Thursday, 26 July 2012

115 Lag Farm, Ripley bike meet and Bruces Chill on the hill.

Monday 2nd July
After escaping from Newcastle (the campsite felt as though we were being watched all the time) we plotted a route across country and over the Northumberland and North Yorkshire Dales to John and Tims house. They have a lovely rented cottage just outside Kirkby Stephen, sited in the middle of nowhere and between two mountain ranges. John was at work in London doing his best to help pay our pensions (he he). Tim, AKA Fluffy fingers had performed miracles on another sponge cake and as if to pay us back for John paying our pensions, he was getting us fatter. It was a pleasant visit but we needed to cut it short as we were on our way to the farm in Scotland. It was a brief visit for me (Ray) as the next day I set off for my annual adventure bikers meet in Ripley.

4,5,6,7,8th July
Leaving Karen to chill for a few days with her Mum and Dad, I set off for Ripley at midday and arrived about 6pm. The meet is for bikers who have an interest in two wheeled world travel and as you all know this features greatly in our retirement plans.
Ray Walton. Another Ray with a Super Tenere like us. We know each other from bike meets.

Although the meet is strictly 3 days, I had been cajoled into helping with the setup and admin of the event so got there two days early and pitched in. My official title was as team leader of the rubbish and recycling but it turned out to be domestic engineer (toilets etc) and mobile electrician too. Add to that the fact that the rain, as in the rest of the UK was biblical, I also got bleeped to dig a trench to relive the lake that had formed and was encroaching on the tented area. Actually despite the weather it was all good fun.
We needed to do something before the tents were taken over. The owners were out riding.

An inane grim from a very wet dogs body.

I met a psychotic guy there called Sjaak LLarrsson, a dutch, who had driven a 1000cc Yamaha R1 sports bike several times around the world, through deserts and tundra alike. (An R1 is designed to be used on good tarmac only). He is currently planning to ride the bike to the North Pole dragging a sled as sleeping accommodation. He makes his own ice studded tyres. He is a nut case in the purest sense.

The guy with the cap is the Dutch nutter

The rain abated for the Saturday and Sunday and allowed us to do the final clean up before setting off back at 55mph back to the farm in Scotland.
The final clean up.

9, 10 , 11, 12, 13, 14, 15th July.
We spent this week relaxing and doing some work on Gromit. He needed his wheel hubs rebuilding. The job was fairly simple but made more complicated by the fact that I do not know one end of a spanner from the other and that some of the parts that were supplied were the wrong ones. A days job ended up taking three - ho hum. All was well in the end and Gromit now drives much better.
Mum and Dad are having the usual stressful time that everyone has when house hunting but we tempered it by going out for a lovely meal in the Moraig Hotel (which had featured prominently in our wedding plans 13 years ago) to celebrate Karen's past and my upcoming birthdays.
I took time out to wash Dads quad bike and when he came home and saw it he just said "did they dispose of the old one for us". He looked a bit perplexed when he saw his quad "cowped" (on it's side as in upturned sheep) and having its belly tickled with the pressure washer.
Mum had made a suggestion to us and as a result we have decided to delay our trip to Africa next year and will be going to North and South America instead. Yipee, no visas (in advance) and no Carnet (the massive fee paid to the RAC to exempt import duties on vehicles). Now the good's going to be on Wallace. Two wheels at last.

Monday 16th July
Time for the off again and to continue exploring the UK. First stop was John and Tim's place. This time John was there as Tim was about to go back into hospital for another big operation on his sinuses. Again, fluffy fingers had done his magic and another delightful sponge was served up, of which we took half away with us. We camped that night at a site in Kirkby Stephen that is owned by an adventure riding buddy whom I had been getting drunk with 2 weeks previously at Ripley. The site, Takoda, was small and had all new first class facilities barring electricity and was very well kept by our hosts, Paul and Maria Holroyd.
Takoda camp site. Very well presented.

And the owner on the left. Guess where ?

Tuesday 17th July
We decided to take a look around Kirkby Stephen. It was another typically quintessential English villages, full of pride and nice people. Unfortunately, like the rest of Britain, the recession had hit and many shops had recently closed down.
Kirkby Stephen town Centre

More Kirkby Stephen

We then decided to take a look at and buy a pie and a pint so to speak, at the Tan Hill Inn. This is the highest Inn in the UK and frequently gets snowed in and 2 years ago, they were on the news for having 30 people stranded there for about a week following a New Years eve party. It was a smashing place, again, oldy worldy and British.
Tan Hill Inn, the highest inn in the UK at 1732 feet above sea level.

The inside. A proper pub

We then headed off South and intended to head for Buxton in the peak district but the roads were so slow (partly due to Gromit and partly due to them being windy mountain roads) that we kind of ran out of time and re-routed to the direction of Wales. We came across a small rope making factory in a village called Hawes in Wensleydale (which was fitting seeing as we were in Gromit !).
Prior to this we had been laughing with Paul Holroyd (the Kirkby campsite manager) about a particularly sad father that had taken his adolescent daughter for a day out to the factory for her birthday and here we were also visiting it - very sadly. In our defense, we did however stumble across it.
It don't get much sadder than this. A Rope making machine in full swing.

Anyway, I took photos whilst Karen kept herself busy rolling her eyes up at me. Yes, I knew what she was thinking.
We then down to a small campsite just outside Crewe, beside Oulton Park racing circuit. After getting our pitch we drove to the nearest pub intending to buy dinner but they had finished serving so we went hungry and immediately crashed out on our return to the campsite.

Wednesday 18th July
We struck camp and set off for Bruce and Lynn's place in the welsh hills. Just prior to their house we were stopped a a cattle grid by a bunch of very daft cows. They had blocked the road and regardless of how much noise we made they refused to move. In the end we used Gromits bull bars for their intended purpose.
They would not get out of the way.

On arrival they were both still at work and although the day had started nice, as is usual at their place, it started to rain. They had obviously had a lot as the place was awash with mud and it was extremely depressing to think that they were going to have an outdoor party in it. Bruce and Lynn arrived back from work and we all set off for Newtown to get the food for the BBQ etc and then adjourned to an Indian restaurant to round the night off and attempt to cheer ourselves up a bit.
Thursday and Friday 19th & 20th July
Karen had been clever enough to insist that we take our wellies and they came in very handy. The day was a wash out and we toiled to get the place ready for the party. Friday was a bit brighter but as they have had rain for 4 months the place was a complete mess with mud absolutely everywhere.

Saturday 21st July
Chill on the hill day. We finished off most of the preparation and unbelievably the ground had started to dry very quickly. When Billy, Bruce's life long friend arrived we put up the marquee. Well almost. Bruce being the super efficient chap that he is, did not think to place the mini bungees that hold the tent together with the tent. After an hours search it was sorted and all the guests started to arrive. It now had the makings of a good BBQ, which it turned out to be.
Karen and a few others decided to get stuck into the champagne very early on and it was not long before they were all pole dancing around the marquee poles. This was obviously a sign of what was to follow. When the BBQ was fired up Karen was happily dancing on one of the tables and I was wondering how long it would take an ambulance to get here. Fortunately I managed to video the whole affair, including the unceremonious get down/fall off the table. Unfortunately she has told me she will kill me if I publish it and I have to sleep sometime.
The whole night was thoroughly enjoyable and all the guests (except us) were husky dog racers as is Bruce. The bonfire was lit with the usual boy scout method of a 3 foot long blow lamp.
Bruce (in white) and Lynn (in red) at the Chill on the Hill bonfire.

All was well until Billy decided to burn a couple of beds having bought them 200 miles just for the purpose. At around 11 a small shower of rain persuaded everyone to retire to their tents and caravans for a drunken sleep but not before I managed to get a snap of Karen attempting to wake the dead with her karaoke singing. (She has always said that she would never do karaoke !)
And this is a capture of 'Karen, I don't do Karaoke'

Sunday 22nd July
Lynn with help from Karen and others cooked up a full English (Welsh !) breakfast for 34 people and then it was down with the marquee and all the guests slowly departed. At about 4pm Bruce announced that we were going to the seaside for the evening. We threw 4 of the 40 odd dogs in the back of his van and set off for the seaside just North of Aberystwith. We had a great evening and even had a Chinese take away on the way home.
Chillin out at the beach after the Chill on the Hill.

Monday 23rd July
Gromit was in need of a service having completed 6000 miles in just 3 months driving around Scotland. So I went out and got the bits and got on with the job.

Tuesday 24th July
My Birthday....
Karen and I went off to Aberystwith for the day and although we set off late and had to be back by 6 we had a great time in what is a dying seaside town.
Aberystwith's Welsh speaking university.

We spent a lot of time on the twin 'shoot em up' games which I am sad to say Karen won. We got back at 6 sharp and then set off back to the same (almost) seaside for a meal. After a very long and tiring day we just hit the sack.
The girls getting on it early on MY birthday !

Wednesday 25th July
We said our goodbyes to Bruce and Lynn who set off for work early and then we moved on too. We set off South through Wales and headed for another small seaside town called New Quay. On the way there we came across this place. Nuff said.
A local said that the town elders got together with a scrabble set, binned all the vowels and picked the rest at random !

On arrival at New Quay we realised that we had been here previously with Bruce and Lynn. Age is a cruel thing. We walked along the beach for a while and tried to get cut off by the incoming tide before hitting the fish and chip shop.
New Quay harbour

We later found a small campsite just outside town with only 3 other campers on it. Unfortunately, between them they had 5 dogs. This did not bother Leon too much, he just waved at them with his stump. They on the other hand took exception to this and would not stop barking (especially a bloody horrible little Jack Russel) when he was in sight.Needless to say we kept him in most of the time but he did make us laugh with his haughty antics.
Cat speak for 'Up your doggies'.

Thursday 26th July
A slow start and then it was off to St Davids City. This sounds rather grand but it is the smallest city in the UK and is only really a village but it does have a cathedral - or two.
The old and new cathedrals.

It is a lovely little place and we decided to book yet another boat trip for tomorrow morning to see if we could see the elusive big fish fins that have avoided us so well. As a stroke of luck, the boat owners own a small camping field near to the harbour so we got to stay overnight for free.   
St Davids centre.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

114 Newcastle upon Tyne

Saturday 30th June
We spent the day visiting the land of the Geordies, Newcastle upon Tyne.
We had decide the previous day to get on one of those hop on hop off tour buses. We liked these as you get to see most things that ordinarily you would miss.
So we did a bit of internet research and found a parking place near one of the drop offs at about 1pm. It was at the Gateshead Sage music centre (Gateshead is basically part of Newcastle but on the south side of the Tyne.) The bus came almost immediately and we were off listening to an almost unintelligible language called Geordi and driving over the famous (for Geordies !) Tyne bridge.
The famous Tyne bridge. Complete with waste of money decorations.
A memorial to Queen Victoria.

One of the remaining towers of the castle.

George Stephenson and his sons. All famous engineers of which George invented 'Stephensons Rocket', a steam train that was seriously advanced for its age and set the scene for the golden age of steam trains.

We were on the bus for about 10 minutes and the commentary announced the stop for China Town.

There is one in every city. Including the Irish bar creeping in on the right.
Nice we thought, and got off for a Chinese meal. After about another 10 minutes wandering about we found a buffet menu and heartily chewed into as much Chinese nosh as we could eat without embarrassing ourselves too much.
Then it was back on the street and into 'Rosies Bar', about 5 doors along the street. It was a pub with a history that got its name from an Irish girl (Rosie !) who with a sugar daddy set up a very profitable and famous brothel at the venue. The sugar daddy died suddenly and Rosie went into depression. She was last seen briefly singing on the dockside of a ship about to part for New York in 1874.


These heads move sporadically and just enough to catch your eye and then stop. Its weird as when you look properly all is still. Makes you think you are even more mad that you give yourself credit for.

The gents toilet inside was a bit of an education. I suppose it did used to be a brothel after all.
Before you ask....No I didn't

But I can't say I didn't think about it.

By now it was about 3:20 and we decided to continue our bus ride. We went back to the stop and waited for the bus. We then noticed a timetable for the tour bus and saw that the last bus had gone about 15 minutes before. We had just paid £8 each for a 10 minute bus ride. Doh!
So it was now on foot for the rest of the tour.

George Gray. The outline designer of the city centre and an ex Liberal Prime minister. He is credited with civil reform and gaining extra rights for peasant farmers. He also had a hand in abolishing slavery and giving his name to a particularly foul smelling tea - Earl Grey.

Newcastle was a very friendly place and we did not at any time feel uneasy as you do in many cities. Our one criticism is that when new buildings had been erected they were soulless and made the place look clinical and dead. All in all though we liked the place.

This is the pedestrian Millennium Bridge. It hinges up to allow tall ships to pass. The deck is curved like the support beam - weird.
We then walked back to the dock area where Gromit was parked opposite and found a very lively bar on the quayside , the Pitcher and Piano. It was kickin man! Very busy with about 200 customers but again, all very friendly. I like Geordies, just wish I understood what they said.
At about 6pm, we crossed the Tyne, found Gromit and drove back to our campsite.

Sunday 1st July 2012.
Halfway through the year already. Where has the last 6 months gone ?
After the usual battle of "Pinch Punch first day of the month" which I lost, we decided to chill out for the day and watched the bike racing all day.