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Saturday, 9 October 2021

Soft rye bread rolls

I visited my Godmother yesterday and she treated me to some banana muffins, which she had baked using the recipe I'd put on here a couple of years ago. So that encouraged me that people do actually read this and some people even find odd bits of it useful. Also, I have to say, the muffins were delicious!

So today, whilst Neil is at his mum's house, painting doors, I'm having a baking and cleaning day... with a fair bit of relaxing in between. I'm starting with bread. I just love home-baked bread and my favourites are these rye bread rolls. They are soft and are great for packed lunches, bacon sandwiches, as a dipper for soup... you name it... perfect!

This recipe makes 12 decent sized rolls.

Ingredients

400g strong white flour
350g dark rye flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp easy blend yeast
6 tbsp rapeseed oil
450ml warm water

Equipment

  • In an ideal world, a Neff oven with retractable door, a proving setting and a large baking tray that works like an oven shelf. If you haven't got this, you're gonna have to improvise a bit, and use what you've got.
  • Greaseproof paper, cut or neatly torn to the size of your baking tray.
  • Stand mixer with dough hook.
  • A cloth napkin.
  • The plastic lid from your last takeaway (washed... obviously) and coated quite liberally with oil.

Method

  1. Turn the oven onto the proving setting (40oC).

    Photo of oven setting showing dough proving at 40 degrees C.

  2. Sieve the flour into the mixer bowl. Hold the sieve as high as you can to get lots of air in but if you've got a tremor (like me) it more important to get the flour in the bowl and lose a bit of air.
  3. Add the salt, sugar and yeast and mix all the dry ingredients together well.

    Bowl of the dry ingredients that have been mixed well.

  4. Make a well in the middle and add the oil.

    Bowl of dry ingredients with oil in the well in the middle.

  5. Add the warm water.

    Bowl of ingredients with the water added. It looks like someone has weed in it because of the oil.

  6. Put the bowl on the stand and mix on a slow setting first, before turning up to whatever your max dough hook setting is. I start on 1 and increase to 4. Let the mixer do its work for about 5 minutes.

    The bowl of ingredients sitting on the stand with a dough hook in them.

  7. Meanwhile, find another biggish bowl, preferable something ovenproof but the oven isn't going to be that hot, so don't stress if you've only got plastic. Pour a tiny bit of oil in and use your hands to rub it all around the bowl.

    Empty earthenware bowl with a drop of oil in the bottom.

  8. When the dough has all come together and is a little bit sticky but looks like dough, transfer it into the oiled bowl.

    Large portion of dough in the earthenware bowl.

  9. Cover the bowl with the napkin (I used to use a tea towel but it overhangs the bowl too much and touches the sides of the oven) and put the bowl on a low shelf to prove. It should take about 45 mins to double in size. If you are letting it prove in a warm room, it will take a fair bit longer. Wait until it has doubled in size and smells immense!

    Napkin covered bowl in the oven.
    Before


    Same bowl with the napkin pulled back to reveal that the dough has doubled in size.
    After

  10. Pour a bit of oil on your work surface and rub it around with your hand. 
  11. Transfer the dough onto the work surface and punch it back.

    Risen dough on an oiled work surface.

  12. Break or cut off 105g portions. Weigh them on the takeaway lid on your scales so that all the rolls end up the right size and will fit on your tray.

    A ripped off piece of dough on a plastic lid on the scales, weighing 105g.

  13. Knead the 105g portion a little and then roll it in your hands to form a nice roll shape. 
  14. Put the rolls on the lined baking tray in a 4 x 3 layout. They will rise again and touch each other but this is fine... commendable even.

    Twelve equally sized rolls laid out on a baking tray. There are good sized gaps between them.

  15. Put the tray in the oven to prove for about 30 minutes. The rolls should be a good size now.

    The same twelve rolls but well risen so they are now touching each other.

  16. Take the tray out of the oven and preheat the oven to 180oC fan.
  17. Lightly dust the rolls with flour.

    The same twelve rolls but now they have a sprinkling of white flour over them.

  18. Bake the rolls for about 25 minutes. They should be nicely browning when they are done and should look like edible bread rolls. You can pull one off and turn it over to check if they are done. When you tap the bottom with your finger, it should sound hollow. Or, if you trust your oven and the recipe, you don't need to check.
  19. Leave the rolls on the tray to cool, covered with the aforementioned napkin. I usually put the tray on a wooden board so that it doesn't burn anything.
  20. When they are still warm but have cooled a bit, pull them apart and eat them all.
Tray of twleve freshly baked rolls.

Close up of four rolls, showing a beautifully textured surface.

Close up of nine rolls, showing the warm brown glow and floury surface.

If you decide you can't eat them all at once (recommended actually) put the ones you don't want in freezer bags and suck the air out before tying a knot in the bag. These can be frozen and defrosted when you want them. 

The warm rolls are delicious, cut in half, buttered and lathered with honey. I also like them filled with mashed banana, or cheese and marmite, or bacon and mushrooms. Neil likes them with corned beef and cucumber.

Why don't you make a batch and let me know your favourite filling. 

Monday, 27 September 2021

The social model of disability

I may have mentioned this before. The social model states that a person isn't disabled by their medical condition, their body, their impairment or any difference in the way they have to do things. They are disabled by the barriers, attitudes, lack of adjustments, etc in society.

Waleswood

At the end of August, Liggy and I set out on our own and spent a few nights camping in the motorhome at Waleswood, near Rother Valley Country Park. Although I was initially nervous about the whole camping alone idea, it was something I wanted to be able to do and felt it should be possible. I chose Waleswood because it had awesome reviews, especially from disabled people. 

Everything about the site had been thought about from an accessibility perspective. I could even empty the toilet myself... something I can rarely contemplate. 

So I got settled, forgot I'm supposed to be disabled and just got on with life... using my wheelchair/mountain trike and with Liggy at my side... but not disabled. I could do everything I needed or wanted to do. 

Nice!

Teversal

Yesterday, we got back from a weekend camping in Teversal. It was a club site, so I expected it to be accessible. The woods and nature reserve opposite looked to be completely accessible. I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend... and then decided I'd like to stay on for a few days to work on a project that required concentration and no distractions.

I arrived there on Friday to find the entire site is pebble. I couldn't use my wheelchair at all. The front wheels just sank into the pebbles and even wheelying didn't really work. So I switched to my mountain trike. That got me around the site but I can't do precise manoevres in it. I have to disconnect the gears to go backwards. It's wider. It's designed for the open world, not shops, doorways, toilets etc.

I needed Neil to help with everything. 

Never mind, the woods and nature reserve were calling. I couldn't get in though. They must have problems with motorbikes or something, as all the entrances had barriers. They might as well have put up a huge sign saying "No crips allowed!" I felt excluded. People like me should just stay at home, out of sight and suffer quietly, so nobody else has to deal with us.

We managed to have a pleasant enough weekend and with Neil's help, eventually got in for a nice walk... but I was disabled... very disabled all weekend.

So what?

Design is rarely acciental. I'm a designer. Every aspect of design is a choice. We look at the problem and create a solution, deciding what is important and what doesn't matter. It's the same with everything.

Campsites are designed. A lot of time and money goes into layout, pitches, electrics, toilets, access for towing/long vehicles. 

Why would somebody decide to make all the roads and paths of pebbles? Okay, so pebbles are terrible for me, but I also noticed:

  • They are noisy - every person that walked or cycled or drove past could be heard. At night, it was loud enough to wake me.
  • They get kicked up by tyres and can damage vehicles.
  • They are difficult to walk on, even for non-disabled people. 
  • They hurt when a child falls over.

There are so many reasons why pebbles are not the ideal surface and yet someone made that decision. 

I wasn't the only disabled person there. I spoke to several others who were finding it difficult. I spoke to others who found accessing the woods difficult or impossible. I got the signs in my head again...

Wheelchair users only welcome with carer!

It feels like it's okay to send that message out because it's just the norm. The Waleswoods of this world are the exception, rather than the rule. Nobody is standing up, protesting, declaring the injustice of it all. It will happen. I know it will happen because once there were signs prohibiting black people, gay people, breastfeeding mums... anyone who isn't the majority. And they fought for justice. They demanded equality. One day, equality won't need to be demanded. We'll realise one day that it is the only way for society to be okay. Equality, on all levels, should be the norm.

Until then, I believe in the social model. It's not my impairment that disables me. It's the barriers and attitudes and difficulties that stop me because my way of living is different from yours.

Monday, 2 August 2021

Baking for people with allergies

My mum had a birthday this week, so yesterday, we had a family barbeque to celebrate. On the back of a pretty successful barbeque on a recent camping trip, we did the all-inclusive idea again. So we have a number of allergies in the family and the idea was, as far as possible, to make all food safe for all of us. 

But that can be quite tricky! Rewind to Saturday and the great bake-off!

The Allergies

Gluten

My dad is allergic to gluten but there are other family members who are coeliac and can't tolerate even small amounts of the stuff. The trouble is, gluten is in a lot of nice food! One of my dad's moans is that he often can't get what he fancies to eat in gluten-free and when he can, it's just not as nice.

Photo of the gluten-free recipe book - link below
I got a fantastic mother's day gift this year! My son and future daughter-in-law (who can't eat gluten) bought me this book:

How to make anything gluten free by Becky Excell

The author is gluten-intolerant and has spent her life creating recipes that are as near to the gluten equivalent as possible. From bread to cake to take aways, this book is full of fabulous recipes. So today, I'm baking two batches of bread rolls, one that I've made before and one that is a new recipe. I'm also baking a lemon drizzle cake. 


Lactose/dairy

Also dad but again, he's not alone in the family. In theory, dairy-free cooking shouldn't be too difficult. There are plenty of substitutes out there. When eating out though, the biggest issue is that most places do gluten-free and lactose-free but trying to find something on the menu that is both... well, that might leave you with just one option, which isn't really how a menu is supposed to work. 

For our family, the other problem with the dairy alternatives, is that most of them contain carotenes, and I'm allergic to them. So we basically have few options and some of them are so niche, they are difficult to get in small town supermarkets.

Soft butter: Vitalite 
Hard butter: Flora plant
Milk: Soya milk or coconut milk
Cream: Forget it! 
Double cream: Absolutely forget it!!!

Carotenes

My allergy frustrates me. I've known for many years that beta-carotene is the offender. I've never really been able to eat carrots and over the years, other foods have given me bad reactions and so we've gradually worked out that the common ingredient is beta-carotene... but basically, I now avoid all carotenes.

Having said that, until we moved to Finland, it was only a handful of veg and fruit that actually triggered an allergic response. So I couldn't eat carrot, suede, beetroot, mango, apricots... that kind of thing, but I could eat lots of other things. I don't really know what happened. Repeated exposure to carrot/suede on the 'special diets' bar at school didn't help but I suspect stress, age and some unknown factors have also played a part.

The upshot is that my allergy mutates from time to time, and things I could previously eat, I suddenly (often with dramatic effect) can't. A good example of this was kale. I'd eaten it without problems for years and then suddenly had it one day and burned up from head to toe and turned beetroot red... and now I can't eat it. It was the same with carotenes as an additive. So now, I can't eat anything that has even the smallest amount of carotenes as a colouring, e.g. margarine, most ice creams... in fact many processed goods.

The main problem with this allergy, is identifying where it might be hiding. It isn't on the list of allergens, so it is rarely in bold. It is almost never in the allergy book at restaurants. You can give a list of foods to be aware of, but the list is very long and it could also be just added as 'natural flavourings and colourings'. It is E160 with/without letters after its name, vitamin A, carotenes, or sometimes something as innocuous as pumpkin seeds. 

I can tell people I'm allergic to it and they will promise to check everything but I live with it and get it wrong. I really don't expect others to manage it with much accuracy!

Nuts

My brother and a cousin are allergic to nuts. One is more serious than the other and has resulted in a couple of facial transitions into the Elephant Man. Fortunately, neither of them have completely stared death in the face yet, but this is an allergy that gets worse with each exposure, so it's important not to get it wrong!

The bake-off

Burger buns

Metal mixing dough with a very sticky and wet bread dough in the bottom.
Last time, I made Becky Excell's brioche-style burger buns and they were quite nice but Neil found them a bit heavy going. So this time, I'm having a crack at her floured bread rolls. I made the first batch this morning, before waking Neil, so that if they were no good, we still had time to revert to plan B.
Baking tray with eight bread rolls on it. It is covered with cling film and is just starting to rise.
Once baked, I cut one in half, smeared it with butter and strawberry jam, and we had half each for breakfast. It was really nice but the middle was a little cakey. I wonder though, whether they'll be better when cool. Anyway, they were nice enough to attempt a second batch. 
Six cooked bread rolls, brown and crispy on top and lightly floured.
The thing with gluten-free bread is that the dough has to be really sticky and wet. I find it quite tricky to handle, especially with having a tremor! I keep meaning to weigh my empty bowl, so that I can work out the total weight of dough and divide the buns evenly. Today, I went for 5 oz on the first batch but only got seven rolls... then 4 oz on the second batch but the eighth was still quite small. 




Lemon drizzle cake

A wooden chopping board with 8 half lemons on it.
We tried this last week for the first time and fell in love with it. It has got a really strong lemony flavour and smell. It takes me a while to prepare, as zesting and juicing four lemons takes time. 

The cake mix itself is quite a runny, batter-like mix but it cooks up really nicely. The lemon drizzle always feels like overkill. It drowns the cake in the tin but in the end, it all soaks up, giving an insensely lemony flavour. Lovely! 

Sticky toffee puddings

Well I was going to photograph these. They are very popular though and we had to intervene to stop my 13 year old niece from eating them all up! She surrounded them with spray cream and added a whole strawberry. 

I normally make a sticky toffee sauce to go on top but the recipe requires double cream and we can't find a dairy free alternative that doesn't also have carotenes in. Jolly poor show from the cream manufacturers! Never mind though, pouring cream is nice too and there are alternatives for that!

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Tour of North Yorkshire and Northumberland - day 7

Morning

I woke this morning, to find myself in a remake of Watership Down. Bunnies everywhere!!!

Liggy is clearly making progress with the whole de-labradoring thing though, as she just looked delighted and wagged her tail and then had her wee and came back in for breakfast. No attempt to chase the bunnies at all!

We had a fairly leisurely morning before getting ready to go on a short hike.

High Force

This is a good example of enjoying what you can, in terms of access. High Force and Low Force are on the Pennine Way, popular walking routes and are set in some amazing scenery. However, in general, the paths are not wheelchair friendly. To be fair, at this time of year, there are so many nettles, they are most definitely not Nicki-friendly either... but there is a paid-for path down to High Force, which is maintained, and though still tricky, is at least doable. The only thing I wonder, is why they always use gravel for these paths. It is so slippy, even for walkers. On the way back, Neil helped push me a little, but with me also propelling, and he had to be really careful not to slip over on the gravel. Anyone pushing a transit wheelchair up there would have a really interesting time!

A dark path through the forest, with me in my wheelchair and Liggy at my side, pushing up a hill.

Liggy and I have stopped to admire the view. There is a wooden fence behind us and trees.

Anyway, having navigated the path down, which was stunning in places (and, for me, a little terrifying in places) we reached the viewing point. I took some photos while Neil took Liggy down some steps to get closer to the water. You can't go in, it's too dangerous, but you can get quite close. 

Portrait photo of High Force waterfall

Landscape photo of the waterfall

Monochrome photo of the waterfall.

The waterfall is beautiful and makes that gushing noise that is really lovely unless you need the toilet. 

It would have been nice to stay there a while but the viewing point was only just big enough for my chair and we were conscious that others would be coming down soon and it would get busy. I wanted to have as much space as possible to slalom between the scariest points on the path and certainly didn't want to risk having to pull over into the nettles to let people pass. 


Monochrome photo of Neil and Liggy climbing a steep flight of stone steps.

Phobias

At this point, I think it's worth mentioning how disabling phobias can be. For many months now, I've been in a Facebook group about needle phobia... largely full of people just like me who realised they had to get a Covid vaccination but had successfully avoided injections their entire lives. Reading their posts and knowing I'm not alone in this and being strengthened by their stories of success, really helped me to go through with my vaccinations. 

My other phobias are nettles and wasps. I can't remember the last time we had a holiday this far into summer, and to be honest, as I said at the beginning of these posts, it was never the plan. However, it is now early July and we haven't seen a single wasp all holiday. I don't know whether it is just a good year, divine protection to give me a week's break (or Neil), or just that they aren't out in force yet... but I have actually relaxed and enjoyed this holiday, which is good.

Nettles are actually my worst phobia. Obviously, they don't fly or chase you but they do sort of hide in unsuspecting places and they gather in large groups. Now, as a wheelchair user, they are often much taller than me and when it gets windy, they wave around and get all intimidating. Worst of all is when someone decided to either pick them or whack them. I think I would have maybe grown out of this phobia if it hadn't been for people picking them and using them to scare me as a child. 

I have a theory that sometimes cravings and fears, and even intense dislikes can actually be nature's way of protecting us. When I have, in the past got too close to nettles, usually in a vain attempt to overcome the fear, I've had serious allergic reactions... much worse than normal nettle rash. Plus the seeds/pollen from them trigger my hayfever and asthma quite badly. Even this week, I've had a couple of days where I had coughing attacks, related to hayfever and asthma, coincidently after being closer than I'd like to my enemies. And we all know how socially unacceptable coughing is right now! 

Anyway, if you have a phobia... something that sits there in the back of your mind, influencing every decision you make, every plan, every outing... just know you are not alone. It's rubbish! It might seem ridiculous to others but to you it is very real. Be kind to yourself and just do what you can and don't feel under pressure from others to overcome it instantly. My experience is that failure makes it worse and success certainly helps, so go at your pace and celebrate little successes. That's what I did today. I enjoyed the walk and the waterfall and, with a bit of help from Neil, I did something I thought I would never do.

NE39/21

Our journey south towards Ripon was lovely. We stopped off at another BritStop - a farm shop - just off the A66, to buy some bits and pieces for dinner, but thought how good that one would be for an overnight on the way to Scotland via Carlisle. 

Tonight's BritStop is an ice cream parlour, which was great for a mid-afternoon arrival in hot sun! I had a 2 scoop salted caramel, and rhubarb and custard ice cream tub. It was soooooo refreshing and tasty! Later, Neil went back and spent a small fortune stocking up on ice cream tubs to take home. Glad Zerubbabel has a decent sized freezer!

The place itself is on a busy road and there's nowhere to walk Liggy, but to be honest, she's had tonnes of exercise this week and there are chickens everywhere, so just practising ignoring the chickens is probably the best exercise for now.

Abrupt ending

The plan was to visit Fountain's Abbey tomorrow, however, the weather forecast is pretty wet and miserable... possibly even thunder storms, and then something happened to change our plans.

About eight in the evening, well after the ice cream place had closed, cars started arriving. At first, it looked like people were just pulling in for a rest and then leaving, but soon we realised, they were all dropping off young people, in strange dress (including fur coats... yes, all of them) and many carrying cans of beer. They were all going to the house over the road, which was gradually becoming noisy with chatter and music. 

Neil went to ask one of the new arrivals what was happening and whether we should expect a noisy night. He explained that it was an end of year party for sixth formers and he hoped it would be finished by midnight, as he was driving people home afterwards (and therefore couldn't even have a drink). We had a quick chat about the situation and decided that sleep was too important, and as tomorrow really only offered the opportunity to get soaked, and we have been to Fountain's Abbey many times before... we would call it a day, pack up and go home a night early.

Conscious that quick getaways are often the cause of mistakes... we were particularly careful to follow our leaving site checklist, to make sure we didn't forget anything. The journey home, though now quite late, was actually very pleasant and it was nice to be back in our own beds.

Liggy was extremely excited to be back home. She loves being on holiday but she is a definite home-bird and did zoomies round the garden and the living room to show how pleased she was to be back.

Tour of North Yorkshire and Northumberland - day 6

Morning

Knowing that we didn’t have far to drive, and an 11:00 entrance ticket, we took the opportunity to do a few little jobs… vacuum the motorhome out (how much hair can one dog produce?!!) and ensure that water was full to the brim and waste and toilet empty before leaving to go off grid again.

Our journey out was well planned to avoid the road closure, and it worked fine. I had hoped that the A road stretch would feel more, well, A-roady, which it didn’t. At some point, I must find out how they define and A and a B road, as some are decidedly similar.

Chester’s Fort and Hadrian’s Wall

I’d booked this one because it is an English Heritage site and so, as members, it’s free to us. The car park wasn’t huge but there was a section for coaches, so we parked there. Apparently, when we joined, we got a car sticker, which we should have put in the window. I can’t remember seeing one, though I may have stuck it in the car and forgot about it. Anyway, it wasn’t in the motorhome window, so Neil went to find out how helpful the staff were feeling. Thankfully he returned with a second sticker.

Photo of the Roman ruins, with walls that are now just over a foot high.

This was a definite mountain trike day, as most of the site is over grass. They have allowed some of it to grow into wild meadow areas but have mowed quite wide paths to show where to walk. It was very beautiful and interesting to look at the ruins of the fort and read about life there. Unfortunately, all the ruins were fenced and the entry points were by steps, so Neil could have a look round but I couldn’t. Whilst I would have preferred to be able to join him, I had half expected this, and was happy to just do what I could.

Photo showing the long grass on either side of a mowed path. To the left are black railings around a ruin.

The path down to the river looked too steep and tricky, so I let Neil take Liggy down for a paddle. She seemed to really have enjoyed that, as she came bounding back to me, with all the enthusiasm of a small child, desperate to tell me about her adventures. Neil tried to persuade her to jump up on my lap with her wet paws and harness but she flatly refused. Clever girl!

Photo showing the ruins of the bath house with the river behind, fast flowing over the stones.

Photo looking further down the river, which now looks still and calm.


Lunch

Lunch was a bit of a disaster. We decided to buy something from the tea rooms but they didn’t have a huge choice and weren’t very sure about allergy information, beyond the allergens book. This is the problem with having a non-standard allergy. Beta-carotene is in so many things, you can’t even begin to list them all. I ended up getting a sausage sandwich, and they said they’d use butter instead of marg. Unfortunately, when it came, it was on seeded bread, and that generally means pumpkin seeds, which I know from prior experience is not a good move. A bit disappointed, I ate the sausages, gave Neil the bread and then headed back to Zerubbabel to toast a couple of crumpets.

Photo of the hut which houses the tea rooms.


Museum

The museum was pretty basic, a collection of engraved stones and artefacts. It was nice to be out of the sun for a while though, as it was another hot day. The only thing that really struck me, when looking at the stones and their inscriptions, was that verse in Acts 17:23, where it says, “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found and altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” They really did have altars to every god you could possibly think of. The contrast between that and the monks at Lindisfarne and Whitby was quite stark.

NE98/21

Mrs Google had kindly offered us three options for our journey south. They all included long stretches on windy B roads and none looked particularly appealing, so, on the advice of a lady at Chester’s, we popped into Fourstones to fill up with diesel and then took the most direct route down the B6319.

The first part, whilst pretty, was very narrow and windy, and had a lot of trees over the road, making it feel quite dark and enclosed. After a while though, the trees thinned out and although the road was still narrow, the views were spectacular! We realised afterwards, we were driving right through the centre of the North Pennines.

At some point, Mrs Google decided we were becoming too familiar with B roads and took us on some (fortunately not too long) detour along what was little more than a farm track. It was one of those situations, where it looked a little narrow but still a road but soon had us wondering whether it was actually a real road. I have to confess feeling more than mild panic at one point, but then it spat us out, back onto B roads. By contrast, the B road suddenly felt quite wide!

Then we began to climb… higher… higher… over cattle grids (at least three)… higher. It was stunning! I was really hoping that when we reached the top, there might be a viewing point, but alas, no. However, Neil spotted a couple of Chinooks coming our way, and this motivated him to pull over and give me chance to take some photos.

Photo of the North Pennines. In the sky are two dots, which are Chinook helicopters.

Photo of the cab of the motorhome, set against the breathtaking North Pennine scenery.


The BritStop

I get the feeling this is one of the more popular BritStops. The car park is huge and you just give the staff your registration number and that allows you to park overnight without paying for parking. When we arrived, the car park had many day trippers parked up, some lying in the sun on the grass, just enjoying the atmosphere. By now, it was full afternoon heat, so we treated ourselves to an ice cream – expensive but much needed and very tasty.

The hotel isn’t wheelchair accessible, so that confirmed our decision to order a meal to take to the motorhome. There wasn’t a huge choice and again allergy information was lacking, so I ended up with a burger. It was okay… wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it was tasty and filled a hole… quite a big hole actually. In fact the hole might not have been quite as big as the meal! I swear, I’m going to start ordering my meals from the children’s menu!

After dinner, by early evening, we were alone in this huge car park, and we took Liggy for a little walk before retiring to a game of cards. It was fascinating, watching out of the window, as wild rabbits and even pheasant came out of hiding to reclaim their environment.


View from our motorhome into rolling countryside. A wide footpath stretches ahead over a cattle grid.

Photo of our motorhome, all alone in a huge car park.

Tour of North Yorkshire and Northumberland - day 5

Morning

Well that was a surprise! I had heard the wind during the night, and it was chilly enough to add a blanket over my duvet, but I hadn’t expected rain! Then some $%^&*# had left a plastic bag of food out, rather than put it in the bins (by the entrance) and a seagull and several crows were ripping it apart on the path outside our pitch. I tried to intervene but I only had my stick and it was too far to walk to the bins. To get my chair out, I’d have needed Neil. Anyway, eventually, he woke to the noise and (bless him) got up and took the rubbish to the bin.

Unlike yesterday, we hadn’t planned an early getaway, so poor Neil… but hey ho! We got up and ready, and off we went.

Alnwick Castle

It wasn’t technically far to the castle but as Google Maps instructions go, this one was truly terrible! The car parking situation was a little unclear from the website, so I was hoping for some kind of human interaction to guide us… and maybe some local signage. Well the signage was only marginally more helpful than Google but it was at least sufficient to tell us that Mrs Google had got the whole thing completely wrong. Unfortunately, that only became clear once we had passed the entrance to the car park. So for once, it was me telling poor Neil to ‘make a U-turn as soon as possible’. Have you ever tried making a literal U-turn in a 7m vehicle? Well Neil has, and did a superb job of it.

I was looking for coach parking and/or accessible parking. Well there was accessible parking with a coach drop off, so we figured the place must be big enough for us and we could always perform another U-turn if necessary. Fortunately my friendly human was on the gate and told us where to park in the accessible car park.

From the car park, signage was still a little lacking in places but there were members of staff everywhere to ask and they were all lovely, though mostly just wanted to fuss Liggy.

This was the first attraction this week where dogs are not allowed… only assistance dogs. In some ways, I prefer this because there are no other dogs to distract Liggy. On the other hand, it is when she’s the lone wolf that everybody (yes, I mean everybody) wants to pet her, ask questions about her and tell me about their experience of being a puppy parent for Guide Dogs for the Blind (or whatever they call their puppy parents). To be fair, if we’re just having a day out, I don’t mind so much. Liggy loves all the fuss and as it’s her holiday too, I don’t mind her getting all the attention. Most people are actually very polite about it. Yesterday, several people asked before touching and asked if I minded telling them what she does to help me. It’s a great opportunity to sell Canine Partners.

The castle itself was semi-accessible. As at Beamish, I decided it was a Loopwheels/Freewheel kind of day. There were a few steps to get in but Neil helped me up and then carried my chair. Then there was a lift – the smallest lift I have ever seen! Good job I’m not remotely claustrophobic! Going round the castle was interesting. I hadn’t realised that somebody actually lived there. It was funny having a mixture of all the medieval stuff with modern things like a bar and foosball table.

Photo of the castle walls with nice turrets all along the top.

Photo of the castle, with the spot where Neville got stuck on his first flying lesson.

In the grounds, there were various talks. We stopped to listen to one about the history and chemistry of soap. Picked up some interesting tips there! Then we listened to one about armour and weapons. No useful tips there, given we don’t live in a battle zone… but relatable to putting on the full armour of God, and all that.

Photo of a man in medieval clothes holding up a flail... a stick with a chain and spiky metal ball on the end.

From the castle, we wandered into the town of Alnwick, but it was just a normal town centre and was narrow and busy so we went back and had a hot chocolate in the grounds instead.

Bellingham Camping and Caravanning Club Site

By the time we left, we had forgiven Mrs Google for her earlier misdemeanours and gave her a second chance to prove herself. I popped in the site name and clicked Start, as you do, and off we went… past the U-turn place and through town. As I confirmed to Neil that yet, we are going straight on at the junction, I also saw the sign. Low bridge, height 9’ 6”. Let’s turn left instead, eh? Thankfully, it worked out fine.

The rest of the journey, she performed well… except that it was an hour and a bit’s drive along a B road. It was narrow, windy, hilly but through the Northumberland National Park, which is an area of outstanding national beauty… and it really is! It was a real balancing act between watching the road and being drawn to the amazing landscapes before us.

Photo of a field with dry stone walls around it. It is very high up and the sky is clear and blue.

Photo of the road ahead - empty and climbing higher into the open countryside.

The campsite is totally different to Beadnell Bay… much quieter, even though it is full, and really pretty. We took Liggy for her acclimatisation walk once we were set up, and lots of people wanted to chat, do doggy introductions and so on. We’re sited right near the entrance, such that the motorhome service point is right in front of us, which will be dead handy in the morning!

After dinner, we decided to take a walk into the village, where we’d seen a Co-op. It looked like a half decent pavement, though quite narrow, so Neil took Liggy and I took my Freewheel. Apart from a couple of missing dropped curbs and a car parked blocking the pavement, it was an easy enough walk, about a mile and back into town. We also took the opportunity to take a look at our options for roads out, as the main road south is currently closed. We bumped into a couple of locals and one used to work for the highways agency and knew the exact height of a bridge on one of our options. He said it is 3.5 m. That’s going to be a little close for my liking so we’ll take the slightly longer route and avoid it.

Tour of North Yorkshire and Northumberland - day 4

Morning

After another peaceful night’s sleep, I was woken at ten past six by a car alarm going off… a potential downside of sleeping in a car park, I guess but it could happen anywhere really. It wasn’t a problem though, as we were planning an early get away, ready for a slightly longer drive north.

Most of the journey was on the A1 and I have to say, Zerubbabel cruises like a dream on the open road! We had a lovely comfortable journey into Northumberland and enjoyed leaving the busyness of Newcastle for the quiet open landscapes further north.

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We had planned to stay at this BritStop tonight, but ongoing Covid restrictions meant that we were unable to plan in anywhere to empty the toilet, so we had a bit of a change of plan and booked a couple of nights on Camping and Caravanning Club sites instead. However, I had been particularly looking forward to this one, so we decided to call in at the farm shop on our way up to Holy Island and buy some nice stuff for lunch/dinner. It did look rather lovely and I’m sure we will use it as a stopover at some point, especially if we eventually get up to Scotland.

Holy Island

For those who don’t know, Holy Island is just off the coast at Beal. You come off the A1, drive about a mile and then the road becomes a causeway across the sea. Obviously, because it is the North Sea, you can only cross when the tide is out. Like many places on this coastline, the tides come in quite quickly and what can look safe… well… isn’t. Every year, there are those that risk it and get cut off. There are rescue posts but you would be saying a permanent goodbye to your car and probably getting a huge bill for its recovery! So it’s important to check the safe travel times. We were fortunate that today, safe travel was between 10:15 and 17:20, which is perfect for a day out.

Photo of the causeway to Holy Island with the tide well out but traces of water and sand on the road.

Photo of the causeway to Holy Island with the rescue tower just ahead.

I had already checked the parking arrangements on the island. Normally, motorhomes have to park in coach parking if they are long, but the main car park is a huge field and this is where they want you to park… specifically along the far back edge. So we did. Gradually, throughout the morning, it got busier and busier, so that by lunchtime, it looks like there was no chance of us actually getting out. I’m not sure what would have happened if we’d ended up stuck there, but I figured that others would leave before us… and they did. By the time we left at four o’ clock, the field was quite empty.

Lindisfarne Priory

I had pre-booked tickets for the priory, which was good, as the island was packed and we wouldn’t have been able to just turn up and go in. Fortunately, we had pre-decided that today was a mountain trike kind of day. A very nice lady escorted us all the way round the back to the accessible entrance, which was along very uneven ground, up and down hills, over grass and through a big gate. It might have been more accessible than steps but I wouldn’t have wanted to push a normal wheelchair that way!

Monochrome photo of the priory from inside.

The priory grounds are lovely and rather like our recent visit to Rievaulx Abbey, we enjoyed the challenge of getting my trike in and out of all the sections of the ruins. To allow me a little more manoeuvrability, Neil took Liggy on a normal lead. One of the areas was the brewery. At the back was a round hole, which I guess might have been used for treading grain or something. Liggy was fascinated by it and seemed very excited about exploring it. When she realised it wasn’t as exciting as she thought, she looked quite disappointed.

Liggy, a black labrador, exploring the brewery. She is up on her hind legs sniffing the wall.


Lindisfarne Castle

After exploring the priory, we took a fairly leisurely stroll up to the castle. We hadn’t managed to get tickets to go into the castle but, to be fair, it didn’t look very accessible anyway. We were happy to just enjoy the walk, the views and the photo opportunities.

Photo of Lindisfarne Castle with a dry stone wall and a wooden gate in front.


Beadnell Bay Camping and Caravanning Club Site

Having crossed back over the causeway, which is really part of the attraction of visiting the island, we dropped back down the A1 a little before taking the coastal route through Bamburgh and Seahouses to Beadnell Bay. The drive was gorgeous and we lost count of the number of times we vowed to come back and spend more time here.

Photo taken from the motorhome passenger seat, whilst moving. It shows Bamburgh Castle right in front of us.

After the relative isolation of BritStops, the club site felt overwhelmingly busy, though quite civilised. It was nice to have electricity, water, empty the grey waste and, most importantly, empty the toilet… which unbelievably was not quite full. Having electric hook-up meant that Neil could watch the England – Germany match on the telly, without thinking about the battery. I took my chance to get an early night and Liggy certainly approved of this, after such a long day out.

Tour of North Yorkshire and Northumberland - day 3

Morning

I’m not sure if the dawn chorus was quieter at the top end of the moors or if it was just the absence of crows that allowed me to sleep better, but I really had a very peaceful night’s sleep.

We knew we had over an hour’s drive ahead of us and wanted to stop off and top up on fuel, so the plan was to wake Neil earlier (about 7:30) and get packed up and off. The pub where we were staying had a water tap too and we’d asked if we could fill up before leaving. They were all set up for this and the owner came and showed us where to get water.

Beamish

The journey went quite well, considering it’s our first time out of familiar territory. We continued past Guisborough and skirted Middlesbrough, where we kept losing Goole GPS. In the middle of the most complicated part of the journey, Mrs Google kept jumping us around and thinking we were in a field, resulting in some alarming, rushed instructions. I told Neil (quite firmly) to ignore her and listen to me. I was glad though when we reached the A1 and could just relax a bit.

We parked in the coach area at Beamish, which was surprisingly full. There were other motorhomes there as well as coaches and buses.

It was difficult to decide which chair to use. In reality, my mountain trike would be better for cobbles and uneven ground but I was rightly expecting narrow doorways and small indoor spaces, so I took my normal chair with my freewheel. My freewheel really needs a service or something (possibly even replacing) but I don’t use it much now. Having said that, it was definitely the right combination for Beamish. My loopwheels come into their own on cobbles as they reduce vibration so much and make the ride smoother and easier.

Photo of me in my wheelchair with Loopwheels and a Freewheel. Liggy, my black lab, is sitting in front of me. The road is cobbled and uneven.

Beamish is much bigger than I remember. I’m guessing it is constantly expanding and evolving. There was far too much to write about, so I’ll focus on a couple of accessibility details.

At the moment, most of the transport around the site is not operational because of Covid restrictions, but they have got their wheelchair accessible bus running, plus one normal double decker. The wheelchair bus can be called by a member of staff but seemed to be doing circuits of the site anyway. At the moment, only one or two groups can use it at the same time, so that you can stay distanced, so at the end of the day, we had to wait for it to come back again – about 15 to 20 mins.

Photo of an old yellow omnibus, with a sign in the window saying wheelchair accessible vehicle.

This vehicle was a really good example of proper access. It had a platform lift on the back, which I could roll on and off independently and with ease. Inside, you could be hooked down but they obviously decided I’d be okay to just put my brakes on and hold onto a rail. It only goes slowly, so this was fine. It meant I could sit with Neil and Liggy. We used it for both return journeys to avoid very long uphill pushing in the heat.

For what was supposed to be a mainly cloudy and cool day, it was very hot and sunny!

On the slight downside, but only as we expected, there were quite a few places I couldn’t access due to steps. Some of the shops had steps up and all the houses. Like I said, I had expected that, and it didn’t bother me. At one time, I would have also been kept out by Covid one-way systems but now, if it’s quiet and safe, I just go the wrong way and apologise to anyone who glares.

Onto the most important thing – toilets. There were toilets in each area and mostly, there were accessible ones. At the main entrance, is a changing places toilet. It’s not as big as most changing places, and it doesn’t have a radar lock… however today, toilets were clean and the accessible toilets were always free, so I was a happy girl.

By the time we left, just after four o’ clock, the coach park was deserted, and we were the only vehicle left. It looked really funny, our motorhome sitting there, all by itself in a huge parking area. I guess most of the others were school trips which had left by mid-afternoon.

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It was only a short drive to our next BritStop but we made the mistake of not checking the route thoroughly first. It was the narrowest windiest concoction of steep hills we could possibly have found. Thankfully, we have now checked and found a better route out for the journey north.

This time, we’re at a hotel. It has a lot of land and they were happy for Liggy to play out on the vast lawns after dinner, so she got a very welcome game of frisbee, which finished off her day just nicely.

First though, we had another delicious meal, and this time, we decided to eat in. Everybody else was eating in the outdoor restaurant, so we were the only people indoors. Normally, it’s for me that we do this, but Neil had had a really bad day with his hay fever. In fact, I can’t remember him being quite this bad in a long time! So it was as much for him as me that we wanted to be in the cool, pollen-free indoors.

Photo of Neil sitting at an indoor dining table which has the BritStops book on it. There are also two meals: a burger meal and a fish and chips meal.

There was supposed to be WiFi here but it doesn’t work. The sign-in page won’t load at all so I’m writing in a Word document again, ready to copy and paste into Blogger. We took a lot of photos at Beamish too, so I want to get them imported into Lightroom, check them and do some touching up where needed, before deciding which ones to use here.