Arch represents the link between the farming community that once worked the area with the landscape in which they strove.

Returning to the van, we then struck out for the nearest of the hilltop arches, at the summit of Colt Hill (598 metres). I have to admit – it was a slog. No respite from the continuous uphill gradient, brilliant sunshine (again – I was so lucky with the weather on this part of the trip!). Mile after mile (6 miles in total), up a rough forestry track. But ….. there was beautiful scenery to admire and the occasional glimpse of the Arch kept us going.

The final stretch up to the Arch is over fell and quite steep. And then, coming over the brow of a rise, I was met with this sight:
Striding Arch at the top of Colt Hill (with the trig point behind it)..png
Striding Arch at the top of Colt Hill (with the trig point behind it).

Looking out through the Arch to the stunning countryside beyond..png
Looking out through the Arch to the stunning countryside beyond.

From each of the three hill-top Arches, you can see two others (if the weather allows, which it did for me).
From Colt Hill, you can see the two other hill-top Arches. This is the one on Benbrack (581 metres). The Bail Hill Arch (517 metres) was too far away for me to get a decent photo..png
From Colt Hill, you can see the two other hill-top Arches. This is the one on Benbrack (581 metres). The Bail Hill Arch (517 metres) was too far away for me to get a decent photo.

Each arch stands just under four metres high, with a span of about seven metres, and consists of 31 blocks of hand-dressed red sandstone weighing approximately 27 tons.

It was well worth the hike up – the 360 deg views were stunning. It was windy and wild.

I wish I'd had time to go to the other two arches, but there are no 'official' footpaths between them (deliberately – you must find your own way) and although the weather conditions were perfect for me to do so, I didn't have enough time. I'd like to go back and do it some time, though.
A rare 'selfie' – Ellie and I under the Arch on Colt Hill..png
A rare 'selfie' – Ellie and I under the Arch on Colt Hill.

I'd taken food and water (as I always do) and we both ate, then walked back down to the van – a much easier walk, naturally.

Ellie was tired and so was I. We drove off back along the bumpy track – and she was promptly sick. Poor Ellie, all that jolting around on a full tummy, I wasn't surprised.

Lesson learned: Don't feed Ellie midday (even if on a very long walk) if we're going to travel onwards. I can always make sure that she gets the extra calories she needs on a 'rest day' (not many of those, so I mostly just give her extra rations daily).

Total distance walked: Just more than 12.5 miles.

…. and onwards to Port Logan

Now we went back to the West Coast – to a site that had been recommended to me by fellow campers at Garlieston. I have to say that I had reservations. I've met them to twice (unusual). The first time I saw them, they spent more than three hours (I kid you not), trying to get their satellite dish aligned so that they could watch TV in their caravan.

(I've made a conscious decision not to get TV in the van - it came with the 'added bonus' of a small TV and aerial, but I can't see the point of going out into the wild and then plugging yourself into main-stream TV. When I go away, I want to get away from all that stuff. I sew, I read, I noodle around on the guitar. I take time to cook and enjoy simple food. I sit and listen to the sounds of the countryside. I feel absolutely no need to be constantly in touch with folk. And I walk. I walk at dawn, at dusk, in sun, rain, wind and in head-torch-lit dark.)
I needn't have been worried about going to the commercial site (New England Bay, Port Logan (Camping Club) http://www.caravanclub.co.uk/caravanclu ... csid=21945 ).

Right on the beach, the site has plenty of pitches available all of which were pretty much level and although being a big site, it was rather pleasant. The grass is kept short by hundreds of brazen rabbits. I assumed that there was an abundance as few natural predators would dare to come into an area with so many people about (although I did see the signs of a 'demise' early the next morning). I guess the owners/managers of the site were happy not to have to mow the grass – hahaha.

I took Ellie for a long walk along the beach before supper. I noticed that; a) my van was the smallest outfit on site (again), b) almost all of the caravanners were old (not too surprising, out of season as it was) and c) there were lots of dogs.
Ellie on the beach.png
Ellie on the beach

I'd bought bacon (and small, locally baked loaf of seeded bread), so set about cooking dinner – softened shallot, added bacon and garlic, pesto, water, stock cube and rice. Plenty of it, too, after walking for such a long way today.

I'd wanted to do some washing today, but a water pipe had burst near to the site, which meant that there were no laundry facilities (and the toilet blocks were closed for several hours, much to the annoyance/distress of some of the 'older' folk onsite!).

Seen: Red kites, pheasants, a pair of white-fronted geese, kestrel

Handy hint: Baby wipes get rid of the smell of onion and garlic from your hands/fingers!

Woke early the next day to another glorious morning! By 8 am, I was tucking into an egg and bacon buttie (no HP sauce – disaster :-( ).

I decided, that as it was a Sunday, we should have a fairly leisurely day, so we drove to take a look around Port Logan and Drummore, along coastal roads, and then to re-visit Portpatrick for lunch.

It was really relaxing, sitting out side the pub/Hotel (Crown Hotel), eating mussels and crab and people-watching (and inwardly giggling at some of the conversations overheard). I also managed to 'procure' some sachets of tomato and HP sauce – hooray!

http://www.crownportpatrick.com/index.html

(Also, received two more offers to, “Tak' yer wee dug haem”.!! Yeh – right.)

Back at the site, I wandered off to do a load of washing. Now, I'm not daft (some might disagree), but I couldn't make head nor tail of the 'instructions' given for the washing machine. So, I shoved some money in - £4 plus another £1 for an extra rinse and high spin. This was meant to deliver a 30-minute wash cycle plus the extra bit. I pushed the start button. Nothing happened. I then turned my attention to the variety of other buttons, none of which gave any clear indication of on what they were for. After making an less-than-desirably informed decision, I pushed two buttons, then the start. Imagine my surprise when the machine flashed a little message up at me '10-minute cool, quick-wash'!!! Horror!! £5 for a 10-minute wash? Oh well, at least I'd remembered to put the washing liquid in. Or had I? After fretting for a few seconds, I worked out that I had – phew!

I feel I ought to mention that it's very windy at this site. Being right next to the beach, there are strong off- and on-shore 'breezes' and whilst this can make evenings and nights rather chilly, there is the advantage that your washing will be dry in no time at all.

Lessons learned: Always have plenty of £1 and 50p coins stashed away.
Buy (or make) a clothes airer.

Whilst my dinner was simmering, I indulged in a glass of nice, cold Chardonnay. I don't take a wine glass with me – a mug will suffice. Sitting outside the van in the early evening sunshine, I went to take a sip of the golden liquid, and noticed quite a few black specks suspended in it. I looked at the bottle, but there were none in it. Perplexed, I finally realised that it was black pepper. I store the salt and pepper pots in two of the mugs when travelling – hahaha. The pepper certainly added a 'certain something' to the flavour of the wine – not unpleasant, really – but I won't be adding it deliberately in the future ;-)

Lesson learned: Check your mug before pouring.

Another long walk along the beach before bed – tired and happy.

Seen: A pair of swans in the middle of a field.
Ellie on the beach (again). Well …. heading off the beach in this photo!.png
Ellie on the beach (again). Well …. heading off the beach in this photo!
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re: Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby MicV » Fri Jun 24, 2016 12:22 pm

Hi Mary
Mic V at mzawf here :-D
Nevis mailed you and said that only members can make posts and comment on your travels :scratc
This information is incorrect, guests can make comments on mzawf :yes
The only difference being is that a guests post are subject to admin clearance.
In addition, at the time of posting a reply to an article on mzawf, a spambot question/answer is required.
It's all easy and straight forward for guests to do. :thunbsup
This post was made under guest status :aok
Thanks for sharing your travels with mzawf :mz
Health & Happiness
Mic V
:mz
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Re: Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby Nevis » Fri Jun 24, 2016 1:14 pm

:wub :wub Sorry :kiss :innocent
Now back to your lovely travels ..........
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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Tue Jun 28, 2016 8:51 am

Further up ….. to Culzean Castle

I woke to another stunning sunrise, but just couldn't persuade myself to get up and take photos. Dozed off again, to wake at 07.30 to overcast skies – grey and much colder, but got up and walked Ellie along the beach again.

After packing up, I drove off northwards, stopping for a short walk to see the Kirkmadrine Stones. In a glass-fronted porch at the west end of Kirkmadrine Church is a collection of the oldest known Christian monuments in Scotland (outside Whithorn). The earliest of these stones is a pillar dating from the 400s or 500s.

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/s ... inestones/

Heading even further North, along the A77, through Stranraer, Ballantrae and then on to Girvan, I began to feel a small tremor/wobble through the steering wheel, but put it down to the poor quality of the road surface.

At a viewpoint just south of Lendalfoot, I stopped to take photos of Ailsa Craig. This volcanic island, know for the quarrying of blue hone granite for making curling stones, lies 9 miles offshore, and is known as 'Paddy's milestone', being half way between Glasgow and Belfast.
Ailsa Craig, with the Isle of Arran in the background, at right, and the mainland in the background, at left..png
Ailsa Craig, with the Isle of Arran in the background, at right, and the mainland in the background, at left.

Continuing on, we stopped in Girvan and had a bracing walk along the prom. Then a wander into the town itself. Whilst the seafront area is very nice, the town centre is a little run-down and I was disappointed not to be able to find a wet-fish shop.

Wandering around unknown towns can sometimes reveal hidden delights, such as the Knockcushan Gardens. This small, walled garden forms part of what was once the old Town House. It has a small aviary and a beautiful mosaic. I imagine that this is the perfect place to go to at lunchtime for some peace and quiet.
Mosaic in the 'hidden' Knockcushan Gardens..png
Mosaic in the 'hidden' Knockcushan Gardens.

I moved the van from the free parking on the prom into the car park at the harbour (also free), popped the top up and made lunch (soup and sarnie). It's great to be able to just pull over and within a few minutes have the kettle on the go for a cup of something hot :-)

I discovered that I could get Internet access using my 'limpet' – huzzah!

The only down-side here was the cost of using the public lavatories – 30p!!

Ow!, thirty pee
To have a wee -
That really did
Astonish me.

Onwards again, we headed off to Culzean Castle Club Site (The Camping & Caravanning Club (C&CC)).

http://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co ... zeancastle
(The wheel-wobble was getting worse – it kicked in at about 40 mph and I was starting to become a little concerned about it.)

The Culzean Castle campsite is just lovely. It's IN the grounds of the castle (not very well signposted from the road - basically, you have to follow the signs to the entrance to the castle grounds and keep an eye out for the small signs showing the way to the site.)

Most pitches are fairly level with hardstanding and the facilities are great and extremely clean: showers, toilets, washing up area, a children’s play area, laundry facilities, an outdoor drying area and recycling bins (including one for waste food – a first in all of the sites I've visited). Many of the 90 pitches have hook-ups. There are also designated dog walks.

The lady who showed me where to pitch decided against Pitch 1, telling me that, “There's not a very good view from this one”, and instead allocated me Pitch 7, which had a spectacular view out across a recently ploughed field across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Arran. Just gorgeous.
The view from Pitch 7 - out to Arran..png
The view from Pitch 7 - out to Arran.

Pre-warned by the site information, I knew that there wouldn't be any mobile/Internet signal here, but by hanging my 'make-your-own Wi-Fi hotspot' device up in a tree, I got signal and contacted my Brilliant Brother to discuss the wheel-wobble. We both came to the same conclusion – it would be prudent to get it checked out the next morning.

Supper: Softened shallot (can you see a pattern emerging here?), cumin, coriander (glad I took herbs and spices with me), smoked garlic, water, udon noddles, then cooled it slightly and added tinned tuna.

Lesson learned: Use any Internet connection as much as possible when you get it.

Seen: Black Grouse, Eider Duck, Rock Pipit.

Culzean Castle.
Up early (again) to bright sunshine (again). Before 07.30, Ellie and I were walking down a lovely forested path towards the castle. There was nobody in the entrance booth, nor did there appear to be a charge for walkers to enter the castle grounds.

Half an hour or so later, we came to Home Farm.
Home Farm.png

Ellie waiting for me outside the impressive entrance to Culzean Castle Home Farm.png
Ellie waiting for me outside the impressive entrance to Culzean Castle Home Farm

Along another footpath, and the castle came into view.
The castle.png

castle 2.png

It was far too early for the first tour of the interior of the castle (and I doubt that Ellie would have been allowed in!), so we wandered around the grounds and then went down to the beach below the castle.
Culzean Castle perched on the cliff-tops. .png
Culzean Castle perched on the cliff-tops. The building at bottom left is the old Gas House.

The mid-19th Century Gas House provided coal gas, then acetylene until 1947, when electric power was installed. It now houses an exhibition on early gas production.

Whilst we were walking on the beach, I noticed sea-glass in amongst the stones and seaweed. Within 10 minutes, I'd collected all of these different colours (Ellie wasn't any help at all, she was far more interested in sniffing out 'dead things', especially in the clumps of weed. Thank the gods that she didn't actually roll in anything horrid!):
Stones.png

Looking down from one of the woodland walks to the Gas House..png
Looking down from one of the woodland walks to the Gas House.

Culzean Castle Viaduct - designed in the 1780's to bridge the ravine as part of the main castle approach in a rather 'fanciful' way. .png
Culzean Castle Viaduct - designed in the 1780's to bridge the ravine as part of the main castle approach in a rather 'fanciful' way.






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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Tue Jul 05, 2016 10:16 am

…. and onwards to Largs (via Ayr)
(and a very important 'Lesson learned'!)

After a leisurely stroll back to the van, I got Internet connection again and started looking for somewhere fairly local to get the wheel/s looked at (I'd already looked at all of the side-walls of the tyres, but couldn't see any lumps or anything obviously wrong).

Having found three tyre businesses that might be able to help, I packed up, had a shower and drove off to Ayr.

Note: I only just made it into the shower in time to get clean before one of the Site Managers came in to clean the block. They are shut for an hour and a half each morning. Now, I'm happy about that, because this implies that a lot of deep-cleaning is done. However, I wasn't happy that he arrived early, was grumpy with me and, when he saw that Ellie was with me, he said, “Dogs aren't allowed in the toilet block”. I asked why not. He told me, “It's a hygiene thing”. I was SO tempted to say, “What? Might she catch something nasty in here, then?”. But, of course – I didn't (I don't want to be barred from all C&CC campsites – hahaha). It did annoy me a tad (all of the people that met her in the toilet blocks were happy see her). Her little paws are cleaner than most people's shoes/feet and, as I groom her daily, hair-fall in the area is far more likely to be human than dog (and I've seen plenty of the human kind, which is why I ALWAYS wear something on my feet in the toilets blocks, even in the shower. No offence meant, fellow campers. It's just that I really don't want verrucas, etc!! ;-) ). She's de-flea'd and wormed regularly and, as far as I know, she doesn't have any diseases.

Anyway – off to Ayr at a very 'controlled' speed. Wobble getting even worse. I just kept my fingers crossed (mentally, you understand) that nothing untoward happened before I got to Ayr.

The first place no longer existed - (my first choice was to NOT to go to one of those huge tyre places (having had a bad experience with one of them previously, when I sneaked in to watch what they were doing in the workshop and saw them deliberately let my (then) car drop, on the lift, from about 3 feet up and then stood there, laughing, as they watched it bounce. Needless to say, I confronted the manager of the 'shop' and he got them all to apologise to me and gave me a discount).

So – I DID have to go to a larger franchise. The guys there couldn't have been more helpful. After checking the front near-side (which needed to be re-balanced), the (young) manager removed the front off-side wheel and showed me a fairly substantial 'lump' on the tread. Something had pierced the tread (not deeply enough to actually puncture the tyre) and water had ingressed to just below the rubber. If I'd travelled on it on a motorway, there was a good chance that it would have de-laminated. Oooooh – good decision to get it checked out, but it cost me a fair few (un-budgeted for) pounds (GBP), as I decided that it would be best to get both front tyres replaced in view of the fact that I had many, many more miles to drive.

Recommended: National Tyres, Peebles Street, Ayr. I stood in the workshop and nattered to him whilst he tested, wheel-balanced, jacked the car up, investigated, found the problem and the solution. It took me about 5 minutes to adjust to his accent, but thereafter, he kept me mightily amused with tales of his and his father's motoring exploits. What a star!

Ellie was in the van the whole time. Despite the strange noises in the workshop and the things happening to the van, she was totally chilled, looking out of the window every now and again to check on where I was. Another (little) star!

Set off again – wheel-wobble gone, much to my relief.

For the first time during the Scots section of my travels, it started to rain. And rain. Having 'wasted' a good portion of the late morning getting the van sorted in Ayr, I wasn't too sure where to go next.

Ah well, I needed provisions so the obvious choice was to find somewhere to get them and to fill up with diesel. By chance, I found a Morrisons – good for both.

My original thinking was to head up to Gourock and take the ferry over to Hunter's Quay, then into Argyll and take the long, less-travelled roads up through the peninsular before heading back south to the Borders.

Internet obtained at the supermarket, I discovered that the weather forecast for my planned trip area was NOT good, nor was it likely to be so for a good few days, so I set off randomly and came across a lovely little CL (Certified Location) just outside Largs (£15 pn).

http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/detai ... revid=4270

I arrived and saw a space in the 'tourer' area of the site, so went and knocked on the farmhouse door.

The (elderly) lady who runs the site told me that all of the spaces in the tourer area had been booked. At my crestfallen look, she told me, “Park yourself up in our parking area, next to the cottage, because it's wee bit wet on the grass field”. Oh, the kindness of some people. Electric hook-up included (I just had to reach over a fence to grab a connector ;-) ).

She also told me about a nice walk just down a footpath next to the farm, so Ellie and I set off to do that. It rained (again), but it was warm and some lovely scenery (but, forgot the camera, so, sorry no photos!).

Having re-supplied with provisions, I cooked myself a prawn and mushroom risotto (with fresh coriander). Risotto of this kind is (probably) what I would choose for my 'Last Supper'. Add a glass of (left-over) Chardonnay and it's ALMOST the perfect meal ;-)

Much to my surprise – my mobile rang! It was my cousin. I had no reception for outward calls, but for a few minutes I spoke with her (before the signal disappeared again). She told me a disturbing tale, so I decided to return to Mealsgate/Fletchertwon on my way back to Dent (I'd also found out that the previously mentioned 'exciting thing' was definitely happening, so I needed to be back in Dent village for the weekend of 21/22 May).

Lessons learned: If in doubt about something (especially mechanical/van worries) – get it checked out!
Calor/camping gas is SO much hotter to cook with than what I'm used to at home! I had to use nearly twice as much stock as I normally do for the risotto. Feck the cost in gas – it was yum, yum, yummy!! :-)

Seen: The inside of a National Tyres workshop (for far longer than I wanted to!)

Heard: Loads of funny tales from the mechanic.
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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Mon Jul 11, 2016 1:04 pm

Largs to Peebles to Alemoor Loch

Having fallen asleep the previous night to the soporific sound of water droplets drip, drip, dripping from the end of the van onto the rear bumper, I woke to what the Scots would call a 'Smirr' (a fine rain/drizzle). Ellie didn't seem to mind, as we took our pre-breakfast walk – her coat looked fuzzy with the tiny rain droplets and was so soft after I'd dried her off.

Showered, I was doing the washing-up, when the elderly lady owner of the CL came in to clean the showers/toilets etc. We got chatting. Poor lady – she'd been widowed the previous year (after living in the farmhouse with her husband for more than 30 years) and ran sheep, the B&B in her farmhouse, seasonal caravan pitches and the tourer area single-handed (except for a 'wee laddy' who helped her with the sheep). I asked her if she would pack it in and move somewhere else, to which she replied,”Och, it's hard, but I canna imagine living anywhere else!”. Much respect for such a determined lady.
I mentioned that I was going to head off towards the East Coast to Hawick, before heading South into the Borders and thence on to Carlisle. She laughed and said, “Why Hawick?” and proceeded to tell me of a nice route that would eventually get me there. I took her advice.

As we set off, the rain came down in earnest. I'm sure that Lanarkshire has some lovely scenery, but I saw none of it through the lashing downpours and low cloud.

The weather started to clear as we came into Peebles. I couldn't find a parking space in the town itself (there was a function of some sort going on (although I didn't see any banners/signs for it) and the place was bulging with people). I found a huge municipal carpark (free – could probably have stayed overnight if I'd wanted/needed to) and took a walk along the banks of the River Tweed.
Oh – it was a fine walk! It rained again (hissed down, in fact), but there was a whole heap of wildlife to look at/watch and not a soul to be seen on the footpath.

I'm intending to go back to Peebles at some time in the future – I'd like to spend more time there – take a wander around what looks to be a lovely town and there are lots of marked (and unmarked) trails in that area (foot, horse and bike).

After lunch (oh, the joy of taking your kitchen with you ;-) ), we headed off towards Hawick on B roads (B7062, B709 and B711). This is a scenic route that I will highly recommend to you. Single-track, with passing places, some of it reminded me of my favourite road (over Barbon) into one of my most loved places in this country (Dent, Cumbria). I met no other vehicles on the roads, so was able to pootle gently along, looking out at the views of forest, fell, rivers/burns and lochs. Stunning.

Coming to the dog-leg right junction to join the B711, I was confronted by a sign advising that the road would be closed from 08.30 until 16.00 for five days. It was after 4pm, so I set off down it. More jaw-dropping scenery along the way.

At Alemoor Loch (absolutely beautiful, peaceful spot) , I saw a large layby, with one other car in it (with a kayak roof-rack on it). Just beyond that was a narrow bridge with the 'Road Closed' information sign on it, so I decided to wild camp in the layby for the night (and get up bright and breezy the next morning so that I could continue on before the road was closed).

I'd just finished setting up when the sun came out. So off we went for a walk along the banks of the loch.
The Northern portion of Alemoor Loch.png
The Northern portion of Alemoor Loch

I was surprised not to see a sign 'Warning – Crocs!' at the bottom of the photo – hahaha (they belonged to the kayaker, who I saw powering his way up and down the entire length of the loch).
Ellie, sniffing her way along the bank of the Southern part of Alemoor Loch..png
Ellie, sniffing her way along the bank of the Southern part of Alemoor Loch

Looking back to the road bridge over Alemoor Loch.png
Looking back to the road bridge over Alemoor Loch

I could 'feel' the presence of a few midges (and did, indeed, get one bite just under my right eye!), so hastened back to the van. I immediately lit a citronella tea-light and set about making supper.

I really don't like the lingering smell of cooked onions in the van, so had to take a risk and open a couple of the windows. Fortunately, a small breeze was now blowing, which seemed to keep the little 'blighters' away!
As I had just finished browning the sausages for my sausage stew (with fresh cabbage), the kayaker came back to his car. On seeing the van, he decorously changed out of his wetsuit in his car (couldn't help but notice that he had extremely nice legs – hahaha), then, whilst he was hefting the kayak onto the roof-rack I noticed him tilt his head up and sniff the breeze – guess he caught a waft of my lovely stew cooking – hahaha.

Before retiring for the night, I lit another citronella candle, closed the windows and blocked as many of the 'ventilation' holes as I could (with socks!). Didn't get bitten again – thank goodness.

Seen (in Peebles): Thousands and THOUSANDS of mayflies over the River Tweed, fish jumping to catch them and about 20 black-headed gulls, skimming over the surface of the river (also catching them?); many swallows, herons fishing and a pair of Little Grebes.
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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Tue Jul 19, 2016 10:18 am

Alemoor Loch to Fletchertown

Awoke (06.30) to find the van completely enveloped/enshrouded/enclosed by thick mist! Calm, peaceful, almost silent. Short of a hurricane, I experienced every type of weather during these 5+-weeks of travel (touch wood – mustn’t tempt fate for future trips).

Conscious of the fact that I had to be ready to go before the road ahead closed at 08.30, I began to pack up, walk Ellie, carry out my ablutions etc. in good time. I was nearly ready to go, with a cuppa in hand, when a vehicle sped past at high speed, coming to a screeching halt just before the bridge. Through the mist, which was thickening and thinning in a weird sort of pulsing rhythm (organic, strange, not exactly scary but 'different') I could see a Highways Maintenance vehicle. A chap jumped out and put up the Road Closed sign. “It's 07.30, NOT 08.30 – what a bar steward”, was my exact thought.

Thus, I was forced to reconsider my onward path. Instead of pushing on further East, I took a careful drive, through the mist, back along the B709 and then turned left onto the A708 road to Grey Mare's Tail falls.

Grey Mare's Tail is a 60-metre 'hanging valley' waterfall (the fifth highest in the UK) near to Moffat in southern Scotland. The fall is produced by the Tail Burn flowing from Loch Skeen cascading into the Moffat Water in the lower valley below.

During a succession of Ice Ages over the past 2 million years, massive ice sheets covered the land. Like giant ice rivers, these glaciers slowly moved and the ground beneath was scraped out and eroded by the rocks they carried. When the last glacier receded back up into the hills, it left deposits of silt, pebbles and boulders, known as moraines. These can be seen, clearly, on the sides of the valley.

As we left the van I heard the distinctive call of a peregrine falcon. It was an unexpected pleasure. I knew that the area was a known breeding ground, but didn't expect to hear one.

Just a short way away from the car park (admission is free, but visitors are encouraged to support the work of National Trust for Scotland (NTS) by joining or making a donation (I did the latter)), you can see the Tail Burn 'fort', an Iron Age earthwork. Although it has long been known as the 'Giant's Grave' it is not a burial mound, and may be defensive or perhaps even a ritual site.

It was drizzling, but we walked part-way up the path to the falls to take some photos.
Grey Mare's Tail falls.png
Grey Mare's Tail falls

Looking out over the valley from the falls.png
Looking out over the valley from the falls

I would have taken the opportunity to walk up to Loch Skeen and White Coomb if the weather had been more clement. Another time.

Heading back down to the van, I frantically began to look for a Ladies' Bush/Stone/hidden hollow, but there were none to be found. Also – there were two Rangers repairing the steep, stone step pathways to the top of the falls, and there was no cover to be seen anywhere. So it was with much regret that I had to pull down the blinds and use the Porta-Potty for the first time on the trip. I had hoped not to have to use it whilst travelling, but needs must when the devil drives. Fortunately, I'd forced myself to 'charge' it before I left home.

Lesson learned/confirmed: Fill the water reservoir of the Porta-Potty (even if you don't think you're going to use it!) and make sure you have the 'necessary' for the bottom cassette. I use a gel sachet of Aldi's bio washing liquid (much less harmful to the environment than the usual 'blue' or 'pink' liquid) and I'm going to look into getting some eco-friendly substance.

Although there were short breaks in the cloud/rain, in the back of my mind was still lurking the horrid situation that my cousin Jan now found herself in, so set the SatNav to go to her house and set off. Gentle pace, no rush, enjoying the scenery as we went.

The traffic was considerate to us and we arrived mid-afternoon. I love visiting Jan and she was obviously happy to see us again!!

During the (all too short) visit, there was another Pork Fest (some 'newbies' to the chef-ing crew, but, again, much chaos and merriment), an amusing morning spent helping Pippa (Jan's sometime lodger) to get all (sorry, most) of her belongings into her newly purchased van (I suggested that it would take 2 hours. She was sceptical. It took just over two hours.) And an absolutely splendid meal at the Royal Outpost Thai & Malaysian Restaurant, Carlisle.

Highly recommended: http://royaloutpost.co.uk/
Royal Outpost, Botchergate, Carlisle.png
Royal Outpost, Botchergate, Carlisle

The décor at the Royal Outpost is an unusual mix of 'medieval' and Eastern. Sounds strange? Actually, I found it sat well on the eye. The staff were very friendly and not overly attentive. The food was pretty darn good. In the party of diners there were several virgin Thai food eaters (all eager to give it a go!). With a little assistance from my good self, everybody really enjoyed their meal. Portions are very fair. Nothing left and nobody leaving still felling hungry or feeling 'stuffed'!
Botchergate is rather a strange road in Carlisle. Oh, the sights! It reminded me of some of the streets in Liverpool (please don't be offended, my Liverpudlian friends!!), with many bars, pubs and clubs. Skirts were short, the drinking was of the 'heavy' variety and the road is closed in the evenings, to prevent vehicles colliding with those who may have 'imbibed' a little too many potent beverages. Having said that, everybody was very friendly and apart from overhearing a couple of 'couples' arguments' it seems to be a lively, happy, outgoing area.

And then …. back to Dent. And a once-in-a-lifetime experience with well-loved friends. But that will be in the next instalment (ooooh, am I getting the hang of this blogging stuff? Is that's what's known as a 'teaser'?) :-D
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Ellie and Me – T5 travels

Postby mzawf » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:21 am

Fletchertown to Dent (again)
And …. an Amazing Opportunity

Having visited my cousin Jan for a few days and being relatively re-assured that she was ok, I drove back to Dent.
Arriving on a Saturday gave me plenty of time to catch up with friends and rehearse.
Now, I play the guitar and sing, but having spent a few years doing the rounds of open-mics, sessions and paid gigs, I rarely play 'out' any more – guess I've just lost my musical 'mojo'.

One of the reasons for returning to Dent was that there was going to be a live broadcast from the Sun Inn for the BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show.
Mr. Vine was doing a three-show series 'Village, Town, City', asking local people their opinions on the (then) forthcoming EU Referendum and Dent had been chosen as the 'Village' broadcast.
The local band, 'Out of the Sun', had been asked to perform live to 'play out' the show, along with our good friend Blanty. I'd been invited to add harmonies.
The show was scheduled to be aired on Monday 23rd May, which gave us two days of 'rehearsals' and two evenings of playing music in the pub. Joy! :thunbsup

There were two groups of bikers staying in the village over that weekend (one each at the two main campsites). They were delighted that we would be playing live music both on the Saturday AND Sunday in the Sun. :applause
The biker crowds are always great fun (and lovely gentlemen/ladies) and we were as entertained by them as much as they were by us. A prime example was when three of the bikers gals grabbed the display of copper teapots/kettles from the mantelpiece in the pub and pretended to play them (much to the dis-concern of one of the bar staff, but all was well, it was all done in the best possible taste and no 'instrument was damaged' :thumbsup ). There was a lot of dancing and joining in going on as well. Isn't that the point of playing music in a pub?

Some of the BBC Radio 2 crew were there – maybe checking us out to make SURE that we were good enough to play live?

There is no photographic evidence of the jolly japes on those two evenings, but even though there was a great deal of ale quaffed I can assure you that there was much mirth, everybody had a good time and nobody hurt themselves.

The following morning, I helped Wendy and Mick serve breakfast to some (lots!) of the bikers, who came into the farmhouse kitchen looking a little 'worse for wear' and left looking a heck of a lot better! Tea (the nectar of the gods and universal restorer) and Mick's breakfasts did the trick!
A typical breakfast cooked by the amazing host at Conder Farm, Mick.png
A typical breakfast cooked by the amazing host at Conder Farm, Mick
Credit: Mike Perrett

Whilst I was keeping the teapots full, the bikers were discussing the possibility of printing a book of their exploits (well, they decided that there would be two – one 'clean' and one more honest!).

Of all of the tales they told (all true) this one, in particular, had me in stitches:

A member of the group had managed to purchase a gross (144) of see-though plastic macs (at a very reasonable price), which he generously gave to other members. One evening, he put on his mac, and nothing else, and trundled off to the pub. Approaching the bar, he asked the lady who was serving, “May I have a pint of bitter, please?”. “Sorry, no”, replied the lady. “Why not? Is it the way I'm dressed?”, asked the biker. “Certainly not”, she replied, “it's just that I can see that you don't have any money!” :lol:

So, after two days of mega serious playing (and drinking), Monday arrived. We were asked (by one of the show's Producers (who loved Dent and had suggested it for the Village broadcast)) to play the song, 'Whisky on a Sunday', which we knew but which wasn't a regular in our 'repertoire', but we had a few hours in which to get it right.
Rehearsing in the Sun Inn, Dent (Roger, the fifth member of the band, must have been 'taking a break'!).png
Rehearsing in the Sun Inn, Dent (Roger, the fifth member of the band, must have been 'taking a break'!)
Credit: Shell Sedgwick

The time came. We all (five of us) crowded into the area where Jeremy, his crew, the broadcasting equipment and a couple of locals (who had just been interviewed) were sitting and then … we were silently counted in and were on!!
Just about to go live – yikes! I'm hiding in the left-hand corner, standing as I wasn't playing an instrument so didn't need a seat...png
Just about to go live – yikes! I'm hiding in the left-hand corner, standing as I wasn't playing an instrument so didn't need a seat..
Credit: Shell Sedgwick

I have to say that I was VERY nervous prior to the broadcast (I think we all were, especially Roger, who'd never played the song before), but when we were on air, during the song it was if the rest of the world had just slipped away, distant, of no consequence as our instruments and voices blended - as they always do when we play together.

Wow – we played live to a potential audience of 8 million listeners!! No offers of a recording deal yet, though :wink

The BBC Radio 2 podcast of the programme is no longer available, but the following link might take you to a recording of 'our bit' in the show (Credit: Betty Beckett (thanks for the video and for looking after Ellie whilst I sang!!)). Apologies if the link doesn't work :scratc

https://www.facebook.com/bettybecket/vi ... 096027526/
Note: You won't see me in this video – I'm 'hiding' in the left-hand corner, but I reckon you'll be able to hear me singing, being the only female in the band – hehehe.

Afterwards, we were still 'buzzing', so went out to the pub's beer garden and carried on playing.

What a wonderful bunch of musician friends I have :kiss
I'm taking the photo – hahaha..png
From left to right: Steve (didn't play on the broadcast, but is learning fast!), Blanty (guitar, vocals (also known as the 'Human Jukebox')), Matt (guitar, dobro, vocals), Dusty (mandolin), Roger (guitar). I'm taking the photo – hahaha.

Lesson learned: Accept and enjoy every opportunity that is offered to you as you go through life.

Note: I found myself looking in the corner of the pub where Little Mick used to sit, still expecting him to be there, poring over the crossword, half of Guinness in one hand, crossword puzzle gadget in the other hand.
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