Category Archives: yorkshire


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

A Yorkshire Town called Thirsk

Thirsk, Yorkshire

Home of James Herriot

Set in the Yorkshire countryside 24 miles north of York, the charming medieval market town of Thirsk rests between the Hambleton Hills and the Dales. Perhaps most famously known as the home of Author James Herriot. Although James Herriot is the name we know him by, it is actually his pen name. Born James Alfred Wight (Alf to people that knew him), Herriot became a Veterinarian before turning to writing.

He is best known for his books on animals and their owners called ‘If only they could talk’. Herriot’s practice was located in the Yorkshire town of Thirsk, 23 Kirkgate to be exact and now the site of the Herriot Museum. The veterinary practice is still working on this site, caring for ‘all creatures great and small’. The museum is well worth a visit, even if you are not familiar with his work.

James Alfred Wight Blue sign
James Alfred Wight

James Herriot Museum

As you step through the bright red door into the museum you are taken back in time to visit the fully restored 1940’s home of the author and vet. A magical time capsule of the author awaits you, a moment frozen in time where you can imagine him sat at his writing desk, recalling the tales of the clients he had that day. During the war, his basement was converted into an air raid shelter. As well as a family home it is also the site of the veterinary surgery, dispensary and waiting rooms.

Herriot’s books were turned into a tv show called All Creatures Great and Small in the late 70’s and again in the late 80’s. A reproduction of the set and the vehicle used are still on show for visitors today. The legend of veterinary work is still being televised today with the popular programme ‘The Yorkshire Vet’ filmed here with Peter Wright (who worked alongside James Herriot) and Julian Norton.

James Herriot’s honeymoon in Carperby

We visited Carperby, a little village not too far away from Thirsk on the other side of the A1M. It was here that James took his bride for their honeymoon and according to the documents in the local pub, he stayed there and then spent half of his honeymoon working on the local farm looking at Cows! His signature is displayed in the pubs guest book.

Whilst there we highly recommend you stay for some food as it is incredible! You can take a nice walk to Aysgarth falls through the fields or head up the hills for some stunning views from the beacon.

Thirsk, not just a Market town in Yorkshire.

Thirsk Yorkshire
Thirsk, Yorkshire

The road that runs between York and Northallerton may be Roman built, but the Yorkshire town of Thirsk situated on that route is actually Saxon in origin, although it is likely there were settlements here even earlier than that.  The town has held a market here since the 12th century and been the meeting place for local villages to come together. Markets still happen here every Monday and Saturday on the cobblestone floor of the town square.

The sounds of the traders selling their goods has long been a sight on these stones and if you can imagen them in different clothing with different shelters, you can fall back in time. Horses tied up where cars now park, meat hung up for sale at the butchers, hand carved utensils form the wood turner. There would be people from all over the area coming to market to collect fresh goods for the week ahead or try to sell their wares.

The town square houses a nice collection of independent shops, a few branded shops, pubs, cafes and gorgeous architecture. It is easy to see where newer buildings were built next to old ones if you stop to take in the buildings character above the shop fronts.


One of the plus sides of social media is that you get to connect with people like you. It is even better when you are then able to meet them in person. We had been following LifeBeyondBricks for a while, and unbeknown to us they were following us too!

We started talking over the internet and when we saw they were in Yorkshire we did a happy dance and tried to meet up, It was here in Thirsk that we finally met. If you havent heard of them before, here is what you need to know…

Tash and Jon travel in their motorhome. They started their full time adventure in March last year, at the same time we did but they took their 3 cats with them on the road.

See what happened when we met the team in Thirsk!

Thirsk Castle

Thirst Castle, Yorkshire
Thirsk Castle, Yorkshire

Sadly, barely any trace of it is left to be found. Built around 959-970’s this Motte and Bailey castle is now reduced to imagination, myth and legend. There is some argument to whether it was a Norman Castle as there is no mention of it in the Doomsday book. After the conquest, the castle belonged to the De Mowbray family. Around 1175, one of the descendants rose up against Henry II somewhat ineffectually. Thirsk castle was besieged, rapidly surrendered and totally destroyed as a result.

All that remains now are raised earthworks around town with information boards to tell you more about that area. There are plenty of walks around town that explain the history of the Yorkshire town of Thirsk.

12th Century Church – St Oswalds

Moss growing on the Church wall.

Whilst walking around the town, it is worth taking a little stroll down the lanes and side streets. When we visited with Jon and Tash from Life Beyond Bricks, we noticed a sign pointing to a 12th century church so decided to investigate. It was a little further walk than we expected but a glorious walk past the back of the Ritz Cinema, past the Thirsk and Sowerby Institute and stunning open views of the North York Moor hills rising sharply as if from nowhere.

The church dates back to around 1140 and over the years had been refurbished with bits added on to allow for larger congregations. The Church has a large cemetery and a sign displaying a sign for war graves. Squirrels were racing around in the trees and on the ground the snowdrops were standing with their heads bowed showing how much life was ongoing, even in this cold January afternoon.

The Clock.

clock in thirsk
Thirsk Clock

The clock in the main square was erected in 1896, commemorating the marriage of the Duke of York and Princess May of Teck. They later became King George V and Queen Mary. The position of the clock ensures that on a sunny day the clock face glows almost golden. The skyline dominated by it at sunset means that many a photograph have been taken here.

Tour De Yorkshire

The Tour de Yorkshire cycle race thundered through the town of Thirsk in 2016 but sadly wasn’t on this year’s route, that didn’t stop the whole of Yorkshire celebrating the coverage of its glorious county. Everywhere you went, bicycles were being decorated, bunting was out and strange knitted racing jerseys were being hung around windows. Thirsk threw themselves into Yarn-Bombing the town and drew crowds in for miles away to see! Now this tradition reappears every year and is a favourite of many a tourist.

The hope is that the race will return here again in the coming years.  The nearby town of Leyburn has been nominated again as a start/finish point for the 2020 races. We recommend booking accommodation early if you wish to come and watch the events as it does get very busy!

Ritz Cinema

Cinema thirsk
Ritz Cinema, Thirsk

The charm and history of Thirsk reveals itself like peeling an onion. Everywhere you look there is a blue plaque denoting something from history. The Ritz cinema is one of the oldest continuously run cinemas in the UK after opening the doors to the public in 1912. The 200 seat cinema was originally the mechanics institute but converted for entertainment. Now, the cinema is run by volunteers desperate to keep the history of the local cinema going.

A Question of sport

One of Thirsk’s most famous sons is Lord Thomas, founder of the cricket ground. He was born here in 1755. However, one of Thirsk’s more visible claims to fame is the racecourse. Established in 1854, the flat ground made it a fantastic venue for horse racing. At one time, other then Newmarket, Thirsk was the only other racecourse where prize money was allowed for races.

Thirsk’s rich history with racing dates back as far as 1740 and was the site of the first official racecourse in England. During the 2nd world war, the racecourse was closed and turned into an Army camp before returning to, and still operating as a racecourse.

Food and Drink

Yorks Cafe

Located next to the town clock, is the Yorks café. It is full of racing memorabilia and jerseys decorating the walls. We do love to drop in here for a brew or a spot of lunch when visiting as they are very welcoming to tourists. They are dog and muddy boot friendly and also cater for vegan, veggie and gluten free diets. We visited them again last week when we met up with Life Beyond Bricks and all opted for a nice warming bowl of soup and fresh bread.

Upstairs Downstairs

Here is a cute tearoom and deli with lovely cakes displayed as you walk in to the shop. Homemade pies and a wide selection of cheeses will have your mouth watering and craving more. A small selection of dried products are also available such as teas, pickles, chutneys and breadsticks. Several butchers shops also tuck neatly in to the town and provide fresh and local produce to locals.

A pub dominates each side of the square like a monopoly board giving lots of options. The pubs likely made their appearance around the 17th and 18th century when Thirsk became a popular coaching stop for people travelling to and from Scotland.

Thirsk, Mowbray Arms

The Mowbray Arms, a nod to the family that owned the land many years ago, sits on the south east corner, the Three Tuns, Golden Fleece, Black Lion and Black Bull are also located on the perimeter of the square.


Getting to Thirsk is very easy, good road signposts pave the way from the A19 and A1M. Getting around the coast to Whitby and Scarborough

Parking in Thirsk is easy as multiple car parks dot the surrounding area, each just a short walk to the town square. These include long stay, short stay, disk parking and even some free parking is you are savvy!

Thirsk has a rail link connecting it to other parts of Yorkshire. It is part of the East Coast main line which travels 210 miles from London Kings Cross in a southern direction and north to Durham, Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

National Express also operate to here and the coach from London to Thirsk is just £7.50


Just outside of the main square you will find a Tesco Superstore and a Lidl both with their own car parks. A little further out of the main town but still easily reachable (and easier to park large campers) is Aldi.

We love Thirsk

Thirsk at Sunset

The Yorkshire area has turned up so many hidden gems that we honestly didn’t realise were here and Thirsk is one of them. Driving through on our first trip, we knew we had to come back and explore the picture postcard town. With the main roads connecting here had travelled through it on a few occasions before getting to explore on foot and the things we found took our breath away.

We really do recommend that you visit Thirsk should you be in the Yorkshire area and stay tuned for other locations in Yorkshire that we have visited!

Thirsk in low sun.

Emma has a helicopter lesson in Yorkshire

Another VanLifeDiary post that doesn’t directly involve the van but she is still being rebuilt and we have lots of adventures planed for her in a few weeks time. However, for today’s post we first need to skip back to Christmas morning before getting to the helicopter lesson.

We were sat on the floor in the living room, still wearing our pyjamas and sporting messy hair when Louise gave me my Christmas card. Needless to say I was suspicious when she started filming so I knew something was up!


Emma opening her christmas present
My Face!

I opened up the card and read the lines “Please don’t hate me, I love you. You can do this” which filled me with an air of both excitement and terror. The next page was hiding something. It was a card with a picture of a helicopter on it and on the inside of that card, the realisation that Louise had bought me a helicopter lesson in Yorkshire!

Fear, nervousness, excitement and realisation hit one at a time followed by some swearing. I was shocked and had no idea that a helicopter lesson in Yorkshire would even be something Louise would have thought about!

Helicopter Lesson Day

Having had the flight cancelled once already due to storm Brendon, I was pleased in the morning that the flight was still on today – so far! I rang up at 9am to check and they said it looked good so come along for 1pm. I had all the camera gear set up ready to go but somehow lost the chest harness for the go pro somewhere – no clues… it is in the house somewhere! I managed to lengthen the head harness to make it fit.

We had a light lunch and set off in the beautiful sunshine and blue skies, got fuel and headed towards Leeds/Bradford airport. Not even halfway there and all of a sudden this wall of cloud hit us. It was like a scene from a movie, where the tornado lands and kicks up a skirt of dust, only this is cloud and threatens to halt the experience.

Nervously we drive on, hoping to exit the cloud and leave it behind us and after a few miles we seems to have passed the worst of it. Low cloud is still evident but the visibility is much better. I get more nervous every mile we travel. It isn’t more than about an hour until we reach the destination of Leeds, Yorkshire for the days helicopter lesson. I have never even been in a helicopter and lots of ‘What if’s’ are buzzing around my head.

Low Cloud could stop the helicopter lesson.

low coud on the roads
Low Cloud

We check in at HeliJet Aviation and take a seat in the conservatory, large windows looking out over the field and a few helicopters dotted around the edges. The cloud seems to have congregated over the helipad and I don’t know whether to be happy that it might get cancelled again or if having to wait a 3rd time would just drag out the agony.

A gentleman in overalls goes out and checks the helicopter over. He fills her up with fuel as Louise and I discuss whether it’s a positive sign. We watch him talk to the control tower on the radio before walking towards the conservatory doors.

“I doubt Leeds will let us fly” he says as I wait nervously for the lesson. The cloud level is too low. We joke that it was blue sky at home but this man is serious. “Well we are not there are we! Besides – we are just over the road from Leeds airport”. It’s all business here. No messing around and no sense of humour, something I am learning about Yorkshire inhabitants.

No Joking

Louise sat in reception
Louise in reception

I wander around the conservatory – may as well take some pictures while we are here as it looks like we will be sent packing when the pilot appears again. I get a small lecture on using my phone, I am here to fly not take video so I quickly throw my phone to Louise and wish I could take off the go pro but it’s under a hoodie and I don’t want to make him wait.

His sharp tone puts me on edge and I want to run away but he said we can fly if we go quick. I am marched upstairs to a replica helicopter and am told to sit down and not interrupt him when he is talking – Questions at the end. He runs through his checklist with his broad Yorkshire accent pointing to dials and I can only assume explaining what they do but I can’t follow him that quick.

I catch what I think are the important bits, hold the bar but not tight. Don’t press the pedals unless told to. Keep the compass on the horizon and he will keep the chopper in the air. He tells me the route we are taking but it doesn’t mean a thing to me as I am not familiar with the geography here yet. I am too scared to ask him any questions at the end and decide to hold my breath and trust he will keep me alive.

Hellicopter, Check. Lesson, Check.

Emma in the helicopter
Emma ready to fly

Marched down the stairs and shuffled outside I am starting to regret this decision but I understand that he is making sure I am listening and respecting the danger of learning to fly. This isn’t something that I can take for granted. We all know how dangerous this is and it is his job to make sure I understand, after all he is putting his life in my hands too.

Once in the helicopter the health and safety instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency are recited by heart as if a national anthem. He tells me to put on the headphones and makes sure we can hear each other. He turns on the chopper and the blades start to turn quicker and quicker. Once at speed, the pilot explains that there is a lever which turns the blades, it is this that will push the vessel upwards as the force of air is pushed downwards.

He lifts the helicopter and after a quick pose for the camera, he turns us around and shoots us off over the fields. It is only after we are in the air that he seems to settle and relax, making me see that he is actually ok. I realise as long as I do as he says we will have a laugh. He points out the location he wants me to head towards, shows me once more how to steer and lets me loose on the controls. I am flying! I am actually flying the helicopter!

Learning to fly

viaduct we flew over
Yorkshire Viaduct

The helicopter has been adapted for dual controls and the steering is controlled by a T bar shaped joystick. Both of us can hold it at the same time meaning that he can correct any movements required quickly. It isn’t like the movies at all. No sudden sweeping movements and over exaggerated actions to move the helicopter. In fact it is quite the opposite. With my right hand resting on my lap holding the bar, I only need to move it within an inch circle to control the direction of the helicopter. This lesson has taught me so much about the reality of flying a helicopter already.

“Can you see that large pile of rocks sticking out of the ground? That’s Craggy Rock. I want you to fly us to the left of that rock and then turn right and past that farm on the horizon”. I have full control of the steering and keep her steady. It’s a straight line so if I keep my hand perfectly still, we should be ok.


As we pass Craggy rock he indicated to move the bar to the right and tells me to lean in with the craft. I fight my body that wants to stay upright and move left but manage to turn, watching the horizon and trying to keep us level. The cloud is low today and we need to be careful. We are flying just underneath it for most of the lesson and the Pilot is on constant contact with Air traffic Control about our location and visability.

I spot a viaduct of some sorts out of my window and make a mental note to try and find it again on land to visit. It is a large bridge, glowing yellow in the sun that has started to peak out of a cloud. Lots of little arches support the structure and the pilot indicates that he wants me to fly over the idle of it. I manage to centre the helicopter directly in the middle of the bridge and watch my lines as we fly over it. It looks like a railway line on top.

A lesson on hovering a helicopter

Once back at the heliport, he brings us in and lands us in the middle of the field. He says that I did very well for a first timer and that he would like me to have a go at hovering. With such ease he lifts the metal bird up and shows me just how easy it is. It is all about keeping her from spinning. He shows me that with the down draft from the blades, the chopper automatically wants to spin the other way and that the art of hovering is all about counteracting that.

The pilot gets her in position for me and tells me that when he lets go I will feel some kick back and it is my job to keep her steady. No pressure… He releases his hand slightly and I feel the force of the helicopter wanting to spin. I counteract and for a few seconds all is going well. Suddenly she wobbles and I try to balance her out but it is so hard. The nose tips down and then swings up before going from side to side. My calm co piolet said well done for a first attempt and takes control. He swings her round in a circle bringing her back to the correct position before handing over for a 2nd and third attempt. Very slow improvement was made but he said after flying for about 20 hours it gets easier to do.

Louise gets a treat

helicopter lesson

The whole time we had been out here Louise was standing outside in the cold and wind videoing my helicopter lesson. My brave soldier endured biting winds to film me so my pilot, now relaxed and enjoying the ability to show off a bit, decided to treat Louise to a heart attack, on the house of course! He took us up along the treeline to gain some speed and then made a bee line for her. We came in low, straight towards her and the main building before climbing overhead, banking right and bringing her back down for another training session.

Final Countdown

In the last session I was allowed to gently use the foot pedals. A bit like driving a car, it centres on clutch control for this section. He showed me how to turn the helicopter using just the pedals for this lesson and then let me have a go. Getting her to start turning was fun but getting her to stop on a mark was harder. I managed the first 3 compass points but fudged the last one as I stopped too early and she started to swing back around the wrong way.

A few attempts at landing the hovering helicopter were allowed and I managed to do them very gently. The pilot gave a last hurrah for Louise by swinging the helicopter around on our way to the last landing spot and once down we were able to start the proceedings for our exit. You can not get out of the aircraft until the piolet lets you out. As far as a cheap haircut goes, I think I would rather pay more than lose the top of my head, thank you.

Once the rotors had come to a complete stop, we were allowed to disembark sharing a celebratory hug. Once we were in the aircraft he really did relax and the brash Yorkshire Sargent became a happy and relaxed mentor. He has been flying a helicopter for 30 years and giving lessons is a joy to him. He wants to share his passion and knowledge but wont settle for time wasters or mucking about.

What an adventure

Here is the video of the experience!

I am so glad I had this opportunity. I had mentioned one lunch time about 2 years ago that I hadn’t been in a helicopter and Louise had remembered that. She keeps a diary and anytime I mention wanting to do something, she writes it down and tries to make it happen. I feel so lucky.

If you get the chance to fly a helicopter, do it! It is incredible to be able to fly up, down, left or right. I felt like a bird. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Fun Fact, Carol Vorderman is a trained helicopter pilot as is Noel Edmonds, James May, Sir David Jason and James Blunt!

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Should have called it Jam-uary

Call it Jam-uary!

Well somehow it’s almost the end of the month already and as much as we were hoping for a quiet yet productive start to the year, it has turned out to be a rather hectic one so we are renaming it jam-uary as we are trying to jam so much in!

It seems like ages ago now that we were in London celebrating New Year, a time of reflection and new beginnings. Louise had bought my parents and I surprise tickets to see Wicked at the theatre in London New Years Eve and we headed up to the capital city on the train early enough to have a spot of dinner at Bills restaurant first.


Bills Restaurant

Bills is located in Cardinal Place, near Victoria station and is on the corner of an undercover shopping area. Large glass windows stretch from bottom to top and the ground floor and first floor seating can be seen from outside. The interior design is one that is light and elegant. The staff were fantastic and once they had asked if there were any food allergies at the table, and there was, our orders could then only be taken by the manager. This would ensure that the responsibility was placed firmly onto one person. 

The menu was varied, with favourites such as their burgers (which were so tasty and filling) to pan fried seabass and steaks. They also cater for vegetarians, vegans and gluten frees in their menu and when we were speaking to the manager about the meals we wanted they could list the ingredients by memory to ensure there was nothing that would be an allergen to one of the table.

From the balcony
Bills Bar


Fully stuffed, we made our way to the theatre and saw the show. Although we were right up in the gods, it didn’t spoil anything with great views and the sound quality ensured we didn’t miss a thing. We treated ourselves as it was new year to a couple of glasses of prosecco from the bar and enjoyed learning about the back story of the witches in The Wizzard of Oz.

After the show, we took a quick trip on the bus to see the festive Christmas lights before they get packed away again and then headed home before the city got too busy with people celebrating. I don’t particularly like crowds at the best of time but add in alcohol and trains and I get all kind of anxious so I wanted to get gone!

Jam-uary is relentless!

A few days in to Jam-uary we took the train back up to Yorkshire and have to say that the LNER service was fab. We had prebooked our seats in advance and got the fast train which gets us from Yorkshire to London in just over 2 hours with only 5 or 6 stops.  It was quicker than driving and half the travel time. Plus we didn’t have to find parking in London for Chewy.

Louise had given me a present for Christmas that had blown me away. I had been given a flying lesson in a helicopter! Crazy I know!!! I can’t parallel park let alone fly a helicopter but WOW! What an experience it will be! It was booked in for the 11th January, a Saturday and we had also arranged to meet up with Georgina and Corrina from 2Born2Travel on the Sunday. Our Jam-uary diaries were filling up.

decorating the campervan
Painting the van.

Between then, we were still working on the van refit. Every Sunday I would drive to my friends farm where he had the space and tools needed for the big jobs such as building the kitchen or putting up the tongue and groove ceiling. During the week Louise and I would be sewing the cushions for the seating areas or painting the insides ready to hit the road.

The weather was rotten on the Saturday morning and the helicopter flight had to be cancelled and re-booked. This is something that we will rearrange when the weather sorts itself out. Sunday morning was no better with the wind howling around the Yorkshire Moors.

2Born2Travel at Tan Hill

tan hill britain's highest pub
Tan Hill

2Born2Travel had suggested that we meet up at Tan Hill, Britain’s highest pub. We hadn’t been and it was only an hour and a half from us so we jumped at the chance to spend the night in the van again and meet up for the first time with this pair of nutters!

We packed our van with the essentials that had been taken out during the rebuild. Loo roll, gas bottle, heater and cooker, duvet, blankets, food. We never pack light but we did manage to pack less than normal – and yes it was painful! We drove up the A66 towards Barnard castle and then branched off to the left, across the moors to find the pub.

The Moors


As soon as you turn off of the main road, you find yourself quickly lost in a land of nothing. I mean nothing at all. Its just hills and streams and a road that seems to go to nowhere. The weather is harsh because it is bleak up there. Not a tree in sight, just low and stubborn gorse that seems to be surviving. The half structures of stone shepherd huts remain like scars on the land where the elements laughed at the attempt to build shelter there. You can quickly understand why so many people can get lost walking out here as there is nothing to use as a reference point.

Something shimmers in the distance. I say to Louise, “is that the pub?” although we are baffled as to why anyone would want to run a pub in the middle of nowhere – other than ‘Because they can’. The roads are recently tarmacked and we have seen 2 or 3 cars on the 5 miles from the A66 to the pub. As we arrive at the pub, we are gobsmacked. 1 because it is beautiful and 2 because even though they have a large car park and roadside parking too, there isn’t anywhere to park! It’s full!

Tan Hill

tractor and flag at the pub
Tan Hill Flag

Maybe its Sunday lunch, or maybe it is because the social media strategy run by the pub is fantastic. They are a really active pub with lots going on and it is always party time at Tan Hill! After about half an hour we managed to find a parking spot and check in with Georgina. They were ten minutes away and we excitedly looked for parking spaces for them for when they arrived. Luckily the car next to us pulled off so they managed to squeeze in by us.

Cake and Cheese

We invited them into our van for a brew and also to try a Yorkshire tradition of fruitcake and Wensleydale cheese. Yes together. Strangely it works! Once we were warm and filled with Cheese and cake, we thought about going for a walk together with the dogs, Marley and Max – however the van was rocking like a see saw and the wind was picking up so we sat back down!

The pub is on the top of the hill and is not at all sheltered from the wind. Once the car park had got a little quieter and some of the guests had left after lunch we did manage to move our vans around the side of the pub for some shelter from the wind. Inside the pub, the fire was lit and the low beamed ceiling of the bar were decorated with strings of light bulbs ensuring a warm glow throughout. To the left of the bar was the room they would be showing Vera in later and to the right was another side room where we sat at a large table. We would have looked out of the window at the view but 2 travel bloggers had parked their campervans around the side because of the wind…. Oh yes, that was us!!!

Roast Dinners!

roast dinner platter
Sharing Platter

The food at the pub is highly recommended. I will say that when Louise told me they did a sharing roast dinner platter I swore at her for suggesting anyone share their roast dinner, however on reflection it is incredible value and quality. For the price of £23.95 you can have a two course chicken sharing platter. A fresh whole chicken served with coleslaw, chips and pudding. For £29.95 you could have a two course roast of the day platter with steamed veg, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pudding and a dessert. (There was a choice of 2 out of 3 meats on offer.)

After the meal, the pub was showing the episode of Vera live as it was broadcast. The pub was featured in the episode and the film crews had all been up there filming in and around the pub a little while ago. Vera fancy dress was encouraged and the Tan Hill had issued Vera facemasks for the group photos being taken to celebrate. Later that night, after we had all sat around talking about travelling, blogs, dogs and wild adventures, we all tried to get some sleep in our respective vans.

Stormy Sleeping

Omelette cooked in a Ridge Monkey.

It was all quite a wild adventure as the vans were rocking wildly in the gales that seemed to swirl around the pub and vans. The flag pole was taking a battering as was the flag flapping with such force it was whipping and cracking like a wild fire. Around 3am we gave up and made a cup of tea. We could see our breath it was so cold and the gas fire tried to set itself on fire before so we decided to not try that one again and just add layers! We were social media-ing from one van, George was social media-ing from her van and none of us had much sleep!

The following morning we all had breakfast as Louise cooked omelette in the Ridge Monkey and we woke up slowly. Georgina and Corrina are exactly like they are in their videos, funny, kind and down to earth. It was so nice to finally meet them and I am sure we will be planning another wild adventure soon with them.

They had to be getting on the road up to Scotland, and the wind was increasing still! Storm Brendon was on its way but hadn’t actually hit yet. Snow was threatened up on Tan Hill later that afternoon so we all decided to head off our separate ways and after some pratting about trying to film each other in our vans we said goodbye and headed home.

Along with going to London, almost flying a helicopter, building the van kitchen, painting the inside of the van, sewing the cushions, battling a storm, meeting Georgina and Corrina Jam-uary has been keeping us busy.

Galgos del Sol


As you may have heard already from our mass emails and social media posts, we are also trying to raise money to help the Galgos in Spain. This is really exciting and something we are desperate to do so looking at all avenues to make it happen. From spending hours emailing companies and radio stations to local vets/groomers/walkers and anyone who will stand still for 2 minutes, we have been trying to engage people with our GoFundMe appeal.

It is very short notice for us to be able to raise the funds needed and although we are giving approx. £14,000 in time, we need the money to feed ourselves and actually get to Spain. If you think we are going there for winter sun, think again! Today the Mayor of Alicante, an hour north of the rescue centre, has issued safety for code red weather warnings. 2 people are already dead due to storm Gloria with ALL outside activity cancelled until the storm passes. Snow has fallen in Andalucía over night. The dogs are scared by the winds and cowering in their kennels looking at the reports coming from the facebook page.

Today we are sorting out a raffle that my hairdresser has offered to run for us, just another way to try and raise the much needed funds to feed ourselves as we will not have an income whilst donating time. My hairdresser has kindly donated a free haircut and we also have around £40 in vouchers to give too. It’s a mad dash trying to get posters designed.

Finishing touches on the van.

We have been working hard getting the van ready and the date of the Spanish volunteering means we only have a few weeks to get the van finished. It isn’t a dry Jam-uary here, we have tried to seal the roof light 3 times now and its still leaking. We did joke about hanging an umbrella upside down to collect the water! The log burner is at a farm, William has sanded it down ready for us to spray and install in the van however the thought of cutting a hole in the roof is scary as is knowing there is another place water could get inside from.

If we are going to be in Spain a while, we need to get the van booked in for an early MOT and service. The electrics still need finishing and we need to finish the kitchen and get the new hob/sink fitted. A curtain is currently proving a toilet door so we would like to get that fitted too at some point. No pressure!

Chewy could do with a wash too. Some helpful sod decided to write looser all over the van, using their finger in the dirt on the side. Yes looser, not loser. Makes you laugh… without wanting to provoke anything more than a finger in dirt, if you want to graffiti the van, spell the insults right!!!

Looking ahead

So hopefully, in a month’s time we will be driving to Portsmouth to board the ferry. A 24 hour crossing on what we have been told can be quite rough. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us as we felt sea sick in the van at Tan Hill with the van rocking in the wind! Once we arrive in Spain, we will have an 8 hour drive to complete from Santander to Murcia before we arrive at the centre. Once there we will only have a day or two with the current onsite couple we are replacing to learnt the rope and get our bearings before they head back to England for a short visit before returning to the rescue centre.

In the mean time, we will be trying to raise the funds and ensure we can get to Spain and back. If you are able to donate, please do so here.

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!

National Get Outside day

National get outside day – 29.9.19

wellies and waterproofs on the beach
Wellies and Waterproofs!

Tomorrow is national Get Outside day. The first one the UK has had and it is being organised by the Ordinance Survey. Their aim is to encourage over 1 million people to get outside and be active. We may be preaching to a largely already converted clan of campers and adventure enthusiasts here but there are still many of us who like to only participate in fair weather adventures.

The Ordinance Surveys get outside campaign is led by a picture of a child, in a yellow waterproof, asking “Will you go out with me?”. Not a tag line that I would have chosen perhaps… but its sentiment of asking someone to come and join you in your outdoor time is something that even us seasoned adventurers can get behind.

It doesn’t matter whether you are going camping for the weekend, taking a hike up Mount Snowdon or a gentle stroll at a local park. There may be someone you know that really wants to start being more outdoorsy – if that’s a word – but don’t know where to begin. By inviting someone to join you, you could be the catalyst in helping someone to get more active, to help boost their confidence and to start their outdoors journey.

Activities for everyone!

The Get Outside campaign aims to get people moving in many ways and events are being held across the country to encourage this. From organised walks, runs, water sports and bike rides, you can find an event near you or you can do something on your own. If you log on to their website you will be able to see all the information they have put up for you, from beginners guides, information on mini adventures to have in London, Dog friendly parks and 50 outdoor activities you could try.

“A good walk always ends at a pub” – My mother!

We have had so many great outdoor adventures, our most entertaining one was when we got lapped by two pugs when climbing the Sugar Loaf in the Brecon Beacons. Those little dogs managed to get up and half way back down when we were still huffing and puffing our way up! It really doesn’t matter what your fitness level is – its about taking those first steps. We have kayaked in Lake Bala, cycled in Pembrey, walked through fields of lavendar, and visited lots of castles across the UK with our Cadw passes.

Health Benefits

Being outside has so many health benefits. Did you know that sitting outdoors for 20 minutes in the sunshine can give you an energy boost equivalent to a cup of coffee? Being outside allows you to breath cleaner air, absorb vitamin D, lowers blood pressure, boosts mental health and releases endorphins making you feel energised, motivated and creating a healthier immune system.

In a shocking video on the GetOutdoors website, we meet Kayleigh, a young child. The video tells us that her generation could for the first time, have a lower life expectancy than the one before her. Citing blood pressure and diabetes as major concerns to her generation, the video also shows adults that wish they had more time, didn’t feel lonely or could quiet their mind.

If not for ourselves then for our next generations, we need to set the examples of leading a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Ways you can become more active

Outdoor photography.

If the thought of scheduled exercise brings you out in hives, why not find a local arboretum and take some time to just spot those colours changing as we come into Autumn. Take your camera and just play around with taking some pictures you will walk further that you think!

Volunteer as a dog walker or to walk for charity

Emma and Bertie, Border terrier

If walking on your own feels a little uncomfortable, why not walk a friends dog OR dog walk for charity? Volunteer at a local rescue centre and assist with exercising the dogs. They love the company and stroking pets also has added scientifically proved benefits for your health.

Join a charity walk such as Cancer Research or Alzheimer’s – Sometimes having a reason or a target to hit can be a real motivator, especially where money and keep up appearances is concerned. once you have booked your place and told everyone you are doing this event it is harder to let yourself back out of it!

Make small Changes to your daily routine

You don’t have to spend a fortune on running shoes and lycra. In your lunch break, go for a short walk. It is great to get out of a stuffy office and just take 20 minutes to change the air and your location. A short walk around the block at lunch or look at getting off of the bus a stop earlier to increase your daily exercise just a little will have benefits.

Investigate your garden

From building a fort, making a fairy house, planting and tending to vegetables or stargazing, your garden can allow you lots of outdoor time. It doesn’t have to be a large garden, or one with grass, a balcony will do. Stand outside barefoot – if safe to do so – and connect with the earth. Take your first drink outside and smell the morning air. Plan your day in a calm environment and take a moment to look at the beauty around you. You may not like spiders but you can still marvel at a dew covered web! Perhaps take your evening hot chocolate outside and try to learn the constellations of the stars.

Book yourself on an outdoor course

You don’t need to paint your face and book on to a bear grills survival course if you don’t want to. There are plenty of other outdoor courses you can go on. We booked ourselves onto a foraging course when we first started exploring and learnt so much from Kerry. You can read about all the amazing things we learnt here!

There are so many ways that you can start to spend more time outdoors. Ultimately it has to start with you. Whether you know someone who wants to start, or you know someone who is active and want to learn about what they do, ask them and invite them along.


As we mentioned above, we have had some amazing adventures outdoor this year and we are not the only ones. Some of our readers also sent in their pictures to show how much fun it can be and what they have been up to!

Our friends at 2born2travel have had some amazing adventures, from sleeping on an inflatable bed outside – with no tent, to this stunning picture, they are ones who walk where others dare to fly! If you haven’t checked them out yet, watch this video about when they slept on this and woke up in the middle of the lake!!!

2born2travel sleep on an inflatable bed on a lake!
2Born2Travel with their inflatable bed on a lake – Why not?

Natasha and Jon from Life Beyond Bricks, are currently travelling the in their camper and have witnessed a variety of weather! Check out these amazing pics from Snowdon and the Preseli Mountains!

Catherine on facebook got in touch to share this picture of her husband in Whitesands on the Pembrokshire coastal path.

Catherine's picture of Whitesands
Catherine from Facebook sent us this from Whitesands.

Mandy went to Stonehenge for the Autumn Equinox AND also was the captain of a narrow boat for the first time!

Fi had lots of fun this summer walking around waterfalls in Wales and flying Kites with her family

Thank you to everyone who sent us pictures of themselves today!




Send us your snaps on facebook or twitter @vanlifediary.

What do you win? Well, nothing of any value! We will announce on Sunday who the winner is from all the pictures we receive. This will be posted on our facebook account at 6pm! That’s it… no money.

Keep it clean but we need to see that you are outside on national #getoutside day – get your friends to join in to!

A broken van and trip to Whitby

Before we start on our adventure to Whitby, we need to discuss breakdowns! One of the few drawbacks of living on the road is what happens when your home breaks down. It was something that we had thought about and planned for extensively before travelling. We always keep some spare money in the bank for repairs and a hotel!

This was a wise choice and something everyone needs to remember. When your house is in the garage, some mechanics won’t let you stay on their premises). Luckily for us we happened to be staying with our daughter when we noticed we were dripping on her driveway. Possibly something we wouldn’t have noticed if we were moving around every day. We tried to have a look at where the issue was coming from but the leak seemed random at first.

We quickly realised (after taking her to a mechanic, letting her cool down for a few hours and her refusing to leak on command) that she only leaked from a very cold start. At first, we thought it was oil but it was actually diesel. We left her with Jason to investigate what was going on and find where the leak was coming from. Luckily for us we had somewhere we could base ourselves and we stayed with our daughter. Read on to find out if she makes it.

Get up and go!

A few days of being lazy and we soon wanted to get up and go. A quick call to a hire car company and we had ourselves a Toyota Yaris for a week. After being in Chewy for 6 months it felt very odd to be in a car again. It’s so low – but a lot easier to park! We couldn’t help but feel so sad to leave our home behind and felt like we were being unfaithful.

Whitby and the famous Whitby Abbey.

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey

The drive to Whitby was easy and picturesque. We picked a lovely sunny day to travel but wished we had the van and could have stayed over nearby. We puled over when we saw the silhouette of the abbey and parked. Arriving at around 11am we found a parking spot on the road with a pay meter. Adding 6 hours on the clock we still didn’t have time to see everything! We puled over when we saw the silhouette of the abbey and parked. We took some photos and then started our walk down narrow roads and tiny passageways to the harbour and town. There is a large car park down by the estuary if you want to get closer.

Holiday cottages are available for rent here but parking could be tricky. There was a real bustle to the town even though it was mid-September and mid-week, indicating the popularity of Whitby. The first thing we noticed walking around was this mysterious black gemstone in all of the jewellery shops.

Whitby Jet

Whitby Jet
Whitby Jet

The jet-black stones adorning the necks of display mannequins and stands showcasing the beauty of this ‘Gem-stone’ intrigues you as you walk past them. They are possibly darker than obsidian and leave you gazing at this black hole in awe. The mystery deepens when you learn that it is a not a gemstone as you would think, its actually made from wood. Whitby Jet is a natural organic gemstone formed from the compressed wood of the prehistoric Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria tree.

Queen Victoria was to become Whitby Jet’s most prolific patron when her beloved Prince Albert died in 1861. Queen Victoria took to wearing Jet jewellery in remembrance of him. It soon became the etiquette to accessorise the period’s elegant mourning fashion with jewellery made from the Whitby Jet gemstone. So much so, that the only jewellery allowed to be worn in court during the period was Whitby Jet.

St Mary’s Church

We crossed over the river to visit St Mary’s Church. Founded as early as 1110AD with its interior now chiefly from the late 1800’s, this church is an important piece of Whitby’s history. There are weather beaten headstones in the cemetery clearly from the 1600’s. The church is perched upon the cliffs with 199 step, steep climb to reach it. It is now in serious jeopardy after two landslides (due to broken drainage and torrential rain) as recent as 2012, caused skeleton parts to drop to the streets below. The town councilor has stated the church is stable.

The origin of the steps is an interesting read, some research into this seems to point to St Hilde. She felt that it was a test of faith to climb the stairs. Possibly due to this is it widely believed that even in the 19th century, when the grounds were open for burials, people preferred to be carried up the stairs to their resting place rather than be taken in a horse drawn carriage. Along the sides of the stairs today are benches stationed to share a wonderful view of the town. This was not their initial use though. The pall-bearers had wooden platforms where seats are now, on which to rest the coffins whist they caught their breath.

Tombs from 1600

Plaque from Francis and Mary Huntrods
Francis and Mary Huntrods

Among the history surviving at the church are the remains of Francis and Mary Huntrods. Their bodies are entombed on the outer wall of the church. A plaque above them tells of their magnificent partnership. Born hours apart on the same day of the same year (19th September 1600), they married on the anniversary of their birthday and after having 12 children passed away within 5 hours of each other aged 80, also on their birthday of the same year.

Whitby Abbey

After wandering around the Church, we made our way to the iconic Whitby Abbey just behind. The silhouette of the abbey had been tempting us since our arrival and we were very keen to explore it. The Abbey is famous for many things, perhaps best known to be the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. 2 festivals a year are held to celebrate the gothic community in Whitby. One in spring and one at the end of October. This festival, founded in 1994, comprises music from live acts and DJ’s as well as stalls and other events across the town over several days.

Recent excavations have shown that the Whitby headland was settled during the late Bronze Age however it was around 664AD that the centre for religious business took place.

Synod of Whitby

Whitby Abbey was once the most important religious centre in the Anglo-Saxon world. In 664 it was the setting for the Synod of Whitby, a landmark in the history of the Church in England. The Romans and the Celtics, both practicing Christianity, had different ways of calculating the date of Easter. Although it was agreed that it had to be a Sunday and was calculated by the position of the moon, they could sometimes have dates 4 weeks apart from each other. This was beginning to cause upset as neither knew if they were practicing in vein. They called a big meeting with eminent clerics to settle the debate once and for all.

The two laid out their case, Bishop Colman of Lindisfarne led the Irish faction, while the Roman point of view was put forward by Wilfrid, abbot of Ripon. The two sides claimed authority from the Apostle John and from St Peter respectively. After a lengthy debate, it ultimately came down to one question. Who is the gate keeper of heaven? It is reported that King Oswiu chose the method that would allow him into heaven, declaring:

“Then, I tell you … I shall not contradict him. I shall obey his commands in everything … otherwise, when I come to the gates of heaven, there may be no one to open them, because he who holds the keys has turned away.”

The Ruins

Whitby Abbey Ruins
Whitby Abbey ruins

The Abbey stands tall towering over the town and coastline, a sure landmark for fishermen and sailors. Throughout history the Abbey has been demolished and rebuilt several times. Not much evidence remains of its earliest structure. The Danes pulled down the building in the 9th century possibly during a raid. During the 1700 and 1800’s the structure fell to the elements and in the 19th century, the popularity of Whitby grew and the ruins were opened as a tourist attraction.

Although most of the structure has vanished from sight it is easy to imagine how impressive this monastery, serving both monks and nuns, would have been. It had many windows and stood tall, stamping its mark on the landscape. Birds now roost in the highest recesses occasionally flying off to stretch their wings and ride the currants of air, before landing and taking shelter from the North Sea winds.

Don’t forget to check out our article on cheap attraction tickets. We got in for free with our Cadw passes!

Captain Cook and the sea.

lifeboat trip
A trip on a retired lifeboat

Captain Cook was born not far from here. It was in Whitby that he served as an apprentice before setting out as an intrepid explorer. He had many achievements in his career including mapping the Pacific, New Zealand and Australia and radically changing western perceptions of geography.

Whitby has long had a history with the ocean. Its location is a given that it will have a fishing trade but Whitby is also well known for its Whaling success. It was just as Captain Cook had gone exploring that 2 vessels from Whitby decided to begin a whaling business. Over the years this expanded and it is thought that Whitby’s whaling industry was responsible for the harvest of over 25,000 seals, 55 polar bears and 2761 whales. These were brought back to Whitby where great boiler houses built alongside the harbour rendered the blubber into oil.

Today a fishing community still operate from the harbour catching a wide range of fish as well as lobsters and other crustaceans. Commercial fishing also takes place and you can opt to go out on various fishing trips. It has also benefitted the local restaurants with the Magpie Café being the locals favourite place to get their fish and chips from!

We opted instead for a scenic river cruise for £3 each on a retired lifeboat. This trip wasn’t long, but was a nice experience and we first took a trip up river, before coming to the mouth of the river as the tide was coming in fast. We experience a bit of rocking from the waves but were in the safe hands of our lifeboat crew member.

The Town

The town of Whitby is busy today. It’s a weekday in the middle of September and the kids are back to school. The coach trips are in full swing today with 5 that we have seen in the larger car park. People pour into the town to take in the history and the atmosphere.

A friendly town that seemed to welcome tourism rather than scowl at it. With shops selling handcrafted items, gifts, a smoke house and the black Jet jewellery you are spoilt for choice.

As a seaside town there are also a number of cafes, restaurants and arcades to enjoy some leisure time. There are 9 beaches in Whitby ranging from sandy to rocky. Fossils have been found here following storms and a complete fossil of a dinosaur has also been recovered.

What about the Campervan?

A few days later we received word from the garage. The fuel pump has a plate on top and the leak was coming from there. Initially the garage was unsure if this could be repaired or if it would require a whole new fuel pump, and therefore best to do the timing belt too.

We eagerly awaited news and just wanted her back. Luckily, the mechanic managed to source parts for a repair and we didn’t need to replace the pump. We were lucky this time and Chewy is back safe and sound after her maintenance work.

We are so grateful for having a fantastic mechanic and that he was able to ensure she was safe for more adventures.

As always, we love to hear about your adventures so please drop us a few lines below if you have been here and tell us about your adventures.

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