Reflections on van life

By the time you read this post I will have spent a total of 8 weeks on the road experiencing van life for the first time in my own van, rather than Eva, my sister’s wonderful van. So I thought that it would be useful to think about how things have gone.

I have been watching another set of videos on YouTube recently, hosted by Wild She Goes, where she interviewed other women living in vans about their experiences as solo travellers. It has been really interesting and made me think about the reality versus my expectations when I wrote my planning post in March.

In terms of the van and its layout I am really happy. I love the fact that I can remove the kitchen, the first couple of weeks were so hot that it was great to have that flexibility. I have used the kitchen as a food prep area but also as a lounge area in the evenings. I store my stitching in one of the compartmentsand have my wine and my tablet on the top.

For the first couple of journeys I took it down and travelled with it flat, which meant unloading all of the kitchen stuff back into the footwell storage boxes. Then I bungee corded it to the sides, there are some metal struts just for that so I used those and part of the boot shelf and it works really well. I now don’t even unload the stuff and everything has survived daily journeys as well.

The chair bed has worked very well for both day and night use. I prop it up against the blue storage box during the day which gives me a backrest. It is long enough for me to stretch out on at night and I have been really cosy. I have just bought a thicker fleece blanket as the last week has been colder at night, so use that in the evenings.

I have also bought a plastic storage unit for toiletries which lives on the front seat. This means I can access everything I need on a day to day basis without going to the tent. I keep clothes and night clothes in the blue box so I can get changed morning and night in the van.

I love having my little reading corner, I pack the books away for travelling and I have recently added a privacy curtain for when I am here reading. It also helps keeps the bugs out!

Other upgrades have been some flower garlands, to pretty up the top of the storage lockers, a dream catcher, my collection of postcards on the ceiling of all of my travels, and my growing collection of magnets. I did also put two layers of interlocking foam tiles from Aldi under the boot carpet as I could still feel the ridges initially. That has helped keep it cosy, along with the window blinds.

I am pleased that I had the little tent, especially in the first two weeks so that I could sleep in it during the really hot period. I have also used it when the pitch I have been given wasn’t suitable for using my sister’s awning, such as in the Lake District where the car was parked away from the pitches, and in Lancashire where the pitch was too small. I will definitely keep that as an option.

I tested out my sister’s awning, a Quecha Base Camp Arpanaz, at last site in the Peak District. I could pitch it by myself but it was a bit of a struggle as it is heavy and it was windy. I saw another awning on that site so have ordered something similar to this one in the second photo. I have got it for a bargain price of £60, when most others have been between £120 and £200. I don’t need as much space as the Quecha has and this one is a lot lighter with smaller poles.

I have only used Caravan and Camping Club sites, partly as they are such good value, about £7 a night on average this summer as they have had a non electric discount. I have just got my over 60s membership so will get discount next year as well. I also love the fact that the sites are so clean and well cared for with unlimited free showers and they all have laundry facilities. I also like the fact that there are friendly and helpful wardens if you need anything. I will definitely be using them as my main sites next year.

In terms of travelling so I have met so many lovely people, as last year I think people are more inclined to talk to you if you are on your own. Lots of people have been interested in the van so that has been lovely. At the last campsite in the Peak District I noticed another Renault Kangoo when I arrived and its owner, Julie, came and said hello. She is travelling full time in Roo, her fully converted van below, having a gap year from teaching. I also met up with one of the women from one of my Facebook van groups, who was in the Lake District and responded to one of my posts.

Driving has been fine so far, I have coped with some scary roads in the Lake District, very narrow lanes and busy cities and motorways. I am very proud of what I have done as a new driver, even if there have been many wrong turns when following the Sat Nav!

There have only been two mishaps so far, the friend’s gate that I mentioned previously and getting the keys locked in the car when it locked itself on me. That was a very nerve wracking hour and a half until a lovely AA man came and sorted it. Needless to say my keys never leave my side now!

I am so amazed that I am finally doing this, after so many years of planning and the setbacks during Covid and beyond. I have my three little embroideries, started during lockdown as a reminder to never give up. I am also working on some other stitching for the van as she still has a few more spaces for pretty things 😉

So to conclude this very long post, it has been amazing, wonderful, better than I ever expected and more than I dreamed of. I have been so, so happy here in little Katy and love van life more than I ever thought I would.

I am so grateful for all the people I have met, the support of my family and friends, my wonderful daughter for storing my camping stuff and especially my sister for looking after Katy when I am away. I will miss my adventures in her so much while I am in Spain. I will leave you with one final picture from one of my favourite summer evenings in Shropshire where I just sat in my van, with the back doors open, reading and watching the most amazing purple sunset.

I hope that you have all enjoyed my adventures as much as I have, until next time have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The last few days of the tour

I am sitting in Katy on a lovely sunny day in Hayfield, at the edge of the High Peak as I write this. This is my last day camping, and it has flown so fast. I am having a quiet afternoon after a busy morning sorting, and drying an awning, as yesterday was the first really wet weather of the whole 3 months here in the UK for the summer 2022 tour.

I have written a post on van life in general so this one is just about my beloved Peak District and the glorious views on my walks here. I keep saying I will have to not come back here again, and explore other parts of the UK next year but it is so lovely I might well be back!

Hayfield is where the Kinder Mass trespass started from in April 1932. I mentioned this last summer as my first stop on my 2021 UK tour was at Edale, which is just the other side of the hill. So it is a fitting end to my trip to be here again.

It was that trespass that led to legislation that gives the right to roam over all of these wonderful places and I am so grateful to be able to do this. Most of all grateful for the continued improvement in my health. I only walk for 2 to 3 hours a day but am so happy to be able to do that and explore.

My walks have taken me all around Kinder, including the now very dry reservoir. This campsite has so many brilliant footpaths from it so I have only driven once this week, to visit a textile museum that I will write about in another post.

There have been many babbling streams, old bridges, moss covered walls, friendly sheep, blue skies and amazing clouds.

I am off to my sister’s tomorrow and sorting out Katy to leave her there for the next few months. I will be at Ellen’s for a few days helping her with some decorating then back to Spain next weekend! The time has flown by and I have loved it. Now to get on with planning the winter adventures and booking sites for next summer 😉

The next post will be all about how van life has been so until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Thinking about heritage

If you are a regular reader you will know how much I love visiting museums, especially where there are textiles involved. My recent trip to Lancashire included a visit to a museum owned by the local council, Towneley Hall, and it was very interesting not just for its collections but also its history.

Burnley has a long textile heritage, much of Lancashire was involved in the wool and cotton trades and there are many mill buildings still to be seen.

This building was a rather grand house however, owned by the same family for many centuries. It had a fascinating mix of architecture, from Tudor long galleries and panelled rooms to a Regency style suite which is now used for weddings and events.

The family who owned the house decided it was too big for them and sold it to the local council in 1901, who decided to turn it into a museum. However they had nothing to put in it so they started taking donations from a number of varied sources.

This has led to a very eclectic collection, some with links to Burnley life and others random. They were no doubt very interesting to the local population when the museum was first opened, who probably marvelled at the mummy case and contents found by an Egyptologist who was a friend of the last owner.

It raises many questions about what are the purposes of museums and what functions they have. There are many debates in heritage circles about what is in our museums, and where it came from, indeed should some things be returned to their original countries?

There were a small selection of textiles from Kashmir which were very beautiful.

How things are interpreted is also interesting, this was very much a ‘things in glass cases’ type of museum, which reflects its heritage. I have been lucky enough to visit many museums of all different types and having a daughter who worked in the heritage industry find all of these questions very interesting.

There were quite a few local exhibits as well including embroidered postcards and banners from the World Wars.

It was a very nice visit and the staff were very knowledgeable and friendly, not only about the collection but also about the history of the hall so well worth a visit if you are in the area.

After Lancashire I met up with my oldest friend, Sue, celebrating 40 years since we first met at Polytechnic. We had a brilliant time catching up, we haven’t really changed a bit!

I have had a quick trip back to Ellen’s to do some car sorting. I got Katy stuck on a gate a few weeks ago but am pleased to say that my car bodywork skills are good enough that I was able to mend the damage, and some more flower stickers covered up the slight difference in paint! Also met up with a few of the medieval group for a day’s event at Nottingham.

I am now at my final campsite of this summer, back in the Peak District for my last week in Katy. I have finally got the cushion inners and have bought a new privacy curtain for when I am sitting in the back reading. I am also trying out Jacky’s awning tent to see how it works compared to my little tent.

I have been having some great walks with stunning views, the drive here was wonderful and I am surrounded by lovely hills again.

I have more museum visits to share with you so the next post will be that or Peak District views. Until next time, have fun, take care stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The War of the Roses

Having lived in Yorkshire for 35 years I feel that I know it well, I have visited, worked in and holidayed around much of the county. However I have not spent as much time in Lancashire and it has been lovely to spend more time in this part of the country.

We used to joke in Marsden, which was the last village before the border with Greater Manchester and the Lancashire area, that the War of the Roses was still remembered 400 odd years later. That war, which we re-enact one of the battles of at the Tewkesbury event, was between the house of York and the house of Lancaster for control of the throne.

Of course the borders have moved many times so parts of my current trip were once in Yorkshire anyway. It was amusing to be driving in and out of Yorkshire and Lancashire as I travelled around.

I have been staying in Clitheroe at a lovely quiet site just next to the River Ribble. The town has a castle and is very near one of my favourite National Trust houses, Gawthorpe Hall, with its amazing textile collection. It wad very hard to resist a 4th visit 😉

Since I have been on the road for about 9 weeks now I have decided to have a quiet few days here. A walk by the river on a sunny Sunday was just what was needed, time to stop and look at the berries and the acorns, no squirrels to be seen though.

I did actually go back into North Yorkshire on my second day here as the route I was planning was very fog bound and though I am OK with country lanes it is nice to see where you are going when you really don’t know where you are going!

I headed for Settle and was rewarded with beautiful scenery and very friendly cows for a walk around Austwick, where Jacky and I stayed nearly 3 years ago on our first Dales trip.

I have spent the evenings stitching and have now got a nice collection of Christmas ornaments finished. I may make a couple more just for my tiny tree then need to move on to some knitting.

There are 6 of these ones in the picture above, which are for the Huddersfield friends. The ones below are for the rest of the family. All of the designs come from the JBW book I bought last Christmas.

I have also been enjoying sitting in my little reading nook in Katy, I need to try and get through as many of these books as I can in the next 3 weeks!

I have visited a little museum which was very interesting from a heritage management aspect so I shall be back soon with more pictures from that trip. As for the War of the Roses I think both the red and the white rose counties are equally lovely, though my heart will always belong to Yorkshire ! Until next time have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Lakeland Heritage

The Lake District is an amazing place and although now it is probably best known for tourism, which was popularised by poets, writers and artists such as Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, it has its roots in farming.

One of the National Trust properties that we didn’t visit last time we came is Townend, a farmhouse dating from the 1600s. The property is near Waterhead, at the top of Lake Windermere.

The Browne family who owned it didn’t change it, and didn’t throw anything away. The house stayed in the family until the early 1900s so you have an incredible collection of Lakeland heritage, including maps from when the area was known as Westmoreland.

One of the most remarkable is the collection of books, over 1,500 on all topics. It is particularly significant as these were collected by an ordinary family over many centuries, rather than being a stately home or museum collection. Thus there are many books on farm practices and cheap short story publications from the 1800s. Few pictures available as they need storing away from light but a great little display about the collection.

There was a wide variety of textile heritage though, most relating to the household furnishings and the obligatory samplers produced by young girls as part of their sewing skill development. There was also a fascinating little weaving loom, possibly belonging to a child?

The house is set in a wildflower garden in the stunning Troutbeck valley so is well worth a visit for its location alone, up more narrow winding roads!

I also visited St Martin’s Church in Windermere, which also dates from the 1600s and which has been restored to show the wall paintings that were covered up after Henry 8th broke away from the Catholic Church.

There was a very interesting curtain which was made of stencilled fabric. The information also referred to this as being taught to WW1 veterans as part of their rehabilitation and furnishings were made using this technique to provide employment for them.

It was a really unusual piece of textile heritage, for its history as well as its design.

I have some more textile heritage visits planned in a couple of weeks when I return to Derbyshire.

I hope that you have enjoyed this little glimpse of Lakeland life. It is such a gorgeous area and well worth visiting. Until next time have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Big girl pants needed!

As I mentioned in my last post I have been doing a lot of driving around the Lake District and there have been some quite challenging roads. Everywhere there are small winding, narrow roads so it has been great practise for me.

The biggest challenge was driving to Ullswater via the Kingstone Pass, the highest road pass in the Lake District at around 1500 feet above sea level. I don’t have any pictures as just needed to keep going! It winds up and up with amazing views then you have to drive all the way down again.

I am very proud of myself for achieving this, I am really enjoying the driving and van life generally. Even after all this time I get a huge thrill sitting in my cosy little Katy on an evening with my wine and stitching watching even more van life videos!

The drive was rewarded by the stunning views of Ullswater, the second largest lake. I wanted to see the Aira Force waterfall but the car park was full. Luckily there was another National Trust car park a couple of miles away and I had a beautiful walk along the Ullswater Path to the waterfall and back.

I have been making good use of my Trust membership again here and visited a fantastic house which I will tell you about in the next post.

I also met up for coffee with another solo female van owner who I got in contact with through a Facebook group I am a member of. She saw the post about my drive through Kirkstone and got in touch as she was in the area.

It was brilliant to meet up with someone else who shared my passion. She has a beautiful van, acquired in May and is off to Ireland next. The group does organise camping meet ups so hopefully I can join one of those next year.

I had a fascinating walk around the hills of Coniston after we met and discovered a copper mine that has been preserved as a heritage site. You can event rent cottages and have weddings there. It was a wonderful insight into life in the Lakes.

There were also so many waterfalls on the trail.

Next stop is Lancashire, a county I lived next to for 35 years but never explored much so I have a few days there before our next re-enactment event.

Hope you are a having a lovely autumn, or spring wherever you are. It has been wonderful to sit and watch the squirrels hiding nuts and see the leaves turn. I have always considered autumn as a time of new beginnings, comes from 35 years of teaching and am excited to return to Spain in a few weeks.

The rabbits have still been very active and have come really close to the van in the evenings.

Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

‘I wandered lonely as a cloud…’

One of the most famous people connected with the Lake District is Wordsworth, who wrote the poem about daffodils that starts with the above line. I have been doing lots of wandering this week, not lonely but solitary, looking at the beauty of a Lake District preparing for autumn rather than spring.

The campsite is set in a very rural area just outside Windermere, perfect for walks with stunning views. I have a new mapping app so used that to find footpaths in the local area. I love the old footpath signs and the stone stiles here.

The first day’s walk had brilliant views across to the fells and I met some very cute Herdwick sheep. The Lakeland walls are so beautiful, especially when covered in moss.

The second day was a woodland walk, and I came across the best little den I have seen in a forest. It had clearly been there for ages by the moss on it.

The autumn foliage was wonderful, there were so many berries. I could have made the best blackberry crumbles if only I had an oven in the van!

The site is full of rabbits who are so tame, they are just hopping around the tents eating grass and fallen leaves.

Day 3 was a drive to Windermere and then after a walk along the shore I did a bit of practise at driving down all the little country lanes on the way back. I am loving all the exploration that I am able to do now that I have Katy.

This is such a lovely place to be and I was very glad to have 8 nights here as that gave me lots of chance to explore. I will tell you more about the rest of the week in the next post. Until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Another island at the edge

Anglesey, where I spent last week, is also an island at the edge of the UK. We have visited the most northerly town and village in Wales, and been staying very near to one of the ferry ports over to Ireland. That is a trip I wish to make one day very soon.

We have had a wonderful week staying near Holyhead in a gorgeous barn conversion. It is huge, 5 double bedrooms large kitchen and cosy sofas in the sizeable lounge. It has been so different to my previous 8 weeks of campervans and very luxurious.

I am here with 3 of my old colleagues from the University, there should have been 5 of us but sadly a broken ankle stopped play for my lovely friend Nicola so she had to stay at home.

It has been a very restful week and we have done lots of catching up, sightseeing, eating gorgeous food and relaxing in the hot tub. Apart from the first day when we had a little rain the weather has been glorious. We had a visit to South Stack Lighthouse where there were dramatic views.

It is a hard life and made even better by the fact that 2 of us are retired now and never have to return to work and the other two are retiring soon. We have tried our best to be beacons of good practice in terms of the joys of retirement and I think we have managed that 😉

We have driven the length and breadth of the islands visiting lighthouses, beaches and cute villages.

We also had two heritage days out to Plas Newydd, a National Trust house that I have visited twice before, and Beaumaris to see the castle.

The gardens at Plas Newydd were beautiful, that is what you appreciate more as you get older I think, a lovely garden display.

I also got to see what is probably my favourite painting in the world, the Rex Whistler mural there. Just stunning.

Beaumaris Castle looked a lot better than last time I visited in the rain about 24 years ago. The views across the bay to mainland Wales are also stunning.

On my return to Yorkshire I picked up Katy and had a brilliant drive through the Yorkshire Dales to the Lake District. I am very happily back in my favourite reading corner watching rabbits play on the grass and looking at the wonderful fells.

I am have visited Windermere and Ullswater this week and done lots of reading and some finishing of the Christmas ornaments. Hope you all have a great weekend ahead see you all again soon. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The most amazing sights

Our final two days were spent at the Caravan and Camping Club site at Edinbane, which is next to a loch. We had not seen this part of Skye before so on our full day we drive to Neis Point to see the lighthouse there.

The views across the bay of the cliffs were incredible, there were several waterfalls tumbling down the cliffs in the distance and some amazing scenery. However the best was yet to come!

We wanted to go on a boat trip while we were in Skye, with the hope of seeing some more seals and sea birds. We went with a very knowledgeable man, Trevor, from Skye Marine, just next door to our campsite. The trip took us out into a more open loch where we saw not only seals resting on the rocks but a whole school of dolphins!

This was the highlight of the trip for me, not just one but about 50 dolphins, jumping out of the water in pairs and swimming right up to the boat. Such a magical moment that was better than anything we were expecting. It was difficult to get pictures as they were so fast but you can just see one coming up out of the water in the distance here.

There was also an amazing waterfall on one of the cliffs, an especially unexpected treat for my sister, who loves waterfalls.

A wonderful end to the holiday. We travelled back via a night at Loch Ness, no monsters sadly but after seeing, seals, deer, eagles, dolphins and possibly otters we didn’t feel too disappointed. That figure in the picture below is a paddleboarder enjoying a quiet trip.

We were planning to spend the night in Glencoe and do some walking but encountered the only bad weather of our trip at that point so drove on to a service station park up near Lanark.

When we planned this trip in January it seemed like a dream come true and it was. It was over 2000 miles, on some incredible roads, visiting eight amazing islands and meeting so many lovely people on the way.

I am back in the Lake District in a couple of weeks and will return to Scotland as soon as I can. A truly magical land.

I will be posting soon about our trip to another island, Anglesey in North Wales, as soon as I can.There may well be more pictures of waves as looking at my pictures it seems I am a little addicted!

Meanwhile have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

A little piece of Hebridean history

For many reasons there are few of the original houses, the blackhouses, left on the islands. This is partly to do with the fact that many were abandoned in favour of the newer houses that were built which had more modern facilities.

You can find a few as holiday accommodation and we were really lucky to have a fantastic selection of these on our little campsite in Harris. The site is called Lickisto Blackhouse camping and we booked it more for the location rather than the houses and only realised when we got there how significant it was.

The site was an amazing piece of landscaping, as we were approaching we were wondering where the actual camping would be as the surrounding land was hilly and full of rocks. Every inch of the site has been cleverly structured with three blackhouses used for rental and some of the facilities blocks.

You can see here how hidden the actual campers are, within the garden. There were at least 6 tents here but you can only really see the yurt.

The campervan area was the only flat piece of land, with space for five vans in what would be the driveway of the modern house. The three blackhouses were near this house, accessed by paths through the gardens.

The tent pitches were within these gardens, wherever there was a flat piece of land. They all had little campfire stones and most had little benches and were all named.

The site had direct access to a little beach on the loch as well, just past Loch Loo, the toilet with a view!

As well as standard pitches you can also stay in one of the blackhouses, two yurts and a bell tent, all with amazing views.

One blackhouse was a lounge for guests, with kitchen and dining facilities. This is a great idea for the many people hiking or cycling round the islands as it was a cosy space to sit in the evenings. There were even home made meals available to buy and they have music nights on Saturdays.

It is one of the most unusual sites I have ever stayed at and well worth a visit. By the time I have finished this UK tour I will have stayed at 13 campsites, most of them Caravan and Camping Club ones, but I think this might be my favourite for its glimpse into the history and culture of the islands as well as the beautiful views and sunsets.

I really love camping and although I have my van now still use a tent as storage. I have borrowed Jacky’s awning to try out so may by myself one for next year. It is nice to be able to stand up to get dressed and although I have been really lucky with the weather this year would give me further options if it is raining.

I have been collecting pictures of the quirky and unusual camping vehicles and tents I have seen on my travels so will do a post on those at some point. There is a whole world of variety out there, from the sublime to the ridiculous!

I am now safely in Anglesey, staying in a very luxurious barn conversion which is wonderful. Have seen some beautiful beaches today and am looking forward to a nice relaxing week here.Have fun, take care, stay safe and until next time thanks for visiting.