Category Archives: England


Listen to the the post on Anchor

Last year we were able to visit Saltburn-By-The-Sea in North Yorkshire (in-between lockdowns) and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We had heard about Saltburn on another blog and decided to investigate. From its tall cliffs to sweeping beach this is a great place to blow those cobwebs away.


History of Saltburn-By-The-Sea

This picturesque Victorian seaside town is situated on the Cleveland coastline, between Redcar and Whitby. The town has a lot of history including the Roman signalling station. Located on top of Hunt Cliff, a station was built to watch out for Anglo Saxon attackers from Denmark and Germany. Some excavations were undertaken upon its discovery. Some artefacts including Roman pottery, leather sandals and clothing are on show in the Whitby museum. Due to erosion this has now been lost to the sea. There was a sign up nearby however I am not sure if that is still there after the winter.

Smuggling was also rife on this stretch of coastline from Saltburn to Whitby in the 18th and 19th century. Everyone seemed to be involved, from clergymen and farmers to local gentry. Saltburn and other villages along the coastline that were quite rural and isolated, allowed for the illegal smuggling of contraband to become a profitable business away from prying eyes. This contraband included items such as tea, brandy and textiles which at that point were taxed heavily as imported goods. Robin Hoods Bay even has a smugglers tunnel leading from the beach inland and is another destination that we loved visiting.

The Victorian influence in the town is unmistakeable as the industrial revolution seemed to touch every corner of the country. Railways were built, factories churned out goods and the pollution started to cause health problems for those living in cities and industrial areas. The health benefits of being by the seaside lead to the development of seaside towns popping up for the wealthy to visit and escape the smog.

Henry Pease and the building of Saltburn.

During the industrial revolution, the discovery and recovery of Iron Ore would change the fortunes of Saltburn. Henry Pease came from a mostly Quaker family who were heavily involved in industrial enterprises. The family had several lines of business including woollen mills, coal mines and railways.

Henry’s father Joseph Pease was influential in creating the Stockton to Darlington railway. He then proposed to extend the line further. The SIC (Saltburn Improvement Company) was formed and development began on the extension of the railway line. It is stated that one evening by Henry’s wife, he returned home late for dinner. Explaining that he had walked to Saltburn-By-The-Sea “seated on the hillside he had seen, in a sort of prophetic vision, on the edge of the cliff before him, a town arise and the quiet unfrequented glen turned into a lovely garden”.

The railway line had already received royal assent in the North Riding Railway Act of 1858 by then and seemed to pave the way for Henry to build the town from his vision. Land was purchased from the Earl of Zetland by Henry and designs for a grid iron town with a mass of sea views able to capitalise on the steep incline up the cliff face from the beach. Plots were sold to developers and over the years the town was built Rapidly growing in size. The seaside resort benefitted greatly from the completion of the Saltburn stretch of railway by 1861.

As a result, today you can see how well they capitalised on the local geography to maximise profits on views. The town peers down in tiers to views across the bay. They also take a battering from the winds off of the North Sea too.


We found free parking easily on Marine Parade. With plenty of room on the road side for larger campervans such as our Iveco XLWB. From here, you could either use the steps provided for the descent from the cliff top or you could walk back along the roadside for a longer but easier gradient. There are pay and display car parks in Saltburn-By-The-Sea located at the bottom of the cliff near Skelton Beck should you require a closer parking spot to the beach itself.

Saltburn-By-The-Sea Funicular

saltburn funicular

Another way to get to sea level easily is a short ride on the funicular, or Cliff Lift! Providing easy access to the pier, this is the oldest working funicular in the UK. At 120ft high and a 71 percent incline, these 12 person cars still use water balancing to operate. How does it work you ask? There are two cars on the lines, one at the top and one at the bottom. Each car is fitted with a huge water tank, filled until the mass of the top car is heavier than the one at the bottom. The shift in weight allows the car to travel down using gravity and the movement is managed by the brake-person. When the car gets to the bottom, water is released and pumped back to the top.

Sadly, due to Covid rules, this attraction was closed when we visited so we couldn’t see it in operation. It looked splendid on the coast line in the sunshine and we hope it will be open again soon.

Saltburn-By-The-Sea Pier

saltburn pier

Across the way from the funicular is the famous pier. Famous because it is now the last remaining pier in Yorkshire. Originally 1500ft long and operating steamer excursions for passengers from Saltburn-By-The-Sea to Middlesbrough, and then Hartlepool and Scarborough.

In October 1875 a bad storm destroyed the end of the pier removing 300 ft and leaving it badly damaged. The pier has had some changes since then. Most recently a cash injection of £2.1m from the National Lottery Heritage Grant. This has led the way for conservation of the cast iron trestles and replacement of the hardwood timber beams. The Pier now sports a 680ft jetty with benches for visitors to enjoy the views. There are no structures on the pier such as amusements.

We had a lovely time sat here watching people with their kids and dogs, chasing waves and playing happily. The long beach golden in the waning summer sunshine casting a glow and shadows of the pier onto the sand.

The beach                          

saltburn beach rocks

Saltburn-By-The-Sea is home to a gently sloped sandy beach with some shingle. It is family friendly and has dog friendly sections of the beach all year round. The tide goes out past the end of the pier (well certainly when we were visiting!) at low tide. Multi-coloured beach huts for hire mark the edge of the promenade under the cliffs.  There is one arcade and a small selection places to get your fish and chips and ice cream from.

The surf scene at Saltburn-By-The-Sea is also pretty well known in the surfing community. The waves here have baptised many to the sport that have gone one to do very well in surfing competitions. Some say Saltburn-By-The-Sea is the best surf spots on the east coast of England.

The Cleveland Way Walk

Old Saltburn national trust site

The Cleveland Way is a famous horse shoe shaped national trail. It runs 110 miles from Helmsley (in-land), on a north-eastern trajectory until it turns south along the coast line from Saltburn-By-The-Sea to Filey Brigg. It’s highest point is 454m above sea level and the route can be split into 30 smaller walks. Officially opened in May 1969, the Cleveland Way takes in all types of scenery, from the costal cliff top paths to heather moorlands and views ever changing with the seasons. The North York Moors national park is a very special part of England boasting unspoilt dark skies perfect for star gazing.

We took the path for the Cleveland way up the hill from the Ship Inn past the National Trust sign. Climbing steeply to the cliff top before we levelled out to fields on our right full of crops and butterflies and a few little cottages before walking alongside the railway line. A heavily trodden path lead the way towards the village of Skinningrove, tucked around the cove. Some wonderful sights along the way including these two pieces of artwork.

Hunt Cliff

The drop at Hunt cliff of around 365ft straight down is one of the highest cliffs on the east coast of England and part of a nature reserve. The formidable cliff face is an appealing home for birds such as Cormorants, Kittiwakes and Fulmar.

Seats overlook the cliffs edge but with constant erosion you wouldn’t catch me on them for love nor money. There is also a sad history here, with many people choosing this location as one to end their lives. Rocks with messages on and the number for the Samaritans mark locations chosen by desperate people that visit here uncertain of where to turn. You can’t help but reflect on the sadness that this cliff has born witness to even though the location is beautiful and peaceful.

The Mortuary

The suicides that happen here are not new sadly. This place has been chosen for centuries as a sure way to a quick demise. Evidence of that can be seen in the number of bodies recovered on the beaches below. With the local pub, the Ship Inn, being used as a makeshift mortuary until 1881. The 12ft by 18ft building that sits alone across the road was then built as the local mortuary. Long since closed and used as a wood store and photographers studio in following years.

Skelton Beck and Valley Gardens

Henry Pease had a vision of the unfrequented glen turned into a beautiful garden. Land was purchased from the Earl of Zetland for it and the location where Skelton Beck ends its journey from Guisburgh is where you will find Valley Gardens.

The railway line development needed to find a way of crossing the beck to reach Skinningrove. An incredible 11 arched railway viaduct was built to serve the limestone mines. The beck winding its way towards the sea below was not without its share of the news. Pollution from pig slurry killed the fish and needed cleaning and restocking many years ago.

The gardens are beautiful to walk around and include wooded areas as sell as steep banks and Italian inspired designs. A tea room, play area and miniature railway line provide entertainment and relaxation away from the beach. We saw children playing with their fishing nets paddling in the water here away having lots of fun.

Saltburn-By-The-Sea is a must see!

Ensuring you can explore locations where you have plenty of space is still a new way of thinking post covid. We all are desperate now for life to return to normal however there will be lasting changes for some. The highlights of Saltburn-By-The-Sea include…

  • Dog friendly sections of the beach year around
  • Beach huts for hire – if they reopen this summer it will provide safe areas for your family.
  • Wide and long beach
  • Cliff walk as part of the Cleveland way
  • Gardens and beck for paddling and fishing for the children.
  • Pier
  • Takeaways providing food and ice cream

We had a lovely time here and felt very safe in the area.

Please continue to follow all government advice and guidelines for travel in your area.

See other Locations we have visited

How to use the London Underground

Using your campervan in London

Whilst not impossible, the City of London are making it more and more expensive to take your vehicles into the centre of London. This post aims to educate you on how to use the London Underground instead and save time and money.

The congestion charge was introduced in 2003, initially a £5 a day tariff to drive your vehicle between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday in the city centre. As it name indicates, the charge was set up to reduce the number of cars and journey length as people would not drive in the city and want to pay the tariff.

This fee has increased over the years to £11.50 and must be paid either in advance or on the day or travel (until Midnight). At the latest, you can pay up to midnight the next day with a surcharge but after that you will receive a fine.

Low Emission Zone

Low emission zones were introduced in April 2019 and this incurs a further charge if your vehicle does not meet the standards set out by the government for emissions. Essentially, for a diesel campervan over 15 years old, you are looking to pay another £12.50 on top of the congestion charge.

Parking is harder to come by for larger vehicles and the risk of theft, damage or break-ins rises sharply too. We recommend that you find a safe place to park and then make the most of London Transport. In this guide we tell you how to use the London Underground with confidence and clarity.

How to use the London Underground

London Underground
Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

London is a major city with a population of almost 9 million people. The travel infrastructure is advanced with busses, over-ground trains, trams, Docklands light railway, a clipper boat and of course, the London Underground. This is essential to combat the traffic and pollution issues that large cities face. Sadly, even with the public transport in place, many still prefer to use cars to move around the city resulting in long road delays.

We highly recommend using public transport where possible as it is often easier and quicker than driving, plus your carbon footprint is reduced. It doesn’t matter how you use the London transport as long as you understand it consists of the Underground and overground components.

In this post we will be explaining how to use the London underground to navigate your way around the city easily, and with confidence. As someone who grew up in London I really took for granted how advanced our network is. Whilst it isn’t perfect, these frustrations come from the reliability of the service providers, weather causing delays an occasional strike action, not from the destinations or routes available.


History of the underground





How to use the London Underground

                Different Lines

                Zones explained


                Navigating the stations

                Platforms and boarding

                Leaving the train

                Underground Etiquate

History of the Underground


I could talk all day about the history of the underground, it is part of the fabric of modern life and the oldest underground rail system in the world. Its origins stem back all the way to 1863, believe it or not!

I will give you a brief overview of where it all began but if you are interested in this, then there is so much more to explore and even some attractions you can visit, such as a 2 hour tour from the oldest to the futuristic stations at the Visit London website.

Metropolitan line

The Metropolitan line is the oldest underground line in London. Opening in 1863 and using steam locomotives pulling wooden gas lit carriages. In its first year, the Metropolitan line transported over 9 million individual journeys, with public calling for more to be built and with companies petitioning parliament for new lines.

Within 2 years, the circle line was completed alongside the district line. As the lines expanded, the metropolitan line reached as far as Buckinghamshire, ensuring a line 80km long could transport passengers into the city centre. They all had to learn how to use the London Underground from scratch where as we all grew up understanding the concept.

Different companies owned different lines and sometimes this caused friction, especially if they were sharing rail space. It wouldn’t be until much later that all of the networks would come together and run as one.

Electric trains

Before long, other lines were added and electric trains introduced in 1890. The development of the railway lines seemed to boom, spurred on from the industrial revolution. More people were drawn to the factory work in the city rather than the farming work of the country.

In the first half of the 1800’s, the population of London tripled, leading to more traffic and congestion. There were already 7 major over-ground lines meeting in the city bringing people in, so something had to be done to ease congestion.  

As technology improved, the tunnels became deeper. The first tunnels were mere meters underground, with trenches being built and roofs being laid on top. Now, the deepest tunnel is 58 meters underground and belongs to Hampstead heath on the Jubilee line.

The London Underground created jobs and revenue from those who knew how to use it. The city continued to grow.

The Tube during the War

London Underground as an air raid shelter.

Many stations were utilised as air raid shelters during the wars. Additionally, the government made use of the tunnels to to hide some of the cities treasures as well as make administrative office space for them and the Army. Some of the tunnels were even turned into factories making munitions and aeroplane parts to assist in the war effort.

Although the tunnels were used for shelter during the first world war, it was discouraged for the 2nd. 10 massive air raid shelters were supposed to be built in the city housing thousands of civilians however only 8 were built and mostly used by government officials. Every time a siren would sound people would still head for the shelter of the tube tunnels.

The government reluctantly backtracked and allowed the stations to be used as air-raid shelters after a disastrous accident. Sadly, during an air raid siren test on 3rd March 1943, a surge of people trying to take shelter caused a panicked state at Bethnal Green station which resulted in the deaths of 173 people.

Royal Mail Trains – Mail Rail

Mail Rail – Take a ride on the train in the museum!

The Royal Mail – mail rail line, opened in 1927 it operated for over 75 years before closing in 2003. The line was designed to transport mail between sorting offices in the city was a narrow gauge, driverless train. With 8 stops between Whitechapel and Paddington, 50 driverless electric trains shifted 30,000 items each day a mere 70 ft beneath the surface between the main sorting offices around London.

Although now closed, you are able to still access the tunnels and take a ride on the train through the Postal Museum in London. Take a 15 minute ride on the small trains and see the largely unchanged 100 year old tunnels, see the station platforms and experience a 1:20 gradient from the lines to the stations used to help the trains slow down on approach and speed up on departure!

Trains for the Royal Family.

It may be just rumour, or it may be fact. The history books tell us long ago that secret tunnels were built within castles, churches and important buildings to aid escape in times of a siege or, in the modern age, bombing and terrorism.

People have spoken for years about a secret tube station underneath Buckingham Palace, linked to Parliament and Downing street, to aid the escape of the Queen during such an attack. The private tube is said to have its own network of tunnels under the city, one even reporting it goes as far as Scotland which is far fetched even for me.

A darker past

In some reports, the underground tunnels from the palace go to the darker corners of the city where princes and dukes would visit women of the night undetected. The Queen has visited stations as part of her royal duties and the thought of Her Maj popping on the tube to get to Gala Bingo has me in stitches. Does HRH know how to use the London Underground and sneak around the city?

It would make sense to have a network of tunnels to aid escape although these are unproven, or guarded so highly no one will tell us for fear they would be misused. We do know there are a warren of disused tunnels by London underground and likely used by the government for ‘storage’.

It is claimed that Buckingham Palace has its own cash point and post office inside and many have speculated that the Royal Mail train runs underneath Buckingham Palace and therefore providing an escape route for the Royals. I guess we will never know for sure, but it is a plausible case to argue that the Palace would have escape tunnels.

How the Underground Works

Different Lines

The underground is currently made up from 11 tube lines, not including over-ground, Emirates and Docklands Light Railway. The networks lines tend to cover different routes into the city like a spider’s web but once in the main sections, it is not uncommon for them to share train tracks. For instance, the circle line and district line share 18 stations on the same route from Edgeware road to tower hill. Similarly, the District and Hammersmith and city line then share 11.


Some lines go just from point A to point B with varying amount of stops in between. Nice and simple! You are either going forwards or backwards. Other lines break off into ‘branches’ and may go via another destination. The Northern line, for example, has two branches to it splitting off at Kennington and going via either Charring Cross or Bank, before joining briefly at Camden Town to terminate in either Edgeware or High Barnett.  

Do make sure you check which branch you require and always note the termination destination to keep yourself on the correct journey. Any ember of staff will help you if you are unsure.

Tube Map

Early geographical map before Henry Beck’s design.

Some lines go East/West, others North/South and some across the middle. At first glance, it looks like a plate of spaghetti however once you have a vague idea of the layout of London, it is easier to work out where you need to be. If you can find out where you are and where you need to get to you can easily trace the trainlines to find out your connections. If you are unsure on how to reach your destination, there are staff on hand to assist you that know the network inside out.

The map that we look at today is not geographically correct, but topological, formed to make an easier to read map with straight lines. The map was first designed by Henry Beck in 1931 and although ‘London Underground’ were sceptical of the initial design, they trialled it a few years later to see if people would accept it and found people preferred this type of map, with straight edges. It was easier to read and follow, everything was spaced out evenly and although not a true representation of the lines, it made navigation so much easier.

Circle line isn’t a circle anymore.

The circle line used to be just that, a loop of stations where you could get on either side and eventually get to the right station, which happened to someone one meeting me for a date! (I thought I had been stood up but turns out they went the wrong direction!). In 2009, an extension to the line now means that the line begins and ends in Edgeware road and Hammersmith, now resembling a no 6 shape flipped over.

Zones explained

‘Transport for London’ calculate your fares in accordance with a zone system. Whether you are using the tube, a bus, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) or over ground, you will find the zone system in place. This is in order to calculate fares. There are 6 main zones within central London and for national rail lines, these extend over-ground to 15 (but don’t worry about those for the moment).

Imagine Saturn’s rings. At the centre of the rings is a circle, this is zone 1. Every 3 miles out from the city centre, another zone comes into action. This then leads to 6 rings around London and a variation in fares depending on where you are travelling to.

How to use the London Underground

Disabled access

Only 78 of the 270 stations have some form of step free access to platforms although this may be a manual boarding ramp between lines. On the official TfL maps, stations marked with a white wheelchair symbol are step free to the platform but not all are step free to the train. Some still need manual ramps.

This is an area that TfL are trying to improve but with such an old network of tunnels accessibility is proving very hard for them to achieve.


So how does this effect tickets?

Transport for London have tried several initiatives over the years, with the zones coming into force in the 1980’s. Beforehand, the price you paid depended on how far you were travelling and was calculated by the conductor. As the conductors were removed, the driver was responsible for collecting fares and time spent at bus stops calculating the route needed to change. Zones meant that the driver would know what zone they were going to and easily work out the fare.


You can use cash to purchase a ticket, however you must purchase them in advance. Drivers do not accept cash on board so collect your ticket from ticket machines at Tube, DLR or National rail stations.

Single and return tickets

These are still available to purchase although not often the most cost-effective way to travel. The fare for a single journey in central London zones 1-3 is £4.90 (Adult) each leg of the journey. Unless you are planning to make just 1 single journey on London transport then you are better off to purchase a travel card, Oyster card or use a contactless credit/debit card.

London Travel Card

Example of a travel card.

The older style of travel card is still operational in London. It is a simple card ticket that you pay up front for and it provides you with unlimited travel across the London Transport network for the duration of the card. You can purchase the 1 day travel card, the 7 day travel card, 1 month or 1 year. The days are consecutive and do expire.

The travel card provides you access to the London Underground, London Busses (the lovely nostalgic red London busses but not the tourist hopper bus), Network Rail, Docklands Light Railway, TFL railway and also a 33% discount on many scheduled river crossing services.

Heathrow and Gatwick express

You cannot use your travel card on the Heathrow express trains but you can for slower national rail trains departing from Heathrow station. Heathrow airport is in Zone 6. Gatwick, Luton and Stanstead are outside of London zones, in conclusion you can not use a travel card to reach these places.

For travel cards 7 days or longer, a passport sized photo is required. However, the cards can be made up on the spot and is free to do.

Oyster Cards Vs Contactless payment

Oyster Card

‘Tap and Go’ travel is simple and easy to use. No fiddling about with change, no paper tickets lost under a pile of tissues and sweet wrappers in your pocket, just a credit card sized piece of plastic with a chip in it to simply tap on the yellow circle, and go through the barriers.

There isn’t much difference between using contactless payment and an Oyster card (apparently called that because the shell of an Oyster is a hard protective shell, a metaphor for its security. There is also a nod to the Oyster beds from the Thames Estuary and probably a nod to the phrase “the world is your Oyster”).

There are not many differences between contactless and Oyster cards but I will list the main few.

Oyster card = Pre load a card with funds before you travel.

Contactless = Use your credit or debit card to pay after you travel.

A standard Oyster Card requires a non refundable £5 deposit. You then ‘top up’ the card as you go along and pre pay for your travel. The fees are then deducted immediately from your card where as the contactless way means your journey is totalled up at the end of the day and a single charge is then deducted from your card.

Visitor Oyster Card

Similar to the standard Oyster, this card is one of the cheapest ways to travel around London. It comes with some extra perks such as its ability to be used on Emirates Air Line cable car and River Bus services (MBNA Thames Clippers). You can also use the travel credit on your Visitor Oyster card to buy a ticket for Thames River Services and Circular Cruise Westminster at their ticket offices.

Different Caps for different cards.

This is where you tap your oyster card.

Contactless cards do have a weekly cap on them running Monday to Sunday. However it is important to remember that if you are travelling from overseas and using your credit or debit card, you may incur foreign exchange charges from your provider the same as any other payment in GBP.

The price of the weekly cap is the same as the 7 day travel card. The Oyster card caps after 3 journeys in one day. In other words, no mater how much you use your card, after the third trip you are no longer charged that day.  It is important to note that travelling at peak times will cost you more, so if your first few fares are within the peak tariff, expect to see your cap at a higher rate than if you set off a little later and travel in a cheaper fare bracket.

Tap in and out

With Oyster OR contactless, you still need to tap in and out of stations, even if the gates are open. Failure to do so will mean that you will pay the full price of a capped day even if you only used the train once that day. If you don’t touch in and out on a yellow card reader, you might be charged a maximum fare, charged a penalty fare or prosecuted.

Oyster cards do not have an expiry date. Any money you have left on the card can either be refunded at a train station kiosk or you can leave it on the card until you next visit.

Can I share my oyster card?

If you are travelling with a companion, they must have their own card. If you are not using your card, in theory you can pass it to someone else to use as they do not require a picture or a name stamp on them. However, for just £5 it may be worth investing in a card even if you are only visiting London once in a blue moon.

How to purchase and top up an Oyster card


You can purchase an Oyster card from the ticket offices inside train stations, tube stations, TfL rail stations, some DLR and National rail stations, the Croydon Tramlink store and Newsagents around the city. It will cost you £5 to buy the card before a penny is added to the account. You do not need to give ID as you name is not written on the card. You can purchase the card, top it up and use it straight away when purchasing from a ticket office or newsagent.

Top Up

If you have a mobile phone, you can download the Transport for London app and top up your Oyster card on the move. The website said to allow 30 minutes for the money to show up, although it is often quicker. Please note, if you have a first-generation oyster card, that these are not compatible with the app.

If you wish to purchase by cash or card payment, ticket stations as above and most newsagents will be able to do that for you with funds immediately showing.

Navigating the stations

Escalator in a tube station

Now you know where the tube station is but how do you get into it and then get to the platform? The large red circle with the blue line across it is iconic. As soon as you see the logo, you know you it is the London tube sign, just like a yellow cab lets us know we are in New York. Entrances to Tube stations are usually well sign posted with this sign lit up and usually on busy streets.

Some station entrances are close to the surface so you may walk straight into a large area with ticket machines, ticket booth with humans in, and the barriers. The signs for the trains are all colour coded so that you can follow the directions of your colour of line if you forget the name of it. This is especially helpful in stations where multiple lines depart from the same station. It may not always be the same platform as different tube lines run at different depths.

There will inevitably be a decent involved. Usually, this involves quite steep escalators as many of the stations were built before lifts/elevators were being used. Some stations do now have lifts, such as the Heathrow airport station on the Piccadilly line, Kings Cross station and London Victoria.

Platforms and Boarding

Tube Map

Once you have taken the escalator down to the right line, you then need to locate the correct platform. Good news is there are usually only two! By the entrance to each platform you will find a map from the current station to the end of the line in the direction it is travelling, so if your arrival station is not listed, check the other platform.

Once on the correct platform, you will notice it is tunnel shaped, not with straight walls along the platform. Considering the amount of users on the network, the platform can easily get overcrowded in rush hour. It is always advisable to move down along the platform as far as you can to allow other users a more comfortable space.

Above all, stay behind the yellow lines on the platform as this is very close to the platform edge. It is very dangerous to stay here and the draft from the trains can sometimes be quite forceful. Consequently, the tight fit of the train within the tunnel was designed to keep the network ventilated and the moving train in the tunnel forces the air forwards, you will feel the pressure change as trains are arriving to the station.

How to use the underground during rush hour

If you can avoid rush hour, please do. For your own sake. Imagine a can of sweaty sardines all crammed in together. In the summer the temperatures sore underground (reports indicate the temperatures are so high it would be illegal to transport animals in those temperatures) and this leads to a lot of perspiration. It isn’t made any better when you are all crammed in so tight that you are wedged under someone’s armpit just trying to find something to hold on to. Travelling off peak isn’t only cheaper, its more user friendly and you are often able to move around the carriage/ find a seat.

There isn’t an orderly queueing system for getting on the tube in rush hour, it is a free for all as the worker bees are trying to get home to their families. You have to push and shove your way on. I am not telling you this to put you off, rather persuade you to allow the commuters to elbow each other for a good position and allow yourself an hour extra to enjoy the shops, restaurants, museums and other activities in the city. Trust me you will be glad you stayed out for that extra Martini!

Automated messages

Usually, above you on the platform will be an electronic notice board advising what train is arriving next (and the one after that) as well as the time. The arriving trains will also be announced over the loudspeaker.  

On the train also, an automated message is played when the doors are about to close and also to alert you of the next station (as well as any connecting lines at the approaching station for connections).

Leaving the train

When the train comes to a stop, there is a dash for the doors. Many people will be making their way along the carriage on its approach ready to disembark. Do be careful of trying to manouver yourself on a moving train as they can be a little unsteady! Only do if safe to do so.

When the train comes to a complete stop, you will notice a green push button lights up for you to activate the doors opening. Don’t bother pushing it, they don’t do anything and the driver will open all of the doors automatically. You should be able to exit the train before others enter it and exit signs should be clearly displayed on the platform. If you are unsure, just follow the crowd and you will end up either at an exit or another platform – you won’t get too lost!

Some train stations have multiple exits depending on their location, for example, if they are underneath a cross roads they will usually have an exit on each of the corners. Connecting lines will also be sign posted in the station.

Do not forget to tap your card on the yellow circle for the contactless or oyster card!

Underground Etiquette

Just a couple of pointers on tube etiquette, the unspoken rules of how to to get along with your fellow tube users.

  1. Make sure you invest in a good deodorant! It gets very hot down there and having a good deodorant will be a great help to all. More so when you have the awkward moment of standing, holding on to the bars and feeling nervous about sweat patches!
  2. Always have your ‘ticket’ or card ready for when you reach the barriers. Everyone in the city is in a rush to get somewhere and they don’t appreciate being help up whilst others look for their ticket.
  3. On the escalator, always stand on the right. The left hand side of the escalator is the ‘moving’ lane so that people can walk down the escalator.
  4. When trains arrive, ensure to let everyone off before you try to embark. If someone has stepped off to allow people behind them to depart, they are allowed back on the train first before anyone else.
  5. Move down the train. It can cause delays to services when drivers are not able to close the doors and depart on time.
  6. Priority seating. Most importantly, signs tell you that selected seats in every carriage are priority seats for pregnant women, people with young children, disabled or elderly users. Failure to do so will see several people glaring at you for the remainder of your journey in a disastrously British way that not even a cup of tea and a digestive will fix!
  7. Don’t stop at the top of an escalator. If you get to the top of an escalator and don’t know which way to go, keep moving forward and find a safe place to ‘pull over’. Think of it as a motorway exit for example, you wouldn’t just stop on the slip road. In addition, any slight slowing down or hesitation can be serious if people behind you can not get off of the moving escalator and pile ups can have nasty consequences.
Mind the Gap

In addition

Meanwhile, if you are in London, why not check out where to buy cheap attraction tickets, what happened when we visited London and destroyed my parents house or other locations.

Top 10 Moments of 2019

A year ago today we were sat at home in the West Midlands, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and the camper-van/motorhome pages. Writing a “2019 top 10 moments” post was a dream not a reality. We had been thinking about the van life dream for some time and although we had a short wheel base VW, it wasn’t really big enough for what we wanted to do.

We were scrolling through one page where a lady was celebrating. She had been to see a van yesterday and brought it home today. It was an Iveco Daily. As happy as we were for this stranger, we were also sad that we had not yet found the van for us, despite looking at several. One of the top runners was an old minibus we had prematurely nicknamed Sweet Pea, however when we took her for a test drive (past our mechanic) he strongly advised we disregard her.

We read the comments and saw others also saying they were looking for a van too and then this guy pops up with “I am selling one of those…”. We arranged to drive to Hull and back to see her and collected her on the 5th January. The rest, as they say, is history.

A new beginning!

Chewy (short for Patchouli when she is being good and Chewbacca when she is grumpy) has changed every aspect of our lives in the last year. Through her we have been able to travel most of England and Wales over the last 9 months and we have seen some amazing places. Many of these have not made it on to the blog as there was just so much that we were involved in and not enough time to document it.

Over the last few months we have been working really hard to remodel the van ready for next year’s adventures and although it has taken longer that we had initially anticipated, I am happy to say that we are coming along well now with the kitchen being installed as we post this. Neither of us have converted a van before and if we had a penny for every time we wondered “what are we thinking trying to convert a van!” we would be able to afford fuel for next year’s adventures! However, we have been very lucky with family and friends lending their help and experience to get our vision to work.

This post we wanted to treat you to some of our favourite moments of the last year. It has been jam packed with our calendar now full of memories to treasure for the rest of our lives. It has been so hard to narrow them down to just a few. However here we go with our favourite top 10 moments of 2019!

#1 Collecting Chewy!

Chewy van
Chewy – before we got her dirty!

January 5th has to be a new National Holiday if we ever become Prime Minister! We were so excited to be driving to collect her – it was a 175 miles each way from our house. We left early, full of excitement and loaded with snacks. Arriving a little later than scheduled due to traffic, we checked the van over once more, happy to do the deal and sign paperwork / transferred funds before returning home.

The driver’s seat is one of those truck driver ones with the suspension. You have to adjust the dial on the side to your weight in kg and it automatically calibrates for the correct amount of spring! I am old school and still do stones (the numbers are lower) and just guessed. I got into the driver’s seat with Louise driving the VW behind me and started to make our way West. After successfully navigating a narrow road and a double decker bus with a van much larger than I was used to, I felt a little bit smug. That was until I found a speed bump that sent me shooting up to the roof and my feet completely left the pedals! Needless to say we had to stop and readjust the seat to ensure that didn’t happen again!

All doors have locks on right?

It was only when we got home that night, that I realised I couldn’t find reverse. I spent ages edging further down the road than needed before we could back onto the driveway. Once we parked, the 2nd realisation happened when we went to lock the driver’s side door to find that where there should be a lock, there was just a black seal. The previous owner had wanted to slow down any possible theft and taken the door lock out from the outside (could still be opened from the inside) and the rear door was held shut with a ratchet strap! We had to lock the door from inside and climb across the van to exit from the passenger side!

Next time we go looking for new vehicle, we will be looking for all the locks on the doors and not just assuming they will be there!!! Without this event, the other top 10 moments of 2019 wouldn’t have happened.

#2 of our top 10 moments of 2019 – Foraging course!

foraging with Kerry
Foraging course

Being on the road and on a budget, we wanted to ensure that we had some skills to help us along the way. I looked into survival skills courses but I felt that these were a little overkill for surviving in the UK as we were unlikely to be far from civilisation at any point. It was our first great adventure and we were going to ease ourselves into it. I booked Louise and myself on a foraging course to teach us about the wild edible plants – and also the ones to be aware of.

This was a great day out for us as we got to try some samples of things you can make out of the wild edible plants that we would be seeing and help us to identify which ones were safe to eat or deadly! Unless you are beyond certain – never eat something if you can’t 100% identify it.  We are now able to spot plants on our travels that we couldn’t have done before and now understand the benefits of finding free food when on a budget. If you haven’t been and are looking for something interesting to do, we would totally recommend going on a foraging course!

#3 The cheap pub stopover that cost more than a campsite!

We are often mindful about money and having no income (living off of savings) we were well aware of trying to keep costs down. Campsites are lovely but if we could find a free spot tucked out of the way or a little pub stop over, we would go there and then have more pennies to spend in local independent shops.

On our way between foraging and a visit to Ross-on-Wye, we found a cute little pub stop over that looked promising. It was getting dark when we arrived one April evening and after checking with the owners that they were happy for us to stay, we moved the van to a quiet spot out of the way. We went in to have ourselves a drink and some food (all they asked for in return) to then find they were having live music on that night. A Welsh man turned up with his guitar and was really good, playing a mix of his own music and songs we all know and love from all decades. He even took requests!

Although there wasn’t many people in the pub that night, the atmosphere was great and the drinks were flowing well. It ended up costing us more for a pub stop over than it would have done if we had booked a campsite with electric hook up and showers! Did we mind? Not really!

#4 Tuckers Grave Meet Up!

Tuckers Grave
Tuckers Grave meet up.

One of the things that Louise and I were worried about was becoming so disconnected with society that we wouldn’t want to be around people anymore. However, our online van-life friends turned into reality when we went to a meet up at Tuckers Grave inn and campsite. I was really nervous about going and we had some van trouble the weeks leading up to the event. It wasn’t until the day that we knew 100% if we were able to make it, but it beat sleeping outside Iveco’s dealership in Avonmouth near Bristol for another night! 

Lots of vans were parked on the field close together, all with their doors open so people could come and look at the self-build designs. Way too much cider was drunk. One lady had brought a bottle of Bakewell Vodka and was sharing it with people that were drinking it out of normal sized glasses! Well, a night of live entertainment, fire pits, BBQs and great friends ended up being a whole weekend as we all nursed hang overs and had to spend another night there until we were all safe to drive!

That night we went into the pub and took over a side room with a log fire and shove ha’penny board. We played Bingo, with a new friend supplying the prizes she could rustle up in her van – a banana, a hard boiled egg and a bulb of garlic! Sometimes, the adventures that are unplanned turn out to be the best nights and the most amazing memories can be made. As far as top 10 moments of 2019 go, this one couldn’t be left out.

#5 Making do with what you got!

boxer bunting
How to dry your pants, vanlife style! #BoxerBunting

On occasions we have had to overcome challenges that we were unprepared for. From little things like creating the Boxer Bunting (Seen by over 1,659 people on Facebook) when they hadn’t dried overnight (so I hung my pants over the stove when cooking breakfast), to having to climb over the seats to get in and out when the side door got jammed shut in Ross-on-Wye.

We have also had to get ourselves out of some tricky situations when driving Chewy too. Recently, we were in Wales and trusted our satnav to take us to a monkey sanctuary. We ended up having to go up a steep hill on a single track road, that was windy and narrow. On our way up we came face to face with a delivery driver in his van, looking as traumatised as we did. He had to reverse up the hill a short distance to let us pass as he was closer to a gap. Once we had passed him, we then had to drop back down the hill again a little bit before Louise took a good run, beeping the horn to warn oncoming traffic and just flooring it up the hill. I had my eyes shut the whole way up!

Making up our own recipes has also been a great adventure. We have invented many a dish that we would struggle to recreate. We managed to make bread in the van using the summer heat in the cab to make the dough rise, flatbread and pittas. “Whatever we have left” soup, if we have an odd potato, carrot or other veg, it all gets made into a soup to save it going in the bin and these have cured ills and hangovers on many occasions. Thank you Louise for always making me feel better when I can’t hold my drink!

#6 Many firsts

Being on the road has provided us with some great opportunities. Things that we had not been able to do before, whether through fear or lack of funds etc. We made a promise to ourselves to take advantage of those moments and grab them with both hands. In the last 9 months, we have learned how to drive a New Holland tractor (Thanks William!), been on a speedboat, climbed a mountain, swam in a waterfall and so much more! Swimming in a waterfall is not just on my top 10 moments of 2019 list, but of my all time top 10 bucket list items that we have managed to achieve!

It was the first time we had been able to have an adventure on this scale before and although we only left the UK once, we are planning many more trips abroad now that we have dipped our feet in the water. We have some amazing plans in the pipe line for 2020 and can’t wait to share them with you! If we were writing a top 100 moments of 2019 instead of top 10, we would be able to list every single first, including my first bonfire on a beach and first time we slept next to a nuclear reactor (we didn’t realise why it was so quiet until we googled where we were!).

#7 Visiting Spain

Heading off to Spain!

We took a couple of weeks out from our busy schedule of exploring the UK to travel to Spain. We did cheat a little and left Chewy at home, opting to fly instead. The weather here had been awful we were keen to get some sun! My aunt has a villa near Torrevieja so we flew into Alicante and we were met there by one of her friends. We spent the time we had there going on some coach trips to see cave houses, towns on top of massive cliffs, swam in a waterfall and visited Benidorm… We still laugh about the mobility scooters for 2 that we saw there!

It was the first time I left the country without my parents and it did feel strange. We absolutely loved this experience and have written a few blog posts on our adventures there. One of the best evenings we had there was our last night at the Olive tree restaurant and then we took a slow walk home before laying on the sun loungers on the roof terrace watching the stars and satellites. It was so romantic and one of the most beautiful nights of my life.

#8 Ponies on the Gower

Gower foal
Foals on the Gower

I was born in London and lived there until I was 18/19, my heart always craved the countryside. My grandparents on mum’s side had a caravan in Bognor Regis and my grandma (dads mum) lived on the edge of the New Forest so we had plenty of opportunity to get out of the city.

For number 8 of our top ten moments of 2019 we had to include the ponies! We found a lovely free camping spot on the Gower Peninsular that we have stopped in a few times. Cows and Horses roam free on top of the hill there. When we were up there, there were some young ponies in the group, enjoying the warmth of the sun.

This blue one caught my attention and allowed me to get quite close as I slowly edged towards it – keeping an eye on mum’s whereabouts of course! I have a decent zoom on the camera and managed to get some lovely pictures. Once they got used to me sitting there, they would come closer on their own and choose to be near us.

One morning we woke up to the van shaking. Unsure if we were being broken into or if it was an earth quake we looked out of the window to find a cow having a good scratch on the rear ladder!

#9 Polar Express

Christmas is all about the kids but when you are still a kid trapped in the body of an adult, Christmas is all about the Polar Express! Louise and I are both massive festive fun-bags and love the season of goodwill and cinnamon. Everything gets covered in decorations and we love to visit Christmas Fayres and all the aromas of the bratwursts and mulled wine, new pyjamas and cosy nights in with a blanket watching the telly-box.

This year I treated Louise to a trip on the Wensleydale all singing, all dancing, fully immersive trip on the Polar Express steam train to the ‘North Pole’ to meet Santa. All the characters were there from the movie, the singing chefs, the conductor, the homeless man/ghost and of course the real Santa with real beard. As part of the trip we also got hot chocolates and cookies as well as our first gift of Christmas, a silver bell!

It was a really fun event and one that we would love to go on again. There were whole families including grandparents dressed up in their pyjamas and dressing gowns on board the train. The children’s faces were incredible when Santa came to see them and the atmosphere created by the staff was worth a million pounds!

#10 My favourite top 10 moment of 2019 – when I proposed to Louise.

engagement rings

It was a hot summers day and we were in Whitemill, Wales. We had found a stunning campsite called Quarry Lodge with beautiful pitches, great facilities and friendly hosts. The site was in an old Quarry – I know! It’s like they knew there was going to be a campsite called Quarry Lodge built there in the future!!! Anyway, the site was on a few levels with little openings and groves poked here and there. We had walked around the site earlier in the day and I knew it was the place that I wanted to propose.

I had been carrying the ring around since Cambridge and had asked the permission of her closest family – all had given me their blessing. The sun was starting to set and it looked to be a beautiful evening. We had gone for another walk outside the campsite but I had not seen anywhere as special as this spot. I encouraged Louise back to the site so that I could put my plan into action.

Perfect plan!

On the way through the site, we found some long grass. Lou asked if I had ever done the trick where you put the grass between your thumbs and blow to make a squeal/whistle/random noise. I had not, so Louise proceeded to give me a tutorial without blowing it herself. She helped me place the grass between my thumbs and told me to blow. Well, the noise was so loud I scared myself, tried to run away and stumbled about flailing. Louise was killing herself laughing the rest of the day and wished she had videoed it. I didn’t realise the noise would be that loud and I wasn’t prepared.

A few minutes later I had reached the perfect spot with Louise, the sun was glowing orange as she was sinking and lighting up the sky as if it was on fire. Louise was still laughing about me scaring myself and had turned away from me to compose herself. When she turned around it took her a moment to realise that I wasn’t where she left me, I was on the floor on one knee, with a ring in my hand. Luckily she said Yes!!!

So as for a rundown of our top 10 moments of 2019 go, these just touch the tip of the iceberg. We have so much more to share with you next year and we would love it if you could leave us a message of your top moments of 2019. Tell is what you got up to and what you have planned for next year! We cant wait to #goexplore again next year.

Wensleydale Polar Express


Saturday evening Louise and I embarked on a magical journey. I had purchased the tickets in advance as I knew they would be popular and secured the last train ride of the evening for our 2 year anniversary. We were going to be immersing ourselves into the fantastical world of Polar Express hosted by Wensleydale railway.

“WELL… ARE YOU COMING?…” said the conductor.

“Where?” said the little boy.

“Why to the North Pole of course. This is the Polar Express!

We received the tickets in advance. Not just any tickets, but golden tickets – replicas of the ones used in the movie as well as instructions on where to park and what to wear. When I gave them to Louise she was so excited. I explained to her that it was a fully immersive interactive experience on board a real steam train with hot chocolates and cookies!

The event organisers were encouraging all attendees to wear pyjama’s and dressing gowns to fully experience the magical atmosphere aboard the train. You could purchase Polar Express PJ’s as well as other merchandise at the check in desk however these were subject to availability of course.


Wensleydale Polar Express tickets

The instructions told us to park at the Leeming Bar services no sooner than 45 minutes before your train to ease parking congestion and there would be a shuttle bus to the station. On entering the services, a car park was clearly marked for the Wensleydale Polar Express passengers. It was lit up with flood lights and staffed by several people directing cars to the vacant spots. Once parked, and wrapped up in coats and gloves, we were instructed to cross the road over to the entrance of a building. A double decker bus was waiting outside with some passengers already boarding.

Inside, was a Polar Express backdrop screen where you could take pictures of your family or selfies as a reminder of the event. A selection of merchandise was available here but there is much more at the end of the experience. A very friendly woman approached us and asked if we had our tickets. Once she had checked them over she told us that we could now board a bus, there were 3 in quick rotation so was plenty of opportunity.

The bus that we had seen as we were entering was full up now and was starting it’s journey onward to the station with whole families wearing matching pj’s, onesies, elf hats and dressing gowns. Kids jumping up and down full of excitement and wonder as the staff, all in character, entertained the children by asking if they had been a good boy or girl this year and if they were excited to see Santa at the North Pole tonight! They were oblivious to the freezing temperatures that we were experiencing!

Wensleydale Station

Once we boarded the next bus and arrived at the station, just a few minutes away, we could see the bright lights of fast food vendors in Swedish chalet style huts. There was a Donut and waffle stall, a bar and a grill serving bratwursts and pork baps. Of course, for you readers we felt it was our duty to try them all! We started with the hot dogs – I had a bratwurst and Louise had a regular hot dog. Large sausages ensured we were well fed for our evening. By the Marquee, a condiment station was set up with big containers of sauces and almost cows udders fixed to the bottom of them so you had to squeeze them to get the sauce out.

We then treated ourselves to 2 hot mulled wines, sweet and full of flavour these really got us in the festive spirit. They did also serve a small selection of wines beers and spirits. The Donut and Waffle hut was the busiest, with lots of choice. We opted for the 5 donuts with a sauce and topping. There were a fair amount of options to choose from but we went with marshmallows and chocolate sauce!

Most of the stalls did accept card payments but the donut stall was having some technical trouble so were cash only on the night we visited.

Magical Marquee

Polar Express Marquee

After the food and drink we opted to look inside the marquee. A large screen at the end of the room was showing the film on a projector with rows of seats spanning most of the room. An aisle in the middle was left clear and people were standing around the edges of the room. Children had all congregated on the floor at the front to better see the film and all seemed to be making friends whilst parents, grandparents, reluctant older teenagers and adults all talked amongst themselves.

Although predominantly family groups were in attendance there were also groups of adults that loved the film and we were not looked at any differently for not having little ones with them. Everyone was welcomed and in great spirits. As the clocked ticked by to the start time of our tickets, an excited hush blew over the room. What was going to happen now? Where was the train? When would it start?

Christmas Spirit

A voice came over the speaker and then a man appeared. He was sporting an American accent and was telling us that his friend had lost her Christmas spirit so would we all help her get it back? Over the next 10 minutes or so, the children were encouraged to shout out what made them happy at Christmas. One shouted food, one shouted singing and the last little boy said his family made him happy. The whole audience felt their heart strings being ruthlessly tugged as we then sang Christmas songs together. The other lady in the performance was even using sign language when performing Jingle Bells.

After the performance was over they pushed the screen back to reveal the exit onto the platform. Each carriage was marked on the platform so you knew where to stand and Christmas music was being played. Slowly the platform filled up but there was no sign of the train yet! We waited for a little while before the first gasps and cries could be heard from our left. “Its coming!” a little child said. One thing we did notice is that years ago, children would have been lifted high onto adults shoulders for a better view, but now people were raising their mobiles instead (yes, me included).

The steam from the train was all we could see at first as she slowly approached the platform, the black engine barely visible in the dark and carriage after carriage, windows steamed up promising a warm space inside. Chefs waiting at the doors waving as they passed and lanterns on the tables glowing orange and flickering. Fake snow was sprayed above us and ‘When Christmas comes to town” was being played from the movie soundtrack announcing the arrival of the Wensleydale” Polar Express!

The Conductor


Once the train stopped the conductor stepped onto the platform talking to a boy who hadn’t been at his best this year. He had not sent his present list to the North Pole, or had his picture taken with a department store Santa and had left his sister to put out the milk and cookies. The conductor encouraged the boy to get on the Polar Express and after a little persuasion, he agreed! Once he was aboard, the conductor asked if all of us would like to join them too and a roar of cheers erupted from the crowds!

The famous “ALL ABOOOOOARD” echoed down the platform as everyone started to board the train.

Once everyone was seated we set off for an adventure on the Wensleydale Polar Express all singing, all dancing, interactive ride no one will forget! Every ticket holder will receive a freshly baked cookie and a hot chocolate on board the ride as well as the first gift of Christmas – A silver bell from Santa himself.

I had purchased the premium tickets for us and this gave us a few extra goodies. We came away with our very own Polar Express ceramic mugs and also the best views of the “North Pole” as we arrived. With the carriages now in motion, we were treated to the singing and dancing chefs who entertained and sang along to the Hot Chocolate song as they brought us our refreshments and the Polar Express song!

It’s a magic carpet on a rail 
Never takes a rest
Flying through the mountains and the snow
Ride for free and join the fun (You can ride for free)
If you just say yes!
'Cause that’s the way things happen
On the Polar Express
You bet!

Tickets Please!

The conductor came down the train to check tickets taking the children’s golden tickets and punching their initials into it, just like the film. Our conductor made sure to do this right above the children’s head so they got covered in confetti! (It looked as though every carriage had its own set of characters to make sure all passengers got the same experience).

The homeless man/ghost also made a few appearance’s talking to the children about their persuasion with the Big Man Santa. An emergency stop did need to be made because of caribou on the line, but once they had moved the train was free to continue onwards!

The first gift of Christmas

Once at the North Pole, Santa boarded the train and worked his way along the carriages meeting the children. It seemed that this Santa had a real beard and was incredibly authentic. He loved to meet the children and signed his autograph in the Polar Express books they had brought at Wensleydale station. A little girl – maybe 3 or 4 years old, was calling down our carriage to him “Santa, I love you!” and when he got to her he picked her up and she wrapped her arms tightly around him, burying her face in his neck.

It was so sweet to watch all the children, who still believed in Santa, bursting with excitement. Santa gave each child their silver bell and his trusty elf dished out the adults so he could spend a few extra seconds with the children. Once he had left they continued to shake their bells, staring at them with wonder as they could hear the Christmas spirit in each one.

They all rung their bells together, the whole carriage was alive with the sound of sleigh bells whilst the train started its return journey to the station. On the way back the singing chefs continued to sing to us and the train driver began to tell the story of the Polar Express. The chefs held up giant illustrated books for all the passengers to see as the story was being told and with one last visit from the ghost and conductor, the Polar Express pulled back into Wensleydale station.

Santa’s Workshop

On exit from the train we were directed into Santa’s workshop where you can linger for as long as you want. There is the SCANtaclaus 5000, a doorway scanner that sorts the good children from the naughty children and lots of merchandise you can purchase as gifts for others or to remember this event for years to come.

Once you have finished, there are busses waiting to take you back to the car park, the children were starting to get a little tired and restless at this point and I saw a post on a facebook group a few days ago that came to mind.

It said that at this time of year, we should be patient with children. They have likely been plied with sugar and will have higher highs and lower lows. Children are excited by Christmas as will likely overdo it on adrenaline before crashing out. They will not have set out to embarrass or disappoint you, but it is harder for them to regulate their behaviour when their routines are so out of sync compared to other times of the year.

So if your little one throws a tantrum because they didn’t get to hug Santa, or they want matching pyjamas, don’t be too hard on them. They are only young once, and when they stop believing, Christmas will never be the same again. Embrace them and encourage them to imagine great possibilities.

Wensleydale Polar Express

We loved our trip to Wensleydale and the Polar Express ride. The staff were amazing, friendly and helpful. They gave us all such a gift and for just a few hours, we were all children again waiting for Santa.

I would highly recommend taking this trip if you can. The level of details and effort put in from the organisation to the casting of the staff is fantastic. It was easy to believe you were part of the film and everyone was included to feel the magic. So whether you believe still, or maybe a little part of you hopes Santa is real, or you just want to see the faces of your kids and gradnkids, this event is one of the more fun activities we have ever been a part of!

If you would like more information on the Polar Express, click here to visit their website. At the time of printing there are still a few seats available before this years run finishes just before Christmas but we hope it will return again next year!

Don’t forget to check out other locations we have visited too!

Van Vs London House – an adventure!

This week we wanted to bring you a bit more of a behind the scenes post. We know you all look forward to seeing what exciting places we have been visited and what crazy adventures we have been having but this week it has been a little different!

From looking after London house that kept breaking, exploring the UK’s capital city, to flooding a fishpond – it has been quite an adventure going back into a house.

Van Vs House sitting?

Garden Lights London House
Garden Lights

We were house sitting for a family member in the city of London. They decided to go on holiday and at the last minute we asked if they would mind us house sitting. They get peace of mind that the house is ‘safe’ and we get free digs! Win win! Well, not exactly… We arrived at the London house around 10pm on the Sunday night so after a brew and chill out we retired to bed. This is after we disabled half of their garden lights…

Honestly it is like Blackpool Illuminations with all of the solar lights – don’t get me wrong they do look lovely, however some of them emit a really high pitched noise that goes straight through me. This is nothing compared to the cat scarer he has – that drops me to my knees like Kryptonite! After an audio hunt around the garden and turning them all off we have to try and remember to turn them all on again just before we leave #nohope #pleaseremindme.

Aiming to have a few days to catch up on some admin we were all set to be productive and motivated. Monday started well with a relaxing morning and a spot of food shopping. That is when it all started to go wrong.

Builders are in!

Office London House
Mobile Office

All of a sudden, the noise of drills and building machinery penetrated through the wall, making all of the kitchen cupboards shake. It sounded like someone was building HS2 through the front room! Builders had turned up next door. They kindly co-ordinate their house renovations for this week to have their kitchen ripped out, walls knocked down, RCJ’s installed and all less than 10ft from where we were sitting! They continued through the day to bang, crash and hammer all the while we were so hot we had to have all the windows and doors opened so the noise was amplified. There was just NO AIR.

We tried to get a bit of work done even with the disruption. The week before I had purchased a new laptop and this was the first time I was going to take it out of the box! Within one hour, it was quite apparent it was faulty, the screen was really pixelated. It needed to be returned to the store. After a battle with London transport, the store advised they didn’t have that model in stock so they would have to order it and it would be a week. Back on the bus empty handed, but we did still have a spare so we could still work but have to share between us!

Random noises

Later that evening the builders left, advising a skip would be delivered early in the morning. After enjoying the luxury of trash TV, not having to worry about where we are sleeping tonight or the power left in the leisure battery, we thought about bed. Beep… Beep… Beep there is an alarm going off somewhere in the house! Possibly a fire alarm battery? No. It’s the intruder alarm telling me it has a fault at 11pm. Could it have done this earlier? Sure! But where is the fun in that?

After having a look to see if setting it and resetting it would work, and checking that all doors and windows were shut properly, we realised that trying to do anything tonight was probably going cause the alarm to start blaring out and potentially police at the door! We left the alarm beeping, every 30 seconds, safe in the knowledge that we could google it in daylight as the home owners were not contactable!

That was alarming

We had decided that if the builders were going to be noisy again the next day, we should use it to our advantage and head out for an adventure! But first we had to fix the alarm! We found the manual and proceeded to disable the ‘tamper alarm’ safety feature before touching anything. When we tried to change the battery, we quickly realised I was not successful in removing the tamper alarm safety feature and the whole street knew it too! We repeated this about 6 times until, defeated at the first hurdle, I asked Lou to stay by the panel and keep turning the alarm off!  While tried to switch the batteries over, I broke the case for the alarm and have stuck it back on with Sellotape.

We were excited to finally leave the London house and explore somewhere I had not been since I was a child and Louise had never visited. Full of apprehension – from travelling by London transport to whether the museum would be as good as I remembered, we boarded the train to London and changed onto the underground to Kensington South.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum London
Natural History Museum

From the second you lay eyes on the museum you are in love. The architecture is incredible and is also reflected on the inside in a similar fashion. From the ceilings painted with flowers and animals, to monkeys carved into the pillars it takes your breath away.  Built between 1873 and 1881 and by the architect Alfred Waterhouse. The Romanesque style building made of terracotta stands out along with those other brilliant designs of the 19th century. With its cathedral like grand hall and use of arches, large staircases and detailed side rooms, this space has incorporated fossils, plants, and animals in every imaginable place. Looking at this building is a treasure hunt and day out in itself.

Don’t forget the giant statue of Charles Darwin at the top of the stairs to! The exhibits were out of this world including the moon museum, a giant moon suspended, glowing in a cool darkly lit room and tranquil music enveloping you in mystery and intrigue. The Dinosaur exhibit was very busy. One of the museums best known attractions with a vast array or remains and replications. Other exhibits include the mineral gallery, the vault – with rare finds and the most expensive jewels and the David Attenborough wing where you can watch the scientists at work whilst discovering all about insects.

Refusing public transport at rush hour we walked two miles for our dinner. Dinner out at a Persian restaurant finished our day. Amazing authentic kebabs, fresh bread and salad for our main course followed our feta and mint starters.

A Window

London house

Arriving back at the London house late in the evening we were thoroughly shattered! We went upstairs and tried to open the windows as it was so hot, only they wouldn’t open. This house is like fort-knocks and no one is getting in or out tonight! A search for the keys, again late at night, yielded no response. A hot night with no air ensued! Things are not going well!

It seems that either we have been out of a house for so long that things have changed far beyond our ability to relearn, or this house is trying to tell us something! At that point we got the fan from the master room. Held together with cable ties and making a sound that was not healthy, we turned it off again very quickly and will be having words with someone on his return home!

Wednesday morning, we try and have an admin day today. Writing and researching the next post is fun but the building work is still going on. The cupboards have become booby-trapped by the vibrations and opening the doors is a risk to your life! Things keep falling out on us like a friendly poltergeist is having a laugh! On the plus side, we eventually found the key windows!

End of Alexa and start of another problem!

The London house is still standing but only just – the internet is up the creek! For some reason, Louise’s phone is telling her the password has changed – it hasn’t. My connection is hit and miss, it keeps dropping out. We reboot the phone and same issue. Troubleshooting the problem, we try to reboot the router. We broke Alexa. It was a sad day. Alexa kept telling us to look at the Alexa app – but we don’t have one and the home owners phone is somewhere in Europe.

Thursday – we were woken with a bit of a shock. Voices. 2 males. A clatter, a bang and the sound of a ladder.  I quickly glance at the clock. 6:45AM. “Is the London House being burgled?” I think?  “No, surely they would want to be quiet? Maybe that’s their cover, be so loud that they don’t look shifty?” The windows are both open and we can hear everything they are saying – luckily the curtains are drawn but we lay still in bed. The window suddenly gets pushed closed! SPLOSH! Ahh! It’s ok – window cleaners! Panic over.

Kitchen Catastrophe

kitchen london house
Kitchen Catastrophe

After the startling and early wake up call, Today the Dishwasher decided to break. We google the make and model and try to fix it! Torn between leaving it for their return or dismantling it on the lawn we opt for the first option.  After a hard day at the computers, we fell into bed and slept like babies… For a couple of hours at least! Until this… The local foxes were holding auditions for the next performance of FAME and had us awake all night as they rioted up and down the road screaming! We did check out of the window and they were not in harms way or looking hurt – they were just being territorial, possibly over some scraps of food.

Fish Pond Fiasco

Koi london house

As you can imagine by Friday – we were rather scared to touch anything! However we still had a duty to look after the London house. The fishpond is a rather nice feature and it is enjoyable watching them swimming about. Due to the warm weather we noticed that it could do with a little bit of a top up so set the hose going and went inside for a while.

As you can guess, we forgot it was on and by the time we remembered and ran out there, there was a little bit of water just starting to cover the edge of the patio. The fish were all perfectly fine however if they wanted to escape they could possibly have beached themselves so I found a bucket and started to scoop water out the pond and relocate it out of the back gate. I really hope they are not going to watch the CCTV back!

It was at this point that the rather large black cloud above me decided to break. It came down like bricks! Cold wet bricks. As fast as I was scooping, it was being thrown back on me and into the pond. Finally, after a lot of fighting with the elements, I got the water level back down to where it should be.  


london house resurfacing
Resurfacing preparation

If that isn’t bad enough in the catalogue of failures, we received notification that they were resurfacing the road that night, directly behind the London house and diverting all the traffic down the front of the road! Starting at 8:30 and carrying on all night, the noise of the heavy machinery and smell of tar filled the air. With that happening out the back, and the cars being diverted out the front, at least we wouldn’t have to worry about the foxes tonight! Wrong. 4am they re-appeared for their next rehearsals!

Although sometimes it is nice to stay in a house and have those extra comforts like a bath, a tv, a dishwasher – this week has been a real reminder of how much we have complicated our lives over the centuries. From not being able to ask Alexa to play music or for the weather forecast, to using a machine to clean our plates, clothes or provide us with entertainment.  Why have we made things so complicated? None of this happens in the van – well, ok, the door has got stuck before and locked us IN but on the whole it is uncomplicated and simple. No technology to go wrong and no manuals to have to refer to. It’s time to leave this place.  

A simple life

After thanking our hosts and walking them through everything that broke whilst they were away, we gladly got back in the van and we are now ready to hit the road again. Back to a simpler life, with just a 2 ring gas hob, a leisure battery and my favourite person in the whole world to share the experiences with.

We don’t want much in life. Just some peace and quiet, to explore this stunning country full of history and beautiful landscapes, and a donated smallholding full of pets, with a wood burning stove, hot water, central heating, no light pollution, roses around the door, a vegetable garden and enough room to have family over. No gadgets or gizmos, no overly complicated fandangled equipment, just a calm tranquil life without manuals!

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How to find Cheap Attraction Tickets

There are so many things to see and do in the UK and abroad. Sometimes finances can limit our experiences and we have to miss out. We are here to bring you a list of websites that you can visit to help keep these costs down. This post is all about how to find cheap attraction tickets.

We aim to cover a wide range of activities below and pass on information that we have found useful but do please also do your own research. These prices were correct at the time of posting but may be subject to change. Always see the partners website for full terms and conditions and check to see if there are any limitation on dates.

Save money with cheap attraction tickets

By looking for the best deals on attraction tickets, you could find a cheap way to enjoy a day out. Some of these tickets have massive discounts and get you into multiple locations. If you are looking to visit a few different places, perhaps looking to see which passes would cover most of these attractions and enable you to save some money.

A quick search for ‘cheap attraction tickets’ on the web should bring you up with lots of possibilities. We have covered our favourite but there are plenty of others and discounts are always coming and going. Occasionally a newspaper may also offer a discounted ticket if you collect tokens so check with other media formats too!

Free Museums

Natural history museum cheap attraction tickets
Natural History Museum

There are tons of free museums out there that mean you don’t need to find cheap attraction tickets! Just transport to the museum. Most of the Museums in London are free. Have a quick google for ‘free museums near me’ for an inexpensive day out.

  • Natural History Museum -We visited here this week and loved it! We got to see the dinosaurs and all sorts of amazing animals, crystals, insects and even see the scientists working in the labs! 
  • The Science Museum – a hands on experience the kids (and adults) will love! 
  • British Museum – Retracing the history of humans from across the world.
  • Art Galleries – From the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery.
  • St Fagans in Wales is a free open air experience where you can see carefully restored buildings representing Welsh history. Over 100 acres of history to explore. (Just a £5 car parking charge).
  • Royal Armouries in Leeds. The UK’s biggest collection of arms and armour.
  • Manchester’s Imperial War Museum
  • Oxfords Ashmolean Museum

Merlin Pass

Cheap attraction ticket Merlin pass
Merlin Pass

The Merlin passes cover over 30 different types of attraction and offers multiple event tickets for cheap. From the London Eye, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers, Sea Life Centre’s, Legoland, Blackpool Tower, Madame Tussaud’s, Warwick Castle, London Dungeon and many more!

Standard Annual Ticket – Individual ticket price £139. Family pass £179 (Family is a max of 3 adults and total of 5 people on the ticket – no child price it’s all the same.)

If 2 adults and 2 children were to visit Madame Tussaud’s, Alton Towers, Chessington and a Sea Life Centre just once each, you would have saved £92.06! This cheap attraction tickets benefit is that it will really help you visit more locations rather than pay to enter each one.  

* The Standard Merlin Annual Pass has some restriction dates and is subject to operating calendars.

London Pass

Cheap attraction tickets underground
London Underground

If you live near the capital city or are just visiting for the week – there are several ticket options available.  The London Pass gets you access to 80+ attractions. You can use a digital pass on your app and skip queues with the fast-track entry on selected attractions.

Visit some of the following locations on this cheap attraction ticket!

  • Hop on / hop off bus
  • Tower of London
  • Thames Cruise
  • View from the Shard
  • St Pauls Cathedral
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Hampton Court
  • London Bridge Experience
  • Shakespeare’s Globe
  • HMS Belfast
  • Cutty Sark
  • Wembley Stadium Tour, 
  • London Zoo
  • Kensington Palace
  • Kew Gardens
  • And so many more!

There is a day pass, 6 day pass and a 10 day pass. We recommend the latter if you have the time as there are so many great attractions to see in the city. Plan ahead to fit in as much as you can and use the hop on/off bus to get you to the attractions!

  • 1 Day – Adult £75 Child £55
  • 6 Day – Adult £159 Child £119
  • 10 Day – Adult £189 Child £139

iVenture Pass London

Cheap attraction ticket HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast

iVenture offer deals on passes at home and abroad!

Covering Africa and the Middle East, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe, you can save loads of money on these cheap attraction tickets. So what are they? A pre-loaded, pre-paid attraction card to get you into either 3,5,7 or 10 attractions of your choice. Choose from plenty of attractions such as Wimbledon Tennis Museum, Ghost bus tour, HMS Belfast, London Zoo, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge tour and Thames Clipper river cruises.

These passes are valid for 1 month from the first use and could save you up to 40%

Choose your packages, Load your card and off you go!

  • Ticket pass Adult Child (4-15)
  • 3 ticket pass £69 £59
  • 5 ticket pass £90 £89
  • 7 ticket pass £129 £114
  • 10 ticket pass £169 £149

English Heritage

tintagel english heritage cheap attraction tickets
King Arthur’s castle in Tintagel

With over 400 historic sites across England ranging from prehistoric sites, medieval castles, Roman forts to country houses. English Heritage states that it uses these properties to ‘bring the story of England to life’. If you love a bit of culture and prefer this to theme parks then definitely look into some of these more historic passes.

Overseas Pass

English Heritage do offer an overseas visitor pass. This is specifically for those people travelling to the UK and not for people already living here. This ticket gives you access into 100 sites and these will be disclosed when you receive your handbook. 

  • 9 Day pass 16 Day pass
  • 1 Adult £35 £42
  • 2 Adults £60 £70
  • Family pass £65 £75
  • Family pass includes 2 adults and up to 4 under 18’s at the same address.

UK Resident

For UK residents there are lots of ticket options covering all 400 sites. 

  • Individual Adult £60
  • 2 Adults £105
  • 1 Adult & up to 6 children £60
  • 2 adults & up to 12 children £105
  • Senior £51
  • Children are under 18’s.

There are other ticket options available – Check the website for details.

Historic Scotland

edinburgh castle
Edinburgh Castle

With up to 5000 years of Scottish history you can save money by visiting 3 or more of these sites.  With added benefits with partners Manx, English Heritage and Cadw you can also enjoy half price entry into these sites for the first year and free entry on renewal. Thanks Historic Scotland!

  • Visit over 400 daytime events
  • 20% discount in Historic Scotland shops
  • 10% discount in Historic Scotland Cafe’s


  • Individual adult £52.20
  • 1 Adult and up to 6 children £56.70
  • Joint adult £90.70
  • Concession £41.40

*Seniors/ Students/ people on benefits/ Armed Forces


Cheap Attraction tickets raglan castle
Raglan Castle

The Welsh Governments historic environment service. CADW means ‘to keep’ or ‘to protect’ in Welsh and that is exactly what they aim to do. They are committed to protecting and making accessible the rich history of Wales. We have been lucky enough to visit lots of these locations over the last 18 months and each location is unique. From the oriental looking Castle Coch just off the A470 near Cardiff to the homely Raglan Castle or the fortified town of Caernarfon with its majestic castle on the estuary overlooking the Menai Strait and Anglesey. It’s not all castles though – there are also burial chambers, abbey’s, mines and iron works for example.

We covered some CADW castles in our ‘12 amazing experiences to have in North Wales‘ post

As with English and Scottish Heritage, you can reap the benefits of having half price entry into these sites for the first year and free entry on renewal. 

Prices are based on annual memberships

  • Individual £43.20
  • Senior £28.80
  • Child (5-17) £18
  • Joint adult £66.60
  • Senior couple £47.70
  • SENIOR FAMILY TICKET – If you are in charge of occupying the grandchildren, CADW offer this pass – 2 Seniors and all grandchildren for £56.70!

If you are not sure, or are on a short break to Wales, why not try the explorer passes, either 3 or 7 day options.

Single Adult 2 Adults Family*

  • 3 day pass £23.10 £35.70 £47.25
  • 7 day pass £33.60 £53.55 £65.10
  • *2 adults and up to 3 children/grandchildren under 18.

National Trust Touring Pass

cheap attraction tickets national trust
National Trust

Overseas Visitors

Like the English Heritage pass, National Trust also offer an overseas cheap attraction ticket. Allowing access to 300 stately homes, gardens and castles and film locations.

7  Days 14 Days

  • Individual adult £33 £38
  • 2 Adults £58 £69
  • Family £64 £81
  • A family ticket is 2 adults and ANY children under 18

UK Residents

For UK residents, an annual pass is available to secure your access into all of the National trust locations – even car parks! From waterfall walks in Shropshire, Manor houses visited by royalty to summer beaches and beautiful gardens you will be spoilt for choice.

Annual price

  • Adult £72
  • 18-25 year olds £36
  • Junior £10
  • -5’s Free
  • Joint adults £120
  • Family (2 adults and their children) £126
  • Single Family (1 adult and their children £78

Sea Life Centre

Cheap attraction tickets sea life centre
Sea Life Centre

If you are a hearty sea lover or a family member who can’t stop watching the little mermaid, why not take out a sea life centre membership?

There are lots of options to purchase a cheap ticket to the sea life attractions, from saving up to 20% by booking on line to passes for 1-5 sea life attractions or the annual membership which gives you:

12 Months Unlimited Free Entry into 13 UK SEA LIFE centres and Sanctuaries for you to enjoy. Exclusive Discounts for Annual Pass Holders:One FREE Entry to the UK Resort Theme Parks (Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Alton Towers Resort, THORPE PARK Resort or LEGOLAND Windsor Resort).

  • 20% off Gift Shop
  • 20% off in the Coffee Shop
  • 50% off Guidebook
  • Discounted entry to other attractions and access to special events onsite.
  • This ticket is £75 for an individual and £60 per person for a family of up to 5.

Sea Life Attraction passes

You can add other attractions to your ticket and bulk buy tickets from their website too, for example a 2 attraction pass (sealife and london eye for example) is £40 adult £32 child (3-15)

A 3 attraction pass (Sealife, London Tussauds and London Dungeon for example) is £50 adult and £40 child.

Attraction Tickets

Stonehenge scenery cheap attraction tickets

Rated 5* on Trust Pilot, Attraction Tickets Direct offer cheap tickets for attractions all over the world. Their UK section covers experiences such as a Sushi Workshop for 2 adults for £50, White water rafting for 2 from £109 and a helicopter ride from £39 per person.

Theme park tickets can see you make a big saving too by booking in advance. We found Alton Towers tickets from as low as £33 per adult and £28 for a child compared to the Alton Towers website of £58 and £48 respectively.

Chessington World of Adventures is slightly cheaper booking through this site in advance but only by a minimal amount. The further in advance that you book, the cheaper you can find the tickets usually. 

There is a Stonehenge experience that looks pretty cool! Travel from London on an air conditioned coach to Stonehenge for £53 adule £30 Child (3-16) and £52 Senior.

Cheddar Gorge cheap attraction tickets

This is the website we used for our Longleat tickets where we got 20% off the entry price when the Longleat website was offering 15%. Check out Picniq. We found it easy to use and they sent the eTicket straight away!

Covering attractions from Disneyland Paris, Dreamwork’s tours: Shrek’s adventures, The Mary Rose Museum, Whipsnade zoo, Crystal Maze live experience, Zip World, Cheddar Gorge, Drayton Manor and so many more! 


St. Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral

This is the official tourism website for the UK. Advising on all types of tourism from how to travel in the UK, How to find accommodation, practical information on transfers, weights and measures, postal services, Pharmacies and mobile phones etc.

Other websites are available and we do suggest that you shop around to get the best cheap ticket for the attraction you want to go to. Every little bit you can save can go towards another event or experience. It really is worth looking at whether you will be visiting a few locations through the year and really making a saving.

Do let us know if you find a great deal and share it in the comments below!

As with all posts – we are not affiliated with any of these websites and receive nothing but pleasure from sharing this information with you.

Why you should visit Longleat Safari Park this summer!

One of the best examples of a safari park you will find in Britain is Longleat. The UK’s original and world famous safari park, is set within 900 acres of land. You will be amazed by the abundance of attractions. There are boat and train rides, animal experiences where you can get up close and personal as well as the safari where you can drive through the animal enclosures and get really close to lions!

If you are looking or a bit of culture too then there is also the Longleat House. With over 450 years of history and still lived in today, this is one of the finest Elizabethan stately homes in the country.

Visit Longleat Safari Park

This attraction is split into 3 areas.

The adventure park (Main Square),
The safari park,
The house and gardens.

Car parking is free for the attractions and the ticket gets you into all 3 sections. The only additional cost you may incur for the standard ticket (except for purchasing food and drinks) is for the Safari bus. If you want to protect your mode of transport, we suggest taking the safari bus for £5 each. This will take you safely through the monkey enclosure without risking losing your rear wipers!

The Adventure Park / Main square

Longleat safari park cruise
Longleat Jungle Cruise

This area is free for you to roam on foot. Explore the Animal Adventure area where you can handle a tarantula or python in the handling hall. Parrot displays show you all the tricks the resident birds can do, including riding a scooter!

Hang out on the Jungle River Cruise where you can feed the impressive Sea Lions, see the Hippo’s that live there and marvel at the Gorillas on Gorilla island! Hippo’s are considered one of the world’s most dangerous animals. You can get pretty close to them on this cruise overlooked by Longleat House.

On the boat trip, they have a set amount of fish per trip and these cost £1, cash only. Once they are gone, they are gone, so get in the queue quick!

Longleat Hippo

As you leave the boat you will be close to the Monkey Temple where you can see the red pandas and marmosets. Jungle Kingdom lets you walk with meerkat’s in their enclosure as well as see the aardvarks and porcupines.

The Family Farmyard lets you get up close and personal with the donkeys, goats, rabbits, emus and wallabies.

New additions

Koala Creek Longleat safari park

Longleat Safari Park have new enclosures that are absolutely amazing including the Crocodiles, Giant Otters and Koalas. The Koala Creek enclosure is something like you have never seen before. So much has been spent on designing the new enclosure to ensure the experience is world class for both the Koalas and the visitors.

There are trees for the Koalas to sit in, either inside or outside and just a glass panel about 4 or 5 foot high to separate you. This is great for photography as there is no glass or wire fencing in the way to mask your shots! This enclosure has to be one of our favourite as you feel so close to these animals that you don’t see in this country very often.

One of our other favourite places is the Bat house. A dark enclosure where the bats are free to fly about around you. They go so close that you can feel the wind as they fly past your head. See them hanging upside down from the ropes or eating fruit – a rare chance to examine these mysterious creatures close up. Keepers are in the enclosure (for the animals protection, not yours!) and we heard her ask someone if they wanted to tickle a bat with a feather! It was the cutest thing to see this bat enjoying a tummy tickle!

There are also a small handful of rides, like Rocking Rhino, a maze and an adventure castle that the little ones can enjoy. The adventure castle also has an ability swing and wheelchair accessible picnic table.

Food and Drink

There are plenty of options for food and drink including Pizza Piazza, a fast food kitchen, donut hut and boathouse snacks. For a healthier option you can check out the Chameleon Tree, the Picnic Basket, Cellar Café or the Orangery. You are welcome to take your own food and drink to Longleat and this can be especially helpful when counting the pennies. There are plenty of picnic benches as well as nice grass areas for you to put a blanket out under the shade of a tree.

Extras at Longleat Safari Park

There are some optional extras you can add if you wish to enhance your experience. VIP experiences are a one-in-a-lifetime gift that you can indulge in yourself or buy for a loved one. From feeding gorillas to a safari tour in the iconic zebra striped 4×4’s, a Big Cat photographic experience, meet the meerkats or feed a giant anteater/tiger among other packages. For information on these, do check the main sites website.

Longleat Safari Park – Drive Through Experience

Are you ready for the biggest adventure you will undertake this summer?

At Longleat, take the safari tour to get up very close with some of the park’s residents! You can drive through in your own vehicle but do be warned – the monkeys do have their own car parts franchise and take great pleasure in stealing bit and pieces. We saw so many cars with Monkeys sat on top of them unscrewing the aerials and pulling of wipers! We have information from good authority that their favourite vehicles to dismember are Minis and VW Polos!

Monkeys on a car longleat
Mini Monkey’s!

We decided that our camper-vans air vents were far too precious and being robbed by the little monkeys was not an option. We opted to take the Safari bus! For around £5 each you can travel in style with an average speed of 5 MPH. This enables you to learn more through the commentary of the driver/keeper including a fact at the first section – the Elands. The Eland is a breed of antelope with sharp horns that twist gracefully to a very sharp point. As stunning as they are, they can be very dangerous. The first zoo keeper ever to be killed at work was killed by an Eland.

Longleat antelope
Longleat Safari Park

The driver knows all the spots to look for the animals as she has driven through so many times and knows lots of their characteristics. A good tip is to look for the zebra patterned 4×4’s. The keepers will always ensure they can see the animals they are caring for. If you can spot them, the animals will be close by!

Feed the Giraffes

Giraffe close up longleat safari park
Longleat Giraffe

You can stop for a while in African Village and see the Giraffes. There is a raised viewing platform where you can be at head height to these incredible giants. During feeding time, you are able to purchase a branch for £3 and feed these gentle and semi graceful animals yourself. It makes for a great photo memory. If you do not wish to feed the giraffes there are still plenty of opportunities for a great snap or selfie! The African Traders shop and conservation centre are great to explore. Christmas is
coming so we started our Christmas shopping with some of their unique gifts.

Back on the bus you continue around the Safari through Tapirs, vultures, rhinos, Annie the elephant (rescued from the circus and now in her retirement home), lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves and of course
the monkeys! There is a bypass lane for the monkey enclosure if you want to give that a miss.

Honestly, so much damage was being done!!! There were whole families of monkeys sat on the roof of a mini cooper writing a Haynes manual for the new edition and collecting a heap of wheel trims and bumper parts for their Ebay account. (These items were not for resale in the gift shop!)

Longleat Lion
Longleat Lion

We managed to get some really good photos of the animals and they all seemed really well looked after in huge enclosures. The bus driver was very knowledgeable and we all had a great time! We are glad to report that we got a good glimpse of the tiny magnificent 7 wolf cubs that were born but we were too early to see the 2 new tiger cubs that were born on the 20th July 2019!

Longleat House

Longleat house safari park
Longleat House

Following our Safari and tour of the park at Longleat, we decided to visit the house. We were unsure if we would fit it all in during a day and it was a bit of a push but it is possible. Longleat House and gardens are a majestic accompaniment to the park. They couldn’t be so different yet to seamless! Perhaps it is the rolling parkland that means you can see the house from many parts of the adventure park or the Capability Brown landscaped gardens that connect them together. All we know is that we loved it!

The house is still inhabited by its current occupiers, the eccentric Marquis of Bath and his family. Some rooms have been opened to the public. Lord Bath has been known to pop up out of the private quarters to meet visitors and talk about his home.

Longleat house has so much history. Sadly no photos are allowed inside the house. It is packed to the rafters with Elizabethan architecture and artefacts to marvel at. The house was finished in 1580 and although the exterior maintains a Tudor feel, the inside has been altered to keep up with the latest fashions in country houses!

The house was built specifically to impress the then Queen, Elizabeth 1st. It was the first stately home to open its doors to the public and is the site of the first, and best, safari park outside of Africa!
The house has:
128 rooms
365 windows
36,010 tonnes of Bath stone.

In 1966 the 6th Marquess decided to open a safari park at Longleat and made headlines as visitors queued for four miles to get a glimpse of the only animals on show – 50 lions. Today there are over 500 animals in residence spanning 130 species.

Rent a cottage or hold a function

If you are planning a really special event you can hold it at Longleat. From a 4* spa hotel to a historic inn, you can make your home at Longleat. From properties to buy or for a romantic weekend away, the Longleat estate has many options to cater for you.

The Longleat Safari park estate is also connected to Cheddar Gorge and you are able to buy a ticket to get you into both attractions at a further discounted price.


Prices are always going to be more on the door but the great this is that you are able to buy on line and the more in advance you can be, the better!

VisitorGate PriceOnline Price*
Adult (16-59yrs)£34.95£29.70
Child (3-15yrs)£26.20£22.27
Senior (60yrs+)£31.45£26.73
Under 3 (0-2yrs)£0.00£0.00

* Prices show 15% discount. Applicable if purchase is made 2+ days in advance of visit. 10% discount 1 day in advance. 0% for tickets purchased on the day of the visit. Taken from the Longleat website on day of publishing.

There are also other offers you can search for. We booked out tickets the evening before the event on and saved 20%! Check out our post on how to find Cheap Attraction Tickets.

Check out our other locations HERE and don’t forget to give us a like, a share or subscribe!

Visit the Heights of Abraham, Matlock

Whether you are 6 years old or 60 years old, a visit to the Heights of Abraham is great day out. From the second you arrive and take your seat in the cable cars you know this is an attraction with something a little bit special about it – if you like heights and caves!!!

Those who are not lovers of heights, beware! The only other way up is a long climb up a steep hill. If you can close your eyes and pray that no one rocks the cable car it’s the quickest way up! Oh, it’s the best way to take pictures too.

Parking for your Heights of Abraham visit.

Parking at heights of abraham
Parking the Beast!

Findng parking for your visit to the Heights of Abraham is easy. There’s a large car park, just off of the main through road, that doubles up as the train station car park. It is a pay and display car park and there are restrictions about sizes of vehicles. Louise managed to park Chewy (I was too scared to try) as we found a spot at the end where we could overhang the grass and still be inside a bay! 

A short walk to the ticket office later and we had our tickets for the cable car. They advertise that this cable car ticket get you into all of the attractions once at the top. It may seem a little steep (the ticket price and the hill) £18 for an adult and £12 for a child. They do have family tickets and senior tickets too. Our advice is to book in advance online and save a small amount. (They do also do a season ticket if you don’t manage to see it all in a day).

Cable Car

Heights of Abraham cable cars vanlifediary
The Heights of Abraham cable cars

Louise and I had both been here when we were children and remember it fondly. It’s strange to think that not much has changed in that time. That said, the attraction is still fresh and up to date. Originally the site opened in the Victorian times, thanks mainly to the development of the railways. Victorians had a passion to travel and desired to be entertained. The owners of this site saw a goldmine (well a lead mine at least) that could couple up as a tourist attraction. Displays here that show you how the caves transformed from working mines to the attractions you see today.

The heights of Abraham visit is synonymous with its cable cars. It was only when we were half way up on the cable car, that it slowed down. Louise remembered her dislike of being stuck half way up a gorge suspended by a cable car not going anywhere fast. I can’t say I was much happier about it. The views were stunning and you get a good spot for some aerial photography. There are 4 cable cars working when you visit the Height of Abraham and they do slow down. This is so that guests can get on and off. It does mean that the cars will slow down half way up so that the opposing carriages can change guests. It is normal and nothing to worry about.

Once you reach the top, a journey of just a few minutes on the cable car, the attraction really starts to reveal itself. 

Victoria Prospect Tower

Visit heights of abraham vanlifediary
View from the tower

A tower built in 1884 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s reign takes you higher for panoramic views of the Derwent Valley. The steps are narrow with only a handrail on the outer wall. If you have your sensible shoes on then you should be ok. It is amazing how much difference those extra 50 or so steps makes!

Show Caverns

During your visit to the Heights of Abraham there are 2 different cave systems accessible to enter. Masson and Rutland caverns. Included in your ticket price are guided tours that run periodically through the day. These tours tell you about the history of the mines, how women and children also worked here and not just men. 

Masson Cavern

There are 160 ish steps in this cave system. We gave up counting at that point! The only good thing is that 7 of them were down – the rest were up! Descending into the cave and adjusting to the light, the guide tells us about the mining that took place here. We move through the dimly lit caves, with the sound of water dripping gently through the rocks. Narrow and dark, we begin to understand how hard it must have been to be a miner. 

The guide moves us on to another large cavern where he begins to tell us of the early tourism trade. The Victorians loved a good show and also loved their ‘curiosities’. They didn’t have all of the mod cons and technology that we have now. We had great light shows, lasers and a host of video projection. The Victorians did it as good as they could. Often, orchestras were brought down to play their instruments to entertain guests. Chandeliers were hung from the ceiling to provide ‘amazing’ light shows. The last part of our trip has the most amount of step out of the cave. Around 80 steps bring you out just below Tinkers Shaft.

Tinkers Shaft

Tinkers shaft is an old mine shaft with a huge vertical drop into the Masson cavern below. This would have been used for raising the excavated lead, by women using a hand winch, in all weathers. Nowadays, there is a viewing platform with allows further views and photos to be taken of the valley. After your climb out of the cave this is a picturesque and welcome spot for a short rest.

cable car heights of abraham
View from cable car half way up!

Rutland Cavern

This cavern is lower down the hillside on the attraction and is a fair walk down some steep paths. This cave is smaller than Masson cavern but does feature a day in the life of a 17th century lead mining family. It is very interesting to find out also that the phrase “looking a bit peaky” originated in this area. Being underground and working with the lead, the miners would often look quite pale and sick. It was coined ‘Peaky’ due to being in the Peak District!

Picnic and Play

Walking back down the path through some woodland you rejoin the attraction near where the cave entrance was. It is a good time here to mention that there are picnic spots around the site including a children’s play area. This seemed quite popular with the kids on our visit and they were having loads of fun swinging like monkeys and making up their own games.

If you need a rest but the kids are still full of it, this is a great place to keep an eye on them whilst letting them burn off some energy!

Food and drink

With a terrace cafe, a bar, restaurant and a tavern, there are options for food and drink. Just one little note, the terrace cafe is directly under the bar and restaurant. If you are not savvy you may think they are the same place. We had intended to have a light snack but ended up in the restaurant where our eyes were bigger than our bellies! Look at the size of this Burger!!!

Big Burger at Heights of Abraham
Lunch at the Heights of Abraham restaurant

Fossil factory and Rock Shop

A visit to the Heights of Abraham is not complete without a trip around the fossil factory. With interesting facts on fossils and local rocks the kids will be educated! The may even enjoy the film about how the landscape and caverns were formed over millions of years. The highlight has to be the fossilised remains of a giant Ichthyosaur, alive at the same time as the dinosaurs. Coming in at 3 metres long it is one fossil you won’t want to miss!

The rock shop has some beautiful rocks and crystals that you can purchase either for yourself or for a gift. Decorative stones to Jewellery and from Geodes to minerals. We could have spent hours looking at the shiny crystals and picked up a little present for a friend here. If crystal’s don’t grab your attention like a magpie, you can also check out treetops gift shop for other treasures to take home! 

Matlock Bath

Matlock Bath and river
Matlock Bath

We really loved our day out here and after visiting the Rutland cavern we decided to walk down the hill rather than take the cable car! It took maybe half an hour/ 45 minutes as a slow ramble and was quite easy to navigate. We can guarantee we wouldn’t have made the walk up!!!

Matlock Bath is just as quirky as the Victorians. With a high street that should really be on a beach promenade! From amusement arcades to chip shops it’s no surprise that this was one of the first developed tourist destinations. In 1698 warm springs were discovered here and a bath house was built. Since then a steady increase in tourism has seen the quaint riverside town bloom into what we see today – a quaint riverside town! No high rises and high street chains will be found on this road, but a throwback to a time where women wore long dresses and carried umbrellas to shield them from the sun and men wore top hats and opened the doors for women! 

Today you are more likely to bump into a group of watersports fanatics who kayak in the river rapids or motorbike enthusiasts who gather here most Sundays and sunny evenings. Nothing quite beats a steady amble along the River Derwent followed by a cold pint and a portion of fish and chips.

We loved that we could reminisce about our visit to the Heights of Abraham as kids and now as adults how things have changed.

Things to do in the area

Not far from here are loads of other attractions worth a visit if you are staying here for a few days. 

Stunning Chatsworth House

Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Complete with its 150 acre gardens and over 30 rooms in the house to explore, full of artwork and history. You can easily spend a day here imagining what life would be like to live here and mosey about on the lawn in a ball gown!


Known best for its pudding and the possibility that Jane Austen visited here whilst writing Pride and Prejudice. Bakewell is a photogenic town of honey coloured houses. Monday is market day here, following a long tradition and a medium sized cattle market also takes place in the town – however a larger agricultural centre with a larger cattle market has been built across the road.

We are constantly updating our Locations page so do check back as we add more!

If you have visited the Heights of Abraham, drop us a comment below and tell us what you thought of it, share your pictures with us on Insta #vanlifediary and share with your friends!

If you are looking for a way to find cheap attraction tickets, check out our post!

VanLifeDiary Solstice

Here at vanlifediary, Solstice is creeping up on us. Follow our journey from Yorkshire to South Wales as we get sentimental and personal with you!

Our journey begins

Yorkshire has been our home for the last few weeks as we visited our daughter. Thanks to the rain, it was a damp visit. The waterfalls were bursting as the rivers somersaulted off of the rocks – free falling to the river below. The noise was a tremendous orchestra of rumbling and crashing, echoing off of the walls and down the river. It was very grounding to be stood watching this immense power that mother nature brings to the table. The rivers that have been carved out over hundreds and thousands of years are still evolving today. We are witnessing that happen at this very moment. The water that falls here will be life sustaining – it will also be recycled. The cycle of life will repeat and the next season will have its turn.

Our journey as vanlifediary, during the 2019 summer solstice, is also going in circles. Mostly by design. We had committed to be back in South Wales by the 21st June. We had to, at some point, start our journey down to South Wales from the Dales and we were a little reluctant! There are so many places we still want to visit there. The journey was a great opportunity to see some friends along the way but we hadn’t really understood why these people were the ones to be a part of our very special journey until the solstice itself!

High force, co durham
vanlifediary solstice
High Force falls, County Durham

A moment of real reflection and a sudden realisation…

On solstice evening ‘vanlifediary’ found ourselves sat in our campervan next to a reservoir in Wales. You can barely make out the paths and roads on the opposite hill as the leaves have exploded into their summer outfits and are providing shelter for the wildlife. The reservoir was in the shade of those hills and rippling in her dark blue silk dress, as deep in colour as she is in the middle of her large expanse. Looking out, the seasons new offspring of ducks and geese follow their mothers in perfect lines from the bank, still growing into their adult plumage. A slight purple haze started to cover the sky as the sun got ready to finish the longest shifts of her cycle. A picture of serenity with barely any sounds other than the natural noise of the earth and the odd car that passes us by.

This week saw a milestone in our travels. We left our jobs on the spring equinox and have just seen our first summer solstice as full time vanlife enthusiasts. A whole quarter of a year of full time travelling now under our belt! It is very exciting and has seen us go as far North as Yorkshire, Somerset to the south, Gower on the west and a week’s long road trip in Norfolk to the east. By no means have we done everywhere in between. We have made a lot of new friends on our travels and had the chance to see some old friends too.

sign vanlifediary


We left Yorkshire on Tuesday and drove to Nottingham. We met up with a very special lady, El. I met her when I was helping out at a castle in Staffordshire and we became good friends in an instant. I recall the day like a movie scene. After all the events (from Reenactment teams to a ghost hunt) we found ourselves sat in a tent at 3 am with a knight, a witch and a swordsman drinking tea and vodka, whilst eating El’s mini cheddars! Some nights are so surreal! Funnily enough, that was on the summer solstice 2009. Exactly 10 years ago that we met and I still count the people I met that day as very close friends.

We were so happy to stop by and see her and the family. She cooked us a lovely mexican meal and we reminisced about our days at the castle. I always get a little nostalgic and then I wonder… we look back at history and read all about the monarch and lords, see the stately homes etc. What will future generations think when they look back at us, when our lives are just names in a census and a period of time governed by our Queen, our government and the building techniques we used. Perhaps they will even laugh at our methods of medicine? Are they much more advanced? Have we gone too far already to save our future? Has there been another world war? Time to stop thinking too much and move on to our next destination.


sugarloaf vanlifediary solstice 2018
On top of a mountain!

The next stop on the vanlifediary solstice tour was to see Luke. We lived next door to Mrs C when we were working and she had a large family. Mrs C is a remarkable woman and always made us feel so welcome living next door and we became good friends. Luke is one of her sons who happens to live in the Brecon Beacons. A year ago, for Louise’s birthday, we decided we wanted to climb the Sugar Loaf mountain in the Brecon Beacons. It took us long time to complete. 3 adorable pugs managed to lap us before we had made it up to the summit. Not our finest moment but we pushed on. Sometimes stopping every ten steps to catch our breath as it was so steep in places.

Finally, out of breath and sweaty, we reached the summit. We dropped to the floor in a glorious display that should have been narrated by Sir David Attenborough and panted for a good 15 minutes. Just as we had caught our breath a school party of about 20 ten year olds all came singing and dancing along the ridge with no sign on exhaustion. They looked like they had just got off of the bus!!! Some sheep joined us, sensing that food is often consumed on the summit. The boys in the school party decided to name one of them ‘Snot’ and I dread to think what the others were called.

We checked ourselves in on Facebook as being on top of the mountain with a photo of us at the trig point for proof and shortly after Luke sent us a message. He said he lived close and wondered if we would like to pop over for a little bit of dinner and see his home at Bryn Bach Barn! (which is also a holiday let! click here!!!) “Of course!!!” we said… realising we now needed to get off of the mountain and not smell like a sailors armpit for dinner, we made our descent.

solstice brecon beacons
Bryn Bach Barn, Holiday let in the Brecon Beacons

Food for thought!

This year, we met Luke for a much more civilised brunch in Crickhowell and enjoyed some marvellous Welsh cakes and refreshments at Latte-Da Coffee and Kitchen. Latte-Da is a small but elegant tea room with a nice assorted menu. A large percentage of their menu is locally sourced and they make home made cakes, gluten free brownies and American pancakes.

They have a wide range of coffee to choose from and the staff were very polite and helpful. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to have soya milk with my tea! Louise had the Dirty Chai, a regular chai Latte but with a shot of espresso. The cafe had a very natural and welcoming feel. Even though the tables were quite close together this just felt cosy and not claustrophobic. They are so popular that Trip adviser has them rated at number 1 for Crickhowell and 2 for the whole of the Brecon Beacons!!! We can certainly say that we will be visiting again when we are passing through.

Car parking is just across the road and is a great place to start before you have a look around the town. Did you know that Tolkien took his inspiration for parts of Lord of the Rings from the local area and named Crickhollow after Crickhowell! It has been exactly a year since we last met up with Luke on his home turf. Another Vanlifediary Solstice anniversary. (even if we were not full time vanlifers then, we did travel part time in our VW – Which I really miss!)

Back to where it all began

As I sat by the reservoir, all the puzzle pieces stated to slot together. Ten years since I had met El and a year since we had seen Luke on his home patch. We drove past the Sugar Loaf mountain on the way to Crickhowell. Now we are sat by the very same reservoir that we came to when we set off on our journey at the spring equinox. We were in Talybont-on-Usk.

None of this was pre planned. It was a revelation in the evening that we had reconnected with these people. We hadn’t decided on where to stay, just remembered how lovely it was. When we got close and thought it would be nice to stop there again for Vanlifediary solstice. We remembered how the last time we visited you couldn’t move for frogs as it was their mating season and the floor was covered with the frisky amphibians. By now, their offspring are likely enjoying the tranquillity of the reservoir and their cycle is just beginning.

Relevance of cycles.

The relevance of these cycles never ceases to amaze me. The deep connections that we make to places and with people run deep in our subconscious. Perhaps we will be like migrating birds, always coming back to Wales for summer solstice. Perhaps the people we meet on our journeys will stay with us and connect again on their own cycles. As I sit by the water I watch sky darken. Able to make out the shapes of bats and hear the owls start to call, I watch the water lapping at the shore line. I wonder if these are the same drops of water we saw 3 months ago. How far have they travelled before returning? When we return again, how much more will we have seen? What will we have learnt? Who will we bring with us?

I am a deep believer in the cycles of events. For example, if we haven’t dealt with a situation in our lives we will face a version of it again. This will repeat until we have learnt what we need to and grown. I believe that people can come into your life for many reasons, some stay, others go, some come back again.

As we travel further into our own lives and take stock of situations, we can sometimes look back and realise the mistakes we made. Or the exact moments when everything became clear. The ‘A-HA!’ moments. As we drive we are still learning. We have learnt more in the last 3 months than we can believe. Life isn’t about text books, its about being outside, exploring and learning. That’s what makes us so rich and lucky.

If you enjoyed reading about our vanlifediary solstice, please leave us a comment. Subscribe to the blog and follow our Facebook page for more interaction!

Gloucestershire Attractions and Campsite

We visited a small organic campsite in Gloucestershire and local attractions and attractions not long after we picked our van up in January. We called her Patchouli but Chewie for short) and sent her directly to the mechanics for a thorough check over. As soon Chewie returned home we were eager to take her out for a weekend. We searched the internet for a relatively close site just in case anything went wrong. That way we were not too far from home. Finding a site called West End Farm near Arlingham in Gloucestershire we booked our pitch. £10 for Friday night on a hard standing pitch and £4 extra if you wanted electric hook up.

We packed some food that we had in the house so that we didn’t have to buy any. A chilli and a pasta that we had in the freezer coupled up as freezer blocks to keep the rest of our goods cool. (That’s when we remembered we now have a fridge – a new luxury!). Singing tunes on the radio, we set off in the sunshine down the M5 for a few junctions and then took a country lane for a couple of miles until we reached the farm. On arrival there was a sign to say that due to them being a small site there was no reception but just to ring if we needed anything. Our start to Gloucestershire campsite and attractions was going well as the site was very clean and welcoming.

We had a look around and found they had a couple of grass pitches with electric hook ups. There was a new wooden structure with toilets, showers and a washing up area. Very nice and clean!

The site is part of an organic farm and we saw this sign in the toilet block. Turns out we were sharing our fresh water with the cows. The cows had priority too! West end farm is home to plenty of wildlife but cattle is their main priority. Although you can hear some noise from the machinery nearby it isn’t enough to cause an issue. Gloucestershire campsite

River Severn and the Severn Way.

This was a great spot when taking Gloucestershire campsite and attractions into consideration. The location itself is part of an attraction! The Severn Way. It is a long network of paths following the River Severn from it’s origin high on Plynlimon, in the uplands of Mid-Wales. The RIver Severn is the longest river in the UK measuring 220 miles long. It passes through Powys, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire before reaching the Severn Estuary.

The Long Distance Walkers Association gives the Severn Way’s length as 360.3 km (223.9 mi).

The campsite is located on a horseshoe bend on the River Severn and therefore has direct access to lots of lovely walks including access to the Severn Way.

The Severn Bore is a tidal bore seen on the tidal reaches of the River Severn in south western England. It is formed when the rising tide moves into the funnel-shaped Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary and the surging water forces its way upstream in a series of waves, as far as Gloucester and beyond. Surfers love to take advantage of the waves as they surf up the river on the bore. Make sure you do your research and try to witness this event when the spring tide is at its highest! Severn bore

Arlingham Village

Driving to the campsite you drive through the quaint village. It isn’t very big, in fact the 2011 census recorded just  459 inhabitants in 176 households. Arlingham has the River surrounding it on 3 sides and a canal on the 4th. Even with so much water surrounding it, Arlingham does not have a high flood risk. The village is full of character and remains very rural with 10 working farms with Dairy and beef herds.

The church of St Mary the Virgin’s registry dates back to 1539 and has lots of very old but well preserved tombs and headstones. Although it was closed when we visited you can tell from care taken in the grounds that this little church is very important to it’s parish.

We took a walk around the exterior and the winter sun was low in the sky. The light reflected off of the rear double door to display a golden shimmer as though it had been covered in gold leaf.

vanlifediary Arlingham church

Meet the locals – at your own risk!

The graveyard isn’t a scary place to be, not once you have met the locals of course.

I mean to say that some of the residents are a little unsure of visitors. Perhaps a little territorial even! No I don’t mean the humans, I mean the pheasants! A cock greeted us as we began our walk home and at first he seemed a little shy. The pheasant started to follow us down the road a little. We even thought he was cute! We even stopped to take a photo of this encounter… It was then things took a disastrous turn for the worst!

Out of nowhere, the little swine decided to take a pot shot at Louise! (See video here). He jumped up and kicked her with both his feet and tried to take a bite of her! Once safely back to the van we snuggled up for dinner and had an early night.

Saturday morning we woke up to a bit of a damp day but we were happy. It didn’t matter to us. We had a really good night’s sleep, our first night in Chewy, felt relaxed and refreshed. In fact, once we went to sleep we both had a really deep sleep and woke up around midnight feeling as though we had slept all night long!

Robinswood Hill – Gloucester

A hearty frankfurter omelette breakfast (nicer than it sounds) set us up for the day. We didn’t want to spend any money so decided to head to Robinswood Hill in Gloucester. 250 acres of open countryside with nature trails marked out for you. At the summit you can see views of the Severn Bridge to the South, the Malvern Hills to the North and the Black Mountains to the West. This attractions was only 20 miles from the Gloucestershire campsite

Car parking is free, even for the motorhome, no height restrictions and luckily the car park was flat or we may have had to drive on! The van is quite heavy and we need to build trust in the handbrake… which was at that point ‘selective’ on her ability to hold!

We donned our wet weather gear and polished off a sarnie before our walk. It didn’t look too bad from the bottom but boy are looks deceiving! Louise decided the path was too boring and dragged me up through the trees forging our own path… Never again! I swear I thought I was going to pass out at several points. I was going up a bank on my hands and knees grabbing on to tree roots to pull myself up, all the while slipping and sliding – making very little progress! Once up that bit I decided that we were going to follow the path!

Up Up and Away!

Incline after incline we inched our way. Throwing a strop every 5 minute I was encouraged on even though I was really hating it at that point. Although I climbed the Sugar Loaf last year this is the first major climb I had done since my foot injury and I am glad to report it held up well!

All of a sudden the summit appeared a few hundred metres above us. One last hurrah and we made it to the top. Another trig point achieved! It is also a beacon point. From the top of Robins Wood Hill we couldn’t see too much as the visibility was poor. Did I mention it was raining and windy? Looking down from our position we could see parts of the county briefly, before more rain clouds hampered our visibility but the M5 services we easy to spot!

It was really windy up there so after a short break we slowly edged back to the car park. We knew we had done it and being able to get into our converted van, have a brew, some soup and get changed makes all the difference in this weather. The heating went on to warm us up and we reflected on how much better we felt now the cobwebs had been blown away. Despite my reluctance and grumpy demeanour I did actually enjoy it – when it was over.

iGrill Restaurant

When taking Gloucestershire campsite and attractions into account, sometimes a meal cooked for you is a real treat. Not far from Robinswood Hill is iGrill, an amazing burger/pizza/grill restaurant on Metz Way, Gloucester.

There is free parking available and all the food is cooked fresh for you. I have never had a burger like the ones they cook there. It is a minced sirloin of lean beef with no artificial flavours or additives. They mince it and make it into a patty so its succulent and juicy. They even make their own signature sauce as an optional extra. As it’s cooked fresh you can even request it to be cooked a certain way.

They also do pizzas, kebabs on skewers, Vegetarian menus, smoothies and milkshakes. They are on the Just Eat app so will deliver too! We went there for some proper food on our way home and boy did it taste amazing!

Prinknash Abbey

Prinknash has lots to offer, from Roman Catholic Benedictine Monks at Prinknash Abbey to the bird and deer park where you can hand feed the deer! This location is certainly worth putting on your next to do list!

The Abbey

According to the monks, it is not known for sure when Prinknash made its first documented appearance.e in documented history. According to a venerable antiquary Gloucestershire was erected into a County and divided into Hundreds by King Alfred [c. 890] and in a list of these Hundreds Prinknash is included in the division of the Hundreds of Kings Barton. Gloucestershire antiquaries, however, are not always reliable and we cannot say for certain how ancient the place is.

Monastic life did not end in the middle ages and there are still monks in residence here. You can visit the Monestry’s shop which sells monastic gifts and books. There is also a cafe however the Monastery is private for the monks that reside there.

Deer Park

Next door is the Bird and Deer Park, a real treat for animal lovers. It was created in 1974 by Phillip Meigh and now run by his daughter since his death in 2008. This parkland incorporates the old monks ponds to create a habitat for all sorts of wildlife. You can visit here and spend time hand feeding the birds, fish and fallow deer. It’s a photographers dream!

We had a lovely afternoon here and it is on our list of places to go back to. The site is on a hill so do wear suitable footwear. I was on crutches at the time of our visit and had to wear a hard boot to protect my foot. This made some of the navigation tricky but still doable!

The animals in residence are

  • Reindeer
  • Fallow deer
  • Pygmy goats
  • Miniature donkeys
  • Waterfowl including geese, ducks, Ne Ne’s, Snow geese and Bahama Pintails
  • Peafowl
  • Poultry including Mad Frizzlers, Polands, Dutch faveralls and seabrites
  • Pheasant and Fowl including the stunning Golden and Yellow pheasants
  • Kookaburras
  • Caged and Aviary birds from D’anvers and Japanese Quail, to Budgies, Cockatiels and Lovebirds
  • Fish including Carp and Tench

Family fun at Gloucestershire campsite and attractions.

Make sure you take plenty of change as for 20p you can obtain food to feed some of the animals. We had a slight hiccup when a deer snatched one of the paper bags of food and ran off with it so do hold on tight!!! Also watch the birds, they may poop on you… and they did poop on us! But it was so nice to be able to relax and just sit with the birds. They are very tame will come and land on your hands for the food. It’s a great experience that kids and adults will love. The site is quite large and well maintained. There is plenty of free parking, again no height restrictions, available for the whole Prinknash site.

There’s a lovely cafe which sells salads and hot meals. A children’s menu is available, soft drinks and of course locally made ice creams. If you’re looking for a gift with a difference then I’m sure you will find one in the gift shop adjoining the ticket office. You do have to pay for entrance into the Bird and Deer park. You can book online and save 10% with an email ticket sent direct to you.

There are so many different Gloucestershire campsite and attractions so you

Click here to see other locations we have visited.