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Away in May….Part One

10th - 19th May 2024

Having arranged to meet up with a couple of fellow campervan owners, Jackie & Jim, we set off heading to the campsite at Thorntonloch, south of Dunbar on the East Coast. The sun was shining; the temperature was in the low 20 degrees Celsius, and the wind was elsewhere, making for a pleasant one-and-a-half-hour drive in the pre-rush hour traffic.

We arrived at about 16:30 and were soon set up and chatting with our friends who had already arrived as they were there to work on their recently purchased static caravan on site. The site was pleasingly laid out along the long stretch of sandy beach. The only slight drawback was that it is a 15-minute walk from the Torness Nuclear Power Station!

We had a tasty bar-b-que as the sun set in the west, and later, we settled in their static van for a chat and a catch-up. Then, at about 23:50, a fellow camper knocked on the window to advise that the Aurora Borealis was visible outside! So we grabbed our cameras and headed out for a ‘look see’, and sure enough, while there were only whispy clouds visible to the naked eye, once one viewed them via the camera, they became pink, mauve, red, blue and orange! It was quite a spectacle, and it was the first time Nadia and I had seen the Northern Lights.

The following morning, I rose at 5:00 and went out to catch the sunrise. I was delighted I had made the effort, as the views were stunning. The morning evolved into a wonderfully warm, sunny and clear blue-skied day, and again, the wind had chosen someone else to annoy as there was only a cooling gentle breeze as we sat outside and relaxed with our morning cup ‘o java!

Having said our goodbyes, Nadia and I were soon on our way south, along the coast into England, heading to our next rendezvous with another friend, Steve, who resides in several locations south of the border but this weekend happened to be at his work in progress semi-detached house in Scarborough! As we pulled up outside his home, we noted that the temperature had dropped from a balmy 22 degrees C in Scotland to a chilly 12 degrees in Scarborough; it was all due to the sea haar (mist), which was holding the sunlight at bay even at 16:30 in the day! After a quick hello and a look around the building site that is Steve’s Scarborough abode (he is undertaking a significant renovation and extension project on the property), we agreed to meet at his local, the North Riding, a pub he has frequented for some 50 years, once we had found a park-up spot down on the seafront.

The evening passed in a pleasant whirl of reminiscence; Steve is the friend I have known the longest in my life, and present-day chatter during which we all caught up with what is happening in our ‘neck of the woods’! Along the way, we enjoyed an Indian meal and several tongue-loosening beverages and ended up back at the North Riding until closing time. Just as well we don’t meet up too often! On Sunday, we met at Steve’s local park, Peasholm Park, and had a lovely wander around the Lake, admiring the Oriental design of the structures within the grounds. We also spent time supping coffee on the raised terrace before we went our separate ways, with Nadia and I setting off further south to the market town of Beverley, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which Steve had highly recommended.

On arrival in Beverley, we found a relaxing, quiet, secluded, small campsite just a 15 minute walk from the town centre, which only had one other camper for the night, and so, having set up Iona, we wandered into town to see what we could see. En route to the centre, we passed the Minster; however, despite being Sunday, it was closed! The weather was holding up, and we were welcomed into the town by a pleasant 20-odd-degree, still, late afternoon, where we found another of Steve’s favourite boozers, the White Horse Inn, or Nellie’s as it is called locally after a former Landlady, where we enjoyed a libation in the sun dappled beer garden. After that, we had an enjoyable leisurely walk back to the campsite, where we settled in, prepared dinner ‘a la chateau nous’, and relaxed before bed.

Monday allowed us to visit the Minster and admire the genius of previous generations of highly skilled artisans before we made our way into town to find more local delights. This time, we discovered a microbrewery and enjoyed some pleasant local brews before, once again, making our way back to base via a few clothes shops (mostly unsuccessful!) for the rest of the evening and our second night at the campsite.

The next stop on our clockwise trip around parts of Scotland and England saw us heading to a pub stop in Matlock in Derbyshire (twinned with the French town Eaubonne). Our stopover was at the rear of the Pub, The Duke William, where the owners set aside a field for campers, which was handy! After a lovely walk down the hill into town, where we walked around the pleasant Hall Leys Park and the town centre, we returned to the Duke William, where we enjoyed our dinner in peace before the locals descended on the pub for an evening of outdoor Skittles! The night was spent in soporific splendour, occasionally listening to the quarter-hour bells from St Giles’ Church, wonderfully anachronistic!

And so we came to the raison d’etre, our visit to Birmingham to catch up with our pal Fran and to watch The Handsome Family in the Hare and Hounds in King’s Heath! Having parked up at Lyons Boatyard and enjoyed a late lunch, we caught a bus up to King’s Heath, where we met Fran in Fletcher’s for a beer before moving next door to Byzantium for a pre concert tapas meal. The gig was enjoyable; however, as we were at the back of the venue, it was not easy to catch all the humourous banter between Mr and Mrs Sparks, which lessened the overall enjoyment of the concert. However, Brett and Rennie, their drummer and slide guitarist, glided eloquently through their weird and wonderful set, and we felt better about connecting with some ‘out where the buses don’t go’ style music and songs!

Now for the homeward-bound leg of this trip, which saw us heading north to a farm campsite just south of the 76m diameter Jodrell Bank telescope (named after William Jauderell, an English archer from the 14th Century!), the University of Manchester mega satellite dish located in East Cheshire. The campsite is situated on the Welltrough Hall Farm and is a pleasant 20-minute walk through the lush green farmland to the Red Lion pub! Needless to say, we took the chance to exercise after our long drive from Birmingham, stretch our legs and sample some local beer!

After a peaceful sleep, we awoke to see the farm’s alpaca, goats and sheep out in the adjacent field, sunning themselves in the early morning sunshine. The campsite was well laid out, and we would consider a return visit to use the site's proximity to visit Jodrell Bank and learn more about this magnificent structure.

Our final stopover was to be a former Bed and Breakfast in Gretna, which has been converted into a camper van Aire. Surrone House turned out to be a lovely, peaceful location to stay a night, and it is well-located for a couple of local pubs, local shops and a couple of Fish and Chip shops! It has to be said that overnight, the nearby M74 can be heard, although it did not disturb our sleep. We woke on Sunday morning to a wonderful clear blue sky and enjoyed a hot cup ‘o java before heading up the road to Glasgow.

Next up, Part two…….

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Sounds like a nice trip and lots to see. - and drink by the sound of it

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It was a great outing, we did a lot of walking as well!!

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