Setting off on a slightly overcast Sunday morning, having said our farewells to family, we headed north west to Wiltshire and Royal Wootton Bassett. We had found a Caravan and Motorhome Club (CMC) Certified Location (CL) at a Fishery. Flaxlands Fishery is a short walk to the main town and the CL is located at the top of the site, with spectacular sunsets, but it’s not very dog friendly. There is a dog walk which is along the side of the M4 (it is fenced from the road, but I always worry there might be a gap and a return walk inside a conifer corridor. The back of the CL leads to a footpath, which given the time of year was through haylage awaiting harvesting – Reg loves running in the long grasses, not to good for his new found hay fever but.. As the next footpath was unwalkable in shorts (nettles and brambles adorned the stile) we could only walk a straight walk out and return the same route, according to the fishery map, dogs are not allowed to walk through the fishery even on the roadway! so a round trip was not possible walking along the road.
We did venture into the Abbey, however! It was a very hot day, and for the first time in all our visits to Tewkesbury, the doors were open, so we were just going to have a sneaky peak, but it’s dog friendly – dogs are welcome INSIDE! A great relief from the rising humidity and heat outside. Tewkesbury Abbey in parts dates back to the 12th Century, and was built to house Benedictine Monks. The build was started in 1102 and it was almost complete when it was consecrated in 1121. As always, Ric is fascinated by engineering and found two Gurney Stoves, made by the London Warming and Ventilation Company in the 19th Century, to provide heat by burning anthracite, and have now been converted to gas. https://www.tewkesburyabbey.org.uk/visiting-the-abbey/
Our next stop, and we’re still not in Wales, was the World’s First Book Town, Hay-on-Wye. Home to over 20 bookshops and a castle. We had a wonder around the town, walking up the little roads and twitterns. We ventured up into the castle – again dog friendly – and home to the oldest set of working defensive doors still in situ in the UK, having been first installed in the 13th century. We walked along the river walk as well as through some of the fantastic countryside. There is even another gold post box (our second one found), for Jody Pearson, a paralympian discus thrower.
Our stop for the night was a lovely CAMC CL – Dark Orchard. It is off grid, but in a large secure field about a 5 minute walk from the town centre and so peaceful, with a stream running along the edge. The owners Linda and Chris are so welcoming as is the official welcome you will receive from Linda’s father, Pete the Greet. This is on our list to return to (especially as we have had a whole list of more things to do and see)! https://www.no10dulas.co.uk/dark_orchard_cl/
Leaving Hay-on-Wye, we crossed the River Wye and into Wales! It was only a short drive to our next stop and a short detour to Brecon first. Each time we have arrived at Brecon, we have been drenched and this trip was no different. Stepping out of the motorhome and taking two steps, prompted the biggest downpour yet! Having stocked up with food and essentials, we headed to our next stop, Aberbran CMC Site. A short drive from the A40 and alongside the edge of an old railway line, unfortunately the old railway is not a walkway, like Slinfold CMC, but we did manges to find a walk through the countryside. https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/club-sites/wales/powys/aberbran-club-campsite/ The weather has yet to improve, although the rain has abated, the wind has picked up, gusting up to 30+ MPH, the awning was safely stowed early in the morning, having read it is only tested up to 20MPH!
As always, thank you for reading and we hope you and your families are safe and well. We’ll be continuing Our Tour of Wales, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep you updated as we go!
When we returned from Europe, we knew we had a few things to sort out. Arriving back at Gatwick Caravan Club Site, we made arrangements for Reg’s annual vaccinations, and more importantly the Motorhome needs it’s first MOT! We’ve been on the road for nearly three years – how time flies. So far, we’ve travelled to so many places in England and the UK as well as in Europe, survived the COVID lockdowns in our first and second year and have slowly but surely become more efficient in the way we do things – a shower for example when we’re in the motorhome is far quicker than one in an unmetered campsite (luxury), we have adapted more and more to being off-grid, although power is lovely, it’s not essential.
Next, we arranged to have the brake discs and rear tyres changed – in our last post you’ll remember the issues we had with the brakes, well it’s all sorted now! We haven’t yet had to change the rear tyres but after 43000 miles, they were beginning to show signs of wear and while still legal, we didn’t want a recommendation on the MOT advice note. We were also able to get the part for the chassis, we’d been waiting so long for, you might remember from a post, last year, we were waiting for the part to materialise from Italy, but it never did, this year though we only had to wait ten days, luckily we have a very good friend who is a mechanic and can sort all our little issues (except a post COVID Italy delay)!
While we waited for all these to be completed, we’ve stayed at a number of local sites – some we’ve been to before, some very new to us, but now very familiar:
Gatwick Caravan and Motorhome Club Site;
Goffsland Farm Caravan and Motorhome Club Site Certified Location;
Slinfold Caravan and Motorhome Club Site;
Slindon Camping and Caravanning Club Site; and
Brighton Caravan and Motorhome Club Site.
Gatwick CMC Site, is very close to the runway – if you don’t sleep well, we wouldn’t advise it, but it’s handy for us to get a curry from our absolutely favourite Curry House – you have to order via Just Eat but…. Ric has been eating from this handy takeaway for over 40 years and me for nearly 20. Thank you The Raj Tandoori http://www.rajtandooricrawley.co.uk/. It is also close to our Vet, mechanic and family
Goffsland Farm CL – an absolute gem of a CL, with a shower and toilet along with a washing machine! Located between Southwater and Shipley, we found it by accident and have been back twice in the month! It’s a Cattle Farm, primarily and also sells fresh produce – home reared lamb burgers, pork sausages and eggs as well as jam, honey and cheese sourced locally. There are footpaths all around so Reg was kept out of mischief!
Slinfold Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, one of our go to favourites, no shower block, but electricity, a local village within walking distance, the Downs Link cycle and footpath, numerous footpaths and a laid back atmosphere – we do have to call ahead as we are quite long – the site has an 8 metre maximum length and not all the pitches are over 7 metres! BUT, they’ve always managed to accommodate us. It is staffed by volunteers.
Slindon Camping and Caravanning Club Site – located within the National Trust Slindon Estate, nestled in the South Downs, there are so many walks and things to see. There is a thatched railway carriage and a house once lived in by the Writer and Poet Hilaire Belloc and his wife, we walked up to the Folly, which you can see from the road outside the campsite, it was built in 1814,to impress the Countess of Newburgh, who would take her four horse drawn wagonette there to take tea with her friends – as you do (or did back in the day)! We liked this little gem so much we went back here twice too!
Brighton Caravan and Motorhome Club Site – what is there to say, close to the city, the sea and the Downs. The Marina is walking or cycling distance, there is a bus stop nearby which will take you into the city centre and beyond. I love it as it is close to my hairdresser and appointments are always made when there is availability on site! It is also close to more of our family and meeting up for birthdays, dog walks or just to say hello is ideal.
We’re heading off on another tour on Sunday, this time to Wales, before we decide when and where we go next – Europe beckons but no decisions yet. First, we have goodbyes to say, hopefully we’ll be keeping you up to date with our tour of Wales very soon. As always thank you for reading, we hope you and your families are safe and well…
Having crossed the border through the Somport Tunnel, our first stopover was a free Aire in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, a lovely town in the Pyrenees, with links back to the Roman times. A walk alongside the river takes you into the town and up towards the cathedral. From Oloron-Sainte-Marie, we headed along the foothills of the Pyrenees to Lourdes. Having visited Fátima, in Portugal, it felt almost rude not to visit, however the Grotto and Sanctuary of Our Lady are not dog-friendly! We chose to stop at Camping La Forêt https://campsite-lourdes.camping-hautes-pyrenees.com/ which is a short walk to the Sanctuary – although we couldn’t go in with the dog, we wandered to the Cathedral and peered in from outside the fence!
Leaving Lourdes we headed to the town of Auch. Located in the Occitanie region of France, and the capital of the Gers region, it is another town steeped in history. The municipal aire, is located on the edge of the old town and walking along the riverside Promenade Claude Desbois you arrive at the Monumental Staircase – 374 steps upwards, linked by three terraces with a statue of Charles de Batz-Castelmore d’Artagnan, a real 17th-century musketeer who inspired Alexandre Dumas’ novels and lived in Auch. There are many things to see and do – our inspiration was taken from this blog: https://www.thecrazytourist.com/15-best-things-auch-france/
From Auch we travelled to the little village of Roquecourbe and a Camping Car Park site on the river Augout. A short walk along the river takes you into the village with its Mairie, Village Square and local shops. It is also a short drive from the town of Castres. https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/camping/occitanie/81-tarn/roquecourbe Leaving Roquecourbe, we headed back to Castres and on to Albi, where after a quick lunch we stopped to clean the incredibly dirty roof of Nortia! We’d been hunting for a car wash with a gantry, so we could reach and a day where it was neither too hot, or wet. The car wash at AJP Eco Lavage, was just perfect.
We continued our journey along the D999 to Millau. We chose to stay at a campsite, but although the campsite was nice, it wasn’t much better than the Camping Car Parks and Aires, we’d been using and we opted to stay another night at the Camping Car Park, just along the River, after a very expensive trip along the Viaduct. Just to let you know there are a number of campsites in and around Millau, but the one we chose wasn’t right for us! https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/stopover-site-motorhome/occitanie/12-aveyron/millau Be aware this does get very busy, but it is perfect for the town and the river.
Into the Limousin Region and a region we hadn’t really visited before, another region we will definitely return to, with the Massif Central mountains, cattle and vast countryside. Our first stop was on the edge of Lac de la Siauve, just outside the town of Lanobre, before we headed to the town of Bugeat and a lovely family run campsite, on the edge of the town – Camping aux Portes des Mille Sources https://www.camping-en-correze.com/ This is a site we want to return to. We arrived for two nights over Easter (and left four days later)!
Our next stop was the lovely village of Dun-le-Palestel and the campsite of the same name –https://www.campingdunlepalestel.fr/fr/ It is run by a Dutch family and a relatively new campsite, but it’s lovely – there is a wood next door and the village is a short walk, but follow the back roads and not the main road!
We continued our tour of the Limousin up to the town of Bourges, where we had found an Aire to stopover; however in true Three go Travelling style, the Aire was closed due to an Easter Festival, so we headed north to the Town of Aubigny-sur-Nère, where we’d found an aire in the All the Aires book (our tale is now beginning to sound like Goldilocks – the aire was closed due to falling trees! However, there was a campsite just up the road, so we opted to stay the night there!
What a find! Aubigny-sur-Nère the town and the campsite- Camping Des Étangs https://www.camping-aubigny.com/ Aubigny sur Nère is located in the Eastern part of the Loire Valley and has a long attachment to Scotland and the Auld Alliance (an alliance made in 1215 between France and Scotland with a treaty between John Balliol and King Philip IV of France, stating that if either were attacked by England they would invade English territory). Aubigny-sur-Nère is the only place which still celebrates the alliance on Bastille Day each year. The town is steeped in history and a walk along the Étangs and the river takes you into the heart of the town via the site of the old Lavarie, at the side of the river. We arrived for one night and left four nights later, having spent a day fishing (Ric) and exploring the old town.
Coming down the hills into Château-Renault, we had noticed a warning light for the brakes and also a grinding noise, which continued as we headed to Le Mans. We had chosen to stop at a free aire on the edge of the old town walls of the City of Le Mans and as we were stopped a further investigation of the brakes, meant a trip to get replacement pads (and discs, ideally). First, we explored the old town, which was an old Roman Town, up the steps to the Cathedral and back down through the cobbled streets with half timbered houses and back to the river Sarthe, through the tunnel, built in the nineteenth century – one of Le Mans’ biggest civil engineering feats.
The next morning we headed to Euromaster, we like ATS when we are at home, so this seemed like a good place to start, but no, they can’t help, but they assured us that Norauto could help, so off we went – no they can’t help, but they said definitely BestDrive would be able to do it, so off we went again, and guess what? No! We were sent to Fiat! Yes they had the pads, but we should also buy the discs too, ok how much? We don’t have the discs in stock!!! So, we bought the pads, declined fitting were advised not to change the discs on their forecourt (the thought had not even occurred to us) and headed out of town (driving around the city four times was enough for anyone, but we will return one day). A quick note, although the Aire is free, they do charge for water, so arrive with some! We used their disposal point and cleaned up with a bottle or two of our onboard water.
Thirty kilometres or so, south of Le Mans, we stopped at another Camping Car Park in the village of Mansigné. Mainly, this was because it was secure and flat and a hardstanding so we could change the brake pads, (it is recommended to change both pads and discs at the same time, but we couldn’t buy them and we knew we were taking the motorhome to be MOT’d on our return and the discs would be changed in a couple of weeks! https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/stopover-site-motorhome/pays-de-la-loire/72-sarthe/mansigne The Camping Car Park at Mansigné, is right next to a very large Lake, it reminded us of the Loch at Forfar and perfect to walk around. A couple of minutes walk in the opposite direction and you are in the village too!
As we continued our trip north, we felt happier that the brakes were now fully functioning and we would be able to wait for our return to the UK to change the discs. With a slight detour to the Château de la Motte-Husson, in Martigné-sur-Mayenne, home to Dick and Angel Strawbridge, off the telly – https://thechateau.tv/ where we think, we might have even seen Dick in the garden!
It’s getting close to heading back to the UK and we needed to find a vet to take Reg back with us! Our next stop was a site we stayed at before Camping Sous Les Etoiles, https://www.sous-les-etoiles.camp/ in St Martin des Besaces, Calvados, Normandy. It’s a lovely campsite and if time had been on our side we might have stayed longer, but the tunnel beckons and once Reg has seen the vet we have 120 hours to get back to the UK. If you’re in the region and need a vet, we can recommend Clinique Vétérinaire de la Détourbe https://veterinaireconde-torigni.fr/ There is no need to book an appointment, Monday – Friday 08:30 – 09:30; 14:00 – 15:30 and 17:00 – 18:30 and Saturdays 08:30 – 09:30. It’s a short walk into the village with local shops and a garage and Pizza Vending Machine (which we can also recommend-we bought ours cold and heated it in the oven).
Next stop, the Normandy Coast and the City of Caen, the Camping Car Park is next to the Caen Memorial, but be aware, the service point is outside the gates, so fill up before you enter (or it’s a costly mistake if you try to leave and fill up)! The site is located next to a large park too and a short walk to the city centre. Although you have to pay to enter the museum, the gardens are free and we enjoyed a walk before opening time and the crowds arrived. https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/stopover-site-motorhome/normandie/14-calvados/caen
Three more nights left of our first post Brexit and post COVID trip, next stop Evreux. Yes, another Camping Car Park https://www.campingcarpark.com/en_GB/stay/stopover-site-motorhome/normandie/27-eure/evreux Evreux has always been a place we wanted to visit and it didn’t disappoint. It’s the capital town of the Eure region and dates back to the fourth century, as a Roman town. We walked into the town centre, up to the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace, admired the statues, walked along the Ilton River, which appears under and around many houses and districts a little like a mini Amsterdam!
Two more nights and we headed towards Calais. Our plan was to stop at a campsite in Rang du Fliers for them both, but luckily we only paid for one and left the following morning. The site was very nice and centrally located for the village and shops, but the pitches were a little tight and the shower block, not worthy of the cost, so we headed to Sangatte, not really knowing what to expect. We’d only really heard of Sangatte for the refugee camps and trouble but what a find. The town is located right on the beach and the campsite, Camping Noires Mottes https://www.campingdesnoiresmottes.fr/ two streets back, lovely open grass pitches and a good shower block, our only question, was why didn’t we come here before? The Opal Coast, does have some stunning villages and is ideal for the tunnel and ports.
Tomorrow, we return to the UK, once we’ve cleared animal control (always a breath holding moment)! We’ll be back soon and let you know what we’ve been up to! As always, thank you for reading and we hope you and your families are safe and well, à bientôt !