Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Blair Drummond Safari Park

We left the Falkirk Wheel on Sunday the 15th afternoon, for the half hour drive to the Blair Drummond Camp site. We don't often use camp sites but with Nik, Annie & the boys in a small camper it would make it much easier for them especially as the weather was threatening rain and the tail end of the Hurricane Ophelia could possibly reach as far as the centre of Scotland where we were. The part of the camp site where we found two adjacent pitches` was inside high brick walls so would hopefully offer some protection if high winds did come.
The storm didn’t hit overnight after all and we all had a good night. Next morning we bought tickets to the adjacent Safari IMG_4825Park which, as we were staying in the camp site would last for the duration of our stay rather than just one day and we were able to just walk into the back gate of the Safari Park. Another bonus was that as weIMG_4869 were on foot, they drove us through the wild animal enclosures in a safari bus and we got a great view of the animals and a commentary from the driver.  IMG_4846Much .better than worrying if a monkey was dismantling the Satellite dish on the roof of the motorhome! We had a 20171016_164658great two days, all the animals were in great condition and seemed really happy which was good to see, the day finished with a really funny display by a Sea Lion called Lela.
As well as all the animal exhibits there were many other activities for the kids most of which were included in the admission price. the big fiberglass slide was a particular winner even tempting Steve (Gramps) to grab a sack climb the steps and have a go.

We arrived back at the vans quite tired after a good day. That night the storm did hit  and it was a very noisy and windy night. The next morning while servicing the vans before leaving the site we could see dustbin lids scattered all around and when checking out the manager told us that some of the long term caravans outside the wall had sustained damage. So we were lucky to be inside.

From Blair Drummond  Safari Park we headed to Pitlochry, the town was very busy autumn-pitochry-dam-in-flood_smallsalmon-pitlochry-falls_176x274as they had an enchanted forest event on but we found a nice level car park a little outside the town near to the Hydro Electric dam.and just had time to walk to the dam and see the enormous flow of water over the dam and through the turbines after the recent rains. There is also a very interesting Salmon ladder, 34 connected tanks allow the salmon to gradually swim past the  massive obstruction of the dam to their spawning grounds higher up the river.  After a good night we walked the short distance to the town to visit the mountain clothing store to buy some special warm clothing for our impending trip to Norway, none of which are necessary or available of course in the South of France. We then spent the morning in the visitor centre for the dam which had a number of very interesting exhibits which the boys found very interesting. There was also a Geo Cache in the centre which they enjoyed finding.

Our next destination was Braemar which meant a spectacular drive across the mountains through the ski resort. On the way Nik suddenly stopped for no reason StagInRiverand ran back to ask for Judy’s camera. He had spotted a magnificent Stag, standing in the river just beside the road.
In Braemar the local knitting club had an annual fund-raising event. They knitted characters that were set up around the town as a treasure hunt for the children, the characters were then auctioned off at the end for charity. This year the theme was Troll’s and we all had TrollInTreegreat fun and two good walks hunting for  Troll_Collagethem all. The quality of the knitting was amazing.

We parked for the night with four other motorhomes in the town parking and had another Troll hunt in the morning.Most Scottish towns seem fairly relaxed about motorhomes parking whish is great and allows us to visit explore and spend a bit of money if we can. After the morning Troll hunt Nik & Annie headed for home while we visited some charity shops to find some more cold weather gear for our Norway trip and found some real bargains before heading to Nik & Annie's house a little north of Aberdeen.

So till next time……

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Kelpies via Edinburgh

Well the wind blew all night and the rain came down by the bucket full but we were quite warm and snug all night. With the rain still hammering down we left the farm shop at 8h30 long before it opened but were grateful for the night’s stop.

We were heading towards Edinburgh to hopefully to meet up with an art friend of Judy who moved back from France to the UK some time ago. We had emailed her but had no telephone number as she had moved, so decided to just knock on her door, unfortunately she was not in so we spent the rest of the morning stocking up on food for the week in Asda which was nearby.

Judy couldn’t resist it!

TheKelpiesThe Kelpies

After shopping then lunch, we headed for the The Helix Park which contains the magnificent stainless steel sculptures by the Glaswegian artist Andy Scott. Called the Kelpies, after the mythical Scottish beasts which usually took the form of a horse to fool unwary travellers. Andy however soon moved from the mythical, towards the beautiful Clydesdale heavy horses that used to pull the barges on the canals which flow between the Kelpies.

When it got dark we walked to the Kelpies again, they were now lit internally gradually changing colour  from gold to red, blue green and back  to gold absolutely beautiful.

At night all lit up, beautiful.

We had checked with the visitors centre that it was ok to park for the night so after the magical view of the Kelpies at night we settled down in our nice and snug motorhome.

Nik and family arrived about lunch time on Saturday so we headed with them to the fantastic play park at the other end of the Helix Park. The play park was truly amazing with the highest tunnel slide  we had seen other than at a swimming pool. These were stainless steel and Steve was really wondering if he could have a go! Apart from  the slides there were all sorts of other equipment that we had never seen. Finlay and Lewis had a fantastic couple of hours and we really enjoyed it as well.

Nik had seen on-line that there was a Geocache nearby. These  are little boxes of hidden treasure literally all around the world which you locate by GPS coordinates. Not real treasure just Christmas Cracker junk toys. you take something and leave something else and log your visit in the box and on-line. It is a really good way to see and explore the countryside and the boys really enjoy the search for the treasure.
Having discovered the “treasure” we walked again to the Kelpies with the boys then after tea another walk to see them lit up in the dark. We all had a good night and being the weekend a few other motorhomes joined us in the car park.
Next morning after another go on the play-park we drove the few miles to the Falkirk Wheel which is an amazing structure that lifts or lowers large canal boats 24mt. (79 ft) from the Clyde Canal to the Forth & Union Canal.

The Falkirk Wheel
The Wheel just loading two boats

The wheel rotates to lift or lower the floating boats to the different level.Now rotating to raise and lower the boats

This is the only one of its kind in the world and literally only uses the power for boiling a kettle to move this gigantic structure with its cargo of two large boats floating in large tanks full of water. Without this structure, a long flight of locks would have had to be built which would take a lot of space and time for the boats.

Map showing the Antonine Wall & Hadrians WallAfter parking the campers we donned our walking gear for a walk to the Antonine Wall, which was a defensive barrier built by the Romans many miles north of the better known Hadrian’s wall.
On our walk we also searched for some more Geo-Caches which turned out to be very cleverly hidden and very difficult to find. One was behind a rotating surface on the side of a fence post and another in a small sample tube embedded in a hole in the fork of a tree. Judy turned out to be very good at finding these. But again great fun looking for them.
After a walk through a long canal tunnel we arrived back at the Falkirk Wheel complex for an hour or so letting the boys lose on the play park. Much to their displeasure and our relief the water play area had been emptied for the winter or else we would have had some very wet clothes to look after during the rest of our trip.

From the Falkirk wheel we headed off towards Blair Drummond Safari Park.

Sorry this is a bit late being posted but the days are very full with the boys.

Till next time……..

Friday, 13 October 2017

Moving North from East Dean

On Sunday after a nice week with Kerry & Cheryl and the girls which finished with a cocktail party where all the men mixed their favourite cocktails, usually with much more alcohol than would be recommended. Unfortunately as we were driving next day Steve was stuck with flavoured water and tonic. Well I suppose that is a cocktail of sorts but Judy was able to partake in moderation, and enjoyed the concoctions immensely,.

After the usual chores we set off at about 11h15 heading for Derby but via Rugby to drop of of a Tyre monitoring system we had sold to another “Funster” from our Motorhome Fun Club.

We arrived at our destination, the Derby Velodrome at about 18h30 after a very nice drive without too much traffic being a Sunday. Steve had found a good place for an overnight stop a few miles away but we thought it was good to find our destination first. The car park of the Velodrome was enormous and doubled as a Park& Ride so we asked at reception whether we could park overnight. After explaining why, they were very nice and said it was no problem.

Now, why would we be heading for a Velodrome?  Well, our friend, Ray Root who is in our Country Dancing club is an amazingly fit cyclist who had decided to attempt to break the World Record for the highest distance covered on a bike in one hour by an 80 year old! Well we couldn’t miss supporting him in that, could we, so we planned our trip around being there on the day.

Unfortunately he didn’t quite break the record but the official time keepers said with a better

Ray Root's World Record AttemptRay Root's World Record Attempt

technique he would stand a very good chance. It turned out that it was only the third time he had ridden on a velodrome track which is a very difficult technique requiring a great deal of practice.
It turned out that the British team was there and were very impressed and lent him a pair of their super wheels and a special suit and other bits to help him on the ride.

His distance was 35.6 km which was almost equal to the 2015 record of 35.772 which he would have beaten except he hit one of the foam lane markers which caught in his wheel losing about 1.5 minutes. The 2015 record was recently broken in late September 2017 with a distance of 39km. So Ray’s first attempt was amazing.

One Small Guy in a Very Large TrackOne Small Guy in a Very Large Track

After a celebration meal  with all the family and supporters we headed for the parking place we had found in our database which turned out the be very nice by a rushing river and a pub in a 1000 year old ancient monastery in the grounds of Darley Abbey. So a leisurely beer was most welcome.

Still heading north as we had planned a rendezvous with our eldest son Nik & family, in the morning we headed for a motorhome dealer just north of Hull who had a special fanlight with extractor fan we wanted, in stock and did a great deal for us £40 cheaper than elsewhere.

From there we headed towards York which we have not visited in about thirty years when we

went there when the boys were small, we found a pub about seven miles out which let

The Shambles YorkThe Shambles York

motorhomes park in their car park. A scheme called “Brit Stops”. They did good beer and had a nice restaurant so no need to cook after the

York MinsterYork Minster

long drive. The landlady was very nice and said we could stay a second night so we could visit York for the day. The bus to York stopped almost outside the pub which was very convenient. We had a great day finishing with a two hour free walking tour of the city. We had a super guide who gave a good tour and politely refused to accept any tips. The pub had a special “Steak Night” that evening so very welcome after a lot of walking in the city.

We were meeting Nik at the Falkirk wheel just west of Edinburgh on Saturday lunch time so found another Brit Stop at a farm shop in south Lanarkshire near Biggar which is where we are now unfortunately with high wind and torrential rain hammering on the roof. But we are very cosy in our super insulated new to us motorhome.

Till next time ……..

Monday, 2 October 2017

Autumn Trip October 2017

After a hectic few weeks which included fitting loads of goodies to the new Motorhome; “Jemima” the Hymer, sadly selling our old leVoyageur which will be very much missed and sorting the house out we got away early on Friday 29th September.

The ferry was booked for the 05h30 crossing on Sunday the 1st October, this time from  Dieppe to Newhaven as we were going to Kerry’s house in East Dean near Eastbourne first. The crossing costs a bit more because it is four hours but that is probably paid for by the 200 miles driving saved up to Calais then from Dover to Eastbourne.

The traffic was not too bad so we had a good drive making our usual fuel stop Super “U” at Bonny-sur-Loire where having filled up with fuel we parked up for the night at 23h30 so 11.5 hours and 640km today. N 47.56863 E 2.83359.

We had a nice quiet night and left at 07h45 on Saturday morning so as to get a few miles in before the Saturday shoppers came out. Although with only 300km to go we had no need to rush but this next stretch was mainly on smaller N-roads via Orléans, Évreux, Rouen to Dieppe so we arrived at the Dieppe ferry port at about 17h00. DFDS wanted double the price for the earlier ferry so there was no point as we would not land till about 23h00 a bit late to arrive in the UK. P1070569Especially as we had arranged to meet another member of our motorhome club “Motorhome Fun”, near Newhaven  on Sunday morning, as we were buying a spare cassette for our on-board toilet from him. We saw on our map a good parking spot a few miles outside Dieppe  so we headed there via a massive Auchan super store where we filled up with fuel and LPG. The parking spot had a lovely view over the small seaside village of Pourville-sur-Mer which looks a nice spot and perhaps worth a visit another time we come this way.

As our sailing time was 5h30 in the morning, we had to check-in by 4h30 so we set our alarms for 3h30 and luckily woke up ok and were on our way by 3h45 and at the ferry by 4h15. Check-in and loading was straightforward with a bit of a security check in the toilet/shower room and the very large rear locker. The ferry was very nice, absolutely spotless with beautiful highly polished wooden floors and nice large reclining seats which were very welcome for the four hour crossing. There was also free Wi-Fi which helped us catch up on emails before settling down to sleep through the crossing. The Motorhomes had been loaded at the front so  we were soon unloaded and through security. Being just a small freight port the facilities were not as swish as Dover just an old  long shed to drive through and answer a few questions from the policeman then away. Lenny had texted as to where we should meet him just a few miles west at Saltdean so after a quick chat and exchange of money and goods we arrived at Kerry & Cheryl’s house in time for a late breakfast of Croissant’s we had brought with us and a very welcome cup of coffee.