Sunday 29 June 2014

Elvaston Castle

Elvaston Castle is just outside of Derby, and we are staying nearby while we visit Tina and Matt. 
We thought that we their were house was nearby,  so we set off to cycle to them for Sunday lunch.
It was an undulating route that was quite pleasant, but much further than we first thought, and then the rain started pouring down. By the time we got there we were soaked through, and I had to borrow Tina's clothes and sit on a towel throughout lunch.
We had a lovely meal with the main course of Coca Cola Chicken, (thank you Tina), and baked cheesecake (cheers Matt). They also very kindly drove us back to the van afterwards, as although we were drying out, the return journey didn't hold much appeal.
Later we set out to explore the local area and found the Castle, although it is actually a country house set in a large park.
There was very few people around, and the grounds were filled with amazing oversized topiary, with some huge overgrown bushes still waiting for a haircut.
I read on a noticeboard that the whole estate had got very dilapidated, but recently renovation work has started on the house and gardens, so it should get even better in the future.

Saturday 28 June 2014

Notts Outlaws 20/20 cricket match

Spent the afternoon at Trent Bridge watching Notts Outlaws against Yorkshire Vikings.
On the way in we were handed the traditional 4 and 6 cards - to be waved whenever Notts scored the appropriate number of runs.
My brother in law, Mark, also took a cardboard Outlaws wicketkeeping hat, which unfortunately makes him look a little like Hannibal Lector. It took him ages to origami it into the right shape, then after a while the front section came undone so the look became even stranger, as it looked as if he also had green doggy ears as well.
The game was exciting, and made even more so by the giant wandering squirrel and lots of crowd participation. The kiddies in the photo had a long running singing competition with a big group of loud, Hawaiian shirt wearing middle aged men. I could have joined in as the song was just a tuneful 'Outlaws, Outlaws......., Outlaws, Outlaws, etc, etc.
On the pitch Notts started slowly, dropping lots of wickets and ending up 143 for 9. Yorkshire scored 14 runs in the first over and we seemed on for a certain thrashing, but for some reason they then fell apart and Notts took the win.
I was pleased as I have never been to see a cricket match where we haven't won, and I didn't want to start today.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Chatsworth House and modern art

Here we are in Derbyshire, visiting Chatsworth House, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The rooms in the House are truly magnificent, and there are priceless paintings and sculptures everywhere.
The gardens are also very impressive and are currently home to some modern sculptures by Michael Craig-Martin.
According to the guidebook, 'throughout his career, he has explored the expressive potential of commonplace objects and images'.
To me, it seems about a million times easier to make jumbo sized cutouts of basic items, than to paint like Rembrant, or even sculpt a giant sleeping lion.  However, it was fun finding all of his sculptures and they were very bright and colourful.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Cultural overload in Stratford

On Thursday we booked theatre tickets at the Royal Shakespeare Company for the matinee performance today. The box office was quiet at the time, so we had chance to ask our important questions before choosing what to see, as there are two theatres in the one building.
Darrens question was obviously 'which is the cheapest?' They both had 'standing only' tickets, which apparently hardly ever get sold for £5 each.
We then moved on to my question - obviously, 'which one is the shortest'? One lasted three hours and the other was one hour 40 minutes, so it was a no brainer.
Unfortunately, it meant that we missed the Shakespeare play called Henry lV part one, but it seemed too much like a punishment than a potential pleasure.
We went to see 'Arden of Faversham', which was written by a contemporary of Shakespeare, so we got the funny language, but without the length. Actually, it was excellent with a plot that we mostly followed, and some real laugh out loud moments. I was quite sad when it finished, but pleased that we were then due a long sit down.
This came in the form of our next event - a free outdoor staging of 'The merry wives of Windsor' (one hour 20 minutes) in a neighbouring park.
It was a on a raised stage with lots of people on sitting on picnic blankets watching. There was a footpath between the stage and most of the audience, and it was very funny how many people just walked across in front of everyone, so there were lots of distractions.
The actors were in modern dress and very loud and cheerful. They were also quite manic at times, leaping out in to the audience, and some of them played multiple roles, which added to my confusion. It did start to make a bit of sense towards the end, and we managed to work out the plot on the walk home.
Fantastic afternoon, and there seems to be live Shakespeare all over Stratford for the whole summer, so we will have to return and continue our education.
Ps, there was a dressing up box on the way in that I couldn't resist.

Thursday 19 June 2014

Stratford upon Avon

Travelled down to Stratford today to the racecourse, where we have an excellent spot right next to the rails. Unfortunately, the horses aren't due to run past us until July, and we don't have the patience to wait until then.
This afternoon we popped along the river to the centre of Stratford and enjoyed the usual touristy things - swans, tick - quaint black and white buildings, tick - little boats on the river, tick - buying tickets at the Royal Shakespeare Company, tick.
Watch out for my theatre review on Saturday!

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Fantastic new Matrix Axess

What an exciting day today, as we swapped our lovely old camper van for a Matrix Axess (from Geoff Cox at Denby - thank you Gavin for the excellent service).
I said a quick goodbye to the old model, and then we carried all of our worldly goods from one to the other, ending up with a huge amount of stuff piled high down the aisle.
We then drove to a local campsite and set about the gruesome task of finding a home for every item. At first it looked impossible, but after a few hours everywhere was tidy and there is even a bit of spare space.
We chose this camping car for its amazing design feature - an electric bed that descends magically from the ceiling!
I have tried it out and it is a bit James Bond, so can't wait to go to bed tonight.
It also means that we can leave the bed made up during the day, so no more fighting with dozens of cushions, or piling the duvet and pillows on top of the steering wheel during the day time.
Good little kitchen along the back too and we now have a shower, so we will have to test that later too.
Ps, I know that it all sounds a bit mundane to you house dwellers, but we are really, really chuffed.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Half Ironman Sunday

Sunday evening.
We arrived at Wimbleball (somewhere on Exmoor I think) on Friday lunchtime, and since then I have had no wifi.
I sent a blog yesterday  but it is still queued up waiting to send, so this one might arrive first.
We volunteered to help out at the Triathlon to see Ben, our brother in law, race. Unfortunately, the, management worked us so hard that I never even saw him once!
We were in charge of giving out teeshirts to the finishers though, so Darren gave him his well earned prize, and I gave him a kiss on the cheek.
We had some free time during the race and managed to see the swim start. There were two waves of nearly 900 competitors in each group, and it did look quite brutal, with arms and legs flying everywhere.
We couldn't see the cyclists out on the road as it was too far away, but we did see random competitors collecting their bikes and setting off.
I saw lots of runners out on the course and I watched the winner high five the crowd down the final straight, and finish in less than 4 hours and 20 minutes.
Great atmosphere all day and it was lovely to see so many happy people after the race. 

Wimbleball triathlon registration

We are volunteering for the weekend at the Wimbleball 70.3 Ironman triathlon. It is one of the toughest courses in Europe and is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run, adding up to 70.3 miles in total.
Don't worry, we are only helping out, not actually doing it. Ben our brother in law is doing the hard work tomorrow, but Jemima, our niece, got the first medal for the family today. She ran 500 metres on a hilly course, and we were all really pleased with her performance.
We spent all day today helping the athletes set up their equipment and tomorrow is race day.  Our shift starts at 5am, and it should really exciting as we will be up close to all of the action.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Kilkhampton to Bude

We caught a bus to Kilkhampton today and then walked back to Bude.
Kilkhampton is about four miles from the coast and we started by following a cross country route that included some very muddy sections. In one place the path had turned into a little river, courtesy of some torrential downpours yesterday. We had to do some leaping and balancing to avoid sinking up to our ankles, and then we reached a ford with a picture postcard, thatched cottage right next to it. It had pink roses around the door and was gorgeous- although not as practical as our campervan.
When we reached the coast the walk along the clifftops was spectacular, as it has been for all of our outings in Cornwall. We arrived back in Bude in time for a coffee with my mum and dad, and then back up on the cliffs again for the hike up to our camper.

Tuesday 10 June 2014


Went on a day trip to Padstow today with Elaine and Mark. Apparently it is known as Padstein, as the whole place is gradually being taken over by Rick Stein - TV chef, entrepreneur and fish fan.
It is a lovely village full of quaint and attractive shops, restaurants and calorie laden treat options. Rick appears to own at least two of all of the above, and we chose to buy our lunch from his fish and chip takeaway.
We ate it sitting on a very unglamorous bench behind the harbour, so maybe Rick's next venture should be a pretty picnic area for his customers.
The food was a cut above a usual takeaway and came with a slice of lemon, sprig of parsley and a wooden knife and fork.
This is our second fish and chip dinner this week, the first one was from the top takeaway in Bude - according to the local Scout group. My fish was covered in a huge inedible soggy blanket. I think I should get in touch with them to tell them to take a trip to Padstow to try Rick's, as his batter was crunchy, tasty and perked the fish up no end - much better chips too.
Ps, we have a third fish and chip outing booked in for Thursday so I may end up a bit of an expert, and put on some weight. 

Sunday 8 June 2014

First paddle of the summer

Afternoon stroll with the family to Widemouth Bay (pronounced Widmuth apparently).
The water looked inviting, so I rolled my trousers up as far as they would go and headed in. Quite bracing, but very pleasant although I wouldn't be keen to go much deeper.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Late night sun at Bude

Arrived at Bude this afternoon for a week of family activities as my mum, dad, sister and brother in law are staying in a flat nearby.
Our campsite is up on the cliffs and quite a short walk from the edge. There are no trees around and just a few hedge to shelter us from the sea breezes.
We parked our van to take advantage of the view and spent about an hour battling the wind putting the tent up. It wouldn't stop flapping about and looked as if it might take off, so in the end we took it down, turned the van around and put it up again on the other side.
We just have to hope that the wind doesn't change round in the night, as we hope to find better things to do with our time than moving it again.
Ps, Matt any recommendations for nearby, as we aren't taking the tent down just to go out in the van?

Friday 6 June 2014

Polperro to Looe

Caught a bus from our campsite to Polperro this morning. It is another quaint seaside town with a little harbour and tiny cottages looking over tiny streets, where I could almost reach across to touch two houses simultaneously.
An enterprising seagull family had taken charge of a motor boat in the harbour and it looked as if Mr Seagull was about start the engine, while Mrs Seagull was going to drive.
We left them to it and set off on a walk along the cliffs back to Looe. It was up and down all the way with spectacular views of the coastline. We stopped at a beachside cafe for Cornish Pasties to keep our energy levels up, and then carried chugging back to complete our round trip.

Thursday 5 June 2014

Looe, Cornwall

We arrived late last night in Looe, after driving for an hour from Plymouth ferry port. The roads were deserted, the roads twisty turny, and when we got to the campsite it appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. We had made an arrangement with the Caravan Club for a late arrival, which meant that we could park at the camp entrance, hook up to their electricity and use the shower block. There was not a soul around and it looked worrying.
Fast forward to this morning and all is well. We had a warm welcome from the camp staff and there are two halves to the campsite. The main site cannot be seen from the road, there are loads of other vans down here and we even have a sea view. There is also another shower block that everyone else is using, so we will carry on walking the extra distance to our own private facilities.
We walked down to Looe this afternoon and it is pretty, with lots of hardy folk who appeared to think it was bikini beach weather.
On the walk back we took a detour and saw a northern fulmar nest with two large chicks in it. The parents were flying around collecting food for them.
Apparently they are extremely rare and there are only 50 pairs in Cornwall, so we were very lucky.

Wednesday 4 June 2014


The rain hammered on the roof last night, and dripped through the skylight on to Darren and the duvet!
It has never done this before, and we think it had a lot to do with the crazy slope we are on, as it poured from the lowest corner of the window.
However, this morning the sky was blue, the sun shone and we got to see Roscoff at its best.
We had the morning to wander around, and I was drawn to a tiny whitewashed church on a hill at the harbour entrance.
It was built early in the 17th century and fishermen used to raise their flag as they passed it, in the hope of being protected whilst out at sea.
We had a picnic lunch waiting in line for the ferry, which departed at 3pm sharp for the six hour trip to Plymouth.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Yet another soaking!

Two things that have occurred too often on this French trip have been punctures to Darren's bike and rain!
They both conspired against us today, as if Darren hadn't got a puncture then we would have got back to the van 20 minutes earlier today, and avoided a soaking.
We didn't melt though, and it certainly didn't spoil the day. We had an excellent round trip to Morlaix, mostly via very quiet coast roads. We didn't see much of Morlaix, but it does have a very impressive bridge.
No sign of the sun since we arrived on the north coast, so my impression is of a very bleak and dark area.  However, there are giant exotic plants growing in many gardens, and even wild by the roadside, so I think we have just been unlucky this time.