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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Most photographed tree in the country

 Another very windy night and another night of broken sleep. What was that clattering from outside? Still not a 100% sure so this morning Ian taped up all the grills 'just in case'.

Dull, dismal start to the day. The reservoir had white horses whipping across the water and looked very uninviting. We had planned a bike ride but with that wind and drizzle the idea was abandoned. Instead, we decided to walk to Sycamore Gap.

 We drove through Bellingham again. Just a bit of shopping needed and on the walk to the Co op we spied Bellingham Station. Carriages were at the station and the thought of a train ride appealed. But these carriages had been changed to a café and the smell of bacon butties irresistible. 

Sycamore Gap was where part of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was filmed, made famous by the clip of a boy up a tree having to be rescued by Kevin Costner. Apparently it's the most photographed tree in the UK. It stands in a dramatic dip in Hadrian's Wall in the Northumberland National Park. We had no idea where to park although Housesteads looked like a good a place as any. But then looking at the map I found a car park at a place called Steel Rigg, right by part of the wall. Probably because of the bad weather we had no trouble in parking even though the car park was small. Price for 3 hours was £3, not bad we thought. Wet weather gear and stout shoes put on and we set off along what I thought was quite a difficult route. At first just gentle terrain, slightly slopping downhill but then we hit the stone steps!  OMG how difficult were they! For me who falls over a blade of grass this was a nightmare. Being wet  slippy and very steep didn't help and I'm sure it took us twice as long to reach the tree. These photos show the route.

Crikey I'm never going to get my bulk through that!

Very tight squeeze but managed...just.

Yes there were steps going down from this point. Uneven and steep!

The tree at last.

  By the time the tree came into view I was all but done in! The drizzle had started and I'm sure the wind was getting stronger by the minute. After the compulsory photo shoot, a sit on a very wet rock for a drink and biscuit, we found a much easier route for the way back. 


That's Ian sitting on a boulder to the left of the photo.

Taken on Ian's phone and yes that's me by the tree.

The only downside to this easier walk was how very exposed to that wind we were. Ian demonstrated for me.

A late lunch was had on our return. Nearly every part of Hadrian's wall has been explored back in June so we were at a loss as to what to do next. In the end we made for the campsite tonight. One that has all facilities including a washing machine. We had booked it yesterday and the owner said it was easy to find down a lane off the B6318. Well this lane was not what we expected. Turns out we turned up the farm track instead. Anyway not many caravans and motorhomes on site and we had a choice of where to go. The electric hook up was on a slope, not the best place for a motorhome. Even with the levelling blocks we are arse up and listing slightly. Cooking the meal tonight may be interesting.

 Someone has a great sense of humour

And wildlife

Friday, 24 September 2021


 Well, well, well....who'd a thought that today would turn out the way it did! Have I grabbed your interest? Keep reading if you fancy finding out.

Last night...OMG...that wind...all night the gusts hit us. MB rocked and rolled, the cover over the bikes flapped constantly, and something annoying was rattling and clattering from outside. Could have been the grill cover over the fridge outlet perhaps? Anyway if we got 4 hours sleep that was good going. By 5.30am we were both sitting up in bed drinking a cup of tea.

As mentioned yesterday our plan was to visit the Hareshaw Linn waterfall near Bellingham. With the wind abating slightly my fears of a woodland walk and falling branches seemed unfounded. So by 8.30am we were on our way.

The Co-ordinates for the waterfall was put into 'Miss very Annoying' sat nav. We followed her direction dutifully until we hit a snag. Suddenly notices appeared about a road closure on the A68 toward Bellingham. Not local to the area and driving on the A696, we didn't think this applied to us. But the road at Otterburn where 'Miss Annoying' wanted us to turn left, was closed. Looking at an actual road map it appeared that if we continued onward we could turn left onto the A68 at Elishaw. "Do a U Turn when possible" 'Miss Annoying' pipped up. The further we travelled toward Elishaw the more incessant she got. "Do a U Turn where possible"...on and on and on! Then she finally realised we were not going to do a U Turn and a new route was laid in, to Elishaw and the A68. But that too was closed. Ian pulled over and checked to see if there was another route through to Bellingham. A lane several miles back could be our way through so we did the U Turn Miss Annoying wanted and eventually came to where we could turn toward West Woodburn. 

Now this is where things went from bad to worse. 

  1.  I didn't much care for the width of the road.
  2.  Having to open a gate to continue along the lane didn't bode well either.
  3.  Very few passing places to be seen.
  4.  Meeting a lorry head on couldn't have happened at a worse spot.


Ian did the gentlemanly thing and reversed along the straight road for about 30mtrs. All was well until he came to a bend and then...disaster struck! They say a photo tells a thousand stories well....

 That bloody lorry driver just drove onto the other verge and straight past. He never even stopped to see if we were all right...bastard!

A Farm building was very close by, so Ian went to see if a tractor was handy that could pull us out. It wasn't, but the very nice lady phoned through to her neighbour farmer who was very obliging. "It's not the first time" he smilingly told us on arrival "And I'm sure it won't be the last" When we explained about the road closure, he said "No wonder there is a lot of traffic on this road" "I expect my services will be needed again!"

Took this excerpt from Northumberland traffic reports

The total closure will be the road from Redesmouth, which links Bellingham and Redesmouth to the A68, with the focus of repairing and refurbishing the white bridge over the River Rede.

The normal two mile journey from Redesmouth into Bellingham has been increased to almost 12, as the official detour will take traffic through Ridsdale and West Woodburn to the North Tyne capital.

It's a wonder no damage was done, not even the waste water pipe had been torn off. The advice from the farmer was to return the way we had come. A further 5 miles would have had to be negotiated if we continued on that route so we followed his advice and did the 2 miles back to the main road.

Back through that gate


In the end we had to drive nearly to Hexham before we could turn off for Bellingham. It was good then that we found somewhere to park on arrival 'cos the car park was tiny. We managed to tuck ourselves into a corner and then set off to do the walk to Hareshaw Linn waterfall. T'was an easy walk, several steep up hill bits but none I couldn't cope with. And during one of our stops to admire the forest view we saw a Red Squirrel. yea....finally. No photo 'cos it was there one minute and gone the next!

See, money does grow on trees!

2 hours later we were back and because it was now late in the afternoon, we headed to Kielder Forest for the night by the reservoir. Cloudy skies and we still won't see the clear dark sky. Never mind, yet another trip back to these parts at a later date but this time when we have done our research.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

The Woo Woo and high winds closes castle.

 What a lovely sunset last night, the first for quite a while. Good omen for the 'morn.

This morning we got our timings wrong on leaving this site. Didn't rush at all because where we had planned to visit was Dunstanburgh Castle near Embleton, literally only a few miles away. Ian had booked this English Heritage site for 11 am. So we pulled away from our pitch just after 10.30 and made our way to the motorhome service point. Nearly there when out popped this chap from his pitch trying to pull his caravan to his car. 20 minutes later, after massive fifing and faffing and nearly crashing the van into the fence because he tried with his wife to pull the van into position on a down hill bit, he finally took from his pocket a remote control caravan motor mover.   Within a few minutes the van was in position and hitched to the car. Now why couldn't he have done that in the first place!

Navigate off road came the annoying voice of our sat nav. What what what...crikey she wasnt wrong. A small dirt track greeted us leading to a gate at the bottom. Ian managed to reverse MB into a spot and we set off to the castle. What we hadn't realised was a 1 1/2 mile walk was in front of us, through a golf course with the risk of a golf ball whizzing past your head or worse still, making contact, along a rugged track and a climb up over boulders on very uneven ground to reach the entrance! 

The very narrow gravel lane

Interesting shape on the shore line.


We signed in with our membership cards and told to wander wherever we wanted including up a tower with very steep steps. Wow the views were great but boy was it windy. Ian nearly lost his hat and trying to talk to each other was impossible.

A council car park is in the village of Craster, That's the village in the distance of this photo, Wish we had known as the walk seems to be much easier and a shorter distance.

A notice on the gate as we started the walk mentioned the lack of toilets but it appears English Heritage has installed eco-friendly loos. In New Zealand we would have called them the long drop, no water is involved as there is no sink or cistern.

The new modern waterless toilet but bottom right- the 14th century equivalent!

Having seen nearly all the grounds of the castle, one more area to explore. A tower toward the upper part of the grounds overlooking the shore. Well we never got there because one of the wardens came over and said we must vacate the castle. Incredulously we enquired as to why. "The wind speeds are too great and we are worried about falling masonry" he replied. Good grief, this ruin has been standing ever since the 17th century and I'm sure it has withstood higher winds than those of today. But at 35mph or higher no one was allowed to stay and they had recorded a gust of 39mph. This had appeared on English Heritage website almost immediately.

The tower

 We had been lucky to have gained entry, but there were no end of folk who had walked all that way only to be turned back. Some people had prepaid but the assurance from the warden that all money would be refunded into their accounts, was reassuring.

The locked gate

 No other plan was in place for today. I mentioned to Ian about trying to see the Red Squirrels again. Kielder Forest was one place where they could be found but what Ian found on the web was a 3 mike waterfall walk at Hareshaw Linn that takes about 2 hours and squirrels have been seen along the walk. So that will be tomorrow. For our stop tonight we found another Northumberland waterboard site at Fontburn Reservoir. Another £10 paid, and a lovely spot found overlooking the water. There are also loos in the carpark nearby...bonus.

 And wildlife,

Pied Wagtail



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