Tuesday, 28 April 2015

And then there's the Summer holiday

Of course we need an extended Summer break and not just weekend camps. And this year will be southern France in the Cevennes. We've talked about going south a few times but always decided against the long drive (even though we drove to Berlin one year. Ho hum.). This time we're going to be the crazy family who disappear into the rising sun as everyone else is still snoozing.

We live in Kent and it only takes about 40 minutes to get to Dover so the 7.30am ferry gives us a whole day to drive as far south as we can. A quick overnight stop and off again to a campsite near Florac. The whole journey is about 640 miles with a 2 hour ferry crossing. That's not too crazy is it? Two days of pain to have two weeks relaxing in the sun. 

We're staying at Camping Chantemerle near Bedoues right on Le Tarn. The site has had some excellent reviews and seems like it will make a great base for two weeks. There are 60 pitches so not too big, but big enough to have a bar and restaurant. The description of the food has my mouth watering already - lots of local produce and homemade deserts. I may not be cooking much this holiday.

There's a paddling beach on the river and a little bit further up is a deeper swimming area so we can do lots of wild swimming.

A playground right in the middle of the site that we should be able to see from our pitch.

And to get out and about, two long distance paths cross the campsite. The Robert Louis Stevenson trail runs south from Le Puy-en-Velay to St-Jean-du-Gard and would take around 8 days to walk (about the same on a donkey) so we'll be doing a gentle section or two. Stevenson wrote about his wanderings in Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes which will of course be going on holiday with us.

And that's all of the plan so far. This is a holiday to kick back and relax (hopefully) in the sun and I think we may have found the right place to do it. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Welsummer Camping, Lenham

I'm going to try really hard not to bias this review, but it was the first camping trip of the season, we had glorious weather and pretty good company. We also had an entire woodland campsite to ourselves.

We arrived to the sound of birds singing, bees buzzing and a warm welcome from the owners. Perfect so far. The wood for the campfire was delivered to the edge of the woodland for us. As we were the only ones there we had the choice of camping anywhere we liked. We found a fire pit which are scattered through the campsite with room for 3 or 4 small tents around. To camp in the woodland you need a small tent but there are places for larger tents too in the meadow.

See all those bluebells just waiting to spring into life? The floor will be entirely blue in a couple of weeks.

Then the kids disappeared into the wood and we relaxed. Cider may have been consumed. And the campfire was lit. This was also a trip for testing the new tripod and grill and it worked perfectly. More friends turned up for the evening (this is allowed but ask before they come) and it was spent cooking and eating and roaming the woods and chatting and generally having a very, very relaxing time. Apart from when Pete disappeared into the wood and got lost. That was a bit nerve wracking. We did find him again.

The next morning brought more campfire building and a huge cooked breakfast.

That's the new tripod and grill holding a kettle, pan of beans, a cast iron frying pan and two slices of toast. It holds a lot of food.

With breakfast cooking I took a stroll around the site. The toilet and shower facilities are lovely and clean. There are only two ladies toilets and one is in with the shower so I can see a queue for the ladies happening when the site is full. There's also a washing up spot with plenty of hot water. 

There's a place to sit and have a coffee and cake next to the little shop although we didn't taste any this time. A new shelter is just being built around the big oak tree for the more inclement camping days, or maybe to shelter from the sun. 

Breakfast eaten, more sitting and chatting and relaxing done, it was time to pack up and go home. Welsummer camping did everything we needed. We wanted to relax around the campfire and let the children off the leash after the winter. Even if the weather hadn't have been quite so perfect, the campsite would still have made it a wonderful weekend. We're already planning the next trip.

Where: Welsummer Camping, Harrietsham, Kent, ME17 1NQ

Contact: 01622 843 051 email

How much: Small tent + 4 people £20, Large tent + 6 £30 per night 

Fires: Yes, in the brick fire pits found all over the site

Wood: On sale at reception. All wood is from the coppiced trees on site.

Facilities: Clean and tidy toilets and shower but not many. Shelter under construction.

Dogs: allowed on leads and waste must be cleared up.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Camping Plans are also happening

Even though I know I said I wanted a holiday with nothing to do, I still love camping and will hopefully be doing lots this Summer. So far we have planned...

Wellsummer, Lenham
A little overnighter to kick the season off for Pete and I. We've never been before but have heard lovely things about it so can't wait to see if it's as idyllic as promised.

Badgell's Wood, Meopham
Stunning woodland campsite with proper campfires. Although the pitches are quite close together you get the feeling that you're alone on the campsite and only the flickering of other campfires and the occasional murmur of conversation makes aware of other groups. That and when the kids join forces to climb trees and play games. This was our camp last year.

Palace Farm, Doddington
This is the place we visit the most as it's about 15 minutes from home and a small, quiet site. And they allow campfires. See a theme emerging here? Everything is always well looked after, there's loads of space for running around and some really good walks nearby. Plus there's a pub at the bottom of the hill.

Kingsdown International Camping Center
We spent 2 nights here last Summer. It has lovely views of the sea but is quite sheltered. There's a path straight down to the shingle beach which was good for a morning paddle. Within cycling distance of Walmer Castle and Deal town. Last time we walked down and caught the bus back but it seemed to take forever to walk. We also stopped in the Rising Sun pub for tea on the way back and it was thoroughly lovely. Next time we'll try and camp on more level ground, but this would mean being further away from the toilets. Such decisions.

And then there are the ones we haven't been to yet but will hopefully find time to visit at some point this year.
Heron's Park, Lydd
Nethergong Nurseries, Canterbury

Thursday, 9 April 2015

I've been planning some holidays...

In the normal scheme of things, we plan holidays pretty much last minute and nothing huge. Things have changed. I have holidays planned up until 2020 and the big ones are very different to the ones we've done as a family before. And they are....

Disney World Florida, Christmas 2015 
Mediterranean Cruise, August 2016
France, Summer 2017
New England road trip, Summer 2018
France / Netherlands, Summer 2019
Florida, Easter / Summer 2020 

Yesterday I went and bought a lovely new notebook from Paperchase. I love a bit of new stationary and this was the perfect excuse. It's all divided up into the various trips so I can make notes about places to visit, costs of villas, car hire, cabins and most importantly to make notes so that I can report back here.

A bit of background to the trips and why all of a sudden there's so many planned.

Disney World 
My MIL Jennifer is celebrating her 70th birthday this year and that means a big celebration. We all like a bit of Disney and as she has four grandchildren (and some of us are big kids too) she thought that Disney Land Paris would be a good bet. Now, her birthday is in December and Paris at this time of year is a bit nippy. So we had a look around for some all inclusive winter sun holidays. They're quite pricey. 
So just on the off chance (and at the suggestion of Derek) we had a little look at the prices for DisneyWorld. And they were high, but not much higher than an all inclusive resort. And that's how 11 people are heading to DisneyWorld in Florida for Christmas 2015. 

Mediterranean Cruise, August 2016
On the back of all the planning for Disney it struck me that if we start planning our holidays a little bit further ahead then maybe we could have some bigger holidays. I love going camping in Europe, but it's not really a restful holiday. What I really wanted was an all inclusive holiday where I didn't have to think about every detail, we could have some proper down time and there was still loads of interesting things to see and do. What better than a Med cruise. 
After a little bit of research I found a cruise on Carnival Vista that was in our budget for next year. I dropped a lot of not so subtle hints to Graham, painting a wonderful picture of life on board, G&Ts on deck, watching the sunset after a delicious meal. The boys in the kids club. Rest, sun and Italy. What more could he want? 
He caved. I booked. We'll be cruising the Mediterranean next August for 8 days on the brand new Carnival Vista. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

This week in the garden...

This isn't a proper post, just a reminder to myself what I did in the garden this week!
1. Rose by the wall: developed mildew. Removed infected areas, recovered roots, watered well and hoped for the best.
2. Planted french beans direct. Very late doing this, but hopefully there'll be a bit of a crop.
3. Planted red spring onions 'vango'. Can plant up to the end of July so hopefully will do something. Reminder to plant another row in 2 weeks.
4. Planted salad leaves. Plant more in 1-2 weeks
5. Potted new acer into slightly bigger pot. Keep in a sheltered spot and plant in front garden in spring.

Not a proper post, but at least I can keep tabs on what's going on in the garden.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

LOOP 1: Erith to Bexley 9.5 miles (152 miles to go)

Friday 11th March 2011: Erith Riverside to Old Bexley

After deciding to actually start the walk, I was a little bit apprehensive. I'm walking the LOOP with Peter who's 14 months old and can't walk yet so I'll be carrying him. I've carried him on short journeys before now and I've walked further and on more difficult terrain, but never the two together. But off we headed into the wide blue yonder with pitta and humous sandwiches and jaffa cakes.

It was a bright and breezy day and absolutely perfect for the first trip out. There was nothing to put us off. Pete was all wrapped up, I was all psyched up and so off we went to catch the 10:22 from Maze Hill to Erith. It was at this point I started to worry. I wasn't struggling exactly, but I realised how heavy Pete is. I haven't weighed him for a while, but I'm reckoning on well over 2 stone now. A quick trip over the bridge, a hop onto the train and 25mins later we were on our way! Woo!

The start of the walk is quite urban with a little bit of riverside and then what feels like a long slog of roadside industrial walking. But stick with it! You soon come to the very atmospheric Crayford Marshes. A designated SSSI, there's grazing land, mud flats, ancient trees and lots of birds that I couldn't identify, but I'm sure I could given some expert help. We also admired lots of cows and ponies! 
Crayford Marsh
A pill box with lovely cows
Tea break and a look at the horses
Thames on the left, M25 in the background and River Darent to the right.
Looking towards the M25 made me realise that there are some really spectacular spots in London that don't involve being surrounded by people and buildings, it just takes a bit of effort to drag yourself away from the hurly burly. We carried on down by the Darent and passed the point where I assumed I'd be giving up (the turn off to Slade Green station) but it felt like we'd just got going so on we went!

There was quite a lot more of the Darent and River Cray to follow with friendly cyclists and dog walkers to have a little chat with. Then it got a tiny bit urban again as we headed into Crayford. This was a very short bit of road walking and we were soon back on the river.
River Cray with ancient willows and reed beds
Once away from the road noise this was a lovely stretch of river and again felt like we were at least away from the crowds if not actually in the middle of nowhere! The river runs behind lots of houses but we were forced to turn off the river after a stretch as the houses started to run down to the river. I'd love a house by the river like that - they all had boats and canoes and little landing stages. Very jealous! 

After this there was another stretch of road walking, but in town and near parkland so not too bad. And then back to the country stuff as we turned off for Hall Place, a Tudor country house with a fantastic tea room and gardens. The plan was to stop here for lunch by nipping through the back gates as suggested on the directions. Unfortunately, these gates don't open until the summer and so we couldn't get in without walking the long way round and in throught the main entrance. Instead, we stopped in the park and ate our falafel and humous sandwiches and had a cup of tea. I'd like to say thanks to the very kind dog walker who helped me back up with Pete as I suddenly lost all strength to cope.
I think it's quite obvious what Pete's doing here.

 After crossing the bridge and road, it was into woodland and a prettily shady walk into Bexley. There were plenty of woodland plants starting to poke through so if you do the walk a but later in the spring this section would be awash with colour and flowers.

We made a final stop at St Mary's Church in Old Bexley. There had been a plan to have a look around the inside, but the gates were locked and we couldn't get in. It's always a shame when churches can't leave their doors open for fear of theft and vandalism. Churches have been places of quiet reflection and refuge for centuries and now it seems that this is ending. For me, I like to go in and have a nosy, but find it sad when nobody can get in.
St Mary's Church, Bexley
A quick walk through town and we were at the station waiting for the train home. Jaffa cakes were consumed.
Pete's first Jaffa Cake, but probably not his last
Onto the train and halfway home I realised I'd left my wallet on the bench at the station. Only contained my Oyster card, keys, money, cards....bum. However, those wonderful people at Bexley station had found it and picked it up and kept it safe for me until the next morning! Southeastern, well done!

Even with the missing wallet, a brilliant day! And we even got to stop at Hall Place for tea and cake the next day when I went to collect my wallet!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

London LOOP

This is a little bit late as I've already walked the first walk but only just decided to blog it! I've enjoyed walking / rambling for a long long time since going for wanders with Dad and Grandad, Dof E in the Yorkshire Dales through to wandering around South Wales, London, more Yorks Dales and discovering the joys of the Lake District. I've got lost, done mad scrambles up and down waterfalls, even madder climbs when the path ran out and just generally enjoyed the outdoors.

In the last 2 years I haven't done enough serious walking and cycling but it's time to get back into shape and start to tackle the hills again! So, to start with, I'm walking the London LOOP with Pete. That's the London Outer Orbital Path or the walkers M25. The plan is to complete the whole lot over the next year or so. There are 24 sections and we're fair weather walkers so I'm thinking we'll maybe complete 15 this year and the rest next. Hopefully. So, 152 miles to go.