Sunday, 10 December 2017

Christmas Trees Galore......

Well it has certainly turned into winter now....
Most mornings over this past week we have woken up to find the car well covered in a very heavy frost.....
Most mornings covered in ice.

 Although as yet we have only had a light dusting of snow the possibility of icy conditions on the local lanes and roads is enough to send me back to the turbo....
A week ago I set Tiffany the Tifosi up on the turbo and for the next 2-3 months most of my riding will be carried out on this set up......
Back on the Turbo again...
 The risk of coming off in icy conditions is too much of a risk for me to take.....
When you are younger you can 'bounce' a bit better than you do at my age.... I have experienced hitting the tarmac in the past and it is not something that I wish to repeat so static cycling in a nice warm awning listening to music is a far better option.....

With the arrival of the wintry weather Anne and I have been filling our time with either walks on the moor or things that we find to do under cover.....

One thing that we did the other day was to visit the Tavistock Christmas Tree Festival which was held at the church of St Eustachius..

This is the ninth year that the festival has been held and over that time they have had over 450 trees displayed decorated by over 200 different local organisations.....
The Festivals have attracted over 70,000 visitors and raised lots of money.....

During the festival they have a programme of music in the church and the amount of work that goes into arranging the festival and decorating all the trees is quite something......

Interior view of Church....

Church interior with some of the Trees on display..

Tree Decorated by the Tavistock Physically Challenged Group
 One of my favourite trees was the one in the image above---it was decorated by members of the Tavistock Physically Challenged Group.....
Another of my favourites was the tree shown below... this one was decorated by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Group....
One of my favourite trees....
 After our time spent looking around all the lovely decorated trees in the church we really felt that we were getting into the Christmas spirit.... 
This past weekend most of the country seems to have been covered with at least some snow so everything is getting to look more and more like a scene from a Christmas Card......
A Wall of Trees in the Church....

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Bus to Bude.... a Pool... and the SWCP

A few weeks ago just before the weather started to turn more wintry Anne and I took a bus to Bude on the North Devon Coast.....
I hadn't been to Bude for a number of years...the last time was when I was backpacking along the South West Coast Path (SWCP) and that must be more than ten years ago....

Luckily Anne and I had some nice weather for our little day trip which meant that I was seeing it again in similar weather to my last visit.....

I like Bude.... 
It has some nice little independent shops and the town and the approach roads all seem to be kept neat and tidy as do the little parks and gardens and open areas.....
It doesn't have the tired and worn out look of so many of our small seaside towns and it seems a nice place to base yourself if you are keen on watersports or walking along the coast line and cliffs......

Talking about walking along the coast path.... I remember that when I completed the SWCP I always felt that most people missed the best and most dramatic scenery of the North Devon coast..... 
As I would approach a town like Bude I would meet day walkers about a mile or two from the town and again when I left the town day walkers would be around for a mile or two but then as the coastline became more dramatic and scenic I would find that I was in the most part walking on my own with just the occasional multi day walker or backpacker coming the other way.....

This always struck me as a great pity as I felt that the majority of people seemed to miss the best scenery that the coast had to offer......

Anyway...back to our little day trip to Bude....

We had decided to take the bus because it enables us both to enjoy the views as we travel through the countryside especially from the top deck.... It also makes life easier due to not having to find a parking space although I must say that would not be a problem in Bude as there appears to be lots of parking available....
Beach Huts at Bude..

Bude Coast and Beach...
 One of the things that has always attracted my interest at Bude is the Sea Pool.... 
This is a partially man-made tidal swimming pool or lido in the rocks at Summerleaze Beach....
It provides a haven for free and safe bathing and other water based activities and was built in 1930...
Although it costs over £40,000 every year to keep it open it remains free of any admission charge...... Over the course of a year over 60,000 people visit the pool and it seems to be a major visitor attraction for the town....

It is open every day, 24hrs a day although it is best to swim at low tide....
The pool is about 91m long and 45m wide and was created under the curve of the cliffs in a conservation area...
It provides the experience of being in or on the sea, close to the full force and ferocity of the Atlantic Ocean, but sheltered from it's extreme effects.....

There are a number of similar pools around the UK coast and I just love them...
On the left side of the image of the pool below you can just see a lone swimmer enjoying the experience.....
The Bude Sea Poole

A view along the coast path at Bude..
If you have never been to Bude it is certainly a nice little place to visit, but if you can, do it the proper way and make it one of the small towns that you drop into whilst walking the entire SWCP....

The full walk is 630 miles in total length and runs from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset which is the direction that I walked it as I was living near Poole at the time so it was 'just' walking back home for me...
It took me five weeks to complete it (avg 18 miles per day) so you will need to take a big chunk of your annual holiday allowance or be retired to have the time to give it a go in it's entirety......

It is not to be underestimated though....some of that glorious scenery along the north coast can be incredibly tough to walk with a backpack containing all your kit so ultralight is the way to travel...

The path keeps dropping from the top of the cliffs down to sea level and back up to the top of the cliffs continuously.....

Apparently the total elevation you will climb is 114,031ft (35,031m) and I know from first hand experience that your leg muscles will be reminding you of that fact  along every single mile....

Sunday, 26 November 2017

First Signs of Winter.....

Over the past few days we have had the first signs of winter.......

Turning White on the Tops of the Moor
The tops of the moor have been turning white..... mainly sleet but snow will probably not be far behind......
One of the joys of a winter spent around the Dartmoor area is seeing and enjoying the change from one season to another in a quite dramatic way.....

What was just an energetic walk on the moor a week or two ago suddenly becomes a bit more serious and a lot more of an adventure.....

Yesterday the caravan and awning were covered in a huge sheet of ice and as for the car..well it took me 20mins to clear the thick ice from the windscreen and windows and make it safe to set off on a visit to Anne's sisters house which is a few miles from Hatherleigh north of Okehampton....

Today it's been different again...still very cold but wet for most of the day....

All the weather forecasters are telling us that we are going to have a very hard and cold winter and the moorland around us here can be transformed from tough walking country into very..very tough walking country and not for the faint hearted.... 
All I can say is.."bring it on- we are ready and waiting".


Saturday, 18 November 2017

One of those days.....

Yesterday was one of those days..... One of those days when everything seemed to come together to make a perfect day for getting out on the bike and experiencing the joys of two wheeled non motorized travel.....
The winds were very light at about 4 to 6 mph..... The sky was perfect without a cloud in the sky and although it was chilly first thing - by 1100hrs it was warm enough for me to not have to wear full winter cycling gear.... I am still wearing cycling fingerless mitts and not having to wear full cycling gloves yet...

It was one of those days that reminds me of some of the reasons why this is the third time we have decided to spend the winter down here on Dartmoor....
Yes the weather can be harsh on the moor sometimes but then that can make for a bit of a wild walking trip which both Anne and I really enjoy....
However on other days it can all come together to make perfect cycling weather and yesterday was one of those days....
You can see how good the weather was in the image below.......

Perfect weather for a bike ride....
I have always been interested in standing stones and crosses and Dartmoor has more than it's fair share of these.....
When I was posting images on a regular basis on my photo blog 'Aura of Past Shadows' (AOPS) standing stones and crosses were a regular subject but over the past few years I have not been so active in taking serious shots just relying on snaps (although NO dreaded selfies) for the Purpletraveller blog.....

I have been considering getting back to doing some more serious B&W photography and again start regular posts on the AOPS....
My problem is finding the time with everything else that seems to fill up my retirement :-) but if I do decide to re-start AOPS and dig out my Fuji X-Pro1 I will let you know,,,,,,

Anyway... In the meantime a bit of information about the cross in the above image....

This cross can be located at Grid Reference SX/530/711 or 
-4.07504/50.52190 (approx) Longitude/Latitude(+/-)

It is at the junction on the north west corner of Huckworthy Common...
The cross is a Waymarker to the church at Sampford Spiney.
It stands at 6 feet 3 inches (1.90 metres) tall and 1 foot 7 inches (0.50 metres) across the cross arms....

It would seem that in times gone by Travellers from Plympton Priory on route to Tavistock Abbey would pass this cross if they wished to stop off at Sampford Spiney.
The Manor of Sampford Spiney formed part of the lands that belonged to Plympton Priory and would therefore need to be visited from time to time by the monks of the Priory...

This basic and solid cross is still in fairly good condition although there is some slight damage to the North Eastern face of the arms. Both arms have had pieces knocked off which has the effect of shortening the already short arms even more....




Saturday, 11 November 2017

The 'Dark Side' of the caravan world......

The non-working fridge situation turned into a bit of a saga and still hasn't been totally resolved....
I called in a local mobile caravan service guy and it was confirmed that it was the fridge's 230v heating element at fault.... To fit a new one required the fridge to be removed from it's cabinet surround...... Try as he did Mr local caravan service was unable to move the fridge an inch and after about an hour he declared defeat....

It would appear that Eriba caravans belong to the 'dark side' of the caravan world with all sorts of 'how to' secrets surrounding them that only an official Eriba dealer is privy to....

After I had handed over the £40 call out charge he left the camp site muttering that he hated to be beaten and it was the first time it had ever happened to him etc..etc... I thought that he was going to burst into tears.... He left a beaten man.........
Still at least he was slightly better off in the financial sense than I was.... I on the other hand was now £40 worse off and still had a non-working fridge....

'Dave the dog' (don't ask) who is a regular summer and winter fulltimer and is camped the other side of the hedge came round to see if things had been sorted......
Now Dave is a bit of a campsite wizard and although he couldn't offer a solution to the stuck fridge he came up with some alternative offerings.....

First he had a full propane gas cylinder in his awning that was surplus to his requirements. This is now installed in my gas locker.

The fridge works on gas ok and it is obvious that it will be useful if we ever have a power outage. It will give us an alternative for our heating and cooking as well as the fridge so it makes sense to have it as a back-up. 

Because we pay for the electric hook up anyway it is not my intention to run anything on gas full time.... However, Dave had a solution for that as well.....

It turned out that as well as having a gas cylinder just sitting around in his awning he also had a domestic larder fridge that was almost unused ....
He has loaned it to me for our five month stay here and it is now installed in my awning keeping my beer nice and cold.

The fridge will be returned to Dave when we leave here in the spring and for a couple of weeks after that I will power the caravan fridge with the gas until the caravan goes into the Eriba dealer for it's annual service at the end of April......

Dave's spare fridge in our awning.....






Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Back on our Winter Pitch.....

We are now settled back on to our winter pitch.....
This will be the third winter that we have spent here on Dartmoor and it is good to catch up again with the regular winter campers who we have got to know over the past couple of years....

The day we arrived it was pouring with rain even though when we left the Barley Meadow site just 26 miles away it was glorious sunshine... Dartmoor does seem to have it's own special micro climate....

The following day it was very misty with drizzle in the air but it proved to be a good day to clean the caravan in readiness for the forthcoming winter....
We used Fenwicks caravan shampoo followed with a good rinse with Fenwicks 'Bobby Dazzler' which is a hydrophobic product which gives the van a nice shiny finish and helps to keep it clean over the winter.....

We usually clean the caravan at the start of the winter and again in the spring when we prepare the van for our seven months of touring over the summer season...... 

At the end of the day Anne's son Brian who lives not far from the site brought over our winter awning and took away our summer awning for storage in his loft over the winter.....

The day after cleaning the caravan we awoke to a lovely warm and sunny day which enabled us to erect the awning and get it all fastened down in readiness for the winter storms that we usually get during our winter stay......
Erecting the Winter Awning...
I have already managed to get out on the bike and I plan on another ride tomorrow..... The weather at the moment seems to have settled down again so it is a case of making the most of it while we have it.....

One thing that happened yesterday was that our fridge decided to stop working... It works on the absorption principle unlike a normal domestic fridge which usually works with a compressor.... Absorption fridges have no moving parts so there is not too much to go wrong....
After doing a few checks I have a feeling that the problem is with the fridge heating element so a call to a local mobile caravan engineer will have to be made.....

At least it stopped working at this time of the year and not in the middle of summer when we would have missed it more...this time of the year things like milk etc can be left outside overnight and manage to keep pretty cool anyway....

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Last Move of the Year........

Since we have been here on the northern edge of Dartmoor we have had some pretty rough weather.....
I have not managed to get out on the bike around the lanes north of the National Park as much as I would have liked..... 
On one ride I picked up what a lot of people think of as the boring section of the Two Moors Way that connects Dartmoor to Exmoor along country lanes.....

When I walked the Two Moors Way I personally didn't find this section of the route boring at all..... I walked the route with a couple of soldiers who were completing the Two Moors Way and I caught them up just as we started on the 'boring' country lane section....
Having companions to walk with made the section pass quite quickly as we were exchanging stories and jokes as we made our way along so for me it turned out to be one of the highlights 
of the walk......

On my recent ride along these lanes it brought back all the memories of the walk which I enjoyed a lot....
The picture below shows 'Tiffany' my winter season bike (Fiona the Felt has now been packed away at my daughter's for the winter) at the very point on the Two Moors Way where I caught up with the two soldiers when I walked the route......
On the Two Moors Way
Since we have been back down in Devon we have had two storms....first was Ophelia and as I write this the last winds of storm Brian are blowing themselves out......

One of the problems we have had was choosing the right time to pack away our summer inflatable awning...... 
When we get to Tavistock we will be using our winter awning so it was important that we packed away the summer awning nice and dry.... 
Normally between sites I wouldn't worry about  packing the awning slightly damp as we would be using it again within two or three days but this time because it will be packed away for five months it had to be properly dry.....

As luck would have it there was a window of dry weather last Friday just before storm Brian hit us.... that window of dry weather enabled us to pack it away nice and dry.

I would have liked to have cleaned and reproofed the awning as well but we just have not had a long enough period of dry weather to allow us to do that.... Still at least we packed it away dry and our plan is that we will clean and reproof it when we set up that awning again in the spring.... hopefully the weather will be a bit kinder to us then.

One thing that happened at this site that didn't make me very happy was some minor damage to my car.....
The site owner was mowing the grass near my caravan and car and as he drove the sit on mower along the stony site road past my car he flung up a load of stones chipping the paintwork and causing a couple of small dents in both the front and rear nearside doors..... Luckily Eva the Eriba seems to have survived unscathed....

Careless mower driving by the owner...however he has said that if I send him the bill for the repair he will pay it but obviously I would have rather that it hadn't happened.... 

Oh well I will have to contact my friendly Paintless Dent Removal (PDR) man when we get to our winter seasonal pitch....

That is where we head off to tomorrow.. 
Our last move of the year is back to Tavistock and our pitch for the winter season.......