Rural Japan, temples and bamboo

Much as Tokyo city was very interesting, it was the two trips that we took out to more rural areas that were the most fascinating. We were lucky to have our excellent tour guide, Jake, who knew all the best places to explore, and that meant we saw a lot more of Japan than we would have done on our own.

One of the side effects of him living there though the pandemic has been that he has done lots of visiting rural places, such as temples, shrines and going on mountain hikes, as much of the city was closed during that period and he wanted to avoid crowds.

Our first visit was to Japan’s ancient capital, Kamakura. We went on the train for this which was brilliant, I love train journeys and it was fascinating to see the extent of the city of Tokyo. We got off at a station not far from Kamakura and went on a hiking trail from the small village.

This meant that we got to visit a couple of small shrines and see lots of the forest.

I was fascinated by the wild bamboo and very excited to see a Japanese squirrel!

Ellen always laughs at me when I see squirrels as there were so many of them at her last National Trust job at Clumber Park so she saw them every day. I love them and am now happy to say that I have seen four types of squirrels on three continents. We saw some very fat grey squirrels in Central Park in New York and I have posted previously about the lovely little dark squirrels that we have here in La Marina.

The hiking trail took us up to the top of the area, with brilliant views over to the sea. The photos in no way do it justice and it was so wonderful to see all of the flora around.

At the summit there is a beautiful park, and then when we came down the other side we visited the Great Buddha that I have previously posted about. The trail was a little muddy at times and there were some very steep bits but it was brilliant fun.

Our other rural trip was by coach to see Mount Fuji! Jake had done this trip before but sadly it was misty that day and he didn’t get a good view but we were really blessed and got great views. I was very pleased that we could see it so clearly from the coach.

It was a really interesting trip as well, seeing the beautiful hills and mountains covered in blossom trees and the rural towns and villages.

We went to one of the five lakes surrounding the mountain, Lake Kawaguchiko, which is a very popular tourist spot with lots of hotels and boat trips.

The views were beautiful, not only of Mount Fuji, but also across the lake itself and I amused myself taking arty pictures through the trees.

By the time we were leaving the clouds at top had cleared and we were able to see the peak, which was extremely exciting.

I am so pleased that we got to explore so much of Japan. We will hopefully go back in a couple of years and explore more of the country. Now things are fully open Jake is keen to travel a bit further.

His last visa renewal was for three years, so fingers crossed he has another couple of years of exploration, and hopefully more as he would like to stay there as long as he can. I am so pleased that my children love travel as much as I do, and so proud of them for making their own exciting lives.

I have finished all of the Barbie collection of clothes so will post about that next. The fundraiser is next week, hopefully it will be popular and raise lots of money. I am having a quiet few weeks here trying to get some of my crafting to do list done before I have friends come to stay with me, which will be fun, the first ones since my retirement.

I hope that you have a good week ahead. It is getting quite warm here now so although I have done a couple of short bike rides, I am visiting the pool today. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

A wander around Wolverley

The planned visits to Trust properties didn’t happen due to some heavy rain so instead I have been taking advantage of the time to organise the van and have a walk around the village.

This is what I love about being able to travel with no time restrictions, I can spend my life being able to not worry about seeing everything at once, and just enjoy where I am. I will be back in this area in the summer so will add the properties to my list for then.

Wolverley is a very cute little English village, and had a couple of unusual features that make is special.

The first is a local legend concerning the Lord of the Manor, Sir John Attwood, who went off to fight in the early 1200s in the Middle East. He was injured and captured, but was then allegedly mysteriously returned home by a swan.

The legend is commemorated by a carving near the river and the knight’s effigy can be found in the local church.

The Manor House is now a nursing home, but there are many other beautiful old houses, showing this has always been a place of importance. This one below was built in 1876 and reminds me of Lacock Abbey, another Trust house.

There are also some very cute cottages in the middle of the village, some made even more special by the matching garlands on the doors!

I love the idea of spring or Easter wreaths as well as Christmas ones, these tulips are so pretty. It was lovely to see all the trees in blossom along the river.

The village is dominated by a beautiful church which sits high on the red rock outcrop, with a winding path up to it.

As with all old churches there were some gorgeous headstones.

There was also some beautiful embroidery done by the local Mothers’ Union and WI.

I have seen a similar Mary stitching in other churches so maybe it was a common thing for the Union to make.

In the church there was also this very unusual stitched map. There were cross stitched pictures done from photos of village locations with an embroidered map of the village, and information about the houses.

It was there I discovered that the village had some old Rock houses. Similar to the cave houses in Spain, these are a feature of this area.

There were two old ones in the centre of the village, clearly long abandoned but it looked like one had maybe been used for a Nativity or Santa’s Grotto.

I love little wanders like this, off the main tourist trail, it is so interesting what you find. I ended with a nice pint of cider watching a boat go through the lock, all in the name of canal history research you understand!

The van is now sorted properly, I needed to live in it again for a while to work out where things would be be stored and maximise my space.

I will be going back to my sister’s tomorrow and leaving Katy behind for a few months. I still have lots of adventures planned though so will be back here with more of those soon.

Hope you all have a good week, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

‘Here within the Severn Valley ‘

The secondary school I went to was a very traditional one, with a founder’s day and a school song which started with this line. I do also remember something about it being ‘bright with gardens and rich in streams’.

We also had four different houses that you belonged to, a bit like Hogwart’s, and my house was Severn. The others were Avon, Bredon and Cotswold.

So I grew up knowing the Severn Valley quite well, at least my part of it, but have been keen to explore other areas on my UK trips. I am currently camping in Worcestershire, just outside a little village called Wolverley.

I chose this location as it is right by the canal as well so I’ve been doing some canal walks and visiting some canal heritage sites. There are also squirrels that play in front of the trees and I love seeing them.

The River Severn was a very important one in terms of trade in the area. It is the longest river in the UK and runs from its source in Wales, through the major cities of Worcester and Gloucester to join the sea near Bristol. This meant that the river, and the canals that joined it, were vitally important for trade.

I have always loved visiting canals, living so close to the one in Marsden I walked there a lot. It was doing the history of canals course with the WEA last autumn thar gave me a new appreciation of what feats of engineering they are. I love all heritage and appreciate industrial heritage just as much as the grand houses that I love.

Walking alongside this part of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal you can only marvel at the rock that had to be cut through to make the route. Many routes followed contour lines and so this canal has many bends in it.

It is also very wide in places, making it good for trade, though there are lots of locks that can still only take one boat at a time. Ultimately it was these delays that made the new railways so much more competitive, and so many were closed.

Happily there has been a lot of restoration for leisure purposes and so boats can be seen up and down this canal. Many of the houses also have their own moorings. I love the decorations in the second photo from one of the canalside houses.

I also visited Stourport on Severn, which in the Georgian era was the second biggest inland port in the UK. The canal linked with the river and with the Trent and Mersey canal, enabling goods to be transported north.

The river was very high, probably as a result of all the snow that we had last week melting. There are often floods in this area.

Thankfully the canal basins have been saved and although there is no trade now, there are places to hire narrow boats and the surrounding wharves and canal hotels have been preserved.

It has been lovely being back camping in Katy and I have not been too cold at all. There was one night where it was -3 and I woke up to ice on the inside of the windows, but I was warm and toasty with my fleeces and hot water bottles.

I have a couple of new things in her, the mandala I stitched looks very lovely and I have a cute new storage tin. A friend had a similar one which I loved so found this on Ebay.

I was also given these cute lavender sachets for Christmas and they have the same fabric as my cushion backs. So all is very pretty in Katy!

I am also planning a couple of National Trust visits and some woodland walking so will hopefully be able to post about those before I return to Ellen’s next week.

I hope that you are all having a good weekend, the sun is shining here and it feels very spring like, there are so many daffodils around which is lovely.

Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.


Now that I have been retired for 18 months I have had plenty of time to think about my life, where I have been and where I am going, in both a literal and metaphorical sense.

I have spent a large amount of that time outside, because I am now able to do that. This is in stark contrast to the year before I finished work, where like many people, I was at home more than ever, stuck at the kitchen table in front of the laptop. We didn’t go into the university at all for 6 months of that year, a fact that seems unbelievable now.

It is especially strange as my job used to involve so much travelling. To and from work every day, two days a week out doing placement visits, and sometimes even to places like China, which I was lucky enough to visit three times for work.

A large part of my professional life, as a teacher trainer, and working on an early years degree, was encouraging students to reflect on what they were doing. It was an essential part of their assessments, writing reflective journals, summarising what they have learnt. I have spent hours teaching people how to reflect, using theoretical models.

My novel, which I have been spending lots of time working on recently, has as one of its main characters a newly retired teacher who is passionate about embroidery, (not an autobiography I promise!), who spends a lot of time reflecting about her new life and the contrast with her old one.

So what have I learnt? I have always loved being outdoors but have realised that it is absolutely essential to me to be out, seeing hills, clouds, rivers, the sea. I know I am very lucky to have been able to travel extensively, but am just as thrilled by the Peak District that I spent 35 years living next to, as Cyprus or Spain. A beautiful forest or sky can be found anywhere, most of these pictures were taken in accessible parts of the UK.

I have learnt that I love being by myself. As a teacher you are always surrounded by people, you talk to them all the time. There are many days now that I don’t talk to anyone at all. I stay alone in my house in Spain, or my van, or the apartment I am staying in, and I am perfectly happy being by myself. After so many years of talking, talking, talking every day, I was often sick of the sound of my own voice. The silence in my life is wonderful.

I have confirmed that I am a creature of habit, even in a new place I like to quickly create a little routine for myself. That may sound strange given that I am travelling so much, and constantly changing things but essentially each day comes to have a similar structure.

I also know that I am still very goal oriented. However, the life that I used to have was all about completing targets set by others, and how I could make that work. Mark eight assignments today, prepare two powerpoints by Wednesday, write 4,000 words of your doctorate at the weekend.

My goals are now directed towards my crafting, my novel and general self improvement. That last one makes it sound as if I think there is a lot wrong with me 😉 but by that I mean studying, such all the courses I have been doing, and improving my fitness by walking, cycling and swimming.

I have learnt that other people consider me very brave, to learn to drive at such a late age and go off in a camper van, to travel alone so much. That has surprised me, as I consider what I am doing as very normal. Millions of people travel all the time, and the fact that I am technically on my own doesn’t really concern me as I am always surrounded by people on the planes, trains, buses, roads and campsites. I always work on the basis that people are generally kind and someone would help me if I needed it.

I have learnt that I need to work on being more flexible in my approach to the future. I used to be a big fan of the 5 year plan, but a bit like when governments try it for the economy, life often gets in the way. The situation with Brexit, visas, political events, and post Covid situations, have meant that I am not really sure where I am going to be next year, or the year after. And that is ok, if a little mind blowing to someone who always knew what she would be doing at every point in a year!

I am not sure where I will be in the future, but do know that it has to involve lots of opportunity to be by the sea, or moorland, or in the woods, or just anywhere that is not a building. My life has become focused around the line from one of my favourite poems, ‘Leisure’, by William Henry Davies. He had a very unconventional life, so if you are interested in finding out more, follow the link.

The poem starts , ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?’

This post has been illustrated by some of my favourite stand and stare moments over the last 18 months. All those moments where the place that I am in so beautiful in some way I could just stay there forever, standing and staring, watching the clouds or the sea.

Thank you to all of you for reading my blog posts, and for all the lovely comments and likes that I have got from you. It means so much to me to have this blog, and to know that other people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I hope that you also get time in your lives to appreciate what is around you and just enjoy being where you are.

I have been exploring ancient Paphos today, and have an exciting coach trip planned for tomorrow, so will be back soon to share all of that with you.

Meanwhile have a good rest of the week, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

A clear blue sea

One of the things that has really struck me about the coastline here is how blue the sea is. We do have this in Spain, as sea colour is a reflection of the sky, but here it is a really intense blue, which I think must be due to how clear the water is. Most of the coast is rocky, rather than sandy, and there is little in the way of seaweed, so the sea is very clear and so beautiful.

I was staying only 10 minutes walk from the beach, just outside the centre of Aiya Napa, in a lovely studio apartment, River View Boutique Apartments. I can highly recommend this, if you come here. The apartment is beautiful. It has a little kitchenette, and an all important sunset over the sea view.

The sunsets here have been so gorgeous, a free show every evening.

Because of the excellent weather, most of my time has been spent at the coast, walking the stunning coastal path and sitting on the beach reading. It has been warm enough for lots of paddling, many people were swimming, and the sky has been a glorious blue all week.

There is lots of sculpture around Aiya Napa generally, the town obviously prides itself on the promotion of public art.

Many even come with added furry friends, all of these cats seem very well fed and happy. I saw lots of bowls of food and water around for them, but I think most are strays.

I also visited the outdoor sculpture park, which is just beside the coastal path. It is also a cactus park, and there were some wonderful displays of cactuses. I appreciate the effort that goes in to sculpture, and really liked some of them, especially the Argonauts bridge which was very cleverly done.

However I think the cactuses were my favourite bits of the park 😉

There is also an underwater sculpture museum, but I am not a good diver. It does seem a brilliant concept for those who are though.

There were so many amazing houses beside the coastal path, if I had a spare few million I would love something like this!

I also had my first encounter with a squid, sadly dead on the beach.

Such a truly beautiful place, I am so glad that I came to this end of the island. I wondered if it would be too far to get to, and nearly left it off the plan, but I am so glad I have been able to visit this area as well. These two pictures are going to be on the photo wall at home to remind me of this trip.

Next post it will be the turn of all of the incredible churches I have seen so far. I have only bought one icon, but I can see there may be other purchases needed. They are only very small ones though. Until then 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.

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 was 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.

There was a lovely bridge and a little further exploration led to a nice pub with a little sunny garden to sit in.

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 for a walk around Austwick, where Jacky and I stayed nearly 3 years ago on our first Dales trip.

It was lovely to be there again, following the old bridleways.

There were some very friendly cows!

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.

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.