2016-06-01 to 2016-06-22: United Kingdom - 3312 Km

2016-06-01: Lage Vuursche Training Session 20Km

To Lage Vuursche for practice in camper manoeuvring for Barbara just in case, and in any case it’s good to do every now and again. We tried every combination of forwards and backwards and it was very useful for all concerned.

2016-06-02: Home to Diksmuiden, Belgium – 287 Km

We set off around lunchtime having packed and prepared in a leisurely manner. We wanted to avoid the usual Antwerp traffic mess, and did, and debated whether to go for a campsite or a stopover at the Carrefour in Dunkirk. Eventually, we stayed at a campsite (‘t Nesthof, Sitecode: 42048) we’d looked up on the way down. Terrible weather, drizzly rain and wind and cold. Very friendly site; we cooked inside because of the rain, slept peacefully and had nice rolls for breakfast, ordered from the campsite.

The site had free-roaming chickens and huge Belgian Giant rabbits that were twice as big as the free-roaming cats.

One of the things we were worried about during the trip to the United Kingdom was the ability to dump grey water and from our survey of possible campsites for the trip we hadn’t seen many that advertised drive over dumps. I had bought a length of PVC 50mm flat piping and a clip to hold it onto the downpipe from the grey water tank, just in case we had to dump next to the camper rather than under it. Since there was no shower block at the site we had washed in the camper, and the tank was not empty to begin with, so we dumped grey water to be sure we started the UK with an empty tank.

2016-06-03: Diksmuiden, Belgium to St Ives, Cambridgeshire, England – 293 Km

Filled up with diesel, actually at the Carrefour because they have cheap diesel there and also to see what the stopover was like for future reference. Looked like a good usable stopover and the petrol is a lot cheaper than in England. The boat was fairly full as it was the end of the half term break in England and there were lots of people going home. Found comfortable seats and occasionally wandered round the boat and had a look at Ruby from above as she was parked at the back of the boat and there was going to be one of the first vehicles to leave the ship. We could have cleaned the roof better before the trip but it’s difficult to reach. The view from above showed up how far we could reach with the brushes. The first price shock: £13 for coffee and muffins on board.

This is the inevitable picture of the white cliffs as we approached Dover.

On landing we were quickly off. Travelled from Dover up the M2 to the M25 and the Dartmouth Crossing, which we’d already pre-booked and paid for. Usual chaos at the crossing which is a tunnel heading north with everything reduced to two lanes. They have streamlined the means of paying the fee but not the means of executing the crossing. Eventually we were through and round the M25 to the M11 in the direction of Cambridge.

A word from the IT Department. Our tools for looking for campsites were CamperContact, an Android app called Archies and various other Apps, for instance for the AA, ACSI and ANWB. Archies has loads of sites but no indication of facilities whereas the other apps have only a few sites. Archies does indicate if the site is a Certified Site (CS) or a Certified Location (CL). In the UK, they are very big on Camping Clubs and Caravanning Clubs and just about any club that can certify a site. It is never clear if a certified site is willing to accept non-members, and some sites have certified fields with restricted entry (and numbers) but accept members in other fields.

We had planned to try Stanford Caravan Park(in Burwell) near Wicken Fen so we could visit it the following day. The site owner met us on the way in and said that the field was waterlogged and although a camper space was free, and a camper had driven off, the owner didn’t know if he would come back so couldn’t give us the pitch. We looked at a couple of other sites that didn’t look promising and headed for the Seven Wives in St Ives and we camped in their car-park, with an electricity feed, and went for a drink in the pub.

The pub is named after an old nursery rhyme riddle, and the St Ives referenced is the one that used to be in Huntingdonshire, but is now in Cambridgeshire, where we were.

As I was going to St. Ives,

I met a man with seven wives,

Each wife had seven sacks,

Each sack had seven cats,

Each cat had seven kits:

Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,

How many were there going to St. Ives?

We went for a walk into the centre St Ives, with the idea of finding an ATM machine. It’s a nice walk to the centre, which does have a financial district with ATM Machines. There are lots of references to various historical intrigues along the way and it turns out that St Ives has a statue of Oliver Cromwell, who was born in Huntingdon and who rose to be the leader of the Roundheads’ New Model Army in the English Civil War (1641-52). After he died in 1658 he was disinterred by the Royalists and hung in chains and beheaded. That’s the way to be punished!

We cooked inside again and went for another drink later, after the live music had started. It was ridiculously loud in the pub room, and there was nowhere to sit without being blasted by the noise so we retired to the camper after a while. They had wifi so we set up RubyCon and were able to plan the destination for the next night. The car park was peaceful.

2016-06-04: St Ives, Cambridgeshire to Riddings, Derbyshire – 207 Km

After breakfast (bacon and eggs) we packed up and set off with the peak district as a destination. We stopped off at Rutland Water for a quick walk along the shore of the lake.

Rutland Water

 

We had listed a few campsites as possibles but ended up at Riddings Wood Caravan and Camping Park which was a busy site, because it was weekend and close to many large towns in the north, but a bit cheaper because it was just outside the peak district. Friendly reception and a reasonable pitch, if a bit sloping which wasn’t completely corrected by the levelling ramps.

Ruby at Riddings

We Cobbed some lamb cutlets and sat outside to enjoy a bit of nice weather while we were eating. We were able to dump the grey water on the way out as they had a drive over dump.

2016-06-05: Riddings, Derbyshire to Hollingworth Lake, Rochdale – 177 Km

The next day was the end of the weekend and the whole campsite seemed to be packing up. We planned to go to either Hollingworth Lake or a site on Saddleworth Moor (Moorlands Caravan & Camping Park). We travelled through some of the moors on the way and stopped to admire the views.

The Pennines, next to a part of the Pennine Way

We turned up to the Saddleworth Moor site and there was no-one there so rang the number provided and there was no answer, but a suggestion to send a text, which was also ignored. It’s a pity because, from the website, it looks like a site with a nice view. We went to Hollingworth Lake, where there was also no-one on duty, but they said park anywhere and they’d see us the next day. It was a good pitch and excellent weather so we Cobbed a steak and some vegetables. We have switched from normal charcoal briquettes on the Cobb to coconut blocks and we are still getting used to the coconuts. Hopefully there’ll be plenty of chance to do that.

Hollingworth Lake is a bike ride away from where I was raised and so it was common to go there for an afternoon. It’s changed since, but not that much and it’s still busy on a sunny Sunday.

We went for a walk to the Country Park and thrilled to the sound of the motorway on the raised Rakewood Viaduct above the valley. The viaduct wasn’t there when I was a lad, but was last time we went there as a family, years ago, camping in a trailer tent.

Ruby at Hollingworth Lake

In the morning I went for an early morning walk around the lake before breakfast and we saw the very friendly site owners and paid.

Hollingworth Lake

 

Sculpture by Hollingworth Lake

 

Hollingworth Lake, showing the Rakewood Viaduct

2016-06-06: Hollingworth Lake, Rochdale to Flookburgh, Cumbria – 138 Km

We then set off for Flookburgh where we were meeting family. We had a good pitch on a large holiday camp-like site (Haven Lakeland) in the touring area which consisted mainly of campers and caravans who were staying for an extended period.

Ruby at Lakeland

We’d pre-booked the campsite to make sure we got a place and although when we booked it seemed expensive, at €38 for two nights, it was in fact cheaper than most sites in the UK. The weather was blazingly hot. Did some walking around the site, exploring, and met the family which involved more walking with the kids, followed by pulled pork at their hired residential mobile home. The next day I took a 9Km early morning walk along the edge of the Morecambe Bay, still in nice weather.

Morecambe Bay is next to the camp. Not all the cars are Moggy Minors!
Morecambe Bay coast
Morecambe Bay mud flats; the tide was mostly out

After breakfast, we all went to the south end of Windermere, which is the National Trust Fell Foot property, and had a good walk round the site, and the meadow.

William at Fell Foot
Lucas at Fell Foot
The meadow at Fell Foot

Went back to the camp and had fish and chips from the shop on the site. We all agreed to go and visit more relatives (Mandy and Emma) in Ambleside the following day after which we would then carry on to our next site, which wasn’t at that moment planned, lack of internet being the problem.

2016-06-08: Flookburgh, Cumbria to Brotherswater, Cumbria – 98 Km

We arrived in Ambleside and met up in lovely weather and a fantastic view from Mandy’s deck.

The view from Mandy's deck

As we sat in the garden it started to rain and after a while we set off to go and try the Great Langdales National Trust campsite. They had no Camper sites available but we could have parked on the side of their road. We decided to try somewhere else and as we returned to Ambleside it started to rain really heavily with thunder and lightning, and Ambleside quickly became flooded. We couldn’t get out in the direction of Keswick, where there are good sounding sites, because a car was stranded in a flooded road. We turned round and headed for Ullswater via Kirkstone Pass a 25%, narrow rollercoaster between Ambleside and Ullswater and had a couple of mirror clashes from cars/vans going in the other direction. No damage done. In Ullswater we went to the information office and found out they’d had very little rain. The owner was hoping that a bit of rain in Ambleside would be good for his garden, but when we described the weather he wondered whether he still had a garden. He went off to check and we went off to try some of the sites he listed. We couldn’t find the turning to one promising site, and ended up near to Brotherswater in a campsite with all facilities.

Sykeside Campsite
Sykeside Campsite

Sykeside was set in beautiful scenery, surrounded by the hills leading up to Kirkstone Pass. The facilities were very good and included a small shop we could use to stock up so we had sausages on the Cobb for dinner and sat out most of the evening watching the scenery change during the sunset. I got up early and had a walk round Brotherswater before breakfast (about 4Km) and came across a pair of swans with a very young cygnet. The cobb was very protective and hissed and threatened as I walked carefully past.

Brotherswater
Brotherswater
An occupant of Brotherswater, giving me a clear warning

Another word from the IT Department. We had been reliant on smartphones for navigation and, for finding websites, a range of Apps (13!!) on my Android tablet, together with websites through the tablet and the laptops. For the laptops to work we either need wifi or a data connection through the smartphone. Since this was roaming data it was more expensive than in the Netherlands and so we didn’t choose that option very much. RubyCon has a possibility to act as a Mifi, a wifi access point through the mobile phone network, but it wasn’t working and the IT Department didn’t want to spend its holiday programming RubyCon.

The tablet was a key to our search for campsites, and it was at about this time that it chose to stop working. It would not boot and also would not reset, so we were searching for campsites using wifi where possible and through smartphones elsewhere. Luckily, there is a very good website at UKCampsite where we could easily search and find campsites and we used it a lot. Variation in data signal quality, and lack of wifi at sites was disappointing. After various attempts to reset the tablet I left it to completely drain its battery.

2016-06-09: Brotherswater, Cumbria to Rhuallt, North Wales – 258 Km

The destination for today was an as yet unspecified location somewhere in Wales but, after breaking camp (obviously much easier in a a camper), we went to Ullswater in search of the Aira Force, a National Trust waterfall. It’s a perfect stop-off early in the morning before the crowds gather.

Aira Force
Aira Force
The colours in the water at Aira Force
Rhododendrons at Aira Force
This bench is a log with lots of coins hammered into it
Closer look at the coins. Apparently this is becoming a thing now.

We set off in the direction of North Wales, much of it on the motorway. We aimed at half way between Chester and Bangor, with a site at Rhuallt as a potential target. Rhuallt is impossible to say for normal humans; it sounds a lot like a sneeze. The Rhuallt Country Park specialises in 5th wheelers and had all facilities except a drive over dump. The sanitary facilities were the most luxurious I’ve seen at a campsite; a large metal shed with loads of space for all the facilities, spotlessly clean, heated to a ridiculous level, but very nice in the morning. There were no walks except along the country road next to the site; I even went for a bike ride to see if I could find a Public Footpath, without success. The site had wifi so we could make a rough plan for the following days, with the help of RubyCon.

Ruby in Rhuallt, flames flickering on the Cobb

2016-06-10: Rhuallt, North Wales to Waunfawr, North Wales – 137 Km

Leaving Rhuallt, we headed for the Caernarvon area. We called in at an archaeological trail on the way and walked along a lakeside at Llyn Brenig with ancient burial mounds and dwellings. It started to rain after a while, which drove us back to the camper to continue the journey.

Ancient artefacts at Llyn Brenig

Not before we had caused panic in the local population, however.

Sheep and geese scatter as we walk by

We wanted to stop in Llanberis for a cup of tea and we first went to the Snowdon railway car park which, it turns out, has a standard fee if £14 (more than the book says, as is usual!) but is available as a night stop. The friendly attendant told where we could park for less and we went there for our tea but a coach party arrived at the same time as us and the already slow service in the café became non-existent. We went to the Hydroelectricity generator visitors centre across the road instead but the service was not much better there. We set off again and, after a quick look at the scenery, which never disappoints in Wales, we called in at Beddgelert and walked along to Gelert’s grave, as we had done years before on a visit to the town. See the link for the full story, which appears in many cultures and with many alternative players. A pleasant walk through the town to get to the grave.

Coming up to Beddgelert
Gelert, at his grave
The church at Beddgelert

We were heading for a campsite at Snowdonia Parc Brewpub and camping in Waunfawr which sounded good. When we arrived we set up the chairs and table and settled down to relax after the journey through more very narrow roads, when it started to rain. We put the chairs under the camper, left the table out and retreated inside. The rain got heavier and heavier and eventually water started to flow around the camper so I donned my rain-suit for the bike and went and moved the chairs into the camper. Luckily they weren't so wet. The rain continued and eventually we decided to risk the walk to the pub to have a drink and to eat. With umbrellas and coats we made it and had excellent beer and Steak and Ale Pie.

There were also no walks for the morning exercise, although the shower block was across the steam railway line from the campsite and a little walk away. We didn’t see any trains as they run on the Saturday after we were planning to leave.

2016-06-11: Waunfawr, North Wales to Pumsaint, Mid-Wales – 192 Km

We first went to Dolgellau to get some shopping, grab a coffee and have a walk round. A nice, old fashioned town centre with lots of old fashioned, independent shops and which was busy and lively.

We had listed a few campsites on the coast and we saw a few that seemed very full and regimented. We went to visit a site that looked OK but it was quite full. The friendly assistant mentioned another more secluded site and we took the number so we could call and go back if we didn’t find anything. Eventually we headed inland to a National Trust campsite at Pumsaint, which is the site of Dolaucothi Roman and Victorian gold mine. Very friendly, and, as it’s a Caravan Club site, it’s normally expensive for non-members, but this National Trust site gives discount for members (Lake District ones don’t) so the charge was £13. No toilet or shower but all other facilities. No drive-over dump as far as I could see but I have the chance to try out my new grey water, 50mm hose and clip instead.

Good pitch on a quiet site with plenty of walks and a visit to the Gold Mine as well. Roast Chicken on the Cobb for dinner.

I have no idea why this person is looking so angry

After Dinner is started to rain and it continued to rain for the rest of the night. As we were under an oak tree, the drips were noisier than the normal rain so it was not a peaceful night. The forecast was for rain nearly everywhere so choosing destination for the Sunday was tricky, but we decided for either Brecon or Hereford with the possibility of Somerset for the destination after that.

The following day it was still raining heavily and I decided to have an early look round the woodland walk at the gold mine site, a distance of 4.6Km. Nice walk despite the rain.

From the hill above the campsite
These ladies were very interested in me for some reason

After breakfast, it brightened up a bit and we got ready to leave and waited for the tour of the gold mine at 11:30. The Gold Mine was really interesting and the tour was excellent. The mine was started by the Romans and continued by the Victorians, in two phases, and it was recently discovered that there is a possibility that the mine was begun in the bronze age, which would explain why the Romans went looking for gold in the first place.

Mining equipment
A miner!
A mine, in this case the opening to the Roman mine
See, the Romans used lady miners

Whilst I went into the mine, Barbara panned for gold at the museum and collected a bagful of fool’s gold, and, who knows, maybe some real gold too. I had a go too when I came out of the mine, but I didn't get anywhere near as much loot.

Panning for (fool's) gold

2016-06-12: Pumsaint, Mid-Wales to Peterchurch, Hereford – 151 Km

After dumping (there was a drive over dump after all) we set off for Hereford and a site where we could do some washing of clothes. It didn’t seem so good when we got there so we went to another campsite, the Poston Mill Park in Peterchurch, near Hereford, which has excellent facilities but is very expensive at £24, but we did get a ride in a golf cart to go and inspect the pitch. The weather played along and we Cobbed a roast lamb joint and vegetables with some beer and wine.

Ruby in Hereford

We had no washing powder, and there was no shop open so we couldn’t do the washing, so we still need a site with such facilities. In the evening, we walked round the site, including the golf course, which is very nicely maintained.

The walk around the golf course
A tree
Grass

Tomorrow there are walks and various public footpaths before heading for somewhere else, we know not where as there is no phone signal and Wifi (except at £5 a day).

Grass, trees and sky
Proper trees

2016-06-13: Peterchurch, Hereford to Lacock, Wiltshire – 127 Km

In the morning it was raining and as my boots were still soaked from the previous day, I missed out on the morning walk, and we had a leisurely breakfast and decided to go and visit the NT property at Lacock, which includes the Lacock Abbey house, a photography exhibition about William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the inventors of photography, and the whole village of Lacock. Since there is a campsite close by we thought we’d try that too.

Lacock was extremely interesting. We first viewed the museum dedicated to William Henry Fox Talbot and then the black and white photography exhibition with photos of Iceland. The Northern Lights are not as spectacular in black and white! We then walked around the village, which is completely owned by the National Trust, and is full of interesting cottages and various pubs, etc but is basically a working village in which the houses are all old. We then went back and looked at the Abbey which was set up in the time of Richard the Lionheart and later converted to a house. It is very impressive and made interesting by the volunteers who are on hand to point out interesting details. Of course the brewery was interesting, but the main hall is straight out of Harry Potter. In fact, it was a location for some filming of Harry Potter and also some Shakespearian plays. The costumes used in the plays were on display and the comment most often heard was that the actors appear extremely small, or at least appear to be able to squeeze into very small costumes. The Richard III costume of Benedict Cumberbatch was tiny, but still he is advertised as 6ft (1.83m) tall.

Lacock village
Detail from the village
More detail from the village
A fallen oak leaf sculpture in the grounds
Part of the house
Detail from the house
The brewery
Recently discovered wall decorations
This looks like one of the Harry Potter props but is very old, and Belgian
The cloisters
A camera from the Fox Talbot collection
The window! Fox Talbot's first negative image was of this window
The family logo/avatar was the scorpion
Detail from the great hall. The sugar lump on the nose of the goat is a family tradition dating to the 1920s
More detail from the great hall

After a good wander round all afternoon we were glad of a campsite close by and we stayed at Piccadilly Caravan Park very close to the village.

The campsite was quite large, but only a few fields were in use. They had a washing machine so we pumped pound coins into it to clean the clothes and even more to dry them. It was a good site with mixed touring caravans and campers in a small field. We Cobbed a vegetable curry, which was delicious.

Rainbow at Lacock camping

Another update from the IT department. The tablet that wouldn’t boot was charged up, after completely draining the battery, and when complete, the magic button arrangement necessary to cause a reset worked and I did a factory reset, the only one of the available option that did anything. Eventually the tablet booted to its normal screen, but was, of course, devoid of applications. In order to load it with applications, I needed a reliable, and fast, wifi signal which was not available in any of the campsites. Some offered paid wifi but I wasn’t happy with loading the tablet from it.

We decided we hadn’t seen enough of the sea whilst in England and Wales, despite crossing on a ferry, so we decided to go down to the south coast and find a campsite there where we could get a sea view.

2016-06-14: Lacock, Wiltshire to Eype, Dorset – 215 Km

We set off next day with Lyme Regis as a destination for possible sites. We didn’t find any sites that were interesting. Mostly regimented residential caravans and very big. Moving down the coast we went to a small site with residentials and some touring places. The road to it was no wider than Ruby and the touring part of the site was on the clifftop, on grass, which was very wet at this stage, and very difficult to get to. We decided against this and went to The Highlands End Holiday Park next door which was large, full of residential caravans but had some touring spots. We found a decent pitch and went for a windy walk to the top of the cliff, which had a good view of the sea and had promising walks for the morning.

The lonely sea and sky
The Jurassic Coast

After Dinner, we went to the pub, where the Portugal-Iceland game was being shown. No-one seemed to be supporting Portugal, and when Iceland scored, the place erupted. [As an afterthought, they probably weren't so enthusiastic later in the competition]

In the morning I went for a 5Km walk along the clifftop, which is the coastal footpath, to Golden Cap. I also visited the beach and took a photograph of the pebbles to match our new tablecloth.

This is more or less our camping table tablecloth

The beach is actually part of the Jurassic Coast, and I should probably have walked along that as it is full of interesting fossils. We visited the Isle of Wight part of it some years ago and saw dinosaur footprints.

The Jurassic Coast from Golden Cap, stretching out to Chesil Beach

 

2016-06-15: Eype, Dorset to Monkey World, Dorset – 54 Km

The plans were made for the next day, and we decided a short trip to Monkey World and a campsite close to there.

Monkey World was great, lots of room for the apes and monkeys and obviously the animals are the important thing to them; it is a rescue centre rather than a zoo. We had followed the television programme some years ago, and so some of the animals were familiar. There is lots of information and a good view of everything, although not all the animals were out in the cold weather. We saw everything and the track we followed looks surprisingly like two monkeys; or is it a plot?

A Chimpanzee
A chimpanzee sleeping
A White Faced Saki Monkey
A Saki Monkey
An Orang-utan
Monkey World's founder
Friendly Chimps

We checked out a campsite at Longthorne Farm with almost the same address as Monkey World, and even has a footpath through to the carpark from the camp field. Very quiet site with all good facilities, although the toilet block could have done with some rethinking, especially the shower cubicles. (Stool, shelves, hooks, etc)

Ruby at Longthorne Farm

We Cobbed some sausages with lentils and vegetables. The following morning, I had a quick walk through the woodlands, and we made plans to visit the New Forest the next day, with a campsite somewhere to the north on the way to the family visit for Friday.

2016-06-16: Monkey World, Dorset to Coombe Bisset, Wiltshire– 173 Km

The New Forest was pleasant, plenty of sky, green, horses and donkeys. We tried to include as much as possible, stopping to look at the scenery and the horses and donkeys along the way.

The New Forest
New Forest Ponies
New Forest Donkeys

We headed for The Summerlands Campsite near Salisbury in Coombe Bisset, and found a nearly empty site with an excellent pitch with a great view. Good facilities, flat site, small toilet block, short grass.

We set up the chairs outside and before we could drink our tea, the rain rolled in, in the form of a thunderstorm. We retreated indoors and after a while, when the storm had passed, started the chili cooking on the Cobb. Just as it was ready to start, the same thunderstorm came rolling backwards, so we saw the same thing from a different direction. We opened the awning to cover the Cobb and to protect the cook from the rain and just let the chili cook, and the cook’s assistant try the Summer Lightning. After the second thunderstorm, the chili was ready and was perfect.

 

Summer Ligtning

Had a walk round the site and found a dog walk/footpath for the morning exercise.

The camper maintenance department tried the dump pipe and clip as the grey water was getting to be an issue, but it was not spectacularly successful so it needs some more thought.

2016-06-17: Coombe Bisset, Wiltshire to Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire – 144 Km

The following morning presented us with rain, again, so no walk round the campsite. We made our way to Chalfont St Giles for a couple of days chilling out with relations.

Milton's Cottage
Chalfont St Giles Church

A few walks into the village, wandering round monthly markets and school fetes and a meal out at the Dumb Bell in Chalfont St Peter, with good live music from The Beaver Band. The IT Department used the good quality wifi to download a collection of Apps for the tablet and maps of relevant areas.

2016-06-19: Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire to Lingfield, Surrey – 110 Km 

On the Sunday we went to Lingfield at Long Acres Camping underneath the Gatwick flightpath.

Ruby at Lingfield
Under the flight path

The afternoon became colder as it went on, and we started out sitting outside, but it rained in the evening as we were eating so we moved inside. We tried to finish stuff in the fridge so we had an allsorts meal with cheese, salad, potatoes and bread for dinner, with a bottle of wine.

The site had a  well camouflaged drive-over dump for the grey water although if it was a special drain or not was not clear. In any case we could empty the tank.

2016-06-20: Lingfield, Surrey to Selling, Kent – 130 Km

This was planned to be another couple of days with family, this time in Kent. It was my brother-in-law Peter’s 80th birthday week and he had been given a flight in a Spitfire from Biggin Hill, where he had been stationed for his military service. As a keen Spitfire enthusiast, this was a dream come true for Peter and it was scheduled to take place on the Monday. They weren’t sure how full the hangar from where he would be flying would be so we were doubtful whether we would be able to view the event from there but there was a café near the end of the runway we could use to see the take-off and landing. It was raining quite heavily so we made our way to the airport and found the café and settled in with a couple of coffees. Because of the rain the flight was delayed, and a few people had cancelled do there was room at the hangar for us so we made our way through the security fences and found the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, where it was all supposed to happen.

The Central Railways Uruguayan Staff Spitfire
A Hurricane
Ongoing work
A Piper Cub
The Spitfire used for Peter's flight

As it continued to rain, the likelihood of a flight on the Monday grew more remote, and eventually there was the choice of a flight at 08:00 on the following day, or at 17:00 on the Monday. It looked far brighter the following day so that was chosen. Consequently we all went off to the pub for lunch and then back to Selling.

The following day, bright and early, we went back to Biggin Hill, in nice weather, and all was ready to go. The briefing was already given the previous day so at 08:00 precisely, the Spitfire MJ627 was wheeled out of the hangar and made ready for the flight.

Wheeling the Spitfire out
Hardware ready to go
Software ready to go

The Spitfire took off on the main runway at Biggin Hill, with the skyscrapers of London in the background and went for a 20 minute round trip, including a bit of work for the second pilot and a victory roll, which was optional but would not want to do it?

Starting to taxi
Takeoff, with skyscrapers
Wheels up
Return from the flight. The colours are D-Day landing colours
Landing with skyscrapers
Taxi-past
The pilots
The Spitfire Grin
Two Spitfire Grins

The plane appeared at the expected moment and landed as it took off, with the skyscrapers in the background, and then taxied past the gallery for all to see. The smile after the flight is apparently known as the Spitfire Grin.

After the ceremonies were over, and since we’d been up since 05:30, we retired to the Spitfire Café in Biggin Hill for breakfast. The cafe is a fantastic place, with a great breakfast and warm, friendly welcome. It is full of Biggin Hill memorabilia, and personal photos of the owner’s relations, and they were busy with a promotion for Help for Heroes as we arrived. They found out it was Peter’s birthday so our table was decked with ribbons and an “80” helium balloon appeared.

Breakfast at the Spitfire Cafe

After breakfast we went back to Selling and, in the evening went out to the Red Lion for dinner.

Ruby spent the two days parked in the farmyard.

Ruby at the farmyard

2016-06-22: Selling, Kent to Home – 401 Km

The next day we set off for home, via the Dover to Calais ferry.

Ruby ready to board

We had thought of stopping off in Belgium somewhere to avoid the Antwerp traffic jams, but in the end we pressed on through them and went straight home.

Conclusion

We were ready for a break and we had a great time in the UK. The weather was not always what we would have wanted and we weren’t able to cook on the Cobb as much as we liked, but you don’t go to England for the weather, normally. We had a mix of family visits and camping which was just about right. It’s possible to spend all your time visiting family and end up not seeing anything.

The campsites in England and Wales tend to be larger than the ones we normally like to visit, but that’s the way it is. They are also more expensive and provide more facilities than we need. The Camper mentality is not quite there as many people use their campers as caravans, by going to stay in one spot for several days rather than touring around. The idea of cheap overnight costs for campers has not caught on as it has in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Having said that there are wild camping websites which advertise places where overnight stops can be made. One of the problems is the service areas that campers need for water and dumping. There is, according to Camper Contact, only one service area in England.

The UK is also expensive, and seems more expensive than the last time we were there. Everything seems to be expensive, from fuel, shopping, cafés and campsites.

Be that as it may, there is plenty of fantastic scenery and roads, and campsites with views of, and access to, the scenery. We tried to choose an activity for each day in addition to the driving, and indeed to limit the driving to about 150 Km per day. We actually averaged about 156Km so that worked, as did the visits to National Trust sites and other interesting places. Having National Trust Life Membership is a definite benefit in this respect as it keeps the costs down and encourages visits to some great places.