We had been home for almost three months when the urge drove us back to take Heidi the Hymer on a trip. She hadn’t been idle all these months with family members making good use of her and some bits of upgrading being done. A strange thing happens to us when we’ve been on a long tour – for a few weeks we enjoy living at home so much we start wondering if we’ve grown out of motorhoming. We start imagining that we might enjoy renting cottages, staying in hotels or even buying a static caravan. Fortunately time and experience has taught us that this is a temporary dip in enthusiasm and before long we’re itching to get off again for some adventures.
Shirley’s birthday was approaching towards the end of September and we decided to celebrate by taking a ten day tour of North East England.
Our first stop, still in the Scottish Borders was two nights at Eyemouth Golf Club where we are members. Here we took advantage of their kind offer that allows motorhomes to stay overnight, on the understanding that they eat a main meal in the restaurant. Parked up for two nights with fabulous views over the bay we enjoyed two games of golf, good food and bracing sea air. This offer is open to any motorhomer, you don’t need to be a golfer – the only stipulation is that you phone the Heather’s Restaurant before you turn up to make sure there is room for you. They also ask you to reserve a table. It’s well worth it – fish straight off the sea and a good friendly welcome and not at all expensive.
After one of us murdered the game of golf we set off south to Backworth Hall Golf Club in Northumberland who also welcome motorhomers. Here there are services provided for your £10 a night fee and you park on a large quiet spot in the grounds next to a Canine Fertility clinic. They say you learn something every day but honestly – who knew? Mr Google provided us with the details , some of which don’t bear repeating but we did get some entertainment watching lovely dogs coming in, presumably to meet their one night stands … or indeed the dog equivalent of a turkey baster. I won’t say more. Once again I managed to do an appalling injustice to the game of golf while Shirley played efficiently. I was a bit frustrated by my ineptitude with that small white ball and unwieldy bag full of clubs but everything felt better when niece Gill came to whisk us away to her lovely cosy house for a good meal, pots of tea and lots of chat.
We encountered a small problem for the weekend when we discovered that campsites were filling fast and we hadn’t booked anything. We guessed it was the unexpected extra day off work for the Queen’s funeral on the Monday that brought people out in their vans to enjoy a long weekend. The only available option was the Camping and Caravan Club site at Sheriff Hutton, given that we were booked into the York site on the Monday and this was en route. On arrival the warden fixed me with a knowing look and said “You’ve put down 8 metres!” I was confused for a minute until I realised he was talking about the length of the van. “It is 8 metres” I replied, and there began one of those silly ‘oh yes it is – oh no it isn’t’ conversations until he strode out the door and starting marking the length of the van with big strides. Then he said “Oh, it is 8 metres,” went back into the office and proceeded to justify himself by saying “My mate’s got one and it’s 9 metres.” I said nothing.
It’s a nice site but literally in the middle of nowhere. Clearly it was designed for the caravan and tent campers who have a car with them to get around. In our motorhome and without our bikes we were pretty much van bound for the weekend. A welcome highlight was the monthly village market a couple of miles down the road that by happy coincidence was on that Sunday. There are no footpaths so we walked along the grass verges with Poppy who was still manically looking for golf balls, hobbling on uneven surfaces and generally looking as though we were inebriated before eventually finding ourselves in the midst of a really lively market. Local produce and crafts were on sale and, best of all, there was a dog friendly café at the side of the village hall to provide refreshment to the shoppers. We had coffee and home made cakes and sat in the sunshine watching the world go by. There was a great atmosphere of community spirit as the locals milled around chatting to everyone. Apparently the market is for local charities and many volunteers turn up to make it a special day. We walked back to the van with our booty of two home made pies and two slabs of flapjack – that was our tea sorted in one go. Perfect!
It was only ten miles to the Rowntree Caravan Club site in central York and we couldn’t check in until 1 p.m. so we had to find somewhere to park up for a couple of hours after leaving Sheriff Hutton. We decided on a deserted Asda car park where we fired up the laptop to watch the Queen’s funeral. We got a great mobile data signal and we sat with our late breakfast watching it, occasionally being distracted by people driving up, running to get a trolley and then discovering that the shop was shut. You’d have thought that the virtually empty car park would give a clue but perhaps our presence in splendid isolation gave them false hope.
We were soon driving on to our pitch at the York Rowntree Site. This is positioned right by the river and close to one of the bridges into the middle of the small but perfectly formed city. It’s a peach of a spot and an outstandingly well equipped site. It is very expensive as campsites go – just then, out of season, it was £41 per night for two adults in a van. At first I was outraged and then as time passed I came to the conclusion that it is worth every penny. The very best of facilities in the most convenient position possible. Up river from the site there is the Millennium pedestrian bridge that leads to open park land and walking paths for Poppy to enjoy and a short distance the other way is the first of three bridges that lead into the city itself.
We had a wonderful time on our three days in York. We walked the city walls, only to find out when we came down from them that dogs are not allowed. Poppy behaved herself and no-one complained but my overly active conscience bothered me for a while and I kept thinking someone would tap us on the shoulder and ask us what we thought we’d been doing.
First thing the next morning after walking Poppy and having breakfast we walked to the Minster to enjoy a tour. When we arrived we were met with a crowd waiting to go in and a sign that advised us to book online. Sitting on a wall we managed to negotiate the website on my phone and found that there were no tickets to be had for another hour. We paid for the next slot and included an extra payment for a tour of the tower and then went for a walk until our turn came. Once inside the MInster we went to the welcome desk only to be told that the tour was now full and wouldn’t be happening again for another two hours. With the best will in the world we were not prepared to hang about for two hours so we gave up on the idea of the tour and just wandered around on our own. It really is a beautiful building and there are many interesting things to see and places to explore. Shirley’s favourite is the Astrological Clock that was put there in memory of the Royal Airforce and those who were lost in World War Two. Her Dad was part of bomber command during the war and he suffered from post traumatic stress for many years afterwards. In later life he was haunted by thoughts of the damage and death on both sides caused by the bombing that took place. We stood for a few moments and remembered him and how he loved to come here and see that clock.
We wandered through the crypt and upstairs again admired the stained glass before separating for a while for Shirley to go down to the museum while I sat quietly in a seat and dreamed of lunch. Shallow I know. I have a limited appetite for culture and even less when hungry so we enjoyed a lovely meal in Bailley’s café. This is a real old fashioned place where good Yorkshire food is served in a comfortable environment. It was warm in there and the food was of the comforting variety that leaves you feeling pleasantly sleepy. This left us with no choice but to return to the van for a long sit down before Poppy reminded us of her presence and we were soon off again marching up the traffic free riverside enjoying the sound of people on boats on the water and admiring the changing colours in the trees.
The next morning we were excited. Shirley had been given a lovely birthday gift of Imperial Breakfast for two at Betty’s Tea Rooms. Betty’s don’t take bookings for tables and this famous old Yorkshire institution is so popular that you often have to queue to get in. We were lucky and only waited a couple of minutes before being shown to our table. Imperial breakfast begins with a potato rosti topped with a choice of various delicious savouries. Bacon and egg, poached egg and avocado, salmon and cream cheese – how were we ever going to choose? After polishing that off we were presented with the type of stacked serving plate normally used for afternoon tea with small pots of Bircher muesli, croissants and toasted tea loaf with fresh berries and cream, all this is served with your choice of hot drinks. It was a splendid breakfast and made extra special by the lovely service and surroundings of this beautiful café.
We staggered out, full of food and indulged in some birthday shopping before returning to the van for another long sit down. We used the time to book places on one of the river cruises going up and down the parts of the Ouse that runs through the city. Poppy was allowed on the boat and settled under our seats without a murmur. The captain gave us an amusing and informative commentary and we enjoyed it very much until it came time to go back down the stairs to disembark. Poppy had hopped happily up them but she wasn’t keen at all on going back down. With a bit of encouragement we got her going and she half tumbled and half skipped her way off the boat before giving us one of her sinking looks – why did you make me do that?
The next morning it really felt too soon to be leaving but another adventure was waiting for us – we were heading for the lovely seaside town of Whitby where another of Shirley’s birthday wishes was to be fulfilled – fish and chips in Whitby. We stayed at Broadings Caravan Park which is on the outskirts of the town and within short walking distance to the Park and Ride. By 2 pm we were having a late lunch of fish and chips in the Angel Chip Shop where you can choose to either take your meal to eat outside on the sea front or eat it inside sitting at trestle tables next to whoever happens to land next to you. We were seated next to two young Chinese tourists who ate their fish and chips with chop sticks. That is some skill! Fish and chips here are, in my opinion, some of the best in the world. Fresh fish, freshly cooked in the crispiest batter ever. Are you hungry yet?
Later we bought ice creams, not because we really had any room left but just because we were at the seaside. All was going well until a seagull swooped in over Shirley’s shoulder and stole her ice cream, landing neatly beside her and swallowing it whole. A man ran over and shouted “it’s going to choke” but it looked perfectly fine to us with not even a sign of an ice cream headache and to be honest we had no sympathy for it at all. Apparently seagull attacks are a feature of the sea front and signs everywhere tell you not to feed them. That one helped itself.
A walk up the 199 steps the next day to the Abbey on the cliffs and yet another river cruise, this time on a small passenger dinghy completed our happy couple of days in Whitby. The only small issue was that getting off this boat meant returning to the dockside up very steep steps from a floating pontoon and Poppy flat out refused to make the jump on to the steps. She held up all the passengers by standing quivering on the spot until a kind lady offered to lift her and hand her to me waiting helplessly on the bottom step. Poppy accepted this kindness without a murmur and we were soon safely on dry land and looking for coffee and scones. Let’s be honest – this is really a blog about eating too much. We were soon home with a load of washing to do, a motorhome to clean and a promise to ourselves to eat moderately for a while.
I think all this confirms the saying that it’s the simple things that make us happy.