Friday, 18 November 2016

A Tranquil Visit To The Welsh Hills.

A week in October loomed nearer, so we decided to book some campsites in Wales. As it was half term week we thought perhaps sites would be busy. Contrary to normal practice for us, we booked three sites in Wales. All part of the Tranquil Parks scheme we chose three sites in nearish proximity to each other and booked three nights on each.

Unusual for us to be so organised. Sites booked and paid for, April loaded and off we went. A Saturday morning trip up through Wales to our first stop Red Kite Touring Park
near LLandiloes around 2.5 hours from Bristol on the scenic route. I have to say the drive through the countryside was spectacular with the beautiful Autumn colours just breaking through. We arrived at the campsite ably found by Madam SatNag to find this beautiful setting over looking the valley. 

The site is brand new and money has been spent on landscaping and making sure the facilities were immaculate. We set April up and went on a quick recci into town. Using the path from the campsite, a brisk mile walk downhill to the town of LLandilioes. A pretty little place with a park, loads of restaurants, pubs and other eateries, a small supermarket and other local shops. A lovely walk, although the return trip was a climb, still part of the "keep fit" plan! 

Below the camp site is a holiday home park run by the same people we think. I took some pictures of the lovely new flower beds, ideas for our garden perhaps?

Once we were settled in we planned a few walks for the following day. The site is well placed for a number of well marked walks we chose one for the next day, Nant y Geifr and Severn Valley.

As budding walkers we are beginning to learn our way around the maps but usually follow way marked trails where we can. We set off on the first walk with great enthusiasm, banana and water packed in our back packers. Equipped for sun or showers, we followed the directions carefully. Everything was going so well, three miles later it said, "turn left by the red telephone box". There it was clearly marked on the map, but did it really ever exist? We found the telegraph poles, we found the place where the box should have been but we never found the reservoir. Eventually, we gave up and retraced our steps back, never mind 7 miles under our belt for walk 1.

Day 3 in the Welsh hills dawned misty and dry. Off again, this time we would complete the walk and we did. Absolutely beautiful, following Glyndwr's Way up through Alit Goch Woods. The path was steep but well marked this time we stayed on track.

Ever upwards to the top of Garth Hill. The walk said it was a moderate climb!

When we finally got to the top it was worth it.

We worked our way around the walk until we got the the path near the Llyn Clywedog, through the farmyard it said. A very nice Welsh farmer helped us out with directions and we were soon on track again and wending our way through the woods tired but pleased with ourselves and a few more miles to add to the total.

Having forded the river, braved the cows and climbed the mountain, we safely made it back. A nice meal in a local eatery and we slept really well. The next morning on our way to the next campsite we drove up to the reservoir for a proper look. The start of the River Severn and loads of lovely walks for exploring another day. Certainly worth a return visit.

Our next stop was Wheathill Touring Park on the Shropshire border, another Tranquil Site. We had a call from them telling us the road to the campsite was shut but to ignore the signs and carry on. True to their instructions we safely arrived at the site at around lunchtime. and were soon sited and ready to explore. 

The site is undergoing expansion at the moment and a new toilet block and hard standing pitches are going in over the winter.

Someone is spending their pennies. The facilities were very good and the pitches huge. Our only criticism would be everything is a bit grey! In the summer when the flowers are out is probably looks more inviting but we felt they could have left a bit more grass. We decided to take a little ramble to the nearest shop. Two miles it said on the board! Believe me, at least 3 miles there according to Mr Garmin and not a good road to walk on it was do fast! Being townies we are used to a stately 20 miles an hour and smog, in Bristol 30 mph is fast and that's in the early hours of the morning. The B road outside the campsite was scary to walk along and we thought noisy considering it was supposed to be closed. Never mind, we got the exercise although we only did 2 miles along the road and back. We did actually find the shop when we left 3 days later a good 3 miles although with good parking, we could have taken April out. If you go to Wheathill take provisions!

The next morning bright and early we were up and off up a mountain. Opposite the site a beautiful walk along the Shropshire way and up to Brown Clee. Truthfully, we never quite found Brown Clee but the walk was stunning and if we go back we know where we went wrong.

The following, morning boots at the ready, we attacked the radar post on the other side of the hill at Tipperstones. A very hard climb but worth it for the views. We made it almost to the top, I chickened out of the last 200 yards, a bit to sheer for my liking.

 The last post for us, really didn't want to do this last bit. There was probably a car park and a burger van on the other side. Seriously, I think you could drive up to the top so perhaps that's for another time.

Tremendous views across the valley, the hill opposite was the one we climbed the previous day.

Exhausted by all the sheep worrying we wandered back. Passed this on the way, a biker who obviously didn't take enough provisions with him.

We ate at the Three Horseshoes Wheathill very conveniently next door to the camp site. Beautiful meal and the restaurant was very unusual in it's decor. The big question, would we go again? Well, the road is very noisy, but good facilities and nice walks, so yes, if we needed a one nighter and we were in the area.

The next day our final drive. Back into Wales just outside Skenfrith  Three Castles Caravan Park . What a lovely find.

Madam SatNag took us on a slightly longer meander than necessary but we found it. Again, in the middle of nowhere and you do need provisions. If you want posh nosh, The Bell, Skenfrith. is down the track a 10 minute walk away. Other than that, it's 7 miles in either direction to Monmouth or Ross On Wye, so TAKE FOOD!! 

We walked to explore the castle at Skenfrith now managed by The National Trust. 

Mostly ruins but interesting, I love castles and wondering how people actually managed to survive in them.

We wandered into the pub for an expensive glass of wine and laughed at the menu. We may treat ourselves if we go back another time. Not quite sure how those very expensive places keep going, they only have a few rooms. It did seem very quite and they had loads of staff.

The Three Castles site is beautifully maintained and has many regular visitors. The toilet block has individual bathrooms and a small lounge with microwave, TV and seating, great for bad weather days. We managed to find Wifi in the farm yard. The owners work full time but still manage to run the site efficiently and there is a white board to tell you where to park if you book in advance. We thought it would be a beautiful site for a summer stay so certainly on our radar for a return visit. The next 2 days were spent walking and we went on some absolutely stunning walks near the site. A bit misty but not cold.

Orchards, I never knew that this part of Wales was apple country. The orchards provide apples for Thatchers Cider. There is even an apple walk. One to try next time.

Some of the lovely spots we passed on our ambles about.

This was one of the spookiest places I have ever been, deathly quiet and DARK. We escaped unscathed although I was really pleased we didn't manage to get lost here.

It was Halloween and the locals obviously took it to heart. Escapees from the dark wood perhaps.

Strange goings on around these parts.

We will certainly have this site on our return list and only an hour from home.

Roll on the Spring!

Monday, 17 October 2016

French Holiday 2016. Homeward Bound. Part 3.

Every holiday has a final phase. Time to wend our way homewards! A few days were still left to enjoy France on the back roads but we had to meander northwards. We had been looking for a site somewhere in the Poitiers region and thought we would try and find a new one. We had stayed at Montmorillon the previous year and we were tempted to return. However, with a renewed spirit of adventure we opted instead for a new place, Chauvigny   Camp Municipal La Fontaine.

We arrived in good time to set up on a large corner pitch. The campsite was in a valley below the medieval town of Chauvigny. A slightly tricky place to find but there were much larger campers than ours that had made the drive down the slightly narrow approach road. We were really lucky as we got to the site just as Monsieur Le Camping was closing up for lunch. He directed us to our pitch. The campsite is dated but well laid out with good facilities and big pitches.

 Beautifully placed for a trip into town either the modern town of Chauvigny with it's shops and restaurants or the medieval town at the top of the hill. There was a free bus service up to the town but we opted for the steps and set out to explore.

Climbing up the steep stairs to the medieval village made us glad we had a spent a few hours in the gym getting fitter. We made it!
The village was filled with tourists, there were loads of ruins and museums to explore. We felt slightly lazy so settled for a beer in the village square and a bit of people watching.

Some of the people were a little strange, others were American tourists, who were obviously a little confused and thought France was a desert destination.

 Of course they could have been in fancy dress! We pondered the world and drank our cold beer before strolling back down to the camp site. The views were fabulous.

Adjacent to the camp site was a lovely little park and a short walk to the main town. We had a great night in the local hotel with a posh meal for our 44th wedding anniversary. A trip through the park on the way home was interesting, especially after the wine, we had forgotten to bring a torch. Den used his second sight to guide us home and we managed to successfully negotiate the two little bridges, I followed blindly, the swans didn't eat or attack us.Strange really, my sense of direction is usually really good but I had no idea which direction to go. All in all a lovely few nights camping and a site we will return to.

Our penultimate destination was Argentan Campsite Municipal de La Noe about an hours drive from the ferry. A small site but perfectly formed and beautifully looked after. Next door was a community garden, lake and a lace museum. The gardens were beautifully kept. Surrounding the gardens was a large complex of apartments for over 60's and there were loads of families with elderly relatives relaxing in the sunshine. We managed a couple of walks around the area which had been set up to show off the aspects of the surrounding countryside.

Monsieur Le Camping was quite rightly very proud of his site and ran a tight ship. No arrivals before 11 am and departures strictly on time. Bread was available to order in the morning and on a Sunday morning was a small market in the town. The site was in a small orchard which was impeccably orderly. Even stray leaves from the trees and odd windfall apples were promptly removed and the gravel was watered and raked to within an inch of it's life.

There happened to be a meeting of the boat club going on so we spent a happy hour watching the model boats sailing around the lake. What a great community feel, from young kids with their homemade offerings to the "big boats" which hammered over the water at speed.
The town of Argentan was well worth a visit. We spent some time ambling around the back streets and looking at some of the tourist attraction. Note the clock!

We really enjoyed our stay here and as it's only an hour from Ouistreham and the ferry, we will certainly return.

Our final stop was at Pommiers now called Camping Normandie Riva Bella . At 26 Euros not cheap and the facilities are not fabulous. However, since being taken over the site is being revamped with a new toilet block and swimming pool. We parked up on the grass at the top of the site though there were hard standings available. We wandered into Ouistreham for a farewell meal which was lovely. That's it France, until next year then!