Real Time Update 12th February

Blog Paralysis still reigns supreme but there is now a chance of catching up as we are stationary for a while.

The real reason that we flogged North was that we needed to be closer to the UK and closer to an airport with UK flights. We combined that with a perceived desire to revisit Limousin to see if we really wanted to live there as it had been possibly our favourite area on the trip down. We knew that there were flights to the UK from Limoges and so we mapped out a route to the area.

It was only when Mr Snail spotted a property advert that appealed to us both that we changed direction just a little and found ourselves in Vienne rather than Haute-Vienne. To be precise, we fetched up in Bussière-Poitevine, where we stayed for a couple of nights before needing to leave due to the borne being out of action. Thus we landed in nearby Lathus (more properly named Lathus Saint-Rémy) at the recommendation of our estate agent, and a lovely wee place it is too. A very neat and tidy aire with tree-lined bays for 8 vans sits by the side of a quiet road, with a park across the road complete with small (fishable) pond. The Village has two boulangeries, one of which is also a glacièr and chocolatier. There is also a small SPAR shop and other necessities catered for. Result!

Vincent on the aire at Lathus

Importantly, Lathus has a railway link to Poitiers so when the expected need to return to the UK arose Mr Snail was able to make the journey by train, leaving me, Nell and Vincent on the aire in safety and with convenience at hand. No EHU admittedly and no showers but at least I can get food and that is a big plus. So long as the sun keeps shining we have solar power and I can pass my time getting the blog up to date.

Today’s featured photo is from the walk that Nell and I took today. Happily the village is surrounded by a network of waymarked routes so walking is plentiful and safe. Better still, no sign of pine trees, pine moth or pesky processionary caterpillars. It is good to be free of that worry.

We can wholeheartedly recommend this aire, which will only score more highly when the village bar reopens shortly. (If it matters, it is going to be under English ownership.)

I have posts written on the road to inject here and the Two Snails Time Machine will be hopping all over for a while. I’ll post them under posting date for a while for the benefit of regular readers but later will move them into proper sequence  to avoid confusion for newer readers.

This blog is about our travels so I will document the house search elsewhere, for now I’ll just say that Bussière and Lathus will be our nearest small towns when we settle and that the house purchasing process has begun. Our time as full-timers has been much shorter than expected but we feel okay with that and perceive several benefits in having a little pied-à-terre.

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… 


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!(

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Glenmore and home again

I have updated (literally, I added content and then changed the Publication date) the post made originally on the 15th, when we were about to set off for Glenmore. When I wrote it initially I completely forgot to mention a side trip to Wilsontown when travelling from New Lanark up to Cellardyke.

We made a leisurely day of it and began by stopping off at an NTS property, Crathes Castle, not long after crossing from Fifeshire to Aberdeenshire. It was a rather lovely morning, fresh and sunny and perfect for a woodland walk with Nell. we followed the walk with a cuppa and cake.

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The route that we took was the one over The Lecht… old stamping ground and a great sense of homecoming as we drove into the Glenlivet Estate. 

Ceridwen going up one side of The Lecht…
… and Ceridwen whooshing down the other side


We cut across country by the back road to Nethybridge, thus coming in by Rothiemurchus and missing out Aviemore entirely.


Loch Morlich Beach

The weather was still fair as we arrived, though cold – hats and gloves were required to take Nell out on the beach. The sun was shining when we left the van but by the time that we cleared the trees, the first flakes of the predicted snow had begun to fall.

The remainder of our stay was wet and quite chilly. Snow, up to six inches of it, had been promised for Thursday night and we did actually see some falling around tea-time, but nothing lay overnight.

What we did get on Friday was rather a deal of rain. This did not deter us however. We wrapped up and walked to Ryvoan in very similar weather to the day that we walked up there almost exactly a year ago, except it was a little less misty and rather more wet this time, and we took the same route too: Blue to the lake and then back down Blue to the Purple route to Allt Mor car park, then we picked up the White trail and joined the red/Yellow trail back to camp.

The rain did not cease…

… until we woke up to sunshine on Saturday morning and had to pack up and leave.

It was while Mr Snail was preparing the van for departure that the waste hose finally gave up the ghost, splitting entirely in two and thereby being rendered irreparable. Worse still, we would be unable to empty the waste tanks without a deal of unpleasantness…

The travel plan was to go on down to our usual Britstop in Perthshire, stopping at one or two NTS sites on the way so that we arrived about 6pm. Then a short hop back to base on Sunday. The overnight stop does not provide facilities after closing time (8pm).

We discussed the difficulties and agreed that the best plan was to come all the way back to base where we have facilities on hand and would be able to avoid burdening Vincent’s tanks any further. We also decided to call in at a Motorhome dealer’s in Perth on our way. 

We got lucky at Dickson’s and were able to buy new pipe even though they could not help out with fitting it.

As we were driving down the M74 in Lanarkshire, Mr Snail asked how I fancied cutting across country again. “What – go by Leadhills and Wanlockhead? I asked. Fine by me. “Go for it!” I said, “so long as you aren’t too weary.” and so, we did. And it was lovely to see and I felt a pang of the heart and even looked to see if by any chance our old house was on the market (it wasn’t.)

It was all but dark by the time that we reached Kippford.

On Sunday morning, Mr Snail took a look at the waste pipe problem and he fixed it… very quickly, It is not a perfect fix yet but it will get us home without gaining us too many dirty looks from fellow campers.