Category Archives: 2016

Sweet memories are made of this

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My heart skipped a beat earlier in the week when I walked into the 6th formers’s room at school and saw this:

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It was my son’s highchair when he was a baby and we brought it with us when we moved here 18 years ago.  It was special to us because we bought it at an auction for only £7 at a time when money was tight.  It had been painted white, but we stripped and beeswaxed the wood and it looked like new when we were finished with it.  I had completely forgotten that DH had taken it to his classroom for drawing purposes and it hit me all the more as our son has now left the nest and lives quite happily and independently.

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Of course, this is the type of dining chair that could also be turned into a play chair with real china coloured beads, which we washed and polished with so much love and care a bout 23 years ago!  And it still looks good today, even if it has been painted and crayoned over in the Art room.

Did any of you have something similar when your kids were young and did you pass ot on to the next generation?

Heurteauville, Seine Maritime, Tuesday 31st May 2015

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Motorhome aire by river Seine at Heurteauille

We have booked Beano at the vet at Neufchatel-en-Bray for tomorrow morning, but we are not sure yet whether we’ll stay there for the night or carry on north.  We shall see…

We have found a new and lovely aire in this area of Les Boucles de la Seine (Bends of the Seine) near Jumièges and La Mailleraye-sur-Seine, both of which we have stayed at before, so we knew we would like this one too. 

It was very easy getting here on the A28 all the way from junction 20, north of Beaumont-sur-Sarthe, if not necessarely cheap at €38 (£29), plus another €2 for a very short track of the A13 south west of Rouen to get on to the D313 to Heurteauville.  We were here for lunch and we have just been for a walk along the river Seine with Beano and, despite it being windy and showery, it is a very pleasant walk and site.  It costs €5 a night per pitch plus 50C per person per day and there are extra charges for EHU (€4) and for fresh water and emptying facilities, including chemical toilets at an extra €4.  Registration is requied on arrival and payment is at time of departure, when the manager will open exit gate after transaction.  I find this kind of thing runs more like a campsite than an aire – which offers more freedom of movement and suits our character better – and can’t help feeling conned and probably won’t come here again, as for a couple more euros we could have stayed at a proper campsite with showers, washing facilities, etc, but we didn’t want a campsite this time.

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Afternoon walk along the river Seine

Our original intention was to spend 4 days at the campsite in Beaumont-sur-Sarthe, but the weather was really dreadful and not good for fishing, as river was too high and fast, so we left this morning after just 2 days: a shame, for it is a charming site and village and we love it here too, but it was no fun being shut away in the van for the best part of 2 days, only going out to get baguette and cake and I didn’t even get round to taking any picture

s!

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Quaint farm building by the river Seine

We have booked Beano at the vet at Neufchâtel-en-Bray for tomorrow morning, but we are not sure yet whether we’ll stay there for the night or carry on north.  We shall see

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Parked by the flagpole at Heurteauville mtorhome aire

Wooden sculptures in Bersted Park, Bognor Regis, West Sussex

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Bersted Park Community Centre area

 

 

For the last few months I have been enjoying my afternoon walks with Beano admiring the beauty of these new sculptures that have been installed in the last year, funded by Berkeley Homes and created by local artist Simon Groves as part of a community Art Project.

 

This new housing development is only a couple of hundred meters from my house and the land where it stands has been totally transformed in the last 5 years, from farmland to housing.  It would be fair to say that, although we didn’t welcome all the noise, dust and traffic problems from the building of the new site, the end product is rather pretty and it has definitely been an improvement to the area, providing affordable homes to young families.

 

The first sculpture I come across on my walk is the one of 3 egrets perched on a pole and it stands on a little island in the large community pond where a couple of swans nest every year quite successfully.  We all look forward to seeing their cygnets in early summer and they have had as many as 7 chicks in the past!  Such a joy to see!

 

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Egrets on the island where swans nest

 

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Swans nesting on the bottom left corner among reeds

 

The second magnificent wooden sculpture I come across is a most original sofa that looks very much made out of leather from a distance, so much so that when I first saw it, I really thought someone had dumped their unwanted furniture there and felt most outraged!  When it became clear what it was, I remember having a good laugh with other neighbours and dog walkers saying that a coffee table and TV might follow!!!  Needless to say we are still waiting.

 

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The comfy sofa, but where is the telly?

 

 

Next on my walk is this superb bench decorated with various carved insects, worms and other superb creatures.  Just look at that dragon fly!

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Beautiful intricate carvings on this bench by school

 

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More amazing carvings on the other side

 

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From a different angle

 

Then we come across this exotic plant that looks like a palm tree.  Again, look at the detail in the wood carving: simply superb!

 

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An exotic plant

 

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Close-up of head

 

Next is this football and cricket combination by the sports field.

 

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Football and cricket rolled into one

 

 

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A better view of the cricket bat

 

Finally , we finish our sculpture trail walk with a representation of The Sword in the Stone right by the new Community Centre and play area.  Isn’t it just wonderful!

 

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The sword in the Stone seat

 

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From the back, showing play area

 

I hope you have enjoyed your walk with me: I know I have and do every afternoon!  Thank you for coming along.

Pulborough Brooks, West Sussex, Sunday 1st May 2016

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The charming Pulborough Brooks

 

We made the most of todays’s warm and sunny weather and decided to go and do a spot of  bird watching at this lovely nature reserve run by RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) in the Arun Valley and South Downs National Park.  We are very furtunate to live within half an hour’s drive of this most charming location and our RSPB membership entitles us to free entry, another good reason to come.

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The lovely Jupps View at Pulborough Brooks

 

We spent just under 2 hours following the various trails to different hides from which to watch a number of wading birds, such as lapwings, herons, coots and egrets, one of my favourte birds.  We also spent some time listening to the enchanting nightingales, but unfortunately they did not make an appearence for us today, although we did manage to see a couple spotted flycatchers at one of the pods, a first for me!

 

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Island with shellducks, lapwings and coots

 

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An egret

 

Of course, there were other features to attract bees and other insects to the site and to encourage children to take an interest in Nature.  I particularly enjoyed the Bugs’ Hotel and the Solitary Bee Shelter!  I had never seen one before: just wonderful!

 

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The Bugs’ Hotel

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The Solitary Bee Shelter: Magic!

I was thrilled to get a close-up picture of an Greenfinch and a Long-tailed Tit , even though they may seem a bit blurry (need a better zoom lens, I think).

 

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An obliging Greenfinch

 

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A Long-tailed Tit

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this tranquil and beautiful corner of West Sussex and I hope my readers will enjoy the pictures too.  Do come and visit if you are in the area.

 

Quend-Plage-Les-Pins, Somme, Monday 11th April 2016

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Quend-Plage-Les-Pins

It has been a disappointing couple of weeks as far as the weather is concerned, as the initial promise of sun and warmth didn’t actually materialise and it stayed changeable, with loads of rain and wind and short sunny breaks in between.  Still, we did enjoy our relaxing time at Lac de l’Uby and were able to sit outside on and off and even enjoyed a couple of spectacular sunsets by the lake, as usual.  And, of course, Adonis enjoyed his carp fishing, catching a total of 6 fish during our stay.

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Another carp in a lovely sunset

We alternated our shopping between Barbotan les Thermes and Cazaubon and I had yet another puncture on my bike on the way back from the latter, but at least this time I was closer to the campsite.  Time to change my bike, me thinks….

My friend Dani arrived on the Thursday afternoon before we left and, therefore, we only and a few minutes to enjoy together and no chance to have a crochet session like we’ve done in the past.  This was a real shame, as I love listening to her speaking in French, which helps me an awful lot too, as I have to force myself to think in that language.  It is all very well to read magazines and books, but to speak it is a different kettle of fish althogether, which is the main reason why we learn another language. 

Dani had made some mackerel pate and gave us a big kilner jar, which we have been enjoying for the last few days and when I say ‘we’, I include Beano too: he’s got good taste!

A new discovery in Barbotan les Thermes this year was a fantastic little restaurant in the centre of town called L’Estanquet, where we had a lovely Sunday lunch with a jug of their local white wine.  The food was magnificent and it was finished with a delicious Café Gourmand, consisting of a cup of coffee and little samples of various puddings: I highly recommend it!

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My gorgeous café gourmand at L'Estanquet restaurant in Barbotan les Thermes

On Friday morning, after a small shop at Intermarché at Cazaubon, we started our journey back north, our first stop for the night being at the aire in Roulet-St-Estèphe, just off the N10 south of Angoulême.  We were surprised to see how busy it was compared to the first time we came here last Easter, so much so that in the morning there were no more parking spaces left and a motorhome had parked on the other side of the road dedicated to buses and coaches.  It is a lovely free aire in a very pretty location and with a wonderful walk for Beano at the far end and following the stream.  We also saw some large otters feeding on the field right in front of us, which is a very unusual sight indeed!

We continued our journey north on the N10 past Augoulême, Poitiers and Châtellerault on Saturday morning, when we were unfortunate enough to come across the aftermath of an accident that had occurred at around 5 am between junctions 25 and 26, where a large lorry was still on its side, almost straddling the north and south lanes, waiting to be towed away and causing major delays in both directions, adding a whole hour to our journey.

So we carried on the A10 all the way to north of Tours and then the expensive A28 to J. 26 (€6 for just one junction) just to make up some of the time we lost due to the accident.

We spent Saturday afternoon and night at the lovely free aire in Vaas, which was very peaceful and quiet, and continued north to Broglie yesterday morning for our appointment with the vet this morning.

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The magical landscape along the Charentonne river at Broglie

We never get tired of Broglie, no matter how many times we’ve been here, and that walk along the Charentonne river to the water mill has a charm all of its own, which is a great medicine for the heart and soul.  I took Beano for his usual afternoon walk and then I went back again just to photograph that most soothing of views overlooking the valley, river, water mill and half-timbered houses: priceless!

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Fantastic Broglie's water mill

This morning’s visit to the vet was a bit eventful, as Beano wouln’t take his worming tablet required for re-entry in the UK and even my usual trick of wrapping the tablet in a bit of fish mousse didn’t work, nor did the vet’s attempt with a creamy cheese triangle, so in the end we had to opt for an injection, for which purpose Beano had to be muzzled and restrained by myself and the receptionist while the vet did the injecting!  Not a performance I would like to repeat, I daresay!

After that dramatic experience we set off again, this time headed for Quend-Plage-les-Pins, another wonderful aire surrounded by pine trees, as the name aptly discribes.  We came here in January 2015 and it was nearly empty, but again, today it is rather busy, even on a Monday.  The ticket machine is still not working, so we’ve saved €7 again, like last time!

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The charming aire at Quend-Plage-Les-Pins seen from the woods trail

Beano’s afternoon walk today was on the trail through the pine woods, where I was pleased to see some young people doing a tree-top adventure trail, what we know in the UK as Go Ape.  I wouln’t mind having a go myself, as it looks like a lot of fun.

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Adventure trail at Quend-Plage-Les-Pins

Afterwards, Adonis and I walked into town and the sea front and enjoyed looking at the high tide breaking against the promenade walls and the children chasing the waves: great fun!

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Chasing the waves: priceless fun!

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Looking towards the sea from high street in Quend-Plage-Les-Pins

It’s back to Wissant, Pas de Calais, tomorrow and then home.  We’ll be back in May.

Lac de l’Uby, Gers, Thursday 31st March 2016

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Stunning sunset at Lac de l’Uby whilst Adonis enjoys a spot of evening carp fishing

 

We have been on the road for a whole week now, but we have finally arrived at our holiday destination at Les Rives du Lac, Lac de l’Uby, between Barbotan les Thermes and Cazaubon, in the heart of Gascogne country.  We got here on Tuesday morning, but we had to wait for the campsite to open for the season yesterday, so we spent a very plesant and sunny afternoon at the motorhome aire by the Tourist Information Office in Barbotan les Thermes and gardens before driving to the lake for the evening, as Wednesday morning is market day in town and parking is not allowed there, as some of the market stalls are placed in that car park.  It was just lovely being parked near the lake and we were able to take Beano for a walk along the shore.

 

The wonderful thermal baths at Barbotan les Thermes

The wonderful thermal baths at Barbotan les Thermes

 

 

Early Wednesday morning, we thought we’d make the most of the warm and sunny weather and we walked into Barbotan to buy some food at the market and came back with a tub of Paella, a punnet of delicious ripe strawberries, some radishes and, of course, our daily baguette and cake.

 

By the time we came back, the campsite had already opened and we duly checked in and set up for the week.  We were able to have lunch and dinner outside in the sun and indeed spent all afternoon and early evening outdoors by the lake, soaking up the much needed rays of sunshine and loving the early spring warmth.

 

Setting up camp for the week

Setting up camp for the week

 

Our pitch seen from across the lake

Our pitch seen from across the lake

 

Adonis got very lucky with his fishing on our first day here and caught a 19 lb (9 kg) carp soon after our evening meal and his luck has continued today with 3 more carp of 17, 25 and 29 lb respectively, even though the sunny weather has left us for now and it has been a very wet and blastery day.  Still, the weather is supposed to improve again for the weekend and we still have another week here, as we are leaving on Friday 8th April.

 

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The first carp of the holiday at Lac de l’Uby in the early evening

 

On the journey down, we stopped at our usual motorhome aires at Wissant, Pont de l’Arche, where we bought some lovely Nids de Pâques (Easter Nest cakes) for our morning coffee break, Villedômer, Verteuil-sur-Charente and a new one for us, Capian, near Bordeaux.

 

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Delicious Nids de Pâques from Pont de l’Arche bakery

 
 
 

Villdômer motorhome aire, one of our favourite stops

Villdômer motorhome aire, one of our favourite stops

 

We really liked the aire at Capian, which also offered a nice dog walk for Beano, past the cemetery and on the edge of the vineyards towards the woods at the far end.  We didn’t visit the Châteaux this time as we still had quite a bit of wine from our shop at Bouloge-sur-Mer, but we’ll make a point of buying some of the local products next time we are in the area.

 

The very attractive motorhome aire at Capian amongst the vineyeards

The very attractive motorhome aire at Capian amongst the vineyeards

 

We also tried stopping at La Bastide d’Armagnac aire, but it was mainly on grass and, as it had been raining, we didn’t think it would be very sensible to park there, although it would have been lovely in drier weather.  We finally stopped briefly at Notre Dame des Cyclistes chapel, but it was closed and couldn’t visit inside, althogh we still managed a couple of photos outiside in the rain.

 

Getting wet at Notre Dame des Cyclistes

Getting wet at Notre Dame des Cyclistes

 

I loved this gate at Notre Dame des Cyclistes

I loved this gate at Notre Dame des Cyclistes

 

I am afraid to say I have a bone to pick with the Lady of the Cyclists as I had a puncture on my bike this morning on the way back from the wonderful bakery at Cazaubon, just opposite the Château, and had to walk back (about 15 minutes), but Adonis has replaced the inner tube and hopefully, I’ll cycle into Barbotan les Thermes tomorrow and take some pictures of this most charming of towns.

Eype, Bridport, Dorset, 15-17 February 2016

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The amazing view from hilltop looking towards Thorncombe Beacon

 

I was lucky enough to live in Dorset for 13 years and I can’t believe we left this lovely English county nearly 18 years ago.  It was in Dorset that Adonis and I met in April 1992 and where our son was born one year later.  We left Dorset for equally beautiful West Sussex in the summer of 1998 for new job opportunities and, although we have been back a few times, we hadn’t actually come for a holiday break, but to visit family and friends in nearby Bournemouth and Christchurch.

 

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The Motorhome area at Highlands End Holiday Park

 

I was reading the Motorhome Montly magazine recently and there was an article about this part of Dorset, also known as The Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site that stretches for 96 miles from east Devon to East Dorset in the south of England.  Reading this article got me thinking about spending a few days here again and enjoy the magnificent views of the coast, where we used to come regularly for long walks, fossil hunting with our son and picnics at the week-ends.  And so it was decided that we would come this February school half-term and relive our memories and make new ones.

 

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Walking on the beach heading west towards Thorncombe Beacon

 

We stayed at the brilliant Highlands End Holiday Park, where we were able to enjoy the various falicilities on site, such as the swimming pool, sauna and steam room, as well as a couple of the local Palmers beers and a lovely meal at the restaurant.  The site is also equipped with a well stocked shop and a gym, but we didn’t feel energetic enough for that kind of activity and opted for long walks intead to get the heart going.  For those with children, there is a wonderful and large outdoor playground with all kinds of activities and for those with dogs like us, a very large enclosed area where your four-legged friends can be let off the lead and run to their hearts’ content and Beano certainly enjoyed it here, as I did the views.

 

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Beano enjoying a long walk off the lead on the wonderful beach, looking east towards East Cliff

 

We arrived at lunchtime on a very sunny and warm Monday and it was such a beautiful day that we skipped our usual siesta time rest and went for a long walk down the hill and onto the beach right below the holiday camp at Eype mouth and towards Thorncombe Beacon.  It was the perfect kind of winter day, warm enough to have a picnic on the beach, but we just enjoyed a couple of hours admiring the cliffs and fossil hunting like in the old days, with Beano off the lead the whole time to enjoy a long run along the beach and meet other dogs.  We returned to base via the South West Coast Path, just off West Bay, with a bit of hill climbing as a final burst of energy before enjoying a beer in the sun outside the van.  Later on in the evening, we enjoyed our lovely dinner of Fish Pie and Ham, Egg and Chips with the local Palmers beer, which sent us to bed quite happily feeling very content with everything.

 

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Fossil hunting. I am not an expert, but this looks very much like a fossil to me!

 

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How about this one? Who thinks this is a fossil?

 

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Could this have been the resting place of an Ammonite? I’d like to think so.

 

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I was also fascinated by the different strata on the cliffs

 

Tuesday was another lovely sunny day and, after swimming a few lenghts of the large pool, we decided to take the cross-country footpath to Bridport, about 6 km (4 miles) round trip, but this turned out to be a labour of love indeed, as the path was in places almost impassable due to recent rain and muddy fields and, on one stretch, it had disappeared altogether and the land was being churned up after a sort of landslide had invaded a barn and, subsequently, the farmer was in the middle of a major clean up operation, but he waved us through when he saw us turning away the way we had come and kindly showed us the way to join the path further on.  The walk to Bristol ended up taking up much longer than we anticipated and thus we decided to come back on the road to West Bay after doing a little shop at Morrisons.  The whole hike took over 2 hours, but the return journey was far easier and enjoyable and gave us a chance to enjoy the little port and seafront amenities of West Bay.

 

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The start of our 2-hour hike. View from holiday park entrance, looking towards Bristol.

 

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Lovely port at West Bay

 

The rest of the day was quite relaxing and still warm enough to sit outside reading with a beer and only interrupted for Beano’s afternoon walk in the magnificent safe enclose on site.

 

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Back up the hill on the South West Coast Path to the holiday Park, looking east towards West Bay and East Cliff.

 

But this being England, one can never get too complacent about the weather and, true enough, Wenesday saw the wind, rain and cold return with a vengeance, which started before we got up and didn’t stop until the evening, taking care of our plans to walk up East Cliff, as I would have loved to do.  Instead, I spend the whole day ‘indoors’ and only ventured out to exercise at the pool and enjoy the steam room for a few minutes.  Wednesday was our last day here, so we never had the chance to go on that walk.  However, this part of Dorset is only a couple of hours away from our house and we can easily return for another short break any time we please, as this will not be the last.