Paris to Durham, England, 2019
From Paris to Durham, England, June/July, 2019
Mark and Vicki have spent 48 months since 2009 RVing in Europe. First in a Roadtrek Sprinter they shipped from the US and since 2015 in a 2001 Fiat Ducato Class C that they purchased in Amsterdam. For practical write ups of their travels in Europe, New Zealand, Africa, and South America go to their website TheRoadGoesEverOn.com and for lots of pictures subscribe to or search Mark's blog Roadeveron.blogspot.com.
I am going to interject several paragraphs here about RVing in England in case you are interested but don't want to look for tidbits in the full monthly write up.
This is our third months long trip to Britain since 2009. The pound is very weak—about $1.25 because of the continuing/looming Brexit crisis. So traveling is much more affordable now than it was on our first 4 month trip. In all we are less concerned about costs than we were 10 years ago. After all, however long our retirement will be, it is 10 years shorter than when we began! Plus we have a much better feel for what our lifestyle costs.
British food, except for Mark's favorite fish and chips, is still not super appealing so we aren't eating out much. Overall in that category we are spending just about what we do in the US.
Britain does not have the wonderful system of free or low cost aires, sostas, stellplatz, that you find on the Continent. Some off-the-beaten-tourist-route towns will allow you to spend the night in their urban carparks, but not many. Our main source for free nights has been wildcamping.co.uk which costs 15L or about $20 for a year. I downloaded their POI to our Garmin and the app to my Pixel 3. It shows crowd-sourced urban and rural carparks, laybys, toilets and water taps. As we drive we can see what is close by on the Garmin, but I usually plan ahead using the computer or the app. The app doesn't give complete descriptions like the computer, but I can quickly change from map view to street and satellite view of possible stops. That allows us to check out the neighborhood, so to speak. We are careful of what laybys we use and some of them are shared with truckers. We take extra security precautions any time we are not in a campground. We chain the cab doors together and our coach door has two inside lever locks besides the regular lock. We have never had any trouble (occasionally noisy neightbors), and I have not read of trouble in the extensive wildcamping forum. The laybys we look for are separated from the main road by trees or bushes, paved two lanes wide, and have an exit and entrance so you don't need to turn around. Often during the day a food truck will set up so truckers and other travelers get get a bite to eat. Rarely do they have restrooms, but usually trash bins.
At the camping show in Norwich we joined The Camping and Caravan Club for a year for 40L ($50) since we will be back next May and June. They have a shorter overseas membership for 26L. At the show they were including two free nights so it was a very good deal. In high season (Bank holidays and July and August) most of their campgrounds cost from 26 to 38L for two adults with no electric for members. (Electric is 4.40 a night—why we installed solar years ago). Also folks over 60 get an additional 25% discount out of high season. The main attraction is also you can then use their extensive list of “certificated” sites. These are 5 campers or fewer, staying on farms, pubs, etc., usually with at least water and dump for around 10 L. Also almost any pub in Britain with a parking lot will let you spend the night if you have a meal with them. The ASCI discount card is almost unusable in Britain—I would say not more than 10 places on the whole island. The only other big difference for campgrounds in Britain is that many have no nearby public transportation. Most Brits travel with trailers (caravans) and so have a car. They park up in a campground and use their car to tour the area. In 35 nights in England we have spent 7 in campgrounds, 11 in urban carparks (paying small parking fees), and 17 free mostly in laybys. So our average is less than $6 a night. Since most folks would probably want fewer laybys or be in more touristy parts of England, you should consider that a fairly rock bottom cost.
Just like in Europe, daytime parking for cities and towns can be a hassle. Plus in Britain many park and rides have height bars to keep out “gypsies” and heavy goods vehicles. This trip though we have had very good luck googling “motorhome parking in Lincoln” or wherever. Usually someone has posted a car park or the city council has posted availability. Often there will be one park and ride where there are either no bars or a way around them. Still it is good to have a backup planned as the internet is not always right. :)
The only other major expense is diesel or gasoline. In Europe diesel is usually 5 to 10% cheaper than gasoline, but in Britain it is 2-5% more expensive. We are averaging about $6.40 a gallon. I know that sounds crazy expensive compared to the US, but the distances here are so much less. London to Edinburgh is only 400 miles. In 2009 we did drive 4000 miles but that took 4 months and believe me we saw all the major sites from top to bottom and side to side. One would expect to spend $400 or less a month in a camper and half that in a car.
Anyway now is a super time to come to Britain as costs are low. Summer vacation lasts from the last week of July to first week of September. Next deadline for Brexit is October 31, so I would be out a week or so before that. Fall weather is lovely until November. If you want to tour the National Trust or English Heritage sites join their plans for lots of savings. And now back to our travels.
Leaving Melun/Paris campground we had only two days to get to Calais for our ferry to England. We decided that Chartres was more or less on the way. Our last visit had been a little disappointing as much of the interior was under scaffolding to clean the stone. This visit only had the scaffolding on the second half of the stone rood screen that surrounds the choir. It seemed a bit strange since not all the interior stonework had been cleaned—some pillars were done half and half even. The other change was the famous maze was uncovered from the usual rows of chairs and if you paid 10E per person you could walk the maze (allow two hours.) This was extremely popular with a line formed outside the maze to even start it. I had my trusty Chartres book so we were able to “read” several windows with the help of small binoculars. However, my neck can only take so much of that. Perhaps someday we will stay in town for 4 or 5 days and just spend an hour or two a day at it. Malcolm Miller was there still leading his tours—twice a day in season. But now he uses a microphone and headsets so you can't just join up anywhere. If you haven't been to Chartres, his tour is very worthwhile. He must be in his 80s now so it's impossible to know how much longer he will be at it, or if he has an understudy.
Leaving Chartres we were on a quest to find the English version of the Beautiful Villages of France book. You can get it by mail, but shipping to US is about 37E. We did have the Michelin Map with all the villages marked—very helpful for planning as it also marks all the 1, 2, 3 star sites. But no descriptions of the villages we could read. If you are planning any road trip to France, I highly recommend the Micheliin map, at least. With some help from the central office, we finally found a copy of the Beaux Villages book at La Roche de Guyon, a pretty little village on the Seine, not far from Giverny, best known for its chateau, which was Rommel's headquarters in 1944. While we were there, the place was relatively over-run by a couple bus loads of Americans on a Viking cruise. Interesting, we thought, the Vikings had cruised up this river 1100-1200 years ago. Armed with English accounts now, we took in two more beaux villages en route to Calais: Lyon la Foret, where a mid-summer eve's community fete was going on (and where there was an aire), and, next day, Gerberoy, a villa of roses. These latter two, especially Gerberoy, were well worth visiting...indeed beautiful little stone villages, centuries old, everything in bloom. After a stop at a friterie, we got to Calais and spent the night at the giant Cite Europe shopping center.. They allow free over-night parking, and the Carrefours there is huge and a great place to stock up on French goodies before crossing to the UK.
There were lots of motorhomes there and we felt very safe. In the past there have been incidents with migrants trying to get to England, but the entire area near the Chunnel has immense fences with razor wire, and we saw no pedestrians at all. Back again to the ferry. We got there early and were invited to take the earlier boat. We had a very calm crossing though the fares have gotten more expensive now that there is only one company. We booked about a month in advance and paid $115 for two adults and our 5.4 meter camper, one way.
Arriving, Mark quickly adapted to driving on the “wrong” side of the road. We had purchased the reminder sticker for the windshield and the headlight adapters on the ferry. The headlight adapters are required by law, so even though we try never to drive after dark, you do want to put them on. We headed straight to Canterbury—only 19 miles to the New Dover Road park and ride. One of the very few motor home friendly aires in the UK. For 3.5L a day you get water, dump, fenced parking and free bus to town and back for up to 6 people. The pound itself it very attractive now at $1.27 to the dollar, close to its low of $1.22 right after the Brexit vote three years ago. At one point in our many visits to UK it was $2.01—very, very expensive.
Canterbury is home to the famous cathedral—but in England every popular cathedral charges for visits as they are not supported by the state as in France. Having visited before and even attended Sunday services, we spent our time strolling the town and shopping at our favorite stores. Do not miss the super large Marks and Spencer Food Hall—I think no one cooks in England, and I understand why. Canterbury seems to be getting more ticky-tacky as the years go by—more souvenir shops, more high school field trips from France, tour buses—fewer genuine English shops. Still it is a great jumping off spot to get ready to explore England. Also while there we visited the public library to use their wifi to join and download wildcamping.co.uk for our computer, phone and GPS.
After three nights at Canterbury we headed west to Petworth great house, a National Trust property. While there we were able to buy our 1 year membership. We waited until we got to England as we wanted the year to run through our spring visit next year. They don't have a retired, reduced rate anymore so we paid 120L for a couple and actually joined the American branch called the Royal Oak. It was somewhat more expensive—if we had joined in America we would have paid $125 instead of the $152. Petworth is known for its art. Turner lived there several seasons painting and actually doing watercolors of almost every room in the house. There are also works by Constable, Gainsborogh and Reynolds. There is a wonderful ancient, illuminated copy of the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer and the oldest English-made globe, a gift from Sir Walter Raleigh. Very informative free tours cover the house and servant's areas throughout the day, but no real gardens to speak of, just the deer park for walking. The tours fill up quickly so you want to get there by mid morning.
We headed next to Winchester as I had noted before that we wanted to return to the Cathedral and I found a city parking lot that allowed motor homes free overnight from 6 pm to 8 am, with a daytime all day charge of 7L. It was pretty level, had public restrooms, quiet, and a 15 minute walk to the cathedral. Perfect. We spent two nights. We did quite a lot of charity shop browsing and other shopping and headed to the cathedral about 2. What a mistake! Just last month they opened an exhibition on their famous illuminated Bible, the building of the cathedral, and the research that has been done on the mortuary chests containing the bones of England's earliest kings and queens. Plus the fabulous free docent tour of the cathedral takes an hour. The exhibit closes at 4 and the last tour is at 3. So we missed a lot—and we have been here before! Twice. Luckily the 7.5L pp tickets are good for a year. Next spring we will come back much earlier in the day.
We had to move on though because we had arranged to have dinner with friends we met on our motorhome tour through southern Africa in the fall of 2017. On the way to Coventry, which is in the south Midlands, we stopped at Oxford to visit the Ashmolean Museum. We parked at the Red Bridge Park and Ride—7L plus 5.8L for bus tickets—no overnighting allowed. The Ashmolenn is free. We did the painting upstairs first—really not first rate. I need to remember to skip it next time. Their specialties are ancient world-- Minoan, Egypt, Greece, etc.--and they have gorgeous pieces—mostly donated by their archaeology professors who were the first to work (loot) the sites, long before the countries involved knew to protect their heritage. The Friday afternoon drive from Oxford to Coventry was supposed to take an hour—everyone in England seemed to be headed for the countryside so it took 2½. We spent the night for 5L at the Kenilworth Rugby Football Club parking lot where our friends picked us up—returning us 4 hours later after a great visit and an okay meal. Next morning we headed to the Coventry Costco! We were so excited. Costco came to England about 5 years ago but they are few and far between. We had brought our card with us so we got right in. It was laid out exactly like a US store and we were able to purchase a few items like walnuts, jerky, dried blueberries, etc. that you can only get in expensive and small quantities elsewhere. We also got a 3.99L rotisserie chicken for dinner. For lunch Mark had the Mince Pie and I a gelato cone—but they still had the 1.5L hot dog and soft drink special just like the States.
We hadn't really planned much for this trip—sort of flying by the seat of our pants more than usual. So we decided to head somewhat east to Henlow Lakes Campground near Arlesey, which with our ASCI discount was only 16L a night for a few days of R&R. The temperature that Saturday was 90—which is a heatwave in England (in France the thermometer was hitting 114 in the South and over 100 in Paris). When we arrived they hunted and found us a spot as many folks had headed to campgrounds to get away from the city heat. And this place didn't even have a pool, but did have a nice playground and fishing lakes. No shade, but we survived with the nice breeze. At 90 our little refrigerator is very unhappy, so we bought some ice to supplement it till the temperature dropped to 77 the next day. The train station was only a 10 minute walk and we considered a trip to London to visit Kew Gardens with its current Chuily glass exhibit. But the train was expensive, we were tired, and promised ourselves that soon we would be renting that London apartment that is on our bucket list. Like most campgrounds now in Europe they also had pods and cabins that they rented for 2 nights or more. Mid season ran 50L and up. Strangely, there were also about 8 parking places at the station without height bars that had weekly parking rates and no signage prohibiting staying in a camper.
We did walk the 10 minutes or so to the village of Arlesey for groceries and to see St. Peter's Church. Amazingly, it is not listed at all in the 1000 Best Churches of England book, yet its foundations date from the 11th century. There were dozens of heads inside at the ceiling of angels holding books, shields, and even a Sheela-na-gig. What's that you say? It is a carving of a naked woman whose hands reach down and pull apart her vulva. Do look it up on line. They are found in churches all over Europe though the most surviving ones are the 101 in Ireland and 45 in Britain. Supposedly they were there to keep evil spirits away.
Off to Wimpole Estate near Cambridge, which happened to be the very first National Trust property that we visited way back in 2009. Though we had been to the UK several times before we retired, those trips were always “highlights only” rushing from London to Oxford, Cambridge, Stonehenge, Edinburgh, etc. We had no real knowledge of what the National Trust was or the legacy and wonder it preserves. This trip is our third months-long RV trip through England in 10 years and every time we have joined the National Trust or its American affiliate The Royal Oak. The Trust is the largest non profit in the world and though it owns lots of acreage and scenic places, it is most famous for its 160 buildings, most of which are historic great houses and estates. Mark plans on counting up our tally at the end of this trip but I would say we have visited over 50 of them and been disappointed only once and back to some of them three or even four times. So we will be visiting many during this month. Hopefully, they don't bore you and if you are looking for pictures go to Mark's blog as my job is to record the practical.
Wimpole was restored by Rudyard Kipling's daughter and her husband from the monies she inherited from her father in the 1930s. Having no children, she left it to the Trust when she died.
Nearby is Audley End, one of the few great house estates owned not by the National Trust but by English Heritage. English Heritage is a little more complicated than the Trust in that there are three separate entities, England, Scotland and Wales. Whichever you join, you get free entrance to their properties for a year and half off to the other two. If you join for a second year, then starting in the second year you get free entrance to all 3. We had joined the Wales one (the least expensive) for two years in advance by email. They backdate the membership for us and ship the cards to the US. Most of the Heritage properties are abandoned castles and places like Stonehenge. Audley End is one of 3 great houses. But it was fabulous. We went on the free garden tour for an hour (if on your own do not miss the waterfall garden area and walled garden—both not visible from the house.) Then we lucked into the butler tour which is only done once a month or so. Then the house—sadly no pictures allowed as all the furnishings are still owned by the family who live elsewhere but nearby on their many thousands of acres. But it was a fascinating place. A huge nursery floor with a big doll house , a coal store in the attic, and we ran out of time before we got to the kitchen wing. We should have gotten an earlier start. Almost all of these places deserve a full day. The house is only open from Thursday to Sunday. Some of the Trust properties are also on abbreviated schedules so always check. The gate to the estate was too short for us to go through (do not park at miniature railroad across the street), so we were advised to go around and come in the exit to get to the carpark. That meant we had to cross the 3 ton weight limit bridge twice—we are probably over that so I told Mark to drive fast! The evening found us on a nearby layby in Barton which was reasonably flat and in a spot that the trucker's couldn't use. It was pretty quiet and safe. (courtesy of wild camping website membership)
Our first stop of the day was the National Trust Paycocke's House in Coggeshall. (Follow signs to the nearby Grange Barn and park there if you are in an RV.) This lovely half timbered house from 1500 has a meticulously carved ceiling and two mantle pieces as well as carved beams forming the front facade. The back portion, which used to be a butcher's shop, is even older, dating from about 1410. I especially enjoyed the exhibit on lace making—400 women in the 1800s were taught the process by a new immigrant front France, allowing them to work from home. The town too, is filled with listed late Medieval buildings. We also stumbled upon on first talking bench. Press a button and the bench fills in the town history and points out all the historic buildings you can view from your comfortable perch. We loved it.
Long Melford had two sites—the Church, which is a five star with old stained glass said to be the model for the ugly Duchess in Alice in Wonderland and Melford Hall—a National Trust great house. The house only took a couple of hours as the gardens are not as extensive as most others. The Baronet and family still live in one wing and own all the land around. They got a much better deal than most of the gentry that donated homes to the Trust. As with almost all these properties there are interesting back stories, as the Lady's first cousin was Beatrix Potter. She often came to stay and wrote several of her stories there. Her bedroom is preserved as she left it and there are numerous original watercolors on the walls that she did for her cousin's children. A very full day with 3 sites visited.
We were in the Bury St. Edmund vicinity and Michelin said it was worth a look. Better yet, a downtown parking lot allowed overnight motorhome stays for 1L with all day parking for 2.5L. We ended up spending 3 nights as there were public toilets for emptying the cassette and a water tap for getting water. We very much enjoyed the Saturday market—not as good as a French market, but quirky in the English way. We browsed the 8 charity shops—so fun in every town—quirkier and quirkier. There is a lovely cathedral even though part of it is 20th century, but even better was the 14th entury St. Mary Church. It has the longest nave of any non-cathedral church in England, the tomb of Mary Tudor ( Henry the VIII's sister and one time Queen of France), and remarkable wood carvings on the ceiling—11 pairs of life-sized angels among others.
After another day of R&R, we visited Ickworth Hall and Gardens. Here, an 18th century lord had aspired to build an huge Italian villa in East Anglia, complete with Italianate gardens. Two huge wings flank a rotunda that perhaps had the Pantheon as a model. The gardens featured a huge Victorian stumpery. Again the garden and house tours were excellent.
Our next stop was Anglesey Abbey, a house built by an American, son of a Brit who had married into the Rockefeller fortune by marrying the daughter of one of Rockefeller's early partners.. It was, in our judgment, too nouveau riche and also too nouveau English. Perhaps one of the few National Trust disappointments we have ever had.
We were looking forward to Ely because it has one of our favorite English Cathedrals and our app said we could park right downtown for free with plenty of availability after the shops closed at 6. Right it was, except motorhomes now had to go to a different lot—okay fine. Unfortunately, even our 17.8 foot camper could only fit in a couple of spots, but worse if you were there between 8 and 8:30 am you could only stay 90 minutes more. So yes we could spend the night but had to quick see the Cathedral before 10 and then move on. What a strange parking scheme—but it was free.
We rose early fighting the 10 am parking deadline and walked the few blocks to the Cathedral. It was open but no one there to collect the 6 L admission for seniors. The first free tour wasn't until 10:30. We were able to walk around at will and admired the one of a kind octagonal tower and the Lady Chapel famous for its fan vaulting. Outside we noticed that several of the carved stone heads had been replaced with modern pieces. The medieval carvings on churches often were grotesques or fantastical beasts. The modern stone carver had been given free reign—but I didn't care for the nose picker and other leering faces. They seemed out of spirit with the rest.
From Ely we drove north over some tiny “shortcuts” that our Garmin wanted us to take to Oxburgh Hall just northeast. We really liked this fortified house with moat from the 15th century. We took the lovely garden tour then went through the house. Mary, Queen of Scots, had been held by Bess of Hardwick Hall during her long confinement by Elizabeth I. In the house was an embroidered bed covering Mary made with her initials entwined with Elizabeth's—but also a scene of a knife pruning a withered vine while its twin flourished. This coverlet was used as evidence at Mary's trial for treason showing she wanted to kill Elizabeth who had no heirs and was thus the withered vine. In addition there were several ancient documents in cases including Henry VIII's letter to the family asking them to see to his annulled wife Catherine's burial in the nearby Petersbough Cathedral. The Bedingfeld family was Catholic and Royalist throughout the 500 years of the estate and suffered many ups and downs. As a visitor you can not only go up to the roof walk but also climb down to the priest's hole. Priest's holes were hidden in many Catholic homes during the persecutions by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. This one is concealed as part of a privy.
We planned on spending the night by the North Sea at an abandoned National Trust parking lot listed in our camping contact app and wild camping. The road ended at some very interesting rock dunes but also with a sign for no overnight parking or camping. After a quick stroll over the dunes to see the sea, we headed further inland to a layby just south of Cromer near our next stop. Again we found no overnight parking. Yikes. Not totally unexpected as this area near the sea is all about holiday visits, but still disappointing. During all this driving we did find a nice layby further inland and spent an uneventful night on A140 just a couple miles south of the road to Felbrigg Hall.
Felbrigg Hall itself dates back to the 17th century with large additions in the 18th. Strangely, the owners over time were never of the nobility but merely landed wealthy. The estate was in and out of several families with the last bachelor owner dying in 1969 and leaving the whole shebang to the Trust. He didn't even live in the house but had an apartment behind the stable block, though as a historian and writer he did use the library and entertained in the house. It was grander than I first expected, but the best part of the estate was the enormous walled garden. We had a fabulous garden tour with a very knowledgeable volunteer which made our visit. She explained that it was one of the few Trust properties where there were no historical planting guides left by previous owners. So the head gardener was free to plant what she liked and to experiment with different flowers and items in the kitchen garden. What an amazing profusion. I think it would be a worthwhile visit also in the spring. For the night we went back to the layby between Cromer and Aylsham.
St. Regis is the tiny village of Blickling Estate—a breath taking Jacobean house with 4,500 acres of adjoining parkland. We took the garden tour then did the house. The book collection is the most important of the National Trust's holdings with many medieval and other rare manuscripts. Unfortunately, the walls and ceiling of the library have become infested with deathwatch beetles that have literally hollowed out the beams and started on the books. The restoration of that side of the house has started and it will be a long and expensive project.
King's Lynn is a medium sized town on the coast with a four star church, St. Margaret's. Also a nice downtown parking lot where we stayed 3 nights, did the wash, shopped, and waited out the only major rain of our English trip so far. The parking was 3L a day, but the city post office next door and the sea gulls meant it wasn't super quiet.
Walpole St. Peters was a very interesting church to visit, very large, and with a bolt-hole, and great interior carving.
We were not overly impressed with Peckover House in Wisbach, another National Trust property. It did have a lovely 2 acre English garden, but the house was modest in keeping with its Quaker owners. The town has certainly seen better days. The last two houses have made us a little less enthusiastic about visiting ALL the National Trust properties. We are thinking more about only stopping at those with interesting historical ties or in my case, the really big houses and gardens. It was time for a campground and we found one for 17L through our Camper Contact app. Unfortunately, the gps coordinates were wrong and it was way out in the fens (the huge canal drained area in this part of East Anglia.) Some backtracking, etc., and we arrived at the gate which clearly said all campsites had to be reserved in advance by phone. Luckily, the owner saw us and let us in. He was very surprised that we were from the US and didn't seem a bit concerned that nearly all the information in the app was wrong. Oh well. At least the campground itself was fine.
We went to Peterborough for the cathedral, an impressive Norman/Romanesque moving to Gothic as they built to the east. It is also the burial place of Catherine of Aragon (Henry VIII's first wife). Mary, Queen of Scots was buried there for a time until her son James the First had her moved to Westminster Abbey. The town was fine and the cathedral was free with an excellent educational center adjacent. With fine A roads we were able to move on to Grantham where stands St. Wulfram's, considered by many to have the finest, and certainly the tallest, steeple in England. It is part of a large square of medieval buildings that includes the school (still active) where Isaac Newton studied as a child. The National Trust property Grantham House was closed for extensive repairs.
In planning we had circled several villages with 4 and 5 star parish churches. Many were located in this area as it was extremely rich from all the money made in the wool trade in the Middle Ages. Boston's St. Botolph's is a wonder of medieval engineering with a 272 ft. tower that is the tallest in England (not counting spires.) It was undergoing structural repairs but it was still a worthwhile stop. There is a pilgrim's walk outside with stones dedicated to a dozen or so of the most famous of the congregation that formed the Massachusetts Bay Company—the Puritans who left from here to found Boston, Massachusetts, including Ann Hutchison, who would later be expelled for heresy from Massachusetts, and who went on to help found Rhode Island. The vicar at the time was John Cotton, who followed the first group two years later. The church history noted that after he left the new vicar discouraged much of the reforming spirit and the church became mainstream Anglican again. Unfortunately, the town itself looked like it had seen better days, with a lackluster market going on, many closed storefronts and mostly charity and Poundsaver shops in the town center. We parked at the large Asda, though parking looked easily available at the St. George lot next to the bus station.
We had been debating for several weeks about whether to hang around in eastern England to attend the Motorhome and Camper Show in Norwich beginning July 19. We had loved going to the similar show 3 years ago in Newbury, west of London. England is full of small businesses who convert vans for camping and who bring their vehicles and accessories to the shows. Finally, we decided just to do it as we were in Boston. It was only a two hour drive to Norwich and we could take a day to see the town before the show. We spent the night in a fairly quiet layby (52.658246 1.089758) about 5 miles from the showground and 10 miles from the park and ride. Campers are allowed in any of them but don't go to Costessey as the park and ride buses there don't go to the town center. Free to park and 5 Ls for both of us roundtrip. We alighted at the Cathedral—free and the free 1 hour tour was first rate. We would have missed so much had we done it on our own. I loved the cloister—so few survived Henry VIII and the later the Civil War. This one had exquisite perpendicular stone tracery. One thing I thought really strange was the baptismal font. They retired the medieval one in 1995 when the Nestle company donated an immense copper toffee stirring pot from the local candy factory that Nestle bought and then closed. (Where Rolo candy was invented.) Somehow the idea of being baptized from a candy cooker just seems odd to me. The docent said there was no controversy about it at all. We walked the medieval streets to see the other lovely flint buildings from the medieval period—the guild hall, churches, and the only intact friaries left from the dissolution of the monasteries in all of England. The mayor had promised Henry that if he didn't raze them, they would be used for the enlightenment of the people—they were preparing for a concert while we were there.
We hoped to spend the next night at the showgrounds—alas, no one or two nighters were allowed. The parking meister said there was a good pub nearby where we could stay if we had dinner. We opted for a layby only a few miles from the park and ride. Contrary to web info, you can park a camper at any of the park and rides for free and pay the 5L for two round-trip fares into town. (except Costessey whose buses don't go to town).
At the show (6L pp) we toured lots of cleverly designed small pop ups on VWs, Transits, even tiny 1 person plans on a Transit City. My favorite was the pop up Transit that slept 4 and had a full bath in the back with a shower that could be used inside or outside the van. We spent lots of time wandering the accessory booths, not buying much since we are selling our European camper next summer, but always fun to look. Lots of mom and pop folks who developed an idea for a product while camping and now sell it at the shows. That evening we drove as far as Kings Lynn and stayed at the same carpark as the weekend before. The seagulls, however, seemed even louder and never seemed to sleep.
In Lincoln we managed to find street parking. Old Lincoln sits at the top of Steep Hill—a perfect place for a medieval town but no fun driving in a camper. Our purpose was to see the famous cathedral with its gigantic horizontal false front. Alas, it was mostly scaffolded. Entrance was nearly 7L each for seniors. We glanced through the booklet in the shop and decided to skip paying for the interior. We were able to go into a side chapel with a great display and explanation of the Biblical frieze on the west front. During our walk around outside we spotted the refractory/cafe through which you can enter the cloisters at least. They were lovely with very late and fine Perpendicular tracery and ceiling bosses with first rate carving. Our favorite things.
Mark was feeling like we had seen enough National Trust houses and I mostly agreed but there was an English Heritage property on our way that sounded intriguing—Brodsworth House and Garden. It is deep in the countryside and the current house was built in Victorian times and over the 150 years little was changed. It was donated to the Heritage in 1959 because the Trust wouldn't take it. At that time English Heritage was still part of the government (it is now 100% charity). They decided to leave it as is except for upkeep and restoring the gardens. We missed the garden tour, which I think would have been very worthwhile. The acreage included lots of flower beds, lovely tree and shrubs areas (with some of the largest shrubs we have seen anywhere), and even an extensive rock garden made from the quarry where some of the building stone came from. The house had 30 rooms and at one time, 16 indoor servants—very much a Downton Abbey type existence. But the last widowed owner had little money and shut off all the rooms but 3 to live in and let the garden go wild.
The night was spent in a rural carpark by the Selby Canal at the Burn Bridge (wildcamping.co.uk) Lots of dogwalkers on the canal path and then completely quiet for the night. Mark had picked up three churches up next from Simon Jenkin's book, England's Thousand Best Churches—all 5 star. Selby Abbey in Selby, then two more in Beverly. If that sort of thing interests you, go to Mark's blog for all the pictures.
We thought we would have no problem finding a layby between Beverly and Patrington as on the map it looked very rural. It was, but so rural that there weren't any laybys. Arriving at St. Patrick's Church about 5:30, it had already closed but had a nice parking lot. The sign said 4 hour limit, but it was obvious that some nearby commercial shops were parking their van's there. Mark asked a policeman and he said no problem to spend the night—so we did. Quiet except for the hourly church bells. We saw the church the next morning.
We had planned to visit York but the forecast was for 4 days of weather in the high 80s. So instead we opted to drive up the east coast to Scarborough to a Camping and Caravaning Club site for a couple of days without touring (26L without electric). Laundry, long showers, blogging, and starting to think about the next week when we will be packing up for Edinburgh and storing the camper for the winter. We did stop beyond Scarborough at the “resort” town of Whitby—loved the t-shirt we saw proclaiming “Cote de Yorkshire.” The park and ride is a bit out of town on the west side, but free parking with 5L RT for us both. No concession fare because we're not from GB. That is the first time that has happened on this trip. Whitby has 3 claims to fame besides its beachfront location. A Captain Cook Museum (he went to school and became an apprentice seaman there and all 4 of his ships were built there), a ruined Abbey up 199 steps, and the house where Bran Stoker wrote Dracula, incorporating bits of the town in the story. Mark took in the museum and Abbey—I did my first and last Victorian Sponge slice and window shopped at all the Whitney Jet stone jewelry shops. I guess Whitney Jet is its fourth claim to fame.
We found a layby further up the coast in a very rural area of the North York Moors National Park. It was noisy from occasional traffic but no problems. Mark took the opportunity to climb on the roof to check the sealant around our 3 vents. This winter will be the first time we have not stored under cover. All seemed fine on that point. He was also going to change the oil himself—bought all the stuff but couldn't get the old oil filter off. Best laid plans and all that. Meanwhile another heat wave is roasting Europe. London was to be 101, Paris 108, Durham only 88 but we decided to stay the afternoon and night at a car park just east of the village of Wynyard with nice shade and on one of the long walking/bike paths. Still, 88 and humid s pretty miserable.
Durham is a lovely city in Northumberland whose Abbey and monastery escaped destruction as everything was converted to Church of England and the University of Durham. The old city is on a peninsula made by the river and the Cathedral and Castle (which was the Bishop's fortified palace) rest at the peak of the peninsula's hill—really a stunning location. We parked at the Howlands's Park and Ride for 4L round trip bus ticket, but it is only open to 7 pm. The Castle tours (about 7L each) were all booked for the day. The Cathedral is 3L entrance “donation,” with another 5L for the tour which we skipped. It is one of Mark's favorite cathedrals as so much of it is Norman and the pillars are all done in different patterns which some describe as Moorish. On the way we stopped at the UNESCO World Heritage site visitor center and watched the 5 part Lego movie on the history of the town and the cathedral. What a hoot! It is on YouTube and you must watch it. It was all done by film students at the University. You will never forget the Lego monks burying the body of St. Cuthbert and digging him up again to move him to Durham before the Viking Legos raid Lindisfarne.
After a lovely afternoon strolling the old city, we decided to head for Alnwick as our camper apps said we could spend the night in the Castle parking lot for 3L. Alas it was Friday afternoon and much of Northumberland's population was on the move. The normal hour drive took over 2 to get through Newcastle and surround. Alnwick closes at 6 so we stopped in a lovely layby just north of Morpeth on the A 697. The rain started and the heatwave was broken. Looking ahead we decided we could take the day off. Mark is terribly behind on the blog and I wanted to get this to our editor Kathy. We only have two sites to go before arriving outside of Edinburgh to put our camper in storage. So I will save them for next month. Happy travels. Vicki