Going Home

We said goodbye to Kippford on Wednesday 29th March. Having packed the van there seemed little point in prolonging the agony. We turned Vincent towards the Galloway Forest Park and went to visit  with the Red Deer. Mother Nature ensured that the weather was absolutely as bad as the last time that we visited, though perhaps a touch warmer this time.

Arran, having cast his antlers

Spike still had his antlers but was allowing Arran to rule the roost anyway

On Thursday we drove over to Glentrool, where Nell and Mr Snail enjoyed the full circular walk around the loch in the rain. I had things to do, so did them and then walked out in the opposite direction to meet the walkers on their return. It was a misty landscape by then, a little less than wet.

Loch Trool

We were due to catch a 7:00 am ferry on Saturday morning at Ardrossan so travelled over to the West coast on Friday with the intention of finding a stopover close to the ferry port.

There was much wincing as we travelled over some extremely poor road surfaces on our way but the rain had finally ceased and the sun was shining for the most part. We drove through Barrhill (where we had once tried to buy a house), played a little in Girvan, and then went into Ayr for a spot of Tesco action so that we would be fully supplied on Arran.

I dislike Ayr. It is not just a dump, there are also personal factors that prevent me from feeling comfortable when in Ayr. I was happy to move on.

Jackdaw at Girvan

Armed with a list of potential wilding spots in both South and North Ayrshire, we headed for the most favoured first and found it barred to us. The next best on our list also had height bars and the situation was repeated. We drove as far as West Kilbride, then headed backwards to look at other potential spots. Height bars were everywhere.

Finally we called in at a hotel in West Kilbride. We had previously emailed the Waterside Hotel with an enquiry but, having had no reply, Mr Snail was sceptical regarding our chances. It turned out that we were made very welcome with no difficulties at all, despite the fact that a wedding was in progress. We ate well from the Light Menu (£15.95 for three courses, £13.95 for two), then returned to the car park sandwiched between the sea and the busy main road.

We managed to sleep okay and were up at 05:30 and away to the ferry queue at Ardrossan, a few minutes back down the road.The ferry crossing was smooth and untroublesome. Being a Saturday the boat was teeming with walkers, cyclists and early season holidaymakers. We berthed at 08:00 and Mr Snail was somewhat taken aback to find that we could not park along the front at Brodick.

Vincent in the car park at Brodick

We had much time to kill until checking in at the campsite so it was fortunate that we found space in the car park behind the Co-op and were able to make  a late breakfast and then walk Nell on the coastal path. Our plan was to exercise our National Trust membership cards at Brodick Castle but we had to wait until 09:30 to do that.

On our walk I found this pretty flower but could not understand why it was flowering so early nor why it had solitary flowers on what appeared to be a raspberry or blackberry plant… 

Salmonberry?

We took a tour of the village and found a couple of good shops.

Well, we had to…

We purchased postcards, sweets, a newspaper and a paint by numbers set from the proper old-fashioned stationers-cum-bookshop and chocolates from the chocolate shop but resisted the prodigious sausage rolls at the bakery.

Goat Fell under low cloud

Goat Fell was looking magnificent under drifting low cloud but that cloud soon brought some rain with it. Luckily it did not  last long and the sun was out again by the time that we were ready to explore the garden at Brodick, where we were the first visitors of the year. The site had only opened for the year just eleven minutes before we walked in.

I took many photographs and many of them were appalling. Also, I found more of the mysterious bramble plants.

Googling has come up with a surprising result on the brambles. I think that these may be a North American species, the Salmonberry. The fact that this escapee from cultivation is also called the Arran Raspberry is, I think, the clincher. First noted in Sannox in the 19th Century but not by me until the 21st!(http://www.nonnativespecies.org/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?speciesId=3058)

Camellia at Brodick Castle

Although the site was only just opened, a tour of the garden showed that many of the Rhododendrons had already been and gone for this season.

Scattered petals

Of course many remained to be enjoyed, along with the Magnolias and Camellias. 

The Bavarian Summerhouse

The shot of the day, for me

The Castle building is closed for this season but we were content to roam the woodland garden and admire the Rhodies.

And now, to the important bit… the Tea Room. Scone for me, Paradise Slice for him. Both declared to be average. The coffee was sub-par.

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Further adventures as soon as we have Internet and EHU again.

 

Farewell to Kippford

It has been decided; we leave Kippford tomorrow. Our ferry to Arran is booked for 07:00 hrs on Saturday and we have two nights booked at the Lochranza caravan site. We will linger in the Galloway Forest Park until Friday and then spend Friday night somewhere close to the ferry terminal.

It occurred to me last night that until now I have failed to post  a photograph of our pitch here at Kippford.

Our home for the past winter

I took this one yesterday just before we took the tent down. It shows clearly why the pod failed to act as the driveaway awning that we intended; Vince is just too tall.

It is a spacious pitch. The EHU and water point is lurking behind the pod. Immediately to the left is the path to the facilities. Beyond that is the yard from which occasional banging noises are emitted. It was far less of an annoyance than we might have expected.

The building behind our pitch houses the groundsmen’s rest room, the cleaner’s closet and the two wet rooms. We didn’t have far to trot to the shower on a morning making it all the more frustrating to have to dress twice each morning.

Behind that building is the roadside perimeter of the site. Traffic noise has not been an issue.

The site clings to the side of a steep hill and is beautifully landscaped and thoughtfully laid out. None of my photos from the top of the hill really show the nature of the slope. I always meant to document a walk up the hill but somehow it never happened.

All the staff here are lovely and so is the site owner, who generally stops to speak when seen. I would not hesitate to recommend the site but unfortunately they are ceasing the touring part of the business.

The pics from yesterday’s tootle:

One last time to the top of the hill but the air was hazy and the views not at their best

The Bellamy Butterfly Bar – the site holds a Bellamy Conservation Award

Pink camelia

White camelia? It wasn’t fragrant, so not a Gardenia I think… but what do I know.

Primroses in abundance

the largest, I think, of many white Pieris around the site. This bsh has been full of bees in the past few days and the buzz is audible from a distance

I can see this Silver Birch from my seat in the van and often st and watch it move in the breeze. There are usually a number f wood pigeons sitting n the top of this tree but when I took this a Chaffinch had the top perch. Click for bigness and you might just spot him

A remnant of 2016

We have had some frosts as this Camelia shows

I had hoped very much that the Magnolias would flower before we left. The buds are just showing colour now but I will certainly not see the blooms.

Magnolias are almost there but not quite just yet

The Azaleas and Rhododendrons haven’t made it in any number yet either. I am disappointed to be missing them but we have plans to visit Inverewe on our way home so maybe I shall see a good show when we get there.

 

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Oh, dear

I am feeling a tad aggravated that this blog is turning into something that I never intended it to be, I shall give myself a good shake and attempt to be more slick and professional… any day now, I promise.

Right. That is the weekend caught up with.

Today we packed the van and struck the tent. The tent is now firmly wedged ‘twixt the rear doors and the bed. I am not sure how Mr Snail is going to cope with that in the night. 

We are now back to the early configuration of the van, with four 18 litre storage boxes stacked on the driver’s side passenger seat. The bathroom is housing the laundry, the electric heater, the rubbish bucket and anything else that needs nailing down when we move.  My kitchen setup is now returned to two collapsible plastic crates.

In short, we are ready to move.

The pitch is paid for until Friday but there is nothing stopping us from moving off early, so we may leave on Wednesday or Thursday and spend some time in the Galloway Forest. I need to buy carrots for Spike.

Today was a brilliantly sunny and warm day again but the glass is set for rain from tomorrow afternoon and so we took Nell for what may be our last walk up to the top of the site. I took the camera and tried to take some mood shots, to remember the look and feel of this particularly beautiful site. I have not yet had chance to review the shots but will post them soon, if they are worth it.

After supper, Mr Snail began to arrange our onward trip and was disappointed to find that he was unable to book the ferry that we wished to take to Arran on Saturday. He rang CalMac and was able to secure an earlier sailing… at 7am! I am not looking forward to that early start. He has also booked us in at Lochranza for two nights.

We will leave Arran by the other ferry and cross to Kintyre. From there things are a little fuzzy but we shall work our way up the West of Scotland, aiming to be in Poolewe in time for their Tuesday market in two weeks’ time. I am hoping that the Rhododendrons and Azaleas at Inverewe will be in full swing when we get there,

From Inverewe we plan to spend another week or so in travelling back to Thurso and the homeward ferry.

When is Easter? Will we clash with the rush?

A quick weekend jaunt, part 2

We needed to be at Mainsgill, only a minute or two down the A66 for 10:00 am. After a largely sleepless night and the loss of an hour’s opportunity for sleep due to the change to BST we were quite reluctant  to leave our beds but did manage to shower and dress and still be on station before the Family L arrived.

It was our first visit to Mainsgill and we were surprised by the chaos, even having read the criticisms to be found on review sites. It is  truly a strange way to run a restaurant (I shall leave it at that.) It is a very busy little business and clearly thriving but we found it less appealing than other similar establishments that we have visited. 

After our family breakfast we shopped for provisions for  a simple supper to be eaten once we arrived home at Kippford, said goodbye to the Family L and then turned Vincent’s head towards Barnard Castle (which was heaving) and thence onward to the upper dale.

We had an outline plan to go home over the tops via Alston and to call in at Lambley Viaduct on our way to walk the dog. I had concerns that on this brilliantly sunny and unnaturally warm Mothering Sunday the small car park there would be full and Nell would not get her exercise. I suggested that we stop at Bowlees, and give her a run there “just in case.”

The Tees just below Middleton

Well,  it turned out that not only Barney but also Middleton-in-Teesdale and the entirety of Upper Teesdale was heaving with people, cars and motorcycles. Bowlees was choked, with no hope of parking Vincent anywhere at all. The High Force Hotel was very busy with bare-armed folks supping beer in the sun.

We drove on to Cow Green Reservoir, which being so vast could never be crowded – though it was busier than I have ever seen it. Not that I have been there recently…

Vincent at Cow Green

There were tears. Of joy, maybe. Just the sheer pleasure of being in this high place in the clean air and listening to Skylarks and Lapwings. Or maybe a pang of something else. I was last here on the 9th of December, in 1978. How can I be so precise about a date so long ago? Well, I delivered my beautiful boy about 14 hours after a family walk around the reservoir that day. That kind of thing tends to stick. Unlike the family.

I managed to take a lot of very poor photographs at Cow Green. A bit of forward planning might have been useful, along with a wide angle  lens, a tripod and a polarising filter.

We had a wonderful walk, though not a long one as we had quite some driving left to do.

We had one more stop at Carlisle in order to pick up Leffe for supper and a coffee to boost our reserves – arriving back at Kippford just after 5pm, with the sun still shining.

Unfortunately all that sun has brought out my skin sensitivity and I am suffering the usual painful itch. I also woke with a terrible headache from the excess of sun… I seem to have posted our sun hats home!

A false Spring it may have been but we did have the most wonderful weekend in the early season sun, driving through some of the best scenery that England has to offer.

 

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A quick weekend jaunt

Having got a head start on our weekend by overnighting at Metal Bridge, we were up and off fairly early in bright sunshine on Saturday morning. We had empty stomachs and A Plan.

The plan had us heading to the Rheged Centre for a late breakfast. Breakfast turned out to be a little later than planned in the event. A nice relaxing drive down the M6 ⇓, enjoying the sun and the scenery, saw us arrive at the Penrith junction, where we exited the M6 ⇒ and then somehow… rejoined it again ⇓. 

We saw some more scenery ⇓. Eleven miles down the road, we exited ⇐ and rejoined once more and saw some scenery from the opposite vantage point ⇑. Another eleven miles under our belts and then we exited for Rheged again ⇐.

Luckily, breakfast was worth it. We both opted for a breakfast bun rather than the Full Monty. I had Bacon and Mushrooms and Mr Snail had Bacon and Sausage. Both were served in a lovely toasted tasty brioche bun.

Best breakfast in ages

Now stoked up for the day we sought out a local National Trust property at Temple Sowerby. Acorn Bank Garden did not disappoint and Nell had a lovely time wandering in the daffodil woods, which were resplendent in the sun. Signs of Spring were everywhere to be seen, from Nature’s shy buds to pasty white English legs peeping out brazenly from shorts and summer dresses.

Acorn Bank

We visited the watermill and then walked around the wildflower garden before going to try the offerings in the Tea Room.

I had fun spotting the many Elf Houses around the estate.

Elf House – this one had furniture inside and also a note from a child to the elves, who had written a reply upon it

The picnic area in the wood offered table games to play

Elf House with Elf Boat

The Tree Elves had the washing out at their house

Acorn Mill

Time for afternoon tea al fresco for this elven household

The Tea Room provisions were paltry and sub-standard. Mr Snail chose the Cappuccino Cake from the small selection on offer and I partook of the “Tea-soaked” Fruit Cake, which was both short on fruit and very dry and crumbly. There was not a single scone to be seen.

Crumbs!

Nell and Mr Snail went for a second woodland walk whilst I toted the camera around the more formal areas, where dogs are not permitted. This early in the season there was little to be seen but I did take some detail shots and photos of interesting colour combinations in early foliage. Once I discovered the pond I spent an age in trying to capture Newts with my camera…

 

A small garden pond was teeming with Newts of various species.

Snakeshead Fritillary, one of my favourite Spring bulbs

The view to the walled garden via the Dovecote

From Acorn Bank it was a short romp down the A66 to the Fox Hall Inn, where we overnighted in the car park.

Ceridwen admiring our evening view

We were made very welcome on arrival, having contacted the Inn ahead of time via their Facebook page. A very friendly and professional barman (possibly bar Manager?) greeted us and provided some much-needed refreshment…

Timmy Taylor’s ! A well-kept pint of Landlord

There is a handily-placed Public Footpath leading off the pub that heads in the direction of Ravensworth. Nell had a walk before we washed and changed for dinner and we headed off to sample some Award-winning Fish and Chips.

G&T

At this point I should like to stop and put in a word for the G&T that I had as an aperitif. The barman’s recommendation, it was a Yorkshire Tea (!) Gin with and Elderflower Tonic, garnished with orange and star anise and it was fabulous. Truly refreshing. 

Dinner, I am sorry to say, was rather less fabulous. I won’t labour the point here (but a rather sad TripAdvisor review tells the tale.) We surprised ourselves by not having the Cod and Chips but left rather wishing that we had.

We both had the Tempura King Prawn starter

I had Cod baked in a tomato sauce

Mr Snail had Fish Pie

The Fox Hall Inn sits right on the A66, which is  a busy road and has a great deal of HGV traffic. The overnight road noise was every bit as bad as we had feared that it might be and even with earplugs, sleep was difficult to come by.

we parked in the farthest corner, out of the way and as far from the road as we could be

We are grateful to the Fox Hall Inn for having us to stay but we are unlikely to visit again.

A fair distance from the pub

but very close to the road

Tomorrow: to Mainsgill and home again

Getting a head start

We prepared the van today and then hung around long enough for DPD to deliver our new mobile WiFi unit. Then we were swiftly away to Dalbeattie Post Office, where we sent a consignment of 4 boxes back home to be ready when we get there.

As we departed the Post Office, we noted a “Road Closed” sign but made little sense of it. Later we saw another, with a Diversion directing us straight ahead… so the closure and diversion were in the same direction. Now things made no sense at all. We drive on past another Road Ahead Closed sign, in the hope of detecting the Diversion route. Eventually we found both the road works and the opportunity to turn and divert left, though no signage was apparent. 

So, yet again, we have explored some new scenery via a single track road. It is becoming a habit!

Having safely regained the A75 after our diversion around Lochend we soon left it again in order to fill with petrol at Tesco in Dumfries but were not enticed into the shop. Hurrah.

The weather was pleasant; sunny and dry, and with good visibility such that the snow-capped fells of Lakeland were clearly visible across the sands of the Solway Firth (the tide being out) as we drove along towards Gretna. A short hiatus followed whereby a large sum of money was expended in the Cadbury’s outlet (MAYA GOLD!) before we left again, though not before we had a close shave in the car park with a rapidly reversing car containing what we may only presume was a dizzy blonde. Thankfully the speedy application of his brakes kept Vincent from harm.

We parked up at the Metal Bridge Inn well in advance of opening time so had time to relax before dinner (Loin of Lamb for me and Steak and Ale Pie for him) and emerged in time to see the sky flaming as the sun went down over  the far side of The Esk.

There – that was a boring post, wasn’t it!

Hopefully tomorrow will bring more photogenic qualities.