The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Weather In The UK... very seldom as bad as forecast. I've said it many a time before and today was another case in point. It was just before 10 am when we abandoned Colin and wandered down to find the river Nidd, which runs through Knaresborough, and it didn't escape our notice that the heavy rain, that was supposed to be right over us, had not arrived. Indeed, neither had the strong winds.

So, we strolled in fine conditions along the river for a couple of miles or so, initially on road then through (sometimes very muddy) woodland before turning back at the next bridge and taking a no-through-route-to-motor-vehicles and no-motors-except-for-access lane (i.e. very quiet and perfect for walking). Some fine properties sit down there on their riverside plots and it seems there's been habitation there for some time as St Robert's Cave (for which we made the very short side trip) dates from the twelfth century.

A little tour of the town and a look around the castle grounds (which we weren't allowed to enjoy as a sign informed us that the castle is owned by the queen but leased back to the town for the enjoyment of the inhabitants) would have completed our visit except one important thing had been missed: a trip to a local bakery for cake. It was just gone noon when, clutching our cakes, we arrived back at Colin and not three minutes later it started to rain. What perfect timing!

We were happy for it to rain as the plan for the afternoon mainly involved drinking tea and chatting at Mick's younger brother's house.

Five and a half miles were walked in our riverside outing and there was most definitely some 'up' but I haven't counted the contours yet to tell you how much.

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Wrong Decision

On Wednesday afternoon a decision had to be made: to head for our originally intended destination of Malham Tarn (33 miles away) or to change plan based on the weather forecast and head for the seaside at Bridlington (90 miles away). Being 4pm by the time we got away, we opted to stick with Plan A and in the pitch dark some tiny lanes were negotiated to find ourselves a nice level parking spot with some unexpectedly good amenities (127 TV channels and 3G phone signal).

Peeking out of the blinds on Thursday morning to find that we were sitting within a mizzling cloud, I realised we had erred in our choice and should have listened to the almost unanimous opinions of various friends on Facebook, all bar one of whom had voted for Bridlington. Not to be defeated, we put all thoughts of ice creams and donkey rides out of our heads, killed some time drinking coffee and eating pastries, then set out on our intended walk, over Malham Lings, past Outside and around the Tarn.

The coffee and pastries interlude had allowed the cloud to lift a little, so we did have some limited views as we set out:


Cows, Colin, Cloud and Malham Tarn

Twenty minutes later we were back in the cloud and there we stayed for the rest of our 6.5-mile circuit, meaning that there’s very little I can say about it. We did regain a tiny bit of visibility when we dropped back down to Malham Tarn:


Another walk was pencilled in for today (Friday 27 November), and I got as far as putting my walking trousers on ready to set off. Then it started to rain, causing quite a harrumph, as today’s weather forecast was the best of the week and (last I saw) should have been fine and dry. “I’m not going out in that!” I declared, not just because I’m turning into a fair weather walker, but more because I can’t wear my contact lenses at the moment and I really can’t abide rain on my glasses.

So, we headed to Harrogate instead where the sun wasn’t shining either, but it was dry as we enjoyed a walk around the town. We must go back sometime and explore further. Tomorrow’s forecast is truly dreadful, but hopefully we’ll find the mettle to brave the wet for a stroll around Knaresborough*.

(*When Mick was a lad in ‘Alifax he had a car draw up next to him and the American occupants asked him for directions to a place they pronounced as Kuh-nah-res-buh-ruff. Mick was perplexed until finally they showed him the name in writing, whereupon he realised they were seeking Knaresborough. It was because of that short encounter all of those years ago that, in our house, Knaresborough is known as Kuh-nah-res-buh-ruff. I overheard some teenagers talking about the place today and it took me a few moments to remember that their pronunciation of the name was the correct one!)

Sunday, 22 November 2015

A Visit to the Smallest County (4)

Saturday 21 November

Rutland Water is a sizeable body of water and, whilst in summer we wouldn’t think anything of walking its outside perimeter in a day, there was still enough left on this trip to keep us amused for another morning’s walking, with today’s objective being the reservoir’s tongue: Hambleton peninsula.


In view of the weather (glorious blue skies, but with a very keen wind which had switched from warm to deep-mid-winter overnight) I ditched plans to walk in from Egleton and instead we sought somewhere to park on the peninsula itself. Being early enough easily to find a parking spot, we had plenty of time at our disposal to fortify ourselves with coffee and bacon/egg sandwiches before we stepped out into the wind.


If the wind had been a bit less and the temperature a bit more it would have been a most perfect walking day, but even so, we can’t really complain about such conditions at this time of year, can we?

With just a handful of runners and cyclists seen, and various scientific experiments carried out as to our respective stride lengths, we found ourselves back at a busier village than we’d left, having ambled a modest 4.5 miles.

And that would have been the end of our trip, except that I’d spotted that Bardon Hill lay just a stone’s throw away from a sensible route home, and as it had been pea-soup weather when I made it the first hill of my Marilyn campaign on 18 November 2014, and as Mick hadn’t been with me that day, we made a little detour.

The weather forecast on Friday evening had told us of the possibility of a bit of slush lying on Saturday morning in the Midlands, but promised that it would soon thaw, so I hadn’t expected, as we approached Coalville, to see crisp snow in the streets in the middle of the afternoon. We explored those streets a bit more than intended too, having set out from Colin in completely the wrong direction … ooops.


The views were superb from the top, but the wind chill such that we paused only long enough to prove that I really need to work on my selfie composition skills:IMG_0458

A Visit to the Smallest County (3)

Friday 20 November

“Back to Rutland Water!” I declared to be the plan for the day, this time with the intention of taking a stroll along the south side.

Edith Weston* provided us with parking, and west was the direction for which we opted, ambling along under clear blue skies as far as the Visitor Centre, where the cycle track, which circumnavigates the reservoir, leaves the waterside and heads to a road for a short while.

Thoughts of seeing whether dreadful cups of tea were a general feature of the various visitor centres and cafes (really, Wednesday’s offering at Whitwell Visitor Centre was awful) were thwarted when this particular centre was found to be closed**, so with an about-turn, back east we headed.

With the number of yachts we’d seen in land-based storage during Wednesday’s and today’s walks, we had to conclude that if they were all on the water at once it’d be a mightily crowded place. At this time of year there was no crowding evident at all. In fact, the only boats we saw in the water are those in the snap below, and the only ones out and about under sail were dinghies rather than yachts:IMG_0446

Having only covered 5.3 miles we really should have continued east beyond Edith Weston to have a closer look at the church (by appearances)/museum (by what the map says) place we could see, which looked interesting. Unfortunately we didn’t, thus 5.3 miles remained the tally for the day, with 450-feet-worth of undulations. None of the undulations was long or steep, contrary to Anglian Water’s Health and Safety Department’s view, as evidenced by plenty of signs warning of steepness and either requiring dismounting or reminding that helmets should be worn They struck me as being over the top, and it seems that I wasn’t the only one:


Maybe I would be of a different opinion on a warm summer’s day when the vast car parks are brimming and the waterside track busy with families – something it was difficult to picture in our solitude on this trip.

The day was rounded off with a trip to Cottesmore, which now bears very little resemblance to the place Mick remembers from 41 years ago, from where we decided that given the options we may as well go back to Tallington Lakes again and take advantage of the bargain campsite for a third night.

(*Just to clarify: Edith Weston is a ‘where’ not a ‘who’. It’s a village.

** What with closed car parks, prohibitive car park restrictions elsewhere and closed cafes this really was turning into an unexpectedly cheap trip!)

A Visit to the Smallest County (2)

Thursday 19 November

Having noticed on Wednesday afternoon that the Morrison’s supermarket just outside of Stamford doesn’t have any parking restrictions, I thought we may as well take advantage by visiting the town and walking a circuit taking in the river and a bit of the perimeter of the Burghley Estate.

The town surprised me in how attractive it is, how many churches it houses and how big the Stamford School is, but we didn’t loiter for very long, knowing that we would be coming back through at the end of the walk. Instead, we made a beeline for the river and along it we walked, tracing the steps of the Romans, apparently:


The river wasn’t actually very attractive and the riverside path was a mudfest. By the time we struck off across muddy farmland I was hankering after the surfaced tracks around Rutland Water and thinking I’d picked a poor route for this day:


It did get better. Once we reached the woodland visible ahead of Mick in the above snap, the underfoot conditions improved considerably and the surroundings were more pleasing too. The village of Easton on the Hill (if I’d read the name of the village before we’d set out perhaps I wouldn’t have been surprised that we had to go uphill to get there!) was another delight (albeit one of which I didn’t take any photos) and beyond there the view from another good track gave us a bit of history, in the shape of this derelict building, to ponder over:


Wondering what St. Martin was without…


… I had hoped that by taking a little out-and-back along the edge of the Burghley Estate we would get a good view over the grounds and maybe a glimpse of the house (which we would have visited, had they not been closed for the winter). Alas, even though the contour lines on the map looked promising, trees and a bank obscured all views, meaning that most interest along that section was in watching a plethora of poor golfers on the adjacent course.

Cheekily we commandeered the bench behind the fifth tee for our lunch break, whereupon it started to rain. Harrumph! The forecast had told us we should remain dry until late afternoon, but it definitely continued as we short-cut back into Stamford and perused the bookshelves of the charity shops. As with the previous day, any inclination to explore the town further was eradicated by the rain, so back to Colin we headed, having walked just over 7.5 miles with around 400’ of ascent.

A Visit to the Smallest County (1)

As much as I would have liked to have headed north or west, to visit a few previously unticked hilltops, the weather forecast for this week suggested that the only way we could escape the bulk of the lashing rain and howling wind would be to head east. Adjudging that north Norfolk deserved more time than we had available to lavish upon it, we selected Rutland Water instead. Or, to Mick, Empingham Reservoir, that being the name by which it was known when it was under construction when he was based just up the road at RAF Cottesmore in the mid-seventies.

Wednesday 18 November

An early start saw us arrive in Oakham before 9am, but having failed easily to find a satisfactory place to abandon Colin for the day, we quickly ditched my original plan to catch a bus from Oakham to Empingham to walk the entire north shore of the reservoir. Plan B was to park at Barnsdale and do an out-and-back walk to Empingham, which is exactly what we did, even with the fly in the ointment of finding the car park to be closed for the winter* (that was some money unexpectedly saved; there turned out to be good on-street parking right outside the closed car park).

It was a bit grey as we set out, but relatively calm after the violent storm which had passed through overnight:


The white sheep of the family?

Empingham was my first taste of the local villages and I was rather taken with it. I was subsequently to find that it is quite typical of the local area; every village we visited looked worthy of adorning a postcard:


By the time we got to the Whitwell Visitor Centre on our return leg (where we spent some of our saved parking fees on two of the most dreadful cups of tea ever drunk) it was still warm enough to sit outside, but the we couldn’t help but notice that the wind had picked up. The white tops on the water were one clue, along with the quantity of leaves rushing across the car park to some unknown destination:


Having walked 7.7 miles, accumulating in the region of 700’ of undulations on our way, off into Oakham we pootled for a look around. That wasn’t so successful. The Long Stay car park didn’t have a single space vacant, and although we managed to fit nicely into one of the many in the Short Stay we then found that we risked a £70 fine, due to being over 5.5m long. A freebie on-street spot was eventually found which only gave us an hour, which turned out to be plenty as half an hour later the onset of a cold rain had us scurrying (via a cake shop) back to Colin.

Calling it a day, off to Tallington Lakes we headed, where the campsite in winter is a veritable bargain: £10 gets a level hard-standing pitch with electric hook-up and the facilities are not only clean, modern and heated, but the water for the push-button showers was positively hot. 

(*There’s lots of information on Anglian Water’s website about parking at Rutland Water. I’d confirmed the prices and that Colin-sized vehicles were permitted, yet nothing told me that some of the car parks are closed over winter.)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Colin’s Life in Numbers


It occurred to me this morning that it was four years ago last Wednesday that we bought Colin (our WildAx Constellation panel van conversion motorhome), and thus we have now completed four ‘Colin years’. Accordingly, I started looking at some figures related to his usage this year and how that compared with previous years.

After we bought him I played around with some numbers on a spread-sheet (completely out of character, I know…) and concluded that we needed to use him for 34 nights a year to make his purchase worthwhile. So little was he used in the first year (we both found ourselves employed and that hadn’t been in the plan when we’d splashed the cash) that we did consider selling him; fortunately that didn’t happen, as we’ve now more than made up for the slow first couple of years.

Here are the illustrated facts and figures:

Number of Nights

A disappointing 22 nights’ use in Year 1 has risen to a pleasing 106 nights this year.

Type of Night Stop

‘Free Nights’ may be car parks, laybys, on-street parking or friends’ driveways. We have actually paid for some of the car parks, but on all bar one occasion the payment was a voluntary donation to a charitable cause and on the one occasion when it wasn’t a donation, it was only 50p meaning it wasn’t worth creating a new category for it!

Total Costs

Oooh look! In Year 4 we spent approximately 3 times more nights in Colin than in Year 2, yet the accommodation cost wasn’t much different. The LPG cost for Year 2 looks high, but the reality is that the vast majority of that gas was used in Year 3. The amount of gas used has a direct relationship to the number of non-winter nights spent in free locations, running the fridge on gas.

Average Costs Per Night

I suspect that we may now have bottomed out on the average accommodation costs per night (i.e. the cost of campsites). The overall cost is a less reliable measure as it is heavily affected by the price of diesel (as well as depending on how far afield we wander for what duration). In Year 2 we paid around £1.45/litre for diesel on more than one occasion. This year we’ve paid as little as £1.04/litre.


All very interesting (to me, anyway!), but the key thing, which I can’t convey in a graph is how many trips we’ve had, places we’ve been, and hills we’ve climbed, that wouldn’t have happened in the absence of Colin-type accommodation.