A ‘Rail Ale Trail’, Bury, Greater Manchester

We recently enjoyed a great visit to Bury (named after the Saxon word for “a stronghold”) in Greater Manchester.  Here’s a brief history of the town.

We stayed at  Burrs Country Park Caravan Club Site on a serviced pitch (No. 89), and were pretty impressed with every aspect of our stay from the location, site facilities and pitch size to the numerous activities, things to do and eateries/pubs in the area.   There’s a Cluster Sculpture Trail to explore, and the River Irwell passes the entrance to the Country Park.

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We had pre-booked our stay some time ago, having bought tickets to attend a ‘Rail Ale Journey’ – a guided day trip on a steam train along the East Lancashire Railway  from Bury.  We thoroughly enjoyed this fun, friendly and sociable day out and can definitely recommend.  We even travelled the return journey in the comfort of an old first class carriage which ended the day beautifully.

It was a good job we’d booked our camping stay in advance because the site was fully booked due to it being the weekend of a visit from the much-loved and most famous steam engine of all – The Flying Scotsman 😮.

As further luck would have it, we managed to bag a pitch backing directly up to the railway line allowing us to watch The Flying Scotsman, the Witherslack Hall and the City of Wells steam locomotives as they chugged past Jolly 🚂.🚂🚂.

There’s a railway station at the site, making the railway easily accessible right from your doorstep.

There’s something mesmerising about the sight and sound of steam locomotives and it was a treat to see them up close.   These 2 videos were taken from our pitch:-

 

 

We’ll let the photos tell the story of the rest of our weekend.

 

For food and drink we visited the onsite pub, The Brown Cow, which was busy, buzzing, and great for a pint but we didn’t eat here so can’t comment.  Just a little further out from the site on the road towards town is another pub called The Garsdale Country Inn.  This was also good for a drink but the food was just ok, nothing special at all so we probably wouldn’t bother eating there again.

We found a lovely Indian Restaurant in town and can recommend it.  Excellent food and very good value too – The Jewel in the Crown.

We hadn’t actually realised just how much there is to do in Bury, and will definitely be re-visiting in the future.   Next time we’ll probably take the bikes and explore further afield.

ONWARD!

Suzie & Bri

Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria

Well, we’ve just parked Jolly back up in storage after a weekend break near Broughton in Furness, a small market town on the South West border of the Lake District National Park in Cumbria.

We stayed at Upper Hawthwaite Caravan Park, a C&MC adult-only CL site on a working farm.  It’s approx. 1.5 miles outside Broughton-in-Furness and about a mile in the other direction from the village of Broughton Mills.

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This is a small, quiet site of 5 hard standing pitches backing onto fields with sweeping views of the surrounding Dunnerdale Fells and Duddon Valley.  Being a working farm, there are many different farming machines, etc. around but we heard no noise during our stay.  We only met one of the owners briefly on arrival when he came to collect payment.

The facilities are perfectly adequate, close by to each other and spotlessly clean.

The weather was far from that which we had come to expect after a summer of endless sunshine.  That said, the beauty of Cumbria and the Lakes is never diminished by a spot of rain.  Well we say spot, but at times the heavens absolutely opened although thankfully this was through the nights with days remaining mostly dry.

For our first evening we walked the mile from site along a winding ‘B’ road to the village of Broughton Mills and the beautifully traditional Lakeland inn called The Blacksmiths Arms.

We had pre-booked a table which is essential as it’s definitely the place to go in this area and therefore gets very busy.  The bar area is small and intimate giving it a friendly, social feel.  They serve a good selection of real ales and high quality home-cooked food.  This has to be one of our favourite pubs we’ve been to recently.  We highly recommend you visit it if in the area!

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Overnight, we were rocked to sleep in Jolly due to high winds blowing down through the valley and across the site which is quite exposed.  These winds had died down by lunch time the next day so, after a late breakfast and a lazy morning, we jumped on our bikes to cycle into Broughton.

It was all downhill towards the town so we knew the homeward trip would demand much more pedal power.  We also experienced a hairy moment when a motorist came flying up the hill around a blind bend onto our side of the road and nearly took us out, swerving at the last minute 😱.  We saw the whites of her 👀 and if she looked in her rear view mirror she’ll have seen the flicking of Suzie’s two fingers!! ✌🏻🤬.

Anyway, we survived and cycled on into the centre of Broughton in Furness, parking up in the pretty Georgian market square where there’s an obelisk which has stood there since 1810, erected to commemorate the 50th year of the reign of King George III.  This is the main focal point of the town.  By the obelisk is a set of stocks and a couple of market fish slabs, and across the road is the Tourist Information Centre located in the old market hall.

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As it was a dry and warm day we decided to ride out a little further on the bikes, following a short cycle/walking route we’d found online (approx. 4 miles).  The first part follows a renovated stretch of the old Coniston Railway track which once carried slate and copper ore from the mines at Coniston to the coast.

At the beginning of the ride we passed a cute little community vegetable patch with a sign inviting locals to pick and/or plant whatever they wished.

Further along we arrived at a small tarn with a wooden bench where we walked quietly up to a flock of ducks sleeping.  It was very peaceful sight so we sat there for a while before the ducks were woken by some dog walkers.

They were all standing on one leg (the ducks not the dog walkers).  They do this to conserve heat via an adaptation called ‘rete mirabile’ (Latin for ‘wonderful net’).  Their arteries carrying warm blood to the legs lie in contact with the veins carrying cold blood to the heart, helping them to maintain body temperature (Nature lesson over 🤓).

It was a gradual incline to the end of the renovated stretch of old railway line, when we then followed a narrower track to the right which took us down to Five Arches Road,  sadly the five arches bridge no longer exists.  We followed the rest of the route along lanes & tracks before completing the circular route back into town.

We finished off with a little detour along Foxfield Road to visit ‘Donkey Rock’, aka Eccle Riggs Bank Quarry.  It’s easy to miss the entrance and just shoot past but it’s a site of geological interest and well worth a peek.

The quarry wall is over 400 million years old, and once part of a Silurian sea bed.  It was pushed into the vertical position we see today by earth movements.  That’s as much as we understand anyway!

To finish our afternoon wanderings off, we stopped off for a couple of drinks in town.  There are 3 pubs within the centre, the Black Cock Inn, the Old Kings Head and the Manor Arms

For us, the most interesting and characterful by far is the 17th Century Manor Arms freehouse, which offers a good selection of real ales.  It doesn’t do food.   The pub to eat in seemed to be the Old Kings Head which has been refurbished and is very modern.  The Black Cock Inn also serves food.

There’s a restaurant called Beswicks Langholme House but we weren’t sure whether this has now closed, and The Square Cafe both within the market square.

Here’s a list of eateries in the area.

However, we’d decided to cook our own meal back on Jolly that evening.  So we called into the village bakery (also a cafe), Butchers/grocers to collect our ingredients.

We knew the cycling back up to site would take more effort than it had coming down.  So we got our heads down to cycle & push (well it is called a push bike!) in equal measure.

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Once we got back we could chill out and enjoy the rest of our evening.  We actually timed our return well because within half an hour or so the rains and mist had set in.

We fired up the Lotus Grill and slapped on two very succulent fillet steaks to sizzle away while the mist descended upon the hills around us.

It was like a scene from that film, ‘Grillers in the Mist’ …. (sorry!) 🦍

We boiled some new potatoes and green beans inside on Jolly to accompany our meaty feast.   Mmm, mmmmm, it was delicious.

A great way to end our stay 😊.

Next morning we drove through the misty valley back home.  We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend and in a strange way it was nice to have different weather this time around.  It all adds to the experience.

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ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

Hesket Newmarket, Lake District, Cumbria

We recently spent a weekend up in the Northern edge of the Lake District or, as the locals call it, the ‘Back O’ Skidda’.

Our journey up was smooth without any hold-ups.  The weather was changeable, driving through drizzle and low cloud over the southern lakes then finally being greeted with sunshine on arrival at our destination.  Result! 😎

We stayed at Riverside Tourer Park in the hamlet of Millhouse, just a couple of miles outside the small village of Hesket Newmarket

It’s an open all year, adult-only site which suited us well during the busy school summer holidays.  There are both CL pitches for C&MC members and another section called ‘Millrace’ which we had pre-booked onto as the CL had already been booked up.

We’d originally booked for the previous weekend but had changed our plans and must say that the owners were very flexible with our request to move our stay.  Big 👍 for that.

On arrival there’s a ‘New Arrivals’ board by the gate which had our name on and a pre-allocated pitch number.   So we filled Jolly up and made our way to our pitch which was clearly marked with a reserved sign.

We were allocated Pitch 9 which was perfect for us in a quiet corner down by the riverside.   All pitches are a generous size, separated by mature hedges for added privacy and most, if not all, are hard standing.

The site appeared to be run very efficiently.  We didn’t actually meet the owners – maybe next time.  There was no need to though, having paid upfront by PayPal and just following the instructions on arrival.

We found it to be a wonderfully quirky site in some ways, especially the toilets, showers and the variety of piping gear provided to fit any type of waste outlet imaginable! 😀.

 

Once pitched up we had a cuppa and a chill out for a while.  The site was almost full but quiet.  Normally you’d have the sound of the River Caldew which runs alongside the site, but it was very low, little more than a trickle after the prolonged period of hot, dry weather we’ve had.

The River Caldew runs through Millhouse from it’s origin at Skiddaw, down through the nearby fells at Caldbeck and onwards to Carlisle where it joins the River Eden.

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During our stay we cycled around the local area, visiting the villages of Hesket Newmarket and Caldbeck.

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The first evening we ate at the 18th Century Old Crown Inn in Hesket Newmarket, Britain’s first co-operatively owned pub with its own brewery next door (Hesket Market Brewery).  The co-operative model of ownership of this pub has enabled it to retain a real community friendly feel.  We enjoyed a couple of excellent ales (particularly enjoyed the Skiddaw) and some good pub grub there that night.

Prince Charles has visited twice.  Yes, twice.  ‘Nuff said about this great little pub! 🍻 👑

The next day we cycled from the campsite back through Hesket Newmarket and on towards the larger village of Caldbeck.  Here we visited Priests Mill – a restored old water mill which was originally built by a Rector of the church next door.  It now houses the Watermill Cafe and gift shops.

After a wander around the mill area and a cuppa and cheeky slice of cake at the cafe, we headed towards the 12th Century St Kentigern’s Church.  We took a walk around the churchyard where the famous Huntsman, John Peel is buried, and went inside to write a message in the prayer book for a recently deceased friend 🙏.

By the riverside to the rear of the church you can see St Mungo’s/St Kentigern’s Well.   This Well was made holy by St Kentigern for early Christian baptisms.

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We finished the afternoon off with a short stroll from the village car park up to The Howk, a limestone gorge and waterfall.  This natural gorge has been called ‘Fairy Kettle’ and ‘Fairy Kirk’.

It’s a pretty riverside trail and although the water levels were low and the waterfall wasn’t thundering, it was still quite an impressive sight and sound.  There is a section of very steep stone steps at the waterfall.

Before reaching The Howk, you walk through the ruins of an Old Bobbin Mill.

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After our leisurely exploration of Caldbeck, we finished our day off with drinks and a meal at the Oddfellows Arms before cycling back to camp, calling in again at The Old Crown on the way.  The Old Crown was definitely our favourite of the 2 pubs.

And that was it, another adventure over so quickly!  Oh well, there’s always another just around the corner 🙂

ONWARD!>>>> 🚐

Suzie & Bri

Garlic Farm, Red Squirrel Trail & Sandown, Isle of Wight

Our final day in this area of the Island was spent on our bikes again. This time we cycled just 1.5 miles to the nearby Garlic Farm and shop. It was an interesting visit for garlic lovers and we left safe in the knowledge that we can put garlic in pretty much anything.  In fact somebody tell Peter Kay – garlic beer, it’s the future, we’ve tasted it! 🍻

https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk/

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We then cycled back on ourselves to Landbridge where we joined the ‘Red Squirrel Cycle Trail’ to take us the four miles or so down to Sandown.  It’s a cycle path created over an old railway line so it’s pretty flat for the most part.  The whole trail runs for approx. 23 miles through the countryside from East Cowes down to Sandown.  We look forward to completing the rest of this trail on our next visit to the island.

http://redsquirreltrail.org.uk/the-trail/

Once in Sandown we enjoyed a delicious crab sandwich at The Beach Shack Bar on the Western Esplanade as we soaked up the sun and views, just watching the world go by for a while before riding further along the front to Yaverland.

https://beachshackbar.co.uk/

The beach at Yaverland is considered to be one of the best on the island and is very popular with water sport enthusiasts.

https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/things-to-do/yaverland-beach-p970111

It turned out to be another glorious sunshiny day.  Absolutely perfect for cycling.  Once off the trail there were a few challenging hills but it was always worth the effort.   There are lots of cycle hire shops hiring out electric bikes for those who might prefer an easier cycling experience on what is known as ‘Bicycle Island’.

By early evening, after a day generally exploring Sandown, we returned.  We rode/walked up the hill back into Newchurch, stopped for a flyer in the Pointer Inn, and then got back to site.  We’d timed it well as the fish n chip van was parked up on site (it visits twice a week), so we ordered our chippy tea, set the table back at Jolly and enjoyed our well earned supper as we watched the sun set.

Sunset over Southland Caravan and Motorhome Club Site

 

Here’s a very short snippet-of-a-video taken along part of the Cycle Trail and on Sandown beach …

The next morning we packed up, waved goodbye to Newchurch, and headed off to Freshwater on the north part the island for the second half of our stay.   Already though, we had fallen in love with the Isle of Wight.

ONWARD!>>>> 🚐

Suzie & Bri

Shanklin, Shanklin Old Village and Shanklin Chine, Isle of Wight

On our second day at Southland C&MC Site we visited Shanklin, Shanklin Chine and Shanklin Old Village about 4.5 miles away. We travelled there by taxi then walked around the different areas.

http://www.isleofwightattractions.co.uk/ShanklinOldVillage1.htm

Beginning at the Old Village, we walked down through Shanklin Chine (which, incidentally, brings you out at a quaint old Inn called the Fisherman’s Inn which turned out to be the pub we’d been chasing the day before! Hurrah! we thought … but it was closed 🙄).   Clearly not meant to be! 😄

The Chine is a lovely natural leafy gorge and the island’s oldest attraction.  It’s enchanting to stroll through, with a waterfall and nature galore.  It brought us out down at the beach below, although obviously you can do the route in reverse.  We paid £4.60 each entry fee + gift aid.

https://www.shanklinchine.co.uk/

After spending time on the beach taking photos and watching the waves crashing in for a while, we walked a little further along the prom into and around Shanklin.

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http://www.visitshanklin.co.uk/

Afterwards we rode the old cliff lift back up and walked the scenic coastal path back into Shanklin Old Village where we enjoyed a delicious meal at the thatched Old Village Inn before getting a taxi back to site.

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https://isleofwight.com/item/village-inn-shanklin-isle-of-wight/

Another day gone in flash.  The next day we were getting back on our bikes to visit Sandown.

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

Newchurch, The Donkey Sanctuary & Ventnor, Isle of Wight

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We arrived at Southland C&MC Site just outside the village of Newchurch in the Arreton Valley area.  It’s located on the more popular (tourist-wise) South East-ish side of the island, and we deemed it an ideal base for exploring places such as Sandown, Shanklin, and Ventnor.

Newchurch itself (just a couple of mins away by push bike) has a very nice inn, The Pointer Inn, where we had pre-booked a table for our first evening.  We found this to be our favourite pub over the other nearby one, The Fighting Cocks which is a mile away.  The Fighting Cocks is a very popular pub for families though.

http://www.pointernewchurch.co.uk/

http://www.thefightingcocksiow.co.uk/

Southland C&MC Site is beautifully kept and well laid out, offering many pitches, grass or hardstanding and some are serviced.  The wardens were extremely welcoming, friendly and helpful re local information and there’s also an info hut worth perusing.  The facilities looked well up to the club standards you’d expect but as usual we used our own.

On the day of our arrival, we were spoilt for choice of vacant pitches as many people seemed to have left that morning (nothing to do with our arrival!).  We pitched up on pitch 178, a hard standing pitch with a small privacy hedge to the side.  It offered great all day sunshine too.  All pitches are a generous size though and finding something to suit whatever preferences you have isn’t difficult.

It was a blisteringly hot day on arrival and so, after a long journey, we just pitched up and enjoyed a few hours sitting in the sunshine with a glass of bubbly watching buzzards flying overhead.

After lounging we hopped on the bikes and cycled to The Pointer Inn for dinner.

Next day, we decided to hop on our bikes and cycle 6 miles to the old Victorian seaside resort of Ventnor.

https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/explore/towns/ventnor

On our way we called in at the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary at Lower Winstone Farm in Wroxall.

https://www.iowdonkeysanctuary.org/

We spent an hour or so there meeting the donkeys and also a few Shetland ponies.  This Sanctuary does amazing work and is totally reliant on charity so although its free to enter, donations are desperately needed.  You can also contribute by adopting a donkey.  We left our donations and had a coffee in the cafe during our wander around.  Please pop in if in the area, its well worth a visit to meet these wonderful animals.

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Afterwards, we climbed back on our bikes and cycled the hilly roads towards Ventnor.  While cycling along, Suzie spotted 2 snakes writhing around by the roadside (this significantly increased our pace up the hill).

Upon Google investigation later on, however, it turns out that they were more than likely slow worms, a type of legless lizard (Latin name Anguis Fragilis).  We weren’t at all keen on this encounter (Latin term Maximus Scaredycatus).

A slow worm like the two seen

Ventnor was worth the effort.  We finished off by pushing the bikes down some of the steeper sections towards the beach.  As you arrive down the long and winding road, the Spyglass Inn comes into view.  The location of this inn is superb as it’s right on the rocks overlooking the bay with the sound of waves crashing and sea views as far as the eye can see.  For us though, the best find had to be the Crab & Lobster Tap on Grove Road which we discovered as we started our ascent from the bay.   It is purportedly the oldest Inn on the whole of the Isle of Wight, holding the oldest licence.

http://thespyglass.com/

http://crabandlobstertapventnor.co.uk/

After having spent a couple of hours taking in this pretty resort we began our climb out.  Our plan was to head to a pub called the Bonchurch Inn for tea on the way back to site.  We’d read about it on another online blog.  Unfortunately, unbeknown to us at the time, the photo that had been used on the blog was of a completely different inn in a different resort.  And so began our wild goose chase.   An uphill wild goose chase.  It was challenging and became more of a walk than a bike ride as we just seemed to climb and climb and climb and … you get the picture.

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While we’re sure it was a nice enough place, the pizza takeaway restaurant wasn’t  the beachside, thatched, historical inn we were after.  Our Bonchurch detour wasn’t without interest though.  We passed a charming, tiny, medieval church – St Boniface Old Church.

https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/things-to-do/st-boniface-old-church-p1069521

We also came across a grand looking house with a blue plaque dedicated to Henry De Vere Stacpoole.  We’d never heard of him but another Google investigation informed us that he was an Irish ship doctor turned poet and author who managed to live comfortably in later life off the success of his romance novel ‘The Blue Lagoon’ which was adapted into film.

So there you go, at least the afternoon was educational!

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Following our history lesson and now 6.5 miles from site, we rang for a taxi to collect us and our bikes.  This was a first for us but absolutely the right decision because our taxi journey home was ALL uphill.  We must’ve covered more area than we thought during the day.   We slept very well that night 😴😴 ready for more exploring the next day.

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

Welltrough Hall Farm, Lower Withington, Cheshire

Last weekend we visited what we found to be a top rate CL site.  It was at Welltrough Hall Farm in Lower Withington, Cheshire.

This is an adults-only site which began as a 5-pitch C&MC Certified Location and has been extended to provide more pitches, all fully serviced and refreshingly spacious with hardstanding and a grassy area.  Some have wooden boundaries.  There are also grass pitches and a camping pod.

The original 5 pitches have the most impressive views across open countryside, although all have open views.   However, we found a cosy corner pitch (no 13) which was located by a small pond and trees.  It provided plenty of quiet and privacy.  Although most pitches are level, pitches 10-13 definitely need levelling blocks.  We were at the top of our ramps and still slightly sloping although this was no issue to us.

Facilities provided:- elsan chemical toilet disposal point, 2 portaloo-style toilets, showers (and one for doggies), washer/dryer, information hut, a farm walk and also a well signed walk through 2 fields to the local Red Lion Pub in the village of Lower Withington, about half a mile away.

We visited the Red Lion on our first evening for a chilled couple of drinks & game of cards in the bar area before moving into the dining area to eat later.  It was lovely food.  Would definitely recommend 😊

On site, our pitch provided a clear view of the impressive local landmark that is the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank.  This is just 2.7 miles from site.

Lovell Telescope in distance

We visited Jodrell Bank the next day while out and about exploring the area on our bikes.  We spent a pleasant 1-2 hours there which was plenty of time for what we wanted to see.  It was a perfect winter’s day with sunshine but VERY cold.  It was pleasant walking around outside and seeing the Lovell Telescope up close.  We also caught a film (on continuous play) in the film pod indoors.  This gave an interesting, detailed insight into the history and current role of the telescope in space research. There are several other interactive and informative displays inside and a couple of cafes.  It’s definitely a worthwhile visit if in the area.

Tickets were £8 per adult (£7.30 without gift aid) but we saved 10% booking online in advance.  It’s also worth noting there’s work ongoing on the car park at present.  This didn’t affect us being on bikes but car parking spaces were reduced.

Other villages we cycled through during our day out included the old farming village of Goostrey, Twemlow Green and Swettenham.  We had planned on calling into The Yellow Broom for refreshments but it was closed when we arrived so we headed another 3 miles or so through Kermincham and into Swettenham.  It was worth the often-uphill effort because we found a fine country inn, purportedly haunted, called The Swettenham Arms.   It’s easy to cycle past as it’s tucked away to the rear of St Peter’s Church.

After re-fuelling with well-earned fodder, we headed back by just the lights on our bikes to site.

A great day and top weekend.   Roll on the next one!

Chatty Chappy

A chatty blue tit chirped “Cheerio!” as we left

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

An Autumnal Coniston, Lake District

This month we returned to Coniston in the Lake District.  It’s definitely one of our favourites, not only because of the beauty of the area but because it was the destination for our maiden Jolly adventure back in March, 2014.   We’ve been here three times now in Jolly – see previous blog posts by searching ‘Coniston’.

As per previous visits, we pitched up at Coniston Park Coppice Caravan Club Site

Jolly doing his best Elvis impression – I’m all hooked up ooh hoo hoo, ooh hoo, yeah yeahhhh …

It’s a huge site of 228 touring pitches, some tent pitches and there are now some camping pods named after Coniston’s famous speedster son, Donald Campbell, and a few luxury chalets.  The site’s open all year round but out of season only the top end remains open.  During our visit the whole site was still open, a first for us and we really got a feel of the size of the site.  There are pitches to suit everyone, well spaced too.

We find this site ideally located between Coniston itself and the small village of Torver which we like to visit on our first evening there.  We’ve had some good times at the Wilsons Arms  with its warm open fire, friendly welcome, good beer, great food and relaxing ambience.  Perfect.

 

There’s another pub in Torver, the Church House Inn which is equally nice and also has a 5-pitch caravan/motorhome site to the rear.  Facilities provided are: a toilet and shower block and water supply.  Prices for Caravan Club members start at £10 per night. We didn’t call in this time though as it was shut on the Friday night which was unusual.  Maybe they’d heard we were coming?

This was our first visit to Coniston in Autumn and what a stunning show of autumnal hues we were treated to.  The weather was wet and there was already quite a lot of surface water before we arrived.  Never ones to allow a bit of rain and mud to stop us though, we had a great time … and plenty of mud-caked laundry on our return.

 

A great weekend.  Not sure where we’re off to next just yet.

Oh, nearly forgot, Ed Sheeran works at The Ship Inn, Coniston where we ate on our last evening following a day out on the bikes around the local area …

Cheeky little photo with Ed!

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

Chirk, North Wales

Last weekend Jolly took us to Chirk, a small town in North Wales between Wrexham and Oswestry.

We stayed at Lady Margaret’s C&M Club Site which is beautifully situated in woodland.  The site offers good sized pitches to suit all preferences, be it the shade and privacy of trees or open grassy areas.  We loved this site and the location, it’s pretty with a sense of space, and the sun shone too which always shows a place at its best.  We had noted some comments on the site reviews about facilities needing upgrading but we can’t comment on the showers because we used Jolly’s onboard shower as we always do. However, we used the toilets which were fine and spotlessly clean.

The wardens were very welcoming, smiling, chatty and laid back despite always being busy with a steady flow of arrivals and departures.

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The site is located beside Chirk Castle, a grade I listed 13th Century fortress built during the reign of Edward I.  It was sold to the Myddelton family at the end of the 16th Century and descendants of this family still live in part of the Castle today.  You can just lose yourself wandering through the grounds, admiring the ornamental statues, or join a guided tour of the state rooms, and visit the tea room and shop.

There’s a striking entrance to the Castle in the form of intricate ornate white wrought iron gates, bearing the Myddelton Coat of Arms.  Dated 1719, they’re the work of local brothers, Robert & John Davies.  We stopped a while at these gates to admire the intricate detail of the work on them.

Ornate gates at Chirk Castle

The gates bear the ‘Red hand of Chirk’.  A tale of how this symbol came about relates to a Lord Myddelton issuing a challenge to his twin sons as he lay on his death bed.  Chirk Castle was to be passed to his eldest child but he was unsure which son had been born first.  The sons had to race on horseback around the estate, the winner being the one who returned first to touch his father’s deathbed, thereby inheriting the estate.

Legend has it that as the feuding sons returned neck-and-neck running towards the chamber, one of the sons tripped.  Fearing he would lose the race and the inheritance, he drew his sword, sliced off his own hand and threw the bloody thing(!) onto his father’s bed thereby claiming his right to the inheritance.

Lucky that he had his sword ‘handy’ wasn’t it …

We noticed this symbol in places throughout Chirk as we wandered around the town on our first afternoon.  It’s about a half hour walk from site but we rode our bikes down.  We ate later on at a café/restaurant on the main street, called ‘The Castle Bistro’.  It’s a delightful, cosy bistro with a friendly atmosphere. We enjoyed some very tasty, well presented food washed down with a cheeky bottle of rosé wine.  Mmmm.

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The Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union Canal runs through Chirk and we got out on the bikes the next day to enjoy a scenic bike ride and a little photography along the canal towpath from Chirk Railway Station, over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and into Trevor Basin (NCN route 84) where there’s a Visitor Centre.

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The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the tallest aqueduct in the world, with its 18 arches it stands at 38 metres (126 feet high) and was built between 1795-1805.  It’s recognised as being the first great masterpiece of Civil Engineer, Thomas Telford.  We walked our bikes across as you can’t cycle it, and the pathway is quite narrow with just enough room for people to pass by.  It’s quite an experience to cross it, especially if you aren’t too keen on heights.  You can take a narrow-boat ride across if you prefer.

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We stopped for a wander around Trevor Basin, and ate lunch at the Telford Inn there.  This building was initially called Scotch House, and the name is still visible in the glass above the doorway.  The house was used by the Supervisor of the construction of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, and sometimes by Thomas Telford too.  The building was converted into a pub from a private dwelling in 1981.  We had a lunch snack here and a nice pint of Telford Tipple outside in the beer garden overlooking the canal.

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Afterwards we took NCN route 85 along the canal towpath into Llangollen, stopping off briefly for a swift one at The Sun, Trevor .  When we arrived in Llangollen we noticed it was very popular with visitors and no shortage of shops, pubs and restaurants.  It’s definitely somewhere to return to on a future Jolly adventure.  As it was, we had only called in to check it out and didn’t have a great deal of time to explore it much.

We cycled over Llangollen bridge to grab a pint at the Corn Mill an old mill turned modern bar/restaurant which has still managed to maintain a lot of its original features including the water wheel that turns behind the bar.  From the outside decking area, we watched the white waters of the River Dee and were lucky to see a steam engine departing from the station across the water.

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We then re-joined the canal towpath for our return ride back to Chirk.  In all, throughout the day, we probably cycled a leisurely 19-20 miles and had cycled up an appetite so we decided on tea at the Chirk Tandoori in town.  Not before Bri got pooped on by a bird outside the Hand Hotel though *snigger* 😮

Even early evening the Chirk Tandoori was full and clearly a popular place with locals.  The food and service was great and it was like travelling back in time as Indian restaurants go – we even got a carnation on leaving!  Lovely.

With that, another Jolly jaunt came to a close and the following morning the journey home flowed nicely, no hold-ups.  Next adventure will probably be Cumbria way.

In the meantime, I need to get to the gym after all that lovely fodder and before the next adventure! 😊

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

Overwater Marina, Audlem, Cheshire

We booked this two-nighter last year as we thought it looked a pretty one.  Our destination was the village of Audlem on the South Cheshire border with Shropshire.  The village is situated alongside the Shropshire Union Canal which starts in Wolverhampton in The Midlands, running northwards towards Cheshire, the River Mersey and Ellesmere Port.

The Audlem stretch of the canal is famous for its 15 locks, designed by Thomas Telford to raise the canal up to the Shropshire Plain from the lower Cheshire Plain.  These locks cover a distance of approx. a mile and a half.

We stayed at Overwater Marina just outside Audlem.

http://www.overwatermarina.co.uk/caravans/site-information.html

We had booked a pitch in the Caravan & Motorhome Club 5-pitch CL area (£15 per night with EHU).  They are attractively laid out, spacious, hard-standing pitches with a separate grassed area and picnic table.

On arrival we were informed that we had been allocated pitch number 3 but it was immediately clear that somebody else was already pitched there.   Staff expressed surprise that it was already occupied and then told us that somebody must have either overstayed their occupancy or pitched in the wrong place.  They didn’t really know and to be honest didn’t seem that bothered.  In fact, even when the pitch later became available nobody bothered to tell us.  So, a shambles is the best way to describe check-in to be honest!

Oh well, we found ourselves a pitch on the new section of 10 hard-standings.   Not as pretty but functional and serviced which was a positive.  Facilities were good.

We spent the first afternoon and evening around Jolly just having an end of week wind-down and chill out before an early night in preparation for the next day exploring the area.  We woke to blazing sunshine and had again struck lucky with the weather.  That’s 3 breaks in a row of sunshine.  Hope this run of luck lasts 🙏😎

We began the day with a breakfast at the on site ‘Cafe at Bridge 80’.  The food was good and set us up for the day.  We then rode our bikes along the canal towpath into Audlem.  It would be about a 20-25 minute walk or there’s the option of taking the ‘Audlem Lass’, a canal boat taxi, which runs between the marina and the village.

http://www.audlemlass.co.uk/

It’s a really beautiful walk/cycle/boat ride, whichever you choose.  Very scenic and part of what is considered to be one of the prettiest walks in lowland England.

On arrival in Audlem, we stopped for a swiftie 🍻 at the Shroppie Fly pub, situated by a lock on the canal.

http://www.shroppiefly.com/home-5863.html

While sitting in the sunshine we decided to change our original plan which had been to visit Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker (not so secret, there are signs everywhere!) in Nantwich, a further 3 miles down the towpath.  It was just too nice a day to be spent in an underground bunker.  We got chatting to a local who said the bunker is definitely worth a visit at some point though and is quite an eerie experience.  It gives us a good reason to re-visit this beautiful area another time.

Hack Green (not so) Secret Nuclear Bunker

http://www.hackgreen.co.uk/

Audlem has an interesting history and a lot to offer for a village.

http://www.audlem.org/features/tourism-heritage.html

There is also a busy calendar of events happening in and around the area throughout the year worth bearing in mind if planning a visit.  A local particularly recommended the Music & Arts Festival and Beer Festival for a great atmosphere.  There’s a list of events here:-

http://www.audlem.org/whatson/village-events-2016.html

Free parking in the village and some lovely shops including the ‘Lllovely Chocolate Shop’.  No shortage of good eating and drinking establishments including three pubs – The Shroppie Fly, Bridge Inn just around the corner from the Shroppie, and further along the main road from there is the Lord Combermere at the centre of the village.

At the end of our day’s wanderings we ate back at the Shroppie Fly where we got talking to a lovely & interesting coupe who owned a narrow boat ‘Layla’ and loved to travel –

Hello, if you’re reading this Ann & ? sorry we didn’t manage to call in for a nightcap but we had probably had enough by then and at least we didn’t interrupt your football match viewing! 😉   

The food at the Shroppie was great and so was the atmosphere.

With full bellies we cycled the towpath back to camp at the end of a thoroughly enjoyable day.  Definitely a visit we’d recommend and repeat.  A big thumbs up!

This year has been a great one so far both weather-wise and destination-wise, and we’re still only in Spring.  Loving it!  Bring on the next adventure.

ONWARD!>>>> 🚐

Suzie & Bri