We were both getting itchy feet again and both felt the need to have a break and spend a few days away in the ‘van, but not too far away. I’ve wanted to visit Caen Hill locks on the Kennet and Avon canal ever since I saw it in photos so booked a stay (Sunday to Wednesday) at the Devizes camping and caravanning camp site which is halfway between Melksham and Devizes, is adjacent to the canal and within a mile or two of Caen Hill.
We packed our warm clothes, fleecy sheets, winter duvet and headed off on the Sunday afternoon, first stop at the Shell garage to inflate the tyres and to fill up the gas bottle. No need for any diesel as ‘LC was still full of cut price French fuel. Our journey to Wiltshire was quiet with very little traffic and we arrived at the camp site within 2 hours of leaving home. Needless to say we did not unpack the BBQ table etc as the temperature was around 5C and it was very dark.
We decided to avoid cooking on the Sunday night and instead visited the Three Magpies pub right outside the campsite gate. Here we drank and feasted until late(ish)
Monday morning was sunny and very cold but we did get the BBQ out and started the day with a cooked breakfast, a full English but without the eggs.
A great way to start the day, BBQ breakfast and fresh coffee. The first cooked breakfast I’ve had for years.
Following breakfast we walked into Devizes along the canal towpath in the bright morning sunshine for a good view of the system of 29 locks that allow the canal to rise 230 ft over a distance of 2 miles.
Canal boats moored at the top of the lock system a short walk of Devizes town centre.
We had a wander around Devizes town centre with a stop for lunch at Brogans where, apparantly, they have hand cream and tissues in the ‘ladies’ toilets, I can’t even begin to imagine why. Then we decided to head back to the van while it was still daylight and not too cold. On the way back we spotted a Kestrel perched on an overhead wire, and a Barn Owl fluttering silently over the canal right by our campsite.
Monday night the temperature plummetted to around -7C, but we didn’t worry. We had brought a home made Chilli Con Carne with us and had a film to watch so we put the heating on and only ventured out to the toilet block a few times before bed.
No cooked breakfast on the Tuesday morning – it was too damn cold!.
We caught the 10:38 bus outside of the camp gate and were off to visit the Bath Christmas market and have a look around this lovely city as well as to visit the Abbey. Here are a couple of photos of the big window and the ceiling.
Off to The Three Magpies for dinner once again.
Wednesday morning was very frosty and freezing but it was nice and snug in the van. The campsite showers were nice and warm despite the -7C outside temperature. Cooking breakfast was a little more arduous as our BBQ’s butane didn’t want to perform, but we managed it in the end.
We had a brilliant time at the Devizes camping and caravanning site. The facilities were first class; its showers were clean and warm. There is a good pub/restaurant on its doorstep; there is a handy bus stop for easy access to Bath, Melksham and Devizes; and the site has easy access to the canal tow path so you can walk or cycle to Devizes, Melksham or further afield.
Our ‘van was also brilliant; it kept us both lovely and warm despite the freezing outside temperatures. During the day while out and about, our gas heating was set to its lowest setting. We also have a small (1Kw) electric powered oil filled radiator running on its ‘medium’ setting which is about 500W. The electric heater kept the van from getting too cold especially on the Tuesday when the outside temperature hovered around freezing all day. On our return to the van in the early evening we would turn the gas heating up to half way and leave it there until bed time. During the night the gas was turned to a lower setting (2) and the electric heater was turned to about 250W. This was all we needed to keep the van nice and snug.
Ah, holidays again. This time we’re going to spend two weeks in Brittany. We have an itinerary we’ve loaded our bikes and will catch the Fastcraft to Cherbourg.
This will be our first holiday in many years which didn’t involve either driving to, or driving through, a wine producing area. Instead, we will have to frequent the wine section in supermarkets even though this doesn’t feel quite right. However, we are in luck. In many of the supermarkets they are holding wine fairs and are offering a wide range of wines at rock bottom prices, eg 3 for the price of 2. Who knows, maybe we’ll take advantage of a number of such offers and partially restock our wine fridge.
The selection of supermarket wines we bought, the selection is heavy on Loire wines from Saumur and St Nicholas de Bourgueil.
After filling up with cheap French diesel (€1.08/litre equivalent to £0.93), we drive to our campsite, la Hallerais, a 4 star site approximately 1 km from Dinan and approximately 100m from the river Rance, and we book in for 3 nights. Dinan is walking distance from the campsite ( albeit via a rather steep path) so explore it on foot rather than take the bikes.
We found Dinan fascinating, it is wonderfully medieval with narrow cobbled streets, countless half-timber fronted buildings, defensive walls and watch towers. We take a ride on ‘le Petit Train’ to get a good view of the whole of the old town and then spend the next couple of days looking around the old town.
Although there are supermarkets within cycling distance, we avoid having to visit them, as the Carrefour City (think Tesco Express) served our purposes well although that did mean walking back to the campsite with a rucksack full of provisions including a particularly good Saumur Champigny for around €6. We also found a couple of excellent Creperies in Dinan, where we enjoyed some galettes and local cider.
To Hell with the itinerary, we extended our stay by a further day so that we could see more of Dinan and we probably will be going back there sometime.
Next stop is Lac Guerledan, which, according to its website is the centre for cycling and walking trails. The campsite is almost empty, bar some cyclists. We pay to stay for 2 nights but immediately feel that I’ve made a mistake.
It’s a bit cold , the trails all turn out to be mountain bike trails and there is the sound of over- excited teens from the activity centre next door. Next day, we walk round the nearby town, Mur de Bretagne, before moving on, but instead of heading for Quimper as per the itinerary we head off in the direction of Josselin.
Fiona’s navigating took us into the one way system in Josselin, the stress levels are really rising, it’s tight and medieval, its not meant for motorhomes. We find a car park occupied by some fellow Motorhomes, before heading off into town to see what it’s like.
Wow, Josselin is beautiful, even with its one way system. We have a good look around the town, visit the nearest supermarket and then head off for the chosen camp site. We stay at the ‘Camping Domaine de Kerelly‘ which is about a mile from the centre of town. Again, this site is almost empty, but nice and spacious, pitches separated by hedges, and nice washrooms so we book in for 2 nights. We met Andrew and Ann from Scotland, who shared some stories of their travels in their huge 8.3m Moho.
Click on the link to see more photos of Josselin and its surrounding area
Josselin is next to the Nantes-Brest canal with its cycle route. We cycled the path into Josselin, heading West to Rohan for a day, and then East to Malestroit the next day. The canal towpath makes a really good cycling path as there are no gradients, and the surrounding countryside is beautiful. Wildlife abounds- heron, cormorants, kingfishers, and an abundance of colourful butterflies along the towpath.
We’re really enjoying Josselin so we extend our stay (itinerary? what itinerary?) by 2 nights so that we can see more of the area. In the 4 days that we stayed here, we cycled 88 miles and saw much of the area. In Rohan, we lunched at the only open restaurant, where we met a couple of Brits, who now live locally. Their recommendation of the Plat du Jour was spot on…Delicious French Cuisine, with a dessert to die for. This set us up nicely for the return cycle ride.
Next its onto Vannes, a medieval city on the bay of Morbihan. Our base was ‘Camping Le Moulin de Cantizac‘ south of Vannes and bordering on the commune of Sene. Of its 100 pitches only 8 were in use so it was nice and quiet; the campsite is within easy reach of local village shops and bus services.
After parking up on our chosen pitch, we unloaded the bikes and cycled into Vannes to do some exploring. Our first stop was at tourist information where we picked up a map of the town and then we headed off in the direction of the old city. We were both very taken by the ambience of the place as well as by the old buildings, narrow streets and sheer number of places to stop and eat, or sit and have a drink.
The next day we returned to Vannes by bus rather than use our bikes and we spent the whole day sightseeing, including a ride on the tourist train. Using the bus meant that we didn’t have to walk around all day in our cycling kit.
We didn’t get to explore the Gulf of Morbihan which I think would have taken a few days, maybe we will next time.
My intention was to park in the ‘Aire’ for the afternoon while exploring Redon, and then head for a local campsite for the night.
The Aire had been changed into a regular carpark, and the local campsite, despite being well signposted, turned out to be firmly closed. We parked up elsewhere alongside a number of other Motorhomes and walked into town. The cathedral was impressive, but the town was a disappointment: Redon? More like Redoff.
The Catholics certainly know how to ‘do’ God.
After our visit to the cathedral we decided that it wasn’t worth staying there so we moved on in the direction of Rennes and stay a night at the ‘Domaine de Kervallon’ campsite near Caro. Kervallon is out in the countryside and we access it after miles and miles on very small roads, needless to say that my stress levels were high by the time we found the place. The site is beautifully quiet, a great place to chill, though we have other places to go.
We stayed for only one night at Kervallon and then moved on towards Rennes.
We initially head for the Aire in Rennes but on arrival decided that it was too far from the town so we up sticks and head for ‘Camping des Gayeulles‘ which is inside the Rennes ringroad and adjacent to a sports complex, within a huge park. We park up outside the campsite, as reception is closed for lunch, and catch the bus into the centre. We have become real ‘public transport’ users.
Rennes is a huge city so the first stop is tourist information to get a decent city map and then off to the old town.
It’s Saturday afternoon and Rennes is heaving with people, the city has a real buzz about it, and lots to see. We returned on Sunday, again by bus, and it was much quieter. We wandered around the old town for hours, stopping for lunch before catching the bus back to the campsite.
Villedieu les Poeles
Last stop before the ferry.
Fiona driving the van
Spotting a roadsign announcing 170? km to Caen, Fiona decided it was time to try a bit of Moho driving. Pulling over at a Motorway service area, Fiona then took over at the wheel, intending to drive to the next services, but in fact, she continued to the next one, before chickening out at the prospect of the Caen Peripherique! Oh well, it’s a start, eh?
We chose Villedieu as a stopover, because the ‘Aire’ and campsite are very close to the town centre. We park in the Aire and head into town for lunch then check out the campsite. Like almost every other campsite, Camping les Chevaliers is almost empty so we book in and then go and get the van before heading back into town for refreshment.
We both have a fruit juice but Fiona spies a ‘yoof’ drinking something red and is intrigued and can’t resist one herself. Its called a ‘Monaco’ which is a beer shandy with grenadine. Its quite nice too.
We hadn’t been to Villedieu for many years, it’s a neat little town with a pottery from which I remember Fiona buying a number of pieces of handmade pottery. I thought we had bought 2 pottery items, but it turns out that we have 5.
Tuesday is market day so I wander around the cheese, meat, chicken etc stalls while Fiona pays another visit to the pottery and buys even more items that I will forget about even before we get home, including some handmade jewellery pieces. A lovely overnight stay here, before setting off to catch the return ferry at Caen.
We arrived, unusually, in plenty time at Ouistreham ferry port, and queued for what seemed like ages, having lunch in the Moho, whilst in the queue. Disappointingly, ours was then the very last vehicle to load onto the ferry. So, when you’re sat on a ferry, watching the last few vehicles go up the ramp…they aren’t necessarily Late Arrivals…..now we know.
So, another 16 night Moho trip to France- July then September. Lots of new places discovered this time, Brittany has some stunning towns, villages and cities. Moho life is great, we enjoy the freedom to move around, and are already getting itchy feet for our next trip.
For Christmas, Louise had bought us a ‘cream tea on a steam train’ experience for the East Somerset Railway which runs a couple of restored steam engines and some carriages on a few miles on disused GWR track from Cranmore which is near to Sheptom Mallet in Somerset.
Although we booked our cream tea in good time back in early May the only date available to us was the 10th August which, coincidentally, is the date of our wedding anniversary.
We travelled up to East Somerset the day before our arranged visit, having booked two nights at the ‘Old Oaks’ campsite which was about 1 1/2 miles from Glastonbury and about 3/4 mile from Glastonbury Tor. We arrived early at the campsite, the weather was good, we donned our walking boots and 20 minutes of uphill walking later we arrived at the base of the Tor.
Looking up at Glastonbury Tor, one of us ventured to the top.
Departing the Tor we headed for Glastonbury town, thankfully it was downhill all the way. Glastonbury is a nice old town with rather too many tattoo/henna/hippy shops for my liking. Rather than just head back for the campsite we decided to take a look at the Abbey ruins and the Abbey visitor centre.
Click on the link to see a few more images of the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.
We stopped in the town for some refreshments before heading back, OK, we went to a pub. It was a long walk back to the campsite, 1 1/2 miles, most of which seemed to be uphill, up very steep hills in fact.
The next day, after wishing each other a ‘Happy Anniversary’, we headed off to Cranmore which is where the East Somerset Railway excursions are run from. We arrived in good time to catch the delayed 11:30 train (sounds like Southern Railways, ha) and then had a good wander around the engine shed and railway yard.
Click on the link to see more of our East Somerset railway photos.
So, we spent our 31st wedding anniversary playing on steam trains in the summer sunshine of the West Country, and enjoyed a cream tea in a ‘first class’ old BR dining carriage. Superb! We followed this with an Indian takeaway for dinner accompanied by a bottle of Champagne.
Its even hotter today, with a high of 34C forecast, and not a cloud in the sky.
We’re running short of food and are being eaten alive by the mosquitos so its off the the local supermarket to get provisions and something to keep the nasty flying things away. We’re also running short of cash so need to find an ATM, then its off to Saumur by bikes. The journey there was hard going as it was 12 miles of off-road cycling in the baking heat, but being off road meant that there was no traffic to contend with.
After a stop in Saumur for photos, a cool refreshing drink and to replenish our water we set off for the campsite. It was so hot in places that the road surface was melting, passing cars sounded like they were driving through puddles of water. On arrival back in Gennes at 5pm we sought the boulanger to get some bread to go with our dinner. A display outside the local pharmacy showed that the temperature had cooled to an oppressive 37C, time to go back to the campsite and get in the shower.
Tuesday 19th July
This is planned to be our last day in Gennes so we’ll take an easy cycle ride up towards Le Thoureil on the beautiful and quiet banks of the Loire. All was going well until Fiona managed to get herself a rear tyre puncture. Our puncture repair kit didn’t work, I think the glue had gone off years ago so after 3 attempts to fix the puncture I was left with no option but to cycle back to Gennes and try and get a new repair kit. 20 minutes later I was in the Super U, had purchased the new repair kit and a replacement inner tube and a large bottle of cold water. It was getting hot, but I didn’t bother to look at the temperature readout at the pharmacy. Another 15 minutes and I was back with Fiona and set about changing her tyre inner tube. As we’d lost a good few hours and I was shattered, we decided to return to the van and chill out for the rest of the day. We cycled back to Gennes later that day for some more provisions (Fiona had finished off all the cider). It was hotter than before, the roads were melting, and Fiona was retching from the stench of the tarmac. This time we did look at the temperature reading outside of the pharmacy and were horrified to see that it was 41C. Bring on the cold cider.
Wednesday 20th July
We are woken at 06:15 by what sounds like a gas burner blasting away. I’m worried. We have about 15 litres of propane onboard. I deactivate the alarm and jump out of the van to see what is happening. There was no need for me to worry. Looking up, it was obvious where the noise was coming from, as shown in the photo below.
Chillout day. And for good reason. I hardly slept a wink due to the temperature and to sheer heat exhaustion so today all I did was drink plenty and keep out of the sun. This was nothing to do with the cold cider nor with the wine. Fiona did much the same as I. Thankfully, at 32C, the day is much cooler than yesterday.
Thursday 21st July
We depart Gennes and head back to Saumur en route to St Cyr en Bourg while trying our hardest to avoid driving anywhere near Saumur Centre. Finally we arrive at ‘Robert et Marcel’, which used to be known as ‘Cave de Saumur’. After a few tastings we make our selection, pay up and set off in the general direction of Angers where we hope to stay the night before heading back towards Normandy. We end up at a campsite in Rochfort sur Loire where we stay only one night.
Friday 22nd July
It rained overnight – fantastic – its cooling down. Oh no, its not.
We’re up early and soon on our way once we have played with the sat nav, heading around Angers and heading for Laval. The countryside here is fantastic, its like Devon but only warmer and on a much grander scale with its countless fields and woods. We deposit ourselves back in the Aire at St Jean sur Mayenne which only charges €9 per night for a pitch, electric and unlimited showers. We chill out here and plan the next stop as we intend to depart tomorrow to see something of Normandy before we go home and I hope to buy a bottle of Calvados.
Saturday 23rd July
Up early, well 8 ish, and then head off by around 10 o’clock. We have decided to head for Bagnoles De L’Orne in Normandy. We have been there before when the kiddies were small, but all I can remember is that it rained heavily all day long – let’s hope for a better visit this time. We arrive at the camp site at around noon and wander in for a look and quickly decide to stay.
Camping du Vee is a short 4 or 5 minute cycle ride from of Bagnoles, and has the best sanitary facilities we have yet seen at a campsite, they even supply the toilet paper! We park up, set out the table and chairs beneath the awning and then head off on bikes to explore the town and to take a few photos. There is nothing ‘traditionally French’ about Bagnoles, it dates from the late 19th C so has none of the usual ‘lived in’ looks.
Sunday 24th July.
Its church day, well it is for the locals, the damn bells have been ringing for a while now. Despite this, the local small supermarket, boulanger and other shops are open for business and we spend a few hours in the afternoon drinking and ‘people watching’ to while away the time. Fiona gets her second bike puncture and has to walk the last 200 metres to the campsite where we are able to repair it.
Monday 25th July.
It rained for about 2-3 minutes this morning – well, it is Normandy isn’t it?. Anyway, it soon dried up and became a nice hot day. Bagnoles has a ‘velo rail’ on a disused railway so we decided to cycle over there and give it a go for the afternoon. It took us around about 50 minutes to complete the outbound and return sections after which we dillied around in the centre of town enjoying a mojito and a beer while people watching – all in all it was a great way to spend our last full afternoon in France.
Tuesday 26th August
We slowly meander our way from Bagnoles towards Le Havre, taking a number of wrong turns but we still get there in time for the ‘economic’ ferry crossing and home by 23:00. We take the opportunity to fill up with diesel at Lisieux, with the price of €1.04 it would have been stupid not to. This works out at £0.87 a litre which is far more palatable than the UK price of around £1.12.
Off to France on the ‘fastcraft’ in the morning, I do hope the sea is calm. The damn fridge in the ‘van is now sounding an alarm; let’s hope it stops sometime soon – its probably something to do with me putting 2 bottles of ice in it in an attempt to keep all the Hobgoblin, Hobgoblin Gold and King Goblin nice and cool. I bought a ‘top-up’ for my mobile broadband dongle so that we could access the internet while away; we are all set to go.
Sunday 10th July
Our alarm wakes us at 5:15 in the morning, the ‘fastcraft’ departs at 07:30 and we need to be there in Portsmouth 45 minutes earlier. Its raining at home. We don’t make the 45 minutes earlier bit, and we’re second to last to board. No-one told me that I’d have to reverse onto the damn boat!.
Three hours and a bit later, at 11:30 local time, we drive off at Cherbourg and its raining here too; we head for some cheap French diesel. We stop in St Maire Eglise for fuel, we should have stopped for a look around as this is one of those towns that was a key objective on the first day of the Normandy invasion, but its still raining and we’re in a hurry. The prices are marked up as €1.12 per litre and the exchange rate is 1.16 so its less than £1 per litre, brilliant.
We have no idea where we will spend the first night, but are heading down towards a camp site called St Jean sur Mayenne, which is just north of Laval.
We had to stop for 30 minutes or so and get off the road in Domfront to allow a local cycling event through – it wasn’t the Tour de France but it gave us a welcome break anyway.
Strangely for Domfront, it had stopped raining (our previous visits here have generally been in the wet).
We arrive at St Jean at around 5pm and load up with fresh water then find an ‘emplacement’, plug in the electricity and get the table, chairs and BBQ out for dinner. The damn fridge alarm sounded all the way down there; every couple of minutes 33 beeps – the only way to drown out the noise was to drive faster and turn the music up. The good news was that all the Hobgoblin, King Goblin and Hobgoblin Gold were still nice and chilled, as was the food.
We decided to ‘google’ how to sort the fridge out, and after a very short while figuring out how to enable the mobile broadband to work while roaming we had some ideas on what to do. I didn’t want to switch the fridge off for obvious reasons – warm beer, stinky cheese etc. We found that disconnecting the fridge light & door switch connector stopped the alarm and had no adverse effect on the fridge operating, phew.
Now it’s time to relax. Our pitch is nice and level with plenty of space, its not too far to the toilet & shower block and there are sinks for washing up, we’ll not have to use our ‘van facilities at all!.
Monday 11th July
After relaxing in the sunshine in the morning we gotactive and cycled to Andouille, which seemed to be the biggest local village…it was uphill a lot, which caused Fiona some sweary moments. On driving in Andouille, we found…it was closed! The Boulangerie had skipped off for their annual holidays,BUT there was a bank with ATM, so we got some cash.There was a Butchers shop- closed of course- and there was a whole cow/ horse? carcass just being delivered- avert your eyes, vegetarians! We then cycled up the Mayenne tow path to Montflours in search of somewhere to buy fresh food. Its Monday – it looks like all local shops are closed on Monday, thankfully we have brought just enough food with us. Its also a bit grey to start with, but it soon warms up nicely.
Tuesday 12th July
The shops are now open in St Jean. I say ‘shops’, but I really mean the boulangerie (bakery) as its the only shop, however, as its a short walk from the campsite it allowed us to have fresh croissants for breakfast. We cycled to LaGuingette restaurant at Montflours,on the Mayenne towpath where we had a four course lunch for €12 and that includes a carafe of wine. We had discovered La Guingette last year, so knew how good it would be.
No rain again, I’m starting to like it here, but we have decided to move further south for the sun and wine.
Wednesday 13th July
We pack up and move off, first to the ‘service area’ where we empty the toilet, dump our waste water andthen dump our fresh water to lighten the load and then head south to Chinon. On the way we call in at a supermarket and stock up on fresh food and a couple of bottles of wine. Bugger, we end up driving through Saumur centre. There are height restrictions (we’re just within them!)and a great number of really narrow roads, but thankfully I only clip one kerb, however the stress levels are at maximum.
On arrival at Chinon we book into the L’ille d’Auger campsite right across the river Vienne from the fortress and within about 5 minutes walk of the town centre, ideal. A quick bike ride to the Super U supermarket, looking for an extension lead for the electric hook up, instead we bought a mini laundry line, and kitchen rolls. No extension leads suitable for us.
Thursday 14th July
We wandered around into town in the morning, going to the weekly market, in the company of Wendy and Mick, who we’d met the previous evening. They are quite new to MH holidays, though they are planning a trip to New Zealand soon, hiring a MH there. We also caught the tail end of a band, matching through the town centre, for 14th July..We warned Wendy and Mick about M. Sausicce, who had ripped us off a few years ago, with his wares..sure enough he was there again..after the market, we indulged in coffees whilst people watching in the main square. Back to the campsite, just in time to see Wendy and Mick leave, en route for home. Our afternoon was spent cycling the vineyards of Cravant and Panzoult in the summer sunshine. I think we cycled about 20 miles, as far asL’ille Bouchard, the real purpose of the ride was to identify those vineyards where we might buy some local produce, but most of them seem to be closed.
It’s Bastille Day, only they don’t call it that, they call it National Day, but its still a good excuse to have a damn good fireworks display just outside the campsite. A fabulous Spectacle, with music, set against the backdrop of the Forteresse. Enjoyed by hundreds of people, for free. Its a real pity some repugnant God instructed a twisted believer to spoil it for so many people in Nice during the evening celebrations.
Friday 15th July
Another hot day and another cycle ride, we attempted to leave Chinon a different way, but we didn’t see cycling signs and the road was busy, so we instead did the Cravant route again. As we were getting ready to go to our favourite Chinon restaurant in the evening,a couple of Brits popped over to see us- they were fellow Hymer owners. We show them around Elsie, and they were mightily impressed, apparently.
Saturday 16th July
Hot again. On the spur of the moment we decide to move on and head up towards Saumur stopping at a supermarket for provisions and to try and get a 16Amp extension for the van as ours is not long enough. Fiona managed to twist her anklewhile jumping out of the van and is in a lot of pain.
Back on the road we drove up from Saumur towards Gennes, which is a nice scenic route that we found a few years back. The route follows the Loire river on its south bank. I really don’t remember the roads being this narrow, stress levels are rising again….thankfully the roads are quiet.
As we enter Gennes we see a camping site sign and decide to take a look. If it turns out to be rubbish then we’ll keep moving towards Angers, but we don’t need to. The site is lovely and quiet, its called ‘Camping au bord de La Loire’. We find a pitch with some shade, electric hookup andeasy access to the toilet/shower block and settle in. The shade is welcome, the temperature is rising with 31C expected today. Warmed up (in the BBQ) tomatoes farcis for dinner, with the obligatory salad , pain, fromage etc. ..oh, and some vin rose and rouge.
Fiona is still hobbling, I hope she recovers soon or I’ll be out cycling by myself – situation normal, eh?
Sunday 17th July
Ah, not a cloud in the sky today, hardly a breath of air and temperature forecast to be in the early 30’s. There’s no need to walk to the Boulangerie here, the baker’s van comes around at 8.30am with croissants, pains au choc and baguettes for sale.
Sunday in rural France, everything is going to be closed so its on the bikes today. Fiona has donned a stretchy ankle support thingy, and dosed up on Ibuprofen- what a trooper! We cycle a part of the ‘Loire a Velo’ route towards Angers, covering 15 miles before we stop at a small restaurant for lunch. Starter and dessert, soft drinks, no alcohol, perfect. The sun is scorching, there’s no wind and not a cloud in the sky; it’s sun factor 50 weather. The roads are very quiet and there are very many cyclists out, I really could stay here. In fact, we often pointhouses we’d love , en route. We were out for around 4 1/2 hours, with 3 of those hours spent in the saddle and we covered a little over 30 miles in all.
One church stop for Fiona- a candle purchased and lit, for €1…a beautiful stained glass door leads into the main church, which is also a welcome refuge from the baking heat outside. Home just after 5pm..Fiona could no longer resist the call of the laundry sinks…laundry line? bike rack! Steak, baguette and salad for dinner. Oh, and there is probably some wine to finish off!
The New Forest is a really beautiful area with its sleepy villages, small towns and vast areas of wild countryside in which New Forest ponies, donkeys and cattle are free to roam and generally get in the way of passing motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. It is a super place to camp as there are numerous forest campsites, many of which have some of the every day necessities such as showers and toilets. We chose to book a couple of nights at Roundhill which has showers and toilets but no electric hook up and no motorhome service area for waste water disposal and we duly arrived there on the afternoon of Sunday 5th June during the mini heatwave. The campsite is located equidistant between Brockenhurst and Beaulieu and was marvellously deserted and quiet throughout our stay. It had been built adjacent to the disused war time airfield of RAF Beaulieu, very little of which survives today as it has been almost entirely taken back by nature but you can cycle or walk around its perimeter which is now bridleway and some rough tracks. Many of the roads around Roundhill and Brockenhurst are quiet and fine for cycling, although the A337 between Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst was rather busy. Roundhill got its name from the circular bronze age burial mound, Round Barrow, located on its periphery. Ah, the marvellous things on your very doorstep!
Here we are parked in the forest, awning extended to provide shade from the hot sun, cooker and bottle of wine at the ready. The wine is courtesy of Maryanne and Chris – many thanks to you both.
And here you see me finishing off my 3rd glass of wine before dinner. We had an apple each, which attracted a nosy Pony right into our living space. Thankfully he didn’t try and get into the ‘van.
Ah, bliss. Temperatures were in the high 20’s and despite the BBC (which lies like a carpet) forecasting rain we didn’t have a drop. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we extended our stay by an extra night to take advantage of the good weather. We made good use of our bikes and spent many hours cycling, including excursions to Beaulieu, Buckers Hard, Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst. We will be going back again, but not in the school holidays.
We have lived in Hampshire for the past 27 years but have never really spent any time exploring the New Forest which is on our doorstep, however last weekend we decided to change this. Fiona and I booked a 2 night stay at the Holmsley site in the Forest, loaded up the van with everything we might need for 2 nights away, and headed off to Ashurst and beyond. On arrival at Holmsley on the Sunday afternoon we booked in, filled the fresh water tank and found a decent level hardstanding pitch for our stay. Within a few minutes we had connected up to the site electric supply, unloaded and setup the BBQ and picnic stuff; we unwound the awning then relaxed, opened the bottle of wine and cooked our dinner.
Holmsley is a nice quiet and relaxing place. A large number of New Forest ponies loitered outside of the campsite, being kept out by the cattle grids and fences. There were a quite a number of very young ponies which were cute.
The campsite is an ex-RAF wartime airbase and quite a lot of the concrete aircraft ‘parking’ spots continue to be used, although today they are the ‘hardstanding’ pitches.
On the Monday of our first full day at Holsley we used our bikes to explore the surrounding area, stopping for a pub lunch at the Crown in Bransgore before cycling (and walking) back to the campsite in the late afternoon sun. Another bottle of wine was consumed during dinner, which comprised of Kangaroo steaks cooked on the BBQ, followed by relaxation out of doors until it became too cold to stay outside.
Much to our relief there were cattle grids and fences protecting the campsite from the numerous ponies and cattle, the ponies seemed to have a desire to stampede around in the early mornings.