Wednesday 5 June 2024: Travels with Peggy

Puffin © Ian Wordsworth

The last week of May was our annual Whitsun or late spring bank holiday. We always tend to take the whole week off, regardless of if we’re doing anything in particular or not. This year, we had a new camper van to exercise. So we decided to go on a 3-site break north.

For years I’d promised the poet that he’d love the Farne Islands in Northumberland, but we’ve never been able to go due to the dog. I decided that perhaps our first planned holiday without the dog could be something we’d not been able to do with the dog and we built the rest of the week around that.

On Saturday we headed to North Yorkshire. I’m not going to name the site or the village because the site was awful and it’s the only one in the village. The tent field was like a swamp and 2 pitches away from ours was under water. The drainage was bad and the pitches weren’t fully serviced, as advertised or paid for.

We also booked our ‘fully serviced’ pitch in advance, but when we arrived, a rather harassed woman, who we thought was just a holidaymaker but who turned out to be the owner, waved vaguely in one direction and said, “I’m sorry but I only have those ones over there left.” Erm, but we booked and paid in advance…

Fully serviced means hard-standing, usually, an electric point, a drinking water tap, and a drain. The pitches had the electric and the water, but no drains, and the caravan next to us just discharged their grey waste all over the pitch. It had already been raining heavily, but with that as well, no wonder the entire site was water-logged.

Puffin © Ian Wordsworth

The ‘toilet block’ was festival-standard at best, and was wholly inadequate for the number of visitors.

Because the pitches didn’t have any numbers, and because the woman didn’t seem to have any kind of booking system in place, we were loath to drive away from the site in case she’d given our pitch to someone else in our absence. So the van stayed put and we only managed a short walk on our one full day on that site.

On bank holiday Monday, we headed even further north towards Seahouses via the Tyne Tunnel near Jarrow. But the site, when we arrived, was beautiful, and not just when compared to the one we’d just left. It was actually luxurious in comparison to that one. Our pitch was numbered. It wasn’t fully serviced, but the blurb didn’t say it was, and the service area wasn’t very far.

The toilet block here was centrally heated, and built of brick. There was a small shop. And there were some gorgeous views of Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands themselves.

On our first evening there, we walked from the site, Springhill Farm, into Seahouses where we had a fish & chip dinner inside a restaurant. We’ve always had to sit outside before, but this time we were able to go in. We picked up some groceries, and headed back to the site.

The next day, Tuesday, was our boat trip to the Farne Islands. This time we drove into Seahouses, though, and we were so glad we had when we got back. We sailed out to Staple Island and Outer Farne, where we saw the seals basking on the rocks before heading back towards land and Inner Farne, where we landed for an hour.

On the island and from the boat we saw so much birdlife, from guillemots to shags to gulls. On Inner Farne itself, the poet was delighted to have his head pecked by a territorial arctic tern (you can’t go to Farne and not get attacked by the terns!). (We’d prepared properly for it too.) And he took lots of pictures of the birds, and especially the puffins. He loved it so much, he can’t wait to go back.

On our trip back to land, which was supposed to be about 20 minutes, there was a nasty sea squall that made the journey choppy at best. I wasn’t worried about being sick, the only time I’ve ever been seasick was after eating a particularly greasy chicken dinner. No, I was worried about falling in the sea! I can’t swim and the boat ride was more like a roller coaster ride. Plus it was chucking it down with rain and we were soaked.

Fortunately, we’d parked up close by in our camper van and were able to get dried and changed into fresh clothes, whereas others had to drive or walk back soaked through to the skin.

Puffin © Ian Wordsworth

On the Wednesday, we left Seahouses and made our way to Hadrian’s Wall, via a National Trust property, Wallington. Again, whenever we’ve visited stately homes, we’ve been fine in the grounds, but then had to take it in turns to go around the house while the other one stayed with the dog. This time we were able to go in together and take our time. And we had something to eat in the café there too.

We got to Hadrian’s Wall campsite at about teatime, and our pitch was clean, tidy, dry and ready. The toilet block looked small, but it seemed to open out and there were never any queues. There was also a small shop here, but it was better stocked than the previous one. It was on Thursday that we walked to the wall and spent some time there.

Friends on Facebook will have already seen a few more pictures from our week away, but I wanted to save my 3 favourites, all puffin pictures, for here. (Isn’t he handsome?) I don’t think I’ll go into any more detail in my newsletter after all, but I may share a few more pictures as well as the ones folk have already seen.

Friday was the end of our holiday, but we came away thinking that 2 nights per site wasn’t really enough (apart from the first one – the first one, 2 nights was 2 too many!). We’re busy in June, going to Durham and Poland, so we might go away in July and this time do 3 x 3-nighters.

We haven’t done badly, though. We’ve had the van for 6 weeks, and we’ve been to 5 sites.

I wonder where we’ll be going next…

8 thoughts on “Wednesday 5 June 2024: Travels with Peggy

  1. Apart from first site, sounds like a lovely break away, great photos. I wonder if the first site has to follow any regulations with the local council as they are taking money from people?

    1. The current owners took the site over in January and are apparently refurbishing it. They say the advertising blurb is a hangover from the previous clients. We say they should have changed the blurb. We were going to leave an honest review on the site where we found it, but a warning popped up that we could be sued if we said anything detrimental. So now we can’t believe any other reviews on that website…

      1. What! How can you be sued for telling the truth? Seahouses and Farne Islands are places hubby have never visited so might book a b and b or something for next year for birthday/ anniversary week away. We visited seaham a few years back for a weekend

  2. I love Northumberland. I hope I can back there and spend some time in the coming years.

    First site sounds like a nightmare. And who do they think they are, making threats like that? Awful. But the other two sites were good, at least, and the Farne Islands sound delightful.

    Excited for your next trips!

    1. It makes a mockery of the entire review concept. Not that I’m surprised. I’ve been falling out with the review system for a long time now.

      The islands are beautiful, unspoilt, managed by the National Trust. They’ve been closed for 2 years due to bird flu and no one has lived on any of them since before lockdown. Only the NT reps stayed there anyway, and only for 5 days at a time. They’re home to thousands and thousands of breeding sea birds – this year they counted something like 80,000 puffins! But only around 1,000 or 2,000 razorbills, which are apparently down this year for some reason.

      We’re probably heading south next time…

  3. I love Northumberland. Its a long time since I visited Alnwick and Bamburgh and other sites. Durham is also one of my favourite places. I’m glad you’re making the most of being able to go to places, now you don’t have to worry about Rufus. Enjoy.

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