Easter at East Hoathly

A local trip to this unspoilt corner of East Sussex, partly to keep the winter cobwebs off “the boat”. Trip dates: 18 – 21 April (Easter) 2019.

We were fortunate to happen upon the first ever open house exhibition of erotic art by a local artist. The styles are varied, but the Picasso-esque flavour of the painting in the garden seemed appropriate, given that the great man visited the area in the 1950s. (Try googling “Picasso Chiddingly”.)
‘Twas a peaceful place to camp.
Behind most great campsites there is a great pub. The King’s Head was the popular village pub. Adjoining the pub is the 1648 Brewery, which has produced many a post-choir-rehearsal pint.
A place where wood nymphs would certainly be playing, if they existed.
A quintessential Sussex scene.
We concocted a decent cycling circuit, including part of the Cuckoo Trail, which took us via an alcohol-free beer at the Gun at Gun Hill.

Our Broadway debut

Off to the Cotswolds, where we camped just a few metres from the “GWR” — in this case, the splendid Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway. Trip dates: 4 – 7 April 2019.

The tranquil delights of Willersley. All the locals we encountered were unexpectedly chatty and friendly.
One of our reasons for visiting Willersley was to take “the boat” to the Auto-Sleeper factory, where they fitted a manual water-filler (bottom right) which will speed up the business of topping up the on-board fresh water supply.
The impressive Broadway station, recently re-constructed. A year or so ago, there was no track and no station.
Once again, we managed to get plum seats. We liked this driver, who was clearly enjoying being at the controls.
Armchair railway preservationist.
Jenny’s favourite goods van. In our opinion, the distressed, lived-in look trumps umpteen coats of glossy varnish.
An arty shot. Ducky.
Possibly a Welsh mountain breed?
Candid shot of Matathew in pensive mood.
Colourful stonework, at Willersley church I think.
We quickly decided to adopt the Crown and Trumpet as our “local” for the duration of our stay.
Our pitch, with the bikes loaded ready for departure in the morning. To the right of the pollarded tree is the former railway goods shed, which now serves as campsite facilities, and a museum.

Chiddingly

It’s pronounced CHIDD-ing-LIE, by the way. Although only eight miles from home, and four miles from where “the boat” is stored, we wanted to stay here to become honorary locals, albeit temporarily, of the Six Bells. Trip dates: 22 – 24 February 2019.

A sunny day in February. Bikes at the ready .. and al fresco (a.k.a. Floydian) cooking is the order of the day.
We improvised an 18-mile bike ride through this pleasing part of Sussex, via the Cuckoo Trail (old railway line).
The photogenic exterior is not the only good thing about the Six Bells. And I’m not talking about the defibrillator.
“Two pints of Harvey’s.” The beer was on top form and so was the log fire.

Canterbury

We traditionally spend a few days away between Christmas and New Year, in some suitably exotic corner of Great Britain. This year the noble city of Canterbury was our chosen destination. Trip dates: 27 – 30 December 2018.

The shadow proves that the sun shone at least once. Our first visit to part of the Caravan and Motorhome Club empire. Unlike its rival club (the Camping and Caravanning Club) the sites are open to members only.
A day out in Whitstable, by bus of course. We walked for some miles along the beach before entering the iconic beach pub.
A day out on the bikes (next few pictures). We did a decent circuit through uninterrupted country lanes and villages. This one has a distinctive name.
Top pub, with the stove ablaze and superb oak tables. We had the bar to ourselves …
… well, not quite.
Part of the local scenery. Clearly enjoying being the centre of attention for this photo.
Inside the village church. I want to call this cruck-framed, but that’s something a bit different.
Our on-board gas oven shows what it can do. Following our success with roast chicken last year, we decided to do a leg of lamb this time.
Our participation in Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral coincided (coincidentally) with the annual celebration of the ceremonial re-enactment of the martyrdom of Thomas a Becket. The men of the choir (singing plainsong) processed to various parts of the building, followed by the rest of us, and (crucially) the main door was briefly bolted, but then unbolted to allow everyone freedom of access to the interior.
It’s December, so all the more essential to have a fried egg sandwich for breakfast.

Up Northiam

A short trip to the border of Kent and Sussex. Trip dates: 19 – 21 October 2018.

Plenty of space and peace at the camp site
The view from behind our pitch. The campsite is next to Northiam station on the Kent and East Sussex Railway. This loco had strayed from the GWR.
The garden at Great Dixter, just a short walk from the camp site. Our visit was the last weekend of the 2018 season.
View from a comfy sofa made of hay bales, where the Great Dixter gardeners sit during their tea breaks.
The Great Dixter mouser.
We caught the first train of the day to Tenterden which, as it turned out, was a diesel unit.
Tenterden station looking remarkably summery in late October.
Chunky old font (medieval?) in Tenterden church.
I like this picture, with the hot air balloon in the still air. The village pub was clearly popular with the locals.

Dieppe to Bilbao “au naturel” (unillustrated)

Our flagship summer trip for 2018. All the campsites (apart from Orio) were nudité obligatoire. Trip dates: 28 August to 12 September 2018.

The journey south

Bienvenue en France! The time: well before dawn. The place: somewhere between Dieppe and Rouen. The darkness was expected, but the torrential rain was a surprise.
First overnight stop, near Orleans. As the weather was a bit naff, we went out for lunch. Only one eating establishment open, but the quality of the nosh was never in doubt, despite the lack of competition.
Our corner of the campsite at the club, which is sometimes known as “Joie et santé” (loosely translating to “health and happiness”).
Second overnight stop. St Saturnin, near Clermont Ferrand.
Our camping spot at St Saturnin.
A pleasing view of the Auvergne stretching away from the campsite.

Destination 1 — Cap d’Agde

Our pitch in Allée Dune at CHM Oltra. Always a pleasant place to spend a few days, in our experience.
Heading along the coast from Agde towards Sete.
Our bikes took us to Sete, where a serious cavalcade of bikers was passing through.
Six belles moyennes. In the absence of my oyster knife and a gauntlet, I used a Swiss army knife and a cycling mitten.
A spot of lunch by the pool in Port Ambonne.
Coffees at the quayside on our cycling trip to the textile part of Cap d’Adge.
This unidentified flying object was attached to a tree at the back of our camping pitch. Believed to be insect-related, but does anyone know what it is?
In the gloaming at “the camping”.

Destination 2 — Arnaoutchot

Cycling possibilities in the sandy forests of the expanses of Les Landes.
Creature of the moment poses for the camera.
Lunch at the intriguingly named “La Guinguette Why Not” cocktail bar
Lunch continues.
Our corner of Arnaoutchot.
The little temple at the motorway aire where we stopped for our picnic, ‘twixt Arnaoutchot and Orio.

Homeward bound

The campsite at Orio in Spain … it was better than might appear, pleasantly situated and handy for the town and the beach.
The immaculately-prepared beach, largely bereft of human life. The campsite is behind the beach on the left.
We arrived at the Bilbao in good time for our ferry.
Always an exciting moment — driving a wide vehicle up a narrow ramp aboard the Cap Finistere.
The Bay of Biscay in one of its more peaceful moods.
The sun sets on our French/Spanish escapade.

Old Sarum

Salisbury was our choice for a stop-over on the homeward journey from Devon.

View from the top of Old Sarum hill towards Salisbury. Our campsite is in the foreground.
Sunday afternoon cream tea by the cathedral. (Jenny preferred Coca Cola to tea, by the way. And the vaguely phallic object bearing the number 26 is our table number.) After this we attended evensong, and heard the choir in action.
And after the quire came the quaffing … where better than the Haunch of Venison? Jenny (inside) awaits the arrival of the photographer (currently outside) and waves a mug of beer teasingly.
The delightfully anachronistic interior of the Haunch of Venison. As there was only one other customer, on this occasion, we soon got talking … an American chap of eclectic interests, who was visiting Salisbury for a history festival, and whose main day-job was as an actor in a TV soap!
It was an unfortunate coincidence that during our weekend in Salisbury the incident involving novichok in a perfume bottle was unfolding, with fatal consequences. The bottle was found on the route we took on Sunday as we walked from the camp site to the cathedral . We were unaware of the significance of the incident (as were those involved) until a day or two later.