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“¡Cerrado!”

It’s only my second ride on the bike since arriving in Spain and I’m surprised at how quickly I settle into the journey. Riding on the right, instead of the left, isn’t such a big deal after all. Now more familiar with the signs, I’m beginning to read the road and able to plan my moves. It’s good for confidence.

Most of the journey is on a fast road, with little traffic, making the ride a pleasurable experience. Even main roads meander between the mountainous scenery to our left, and the coastfal views to the right. We’ve travelled a good 50 miles, but our SatNavs suddenly send us in different directions. We follow Verd’s SatNav, which directs us through narrow country roads, passing through small Asturian villages. There is something very distinctive about Asturian architecture with stone houses, red tiled roofs and storehouses on ‘stilts’ known as ‘horreos’.

Typical-Asturian-Architecture
Typical Asturian Architecture

Horreos are traditional grain stores, mounted on either wood or stone pillars (to deter rodents). Some are now being restored as living spaces. We’d seen them in photos, but nothing compares to witnessing their unique structures. We’ve not stopped long enough to photograph any during our travels, but hopefully I’ll dedicate a post to Asturian culture in the future, as already we’ve experience sufficient to incite our enthusiasm for this lesser known region of Spain.

The roads get narrow and less maintained, and to our dismay, Verd’s SatNav sends us to a farm. We’ve no idea where we are and are hungry. We pass through a small agricultural village with a restaurant seeming to be the only other building other than farm houses. We stop for a light lunch of layered avocados, cheese and tomatoes followed by un postre. I choose the most delicious gluten free chestnut-based tart. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, except think of a light cheesecake with a foresty flavour.

There was not a word of English spoken, except by us, but it did not cause any problems, enjoying instead the very authentic Austurian experience. I did take note of what the locals were eating. A couple beside us opted for lobster and Asturian cider. I’d read and been told about Asturian cider, but this was my first time witnessing it being drunk.

Asturian cider is a still brew, so when served, it is poured from a height and only a small portion is poured at a time. The drinker then swallows the brew in one slug, gaining both aeration and the impact of the taste. For the English, it’s very like Somerset Scrumpy, but the taste can be more earthy depending on the brewer. Everywhere there are orchards which supply the local “siderias”.

Satiated, we find a new setting for Camping Villaviciosa, but it’s not long before we’re separated and I go in one direction and Verd another.   This happens mostly at roundabouts.  Our SatNavs like saying take the third exit when it means the second and vice versa.  One of us follows SatNav instructions and the other might see the road sign to where we should be going, but for safety reasons, it’s often better to stick to the exit you’ve committed too.  We don’t view it as getting lost – we’re just exploring!

Several miles later, we meet up almost at the same time from opposite directions outside the gates of the campsite.   A relief.

But….

It’s closed for the season.

We make use of our very reliable SatNavs and select the nearest campsite on the list. We manage to get there (together), but again, the gates are closed. There’s a woman on the other side of the gate, but on approach she declares “¡Cerrado!”

Closed!

Meanwhile, a campervan with a Scottish flag on its registration plate pulls up and a head pops out of the window and an Iain with a very Scottish accent, asks us if the place is open or not.

Before we had decided to go to Villaviciosa (beside the sea), we had planned to go to the mountains and a campsite called “Camping Picos de Europa”. Being a bit concerned about the encroaching autumn weather, we’d felt that being nearer the coast, might be better for camping. However, now faced with another closed site, and knowing that the mountain site is open all year round, I suggest that’s where we go. It’s about 25 kms and although we’ve done a lot of mileage today, I feel very drawn to those mountains and even when I’d started researching the north of Spain, I knew then I had to go. The easy-going Scottish couple agree to go too (I’m saying that, but Sarah, isn’t actually Scottish – but anyone who keeps a croft on one the of Hebridean Islands and lives with Iain, has to be considered naturalised by now).

They lead, and we follow, until we reach the motorway, and we wave to them like expert bikers do when we overtake the slower campervan. I can’t believe I’m doing this –  but heck, The Destrier has a good kick when I push her into gear.

It’s not long before we exit the freeway and begin the long (slower) ascent to the Picos de Europa mountain range. One of the first things I notice is the change in aroma. Having started my biking career in the stinky diesel-filled streets of Bradford, I feel overjoyed by the sudden invasion of forest smells in my helmet. I inhale deeply. It’s not pine. It’s not deciduous woodland. I can’t quite place this novel small. Later I learn it is eucalyptus, a cash crop here in both Spain and Portugal. However, it isn’t dominant in the landscape – we pass the occasional plantation, interspersed with conifers and deciduous woodland. In short, there are trees everywhere.

The canopy offers dappled sunlight. Whilst ideal for photographs (sorry didn’t take any), it creates a visibility problem for us. The glare of the sun on the visors makes it difficult to look ahead to see how tight the increasingly windy bends really are. I’ve learned to take bends by looking for clues, such as tree-lined roads, fences and telegraph poles, but in this light I can’t see them. My riding slows considerably to stay safe, and the slow campervan catches us up!

They follow us for the remaining miles and we park outside the site.  To the relief of everyone concerned it’s “¡Abierto!”

While orientating ourselves and deciding on a suitable pitch, an English gentleman, Martin, approaches with advice on the best way to obtain the best of the day’s sunshine. Being in the mountain’s shadow, the wrong pitch could create a cold environment. After our tent is safely pitched, he offers us a cup of tea, and his companions (his wife, Lynn and long-term travelling companions, Violet and Dave) also come over for a chat.

I think I’ve ruminated before on just how friendly, welcoming, supportive and generous people have been towards us throughout our journey. We’ve already promised Iain and Sarah to join them for a drink later, so politely decline further hospitality from Martin and co., at least for this evening.

Somewhere in the midst of a drunken conversation with our Scottish hosts, I offer to make a meal for everyone the next day.

I wake up with a major hangover, so have a lazy day.  With the sun being out, it becomes imperative task for me to wash our sleeping bag.   After 3 months on the road, I feel it (and we) deserve it.  The task is achieved and I’m enjoying a sunny afternoon lazing in the chair when I remember my dinner pledge.   By making a meal for ‘everyone’, I think I meant just the four of us, but as the evening approaches we’re joined by the two English couples. I’ve two little pans and two little stoves, but undeterred, I set about making a curry for all. As I’ve not got all the ingredients I need, Sarah helpfully chips in with spinach, onions and an arrange of spicy pastes.  The meal begins to happen as a series of small sampling plates, during the course of which, Violet disappears to her caravan and returns with an interim course of pasta with a tasty carbonara sauce.

Despite the limitations of a most drunken and ill-thought out promise, a wonderful communal feast was had by all accompanied by a variety of drinks, including the renowned Asturian sidra.

The next day we leave our new friends, as we’ve made an appointment with relocation agent, Mary.  We set off on our bikes to a cafe to Infiesto. We were delayed somewhat, as was Mary, but synchronicity is a wonderful thing. Just as were taking off our jackets to settle in the cafe, Mary arrived as apologetically as we’d felt when we arrived late.

We like Mary and agree to work with her to help us get established in Spain in the future. During the conversation, we reveal that we’d like to talk to the family who are selling eco-houses (we can’t afford) about their project generally.

Looking a little deeper at their own website, we discover they are looking for caretakers for a minimum of a year in exchange for free accommodation. We become excited and our agent looks visibly excited for us.

Mary leaves for another appointment with a lengthy homework list and promises to get back to us when she’s complete the tasks we’ve set for her.

Asturias has been our target destination and as we ride back to base camp, I realise how much in love with the place I am.  The insight surprises me, as I’d always been a francophile and had expected to be disappointed by northern Spain.

I’m so busy loving the place, I have taken few photos during this part of the adventure – sorry!  Here’s a glimpse though of the countryside, the local inhabitants and an environmental awareness visitor centre, which has undertaken a rewilding project of the bearded vulture to the region – also known as lammergeiers or quebrantahuesos.

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A week later, Mary still hadn’t managed to complete the healthy homework pile we’d given her.  While really enjoying the Picos de Europa, good company and learning about the rewilding project, we’re conscious of needing to be based somewhere before winter kicks in. We contact the owners of the eco-housing project and soon have our next destination: Llanez in Vito, Cantabria. We’ve signed ourselves up for a week of cob-house building!

Sun & Surf

We plan a trip to the beach.

If we were still in Yorkshire, the plan would most likely have been rained off. But here in Santander, the sky is blue and the temperatures are mid-20s (centigrade). We follow the coastal path, passing joggers, dog walkers and those who, like us, are enjoying a stroll in the sun. From the cliff edge we have a view over to another promontory with a castle like structure visible.

The main beach is strangely quiet, with no-one is swimming in the sea. However, the sparkling waves are inviting, and like others, we kick off our boots and stroll at the wave edges. The beach is separated by rock formations and we walk as far as the first wall of rocks before leaving the sand for the main promenade.

From there, the ‘castle’ looks like it is within walking distance, but Verd doesn’t agree. I have a way of getting my own way, as I firmly believe I’ve done lots more hill-walking and distance judging by foot than he has, and internally determine that the morrow is for getting to the castle.

Santander-Coastline-at-Night
View of Santander from Faro del Cabo Mayor (Picos de Europa in the background)

The morrow is a Sunday and I’ve managed to persuade Verd to take the walk all the way to what turns out to be a royal palace – El Palacio de Magdalena. The beach is decidedly busier. The waves being higher have attracted several kite surfers as well as swimmers.

Kite-Surfing

The walk to the palace was worth it. The grounds boast an outdoor marine museum, good views and park walks.

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Although well-visited, it doesn’t feel touristy, as most of the patrons are Spanish. It’s something I’ve liked about Santander. For a major ferry port, I expected it to be more of a tourist trap. However, the menus haven’t been adjusted to the tastes of British teens, nor have the prices, and I feel I’m gaining an authentic experience. However, we do take the city tour bus (which is majorly over-priced), and learn something of the cultural history of the town. Santander has been a favoured holiday destination of Spain’s royal family in the past and the more elegant and substantial of homes reflect this. It is for this reason, that el Palacio de la Magdalena came to be built.

Palacio-de-Magdalena-3
However, our purpose in Spain is not tourism. After 5 nights in Santander, we head to Asturias, destination Camping Villaviciosa. We have an appointment with a relocation agent to attend.

Cheese and Keys

The sound of the early morning chorus is not only something I’ve become very acquainted with in a tent, but a mix of songs that I’ve come to love. From time to time, I’ve learned to isolate a particular song from the others and identify the species of the singer. Here at the Cabo Mayor, a headland to the east of Santander, the morning chorus is intensified. There are some familiar sounds and sights of regular garden birds, but there are others I can’t identify with certainty. But I love watching them flit from one of the tamarind trees to the next, quickly camouflaged in the foliage.

The morning chorus is shortly followed by the sounds of awakening campers. Here, the main nationality is French. I love the lilt and sound of French and find my mind quickly attuning to the language. I have a couple of conversations, albeit brief, with as many of the temporary residents as I can.

It’s not a very helpful activity. I need to be immersing in Spanish. In the evening we go to a restaurant by the campsite. It’s our first experience of local cuisine and the restaurant is typically Spanish its menu. On the evening we arrive, they offer an all you can eat meal. We’re not quite up to that, but have the option of choices from their ‘para picar’ selection – dishes for sharing with your buddies.

The waitresses have a few words of English between them and we have a few words of Spanish between us. However, I get ambitious and try out a couple of sentences rather than words. When a waitress replies with the very French, “d’accord”, I’m somewhat confused. I look at Verd and we burst out laughing – most of what I’d said was in French rather than Spanish! We’ve a ways to go before we master the lingo.

Hipodrome-Restaurant

Undeterred, our plans for the next day are to take a walk into the city centre. About half an hour into our walk we’ve no idea which direction to go in. While Verd sits on a bench with his phone and google maps, I approach a passing stranger and have a go at asking directions. He’s very accommodating: he speaks slowly and repeats his instructions. We make it to the centre and the first commercial enterprise that captures my attention is a market. Many of the stalls are selling similar things – cheeses, olives, various meats, fruit, vegetables, pulses and wines. It’s clear that we’ve got a choice of a wide range of locally-produced foods. I have a little trouble deciding who to approach, but on catching the eye of one stall holder, I begin to make my requests, trying to remember my ‘buying produce lesson’ as much as possible. It goes ok, and I’m getting the products I want in quantities I am asking for, but there’s a change of staff mid-way during the interaction. He’s a twinkly-eyed older man who seems amused by my attempts to speak Spanish, and occasionally corrects my pronunciation. It’s a fun exchange.

We want some cheese, but the displays are a little overwhelming.  There isn’t anything for sale we recognise.   You know – like, Wensleydale or Cheddar.  We linger near a counter and a canny mother asks, ‘ingles?” and she directs us to her English-speaking daughter. We have another fun interchange.  I’m still trying to speak Spanish and she’s trying to improve her English. She introduces us to three local cheeses and allows us to taste them. We add two cheeses to our increasingly heavy load. It’s as well we’d walked, otherwise we’d never have stopped spending.  Carrying a heavy load back up the hill would not be fun.

Our next task is a little more challenging. Before leaving England, we changed mobile phone plans, but they’d not been set up in time for the journey. We don’t have the gadget needed for changing sims, so decide to find a shop that might be able to help.

Around the corner from the market is a small mobile phone shop. We go in and I try again. With a mix of two-word-sentence Spanish and expressive gestures I managed to get across our issue. I didn’t know what to call the sim gadget, I don’t even know the name in English, so for want of a better term, I asked for a sim key.

The assistant is extremely helpful. He opens our phones, gives us an internet password and we’re able to make sure we’re set up with the new plan adequately before leaving the shop. I buy the “sim key” in case we’d need it in future and he warns us not to lose our old sims.   I’m pleased I understand the warning, loss of sim = loss of contacts.

Only our second day here, and we’re already improving the communication skills. Verd is picking up vocabulary at a highly impressive rate.

We take a leisurely stroll as the sun sets. The campsite is next to a lighthouse – the Faro Cabo Mayor. We look over the cliffs to the beach coves below and decide to do what all tourists do when they go to Spain – go to the beach the next day!

Hello Spain!

I’m on the “wrong” side of the road, trying to use my left mirror like I used to use my right, but it’s in the wrong position for seeing traffic in all the lanes on the autovia, making passing slow lorries and motorhomes a difficult, if not dangerous task. I’m riding on an autovia with it’s shiny, clean surface. I’m tootling along about 10 miles per hour under the speed limit, but can understand why faster bikers like these roads.  But, I’m feeling bombarded by stimuli, there are more signs to read than I’m used to. I say 10 miles an hour, but I have to keep watching my SatNav convert the speed limits from km to miles. I’d prefer to keep my eye on the road than having to keep checking my speed. I do pass the slow lane traffic, exaggerating my life-saver checks.

After about 20 km, we’ve figured out that some of the speed limit signs are only advisory, e.g. if it’s raining, windy or there’s a bend or tunnel coming up. We’re still stumped by the flashing amber lights, but we’ve figured out how the exit lanes work. After 50 km, we’ve learned that flashing amber lights are warning you to slow down because of some kind of change in the road conditions. I’ve also learned that Spanish drivers will drive in closer proximity, even if they aren’t in a hurry. And when they overtake, be prepared to roll off the throttle, they cut it fine. Later, I’m guilty of the same thing, cutting it a bit fine when I pull in after overtaking a lorry.

I’m feeling uncomfortable, if you’ve ever tried to write with your non-dominant hand, that’s what it feels like.

We’re on a single lane road, and there’s roadworks. A man with a stop sign turns it to ‘Go’ and then waves us onto the left side of the road to pass the roadworks. We follow the instructions, but both Verd and myself forget to pull in again to the right. I suddenly remember and we quickly switch.  We’re soon laughing though; the car following us had copied us. Perhaps, they’d just got off the ferry too?

Luckily, we were back on the “right” right side of the road in time for oncoming traffic to not have to deal with any angry Spanish drivers.

We go off the beaten track to our intended campsite for the night, but when we get there, we discover it isn’t tent friendly. We carry on to Santander for one that promised to be open – Camping Cabo Mayor.

Faro-Cabo-de-Mayor
Faro Cabo Mayor

I’m not happy about the potential for meeting city traffic so early in the journey, but it isn’t so bad, with one exception: roundabouts.

The first shouldn’t be too difficult – we have to take the 1st exit. I approach, in the right lane and see there is nothing stopping me go in that direction. I confidently pull out, only to realise that all the oncoming traffic is from the left, not the right. Somehow I manage to slip in, probably with my eyes closed and leave the roundabout with my heart in my mouth. Lesson learned: LOOK LEFT!

I approach the next roundabout. I’m prepared, I’m not getting caught out this time, I look left, but lo and behold, I’m in the 1st exit lane rather than the 3rd exit. Habits are hard to break.

Junctions present similar difficulties, remembering that the nearest danger comes from the left, not the right, and as we turn, we’re coaching each other to make sure we stay on the right-hand side of the road.

Miraculously, we get to the campsite and it’s very tent friendly, with even a promise of a discount if we stay three nights. We relax almost immediately, inhaling the sunny evening aromas of jasmine and the tamarind trees. The air is still, warm and peaceful. It’s simply beautiful.

Hello Spain!

Let’s skip a Couple of Weeks and Board La Baie de Seine

  • Regenerative Agriculture Course at Harmony Farm, Wales
  • The Red Lion Inn, Gloucestershire
  • The Mason’s Arms, Yeovil, Somerset
  • Riverside Camping, Hamble, Hampshire

The above presents a list of pitstops during the last two weeks of our journey in the UK, after saying farewell to family, before embarking the Baie de Seine ship from Portsmouth. All are significant experiences and I hope to give them the precedence they deserve. Meanwhile, I’ll share some photographic highlights.

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…..

We wake at 5 am. It’s dark and we go about our tasks donned with head torches, trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb fellow campers. The morning serves up a heavy dew, and our challenge is to pack our belongings without getting too many of them wet. We succeed, with the exception of the tent itself, which gathers up campsite mud in addition to puddles of water. We try a new technique for keeping the inner dry and pray for the blessings of sunshine on the shores of our destination.

It’s still dark when we rev up the engines, some of the campsite residents appear to be at least semi-permanent and give us a friendly greeting as they get into their cars for their daily jobs. My helmet visor immediately mists up, as do the mirrors. Visibility isn’t good this morning, and it’s cold. I remember an important feature of the bike for winter travel – heated grips. I tweak the switch, determined to offset the chill of today’s autumnal morning.

The Brittany Ferry port and embarking points are easy to find and we’re arrive with plenty of check-in time. The queue for the Bilbao ferry is negligible and we’re waved on through to the officials who want to check we’re not bringing anything illegal or dangerous on to the ferry.

Now, here is where things are a little unfair.

I’ve checked the list of things that motorhomes & cars are able to carry on to the ferry and one is knives, as long as they are locked in the boot. Knives includes chef’s knives – we want to cook our own meals to cut costs right?

Motorcycle riders however have to declare any dangerous weapons including chef’s knives. I’m carrying one in a locked ‘boot’, aka my top box, along with a paring knife. The official asks me to open one of the side panniers. I unlock and open it, it only contains our documents and a couple of Spanish for beginners books – that sort of thing. He’s happy, but while this inspection is going on, he asks me if I’m carrying anything dangerous like knives. I pretend I didn’t hear him, after all, I have my helmet on and it’s hard to hear. As he wants to look inside the other side pannier, I respond to this part of his instruction. The pannier contains a bag of food – but contains no animal products – the main limitation.

I’m waiting for him to ask to open the locked ‘boot’, and try not to show that I’m holding my breath in case he does. Instead, he’s happy and waves me on.

Once the bike is moving again, I exhale and smile to myself. I’d saved hard for that Santoku knife and I was reluctant to lose it – it makes short work of awkward vegetables, like a butternut squash. What would I do for our first camp meal in Spain if he’d confiscated it?!

Parking the bike and waiting for it to be securely strapped is a straightforward and surprisingly relaxed affair, and the first of the adventures is to find our cabin. When we figure out there is a left and a right hand side to the boat, we eventually solve the mystery of the strange arrow directions in the corridors to make it to our overnight accommodation. We have a two berth with an ensuite and it’s all very tidy and comfortable.

Our-deck

Once settled we seek out a cuppa and as it’s Brittany Ferries, begin to switch on the French walnut-sized part of our brains as old school phrases are dredged up from the bowels of memory to offer some form of cultural communication. I’m not sure that we succeed terribly well, but I like to try.

It wasn’t such a good idea, as when I go to our first restaurant in Spain, and of course I want to try, my Spanish comes out as a sentence in French. And when the waitress is replying “d’accord”, I’m more confused than everyone else who is trying to communicate with us.

We take a stroll outside on the decks and much to our surprise the dawn brings brilliant sunshine and the most gentle of breezes which accompanies us throughout the crossing. We take it as a good omen for our plans and delight in the views of Portsmouth as we leave.

We sleep well, lulled by the roll of the ship upon the gentle waves. The morning sky beams in glorious sunshine and the deck is a pleasant place to relax.  Several of our travellers are reading books, and one in particular catches my attention. I nudge Verd, saying – I’m pretty sure that is Martin Crawford’s book ‘Forest Garden’. I can’t see the cover, but recognise the wonderful photographs and distinctive text. I have an element of doubt when I see a design feature I don’t immediately recognise.

We carry on with our own conversation, paying little more mind to book and its reader. But a while later I notice that the reader is joined by another, who now holds the in his hand, displaying the front cover.  I remark immediately – it IS the ‘Forest Garden’ book by Martin Crawford. Verd presses me to go and have a chat, but as they are deep in conversation about the importance of soil, I don’t want to intrude.

Perhaps a lost opportunity, but I take is as today’s positive omen for our journey.

The journey passes quicker than expected and soon we have a call back to our vehicles. While we prepare our bikes for departure, I’m trying to control my nerves. We gain a few tips from other bikers about avoiding fines from overly enthusiastic Spanish police and by the time I’m doing my final luggage checks, I’m sure that by the end of the day I’m going to have lost all my license points and on my way back to England to start all over again. I converse with the biker behind me and in commenting on how nervous I was, he showed me his shaking hand, saying that he’d done this so many times before, but he shakes every time. Strangely, it makes me feel a little better.

First, we meet passport and customs control and I’m wondering what how they feel about the importation of dangerous chef’s knives. I hand over the passport and the official doesn’t even ask me to take off my helmet and quickly waves us on.

I exhale.

It’s a good habit to have.

Within about ten minutes we’re on a three lane autopista, I’m riding on the ‘wrong’ (right) side of the road and deciphering all the unfamiliar road signs heading for a town called Laredo.  Our communication systems are working overtime as we check’s Verd’s lights are legally set, and I’m trying to shut him up while I decipher a sign with a number on it and a rain symbol over the top.  80% chance of rain perhaps?  What is that giraffe sign?  Why is that jellyfish sign asking a question?  Why can’t I overtake here, when it’s a three lane motorway?

You’re getting the picture and the fact I’m writing this, does give you some indication that we managed to make it to our destination.

But ne’er a sign of a Laredo did we see.

Farewell to Family

When your house is small and only room for you, where do you put visitors?

In your garden, of course.

Two weeks in Derbyshire pitched on a gravel garden provides respite from the adrenaline-rushed journeys that precede us.  Access to internet and amenities enable us to catch up with ourselves, do some extra research and put our affairs in order.  It’s a good arrangement, taking it in turns to cook the main meal of the day and to clean up afterwards, we quickly establish a working routine that doesn’t upset our host, Verd’s mother.

In between, we experience the joy of a proper bed.  Verd’s brother and partner live close by and we revel in their party-loving company, so joined them at the weekends.  The comfort of a being more than 7 cm from the ground was a wondrous luxury that we took full advantage of, snoozing a little longer in the mornings.  They treat us to a meal at a restaurant above a club they attend frequently.  Very posh it was, great ambience and the food divine.

The next day, I’m asked if I can cook risotto, so do a favourite mushroom recipe with a herb salad.  It seems to be a success and when people tuck into seconds, I’m happy it worked out.  Oh dear, I’ve just remembered, I promised to pass the recipe on.

Derbyshire is close to where my daughter lives and works, and she’s become fond of hill-walking.  We find a meeting point, twice during the stay, once enjoying a picnic in a nature reserve and the second at a pub for lunch.  Oh dear, I’ve just remembered, I promised her a photo of a magazine article she’s having trouble accessing.

As an aside, I’ll tell you about the article.  If you remember, way back at the start of our adventure, we joined fellow BMW riders at a club weekend get together?  The club has a national magazine and the local sections write an article on the latest goings on.  Last month’s Yorkshire section contribution was about the Kettlewell camping weekend.  We have a laugh reading it, as they refer to a young couple who’ve sold up everything to travel the world.  We’re not quite doing the world (yet?), but we were amused to be described as a young couple.  Oh dear, I’ve just remembered, they asked us for our names and to update them with our progress.

Seems I still have a lot of catching up to do.

From Derbyshire, we move eastwards to Crewe in Cheshire, to visit the first of my brother and his family for two nights.  We arrive on a Sunday, which was perhaps a little mismanaged given that work, school and college means less time together.  Nevertheless, we enjoy a couple of wholesome meals and bottles of wine together.  One being a niece speciality, an authentic Italian lasagne.  It is the best lasagne I’ve ever tasted.  Bravo to K.   My brother’s wife has a day off on the Monday, so shows us around the neighbourhood, including her place of work that does a very hearty breakfast!  I swear the scrambled eggs on toast I ordered used a full box of eggs.  While the adults are occupied, I have a chance  to get to know my nieces, who become a great deal more chatty when the adults aren’t dominating the conversation.  I’ve seen little of them over the years, so greatly enjoy their company.

From there, we trot to my youngest sibling and partner, who live in the most beautiful countryside village beside a lake in Shropshire.  We wander around the lake with their two dogs and generally enjoy the peace and tranquility.  Having supplied them with ‘real’ seeds earlier in the season, they bring us to their allotment to show off the yield.  They did well out of the supply, even thought the borage threatened to take over one of their raised beds.  Borage-Star-for-webWe harvest a few vegetables, herbs, rhubarb and apples, thinking, ‘won’t a rhubarb and apple crumble be nice?’

On the third and final evening with them, they suggest a stay at a cottage rental about 20 miles away they particularly like.  Still adorned with original fireplace stoves, the cottage is like a step back in time.  A private garden and brook babbling beside the Tudor style building, I can see how it’s become a favourite.  The boys light a fire, but cook more conventionally in the modern appliances.  As do I, being assigned the task of realising the crumble.  One of my best, if I do say so myself.

After nearly three weeks of family life, it feels strange to be on the road again. Destination is Harmony Farm, near Pontypool in Wales.  We’ve signed up for a weekend Regenerative Agriculture course with a favourite tutor of ours.

Niels-Talking-to-the-Plants-for-web
A favourite tutor

Will let you know how we get on with that!