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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.

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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.

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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.

Tour of North Yorkshire and Northumberland - day 2

Morning

Having woken up to the sound of bird song and some rather noisy crows at just after four in the morning, I thought it best to let Neil have a lie in. I like an hour or two anyway in the morning, to have breakfast and some coffee in peace, and to write my blog.

We eventually got moving a little later than planned, but there was a story behind part of that.

Our meal the evening before was delivered to the van, all plated up. It looked beautiful. The only thing we provided was knives and forks. After dinner, we had a phone call with an old friend of mine from where I used to work. We haven’t spoken for ages, so had a lot to chat about. By the time we finished talking, Liggy needed a walk and we wanted to have a drink in the pub, so we were trying to be quick. Neil returned the plates to the kitchen, but without thinking, he also returned our cutlery. We have a fairly new set of knives and forks – nice heavy ones, that help with my tremor, and only 4 of each item. So he had unwittingly donated half of our knives and forks to the pub.

It was only when we were packing up to leave, and I always wrap the cutlery in a tea towel to stop it rattling in transit, that we realised what we’d done. So Neil had to go over and try to explain to now different staff, that we’d really like our knives and forks back. The problem was, they had hundreds of cutlery stashes in three different locations, so it was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Well, bless ‘em, they found them eventually, and we were able to move on to our next visit.

Scarborough

I was in two minds as to whether to go to Scarborough on this holiday. I mean, technically, it’s home and I don’t think of it as somewhere I go as a tourist. However, the beach is Liggy’s favourite place, so I included a day to take her to her happy place.

As it happens, we ended up also meeting my aunty, uncle and baby cousin (once removed) and we all enjoyed an hour or so playing on the beach. The tide was right out so Liggy could run back and forth to the sea with Neil and practise recalling to me, which is a game she loves.

After lunch, we did one of our favourite short walks around the north bay and Northstead Manor Gardens, before Neil took Liggy for a final run on the beach.

Photo of Scarborough's north bay from Scalby Mills to the Sands. The tide is right out, exposing all the rocks.

Whitby Abbey

I think I said yesterday, it is funny how you can live close to somewhere for years but never go there. Well Whitby is one of those places. However, I once read, somewhere in the depths of Scarborough Borough Council parking web pages, that a coach park ticket purchased at any of the car parks in the borough, is transferable to any other coach park. Well we had an all day ticket for parking Zerubbabel at the Sea Life Centre and I thought I’d quickly Google coach parks in Whitby. And I discovered Abbey Headland.

We didn’t have a plan but we followed Google’s directions to the coach park, hoping that such a route wouldn’t have any sudden low bridges or anything. When we arrived, we discovered that the Abbey is an English Heritage site, which we happen to be members of. Neil did a quick scoping visit to the entrance staff to check accessibility and availability of tickets. You have to prebook online, but they said to just check because they were sure there were tickets available. So we did.

This is where membership really works for us. We wouldn’t have paid to visit for only an hour but it was a perfect place to fill some time on our way to our stopover. The views were stunning in all directions! The Abbey itself is beautiful too! We had to wonder (in an awe and wonder sense) how they got all the stones to such a remote and high up place, all those years ago in Anglo-Saxon times. For somebody who hated history at school, I now find the history of our country very interesting and am fascinated by these ancient ruins.

Photo of Whitby Abbey against a very cloudy sky, giving a moody atmosphere.

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From Whitby, we continued driving north and easily found our next BritStop pub. When we arrived, it seemed very busy. The car park isn’t huge and was full of cars and the little slip road of the main road into the pub also had cars parked along it. I had a moment of panic that this had been a bad choice. However, the owner was outside and told us where to park Zerubbabel. Neil did a great job of reversing the entire length of the very busy car park to our spot at the top. Then we popped into the pub to order dinner. Again, it was pretty busy, so we arranged dinner to take out to the motorhome.

Neil decided on behalf of both of us that a standard Sunday roast was the size to go for. When it arrived, we nearly died! It would have fed an entire village! Small would have been easily sufficient. Having said that, we gave it a fair crack and it was delicious. We had to sit for a while and let it go down before doing anything else. Meanwhile, we watched the comings and goings in the car park. The pub stops doing food at six in the evening, and after that, the crowds dispersed pretty quickly and left us as the only vehicle in what now looked like a quite big car park.

The pub was also empty now, so we went for a drink and chatted to the staff for a bit. It must have been pay day, as they were all discussing their tax deductions, which was an interesting conversation to eaves-drop, as they clearly hadn’t got the faintest idea about the UK tax system. Neil stepped in to educate them, whilst the youngest member of staff came over to fuss Liggy. I have to say, they did a really nice hot chocolate, but Neil was hoping for one of the special beers, which was not available last night. Shame!

When we arrived, it was cloudy and overcast and the backdrop of the North Yorkshire Moors looked dark and foreboding, though still as beautiful as ever. By the time we came out of the pub to go to bed, the sun was out and it was the perfect evening. So out came the camera!

Photo of our motorhome at the edge of the car park with beautiful rolling hills behind.

In spite of being next to a main road (though the car park is behind the pub) we had an extremely peaceful night’s sleep. This stop could best be described as off-grid. We had no electricity and virtually no phone signal… certainly no WiFi. So I’m writing this in Word and will copy and paste it over to Blogger later.

Off grid

I sometimes get the impression that motorhomers are quite black and white. Some always do campsites and have full facilities which allow you to pretty much do anything. Others always go off grid and almost take pride in their self-sufficiency. We are more shades of grey. Bit of this, bit of that… This holiday is more off grid than camping on sites, but we now have a couple of nights booked to deal with the essentials.

So what does off grid look like?

Well, we arrived with a full(ish) tank of water and reasonably empty waste water tank. We had filled the gas tanks so that we would be able to cook and heat water. We know we can’t empty the toilet for a few nights, so we’re being careful about the amount we flush and we’re largely binning toilet paper (like they do in Cyprus).

Instead of boiling a kettle and using the coffee pod machine, which both need to be plugged in, we have to boil a pan of water on the gas hob. We have a Bodum and plenty of fresh coffee though, so my morning plan is still very similar. We had planned to try to use public toilets as much as possible but neither of our first two BritStops had accessible ones so I have to use our own. Reality is, I go a lot. Bladder control after cauda equina syndrome is non-existent, and I’m not going to spend my holiday getting stressed about that, so we have brought a spare cassette for the toilet (the bit where the wees and poos live) and if we have to, we’ll just swap them over and deal with it on a campsite.

This morning, we should be able to fill up with fresh water though on our way out. The pub has a tap with a long hose. I’m not really keen on using someone else’s hose but needs must. We know that our next stop has zero facilities, so we need to be as prepared as possible.

Tour of North Yorkshire and Northumberland - day 1

Wolds Village

It's funny how you can live close to somewhere for years but never go there. This is one of those places. We must pass it every time we go to Scarborough but I've never been inside until yesterday.

I wanted to have a look at the gallery (trying to become more interested in visual art) and obviously we planned on having afternoon tea. I later found out it was #NationalCreamTeaDay.

The car park isn't huge but plenty big enough that we could park Zerubbabel (our motorhome) in it. After a quick look around, we decided it was a normal wheelchair venue, as surfaces looked good. Neil took Liggy for a quick woodland walk, which I could have done in my mountain trike but it was too nettley for me and what's the point in getting stressed on holiday?!!

There were pretty flowers everywhere and associated bees and butterflies doing their thing. Liggy obviously really liked the smells as she was trying to get to the flowers as we went in. Some of the paths were a little narrow for me with Liggy attached but she's pretty good now at turning round and walking backwards. 

The gallery and tea rooms were quaint and pretty quiet. My parents joined us for a cup of coffee and a scone with jam and cream. We sat in the gallery area and talked about the different styles of picture. At some point we will go back and buy some pictures. They are all beautifully framed and there was a series of prints depicting vehicles in the 1980s(ish). I liked one with a Mr Whippy van and Neil liked one with a Chopper (bike).

A wall of framed pictures, painted in very bright colours, almost childlike.

Across the courtyard, there was an accessible toilet which was a good size and well laid out. It was clean and really easy for me to use with Liggy attached to my chair. It's the little things like this that make visits work.

What made it a little more difficult (again it's the little things) was that there were loads of crumbs on the floor. Liggy doesn't understand about allergies and it's difficult to stop her eating them when they are absolutely everywhere. The liquid poo that followed later in the afternoon was inevitable but I find it frustrating. Trouble is, when it's sofa style seating and low tables, people are going to drop bits. It would help us, if there was a broom available so we could clear a Liggy space.

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Arrival at our first stopover was very straightforward. Neil went in with the BritStops book and let them know we were here. We had booked a space with electric hook up (£10) plus a meal to eat in the motorhome. I had spoken several times to a lovely lady called Verity, who had gone way above and beyond to ensure I could have a pie of my choice minus carotenes. Whilst it's not one of the well known allergies, it's a real pain trying to avoid carotenes because they sneak into all kinds of foods.

Dinner was delicious! We set the table in the motorhome and Verity brought it out, all nicely plated up. There was no less sense of good service just because we didn't eat in the restaurant!

Neil sitting at the table in our motorhome,  with our dinner (2 pies) served up ready to eat. He is holding the BritStops book in his hand.

After a little walk, allowing Liggy to get rid of the rest of the afternoon's crumb lickings, we decided the pub looked safe enough to enjoy a drink. It was quiet, well ventilated and clean. My only little niggle - why do they do this??? - is that the accessible toilet was down some stairs. To be honest, it was easier to just pop back to the motorhome, rather than them get the ramp out, which would have had to be too steep anyways.

It's funny, it sounds like sleeping over in a pub car park should be an unsafe thing to do, but it's actually really nice. There were quite a few others doing the same. It was quiet and I got a good night's sleep until about 4am. At that point the dawn chorus woke me and the crows especially, were having a right old screech. To be fair though, I only sleep very lightly at that time of the night so anything wakes me. The best sleep is always before midnight!

A large car park with motorhomes all parked up along the far edge.

So this morning, while I type and Neil sleeps, some of our fellow motorhomers have moved off. I've had the hot water on for half an hour or so, and I think I'm going to shower and get dressed and ready to walk Liggy. Then we can head off and start day 2.

Tour of North Yorkshire and Northumberland

I'm posting through the week in a family group on Facebook but I won't publish these blog posts until we get back next weekend. This holiday has been a while in the planning. We were originally going to take a week in April to experiment with a whole week's holiday using BritStops. However, Covid kept us all in restrictions and many of the pubs weren't open and it just didn't feel like the right time, so we postponed it until now.

BritStops

I should probably explain what BritStops is and how it works. Various businesses sign up as BritStops, which means they are happy to have motorhomes and campervans stay over for a night in their car parks. In theory, you don't pay anything and don't have to buy anything, but they hope you will have a look at their offer and spend a little in return for the free night's stay. You also usually have to pay if you want electric hook-up, but only a handful of places have facilities, as they are not campsites.

Each February, the BritStops book is published. It costs £28 at the moment, which sounds like a lot if you're not sure about the whole idea... but that is the average cost of one night on a campsite, so I think it's good value.

The book is divided into areas of the UK and then, within each area, there are many places (pubs, garden centres, farm shops, etc) that are listed with a code number. On Facebook, there is a BritStops group, where members post reviews. The reviews are strictly checked and have to be approved before posting. You can't mention the name of the place, only it's book number, so that there is value in getting the book. The advantage of this is that each place is contacted annually and the book is updated. If it was all for free (say, like searchforsites) you wouldn't know whether each place was still allowing stopovers or what facilities they had.

So, in keeping with the rules, I won't be mentioning the specific places in my blog posts. 

Our Tour

We have planned a circular tour, with day trips and stopovers. Originally, it was going to be all BritStops but we ended up having to make a couple of last minute changes because of the ongoing restrictions and the 21st June becoming the 19th July and all that. 

As I said, I won't mention our BritStops by name, but roughly speaking, here's the plan:

Sat 26th June - Wolds Village and then a pub stopover on the coast, south of Scarborough.

Sun 27th June - Scarborough and then a pub stopover north of Whitby.

Mon 28th June - Beamish Museum and then a pub stopover nearby.

Tues 29th June - Holy Island and then a night at the Beadnell Bay Camping and Caravanning club site.

Wed 30th June - Alnwick Castle and then a night at the Bellingham club site.

Thurs 1st July - Chesters Fort and Hadrian's Wall and then a pub north of Barnard Castle (no eye tests planned).

Fri 2nd July - Hiking around High Force Waterfall and then an ice cream shop just off the A1.

Sat 3rd July - Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens and then home.

Mostly, in keeping with the theme of this blog, my posts will focus on accessibility of the days out and venues... how this kind of holiday works for me as a wheelchair user... maybe a bit about how coming out of Covid-life is going... that kind of thing. 

LPG

I'll leave you with a photo of a pre-holiday visit. Our motorhome doesn't use Calor Gas, where you empty your bottles and then exchange it for a new one. It has a system called Gaslow. It has two yellow cylinders and a fill up point on the side of the van. You have to find an LPG filling station (there's plenty around at the moment) and it's a little like filling up your car with fuel, only the machine is a bit quirky. 

They're all a little different but you attach a hose to the van, remember to open the gas bottles (which should have been closed whilst driving there) and then hold a button to fill it. When it's full, you release the hose and it makes a big whooshing noise, like a mini-explosion. No matter how much you know it's coming, there's always a moment of mini heart attack when it does it. 

The advantage is, you can fill up any time. You don't have to be on empty... and it costs less. We had used about £4 worth of gas since last September, using it for cooking and hot water on every trip. That's really not bad! 

So here's our filling point:

On the left is a rather ancient looking filling point with various tanks around it. On the right is our motorhome.


Sunday, 13 June 2021

Weekends away

I had intended to post after our previous weekend away and now I'm waking up on Sunday morning in a different location and it reminded me to write something.

In many ways, for us, our motorhome is a bit like a mobility aid. In the same way as my wheelchair, far from being a negative thing that binds or constrains me, gives me the freedom to get out, explore and enjoy life, so does our motorhome, affectionately named Zerubbabel. 

Family weekend

A few weeks ago, we visited Normanby Hall Country Park with my parents and my sister and her family. We were the only people there, which I was surprised at, given how difficult it can be at the moment to find any sites with vacancies. It was a fairly basic site, but had electric hook-ups and water and waste facilities. It was a big field, a little uneven throughout and with a slight slope. 

Normanby Hall Country Park

For me, there were two highlights to this weekend. The first was on the Friday night. One of my nieces suggested a family game of rounders, before acknowledging that it was impossible with aunty Nicki (not to mention grandma and grandad). However, we decided to give it a go and just be patient with the less able members. I played in my mountain trike and did some catches on 4th base that I was both surprised and proud of. Unfortunately Neil caught me out on both of my rounders. The grass was just too long and uneven to get any speed up! Watching my mum bowling though, was just fab! The game was full of laughter and I think our family competitive spirit emerged for the first time in ages!

On the Saturday evening, we had a family BBQ. Family meals can be a source of stress. I'm allergic to carotenes, which seem to be in so many different foods. My dad can't have gluten or lactose (one or the other seems manageable, but both is a nightmare) and then you've got likes and dislikes to factor in too. We decided, with some advanced prep, to organise an all inclusive BBQ. I made the bread rolls - gluten and lactose free - and my mum made salad stuff (including carrot-free coleslaw). My sister bought the meats, all gluten free and her partner Andy (who is a chef) cooked, with my dad. I also baked some allergy free lemon curd butterfly buns. I thought it was the best meal we could have had. For the first time in ages, we had found a way to have a family holiday and do things that everybody could be part of. I was a little nervous that it wouldn't work but I would definitely do it again!

Multi-generational family sitting round an outdoor table under a red parasol. It is sunny and they are all relaxed.

Visiting family

This weekend, we have been in Scarborough. We're camping on my aunty and uncle's drive, connected to their electricity... the second time we have camped here. We jokingly refer to it as a campervan site, as it's a small cul-de-sac and some of the neighbours also have motorhomes that live on their drives. One of them is reversing out to go on holiday early this morning, as I write. 

Scarborough

I grew up here and always love visiting, whether to see family or  just go to the beach for a walk. For those who have never been, Scarborough has two bays: the North Bay and the South Bay, and they are joined by a long road called the Marine Drive, which goes round the base of the castle headland. The walk between the two bays is very popular and the South Bay is where most of the tourists seem to go. Yesterday, we drove round to the South Bay on our way back to my aunty's and it was packed! I was glad we weren't in amongst all those people! After being locked down for so long, it would have been too busy for me. 

We usually park at the North Bay. Motorhomes can park at the Sea Life Centre. In theory, they are not allowed to park along the Marine Drive, though many do. Either way, you are currently not allowed to sleep there. Zerubbabel is quite long and doesn't fit in a parking bay, so we have to park in a coach space and pay the £10 day charge. It sounds a lot but I believe a day of chalet rental is significantly more, and it gives us a base, a toilet, cooking facilities, etc. It also means I can take both chairs, which was useful yesterday.

In the morning, we took Liggy down on the beach, at Scalby Mills end, where dogs are allowed. Once you get to the main North Beach, dogs are banned from May to September, so we try to go at low tide when the extended beach is there. Yesterday was great, the tide was right out! I took my mountain trike and we went right down to the sea. Liggy was off lead and able to play with lots of other dogs, which she absolutely loves! She also likes to run in the sea, along the sea line. She's not keen on going any deeper than her knees and chest, but loves the feeling of running in the cold water. She also loves running between Neil and me, doing recall practice.

Black labrador running up a slipway from a sandy beach.

After we had played for a while, we walked up through Northstead Manor Gardens, where the Open Air Theatre is, and then back round and along the promenade, back to the car park.

This is where having the motorhome makes life so much easier. We were able to toilet, wash hands, prepare bacon sandwiches and sticky toffee pudding for dessert, and importantly for us, Liggy was able to lie on her bed and rest, safe while we got sorted. This meant we were all well rested for the afternoon walk.

I took my normal chair in the afternoon, and we met up with my aunty and uncle for a walk around the Marine Drive. We got part way round but it was getting busier and felt a little uncomfortable, so we turned around and went back and had a walk around Peasholm Park instead. Peasholm Park is beautiful, around a lake with an island, which used to be one of my favourite childhood attractions. The Glen is a wooded path that rises up from the park into the main cemetery, and is very peaceful. We went a little way up and around a pond where Liggy had a paddle.


A large pond with a swarm of gnats on the surface and trees in the background

A lake with an island with oriental style waterfall and fencing

Once we had walked all the way back doing the reverse route through Northstead Manor Gardens, my aunty and uncle suddenly remembered they were on a 2 hour parking bay and had to leg it back to their car and we went back to Zerubbabel for another pitstop.

Before leaving though, we took Liggy to another of her favourite spots. Right at the end of the beach is where Scalby Beck comes down into the sea. There's a pebbled area with lots of pools and rocks. It is unfortunately down a long flight of steps, but Neil takes Liggy down there to play off lead. I wait at the top of the steps and do an occasional recall to keep Liggy on her toes. It's great exercise for her and it's nice for Neil to get some time playing with her without me being there. I had to laugh though yesterday. She often poos on the pebbles down there (which, of course, Neil picks up) but yesterday, she pooed in one of the pools, still on pebbles though, and poor Neil got his shoes soaked trying to pick it up. She's never done that before.

The day was completed with a delicious dinner at my aunty's. After all the months of restrictions, it was so nice to be able to be in the house and have dinner together and catch up on life. 


Friday, 23 April 2021

Rievaulx Abbey

Our final day out of this mini-break was to Rievaulx Abbey. This was always going to be an interesting one, as the website was a little vague around wheelchair access. I kind of assumed it was going to be similar to Fountain's Abbey but on a slope, and I wasn't far wrong. The main path is gravel and most of the ruins are on grass. Grass can make it harder going in my mountain trike, but it hasn't rained now for weeks, and the ground is nice and hard, which makes it much easier. 

Anyway, again, Covid measures were pretty good, and we felt safe there. The main toilets are out in the car park, and you have to go out through the same route as coming in, so I was glad they weren't for me. The accessible toilet is in the main building. It was pretty good. Like most of them, it wasn't really big enough for me to go in with my trike, so I left it, and Liggy, outside with Neil... my 'essential companion'. I thought that was a nicer description than carer. Well done English Heritage!

The photos from today's visit don't tell a story... they are just nice piccies of the Abbey, many in monochrome, because I love monochrome photography. So I'll just interperse them in no particular way.

Monocrome photo of the monks' eating place, though you wouldn't recognise it as such. It's really just an old stone hall with beautiful arched windows.

The site, as you will see, is built into quite a steep hillside. We decided to start at the top and work down. Actually, the top area was most of the ruins and took a while to get round. It was well worth it though. The main path is gravel and was relatively easy to climb, though I went quite slowly. That goes up to a small museum, though at the moment, it is closed. Later in the day, Neil went for a nosey round the back of it and discovered a massive swarm of bees on a window. I hadn't been bothered by them though all day, and decided I was happy to take his word for it, and that I would be better not to go and have a look. 


A fairly flat grass area with large ruins on the right but lots of small walls on the ground that indicate where rooms once were.

The photo above shows a section that I thought should feature as an accessible maze. For anyone else, walking around could get you anywhere. Most of the walls were small enough to step over, but for me it was a fun game, working out where I could get to and how to get out again. 

At the bottom of the hill, is a row of trees, going across the grass. Apparently, that is where the River Rye used to run but the monks re-routed it. We sat in the picnic area by those trees to have our lunch and it was strange to think we were sitting where the river used to be. We also had yet another lunch time of contemplating whether another membership would be excessive... but in the end, decided to go for it. These places are fab days out but also are causes worth supporting. Like all charities, they have had a tough year and they do a really good job of both maintaining our heritage and providing education to people in a relaxed and fun way.


Monochrome photo of the main building at the top of the site. Two walls remain with lots of arched windows.

There were several areas of flat lawn, which were lovely for stopping, resting and just taking in the views. It's hard to describe the magnificence of the ruins, but there were birds at the top, which we could only just see with the naked eye. We were trying to decide whether it was just pigeons and crows or something more exciting. Fortunately, I had my grandad's old binoculars with me, so we got them out and had a better look. It was nothing exciting but it was also interesting to use them to look up to another building, right at the top of the hill - Rievaulx Terrace - which is owned by the National Trust and only opens one Saturday per month. 


Neil and Liggy (black lab) are sitting together on a large stone, part of a ruin. Neil's face is partly hidden behind Liggy's as he is gently nuzzling her face.

Although this was a very interesting visit, and the weather was glorious, there isn't much to acually do, other than wander around the ruins. For us, that was perfect. I think, even with most children, they could run around, make up stories and be imaginative, and have a good day out. We easily spent four hours there, and only really left because it was getting really hot and Liggy had been a little bit sick when we arrived. She didn't show any signs of being really poorly but just a little tired and although she was happy and seemed to be enjoying the outdoors, when it got hot, she seemed ready to call it a day. Plus, we knew we had things to do back at the campsite.


Monochrome photo of a large wall over a big square lawn. The sun is casting shadows around the left and bottom edge.

Before leaving though, we had a look around the shop. It's always nice to support these places and get a few reminders of the day. The previous night had been quite cold... down to -2oC - and Neil, who is normally fine with just his duvet, added an old travel rug that we keep in the car, to keep him warm. But we do intend to use Zerubbabel all year round, so he suggested buying a new wool blanket to keep in the motorhome, so we've always got something to wrap us up if it's a bit chilly. We also spotted some jars of yummy stuff and bought some toffee apple curd (no idea, but it sounds delicious!) and some horseradish and mustard something or other. 


Monochrome photo, looking up at the main ruin from a courtyard below. The sky and the shadows make it look quite atmospheric and eerie.

Inevitably, there were quite a few areas that I couldn't get to. We expected this. There were also a few narrow spots. We always go prepared for different Liggy situations. She spent part of the day attached to the lead arm on my trike and part just on a normal lead with Neil. She often went around the bits I couldn't do, walking with Neil but she always shows little signs of being concerned about whether I'm okay without her. Eventually, Neil usually finds a way back that puts me in sight but at a distance. This is where she always makes my heart do a little happy dance. We check that there's nobody around and no distractions. and then Neil just lets go and I call her. She runs soooo fast to get back to me. It's the best recall practice because it gives as near to 100% success rate as is possible. 


Me in my mountain trike at the bottom of a flight of wooden steps. There is no way I could possibly climb them but I'm pointing up with a cheeky grin, as though I might give it a try.

I wouldn't call this the best of accessible visits. If you were using a normal manual chair, it might be just too difficult. I wouldn't want to do it without my trike. That said, there were several people with walking sticks and crutches, and there are seats a-plenty, so it depends what you can do and what you want from a day out. Some of the grass banks were quite steep but it gave me chance to learn a bit more about what I can and can't do. Sometimes, I surprise myself by managing something that looks difficult. Other times, I just let Neil go off for a while and I find a nice spot, usually in the shade, to rest and enjoy the views. For me, as long as there's an accessible toilet, and not too many nettles, not too many bees, and preferably no wasps... I'm a happy camper!


Monochrome photo of the main ruins from well back. The grass and smaller ruins are in the foreground.


Castle Howard

Growing up in Scarborough, you would have thought that I would have been to Castle Howard many times. I only remember going there once, and that was in 1998 ( I found out by Googling cannon accidents) for one of the evening concerts... a Last Night of the Proms with fireworks. I remember enjoying it but for no reason at all, we've never been back there and have never visited the house, gardens or estate. And I remembering hearing in the news, the next day that someone got injured by one of the Cannons.

Well, as we are staying in the Howardian Hills, which take their name from Castle Howard, it seemed like a visit there was in order. 

The road in is narrow, mainly straight and has grandiose arches, some that are very narrow. We were glad we were in the car and that Zerubbabel was safely on the campsite, though I believe there is an alternative route for big beasts, like her. Parking was easy... accessible parking is right at the front. The lines are faded to almost nothing though, so it was a bit of a guessing game. 

As with everywhere else, they've got all the Covid measures in place. We felt particularly safe here. Nowhere felt really busy, but then it is midweek. Weekends will be busier, I'm sure. So we showed our prebooked ticket, picked up a map of the estate and headed off to see the Atlas Fountains, which I was very much looking forward to. We took a bit of a long route to get in, only to find they are currently out of action, being maintained... which was rather disappointing. 

The upside of the fountain maintenance was that there was a gigantic hose pipe attached to a tap along the path. Where it had leaked it formed a crystal clear pool of water, where Liggy had a big drink. Not only that, she remembered it, and was clearly excited to get back there later. It's funny, she doesn't normally drink much but she loved this water! 

It was shortly after her first drink that I decided to try out the portaloo accessible toilet, which looked like a good option to avoid going all the way back to the main courtyard every time I needed a wee. Neil checked it out first and pointed out a large (but fast asleep) bumble bee on the side of the toilet. I agreed that it was probably too cold for it to wake up and that I was safe to ignore it... so I took courage and sat down for a wee. Just as I was about to go, I pulled some toilet paper, so I'd have it ready... as you do... and as I pulled it down, there on the paper, was another massive bumble bee. This time, I wasn't expecting it and it nearly gave me a heart attack! Like its friend, it was asleep, but right by my face and so sudden and unexpected, adrenalin kicked in and for a moment, I just panicked. I didn't even pull my pants up... just got out quick!!! It didn't take long for me to sort my clothing and for Neil to remove my new friend... and I continued quickly and decided that the courtyard toilets would be fine for next time.


Castle Howard in the distance, Neil and Liggy (black lab) are standing at the side of a gravel path with an expanse of lawn behind them.

Next stop, was the Rose Gardens, which were vast and very pleasant. We just wandered back and forth, looking at the various plants and watching the gardeners at work. There were some statues too... many statues... but we decided to take a break from our usual statue photography. There was just too much to fit in. We'll come back another day and focus on statue work. 

What we did find, which is becoming a theme this week, was this beautiful peacock. Liggy was a little more excited by it than yesterday, so we didn't make her lie around for too long, but long enough to get some photos.


A male peacock, lying full length on the lawn, showing how long his tail feathers are.

We took our lunch to the picnic area near the big play area - Skelf Island. It looked seriously cool! The sort of place that makes you wish you were a kid again, or there with small children that need supervising. 

The path down to the lake and play area was quite steep and windy. It was hard work keeping my trike under control. I love my trike but having the steering on the back wheel means that when going downhill, you have a tendency to tip forward, taking the steering wheel off the ground, which makes controlling it rather difficult. I've found the answer is to go very slowly. The brakes are good, though extremely noisy so Neil and Liggy left me to it and disappeared off on their own. Charming!

After lunch, we had planned a walk around the edge of Ray Wood towards the other lake. The website said that Ray Wood is unsuitable for wheelchairs due to uneven ground. We clarified this at the ticket office, checking whether it was just uneven ground or steps, stiles, etc as well. Just uneven ground... well, we always like a challenge! You don't spend that much money on a mountain trike to stay on concrete paths, do you?


Path through the woods. It is wide and a hard mud surface but the tree roots and rocks make it uneven.

Unfortunately, soon after taking this photo, there was a path closure with a diversion. Tree cutting was happening and you could see a large tree blocking the path. Sadly, the diversion included steps. They were shallow steps and Neil did say, "I think we could manage this between us," which (thinking back to Sandringham) rang alarm bells that we almost certainly were about to attempt the impossible. So we took a different route, where we chatted with a couple of ladies who were walking the same way. Eventually, the grass path headed steeply uphill and they walked on, and we paced ourselves (went very slowly at my pace). 

At the top of the hill (and a couple more hills) we reached a monument of some kind, which we should probably have paid some attention to, but the views around were exceedingly spectacular, so we gazed into the distance instead and ignored the monument. In the distance was a stone bridge. Our ladies were still there and one of them said she could imagine horses and chariots coming in over that bridge. It certainly was a scene that could tell stories - real and fictional.


Traditional Yorkshire countryside with rolling green hills, trees and a magnificent stone bridge.

While we were up there, we also had a rest and a bit of a treat time for Liggy. She had been very well behaved today! She can be a bit overexcited in new places like this, but today, she was the perfect angel... which really earned her some trout mousse.

Me sitting in my mountain trike with Liggy lying next to me, sunbathing. We are looking lovingly into each other's eyes. One of the two ladies is in the background taking photos of the view.

Liggy has her paws up on my lap and I'm feeding her trout mousse from a small plastic travel tube, intended for shampoo.

From the viewing point, we headed down to the small lake. We had seen a mowed path around and decided it would make a good walk. Getting down to it was interesting though. Far too steep in places for me to manage but that's where teamwork makes the dreamwork! Neil gets into all these attractions for free, as my carer, so it was time to earn his keep and hold on to the back of my chair and stop me from catapulting down the embankments. 

The walk round the lake was peaceful and very pretty with the Hall in the distance. There was what looked like a shallow area at one end, so we let Liggy have a paddle, but it was a bit deeper than it looked and she wasn't keen. She preferred to eat the vast amounts of duck poo on the grass instead. So we picked up our pace a bit until duck poo was less in her face.


View across a small lake with Castle Howard in the distance.

The climb back up to the main paths was quite steep and again on grass. I got part of the way up and there was a kind of rough area of grass that looked perfect to stop and play with Liggy and a frisbee. We always try to find somewhere like this if she has been good. After food, it's her favourite reward. 


Liggy with a red frisbee in her mouth. She is running back to me with it, quite fast, and her ears and tail are bouncing all over the place.

By the end of the day, we had decided that this was a fantastic place for all of us to enjoy being outdoors together. It has many different kinds of walks, things to see and do... and it was very friendly and pleasant. So we decided to become silver friends, which means we can come back when we like for free. I would like to visit again, when the house reopens, and have a look around. 

Final stop, before going back to the campsite, was the farm shop. We had planned meals for everyday except today. The plan for today was to buy a treat from the farm shop. We ended up getting a lamb and mint burger and an Angus beefburger (which we had half each of) and I also bought some fudge, some honey and mustard salad dressing and some garlic infused oil. 

The burgers were absolutely delicious!!!