A Change of Plan

After Battlesteads we had planned to venture into Kielder Forest before moving on to Moffat. The weather forecast, combined with a problem with the van, persuaded us to cut out Kielder and to head back to Winter Base, where we made every effort to secure the new pod tent against the coming storm. Mr Snail also addressed the issue of the split waste pipe by applying copious quantities of self-amalgamating tape.

On Saturday morning Mr Snail emptied and filled the tanks and was happy to note that the tape had done its job. We left Kippford once again and turned our heads towards Moffat.

We would have done better to stay put, not  least because the forecast for Dalbeattie was far better than the one for Moffat.

Given  that our intention was largely to avoid Christmas and to keep our heads down we were disappointed on arrival at Moffat to find the site quite busy and bedecked in tawdry ornament. Many of the vans have fairy  lights and other nastiness. Back in Kippford there was rather more good taste in evidence and in fact very few folk about. Alas, we had booked and paid our fee and there was no chance of refund and so, here we are, attempting to do Christmas our way and acting rather like King Canute, holding back a tide of tinsel.

It is warm and quite still but very wet indeed. We have managed to get our boots muddy though. The Southern Upland Way was deemed inadvisable this  morning but we went for a hike along the Annandale Way instead. We came home to a pork pie and some of Tesco’s delicious Sweetfire beetroots.

A very easy and very simple Christmas Day.

We are here in Moffat until Tuesday, with very little idea of our plans thereafter.

The Battlesteads

It was a short run from Sweethope to Wark, and a bonny one, if a little queasy in places. Don’t get me wrong, I have never in my life suffered any form of motion sickness. The A68 however causes me some apprehension and I tend to travel stretches with my eyes closed. On our way over to Sweethope Mr Snail had remarked “This is a fun road” as we topped another vertiginous crest and I had muttered “um“. Here we were again, going the other way along this switch back road. It makes me woozy.

Wark was just under six and a half miles away as the crow flies but more like 25 miles by the road route that we took. There was little choice as most routes were sporting “Light Traffic Only” notices due to a weak bridge with a 3 Ton weight limit and a 2 metre width limit. The long way round it was.

We had originally intended to sleep in the van at Battlesteads – it is listed both in Britstops and on other lists of pub stops. However, we had been drawn by its description and elected to book a room to make a joint celebration of both Mr Snail’s birthday ad our wedding anniversary.

It seems likely that the MH spaces were in the far corner of the top car park, now occupied by builder’s vans and paraphernalia

We chose well, not  least because building works are in progress and there was no sign of the EHU when we got there. In fact the parking places were tiny and we felt a little greedy hogging the car park as it was.

All the comforts of home

Our “Luxury Lodge room” was both amazingly luxurious and dog-friendly. Dog towel, dog blanket, poo bags and dog biscuits were provided. We humans had to make do with tea, coffee, homemade biscuits and fresh fruit.

A huge room

The room was huge, with lofty ceiling and a massive skylight for sky-watching.

Walk-in shower

The bathroom alone was larger than Vincent the Van and it sported both a walk-in shower and a corner whirlpool bath plus his and hers wash basins.

Two basins, one bath

Battlesteads has some impressive green credentials, a gigantic tracking solar panel array, and its own observatory! All that plus a labrador and a cat; the former friendly, the latter… feisty.

It was rumoured that the sun was out there… somewhere

Our Dinner, B&B package included the 8-course Tasting Menu and we added the Wine Flight to that. A most pleasant evening ensued.

The meal itself was excellent and we hope to return, if not to a room, then certainly in Vincent, for more foodie adventures in the future.

Sweethope

All I can say is that at the Hadrian’s Wall caravan site there appears to be no such thing as the 6 metre rule. We were packed in last night between two caravans at close quarters. How close? Well we were woken first thing by the sound of breakfast TV on our left hand side.

No such problems tonight,

We emptied and filled before setting off, not without problems as the leaky pipe was shedding the patch repair we had done before leaving Kippford. It was a dull grey morning and we were robbed of much of the scenery that I know is there along the wall. It was a short run of about 25 miles to Sweethope.

Vincent on the top pitch of five

Sweethope Loughs is a 5-van Certificated Location sited in the middle of nowhere by the side of a lough, the smaller of a pair. It’s rough and ready with pitches that are approximately level and serviced with water and electricity. It is extremely peaceful, feeling more like wild camping than many “wilding” sites do. It is after all accessed by a private road reached after more than two miles of single track unclassified road off the A68.

The Lower lough

We walked out with the dog soon after our arrival, wanting to make the best of what daylight we had. We set out to walk around the Lower Lough then hoping to circumnavigate the main lough.

Vincent at the Lower Lough

Site rules and the general bogginess of the ground combined to make circumnavigation impossible, so we settled for walking past the fishery and back up to the road. There was plenty to point the camera at so I was not at all unhappy. Better light might have been appreciated!

We love it here and think we shall return time and again. I imagine that it will be midge-ridden in season though.

Tomorrow we leave here and go to Wark, where we have a room and dinner booked. There is a bath with my name on it. I have Badedas. Am hoping for large white fluffy towels.

Related Images:

Stone-walled

The weather was grim as we left Kippford on Friday in the early afternoon. It made for slow progress but luckily we were not going far – just to Metal Bridge, stopping first at Kilnford Barns and then at Tesco in Dumfries. We arrived at Metal Bridge before evening opening, so not as late as it felt.

My dinner was enormous, as last time, though this time I had sausage (pork, bacon and black pudding) with haggis mash – delicious but far too filling. Nell benefited from a large meaty sausage that I smuggled out in my handbag.

Vincent proved to be far better soundproofed than Hank was and traffic noise was far less of a problem this time.

It was cold dank and misty when we woke on Saturday morning at Metal Bridge. I was thankful that we did not need to join the traffic on the M6. What we did need to do however was to go and find dog food as we had forgotten to buy it at Tesco. Luckily the way south out of Metal Bridge involves taking the B road into Carlisle and that road pops out right at ASDA,  We breakfasted there on some surprisingly good coffee and bacon rolls after we had done our shopping, then topped up the petrol tank before heading on our way to the Hadrian’s Wall Caravan site. The mist had cleared by Carlisle and the sun was out, giving us full value from the passing scenery.

Vincent at Base Camp

As might readily be guessed, the site lies very close to that iconic historical edifice. 

We were treated to a warm welcome and efficient but friendly service. The site is somewhat old school. Possibly rustic. The showers are push button, with a very short water delivery period. The facilities are not well heated but thankfully the water is hot enough. All the same, not a place to linger for long unclothed.

The scenery is stunning

The views all around are magnificent but better still up by the wall.

Long distance views in all directions

Of course we wasted no time in taking Nell for a walk to the wall.  I broke out the camera, though light conditions were poor. 

We had booked one night and planned to move on today but birthday celebrations got the better of us last night and it was deemed prudent not to drive today. We booked a second night and went to walk off last night’s excess along the wall again. I took two walking poles as my back was complaining, so no camera today… when of course the light was stunning.

It’s an amazing piece of work

That’s always the case, I find. 

Poor moles!

and of course I missed capturing the evening’s wonderful sunset, sitting here typing this whilst Mr Snail sleeps it off. Or attempts to. Things got a little noisy this afternoon.

We are sandwiched tonight betwixt two caravans. There are fairy lights. I wish we had gone to Vindolanda.

Tomorrow we are on a 5-van CL site. May be more peaceful!

Whoopsadaisy

Vincent had a wee contretemps with a large boulder today and grazed his knees a little.  There was an almighty crunch. A liberal application of sticky tape got him under way and we are now parked up at Metal Bridge.

V also has a problem with his plumbing. The waste disposal pipe has split. Further application of sticky tape! 

An addition

We have added an extension to our little plot. One of these nifty pop up shelters was delivered this morning. We plan to use it like a drive-off awning and it will serve for both a weather porch and a storage space, plus somewhere to put a muddy dog to dry off.

The blurb says that the thing can be erected in two minutes “with practice” – something that we were clearly lacking. There were tent peg issues and new hard ground pegs have been ordered. Let us hope that the thing stays up until we get back from our jaunt.

It is somewhat less than a perfect solution but it is a sufficient one and cost-effective. Happily the step-over for the doorway pretty much exactly matches the step level of the van. The top side is more problematic and we may end up doing what many folk do… and roll out Vincent’s awning to bridge the gap.

We failed to pitch it perfectly but it can stay like that until our return, when we will do a better job (I hope) using the new pegs.

The afternoon was spent shunting goods and chattels out of the van, vacuuming bags of clothes into minimal volume and reorganising our living space. Now that we have four chairs empty and no present danger of piles of black bags falling from the shower room at any moment, I believe we may be ready to receive visitors!

In fact we seem to be about ready for the off, so don’t call round without checking as we probably won’t be here.

Tomorrow we will wait for the post to come as we were expecting a bluetooth speaker today. Royal Mail sent it to Newton Stewart instead of Castle Douglas.  We mailed our music streaming box home the other day and the highly expensive stereo unit we acquired with Vincent doesn’t stream. We are missing Mr Palin, hence the purchase of a peedie portable speaker. We would like to have it with us whilst we are away. Once the mail comes we are off to Kilnford Barns for supplies and thence to Tesco for more mundane stuffs.  

We plan to doss down at Metal Bridge. I have secured a supply of earplugs!

Saturday we are booked in at Hadrian’s Wall.